The J. Paul Getty Museum

[Thomas Carlyle]

Object Details


[Thomas Carlyle]


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




London, England (Place Created)




Albumen silver print

Object Number:



36.7 × 25.9 cm (14 7/16 × 10 3/16 in.)

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Object Description

In an 1866 review of Julia Margaret Cameron’s work published in Macmillan’s Magazine, Conventry Patmore remarked: “Her position in literary and aristocratic society gives her the pick of the most beautiful and intellectual heads in the world. Other photographers have had to take such subjects as they could get.” In the spring of 1867 Cameron landed the opportunity to photograph the historian Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) at Little Holland House. Two negatives were made on the occasion: this frontal monumental head and a profile study (

The Pre-Raphaelite painter William Holman Hunt remarked that Carlyle’s face, “despite a shade of rickety joylessness, was one of the noblest I had ever seen.” Indeed, its sculptural quality prompted Cameron to inscribe some prints with the caption “Carlyle like a rough block of Michelangelo’s sculpture.” The author of On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History (1841) was, for Cameron, a hero himself, whose convictions regarding the immanence of the deity and a providential order working through natural leaders were entirely in keeping with her own. Carlyle’s writings were opinionated and highly intuitive and stirred readers by antagonism rather than sympathy. He posed awkward, provocative questions and told the truth about the condition of society in clear-sighted, often scathing discourses. Yet for all his tremendous critical and analytical powers, Carlyle’s weakness was his inability to suggest or supply solutions. Anna Jameson described him with great acuity in her Commonplace Book of Thoughts, Memories, Fancies (1854): “He is a man who carries his bright intellect as a light in a dark-lantern; he sees only the subjects on which he chooses to throw that blaze of light; those he sees vividly, but, as it were, exclusively. All other things, though lying near, are dark, because perversely he will not throw the light of his mind upon them.”

Julian Cox. Julia Margaret Cameron, In Focus: From the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1996), 62. ©1996 The J. Paul Getty Museum.

- about 1975

Robert Fraser, British, 1937 - 1986, sold to Samuel Wagstaff, Jr., about 1975.

about 1975 - 1984

Samuel Wagstaff, Jr., American, 1921 - 1987, sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1984.

Whisper of the Muse: The Work of Julia Margaret Cameron (September 10 to November 16, 1986)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), September 10 to November 16, 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
Experimental Photography: The First Golden Age 1851-1889 (April 11 to June 25, 1989)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), April 11 to June 25, 1989
Arrows of Time: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (January 24 to April 2, 1995)
  • Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center at UCLA (Los Angeles), January 24 to April 2, 1995
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
A Royal Passion: Queen Victoria and Photography (February 4 to June 8, 2014)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), February 4 to June 8, 2014
The Thrill of the Chase: The Wagstaff Collection of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum (March 15, 2016 to May 7, 2017)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), March 15 to July 31, 2016
  • Wadsworth Atheneum (Hartford), September 10 to December 11, 2016
  • Portland Museum of Art (Portland), February 13 to May 7, 2017

Corcoran Gallery of Art. A Book of Photographs from the Collection of Sam Wagstaff. (New York: Gray Press, 1978), p. 75.

Cox, Julian. In Focus: Julia Margaret Cameron. Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 1996), p. 62-63, plate 29, 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. 297, p. 312, cat. 627.

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

Martineau, Paul. The Thrill of the Chase: the Wagstaff collection of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2016), p. 101, pl. 49.