Exposition au musée

Art Works And Their Photographic Reproduction

From June 27th to September 24th, 2006
Stephen Thompson, Griffith and Farran
Ariane endormie (Vatican, Rome), planche 18 de l'ouvrage Masterpieces of Antique Art, édité par Griffith and Farran à Londres, en 1878
Musée d'Orsay
Don de la Fondation Kodak-Pathé
© Musée d’Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
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Joseph Nicéphore Niepce-Le cardinal d'Amboise, gravure d'Isaac Briot
Nicéphore Niépce, Cadart et Luce
"Le cardinal d'Amboise", gravure d'Isaac Briot, en 1870
Musée d'Orsay
Don de la Fondation Kodak-Pathé, 1983
© Musée d’Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
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As soon as Daguerre's invention became known, reproducing works of art was considered a primary subject for photography. The sharpness and precision of the new invention were praised even by its fiercest opponents.
Copying works of art was a major artistic challenge for the early great photographers in their competition with other media such as engraving. As Henri Zerner recently pointed out, it was the battleground on which the future of art photography was fought. Faithful reproduction of painting and drawing was an opportunity to demonstrate the photographer's ability to understand the artist's mind and grasp and transcribe his manner.

Hippolyte Bayard-Nature morte avec moulages
Hippolyte Bayard
Nature morte avec moulages, entre 1839 et 1840
Musée d'Orsay
Don de la Fondation Kodak-Pathé, 1983
© Musée d’Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
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Francis Wey praised paper photography in 1851 in the following terms: "If the artist-copyist and the engraver are knowledgeable and skilful, they will change the character of the model, and if they are not, they will fail to copy it. The only remedy for these difficulties is heliography and it is in this field that it will do wonders." (La Lumière, 23 March 1851).
The technical constraints of lighting, the difficulty of rendering the values of the painting, and the impossibility of moving the artwork further exalted their talent.

Charles Nègre -La Renommée chevauchant Pégase, sculpture d'Antoine Coysevox, place de la Concorde, à Paris
Charles Nègre
"La Renommée chevauchant Pégase", sculpture d'Antoine Coysevox, place de la Concorde, à Paris, 1859
Musée d'Orsay
Don, 1981
© Musée d’Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
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From the early 1850s onwards, attempts were made to launch the commercial circulation of artworks through the medium of photography. In Lille, Louis Désiré Blanquart-Evrard opened his photographic print shop trading reproductions of architecture and artworks intended for artists and art lovers.As early as 1853, the Goupil publishing house, specialized the production and sale of line-engravings, commercialized photographs, including some taken in Egypt by Félix Teynard.

Robert Jefferson Bingham-Lord Strafford allant au supplice, tableau de Paul Delaroche
Robert Jefferson Bingham
Lord Strafford allant au supplice, tableau de Paul Delaroche, en 1858
Musée d'Orsay
© Musée d’Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
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From 1853 to 1858, Goupil sold several series including the Notice sur la vie de Marc-Antoine Raimondi, illustrated with photographs by Benjamen Delessert, L'Oeuvre de Rembrandt, with photographs of the drawings made by the Bisson brothers and, the first publication devoted to a contemporary artist, L'œuvre de Paul Delaroche, published in 1858 with photographs by Robert J.Bingham.

Adolphe Braun-Florence, Vierge à l'enfant, sculpture de Michel-Ange
Adolphe Braun
Florence, Vierge à l'enfant, sculpture de Michel-Ange, en 1868
Musée d'Orsay
© Musée d’Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Alexis Brandt
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In 1855, Adolphe Disdéri photographed the galleries of the 1855 World Fair; the fund of the painter Edmond Lebel, recently acquired by the Musée d'Orsay, includes a set of photographs of the paintings presented at the exhibition, probably taken by Désiré Lebel, Edmond's father, who was in partnership with Disdéri. These pictures are a rare and precious testimony of the event.
As early as the 1850s, Adolphe Braun circulated numerous photographic reproductions of artworks shot in French and foreign museums. In December 1883, the company, under the name "Ad. Braun et Cie", became the first official photographer of the Musée du Louvre having finally overcome the reluctance of curators and the museum administration, after many years of uncertainty and commercial and technical struggles.

Gustave Le Gray-Vue du Salon de 1853
Gustave Le Gray
Vue du Salon de 1853, en 1853
Musée d'Orsay
© Musée d’Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
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The exhibition Artworks and their Photographic Reproduction presents some eighty photographs from the Musée d'Orsay collection. It does not attempt to give a complete history of the photographic reproduction of art, a complex and diverse subject long neglected by art historians but explored in recent exhibitions and publications, by the Musée Goupil in particular.

Pierre-Ambroise Richebourg-Vue intérieure du pavillon chinois de l'impératrice à Fontainebleau
Pierre-Ambroise Richebourg
Vue intérieure du pavillon chinois de l'impératrice à Fontainebleau, entre 1863 et 1870
Musée d'Orsay
© Musée d’Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
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It relates directly to the history of the Musée d'Orsay's collection, focusing on artworks photographed in museum galleries, during the annual Salons or International Exhibitions. Photographs by Talbot, Bingham, and Robert, for instance, are shown alongside Gustave Le Gray's photographs of the 1850-1851 Salon and Pierre-Ambroise Richebourg's shots of Froment-Meurice's stand at the 1849 Exposition des Produits de l'Art et de l'Industrie de 1849.The presentation includes photographs of paintings, sculptures and art objects and is meant to demonstrate the crucial role played by photography as early as 1850 in the circulation and knowledge of artworks, as well as its role in shaping the history of taste.