West View of Madrid


Charles Clifford (1819−63) was one of the most important photographers to have worked in Spain in the 19th century and a crucial figure in the history of photography in the country. Clifford was born in the United Kingdom. It is unknown precisely when he went to Spain, but the first time that his name makes an appearance in Madrid is in 1850. By this time, the photographer already had a studio in the city, although most of his output, which consisted of depictions of a variety of localities around Spain—monuments, public works, works of art, and so forth—was produced outside the capital. His oeuvre went beyond the documentary function to achieve compositional and technical mastery. Up until 1856, Clifford used the calotype technique; later he switched to the collodion process. It is with the latter technique that he produced his most important work, including his photographs of Alameda de Osuna, which he did in 1857; the Canal de Isabella II (Queen Isabella II Canal) series, which he produced in Madrid between 1857 and 1858; and his last series, “culmination of an extensive travelogue of royal trips,” depicting the royal visit of Queen Isabella II to several Andalusian provinces in 1862. In addition to being his last series, the latter photographs are considered his most accomplished work. At his death in January 1863, Clifford left behind a great collection of his photographic work, which remains of high artistic and historical value. The National Library of Spain holds a large quantity of his material, making this institution a crucial place to reference the work of this artist.

Last updated: March 24, 2015