The First Photoshop

A Real Quack-Up: Late 1870s Collage of watercolor and albumen silver prints; 14 5/8 x 11 5/8 in.

Currently on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage is a truly fascinating, often hilarious look into a funny facet of aristocratic recreation you most certainly didn’t know was there. Whoda thunk that in the parlors and drawing rooms of 19th Century England, women were cutting up pictures of the social elite and gluing them onto water colors of ducks and toadstools?

Remember that in the 1860s and ’70s, not everyone was toting around a cheap point and shoot. Photography was still a relatively formal art/science, making the levity and wit of these creations that much more outstanding. Moreover, the folks in these pictures were no plain shlubs; only the cream of high society were skewered so. And, my, were some of these images awesomely creepy.

If you can’t get to the museum, check out the small online gallery of images, or the book, from the Art Institute of Chicago.

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