Julia Jackson-Stephen (Painting #9 of 13) “Influential Women”


Julia jackson

Julia Jackson-Stephen
1846–1895
“As you are, so was I. As I am, so shall you be.”

Julia Jackson-Stevens, as a child, moved with her mother in 1848 to England from Calcutta, India, where she was born. In 1882 Julia Jackson-Stephen gave birth to Virginia Woolf, who grew up to resemble her mother, who was noted for her beauty. Julia had a reputation for saintly self-sacrifice; she also had prominent social and artistic connections. In 1926, Virginia Woolf wrote a book on her great-aunt’s photographs, Julia Margaret Cameron, one of the first and most renown portrait photographers of the 19th Century. Cameron made more than twenty portraits of her favorite niece and namesake, Julia Jackson. She never portrayed Julia as a sibyl or a saint but rather as a natural embodiment of purity, beauty and grace. Julia Jackson-Stephens also served as a model for pre-Raphaelite painters such as Edward Burne-Jones.

After the sudden death of Julia’s first husband Herbert Duckworth, she married Sir Leslie Stephen (1832–1904) a notable historian, author, critic and mountaineer. Sir Leslie was a founding editor of the Dictionary of National Biography, which influenced his daughter Virginia’s later experimental biographies. Both Julia Jackson’s first husband, and Sir Leslie’s first wife, a daughter of the novelist William Makepeace Thackeray, died unexpectedly. Julia was left with three children and Sir Leslie with one son. Julia Jackson Duckworth and Leslie Stephen married in 1878, and had four children from their union: Vanessa (born 1879), Thoby (born 1880), Virginia (born 1882), and Adrian (born 1883).

Julia Jackson-Stevens was a renowned beauty, the twenty-one-year-old subject here seems bodiless, an ethereal spirit afloat like an untethered soul. She came from a family of beauties who left their mark on Victorian society as models for Pre-Raphaelite artists and early photographers. It was on 5 May 1895 that Julia Stephen died very suddenly: her heart gave out following an attack of influenza which turned into rheumatic fever. This profoundly affected her family, especially Virgina, who wrote Reminiscences, about her childhood and her lost mother, which was published in 1908. After the death of her father in 1904, Virginia had a nervous breakdown and suffer bipolar symptoms for the remainder of her life – which end with her suicide in 1941 at the age of 49 – the same age at which her mother died.

(Painting photo: Mark Serman)

© Laurence Revene, 2014

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~ by Larry Revene on July 9, 2014.

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