Maria Harriet Elizabeth Cator (English, died 1881)

Maria Harriet Elizabeth Cator (English, died 1881) Untitled page from the Cator Album, late 1860s/70s Collage of watercolor and albumen prints Hans P. Kraus, Jr., New York

Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage

June 5 - September 5, 2010


This exhibition showcases the little-known phenomenon of Victorian photocollage. Organized by the Art Institute of Chicago and curated by Elizabeth Siegel, it features more than 40 of the best albums and loose pages from collections across the United States, Europe and Australia — many rarely, if ever, seen in public before.

With sharp wit and dramatic shifts of scale, these delightful collages upend the serious conventions of photography at that time. They also reveal the accomplished hands and educated minds of their makers — taking on the new theory of evolution, addressing the changing role of photography, and challenging the strict conventions of aristocratic society. And while these unique compositions may seem wonderfully odd to us now, they are actually perfectly in keeping with the Victorian sensibility that embraced juxtaposition and variety. They also offer enduring inspiration for photographic experimentation today.

Share your Photocollages


Toronto Star: The roots of Surrealism in Victorian collage by Murray White, Visual Art Critic.

Eye Weekly: Playing With Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage by David Balzer. 

Organized by

The Art Institute of Chicago

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