Musée d'Orsay: Photographic Display

Photographic Display

Photography at the Musée d'Orsay

 Portrait de deux soeurs jumelles [Twin Sisters]
 Circa 1850
 H. 21; W. 14.5 cm
 Paris, Musée d'Orsay
AnonymousTwin Sisters© Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN
The first fine arts museum in France to pursue a policy of acquisitions and exhibitions of early photography, the Musée d'Orsay now has a rich collection of over 46,000 photographs (consisting mainly of original prints, but also including daguerreotypes, autochromes, photomechanical prints and negatives, among others). Started from scratch in 1979, it has continued to expand to this day with an aim of complementarity with existing public collections, through purchases and gifts, and with the addition of several long-term loans from various French institutions.

Extending from 1839, the officially recognised date of its invention, to around 1918, it provides an exemplary overview of the photographic phenomenon in all its diversity – professional or amateur pursuits, mixing or alternating artistic, documentary, scientific, commercial ambitions.

Because of their sensitivity to light, the photographs in this collection cannot be on permanent display: in addition to appearing regularly in major photography exhibitions and multidisciplinary displays, they can be seen at the museum in temporary displays that are renewed every three months.

Photography at the Musée d'Orsay (cont'd)

Although the richness of the collection comes from a clever balance between the quality of the masterpieces and the historical representativeness, certain key elements emerge naturally when it comes to defining it.

First of all,

French photography between 1840 and 1850 is highlighted, from the early

daguerreotypists to the “primitives” of the paper negative process. Then, in keeping with the Musée’s original international remit, there is a focus on creative work from other countries, Anglo-Saxon countries in particular. Finally, the third key element arises from the multi-disciplinary nature of the institution: while reserving an important place for the amateur photography of artists and writers, the collection also highlights the many ways painters, sculptors, decorators and architects used the medium as an aid to inspiration, through photographic collections produced or assembled by the artists themselves.

To see the selection of photographs currently on display in this gallery, please click here

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