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playing with pictures: the art of victorian photocollage

by Grace Bonney

a few weeks ago amy and i trekked into the city for a girly day that included lunch at E.A.T (followed by a seriously amazing eclair from the to-go side of the shop) and a visit to the MET to check out “playing with pictures: the art of victorian photocollage“. i’ll be honest, when it comes to most things victorian, i’m usually not the most enthusiastic girl on the block. i think i’m missing that gene that makes me love victorian art, jane austen adaptations, and anything horse/riding related. but man am i glad that amy suggested we go. from the moment i walked in i was completely glued to the walls, staring at each of these amazing little collages.

when i think of victorian women, my rather limited knowledge of the era makes me think of stuffy ladies in corsets sitting around sipping tea. but this show taught me that not only were the doing more than sipping tea, they were spending their time creating amazing photocollage albums that combined cut photographs of their families with whimsical illustrations and watercolors of landscapes and household objects.

my favorite pieces from the show focus on actual objects, rather than landscapes- and i’m bummed that i couldn’t find an image of my favorite piece- an image of family members perched atop croquet balls and mallets- but these pieces with the cards and letters are a great example of that style. thought the show features over 45 works from the 1860s and 1870s, amy and i kept saying to ourselves how the show felt somehow modern, as if i could have stumbled upon something like this at a williamsburg gallery as much as i could at the MET. the art & craft world’s current interest in collaging and mixed media felt so at home with this collection that the entire show felt somehow more retable and personal. so, if you’re in the nyc area between now and may 9th, i highly highly suggest you pop by the MET to check out the show. click here for more information on the show, and here to check out the book i picked up as part of the show.

CLICK HERE for more images from the show after the jump!

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  • I saw this in Chicago in February and I have to say that I was pretty surprised by this artwork too. Not only was there subtle humor but the painted illustrations were really quite impressive. The ladies were definitely doing something more interesting than sipping tea!

  • Love the blog but it’s Jane Austen not Austin like the capital of Texas. And she was more Edwardian than Victorian.

  • I’m just going to throw it our that that calling Jane Austen “Edwardian” is wildly off. She was writing in the early 1800s, Edward ruled in the early 1900s.

  • oooooh i can’t’ wait to go see this! you and amy m. have provided some enticing imagery! thankfully i can drag my husband to the met and let him roam free in the american paintings wing ;)

  • I’m part of a team at the Art Gallery of Ontario working on bringing the show to Toronto. So for all of you in the GTA who can’t make it to NYC, come visit Playing with Pictures at the AGO, opening June 5th and continuing til Sept. 5th. I myself can’t wait, many of the collages are so strange and funny!

  • Okay, this really isn’t a big deal but to ward off some of the confusion: Austen was from the Regency period of England. She lived from 1775 to 1817 when there was regent prince ruling the crown. A better Victorian writer suggestion would be Dickens. He wrote during the reign of Queen Victoria (hence the Victorian moniker). I’m sorry! I don’t want to sound like a snob and it’s really no big deal, but I thought this might help. and p.s. the photos are wonderful! Thanks for posting them.

  • This gave me a great idea of what to do with our old family photos. Would make a fun family tree to have all the generations depicted hanging out in the same place.

  • I really enjoyed this exhibit when it was in Chicago a few months ago. I just love the frivolous backgrounds these women drew for their grim-faced portraits.

  • I do have an old family photo album from the 1880s-1900, i really should do something with all the cool old pictures. These are very neat, but look at them closely, these victorians were on crack! Those are some crazy alice in wonderland-esque collages!

    the people in the pickle jar?! on the wings of a butterfly?! the heads of geese?! sitting around on toad stools?!…..

    these were some jacked up funny people lol. I do love them, which I supposed says alot about me…

  • HOW MARVELLOUS!!!! that’s a great post, Grace! thanks for showing us this! I never expected! really beautiful!

  • Thank you for your blog. I found you via The Toymaker.

    You are wonderful to share the Victorian Images and ideas from the Museum. I am in my Studio way too much, I guess.

    So glas I found you.

    Keep up the super work!

    Happy thoughts,

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