The J. Paul Getty Museum

Charles Hay Cameron

Object Details


Charles Hay Cameron


Julia Margaret Cameron (British, born India, 1815 - 1879)




Freshwater, Isle of Wight, England (Place Created)




Albumen silver print

Object Number:



29.2 × 22.4 cm (11 1/2 × 8 13/16 in.)

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Object Description

Charles Hay Cameron (1795-1880), once described by Alfred, Lord Tennyson as “a philosopher with his beard dipped in moonlight,” was educated at Eton College and Oxford University. An accomplished scholar, he had a highly distinguished career as a civil servant in the judiciary in India. He was fiercely devoted to legal reform and a proponent of education in the colonies. In 1835 he was elected as the British member on the Indian Law Commission and while in Calcutta served on the Supreme Council of India. He pursued his scholarly work without the benefit of institutional support, an example that surely stimulated his wife’s endeavors.

When Julia Margaret Cameron met her future husband in 1835, he was writing his “Essay on the Sublime and Beautiful,” a thoughtful text that explores many of the concepts that were to be fundamental to her art. The aesthetics of the human figure, the interrelationship of sight and touch in the creation of works of art, and the metaphysical properties of language are some of the issues that are discussed.

When he retired to the Isle of Wight in 1860, Charles Cameron led a sedentary existence, withdrawing from the customary throng of household visitors to the isolation of his bedchamber and the solace of Homer, Virgil, Shakespeare, Milton, and Keats. He was photographed only on a few occasions by his wife, most notably when he performed the roles of King Lear and Merlin in her illustrations for Tennyson’s Idylls of the King (see 84.XO.732.1.1.5, 84.XO.732.6).

In this early portrait Cameron chose to picture her husband in an engaging, frontal pose, seated in an armchair in his overcoat, bathed in dramatic side lighting. The grandiose and yet tender nature of the study recalls the sentiments expressed by Cameron toward him in a prayer she wrote in 1838, when quickened with her first child: “Most blessed Lord . . . Thou alone dost know how fondly dear This my husband is to me, how great is his tenderness, how true is his love.”

Julian Cox. Julia Margaret Cameron, In Focus: From the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1996), 14. ©1996 The J. Paul Getty Museum.


Daniel Wolf, Inc., sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1984.

Whisper of the Muse at Loyola Marymount University (September 12 to October 25, 1986)
  • Laband Gallery, Loyola Marymount University (Los Angeles), September 12 to October 25, 1986
Portrait Photographs by Julia Margaret Cameron (November 25, 1987 to February 14, 1988)
  • National Portrait Gallery (Washington D.C.), November 25, 1987 to February 14, 1988
Julia Margaret Cameron: The Creative Process (October 15, 1996 to May 3, 1998)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), October 15, 1996 to January 5, 1997
  • Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto), February 4 to May 3, 1998
Julia Margaret Cameron: Nineteenth Century Photographic Genius (February 6 to August 30, 2003)
  • National Portrait Gallery (London), February 6 to May 18, 2003
  • National Museum of Photography, Film and Television (Bradford), June 5 to August 30, 2003
Julia Margaret Cameron, Photographer (November 21, 2003 to January 11, 2004)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), October 21, 2003 to January 11, 2004

Cox, Julian. In Focus: Julia Margaret Cameron. Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 1996), p. 14-15, plate 3, ill.

Cox, Julian, and Colin Ford. Julia Margaret Cameron: The Complete Photographs. Joanne Lukitsh and Philippa Wright, contributors. (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2003), ill. p. 304, cat. 592.

Ford, Colin, Julia Margaret Cameron: A Critical Biography (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2003).