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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Pauline Jermyn Trevelyan

Born: Paulina Jermyn 
Other: Lady Pauline Trevelyan 
Other: Lady Trevelyan 
Other: Pauline Jermyn 
Other: Pauline Trevelyan 
Dates:  1816 - 1866, 13 May
Died:  Switzerland, Neuchâtel
Active:  UK

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for Pauline Jermyn Trevelyan
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)

Pauline Trevelyan (christened Paulina), née Jermyn, was the daughter of a clergyman, antiquarian, and naturalist who was more inclined than many to allow a seventeen-year-old girl to accompany him to the 1833 British Association for the Advancement of Science meeting at Cambridge. Her agile brain and retentive memory greatly impressed the gathered scientists, none more so than the geologist Walter (later Sir Walter) Trevelyan. Two years later they were married, and most of the first decade of this union was spent in traveling on the Continent, where they studied scientific subjects and purchased art, and Pauline sketched with the camera lucida. While her husband had a connection with Talbot, meeting him was not her first exposure to photography. In May 1839 Alan Maconochie showed her his first photogenic drawings, contact prints of botanical specimens. In 1840 she learned the chemical and optical principles of photography from lectures by David Reid. Pauline examined the daguerreotypes at the 1840 British Association for the Advancement of Science exhibition, where she discussed the reproduction of daguerreotypes with “Capt. Ibbotson” (Levett Ibbetson). Sir David Brewster showed her photographs, and while in Rome in 1843, she marveled at the daguerreotypes that Maconochie had taken in the Pyrenees. In 1843, David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson’s calotypes impressed her greatly, reminding her (and others) of Rembrandt’s sketches. Sir Thomas Phillipps proudly showed her his copy of Talbot’s The Pencil of Nature. Nevertheless, Trevelyan seemed content to draw with her camera lucida while observing the photographic progress of others. It was not until April 1844 that she finally admitted to helping her husband make some calotypes. The day Talbot announced his invention of photography, January 25, 1839, happened to be her birthday. For her birthday in 1845, her husband presented her with his own calotype camera, signaling the end of his photographic endeavors and the serious start of hers. All of her previous artistic and scientific training was brought to bear on the effort, and she was immediately successful, recording photographic triumphs in her diaries. Pauline Trevelyan was an acerbic critic of art and literature, publishing largely in Chamber’s Edinburgh Journal, and she became a close friend of and correspondent with John Ruskin. She was a patron of the Pre-Raphaelites, particularly in conjunction with the renovation of her home at Wallington. She designed lace patterns for the lace makers near her home in Devonshire and also designed the capitals for the Oxford University Museum. The artist William Bell Scott described her as “light as a feather and as quick as a kitten.” In 1866 the Trevelyans joined Ruskin on a trip to Switzerland, where she finally succumbed to the cancer she had been fighting for years and was buried at Neuchâtel. Her photographs might illuminate the link between photography and the Pre-Raphaelites, but very few of her works have survived. 
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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