J.F.W. Herschel

Julia Margaret Cameron4/1/1867

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The astronomer Sir John Frederick William Herschel was a lifelong friend of Julia Margaret Cameron. They met in 1835 in South Africa, where Cameron was recovering from an illness and Herschel was conducting astronomical investigations. Herschel was not only a preeminent astronomer but also made several significant discoveries in photographic processes, most notably the invention of the cyanotype blueprint.

Even before she began to make photographs, Cameron kept apprised of discoveries in photography through her correspondence with Herschel. In this portrait of her dear friend, Cameron sought to portray "faithfully the greatness of the inner as well as the features of the outer man." Cameron draped Herschel in a swath of dark cloth, which served to highlight his white hair and to focus attention on his face. Herschel's unruly hair and eyebrows and fiery eyes are features commonly ascribed to a popular image of "genius"; they effectively convey strength of character and intellectual intensity.

Show lessRead more


  • Title: J.F.W. Herschel
  • Creator: Julia Margaret Cameron
  • Date: 4/1/1867
  • Location Created: Hawkhurst, Kent, England
  • Physical Dimensions: 35.4 x 27.3 cm (13 15/16 x 10 3/4 in.)
  • External Link: Find out more about this object on the Museum website.
  • Medium: Albumen silver print
  • Source Credit Line: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
  • Signature: Signed and dated.
  • Object Type: Print
  • Object Status: Permanent Collection
  • Number: 84.XM.349.3
  • Markings: Markings: Colnaghi blindstamp.
  • Inscription: Inscription: Titled and inscribed: "Freshwater N[?]ay", "From Life - Registered Photograph - Copyright", and "Likeness of the friend of 34 years of my life/Taken at his own residence Collingwood in April 1867."
  • Display Location: Not currently on view
  • Department: Photographs
  • Culture: British
  • Classification: Photographs