A current exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York showcases a little-known, playful, and funny form of Victorian art. Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage features a collection of photocollages created by Victorian women (and a few men), in which they integrated photos of family members and friends with watercolour paintings, sketches, and writing to create strange new worlds. I wish I could see them in person! Roberta Smith gives the show a positive review in the New York Times, contextualizing the work within the history of photography. The article also features a slideshow of images. I would like to know more about how these photocollages, made primarily by upper-class women, were circulated within Victorian society. Not only are they wonderfully inventive, but they are frequently silly, and so may alter viewers’ perceptions of upper-class Victorian women’s staid pastimes.

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2 thoughts on ““Playing with Pictures”: Victorian Photocollage at the Met

  1. This is wonderful, Tara! These photocollages *are* unexpectedly silly – I’m partial to the “Mixed Pickles” image from the Westmorland Album in particular. And I appreciate Smith’s attention to the fraught distinctions between the categories of “circulating art” and “sites of female creativity” in her review of the exhibit. (On a tangentially related point, I was struck by how much the Sir Edward Blount college included in the NY Times slide-show resembles a quilt pattern.)

    There’s something so irresistibly intimate and personal and witty about these collages – the juxtaposition of sketchy hand illustration with the stern expressions of those photographed faces suggests a kind of irreverence towards the lofty seriousness that often attaches to the use of visual technologies like photography. Thanks so much for posting this!

  2. Slate has a slideshow of the exhibition too with a few additional images (though the majority of them are the same ones that appear in the NYT slideshow).

    http://www.slate.com/id/2245975/?wpisrc=eDialog

    Also, for you folks in Toronto, there are a few of these photocollages at the Art Gallery of Ontario, though I don’t recall any of them involving pickles.

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