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CULTURE

Charlotte Cory

An English artist curiously revisits the Victorian era

by Karen Day
on 17 September 2012
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When the Queen of England is among your collectors, you know you're doing something right. But British writer and artist Charlotte Cory doesn't let this distinction go to her head—that much is clear from the casual way in which she delivered her work to Windsor Castle. "I went and got a cab, put them in the cab and said, 'can you take me to Windsor?' Obviously his eyes lit up, because this was a nice big fare," she recounted for us recently from her kitchen in her home in Fitzrovia.

So what piqued the Queen's interest and landed Cory on the walls of Windsor Castle? Fittingly, a piece called "The Corgi Queen"—one of many hybrid photographs created by Cory in an ongoing series she calls Visitoriana. Obessed with Medieval literature, particularly the visual element of Medieval manuscripts, Cory began creating an imaginary world through photo collaging. She seamlessly blends contemporary images of animal heads with antiquated images culled from the Victorian era, an essential time for portraiture. In the case of the work hanging at Windsor, Cory digitally superimposed the head of a Corgi dog onto the body of Queen Victoria.

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"I do think we have the right to rewrite our lives," Cory told us. Through her Visitorians, she is steadfastly retelling the existence of countless Victorian families. In a sense, the characters she creates are oddly natural—undoubtedly due to her sheer understanding and knowledge of this time period. Cory is to Victorian history what Einstein was to math, her ability to remember and delineate every detail—from what they wore to family relations to the style of typeface and beyond—is nearly unfathomable. Because of this, the animal face she chooses for each of the portraits is beautifully uncanny.

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Ironically, Cory never had a pet while growing up. But that's alright with her, because in addition to the number of stuffed animals placed around her monochromatic blue home, now, she jokes, she is legally Mrs. Polly Parrot. She married a professor with the last name of Parrot, and when they registered for their marriage license, she changed her first name to Polly.

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Well worth a perusal, a full retrospective of Cory's curious Visitorians can be seen in her new book "You Animal, You!" which features revealing essays by historian A N Wilson, curator of the Royal Photograph Collection Sophie Gordon and former director of the Bronte Parsonage Museum Jane Sellars. You can also pick up framed works, prints and objets d'art from her new online shop, The Green Parrot Gallery (also the name of her "offline emporium" in Greenwich). To really relive Victorian England, pick up a bottle of Cremorne's Colonel Fox gin, complete with a label by Cory.

See more images of Cory's Victorian eccentricities and vintage printing press in the slideshow below. All photos by Image Agency.

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