Roger Fenton's Nature Morte: the pull of sculpture

Smith, Lindsay (2013) Roger Fenton's Nature Morte: the pull of sculpture. History of Photography, 37 (4). pp. 397-411. ISSN 0308-7298

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In 1860, Roger Fenton exhibited a distinctive set of photographic still lifes. Little did viewers of the time know that these would be among his last photographs. Technically accomplished, large in format and expensively priced, the prints of fruit and flowers – some including plaster figurines – stretched the limits of the photographic medium by transforming the look of monochrome. Although in some ways strikingly atypical, in their rendering the ‘black and white’ medium newly commensurate with a popular genre, the sumptuous still lifes perpetuate a vital connection with the medium of sculpture characteristic of Fenton’s earlier photographs. That connection emerges in the propensity of such photographs to petrify – turn to stone as it were – those objects they capture while simultaneously holding their potential for subsequent metamorphosis. Such a quality of transformation, most obviously present in Fenton’s photographs of antiquities in the British Museum, is also at work in his landscapes. Indeed, as the natural world is petrified in his views of north Wales, Fenton highlights the implicit metamorphosis within the apparent stasis, or characteristic immobility, of the photographic image.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Roger Fenton (1819–69), James Bridge Davidson (1824–85), classical sculpture, British Museum, north Wales, still life, metamorphoses, Victorian Photography
Schools and Departments: School of English > English
Subjects: N Fine Arts > NB Sculpture
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Depositing User: Laura Vellacott
Date Deposited: 18 Mar 2013 10:56
Last Modified: 08 Mar 2017 07:17

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