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HomeContents > People > Photographers > William John Newton

Other: Sir W. Newton 
Other: Sir William Newton 
Dates:  1785 - 1869
Active:  UK

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for William John Newton
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)

Newton built a substantial reputation as a miniaturist before the advent of photography and in 1837 was appointed Painter in Ordinary to Her Majesty. His early participation in the Photographic Society bolstered its claims for admission into the London art scene. He became vice president of the society and led the efforts to overturn Talbot’s patent restrictions. Sir William became a member of the Calotype Club in 1847, but nothing is known about his early photography. He was an active contributor to exhibitions, starting with six paper negative views in the 1852 Society of Arts exhibition in London. Newton’s series on the Burnham Beeches, first shown in 1853, boosted his photographic reputation. He contributed to exhibitions every year, remaining loyal to the calotype through the 1856 Manchester Photographic Society exhibition. He also contributed calotypes to the Photographic Exchange Club. In 1852 Newton devised a method of coating his calotype paper with barium chloride, isolating the silver salts from the vagaries of the paper fibers and yielding a more consistent negative. Newton was a leading advocate of soft-focus photography, an anathema to the more strictly scientific participants in the emerging world of photography but a further step in the forays of photography into the world of art. His 1853 lecture on photography in relation to art, published in the very first issue of the Photographic Journal and reprinted in the Civil Engineer and Architect’s Journal, was an influential survey and commentary. Newton’s photographic colleagues were disappointed when, during the planning for the 1862 International Exhibition in London, he sided with those who reclassified photography as a science rather than as an art. 
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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