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The public release of the photographic processes in 1839 first enabled the depiction of nature, seemingly free of interpretation. With immediate effect, photography became an essential medium of conveying and sharing works of art. While until then the camera obscura or camera lucida were in use, requiring a skilled draftsman to put the image to paper, the photographic process made light itselfthe draftsman and nature could create it’s own reproduction.
By 1839 it was possible, in effect, for art-enthusiasts to view works of art „in natura“. Demand was soon made for images of objects more distant and inaccessible. Art and travel enthusiasts wanted the privilege of seeing reproductions of the distant treasures of the world, among which were the Capitoline Venus and the Sphinx.
Unlike today, a photographic image of a work of art was no reproduction, but a precious original.
Though at first travelling artists like Itier, Du Camp, and Bisson Frères met the great demand for views of foreign treasures, they were later replaced by professional resident photographers.
The photographer has considerable ability to give the image his personal artistic stamp. Antiquities were monumentalized, often disappointing travellers to the original. Never will antique Rome seem as spectacular as in those photos of Anderson, Mac Pherson or Molins.
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