Garden Reach, Calcutta, India 1815 – (Ceylon) Sri Lanka 1879
No title ("Elaine the Lily Maid of Astolat") (c.1874) Materials & Technique: photographs, albumen prints, albumen silver photograph
Alfred Lord Tennyson, England’s most famous poet, was a friend and neighbour of the Camerons at Freshwater Bay. In 1874 he suggested that Cameron illustrate his Idylls of the King, a popular cycle of poems on Arthurian legends that he had written over a period of almost forty years. The two-volume set had lithographed hand-written text and tipped in albumen prints. The model for Arthur was William Warder, a porter on Yarmouth Pier near Freshwater. May Prinsep, a niece of Cameron’s, sat for Elaine. Elaine of Astolat dies of her unrequited love for Sir Lancelot; she was also the subject of Tennyson’s The Lady of Shalott. Despite their beauty, the books were not a commercial success. This was the last project Cameron worked on before migrating with her husband to Ceylon to be closer to their coffee-farming sons.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra