11
Nov
16

Exhibition: ‘Real/Ideal: Photography in France, 1847-1860’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 30th August – 27th November 2016

Curator: Karen Hellman, assistant curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum

 

 

The best fun I had was putting together Nadar’s Self-Portrait (c. 1855, below) with Henri Le Secq’s North Transept, Chartres Cathedral (Negative 1852; print 1870s, below). The relationship of the hands between the two prints is just delicious. I also love the waxed paper negative and salted paper prints: such a feeling of ephemerality can be obtained in the final image even though the photographs are rendering solid objects. According to my friend Ellie Young of Gold Street Studios who is an expert in early photographic processes, salted paper prints (and their relative, the Calotype) can be as light as a feather or as strong and solid as an albumen print. “Salt prints from Calotype negatives exhibit an expressive softness of tone much prized by early photographers.” With their use of chiaroscuro (from chiaro ‘clear, bright’ – from Latin clarus + oscuro ‘dark, obscure’ – from Latin obscurus), Gustave Le Gray’s seascapes, for which he is widely known and admired, are masterful.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the J. Paul Getty Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Calotypes and Waxed Paper Negatives

“The Calotype proper is a negative image (along with its offshoot the waxed paper negative), although its positive counterpart, the salted paper print, is the more common form in which it is encountered. Calotypes are made by brushing the best quality drawing or writing paper with a solution of silver nitrate, drying the paper, and then immersing it in a solution of potassium iodide to form a light-sensitive layer of silver iodide. Immediately before use the surface it treated with ‘gallo-nitrate of silver’ (a mixture of silver nitrate solution and gallic acid) to act as an accelerator. Exposure in a camera, where the paper must be held in a dark slide, produces a latent (invisible) image which is developed by washing in gallo-nitrate of silver, fixed in hypo and thoroughly washed. The translucency of Calotypes can be improved by waxing, and a positive can be made by repeating the original process or by ‘printing out’ the image in much the same way as making a Photogenic Drawing. When toned, in, for instance, gold chloride solution (to give it a purpleish tone), a positive produced in this way is known as a ‘salted paper print’.

With the exception perhaps of the waxed paper process, which was invented in 1851 by Gustave Le Gray (1820-1882) and extended the life of paper negatives into the 1870s, the first generation processes – the Daguerreotype, Photogenic Drawing and Calotype – were all extinct by the end of the 1850s, having given way to their own offspring: the wet collodion glass negative and the albumen print.”

Anonymous. “Calotypes,” on the University of Oxford Museum of the History of Science website [Online] Cited 11/11/2016

 

Salted Paper Print

Once a paper negative had been secured, any number of positive prints could be created by contact printing. Preparation involved soaking good quality paper in a sodium chloride solution (table salt) and then brushing it with a solution of silver nitrate to produce light-sensitive silver chloride. Exposure of the sensitised paper to sunlight, in contact with a negative held in a frame, resulted in the emergence of a visible image without subsequent development. This ‘printed-out’ image was then fixed and toned. Salt prints, unless subsequently coated, have a characteristically matt appearance, with the image embedded in the paper. Although lacking the sharpness of detail associated with the daguerreotype, salt prints from Calotype negatives exhibit an expressive softness of tone much prized by early photographers. This portrait of the Rev. Julius Wood is one of a large series taken by Hill and Adamson to serve as references for a group portrait of the founders of the Free Church of Scotland that Hill had been commissioned to paint. These portraits, with other scenes and views, were later issued in a small ‘edition’ of 12 known copies, entitled One Hundred Calotype Sketches.

 

Wet collodion negative

Frederick Scott Archer’s wet collodion process, announced in 1851, became the standard photographic negative process for both amateurs and professionals from the mid-1850s until the early 1880s. The glass negative, with its structureless film, fine grain and clear whites proved immediately popular and within a decade had superseded both the daguerreotype and the calotype processes. To prepare the negative for exposure, a sheet of glass was coated with a solution of iodised collodion (a syrupy liquid composed of soluble gun-cotton, ether and alcohol) and then made light-sensitive by immersion in a bath of silver nitrate. Known as a wet process because the glass negative required sensitising, exposing and processing while the chemicals were still damp, it required considerable manipulative skill, but produced a negative of unsurpassed sharpness and a broad tonal range. This view, on a 10 x 12 inch glass plate, is one of a large collection of photographs of architectural subjects commissioned from Lyon by the Madras and Bombay Governments in the late 1860s.

 

Albumen Print

The albumen print, announced by the French photographer and publisher Louis-Désiré Blanquard-Évrard in 1850, was the most widespread print medium in use between the mid-1850s and the 1890s. While the printing process was chemically similar to the salt print, the albumen print is generally distinguishable by the glossy sheen imparted by a preliminary sizing of the paper with albumen (egg white) and salt. This sealing of the paper created a surface layer on which the silver image was formed, and made possible much greater density, contrast and sharpness in the final image than had been possible with the plain salted paper print. After the albumen coating had been applied, the paper was made light sensitive by the addition of silver nitrate, and printed in contact with the negative. The fixed print could then be toned to create a wide variety of colours, ranging from purple-black to a rich chocolate brown. Although it continued to be used well into the twentieth century, its popularity declined after the mid-1890s, in favour of a variety of manufactured papers. This print is one of a series of studies of objects in the Royal Armoury at Madrid made around 1866 and is notable for its finely-controlled lighting and rich toning. The blacking-out of the background in this image isolates and increases the dramatic impact of the objects.

Anonymous. “Historic Photographs: Historic Processes,” on the British Library website [Online] Cited 11/11/2016

 

Henri Le Secq (French, 1818-1882) 'Tower of the Kings at Reims Cathedral' Negative, 1851-53; print, 1853

 

Henri Le Secq (French, 1818-1882)
Tower of the Kings at Reims Cathedral
Negative, 1851-53; print, 1853
Salted paper print from a paper negative
Image: 35.1 x 25.9 cm (13 13/16 x 10 3/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Édouard Baldus (French, born Germany, 1813-1889) 'Tour Saint-Jacques, Paris' 1852-1853

 

Édouard Baldus (French, born Germany, 1813-1889)
Tour Saint-Jacques, Paris
1852-1853
Salted paper print from a paper negative
Image: 42.9 x 34 cm (16 7/8 x 13 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Henri Le Secq (French, 1818-1882) 'Small Dwelling in Mushroom Cave' 1851

 

Henri Le Secq (French, 1818-1882)
Small Dwelling in Mushroom Cave
1851
Salted paper print from a paper negative
Image: 35.1 x 22.7 cm (13 13/16 x 8 15/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884) Auguste Mestral (French, 1812-1884) 'West Facade of the Cathedral of Saint-Gatien, Tours' 1851

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884)
Auguste Mestral (French, 1812-1884)
West Facade of the Cathedral of Saint-Gatien, Tours
1851
Waxed paper negative
Image: 34.2 x 25.2 cm (13 7/16 x 9 15/16 in.)
Lent by the Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication (France), Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine
© RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY

 

Charles Nègre (French, 1820-1880) 'Notre-Dame, Paris' c. 1853

 

Charles Nègre (French, 1820-1880) 'Notre-Dame, Paris' c. 1853

 

Charles Nègre (French, 1820-1880)
Notre-Dame, Paris
c. 1853
Waxed paper negative
Image: 33.6 x 24 cm (13 1/4 x 9 7/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884) 'Pavillon Mollien Pavilion, the Louvre, Paris' 1859

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884)
Pavillon Mollien Pavilion, the Louvre, Paris
1859
Albumen silver print from a glass negative
Image: 36.7 x 47.9 cm (14 7/16 x 18 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Édouard Baldus (French, born Germany, 1813-1889) 'Amphitheater, Nîmes' 1850s

 

Édouard Baldus (French, born Germany, 1813-1889)
Amphitheater, Nîmes
1850s
Albumen silver print from a paper negative
Image: 33.3 x 43.3 cm (13 1/8 x 17 1/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Charles Nègre (French, 1820-1880) 'Tarascon' 1852

 

Charles Nègre (French, 1820-1880)
Tarascon
1852
Waxed paper negative with selectively applied pigment
Image: 23.7 x 33.2 cm (9 5/16 x 13 1/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Charles Nègre (French, 1820-1880) 'Tarascon' 1852

 

Charles Nègre (French, 1820-1880)
Tarascon
c. 1852
Albumen silver print from paper negative

 

 

“In the shadow of the political revolutions of 1848, an artistic revolution was also brewing in France within the young medium of photography. An unprecedented period of creativity and discovery among photographers emerged between the first French announcement of a paper negative process in 1847 and more mechanical processes for photographs in the 1860s, sparking debates about photography’s prospects in the divergent fields of art and science.

Organized around the Getty Museum’s rich holdings of early French photography and supplemented with important international loans, Real/Ideal: Photography in France, 1847-1860, on view August 30-November 27, 2016 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, highlights the work of four pioneering photographers – Édouard Baldus (1813-1889), Gustave Le Gray (1820-1884), Henri Le Secq (1818-1882), and Charles Nègre (French, 1820-1880) – alongside other artists who championed the paper and glass negative and contended with photography’s unprecedented “realism.”

“This exhibition tells a pivotal story about a short period – some 12 years – in the early history of photography; one that the Getty is uniquely positioned to tell given our extensive holdings of nineteenth-century French photographs,” explains Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “It is also an opportunity to showcase – for the first time – an important, recent acquisition of paper negatives from the collection of Jay McDonald. The exhibition sheds light on the freedom that early photographers enjoyed as they explored new means for developing images, and as they balanced the ‘real’ recording of the world as it is with the ‘ideal’, creative possibilities of the medium.”
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The Paper Negative and Possibilities

The first paper negatives, created by William Henry Fox Talbot in England in the 1830s, first inspired French photographers in the early 1840s. In 1847, a cloth manufacturer named Louis Désiré Blanquart-Evrard (1802-1872) published a method of improving the paper negative, a process which created a more refined positive image. Due to the political turmoil of 1848, his discovery went unnoticed by the French government, which had long favored the hyper-real quality of the silver-plated daguerreotype invented by Louis Daguerre (French, 1787-1851) in 1839.

Without a national mandate or commercial viability, French photographers using the paper negative enjoyed a brief period of freedom and experimentation between 1847 and 1860. Gustave Le Gray’s innovation of the “waxed paper negative,” which involved the addition of a layer of wax before the negative was sensitized with photo chemistry, was particularly vital, rendering the negative more translucent and portable. Rare waxed paper negatives by these photographers from the Getty Museum’s collection and from the Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine and the Musée D’Orsay in Paris will be on view. The exhibition will also include a view of Montmartre from “barrière de Clichy,” a photographic school and studio that Le Gray founded in 1849, as well as other early prints from paper negatives by Hippolyte Bayard, Henri-Victor Regnault, and Humbert de Molard.
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The Rise of Realism

Originally trained as painters, Baldus, Le Gray, Le Secq, and Nègre saw the creative potential of photography and became its greatest champions. They were founding members of the Société héliographique, the first professional group devoted to photography, which published an important journal, La lumière. Experimentation in photography coincided with an increasing interest in “realism” – a word first used by critics in reference to paintings exhibited by Gustave Courbet (French, 1819-1877) at the 1849 Salon des Beaux-Arts. Artists and writers were increasingly rejecting academic, idealist subjects for everyday ones, and vanguard photographers similarly turned their attention towards the common individual, the worker, and the everyday scene. Nègre’s staged genre scenes of figures posed on the streets of Paris demonstrate how photography could interweave the “real” and “ideal.” Additionally, in Baldus’s documentation of the southern French seaside town of Bandol the idealized landscape is abandoned for a more realistic view, including the rugged foreground and industrial elements that lead back to a recently-constructed railroad bridge far in the distance.
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Commissions, Demolitions, and Renovations

The new photographers of the period increased their profile through commissioned work for the French government. The Mission héliographique, which formed in 1851, hired five photographers (Baldus, Le Gray, Le Secq, Auguste Mestral, and Hippolyte Bayard) to travel across France and record hundreds of significant historical monuments before they were transformed through restoration under the government of Napoléon III. Nègre also pursued a six-month project to document the Midi region of France. The exhibition features examples from these projects, including images of Reims Cathedral, Chateau of Chenonceaux, and St. Gabriel près Arles.

Upon returning from their respective photographic missions, Baldus, Le Secq, Le Gray, and Nègre turned their attention to documenting the transformations – through demolition and restoration – of Parisian monuments, including the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the Hotel de Ville, the Louvre Museum, the Place du Carrousel, and the Tour Saint-Jacques, images of which are also on view in the exhibition.

“Baldus and Nègre, who were friends as well as competitors, took a subject like the same cloister of Saint-Trophime in Arles and photographed it in different ways,” says Karen Hellman assistant curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum and curator of the exhibition. “Nègre captured a narrow, vertical section of the colonnade, while Baldus carefully joined ten negatives to create a more all-encompassing view of the space.”
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The Rise of Commercial Photography

The administration of Napoléon III and its free-market policies led to an explosion of commercial activity in photography, which was becoming increasingly industrialized and commonplace. The use of the paper negative fell out of favor and was gradually replaced by the sharper and more sensitive glass plate negative. The Getty’s exhibition thus presents a rare insight into a brief yet important moment in the history of photography that was shaped by these four pioneering photographers.

Real/Ideal: Photography in France 1847-1860 is on view August 30-November 27, 2016 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center. The exhibition is curated by Karen Hellman, assistant curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum. An accompanying publication, Real/Ideal: Photography in Mid-Nineteenth-Century France will be available, with essays by Sylvie Aubenas, Anne de Mondenard, Paul-Louis Roubert, Sarah Freeman and Karen Hellman. Also on view in the Center for Photographs will be Richard Learoyd: In the Studio, curated by Arpad Kovacs, assistant curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum.

Press release from the J. Paul Getty Museum

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884) 'Seascape with a Ship Leaving Port' 1857

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884)
Seascape with a Ship Leaving Port
1857
Albumen silver print from a glass negative
Image: 31.3 x 40.3 cm (12 5/16 x 15 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Édouard Baldus (French, born Germany, 1813-1889) 'Cloister of Saint-Trophime, Arles' c. 1861

 

Édouard Baldus (French, born Germany, 1813-1889)
Cloister of Saint-Trophime, Arles
c. 1861
Albumen silver print from a glass negative
Image: 33.7 x 42.9 cm (13 1/4 x 16 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Henri Le Secq (French, 1818-1882) 'Statue of Christ at Reims Cathedral' Negative 1851; print 1870s

 

Henri Le Secq (French, 1818-1882)
Statue of Christ at Reims Cathedral
Negative 1851; print 1870s
Photolithograph
Image: 35 x 24.8 cm (13 3/4 x 9 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Charles Nègre (French, 1820-1880) 'Organ Grinder at 21, Quai de Bourbon, Paris' c. 1853

 

Charles Nègre (French, 1820-1880)
Organ Grinder at 21, Quai de Bourbon, Paris
c. 1853
Salted paper print from a paper negative
Image: 10 x 8.3 cm (3 15/16 x 3 1/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Charles Nègre (French, 1820-1880) 'Aisle of the Cloister of Saint-Trophime, Arles' c. 1852

 

Charles Nègre (French, 1820-1880)
Aisle of the Cloister of Saint-Trophime, Arles
c. 1852
Salted paper print from a paper negative
Image: 32.4 x 23.2 cm (12 3/4 x 9 1/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Henri Le Secq (French, 1818-1882) 'South Porch, Central Portal, Chartres Cathedral' 1852

 

Henri Le Secq (French, 1818-1882)
South Porch, Central Portal, Chartres Cathedral
1852
Waxed paper negative
Image: 34 x 24 cm (13 3/8 x 9 7/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Édouard Baldus (French, born Germany, 1813-1889) 'Viaduct, La Voulte-sur-Rhône' c. 1861

 

Édouard Baldus (French, born Germany, 1813-1889)
Viaduct, La Voulte-sur-Rhône
c. 1861
Albumen silver print from a glass negative, from the album Chemins de Fer de Paris à Lyon et à la Méditerranée
Image: 31 x 42.7 cm (12 3/16 x 16 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Nadar [Gaspard Félix Tournachon] (French, 1820-1910) 'Self-Portrait' c. 1855

 

Nadar [Gaspard Félix Tournachon] (French, 1820-1910)
Self-Portrait
c. 1855
Salted paper print from a glass negative
Image: 20.5 x 17 cm (8 1/16 x 6 11/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Henri Le Secq (French, 1818-1882) 'North Transept, Chartres Cathedral' Negative 1852; print 1870s

 

Henri Le Secq (French, 1818-1882)
North Transept, Chartres Cathedral
Negative 1852; print 1870s
Photolithograph
Image: 33.3 x 22.9 cm (13 1/8 x 9 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Nadar [Gaspard Félix Tournachon] (French, 1820-1910) 'Jean-François Philibert Berthelier, Actor' 1856-1859

 

Nadar [Gaspard Félix Tournachon] (French, 1820-1910)
Jean-François Philibert Berthelier, Actor
1856-1859
Salted paper print from a glass negative
Image: 24.2 x 18.9 cm (9 1/2 x 7 7/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Nadar [Gaspard Félix Tournachon] (French, 1820-1910) 'George Sand (Amandine-Aurore-Lucile Dupin), Writer' c. 1865

 

Nadar [Gaspard Félix Tournachon] (French, 1820-1910)
George Sand (Amandine-Aurore-Lucile Dupin), Writer
c. 1865
Albumen silver print from a glass negative
Image: 24.1 x 18.3 cm (9 1/2 x 7 1/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Jean-Louis-Marie-Eugène Durieu (French, 1800-1874) Possibly with Eugène Delacroix (French, 1798-1863) 'Draped Model' c. 1854

 

Jean-Louis-Marie-Eugène Durieu (French, 1800-1874)
Possibly with Eugène Delacroix (French, 1798-1863)
Draped Model
c. 1854
Albumen silver print
Image: 18.6 x 13 cm (7 5/16 x 5 1/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884) 'The Sun at Its Zenith, Normandy' 1856

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884)
The Sun at Its Zenith, Normandy
1856
Albumen silver print from a glass negative
Image: 32.5 x 41.6 cm (12 13/16 x 16 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

The J. Paul Getty Museum
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, California 90049

Opening hours:
Tues – Friday 10 am – 5.30 pm
Saturday 10 am – 9 pm
Sunday 10 am – 5.30 pm
Monday closed

The J. Paul Getty Museum website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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