Lady Clementina Hawarden (1 June 1822 – 19 January 1865) was prominent portrait photographer of the 1860s and pioneering female 19th century photographer. Hawarden first began to experiment with photography in 1857, taking stereoscopic landscape photographs before moving to large-format, stand-alone portraits of her daughters. She would often shoot her daughters in romantic and sensual poses. She has produced over eight hundred photographs during her all-too-brief life.
Now, some of the earliest photos of Victorian women have come to light in a revealing and historical album of prints, which date back to the 1860s, is set to fetch £150,000 ($236,000) at auction. Alice In Wonderland writer Lewis Carroll who was avid collector of Hawarden’s photos offered an important collection of 37 prints by her and a pair of pencil sketches of her and her husband which be auctioned by Bonhams in London on March 19. The most significant group in the present collection are all approximately 198 x 144mm. and tend to depict one figure in the first floor front room at 5 Princes Gardens.
Francesca Spickernell, photography specialist at Bonhams, said: “It was pioneering for a woman to be taking photos like this at this point in the 19th century.
“Her output was prolific and she won awards for her work.
“She struck out into areas and depicted moods unknown to the art photographers of her age.
“The photography scene at this point in history was dominated by males so for a female to achieve the amount of recognition she did in such a short space of time was a tremendous achievement.
“Most photography was very masculine and mostly architectural so these elegant, feminine shots really stood out at that time.”
With careful choice of props, clothing, mirrors, balcony, and posture, Hawarden produced exquisite studies of her adolescent daughters. The figures and dress are the main subject, carefully framed in the room, and often in front of the balcony. The city beyond often provides a blurred background.
Hawarden exhibited her work with the Photographic Society of London in 1863 and 1864, under the titles ‘Studies from Life’ and ‘Photographic Studies’, and was awarded the Society’s silver medal in both years. Tragically, Hawarden was never to collect her medals. She died at 5 Princes Gardens, South Kensington, on 19 January 1865, after suffering from pneumonia for one week, aged 42.