Viscountess Clementina Elphinstone Fleeming was born to Admiral Charles Fleeming and Catalina Alessandro Fleeming near Glasgow, Scotland on June 1, 1822. She was educated in the 'feminine arts’' - languages, literature, music, and sewing – until her father's death in 1841, when the Fleeming clan traveled extensively throughout Italy before settling permanently in London. Three years' later, in 1845, Miss Fleeming married Cornelius Maude, despite his family's objections on social class grounds. The happy couple became the proud parents of ten children, and after the death of Mr. Maude's father in 1856, the son became the 4th Viscount Hawarden, and with that title came an Irish estate and great wealth. With her social (and financial) status now secure, the young mother could enjoy a more leisurely life of a titled lady.
Taking up photography (and with plenty of available subjects in the forms of her children), Lady Hawarden began making portraits for her family with her stereoscopic camera. When the family moved to 5 Princes Garden in London, Lady Hawarden transformed the house's second floor into a studio. Dallmeyer's No. 1 triple lens was her personal lens of choice to enhance visual definition. Despite her amateur status, she produced professional looking albumen prints from wet-collodion plates. Her daughters Isabella, Clementina, and Florence were featured in series collectively dubbed "Photographic Studies" and "Studies from Life," which were made between 1859 and 1864 and exhibited by the Photographic Society of London. "Studies of Life" received a silver medal for "best contribution by an amateur," which earned Lady Hawarden membership into the prestigious society, as well as sponsorship from acclaimed art photographer Oscar Rejlander.
Lady Hawarden's works retain a rather ambigious quality in that her photographs were never titled, and while her daughters are often posed as if sitting for a painting, there is a conveyed intimacy that can only be achieved through photography. There is often an implied sense of claustrophobia, as if Victorian women have been imprisoned by societal expectations on the basis of their gender (and class). The photographer's frequent reliance upon mirrors or mirrored images suggests these young women are torn between who they are expected to be by society and who they want to be as individuals. She only ever sold her photographs once, at a charity event, the Grand Fete and Bazaar in Aid of the Building Fund of the Female School of Art, which was held June 23-25, 1864. Author Lewis Carroll (pen name of Charles Dodgson) purchased five of Lady Hawarden's photographs, which were rumored to have influenced his classic novels, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.
Lady Clementina Hawarden died suddenly of pneumonia in London on January 19, 1865 at the age of 42, with her health possibly impaired by the use of toxic processing chemicals. Her works took on an added poignance when exhibited later that year at the Dublin International Exhibition. Despite her brief life, Lady Hawarden's collection of more than 800 images continue to haunt and fascinate successive generations. In the 1980s, renewed interest in her Victorian photographs profoundly influenced up-and-coming British photographers Sarah Jones and Cindy Sherman. Since 1939, a large collection of Lady Hawarden's photographs have resided in London's Victoria and Albert Museum, and collectively represent what Oscar Rejlander referred to as "elegant and… idealized truth."
1999 Becoming: The Photographs of Clementina, Viscountess Hawarden by Carol Mavor (Durham, NC: Duke University Press), pp. xvi, xx, xxvi.
1897 The British Journal of Photography, Vol. XIV (London: Henry Greenwood & Co. Ltd.), p. 27.
2007 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), pp. 641-643.
2012 The First Fashion Photographer: Clementina, Lady Hawarden by Dave Walker (URL: https://rbkclocalstudies.wordpress.com/2012/10/04/the-first-fashion-photographer-clementina-lady-hawarden).
2016 Lady Clementina Hawarden Biography (URL: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/l/lady-clementina-hawarden).
1863 The Photographic News, Vol. VII (London: Thomas Piper), p. 99.
2012 Photography of Victorian Scotland by Roddy Simpson (Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press), pp. 157, 159.
2017 Women Photographers and Feminist Aesthetics by Claire Raymond (London: Routledge), pp. 27, 30.
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