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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Amelia Elizabeth Guppy

Dates:  1808 - 1886
Active:  Great Britain / Trinidad

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for Amelia Elizabeth Guppy
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)

A mercurial, high-spirited, and striking woman, Amelia Guppy (née Parkinson) first learned to love painting from her mother and then under the personal tutelage of the English landscape painter David Cox. In 1834 she eloped from her comfortable family home in Hertfordshire to marry Robert Guppy, a lawyer whose father and mother had made a fortune in copper cladding British warships. One new brother-in-law was a partner of Isambard Kingdom Brunel and another was the owner of Trinidadian sugar plantations. In 1839, the very year that photography was announced to the public, the Guppys moved to Trinidad to assist in the emancipation of the slaves. Guppy cut a striking figure on her mule, going out to paint the flora and the landscape, but she looked forward to her return visits to England. Her first known photograph is an 1847 portrait of her son Robert Lechmere Guppy (namesake of the popular aquarium fish). Back in London, she donated a negative taken in Trinidad to the Photographic Society in June 1853. That same year she calotyped various items in the vast collections of the mad bibliophile Sir Thomas Phillipps, a relative by marriage, her paper negatives including copies of ancient seals from Utrecht, Babylonian urns, and modern books. In 1854 Guppy displayed four calotypes of British architecture and landscape in the Photographic Society’s exhibition in London, and she became a member of the society five years later, listing her address in Trinidad. In 1871, at the age of sixty-three, Guppy set off on her own to explore the upper reaches of the Orinoco River in Venezuela, intent on painting and collecting the region’s rare orchids. We may never know the full extent of her photographic work, for most of Guppy’s paintings and other artifacts were destroyed by the effects of storage during World War II. 
Roger Taylor & Larry J. Schaaf Impressed by Light: British Photographs from Paper Negatives, 1840-1860 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2007) 
This biography is courtesy and copyright of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is included here with permission. 
Date last updated: 4 Nov 2012. 
We welcome institutions and scholars willing to test the sharing of biographies for the benefit of the photo-history community. The biography above is a part of this trial.
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Further research

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William Shew
Panorama of San Francisco, California 
1852 (ca)
Family history 
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