As soon as I saw photos of the Met’s Victorian photocollage exhibition I started to get an anxious sweat. I knew I had to see it. I don’t venture uptown nearly as much as I should, but I always enjoy myself when I do: walking in Central Park, taking in historic buildings, and gawking at rich old men in bow ties walking puffy dogs. It’s a good time!
The show was intimate, as the scale of the gallery complemented the exceedingly personal subject matter. The photocollages were never meant for public consumption and were intentioned as a fun diversion to be shared with inner circles: a visual record of Victorian women’s social register, friends, children and coy flirtations. The creative utilization of the carte viste photos (produced in mass quantities, kind of like the school pictures you’d hand out in elementary school) was fascinating enough, but I was really captivated by the watercolor portraiture: if that’s amateur painting, then my name is Mud. Seriously, that stuff is amazing.
Another note: I’d always been lead to believe that women of the Victorian aristocracy were too busy awaiting marriage, lacing corsets and focusing on producing an heir to produce any artistic work of lasting importance (with a few notable exceptions, but you know what I mean). However, I was shocked at the intricacy shown in these pieces. Even if photocollage was meant to only be a “hobby,” the time, care and inherent symbolism exhibited make it so much more than a pointless diversion to swallow an afternoon.