First Lady of Colour Photography – Sarah Angelina Acland

Day 50 of Colourisation Project – June 26

Born in Oxford on this day in 1849, Sarah Angelina Acland is one of the most important photographers of the late Victorian and early Edwardian periods. 

It was not uncommon for women from well-to-do families to take up photography as an art in the late nineteenth centurySarah Angelina Acland was the daughter of Sir Henry Wentworth Acland (1815–1900), Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University, and Sarah Acland (1815–1878), a socialite and philanthropist after whom the Acland Hospital in Oxford was named.

Growing up in Oxford, Acland mixed in artistic circles. She had her photo taken by Lewis Carroll as a child. John Ruskin taught her art. And she was known to have held Rosetti’s palette for him while he painted the Oxford Union murals. 

Although an amateur photographer, Acland first gained status as a portraitist counting amongst her illustrious subjects, Prime Minister William Gladstone, physicist Lord Kelvin, and the noted art critic John Ruskin who were all regular visitors to her family’s home.

However it is through her work in the then fledgling field of color photography that Acland achieved her greatest acclaim and is now recognised as a pioneer in the field. Greatly influenced by Julia Margaret Cameron, who was also a pioneer of early photography, Acland started dabbling in colour in 1899.  As Acland perfected her skills she came to be recognised as the leading colour photographer of the day. When her color photographs were shown at the Royal Photographic Society in 1905, her peers considered them to be among the finest work produced in the new medium. 

Several years before the release of the Lumière Autochrome system, Acland’s was achieving great results using the Sanger Shepherd colour processes, in which three separate photographs were taken through red, green, and blue filters.

Sarah Angelina Acland
                  Sarah Angelina Acland by Unknown photographer circa 1920  –  Coloured by Loredana Crupi

In 1894 Miss Acland joined the recently-founded Oxford Camera Club as its first lady member. Acland was a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society (FRPS) and the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA).

In 1904, after a visit to her brother Admiral Acland at his home in Gibraltar, she exhibited at the Annual Exhibition of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain with 33 three-colour prints under the title The Home of the Osprey, GibraltarA collection of Acland’s photographs is housed at the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford.

She died in 1930 at her home in Oxford.

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