Museum Director Marcelle Giving a Press Preview

Milwaukee Art Museum Presents Major Exhibition of Renowned Photographer Julia Margaret Cameron’s Pioneering Portraits

Posted on February 6th, 2024


The only Midwestern presentation of the internationally touring exhibition Arresting Beauty: Julia Margaret Cameron showcases the 19th-century artist’s explorations of transcendent beauty through portraiture.

MILWAUKEE, WI—February 6, 2024—The Milwaukee Art Museum partners with the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, to present Arresting Beauty: Julia Margaret Cameron, an exhibition illuminating the transcendent beauty of the renowned photographer’s pioneering style. Featuring more than 90 works, including photographs, paintings, and archival objects, the exhibition will be on view May 3–July 28, 2024, in the Museum’s Herzfeld Center for Photography and Media Arts.

“We are honored to bring this significant selection of Julia Margaret Cameron’s photographs from the V&A’s collection to the Milwaukee Art Museum,” said Marcelle Polednik, PhD, Donna and Donald Baumgartner Director. “As the only Midwest venue for Arresting Beauty, our visitors will have a unique opportunity to view these rare and groundbreaking prints that will likely not be brought back together again in our generation.”

Julia Margaret Cameron (English, b. India, 1815–1879) is distinguished as one of the most innovative and influential photographers in the medium’s history. In 1863, at 48 years old, she received her first camera as a gift from one of her children. Cameron refined her artistic practice, creating a distinct style that set her apart from other photographers: close-up, soft-focus portraits often with scratches and smudges she thought enhanced the images’ beauty. Though her style was criticized and considered aesthetically radical for her time, Cameron’s legacy positions her as an artist who broke ground for future photographers. For over a decade, she made photographs from her home in Freshwater on the Isle of Wight and her studio at the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A) in London. She is best known for sensitive, spiritual portraits of her contemporaries and scenes staging allegorical, biblical, historical, and literary stories. Sitters for Cameron’s photographs include Charles Darwin and Alfred Tennyson, as well as her family members, friends, neighbors, and domestic workers.

“Julia Margaret Cameron found beauty in the everyday—both in the people around her and in the photographic ‘mistakes’ she made,” said Kristen Gaylord, Herzfeld Curator of Photography and Media Arts at the Milwaukee Art Museum. “Her artistic pursuit of such beauty left an enduring impact on the field, and I’m thrilled we can bring this major internationally touring exhibition to our community.”

Arresting Beauty travels from Jeu de Paume, Paris, to the Milwaukee Art Museum and comprises three sections: Cameron’s early photography experiments, her portraits of her contemporaries, and her allegorical compositions and artistic tableaux.

Exhibition highlights include:

  • Annie, 1864, a portrait of Cameron’s neighbor, deemed by the artist as her “first success”;
  • The Whisper of the Muse, 1865, an early allegorical photograph featuring artist George Watts as a musician with two local girls as muses;
  • John Frederick William Herschel, 1867, a striking portrait of the prominent scientist and photographic inventor who was a friend of Cameron’s;
  • The Rosebud Garden of Girls, 1868, a composition featuring five women surrounded by flowers, its title inspired by a line from one of Alfred Tennyson’s poems.

Accompanying Cameron’s prints are archival treasures, such as rarely exhibited, handwritten pages from her influential memoir Annals of My Glass House; her camera lens; and a photograph of Cameron taken by her son, Henry Herschel Hay Cameron. To provide historical context for the art that influenced, and was influenced by, Cameron, the Milwaukee Art Museum will present pieces from its collection alongside those from the V&A, including its own photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron, three paintings from its European collection, and three prints never before exhibited.

Arresting Beauty: Julia Margaret Cameron was organized by Lisa Springer, Curator of Photography Touring Exhibitions, and Marta Weiss, Senior Curator of Photography, Victoria and Albert Museum, London. The Milwaukee Art Museum presentation was organized by Kristen Gaylord, Herzfeld Curator of Photography and Media Arts.

V&A logo

A V&A Exhibition – Touring the World

Sponsors

Leadership Sponsors
The Estate of Betty Croen
Milwaukee Art Museum’s Friends of Art

Supporting Sponsor
Anonymous

Contributing Sponsor
Barbara Fuldner

Exhibitions in the Herzfeld Center for Photography and Media Arts are sponsored by
Herzfeld Foundation

The Milwaukee Art Museum extends its sincere thanks to the Visionaries.
Mark and Debbie Attanasio
Donna and Donald Baumgartner
Murph Burke
Joel and Caran Quadracci
Sue and Bud Selig
Jeff and Gail Yabuki and the Yabuki Family Foundation

About the Milwaukee Art Museum

The Milwaukee Art Museum is an essential destination for art and architecture and a vital cultural resource that connects visitors to dynamic art experiences and one another. Housed in iconic buildings by Santiago Calatrava, Eero Saarinen, and David Kahler on a 24-acre lakefront campus, the Museum is Wisconsin’s largest art institution and home to both broad and deep collections, with exceptional holdings in American painting, sculpture, and decorative arts; conceptual and minimalist art; prints and drawings; European art from the Renaissance through the nineteenth century; photography and new media; modern and contemporary design; folk and self-taught art; and twentieth-century Haitian art. A bold symbol of Milwaukee’s ambition and forward-thinking vision, the Museum is a place for community building, education, and celebration, that fosters creativity and critical discourse for audiences of all ages and backgrounds. For more information, visit mam.org.

Media Contact

For more information or to request images, please contact:

Media Contact

For more information or to request images, please contact:

Cortney Heimerl / Lindsey Wurz
Milwaukee Art Museum
communications@mam.org
414-940-0490 / 414-224-3865