A temporary export bar has been placed on an important album of portrait and figurative photographs by the ‘Father of Art Photography’, Oscar Rejlander (1813-1875). The action was taken by Culture Minister Ed Vaizey on Monday. The photos include prints of “Trying to Catch a Fly” and “The Fly is Caught” and several portraits in a Pre-Raphaelite style.
Born in Sweden, Rejlander settled in England in the 1840s. His pioneering work in combination printing – combining several negatives to form one image – brought him wide renown, and earned him the moniker “the father of art photography”. A highly influential figure in his time, he was regarded by contemporaries as a major star of the photographic world. This provides a last chance to keep it in the UK.
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said: The Rejlander album is a truly remarkable compilation of images by one of the great pioneers of photography. I hope a UK buyer can be found so that the album can undergo further study here in the UK. It would also be a tremendous addition to the nation’s photographic archive.
The album contains an exceptional selection of Rejlander’s work. Whilst a few of the prints are well known and some can be found in other UK collections, the majority are previously unknown studies. The compiler of the album is currently a mystery, and further investigation into their identity and that of many of the sitters, as well as the album’s provenance, could reveal a wealth of information to researchers.
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey took the decision to defer granting an export licence for the album following a recommendation by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA), administered by Arts Council England. The RCEWA made their recommendation on the grounds that it was of was of outstanding significance for the study of the history of photography and for our wider understanding of nineteenth century art.
Christopher Wright from the RCEWA said: Rejlander was one of the most popular photographers of his day, famous for pioneering combination prints and for his illustrations in Darwin’s The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. This particular album, a rare survival, is known to have been shown to both Pope Pius IX and the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VII), who was an enthusiastic collector of his work.
The decision on the export licence application for the album will be deferred for a period ending on 23 April 2015 inclusive. This period may be extended until 23 July 2015 inclusive if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase the album is made at the recommended price of £82,600.