Curator Kate? The Duchess of Cambridge Busts Out Her Art History Degree to Organize a Show at the National Portrait Gallery

Duchess Catherine is a patron of the museum.

Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, visits the National Portrait Gallery in 2012. Photo by Sang Tan - WPA Pool/Getty Images.

The Duchess of Cambridge is putting her education to use. Kate Middleton—now Duchess Catherine—is curating a spring exhibition of Victorian photography at London’s National Portrait Gallery, where she is a patron.

According to the museum, the duchess selected several images for “Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography” and wrote the foreword to the exhibition catalogue. Her interest in 19th-century photography dates back to her time studying art history at the University of St. Andrews where she chose the topic as the subject of her undergraduate thesis.

Clementina Hawarden, Photographic Study (Clementina Maude) (early 1860s). Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Opening in March, the exhibition examines the work of four groundbreaking 19th-century artists—Julia Margaret Cameron (1815–79), Lewis Carrol (1823–98), Lady Clementina Hawarden (1822–65), and Oscar Gustave Rejlander (1813–75)—whose work explored the then-fledgling medium of photography. “Here visitors can see the birth of an idea—raw, edgy, experimental—the Victorian Avant-Garde, not just in photography, but in art writ large,” the National Portrait Gallery’s head of photography Phillip Prodger said in a statement.

Oscar Rejlander, Two ways of Life (1856–57). Courtesy of Moderna Museet, Stockholm.

In her forward, the duchess writes that she is particularly interested in photos of Victorian children, which figure prominently in her selection of works for the exhibition. “These photographs allow us to reflect on the importance of preserving and appreciating childhood while it lasts,” she says. “Children held a special place in the Victorian imagination and were celebrated for their seemingly boundless potential. This notion still rings true for us today.”

Lewis Carrol, Liddell (1858). Courtesy of National Portrait Gallery, London.

Nicholas Cullinan, director of the National Portrait Gallery, told the Evening Standard he was grateful that the duchess “supported this exhibition in such a direct and personal manner.” He said the exhibition “will be a rare opportunity to see the works of all four of these highly innovative and influential artists.”

The duchess appears to be more than just a fan of photography. In addition to curating the National Gallery show, she is an eager amateur photographer and has released photos she took of her children, four-year-old Prince George and two-year-old Princess Charlotte.

“Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography” will be on view March 1–May 20, 2018, at the National Portrait Gallery, on St Martin’s Place in London.

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.
Article topics