Documentary Beauty, 1840-1914

Edouard DurandelleThe New Opera House in Paris, Ornamental Sculpture© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / DR
The presentation covers the use of photography for documentary purposes in the 19th century, in fields as varied as astronomy, microphotography, architecture (surveys and inventories of buildings), topography and geology, such as American expeditions of territorial exploration. Made for strictly documentary purposes, often to fulfil precise commissions, according to restrictive processes leaving little freedom to the operator, these pictures often prove to be stunning creations, abounding in formal innovations.

The selection includes over sixty prints including the huge (over five metres in length) topographic surveys of the siege of Sebastopol made in Crimea in 1855-1856 by the colonel Langlois, history painter, assisted by the architect Méhédin.


Quentin Bajac, curator, Musée d'Orsay


48/14, La revue du musée d'Orsay, issue # 16, Spring 2003
Musée d'Orsay / Réunion des musées nationaux
€ 11

8 April - 29 June 2003
Musée d'Orsay

Permanent gallery of photography, gallery 8, ground floor, on the side of the Rue de Lille

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