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Adolphe Terris - Architectural Study from the Reconstruction of the Marseilles Cathedral
Adolphe Terris
Architectural Study from the Reconstruction of the Marseilles Cathedral
$5,500
Louis-Émile Durandelle - Le Nouvel Opera de Paris, Sculpture Ornementale
Louis-Émile Durandelle
Le Nouvel Opera de Paris, Sculpture Ornementale
$4,000
Henry Stevens - Orchids
Henry Stevens
Orchids
$3,500
Sale
$2,450
Anonymous - Still Life with Glass and Flowers
Anonymous
Still Life with Glass and Flowers
$5,000
Sale
$3,500
Robert MacPherson - Statue of Sophocles, Rome, Italy
Robert MacPherson
Statue of Sophocles, Rome, Italy
$750
Sale
$525
Charles-Louis Michelez - Sculptures Exhibited at the Exposition Universelle of 1867, Paris
Charles-Louis Michelez
Sculptures Exhibited at the Exposition Universelle of 1867, Paris
$4,000
Sale
$2,800
Charles Hippolyte Aubry - Lilies of the Valley in a Nautilus Shell (Muguet dans une Conque)
Charles Hippolyte Aubry
Lilies of the Valley in a Nautilus Shell (Muguet dans une Conque)
$10,000
Louis-Émile Durandelle - Le Nouvel Opera de Paris, Sculpture Ornementale
Louis-Émile Durandelle
Le Nouvel Opera de Paris, Sculpture Ornementale
$3,500
Henry Stevens - Orchids in Three Vases
Henry Stevens
Orchids in Three Vases
$3,500
Sale
$2,450
A. S. - Game Birds as Still Life
A. S.
Game Birds as Still Life
$750
Sale
$525
Alphonse François Jeanrenaud - Reliqueries at Cathedrale de Trier
Alphonse François Jeanrenaud
Reliqueries at Cathedrale de Trier
$4,000
Adolphe Terris - Étude d'éléments décoratifs devant le Palais Longchamps, France
Adolphe Terris
Étude d'éléments décoratifs devant le Palais Longchamps, France
$7,500
By Matt Damsker
Edmond Lebel--Objects in the Artist's Studio
Anonymous Still Life of Vase, Chalice, Book and Flowers

In the early days of photography, it was only natural for the medium to adopt the still life as a key mode of expression in its bid to surpass the realism of painting. And as this exhibit shows (as does a complementary exhibit of 20th century works), the still life was destined to become one of the most enduring of all photographic modes, as the evolving capabilities of printing and camera technique allowed photographers to plumb the depths of representational and abstract expression.

During the 19th century, of course, abstraction was an almost accidental byproduct of the Pictorial instinct of early photographers, who sought mainly to meet or exceed the beauty of painterly representation through carefully composed arrangements of floral, domestic, and other everyday objects. Thus, the many anonymous examples gathered here seek to transcend the sepia-toned limitations of the early albumen- and salt-print techniques with artfully lit sprays and arrangements of flowers, capturing their complex textural details as evocatively as possible.

However, the timelessness of floral still lifes in this exhibit coexists with several fascinating period studies that bring many timely particulars of the mid-1800s into view. For example, images from a Parisian toy factory display a variety of toy soldiers, dolls, and even the toy-fabricating machinery itself. Other images range from religious reliquaries to Roman ornaments and even the ornately decorated sarcophagus of Victor Hugo in the Pantheon. Not surprisingly, there are images of dead game birds carefully mounted for the camera--a popular motif of still-life painting that extends back to the Dutch Masters--along with several images of pistols, rifles and other weapons of the day, such as cannonballs, spears and daggers, arrayed as if to create an historical tableau or simply to establish pride of ownership of these finely filigreed instruments of destruction.

Edmond Lebel--Objects in the Artist's Studio
Edmond Lebel--Objects in the Artist's Studio

Equally interesting are still lifes of architectural details of some of the great public works of Paris and France--for example, the urns of Versailles, decorative elements pertaining to the 19th-century rebuilding program in Marseilles, as well as models of some of the capitals of the then-new Louvre. As for many of the photographers themselves, their names are among the most important of the 19th-century--most notably Henri Le Secq, Edmond Lebel, Charles Negre, Adolphe Terris, Alphonse Jeanrenaud, Edouard Baldus as well as Auguste Salzmann, who brought a stark, almost modernist presence and simplicity to the still lifes of his Jerusalem series of reliquaries.

In all, these are wonderful examples of key early photographers (and earnest amateurs) and their evolving mastery of light, composition, and the printing techniques at their command. The quality of these images--in most cases, richly detailed and very sharp--connect us to their time and place with exceeding grace and command, evoking in us a rare sense of wonder.

19th-Century Still Lifes
About This Exhibit
Image List

Exhibited and Sold By
Contemporary Works / Vintage Works, Ltd.

258 Inverness Circle
Chalfont, Pennsylvania   18914   USA

Contact Alex Novak and Marthe Smith

Email info@vintageworks.net

Phone +1-215-822-5662

Call for an Appointment

 

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