Henri Le Secq (Jean-Louis-Henri Le Secq des Tournelles, French, 1818-1882) was a painter, trained in the atelier of Paul Delaroche, who regularly exhibited in the Paris salons until 1869. Le Secq learned the paper negative process from Gustave Le Gray and went on to master the art of photography, excelling in landscape and architectural subjects.
In 1851, the Commission des monuments historiques appointed Le Secq as one of five photographers to document French architecture for the Missions héliographiques. The Commission was so pleased with Le Secq’s photographs that “reconstructed stone by stone the cathedrals of Strasbourg and Reims” that they commissioned him to work on Notre Dame of Chartres the following year. The more than forty views that Le Secq produced at Chartres in 1852 constituted a most accurate and poignant record, almost a visual translation of Victor Hugo’s description of such a cathedral as a book, an encyclopedia in stone. These photographs express Le Secq’s personal passion for architecture and medieval art, permeated with the sensitivity of an archeologist and resonant with the Romantic fascination with the ruin and the fragment. Le Secq’s powerful studies of trees and boulders in the Forest of Fontainebleau evoke his recognition of the grandeur of nature that had inspir