Published 10th December 2012
The first Fine Art Sale of 2013, spreading over three days on 29th, 30th and 31st January 2013, features a group of important artefacts from Col Edmund Gilling Hallewell (1822-1869), a&nsbp;professional army officer and noted amateur artist. The artefacts comprise watercolours of Niagara Falls and Gibraltar, nine of Hallewell's diaries, 1857-1865, and a large album of photographs that he compiled within the period covered by the diaries.
For the most part the album is of a conventional collection of mainly topographical photographs, in particular of Malta, Corfu and Gibraltar – Hallewell served as Deputy Quartermaster General of the Malta Garrison from after the Crimean War until 1863, when he returned to England to become commandant of the Royal Military College at Sandhurst.
After the fashion of the day, the album also contains a large number of carte-de-visite photographs of notable figures and personal acquaintances. From a photo-historical viewpoint, one of them stands out above the others: it is a portrait of the pre-eminent photographer of the 1850s, and founder of the Photographic Society, Roger Fenton. The album also contains a half dozen highly accomplished, unsigned, large-format photographs of Bolton Abbey (in Yorkshire), which Fenton photographed in 1854.
Hallewell joined the army as an ensign in 1839 and by the onset of the Crimean campaign he had made lieutenant-colonel. In the Crimea, he encountered Fenton, whose images of the war were to become famous; and, in fact, Hallewell is portrayed in four of Fenton's tableaux of camp life. It may be imagined that the two had much in common – Fenton had trained as an artist before taking up photography – and they kept in contact thereafter.
That the images of Bolton Abbey in Hallewell's album are persuasively by Fenton lies not only in their outstanding pictorial qualities. In 1860, while on home leave, Hallewell called on Fenton, as he records in his diary entry for 31st October 1860: "I went to see the Fentons, he gave me some Photographs. He is also going to do the Photo from my mother's portrait, which I left with him." Hallewell was duly grateful for the copy of the portrait of his departed parent, which soon arrived, and on his return to Malta he sent Fenton a case of oranges. In listing his correspondence sent and received at the end of his following year's diary, we find an entry for a letter received from Fenton's wife, Grace. Small doubt that she was acknowledging receipt of the oranges, while Fenton's photographs were inserted into Hallewell's album.