Saturday, 29 March 2014

Modelling for Mrs Cameron; Virginia's Aunt.

Dearest Emily,

A few weeks ago, our lovely neighbouring Robin Hood of the Charity Shops hereabouts- had finished distributing her spoils amongst us all- and descended upon Dimbola with a rather fabulous chair. It was a pre-Arts and Crafts style of design- and rather Queen of Hearts too- to my rather biased eye.
I like chairs Em, I always imagine who chose them, and where they were, and who's favourite chair this was.
I can't show you this yet Em, because just as soon as Robina de Hood had rushed in with it- she rushed back out again to take it to be restored, prior to taking up residence at Dimbola- so we will have to wait a bit.

However, the owner of said piece of furniture is reputed to have been this lovely lady...

Julia Stephen (previously Duckworth- here in widows weeds) is photographed here by her namesake Aunt- our Julia Margaret Cameron in part of a session taken in 1874. This particular image from the session- I would like to think would be the one Mrs C chose as her best one (though actually it was out of focus, so I had to redraw the face for you.) But, Em- for me it's a good example of how directional our Julia really was- and what her vision of photography 'as an art-form' was aiming at. Look at the composition Em- way way way before Fashion photography- Julia Stephen certainly strikes a pose! Left hand on hip, with elegant fingers hitching up the side of her skirt, and right hand holding lorgnettes perhaps, accentuate a waisted taffeta dress and a blank, but suggestionably haughty stare.

When history then allows us the knowledge that this woman was Virginia Woolf's mother- it isn't a giant leap of faith to consider how much our colourful and ebullient Julia's influence shaped the Bloomsbury aesthetic. Oh, how I wish I could have seen Vanessa and Virginia's 'dressing up box'. Did they play with brightly coloured Indian silk dresses and shawls that belonged to their Great Aunts- the famed 'Pattle Sisters'?. Julia's fabulous, but frenetic legacy of pioneering photography doesn't allow us the vision of the colours she loved-or the style they all developed- but it's fun trying to find out Em- and increasingly the trail of influences lays backwards to the Freshwater Circle at the Bay here in the 1860's.

A lovely guest staying here at the house, said last night that after the third generation- people can cease to be 'people', and be seen merely as 'historical figures'. Luckily, for me- our Julia had such a strong personality- that it isn't simply her work that is intriguing. This lady was it seems- so 'different', 'eccentric', a 'genius', 'force of nature' and other descriptions- that she actually defied categorising, recording accurately, or understanding at the time.

So, with so much more to discover about her, her work- success and failure of essentially a life devoted to 'work in progress' on her art- it's a fascinating topic with ever-more fascinating subjects who either lived or visited the houses her and here-abouts...

Looking forwards to seeing you and Annabel in your new house in a few weeks time. I will bring you the Winnie the Pooh sticker book, and you can show me your lovely new bedroom,

Your ever-loving Grandmother,

GiGi xxx

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Absurd Queen's Wisdom

Dearest Emily,

In your new house that says 'Boo' and your new bedroom that says 'BAH', your Grandmother has some simple advice for you today...


Your ever-loving Grandmother, GiGi xxx

(image artwork copyright 2014)

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Outside of Time

Dearest Emily,

I've been itching to make a T-shirt out of one of Julia Margaret Cameron's images for two years now, and had put the design aside for a while to get on with other stuff. Then, Uncle Joe was trawling through my iphoto for something or other- and said that there was a T-Shirt design 'that even he would wear'. Wondering how I'd made that 'grade'- I asked him which one he meant.

Turned out it was our good old 'Iago' of Angelo Collorozzi by Julia Margaret Cameron- (we've been there before on a blog-post Em.) What struck me anew this time was how the picture that got me into JMC's work- sported on the cover of Colin Fords fabulous book on Julia- was how definitive it is of her essence as a photographer. How half a dozen or so of her images are truly magnificent. And I think- rather than being 'haphazard' as she has often been described- I think that she knew exactly what she was aiming for and her own place in this new fangled 'art'. Still, I can't do Uncle Joe's T-shirt until the owner's either agree to let me- or don't. So, I've done a sketch for Joe's purposes.

Of course, we prefer the original Em, and I'm crossing my fingers that we'll be able to use it- but in the mean-time Uncle Joe will have his wish- and it'll be a prototype. Whilst drawing it- I was so reminded of how absolutely and utterly timeless were and are, some of Mrs Cameron's images- this being the easiest case in point.

I rest my case!

I hope you and Annabel are enjoying your new home- and can't wait to come and visit very soon...

Your ever-loving Grand-mother,

GiGi xxx