Lady Georgiana Berkeley
The image above and the gallery below are from one of my favorite books in my collection: ‘Album de Collages de L’Angleterre Victorienne,’ or to translate, album of Victorian English collages. The book is light on text and consists almost entirely of photo collages made by Lady Georgiana Berkeley, a Victorian aristocrat who, to fill her free time, created these wildly fanciful photo collages featuring portraits of friends and family.
Berkeley was born in 1831 to a spectacularly wealthy and powerful family (Berkeley square in London is named after them). Apparently, according to the introduction, little is known about the details of her life – She married in 1877, well after the completion of this album, to Sidney Atherley, who died shortly afterwards. Berkeley lived on until 1919, surviving all of her immediate family members.
The images themselves, constructed between 1865 and 1871, when it appears she lost interest in the project, use photographs that seem to have been taken by professional and salon photographers and that Berkeley reappropriated to suit her needs. Often, figures are cut out of their backgrounds and placed on or around animals, but just as frequently the photos are left untouched and instead are surrounded by elaborately painted frames. The only strong thread running through the collages is a shared fantastical universe, similar to that depicted by her contemporary, Lewis Carrol (himself a photographer), in ‘Alice in Wonderland.’
This is a really handsome little book – The images are gorgeous, and flipping through it, you really get the sense of a woman sitting at home whiling away her ample leisure hours with immense flights of fancy. Track down a copy if you can; 51 images are reproduced here of a total of 101 images in the original, in the archive of the Mus√©e d’Orsay. The book was produced for a show there in 1997.