In 1873 there was a marked downturn in Julia Margaret Cameron’s production. She made very few new photographs and registered just two images for copyright. She concentrated her energies on exhibitions, which included a large one-woman show in Hanover Square, London, and a representative selection of prints sent to the Universal Exhibition, Vienna. The lull in her activity was almost certainly the result of the death of her daughter Julia Norman (1838-1873), at age thirty-four. Already a mother of six (like Cameron), Norman went the way of Minnie Thackeray (84.XZ.186.100) and countless other women of the period and died in childbirth.
Because her looks were not considered fine enough, Norman was seldom a subject for her mother’s camera, a bitter irony in view of the fact that it was her gift of a camera that had been the catalyst for Cameron’s remarkable career in photography. Cameron’s grief at her death is expressed in a moving series of portraits that she made of the Norman family in the summer of 1874. There is a charged stoicism and solemnity about the grouping of the children around their father, their arms joined in an enveloping gesture. The girls are fulfilling their “natural” role as supportive daughters, consolidating and carrying forward the memory of their deceased mother. Cameron’s inscription on this print—“This copy for my beloved Charlie Norman”—adds to the offertory nature. Two other prints from the series were trimmed by Cameron into tondo shapes, further emphasizing the togetherness of the family (see 94.XM.31.5 and 94.XM.31.2).
Julian Cox. Julia Margaret Cameron, In Focus: From the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1996), 92. ©1996 The J. Paul Getty Museum.