Clementina Elphinstone Fleeming was born on June 1, 1822, at Cumbernauld House, located near Glasgow, Scotland. Her father was the Honorable Admiral Charles Elphinstone Fleeming who served in the Venezuelan and Colombian wars of liberation from 1811 through 1825. Her mother, Catalina Paulina Alessandro of Cadiz, an exotic beauty, was 26 years his junior. Clementina was one of five children born to the couple.
In 1845 she married Cornwallis Maude, 4th Viscount Hawarden. The couple settled in London where they lived until 1857. The family then moved to the Maude estate in Dundrum County, Tipperary, Ireland where they stayed for about two years. Cornwallis and Clementina had ten children, two boys and eight girls. Eight of the children survived into adulthood.
Lady Hawarden’s photographic experiments started her time in Ireland. She took stereoscopic landscape photos of the family’s estate. When the family returned to London two years later, Clementina started photographing her daughters. At first, she made stereoscopic photos. Later, she moved into large-format, stand-alone portraits.
She became a member of the Photographic Society of London in 1863. She exhibited there twice. Her first exhibit was ‘Studies from Life’ in 1863. The second was ‘Photographic Studies’ in 1864. She earned the Society’s silver medal each year. Rosetti‘s research into Lady Hawarden’s life found some common themes when describing her photography; “issues of gender, motherhood and sexuality related to the attachment of loss, illusion, and even fetish!”
Unfortunately, she succumbed to pneumonia one week after falling ill and died on January 19, 1865, at 5 Princess Gardens, South Kensington, England. She was 42. Although it was never proven, exposure and contact with photographic chemicals are suspected in weakening her immune system.
Lady Clementina Hawarden, died in the prime of her life. She was a working mother of ten who left behind little in the way of words. She did, however, leave a legacy through the imagery of photography.
O.G. Rejlander, a friend and fellow photographer, wrote this ‘In Memoriam’ which was published in the British Journal of Photography (27 January 1865):
“worked honestly, in a good, comprehensible style… She also was in her manner and conversation – fair, straightforward, nay manly, with a feminine grace. She is a loss to photography, for she would have progressed. She is a loss to many, many friends. She is an enormous loss to a loving family.”
Dictionary of Women Artists, Volume 1 by Delia Gaze, 1997
Becoming The Photographs of Clementina, Viscountess Hawarden by Carol Mavor, 1999
Updated March 4, 2019
Here are a few examples of what women were wearing, perhaps even posing for a photograph in during Lady Hawarden’s lifetime. Brought to you by Recollections!