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Peter Henry Emerson. Gathering Water Lilies (detail), 1885. Platinum print. Arsenal of Michael Mattis and also Judy Hochberg


On very first seeing a photograph around 1840, the significant French artist Paul Delaroche proclaimed, “From today, painting is dead!” The story sound far-fetched, but it captures the anxieties that surrounded the technology when it an initial emerged in the mid-19th century.

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At the moment of photography’s invention, paint was (and had long been) the main medium for recording images. The art facility had strictly guidelines because that style and also an official power structure of subject matter: first came history paintings, which sought to impart ethical messages. Portraiture was next. Then come scenes of daily life, or genre paintings. Landscape and still life ranked lower still.

The virtually 250 iconic photos in this exhibition are arranged by these main categories, illuminating the possibilities and also challenges the amateur and professional photographers challenged while trying out with their new medium. In each section, you’ll see how early photographers both adopted and wondered about the conventions of the leading tradition; just how technical restrictions hindered their attempts come imitate painting; and how, in the process, lock invented brand-new ways of see the world, setting the phase for our modern-day visual culture.


From the 17th century till the end of the 19th century, the good arts academies of Paris and also London considered history painting to it is in the can be fried visual art. Large-scale, theatrical pictures depicting stories native history, mythology, or the bible sought to enlighten the populace.

Technical limitations prevented at an early stage photographers indigenous taking images of this kind. (Long exposure times,for example, do it impossible to capture complicated multi-figure scenes.) however as cameras came to be faster and also easier come carry, photographers establish they might narrate important events as they happened. Increasingly, in the 1870s and 1880s, photographs attach news story in the press.


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Roger Fenton. The valley of the zero of Death (detail), 1855. Salt publish from collodion-on-glass negative. Collection of Michael Mattis and Judy Hochberg


By the finish of the 18th century, enlightenment thought (which focused on reason and intellect) had increased the popular of portrait painting. Effective artists sought to convey a sitter’s personality, or inside life, in enhancement to capturing physical likeness.Early photography struggled v such nuance. The daguerreotype, the an initial popular photographic portrait medium, required an exposure time of several minutes to create a in-depth picture. Sitters had to stay perfectly still, in shining light, for prolonged periods of time. Lock often showed up rigid and also expressionless in the result images.

Nonetheless, for a growing middle course who might not purchased painted portraits, photographic likenesses were in great demand. Despite they had actually only entered the sector in 1839, daguerreotype studios in Paris were developing morethan 100,000 portraits a year through the beforehand 1850s.


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Marie-Alexandre Alophe. Untitled, c. 1859. Albumen publish from collodion-on-glass negative. Repertoire of Michael Mattis and Judy Hochberg


In the early 19th century, genre paints sought to evoke an easy emotional responses. Since such pictures concentrated on simple moments fairly than heroic narratives, fine arts academies ranked lock below history paintings and portraits of distinguished individuals.

Genre paint readily translated to photography. Scene of everyday life might easily be staged because that the camera, which is why they were among the more quickly multi-figure compositions caught by photographers. Middle-class consumers—who as soon as would have actually bought etched or engraved reproductions that paintings—decorated their homes with this sentimental scenes.


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Peter Henry Emerson. Poling the swamp Hay, c. 1886. Platinum print. Repertoire of Michael Mattis and also Judy Hochberg


Despite that modest status in the arts world, landscape was a really important subject for at an early stage photographers. Working outdoors provided the plentiful light the their procedures required, and nature and cityscapes were easier to record than people, whose movements produced a blurry image.

To press the borders of the new medium, photographers developed an ext expressive methods of illustrating their surroundings. These developments affected painted landscapes, i m sorry became more evocative and also less pertained to with strict visual fidelity, an increasing their popularity.


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Gustave Le Gray. The an excellent Wave, Sète (detail), 1857. Albumen print from two negatives. Repertoire of Michael Mattis and also Judy Hochberg


Still life paints typically an unified artfully arranged objects—including pottery, food, flowers, and other items indigenous the natural world—to convey symbolic meaning. Wilting flowers, for example, would have been interpreted as a reminder of the brevity of life. Quiet life called on a painter’s skill to silly the eye and had been popular since the 1600s, yet the good arts academies perceived it merely as mimicry.

Early photography could have displaced painting as the desired mode that making tho life images. The qualities connected with a effective still life—detail, clarity, little evidence the the artist’s hand—were easily and automatically achieved with a camera. Instead, the medium’s potential for smooth realism appears to have actually led an ext ambitious photographers come other varieties of subject matter.


Adolphe Terris. Untitled (Ornamental resources from the restoration of the Marsaille Cathedral) (detail), 1868. Cyanotype indigenous collodion-on-glass negative. Collection of Michael Mattis and Judy Hochberg


original calotypes by william Henry Fox Talbot, consisting of still lifes, portraits, landscapes, and also street scenes from both England and France. The earliest war photographs, bring away of the Crimean battle by i get it Fenton, including his iconic The valley of the shadow of Death as well as the 11-plate panorama the Sebastopol. An 1844 daguerreotype the Jerusalem—one the the first of the city—by Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey. A full-plate daguerreotype the the fontaine des Innocents in Paris by Baron Jean-Baptiste-Louis Gros indigenous the 1850s. Some of the earliest existing take trip photographs of the middle East, southerly Europe, Africa, India, Burma, Ecuador, Mexico, and brand-new Zealand. Portraits by Nadar, Paris’s great portraitist and also larger-than-life personality, through subjects ranging from literary legends—including one oversize 1885 deathbed portrait the Victor Hugo—to a Japanese delegation come France (1864). Also included room his 1860s photographs the the Paris catacombs and also sewers, i m sorry represent one of the an initial uses of synthetic lighting in photography. Pre-Raphaelite allegorical portraiture by Julia Margaret Cameron. French physiologist Étienne-Jules Marey’s 1880s movement studies the athletes, i beg your pardon prefigure the breakthrough of activity pictures, lot like Eadweard Muybridge’s motion studies in the US. Seascapes, landscapes, photographs of army maneuvers, and other functions by Gustave Le Gray, the leader of the 1850s French motion of fine art photography.

Gustave Le Gray. The Mona Lisa, after a drawing by Aime Millet, 1854–1855. Albumen print from collodion-on-glass negative


All works room from the collection of Michael Mattis and also Judy Hochberg. This exhibition was arranged by the Barnes foundation in association through art2art turn around Exhibitions and curated through Thom Collins, Neubauer family Executive Director and also President that the Barnes.

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This exhibition was developed as part of a brand-new educational venture in between the Barnes and the college of Pennsylvania, led by Collins and also professor Aaron Levy, with curatorial contributions from students in the 2018 Spiegel-Wilks Curatorial Seminar Ars Moriendi: Life and Death in early on Photography.