Family Albums : Figures of Intimacy

Achille Bonnuit (attributed to)Group of five women in the garden© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / DR
Thanks to photography, a new genre of representation appeared at the end of the 19th century, testifying to family links of affection. It bloomed in the family albums the bourgeoisie and aristocracy prepared for their relatives. Often skilfully composed, these albums also allow the exploration of the aesthetic qualities of this genre. They preserve and promote intimacy, they show faces and lifestyles, while revealing new visual research.

The Musée d'Orsay collection is exceptional as it includes shots taken in artistic circles, sometimes by the artists themselves, that show the intimate side of famous people. The first family portraits are daguerreotypes that remain static and restrained, in particular those of Millet's family.

Then diverse emotions are visible: the albums of the Menier, Vaudoyer and Henri Lemoine families record happy moments. Finally, with the apparition of instant pictures, relatively solemn group portraits will be succeeded by images of children playing, laughs and swimming parties, such as those of the Terrasse family shot by Bonnard.


Dominique Planchon-de Font-Réaulx, curator, Musée d'Orsay


48/14, La revue du musée d'Orsay, issue # 17, Autumn 2003
Musée d'Orsay / Réunion des musées nationaux
€ 11

11 November 2003 - 15 February 2004
Musée d'Orsay

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

Enlarge font size Reduce font size Tip a friend Print