French Daguerreotype. A Photographic Object

Richard Dumas et Juan Manuel Castro
Du 13 May au August 17th, 2003
Attribué à Alexis Gouin-Portrait d'Alexandre Dumas
Attribué à Alexis Gouin
Portrait d'Alexandre Dumas, Vers 1851
©RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski/DR

The purpose of this exhibition is to present an aspect unjustly ignored of the history of photography, the daguerreotype, invented in France during the 1830's by Niépce and Daguerre. The invention of a mechanical process allowing the faithful representation of reality in its slightest detail, producing miraculous pictures, genuine reproductions rather than mere imitations, was to cause many debates and commentaries, from the fear of artists to the enthusiasm of scientists: prevailing as a substitute for reality, Daguerre's invention, though it was a success for only two decades (1840-1860), definitively changed the public's outlook on the world and its representations.
The exhibition will feature some 300 pieces. Besides some 250 daguerreotypes, many documents of the time will be presented, including cameras, newspapers, caricatures, paintings, objects (jewels with daguerreotypes, daguerreotypist accessories), books, letters and manuscripts, in order to document fully the commotion caused by its intrusion. The point is to tackle the subject of daguerreotypes not only in its aesthetic dimension, but also to study it as a genuine "social phenomenon".

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  • Quentin Bajac, curator, Musée d'Orsay, Dominique Planchon- de Font-Réaulx, curator, Musée d'Orsay and Malcolm Danial, curator, Department of Photography, Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Exhibition organised by the Réunion des musées nationaux and the musée d'Orsay in collaboration with the Metropolitan Museum, New York
  • with the exceptional participation of the Bibliothèque nationale de France
  • With the support in Paris of the Gruppo Euromobil
  • Exhibition also presented at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, from September 22, 2003 to January 4, 2004