Major exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery!

21 March 2024 to 16 June 2024 National Portrait Gallery

L-R: The Dream (Mary Hillier) by Julia Margaret Cameron, 1869. Wilson Centre for Photography: Untitled, 1979 by Francesca Woodman. Courtesy Woodman Family Foundation. © Woodman Family Foundation/DACS London

Francesca Woodman and Julia Margaret Cameron: Portraits to Dream In

From 21 March to 16 June 2024, the National Portrait Gallery will display a major retrospective exhibition of work by two of the most significant photographers in the history of the medium – Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879) and Francesca Woodman (1958-1981). Bringing their work together for the first time in an exhibition of this scale, it will showcase more than 160 rare vintage prints from galleries, museums and private collections, including 96 works by Woodman and 71 by Cameron, spanning the entire careers of both photographers – who worked 100 years apart.

Francesca Woodman and Julia Margaret Cameron: Portraits to Dream In will offer a new way to consider these two artists, by moving away from the biographical emphasis that has often been the focus of how their work is understood. The exhibition challenges this approach in its insistence on experiencing the physical print, taking the picture making of Woodman and Cameron as a starting point for consideration of their work. While neither artist aimed for technical perfection in their printing, for each it was a dynamic and essential aspect of their creative process used to explore and extend the possibilities of photographic image making.

The exhibition’s title, Portraits to Dream In, suggests that when seen side by side, both artists conjure a dream state within their work as part of their shared exploration of appearance, identity, the muse, gender and archetypes.The title of the exhibition comes from an observation made by Woodman that photographs could be ‘places for the viewer to dream in’. Both Woodman and Cameron produced work that was deeply rooted in mythology and storytelling and each made portraits of those close to them to represent these narratives. 

Visitors will experience the work of Woodman and Cameron moving forward and back in time between the nineteenth and twentieth century; and also within the relatively short span of years that each artist was active.  Themes on display will comprise: Declaring intentions & claiming space; Angels & Otherworldly Beings; Mythology; Doubling; Nature & femininity; Caryatids & the classical form; Men and Models & Muses.

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