Art Gallery of Alberta

19th Century French Photographs
September 24-January 29, 2012


image credits [click to view]


Félix Jacques A. Moulin, Académie, c. 1845
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

Gustave Le Gray, French Military Manoeuvres, Camp de Châlons: the
Guard behind a Breastwork, 3 October 1857
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

 



Paris. 6 January 1839. The first public announcement of a new invention for making pictures appeared in the press. The daguerreotype, named after its inventor, J.L.M. Daguerre, consisted of an image of an amalgam of mercury particles on a silvered copper plate made with an artist’s camera obscura. Three weeks later, the London press announced W.H.F. Talbot’s photographic process involving a paper negative from which a positive could be made. Thus was realized the ageold dream of “Nature painting her own portrait.”

Within two decades, Daguerre’s process had become obsolete, whereas Talbot’s invention became the basis for photography as we know it today. By 1847, the Frenchman Louis Blanquart-Evrard had improved Talbot’s process, making it commercially viable. Drawn from the National Gallery’s extensive collection of nineteenth-century French photographs, the exhibition consists of daguerreotypes, salted paper, albumen silver and photogravure prints made by some of the major practitioners working in France at the time, including work by Eugène Atget, Edouard Baldus, Maxime Du Camp, J.B. Greene, Gustave Le Gray, Charles Marville, F.J. Moulin, Nadar, Auguste Salzmann, and Félix Teynard among others.

Nowhere else in the world were so many trained artists testing the scope of the new invention as in France. They explored such subjects as landscape, architecture, portraiture, archaeology, street activities, war, and studies of the nude. The exhibition traces their paths of exploration, ending with the work of Atget. Although his career as a photographer began in the late 1880s and continued until his death in 1927, his twentieth-century work may be seen as a continuation of the nineteenth-century photographer’s concerns. And yet he is an artist whose vision has inspired many photographers of our own time.

This exhibition will feature 66 photographs from the first decade of French photography to 1900 as well as several twentieth-century examples of Atget’s work.

Organized by the National Gallery of Canada

National Gallery of Canada at the Art Gallery of Alberta, with the support of Capital Powered Art; an exhibition series sponsored by Capital Power Corporation.

 

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