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Gustave LE GRAY (French, 1820-1884) "Le Hêtre, Fontainebleau"*, early 1850s Albumen or coated salt print from a waxed paper negative 20.0 x 27.2 cm mounted on 41.7 x 56.8 cm paper Numbered "721" in the negative. Photographer's red signature stamp. Titled with "No 721" in pencil, and "721" in ink, with photographer's oval blindstamp on the mount.

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884)
"Le Hêtre, Fontainebleau", early 1850s
Albumen or coated salt print from a waxed paper negative
20.0 x 27.2 cm mounted on 41.7 x 56.8 cm paper
Numbered "721" in the negative. Photographer's red signature stamp. Titled with "No 721" in pencil, and "721" in ink, with photographer's oval blindstamp on the mount

By the late 1840s Le Gray had become an innovator of photographic processes, developing the waxed paper negative around 1848. Saturating the paper with beeswax and light-sensitive chemicals made the image sharper than that resulting from the paper negative process devised by Talbot beginning in the 1830s. The waxed paper of Le Gray’s process could be prepared in advance and developed days after exposure allowing photographers to minimize the quantity of equipment in the field.

In 1849, Le Gray traveled to Fontainebleau to photograph the forest. By that time, the forest of Fontainebleau had already hosted several important landscape painters such as Camille Corot and Theodore Rousseau who produce oil sketches en plein air.  Train service from Paris, established in 1849, also brought thousands of metropolitan visitors who strolled through the various regions of the forest which included rugged landscapes of boulders and sand, thick oak forests, and shaded birch groves. Le Gray sought out the most technically challenging subjects for his photographs, concentrating on rocks and trees bathed in rapidly shifting light that was difficult to capture with long exposures. Masterpieces of light and shadow, Le Gray's pictures of Fontainebleau are remarkable technical achievements and are considered some of the most artistic photographs made in the mid-nineteenth century.

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Gustave LE GRAY (French, 1820-1884) Portail Ste. Anne, Notre-Dame de Paris, early 1850s Salt print from a waxed paper negative 36.1 x 27.2 cm mounted on 47.2 x 35.0 cm paper

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884)
Portail Ste. Anne, Notre-Dame de Paris, early 1850s
Salt print from a waxed paper negative
36.1 x 27.2 cm mounted on 47.2 x 35.0 cm paper

The Romanesque portal of Sainte-Anne is the oldest of the three doorways on the western facade of Notre Dame. It recounts episodes from the childhood of Christ. In the center, the Virgin and Child are surrounded by the King of France and the Bishop of Paris, testimony to the close ties between royalty and Christianity. This entrance was installed around 1200 to the right of the central portal.

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Gustave LE GRAY (French, 1820-1884) "L'escadre française en rade de Cherbourg"*, 5 August 1858 Albumen print from a collodion negative 30.1 x 38.3 cm mounted on 43.0 x 62.3 cm paper Photographer's red signature stamp. Titled "L'escadre française en rade de Cherbourg" in pencil with photographer's oval blindstamp "PHOTOGRAPHIE / GUSTAVE LE GRAY & Cº / PARIS" on mount.

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884)
"L'escadre française en rade de Cherbourg", 5 August 1858
Albumen print from a collodion negative
30.1 x 38.3 cm mounted on 43.0 x 62.3 cm paper
Photographer's red signature stamp. Titled "L'escadre française en rade de Cherbourg" in pencil with photographer's oval blindstamp "PHOTOGRAPHIE / GUSTAVE LE GRAY & Cº / PARIS" on mount.

L’escadre française en rade de Cherbourg is a prime example of the seascape and naval views for which Gustave Le Gray was celebrated.  Here he applied the many lessons he had learned in the making of seascapes since 1856. Without recourse to combination negatives that marked his practice in other examples of the genre, the present view was recorded in a single large glass negative. The photograph documents the official visit of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to the port of Cherbourg and its newest construction, the “Bassin Napoléon III,” a remarkable product of naval engineering that greatly expanded the port facilities to accommodate France’s modern fleet of battleships. On the invitation of Napoleon III, between August 5 and 8, the royal couple and their retinue viewed from the safety of their steam-powered yachts (HMY Victoria and Albert I and II, visible in the second row from the right) a demonstration of France’s modern fleet in several maneuvers. This view was apparently taken on the day of the Queen’s arrival, when French ships greeted the royal couple in formation. What was intended as a gesture of trust between the two nations, however, was received by Queen Victoria as a disconcerting display of military might. The photograph records the readiness of the fleet, in a controlled cluster of ships led by the flagship Bretagne at far left. Upon closer inspection, the ships aren’t the only element in formation. Behind the royal yachts is a fast three-mast French vessel, the rigging for which is packed with dozens of sailors standing together in formation, as if preparing to cheer and wave their hats in the air on signal. The photograph is at once a document of the political spectacle of the modern military, and a photographic spectacle of impressive size and clarity of view.

The sight of agile sailors waving boisterously from the rigging of ships in the fleet was what the artist Jules-Achille Noël recorded in his painting commemorating the diplomatic meeting of August 5, 1858. See Jules-Achille Noël, Napoleon III Receiving Queen Victoria at Cherbourg, 5 August 1858, 1859. Oil on canvas, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London (accession no. BHC0637).

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Gustave LE GRAY (French, 1820-1884) Cathedral Saint-Gatien, Tours, 1851 Salt print from a paper negative 36.7 x 28.3 cm mounted on 46.7 x 38.1 cm paper Photographer's black signature stamp

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884)
Cathedral Saint-Gatien, Tours, 1851
Salt print from a paper negative
36.7 x 28.3 cm mounted on 46.7 x 38.1 cm paper
Photographer's black signature stamp

The Musée d'Orsay has a photograph by Le Gray & Mestral showing a more distant view of the entire west facade.  This photograph appears to contain Le Gray's camera on a tripod, in the foreground; very likely the camera used to make this image. 

According to Anne de Mondenard, La Mission héliographique:Cinq photographes parcourent la France en 1851 (Paris: Centre des monuments nationaux, 2002), pages 155 and 249.

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Gustave LE GRAY (French, 1820-1884) La messe du 4 octobre, Camp de Chalons, 1857 Albumen print from a collodion on glass negative 31.7 x 38.3 cm mounted on 49.6 x 64.8 cm album sheet Photographer's red signature stamp. Inscribed "5" in pencil on mount and on mount verso.

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884)
La messe du 4 octobre, Camp de Chalons, 1857
Albumen print from a collodion on glass negative
31.7 x 38.3 cm mounted on 49.6 x 64.8 cm album sheet
Photographer's red signature stamp. Inscribed "5" in pencil on mount and on mount verso.

Twenty-five thousand soldiers from the French Imperial Guard conducted exercises under the command of Napoleon III to inaugurate a vast military camp at Châlons-sur-Marne during September and October of 1857.  Le Gray was commissioned to photograph the military exercises, views of the camp, and French and foreign officers.  The maneuvers, as well as the imperial celebrations and elaborate entertainments that marked the inauguration, were intended as much for the pleasure of the emperor and the many spectators as they were for the improvement of the troops. The pictures were later bound in albums for presentation by the emperor to his highest ranking officers.

 

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Gustave LE GRAY (French, 1820-1884) "Le Hêtre, Fontainebleau"*, early 1850s Albumen or coated salt print from a waxed paper negative 20.0 x 27.2 cm mounted on 41.7 x 56.8 cm paper Numbered "721" in the negative. Photographer's red signature stamp. Titled with "No 721" in pencil, and "721" in ink, with photographer's oval blindstamp on the mount.

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884)
"Le Hêtre, Fontainebleau", early 1850s
Albumen or coated salt print from a waxed paper negative
20.0 x 27.2 cm mounted on 41.7 x 56.8 cm paper
Numbered "721" in the negative. Photographer's red signature stamp. Titled with "No 721" in pencil, and "721" in ink, with photographer's oval blindstamp on the mount

By the late 1840s Le Gray had become an innovator of photographic processes, developing the waxed paper negative around 1848. Saturating the paper with beeswax and light-sensitive chemicals made the image sharper than that resulting from the paper negative process devised by Talbot beginning in the 1830s. The waxed paper of Le Gray’s process could be prepared in advance and developed days after exposure allowing photographers to minimize the quantity of equipment in the field.

In 1849, Le Gray traveled to Fontainebleau to photograph the forest. By that time, the forest of Fontainebleau had already hosted several important landscape painters such as Camille Corot and Theodore Rousseau who produce oil sketches en plein air.  Train service from Paris, established in 1849, also brought thousands of metropolitan visitors who strolled through the various regions of the forest which included rugged landscapes of boulders and sand, thick oak forests, and shaded birch groves. Le Gray sought out the most technically challenging subjects for his photographs, concentrating on rocks and trees bathed in rapidly shifting light that was difficult to capture with long exposures. Masterpieces of light and shadow, Le Gray's pictures of Fontainebleau are remarkable technical achievements and are considered some of the most artistic photographs made in the mid-nineteenth century.

Gustave LE GRAY (French, 1820-1884) Portail Ste. Anne, Notre-Dame de Paris, early 1850s Salt print from a waxed paper negative 36.1 x 27.2 cm mounted on 47.2 x 35.0 cm paper

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884)
Portail Ste. Anne, Notre-Dame de Paris, early 1850s
Salt print from a waxed paper negative
36.1 x 27.2 cm mounted on 47.2 x 35.0 cm paper

The Romanesque portal of Sainte-Anne is the oldest of the three doorways on the western facade of Notre Dame. It recounts episodes from the childhood of Christ. In the center, the Virgin and Child are surrounded by the King of France and the Bishop of Paris, testimony to the close ties between royalty and Christianity. This entrance was installed around 1200 to the right of the central portal.

Gustave LE GRAY (French, 1820-1884) "L'escadre française en rade de Cherbourg"*, 5 August 1858 Albumen print from a collodion negative 30.1 x 38.3 cm mounted on 43.0 x 62.3 cm paper Photographer's red signature stamp. Titled "L'escadre française en rade de Cherbourg" in pencil with photographer's oval blindstamp "PHOTOGRAPHIE / GUSTAVE LE GRAY & Cº / PARIS" on mount.

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884)
"L'escadre française en rade de Cherbourg", 5 August 1858
Albumen print from a collodion negative
30.1 x 38.3 cm mounted on 43.0 x 62.3 cm paper
Photographer's red signature stamp. Titled "L'escadre française en rade de Cherbourg" in pencil with photographer's oval blindstamp "PHOTOGRAPHIE / GUSTAVE LE GRAY & Cº / PARIS" on mount.

L’escadre française en rade de Cherbourg is a prime example of the seascape and naval views for which Gustave Le Gray was celebrated.  Here he applied the many lessons he had learned in the making of seascapes since 1856. Without recourse to combination negatives that marked his practice in other examples of the genre, the present view was recorded in a single large glass negative. The photograph documents the official visit of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to the port of Cherbourg and its newest construction, the “Bassin Napoléon III,” a remarkable product of naval engineering that greatly expanded the port facilities to accommodate France’s modern fleet of battleships. On the invitation of Napoleon III, between August 5 and 8, the royal couple and their retinue viewed from the safety of their steam-powered yachts (HMY Victoria and Albert I and II, visible in the second row from the right) a demonstration of France’s modern fleet in several maneuvers. This view was apparently taken on the day of the Queen’s arrival, when French ships greeted the royal couple in formation. What was intended as a gesture of trust between the two nations, however, was received by Queen Victoria as a disconcerting display of military might. The photograph records the readiness of the fleet, in a controlled cluster of ships led by the flagship Bretagne at far left. Upon closer inspection, the ships aren’t the only element in formation. Behind the royal yachts is a fast three-mast French vessel, the rigging for which is packed with dozens of sailors standing together in formation, as if preparing to cheer and wave their hats in the air on signal. The photograph is at once a document of the political spectacle of the modern military, and a photographic spectacle of impressive size and clarity of view.

The sight of agile sailors waving boisterously from the rigging of ships in the fleet was what the artist Jules-Achille Noël recorded in his painting commemorating the diplomatic meeting of August 5, 1858. See Jules-Achille Noël, Napoleon III Receiving Queen Victoria at Cherbourg, 5 August 1858, 1859. Oil on canvas, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London (accession no. BHC0637).

Gustave LE GRAY (French, 1820-1884) Cathedral Saint-Gatien, Tours, 1851 Salt print from a paper negative 36.7 x 28.3 cm mounted on 46.7 x 38.1 cm paper Photographer's black signature stamp

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884)
Cathedral Saint-Gatien, Tours, 1851
Salt print from a paper negative
36.7 x 28.3 cm mounted on 46.7 x 38.1 cm paper
Photographer's black signature stamp

The Musée d'Orsay has a photograph by Le Gray & Mestral showing a more distant view of the entire west facade.  This photograph appears to contain Le Gray's camera on a tripod, in the foreground; very likely the camera used to make this image. 

According to Anne de Mondenard, La Mission héliographique:Cinq photographes parcourent la France en 1851 (Paris: Centre des monuments nationaux, 2002), pages 155 and 249.

Gustave LE GRAY (French, 1820-1884) La messe du 4 octobre, Camp de Chalons, 1857 Albumen print from a collodion on glass negative 31.7 x 38.3 cm mounted on 49.6 x 64.8 cm album sheet Photographer's red signature stamp. Inscribed "5" in pencil on mount and on mount verso.

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884)
La messe du 4 octobre, Camp de Chalons, 1857
Albumen print from a collodion on glass negative
31.7 x 38.3 cm mounted on 49.6 x 64.8 cm album sheet
Photographer's red signature stamp. Inscribed "5" in pencil on mount and on mount verso.

Twenty-five thousand soldiers from the French Imperial Guard conducted exercises under the command of Napoleon III to inaugurate a vast military camp at Châlons-sur-Marne during September and October of 1857.  Le Gray was commissioned to photograph the military exercises, views of the camp, and French and foreign officers.  The maneuvers, as well as the imperial celebrations and elaborate entertainments that marked the inauguration, were intended as much for the pleasure of the emperor and the many spectators as they were for the improvement of the troops. The pictures were later bound in albums for presentation by the emperor to his highest ranking officers.

 

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