Head of a naval officer

Adelaide Gallery daguerreotypes and silhouettes

THE ADELAIDE GALLERY is more famous for its innovations in Daguerreotype than for silhouette cutting. Nevertheless, a number of silhouettists seem to have worked there. The London gallery was active in the mid nineteenth century.

As a fan of the Adelaide Gallery I run some of my virtual studio days in tribute to this artist.

Darbyshire and the Adelaide Gallery

Adelaide gallery: silhouette of a naval officer holding a sword
A full-length silhouette from the Adelaide Gallery, signed by A. Darbyshire

Sadly, only one signed silhouette from the Gallery has ever been found. It’s a professional-looking, paper-cut silhouette with bronzing added for details. The professional look of the silhouette makes it certain that there must be more. Nobody ever makes just one silhouette like this

It’s hard to say why no more silhouettes have ever come to light. Are they all lost? Perhaps a more likely explanation is that the Gallery did not encourage in-house artists to sign their work.

The Gallery was based in Adelaide Street, London, north of Strand. The only known silhouette has a date, 1841. An artist called Darbyshire seems to have made it, according to the signature (this reads: A. Darbyshire, Adelaide Gallery).

Research points to another silhouettist called Barber working there at roughly the same time, but I’ve never seen a silhouette bearing this name.

So Many Questions!

Artists like Darbyshire and Barber hold a strange fascination for me. It seems strangely poignant that such professional artists can leave behind almost nothing of their work to posterity. Who were they? How did this happen?

Then there are all the historical questions:

  • How long was the Adelaide Gallery silhouette studio there in business,? It’s hard to tell.
  • How many silhouettes did it produce? Nobody really knows.
  • Who was Darbyshire, and how long did he work there? Did he go on to work at other London galleries, or perhaps set up later on his own?

Without seeing more Darbyshire silhouettes it’s impossible to answer many of these questions. .

Today the Gallery is more known for its pioneering work in early photography. For this reason, it’s regarded as an important part of the early to mid nineteenth century artistic world. The fact that there was ever a silhouette studio there is a footnote in the story.

Reads: A. Darbyshire, Adelaide Gallery, Adelaide St, Strand, London, 1840
Signature of A. Darbyshire at the Adelaide Gallery – his only known silhouette

Further information about the Adelaide Gallery

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