The Pre-Raphaelite Female Muse in Julia Margaret Cameron’s Idylls of the King Photographs

Date of Award


Document Type

Masters Research Paper

Degree Name


Organizational Unit

School of Art and Art History, College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences

First Advisor

M.E. Warlick

Second Advisor

Annette Stott


Julia Margaret Cameron 1815-1879, Criticism and interpretation, Portrait photography, Feminine beauty, Aesthetics


There has been little discussion of Julia Margaret Cameron’s Idylls of the King photographs over the past decade. My goal with this paper is to bring her Idylls of the King series back into discussion and address its success and relevance in both art history and literature. Scholars Helmut Gernsheim and Marylu Hill have questioned photography as a means to capture the imaginative content of Tennyson’s Arthurian stories and they declared Cameron’s photographs a failure. I argue that her theatrical style, use of props and costumes, obvious posing of her models, and nod to Victorian tableaux vivants capture the true essence of Tennyson’s epic. Her use of the Pre-Raphaelite female muse to portray the Arthurian characters of Elaine, Guinevere, and Vivien places her photographs in direct correlation with Pre-Raphaelite painting as well as popular literature. Her depictions of Tennyson’s epic poem are highly successful and I believe she achieved her personal goal of ennobling photography to the level of High Art.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. Permanently suppressed.

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