During September of 1883, a British painter named George Adolphus Storey sat down in his art studio to have his photograph taken. His studio was located within his home at 19 St. John’s Wood Road in London—a famous community of artists at this time, specifically the St. John’s Wood Clique, which Storey belonged to. Despite the fact that this photograph belongs to a series of artists’ portraits by J. P. Mayall, the photograph was not taken by Mayall himself—in fact, it was taken by his apprentice, Frank Dudman. Typically, sitters for portraits had to visit the photographer’s own studio in order to pose for their picture, but this series required the photographer to visit the subject. 

The photograph itself was copyrighted on September 24, 1883, by J. P. Mayall, whose studio address was then 584 Oxford Street, London. Mayall copyrighted two photographs of Storey, but for undocumented reasons chose this one for the publication. The series of studio portraits was released in six installments between March and August 1884. Storey’s picture, along with five other subjects, was part of the final August installment. Storey was best known for genre scenes, such as A Duet (1869), Grandmamma’s Christmas Visitors (1874), and The Old Pump Room at Bath (1877), as well as portrait paintings such as Sweet Margery (1879) and Lillies, Oleanders, and the Pink (1880).[1]

Storey’s photograph stands out among the others in Artists at Home because it is the only picture that features two people—not only the artist, but also his model. The presence of two figures in the portrait photograph creates a narrative for the viewer, with the artist observing his model. Although clearly posed, Storey’s photograph may have the most convincingly “candid” effect of the entire series. The composition is balanced and roughly symmetrical, with each figure dominating one half of the composition. On the right sits Storey, awkwardly perched on a stool and focused on his model. One bent leg hangs off the stool, while his other leg is pulled towards his body, allowing his hand to rest on it. His face is in profile, and he seems unaware of the viewer’s presence. The unframed canvas on the easel is clearly a portrait of the model, who is in fact Storey’s wife, Emily. Unlike the artist, she gazes directly at the camera, engaging with the viewer. She leans slightly over the back of a wicker chair, wearing a white dress with long sleeves, a frilled collar, and a fluffy hat. Emily Storey was not in costume; she likely owned these clothes. 

The studio itself, like many in Artist at Home, appears both cluttered and elegant, but reasonably well-organized. Two portrait busts—one of them depicting Storey himself—stand on tables behind the model, receding into the background in a neat, diagonal line. The arrangement of the busts is a highly artificial and intentional element of the composition. 


George Adolphus Storey, 1880.

The photographer undoubtedly included this bust of Storey to compare the sculpted likeness with the “real” image of the artist in the photograph. Storey had demonstrated his interest in the complex relationship between artist and creation in other ways, including a photographic self-portrait in which he peers at the viewer from behind his painting Late to Church (1880), which sits next to a mannequin dressed in an identical outfit. This photograph concerns the difference between a work of art and the reality it derives from, and also illuminates Storey’s unseen role as mediator of the viewer’s perceptions.[2] Here, the juxtaposition of artist and portrait bust calls attention to the other example of “person versus likeness” in the photograph--the portrait painting of the woman on the easel and the conspicuous presence of the live model. 

Storey’s studio features an intermixing of decorative and fine art. Exotic, decorative items dot the room, including a Japanese folding screen, some Asian ceramic pots, an Oriental rug (popular in seventeenth-century Dutch paintings, which Storey studied), and a potted plant. On the right of the artist, behind his back, stands a mannequin dressed in an exotic, probably costly cloak and hat. These decorative items contrast with the framed prints and canvases hanging on silk-paneled walls, though the works themselves are difficult to identify. The placement of the potted plant in front of a nude in a landscape perhaps serves as another juxtaposition of “art versus life.”

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George Adolphus Storey, Art and Nature, 1884.

There is another image of Storey’s studio in a painting of his own, Art and Life. This painting shows the left wall of Storey’s studio, with the framed artwork in the same arrangement as in the Mayall photograph. It includes many of the same pieces of furniture and decorative items, such as the potted plant, the table with Oriental rug, the bust of a woman, the folding screen, and the stool. Additionally, the model looks like and dresses similarly to Emily Storey in the photograph. In the painting, only one wall of Storey’s studio is seen, causing it to look smaller than in Mayall’s portrait, which shows a corner. Art and Life was exhibited in 1884, meaning that it would have been in Storey’s studio when his photograph was taken.[3] Mayall possibly used this painting as inspiration for his own work of art.

 Michelle Malmberg

[1] Wilfred Meynell, George Adolphus Storey, A.R.A,” in The Modern School of Art (London: Cassell, 1886): 2:85-86.

[2] Joanna Milk, “Artists at Home: Artifice and Presence,” n.d., 6.

[3] Ibid.