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Displaying items by tag: Victorian Visionary

The Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel stands in front of the massive chains used to launch his ship the Great Eastern, wearing a top hat, smoking a cigar. The casual confidence of his pose, paraphernalia of industrial might, and the proliferating phallic imagery have made this 1857 portrait by Robert Howlett one of the most renowned photographs of all time. This autumn, it will go on view in a new photography gallery at the V&A along with classic pictures by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Diane Arbus and other luminaries, in a grand survey of the medium from its origins to the 1960s, with an additional gallery dedicated to the photograph today.

An ambitious new permanent photography gallery in an art museum – it's so 21st century. And yet so 19th century, too. In giving the photograph its due, the Victoria and Albert Museum is living up to the vision of its Victorian founders, who embraced all aspects of design and invention and all places and times. This was conceived as the ultimate museum, at once forward and backward looking – a laboratory of new culture and a dreamy cabinet of curiosities at one and the same time. The announcement of a new photography gallery opening this autumn is the latest in a series of gallery openings, redesigns, and restorations that are fulfilling the ideals of its Victorian creators and making the V&A London's best museum.

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