Lot 40
  • 40

Gambier Bolton

15,000 - 25,000 USD
16,250 USD
bidding is closed


  • Gambier Bolton
  • carbon print
  • 32 1/2 by 42 1/2 in. (82.5 by 108 cm.)
mural-sized carbon print, titled and credited 'Gambier Bolton F. R. G. S.' in the negative, mounted, in the original frame, circa 1890

Catalogue Note

The widely exhibited and frequently published Gambier Bolton was a photographer of great popularity.  His photographs, almost exclusively of animals in both wild and zoological settings, were rigorously realistic and highly detailed, yet were taken with an ennobling sensitivity that was of great appeal to his audience.  This is nowhere more apparent within his oeuvre than in the photograph offered here, Majesty, in which the great beast exudes, as one contemporary writer work wrote, 'dignity and even grandeur, a blending of power and grace in a manner which distinguishes him from all other animals (Arthur Lawrence, 'The Cat Majestic,' The Idler, November 1898, illustrated with photographs by Bolton).  Bolton's realistic yet romanticized studies of lions and other wild and domesticated animals fascinated the public in the same way as did the paintings of Rosa Bonheur and Sir Edwin Henry Landseer, with whom Bolton was compared (Arthur Lawrence, 'The Landseer of Photography,' The Idler, September 1898). 

Of the many photographs that Bolton took of lions, Majesty is perhaps the most successful at capturing the popular ideal of the animal, especially to the British public, and it was exhibited in the British Section of the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.  As rendered here, in an oversized format and presented in its original frame, Majesty has undeniable impact.  

Bolton traveled throughout Africa, India, Japan, Indonesia, and North America to photograph animals in the wild.  His photographs were widely published in the periodical literature of the day, and he gave frequent lantern-slide lectures on natural history.  Bolton was a 'fellow' of many organizations, among them the Royal Geographical Society (as evidenced by the initials on the photograph offered here), the Zoological Society, and the Royal Photographic Society.  His photographs appeared with regularity in periodicals, including multiple appearances in The Idler.  Although clearly adept at capturing animals in the wild with the limited equipment of late 19th century, Bolton made some of his finest images of animals in the zoological gardens of Europe.  Bolton's ability to capture the savage dignity of his captive subjects was noted by C. J. Cornish, who wrote, 'To watch Mr. Gambier Bolton is to learn how to see the Zoo from another point of view than is common to ordinary or even scientific visitors.  He is concerned not with habits, but with the form, appearance, and attitudes of animals' ('How to See The Zoo,' The Cornhill Magazine, 1896). 

Such was Bolton's fame as a skilled photographer of challenging subject matter that the 'Gambier Bolton Camera' – 'A practical camera worked out by a practical man' – was successfully sold by Watson & Sons of London for a number of years.  Bolton's photographs were published in numerous books during his lifetime, among them The Animals of the Bible (1901), A Book of Beasts and Birds (1903), and The Animal Picture Book (1905).  A man of many scientific interests, Bolton also published extensively on the paranormal.