The J. Paul Getty Museum


Object Details




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




Freshwater, Isle of Wight, England (Place Created)


January 1864


Albumen silver print

Object Number:



17.9 × 14.3 cm (7 1/16 × 5 5/8 in.)

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Object Description

In December 1863 Julia Margaret Cameron received the gift of a wooden box camera from her only daughter, Julia, and her son-in-law Charles Norman. She was forty-eight years old, a woman whose prodigious energies had been centered on raising her six children. Now, with her daughter married and her husband and three eldest sons away on her family coffee estates in Ceylon, she found herself at a transitional moment in her life. Taking up photography at this time, she began, in her own words “to arrest all beauty that came before me.”

Cameron’s retrospective written account of her career in photography, Annals of My Glass House (penned in 1874 and published posthumously in 1889), stresses the solitary nature of her early experiments: “I began with no knowledge of the art. I did not know where to place my dark box, how to focus my sitter, and my first picture I effaced to my consternation by rubbing my hand over the filmy side of the glass.” Despite this proclamation, Cameron may have already learned the basics of camera operation and chemistry from Oscar Gustave Rejlander, with whom she shared many mutual friends, most importantly Alfred Tennyson, her neighbor on the Isle of Wight. Another likely early tutor was her brother-in-law Lord Somers, an accomplished amateur photographer who made portraits of Cameron’s family circle.

After some three weeks of experimentation in the January cold of her studio at her home in Freshwater, Cameron created this portrait of Annie Philpot (1857-1936), the daughter of a local resident. She later recalled the circumstances surrounding its creation in Annals of My Glass House: “I was in transport of delight. I ran all over the house to search for gifts for the child. I felt as if she entirely had made the picture. I printed, toned, fixed and framed it, and presented it to her father that same day.” Cameron carefully trimmed this particular print for presentation in an album given to Lord Overstone in 1865. It is a picture of great simplicity and grace, conspicuously divided in terms of light and dark. The out-of-focus background and deep shadows around the model’s eyes were acceptable to Cameron, indicating that from the outset her criteria for “success” were notably out of step with convention. She proudly inscribed the picture’s mount “My very first success in photography.”

Adapted from Julian Cox. Julia Margaret Cameron, In Focus: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1996), 10. ©1996 The J. Paul Getty Museum.

- 1865

Julia Margaret Cameron, British, born India, 1815 - 1879, by gift to Samuel Jones Loyd, baron of Overstone, August 5, 1865.
Source: Inscription on inside cover of album: "To Lord Overstone/From his Friend/Julia Margaret Cameron/Fresh Water Bay/5 August 1865/ Every thing in this book is from the Life & all these Photographs are printed as well as taken by J. M. C."

1865 - by 1883

Samuel Jones Loyd, 1st Baron of Overstone, British, 1796 - 1883, by gift or inheritance to his daughter, Harriet Sarah Jones Loyd Lindsay.
Source: There is a Lockinge bookplate on the inside cover of the Overstone Album. The Lockinge Estate was purchased by Lord Overstone and given to his daughter and son-in-law upon their marriage in 1858.

by 1883 - by 1920
by 1920 - 1975

Private Collection [sold, "Early Photographic Images and Related Material," Sotheby's Belgravia, London, June 26, 1975, lot 45 to Mickey Pallas.]

1975 - by 1981

Mickey Pallas, American, 1916 - 1997, sold to an unknown collector.

after 1975 - 1981

Private Collection [sold, "Photographs," Sotheby's New York, October 21, 1981, lot 54, to Daniel Wolf.]

1981 - 1984

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, 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. 10-11, plate 1, 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), pp. 24, 111-12, ill. p. 113 , p. 118, cat. 1.