Fading Away

Henry Peach Robinson (British, 1830–1901)

Albumen silver print from glass negatives
Image: 23.8 x 37.2 cm (9 3/8 x 14 5/8 in.) Frame: 52.3 x 62.6 cm (20 9/16 x 24 5/8 in.)
Credit Line:
The Royal Photographic Society at the National Media Museum, Bradford, United Kingdom
  • Description

    Robinson seamlessly combined five separate negatives to produce this intimate narrative of family tragedy. The scene centers on a bedridden young woman dying of tuberculosis—or possibly of a broken heart, as suggested by the Shakespearean title of a preliminary study, “She Never Told Her Love”. The picture was notorious both for the “artificiality” of its technique and for its subject matter, which was considered too morbid and painfully intimate to be represented photographically. Robinson’s seamless blending of reality and artifice did, however, appeal to Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria, who purchased a print of Fading Away and issued a standing order for every major composite photograph Robinson would make.

  • Provenance

    The Royal Photographic Society acquired a large group of Henry Peach Robinson's photographs, negatives, books, notebooks, and letters from his son, Ralph W. Robinson, in the 1920s. This photograph was part of this acquisition. In 2003, the National Media Museum acquired the RPS collection. On the history of the RPS collection and their Robinson holdings, see Pam Roberts, "The Royal Photographic Society Collection," (Bath: Royal Photographic Society, 1994), pp. 22, 53.
    Reproduced in Margaret F. Harker, "Henry Peach Robinson, Master of Photographic Art, 1830-1901," (Oxford [Oxfordshire]; New York, NY, USA: Basil Blackwell, 1988), plate 47.