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Darwin Correspondence Project

3.21 Herbert Rose Barraud, photos

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The successful portrait photographer Herbert Rose Barraud, who had studios in London and Liverpool, photographed Darwin in the summer of 1881, in a group of four or so close-up head-and-shoulders portraits. This was probably at about the same period that the Elliott and Fry photographs were taken: yet Barraud’s photographs have an intimacy and rapport which theirs lack, bringing us close to Darwin in every sense, and emphasising the expressiveness of his eyes. Darwin paid Barraud for photographs, presumably these ones, on 6 July 1881, establishing their approximate date as June 1881, and this is confirmed by a press announcement subsequently issued by Barraud himself. They appeared as ‘cartes’ and ‘cabinet’ portraits, sometimes with a facsimile of Darwin’s signature, and some were apparently sold by William Luks, the London photographic and fine art publisher. Given the sympathetic nature of these portrayals of Darwin at the end of his life, it is ironic that at least one member of the photographic firm of Barraud and Lund was bitterly hostile to his ideas. A letter written on behalf of the firm on 27 April 1882 to their banker, Martin, closed their account on the grounds that R.B. Martin had attended Darwin’s funeral in Westminster Abbey: ‘we feel that the day has come when a most avowed stand must be taken by all who are not ashamed to affirm the Truth of the Living God in His statements as to the Creation in Genesis’. Darwin’s ‘wicked and ridiculous ideas we hold to be awful Blasphemies’.   

One of these photographs served as the basis for an idealising image of Darwin published as a lithographic vignette, an impression of which is in the Wellcome Library (no. 2371i), with a facsimile signature, ‘yours sincerely Charles Darwin’. The near-profile view also seems to have been reproduced, in this case as a wood engraving for a Library of Historic Characters, published in 1895. The frontal photograph, where Darwin looks straight at the camera, was printed as a picture postcard: one copy is in the Mohr collection in the Huntington Library.  In the handwritten message on the reverse, dated 20 February 1909, Allen Silver, a writer on the care of caged birds, explained to the recipient that he had bought a second copy for his own collection of ‘portraits of men of thought’, and he hoped also to send one to another bird expert, with the warning that ‘the old man himself [Darwin] has got his eye on you!’ Most incongruously, this frontal image, with all its pathos, figured as one of ‘Ogden’s Guinea Gold’ cigarette cards, c. 1902.  

  • physical location Darwin Archive, Cambridge University Library 

  • accession or collection numbers DAR 140.1.31 and 257.6 

  • copyright holder Syndics of Cambridge University Library 

  • originator of image Herbert Rose Barraud  

  • date of creation 1881 

  • computer-readable date c.1881-01-01 to 1881-06-30 

  • medium and material albumen photographic prints 

  • references and bibliography Warren D. Mohr collection, Huntington Library: Darwin collection MSS, Box 1, folder 5. A.R. Spofford, Frank Weitenkampf, J.P. Lamberton (eds), The Library of Historic Characters and Famous Events of All Nations and All Ages, Illustrated with 100 Photogravures from Paintings by the World’s Great Artists, 10 vols (Philadelphia: William Finley, 1895), vol. 10, p. 46. Enid Mary Barraud, Barraud: The Story of a Family (London: Research Publishing Company, 1967), p. 85. Richard Milner, ‘Charles Darwin: the last portrait’, Scientific American, 273:5 (November 1995), pp. 78-9. Adrian Desmond and James Moore, Darwin (London: Michael Joseph, 1991), illus. 91 of the lithograph, there mistakenly said to be based on a photograph from the early 1870s. Janet Browne, ‘”I could have retched all night”: Charles Darwin and his body’, in Christopher Lawrence and Steven Shapin (eds), Science Incarnate: Historical Embodiments of Natural Knowledge (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1998), pp. 240-287 (p. 255). [Geoffrey Belknap], ‘Darwin’s photographic portraits’, at the Darwin Correspondence Project, accessed March 2020. A sale, Valuable Books and Manuscripts, at Christie’s, London, 15 Dec. 2021, included (lot 114) a ‘photographic cigarette card’ from Malta for Cousis cigarettes, dateable to c.1905. J. van Wyhe, ‘Iconography’, pp. 181-3. 


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