A H Wall commented that miniature
painters had flattered their sitters. Sir Joshua Reynolds had
suggested that when painting flesh, the painter should think of "a pearl
and a ripe peach". So when photography was first considered for
portraiture, its failure was predicted because it could only tell the
However, A H Wall described how wrong
these critics had been:
Photography for replaces Miniature Paintings
"... the boundless success of the new
art most decidedly proved; and to make that proof all the more
striking, the early photographic portraits, so far from flattering their
subjects did just the reverse.
It was positively
because photographic portraits did not flatter that photography
became the rage; and for every one of the banished face-flatterers
of the palate there sprung up a thousand mechanical followers of the
chemicals and the camera, all of whom found a most liberal share of public
patronage awaiting them, and many of whom retired quietly in a few years,
comfortably provided for during their lives."
A H Wall explained that the unfortunate face-flatterers
were soon in demand again, to "alter and improve" the photographs:
The face-flatterers are in demand again
"No sooner was the
image of the camera obtained upon paper than the pernicious old ideas of
falsehood and flattery were revived.
face-flatterers were again in demand, and so greatly in demand that their
ranks were swelled from every quarter - scene-painters, paint
colourists, young lady and gentlemen amateur painters, and artists from
All, all were in
immense request, and to work they all went "altering and improving" ,
cutting out here, putting in there, softening and destroying that
- in short torturing the poor photographs into something which should
resemble the worst of those inane old things which photography by virtue
of its truth had driven triumphantly from the field of public favour."
"And thus they
thrived, and an army of photographic touchers-up and colourists also
thrived, growing and spreading mightily over the whole face of the land."
This demand for
"altering and improving" did no last long. As the
carte de visite mania took hold, demand returned for true likenesses.
In the words of A H Wall:
The face-flatterers lose favour
"... but (as
those who wait in the reception rooms of portrait establishments can
prove) the number of unfortunate colourists and touchers-up who,
having nothing better to do, wander in shabbiness and mournfulness
from street to street, hopelessly exhibiting their specimens and
soliciting work, is sadly too large, although even now increasing."
A H Wall concluded:
the weight of fifteen years' experience, I say depend upon it in
portraiture, as in most other things "honesty is the best policy".
Photography took the place of the old-fashioned portrait
painters because it was more true." ...
appeals but to the personal vanity of fops and fools while the art
which is applied to faithfully realising and perpetuating the
persons and features of individuals is upheld by all the best and
noblest feelings of our nature."