Nature caught in the act.
Photographs by Charles Aubry (1811-1877)


Charles AubryQuinces© Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
"PRINCE, in order to facilitate the study of nature, I caught it in the act, and I hereby offer to workers some models that may increase our productivity in the industrial arts that are somewhat compromised by the insufficient number of drawing schools". Opening the dedication of an album presented to the Imperial Prince, these words sum up the ambitions, strategies and context of a business that was representative of the adventure of photography during the Second Empire, the one of a textile designer who, in 1864, at the age of 53, left his profession to set up a company producing plaster casts and photographs of plants and flowers.

Encouraged by the success of Adolphe Braun ten years earlier, Aubry hoped to make his fortune by supplying drawing schools and industrial designers with an alternative to engravings and lithographic plates. Thanks to the competition with England at the time, his production was part of the lively debate on the position of the applied arts in France. The perceived decline in quality was attributed to the need for reform in the teaching of drawing. But the official commissions he counted on did not materialise, and he was declared bankrupt the following year.


Thomas Galifot, conservateur au musée d'Orsay

22 April - 28 August 2011
Musée d'Orsay
Salle 17
Salle 21

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