The Image Revealed

First Photographs on Paper in Great-Britain (1840-1860)

Benjamin Brecknell TurnerCrystal palace, Hyde Park© The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
In 1839, when the daguerrotype appeared in France, the Englishman William Fox Talbot invented a technique destined to have a great future as it used the principle of the negative and printing on paper. He named his invention a calotype, "the beautiful image". Whereas France gave the world the daguerrotype, and made it freely available, Fox Talbot took out a patent on his calotype. So in Britain the daguerrotype became the tool for both amateur and commercial photography throughout the following decade. The calotype however was regarded as a cultured gentleman’s pursuit - an activity for the leisured classes.

Chosen for their aesthetic and historical qualities, the majority of these photographs have never been shown since the mid nineteenth century. Fox Talbot, Roger Fenton, Benjamin Brecknell and Turner are well known, but several photographers, like William Collie and Arthur James Melhuish, are presented in France for the first time. As a counterpoint to the exhibition The French Daguerrotype (Musée d'Orsay and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2003), The art of the English calotype highlights a different conception of the new medium of photography and an alternative technical, aesthetic and economic principle.


Roger Taylor, Professor of Photographic History, De Montfort University, Leicester; Malcolm Daniel, chief curator of photographs, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Sarah Greenough, chief curator of photographs, National Gallery of Art, Washington For the Musée d'Orsay: Dominique de Font-Réaulx, curator, Musée du Louvre, assisted by Joëlle Bolloch, archivist, Musée d'Orsay.

The exhibition was organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, in association with the musée d’Orsay, Paris.

27 May - 7 September 2008
Musée d'Orsay

Rooms 68 and 69

Opening hours
Admission with the museum ticket


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