Musée d'Orsay: Landscapes and Nature

Landscapes and Nature

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photograph
George BarkerThe Niagara Falls© Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
Rendering nature was a privileged exercise of photographers willing to tackle a technique that presented numerous obstacles. For example the blue of the sky and the brown of the earth and trees required different exposure times. The heavy cameras and the slow emulsions necessitated the use of a tripod, implying a static vision. And these are only the main problems that arose, without mentioning lesser issues.

Due to the richness of the Musée d'Orsay's collection of photographed landscapes of all countries for the so-called "primitive" period, this presentation will stop before the transformations this subject underwent at the turn of the 19th century: the invention of orthochromatism that would allow rendering in black and white the values corresponding to the main colours, autochromes and the apparition of the pictorialist movement.

Pure landscape was practised in photography in varied circumstances: as a technical exercise, to serve as model for artists and amateurs, to document an historical report or a geographic survey. With one common trait: it was almost always meant to be sold.

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