Pre-Raphaelite Class Travels to London

Professor Anne McCauley and 10 students from a variety of majors spent a semester exploring the radical new “Pre-Raphaelite” movement—formed in 1848 by a group of young British painters who, rebelling against the Royal Academy, were dedicated to “truth to nature”—and the relationship of their art to photography.  The highlight of the course was a trip to London during spring break, where the class studied Victorian painting in the Tate London; East India Company photographs in the British Library (with Henry Fox Talbots thrown in, since the Library now contains the Talbot archive); the galleries devoted to the Great Exhibition, and the holdings of Cameron, Hawarden, Fenton, and many others in the photographic study room of the Victoria and Albert Museum; and the Leighton House Museum, home of painter Frederic, Lord Leighton (with non-course-related visits to the National Gallery of Art, the British Museum, and Tate Modern).

The class also spent a day at Oxford, where they toured Christ Church College, including the Library and the Deanery garden where Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) made his views of Alice Liddell and her sisters. Students also gave reports on Pre-Raphaelite paintings in the Ashmolean Museum, the decorations of the Oxford Union Building, and early anthropological photographs in the Pitt Rivers Museum. A special pilgrimage was made to see Holman Hunt’s Light of the World in Keble College chapel.

An additional day was spent at Windsor Castle, where the class toured the building and, after extensive security clearances, was allowed into the Round Tower to view masterpieces from Queen Victorian and Prince Albert’s photographic collection, including the royal family albums.

Back in the U.S., the seminar ended the term with a trip to Washington, D.C., to see the National Gallery of Art’s exhibition Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Art and Design, 1848–1900. Closer to home, they took advantage of Firestone Library’s extensive holdings of Lewis Carroll, Rossetti, and Francis Frith materials.

The seminar’s trips to England and Washington were generously supported by the department’s Fowler McCormick Fund for the History of Photography.

London class at Windsor Castle