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Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage Moves to The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Long before Photoshop and Scrap-booking; long before Dadaists and Surrealists incorporated collage into their art, the women on England’s upper class created ornate works, mixing the new medium of photography with painting and drawing.

In the exhibition “Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage”, currently on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Elizabeth Siegel curates an exploration into a time and the inner circle of this privileged class.   These albums the aristocrats were creating tell fantastical stories, taking us into their world of literature or society.

“Butterfly” by Marie-Blanche-Hennelle Fournier

The technology of photography had been around for 20 years by the time these women began to create the works, but the advent of the “carte de visite” allowing for numerous images on one negative, increasing the amount of images available and they began to share the images with others.  The artists began to place those photographs in playful settings surrounded by hand painted worlds.

Lacking the heft of the surrealists’ messages, the works are a mixture of Terry Gilliams’ animation for Monty Python and the scrapbooking craze.   Heads on playing cards, as bubbles floating in the air and on the bodies of ducks, the images show a whimsy not often equated with Victorian Society.

The exhibition, “Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage” continues through May 9th at the  Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

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