"From Today, Painting is Dead": How Photography Took Over

The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia is celebrating the birth and heydays of photography with the display From Today, Painting Is Dead: Early Photography in Britain and France, on-going at the Barnes's Roberts Gallery through 12 May.

Julia Margaret Cameron. King David and Bathsheba (Henry Taylor and Mary Hillier), 1869. Albumen print from collodion-on-glass negative. Collection of Michael Mattis and Judy Hochberg. D.O. Hill and Robert Adamson. Lady Mary Hamilton Ruthven, 1847, Salt print from a calotype negative, 8 x 5 7/8 inches. Collection of Michael Mattis and Judy Hochberg. D.O. Hill and Robert Adamson. Sandy Linton, his boat and his bairns, New Haven, 1845, Salt print from a calotype negative, 7 5/8 x 5 3/4 inches. Collection of Michael Mattis and Judy Hochberg. © Barnes Foundation

Mostly consisting of unexhibited photography from early photography history, the images came from the collection of Michael Mattis and Judy Hochberg. The display narrates the evolution of photography and the camera as well as how it replaced the medium of painting on its functions. Neubauer Family Executive Director, President of the Barnes and exhibition curator Thom Collins further explained the theme of the exhibition:

“When the influential French painter Paul Delaroche saw a photograph for the first time, he proclaimed, ‘From today, painting is dead!’ This sentiment captures the anxiety with which photography was greeted by artists, though it would be nearly 50 years before technology evolved enough to approximate the work Delaroche and his fellow painters were already doing... This exhibition explores the very fertile period in the early history of photography when the medium’s pioneers were grappling with the complex inheritance of official, state-sponsored visual culture.”
Anonymous. Young Frenchman with gilt background, 1847. Sixth-plate French daguerreotype. Collection of Michael Mattis and Judy Hochberg. William Henry Fox Talbot. Articles of China, 1844. Salt print from calotype negative. Collection of Michael Mattis and Judy Hochberg.Désiré-François Millet. Untitled (Bride), n.d. daguerreotype. Collection of Michael Mattis and Judy Hochberg. © Barnes Foundation

The display is sectioned as to how portrait influenced the arts through portraiture, genre, landscape and still life.

Photography developed at a peculiar time in art history. By the end of the 18th century, the popularity of portrait painting came about. For those who couldn't afford to have their portraits painted, the daguerreotype was the famed alternative. Despite entering the market in 1839, Paris was booming with several photography studios, and producing more than 100,000 portraits a year.

Scenes of daily life also became a popular topic for early photographers, replacing genre painting. Despite royal art academies looking down on photography as a medium back then, middle-class consumers found gratification in photographs. The same can be said with landscape. Early photographic technology made it difficult to capture passersby and people on the streets, so early photographers focused more on the scenic panoramas. Being able to recreate the likeliness through the camera while also being able to be more expressive with such a modest genre, landscape painters also took after photographers' 'expressiveness' in their work. As for still life – the genre was often more focused with the seamless realism, and photography was far more accurate as a medium than painting.

The showcase is currently featuring the works of 60 photography pioneers, including Felice Beato, Julia Margaret Cameron, Roger Fenton, Gustave Le Gray, Étienne-Jules Marey, Félix Nadar, and William Henry Fox Talbot, nearly 250 images up for viewing.

Peter Henry Emerson. Gathering Water Lilies, 1885, Platinum print. 7 7/8 x 11 3/8 inches. Collection of Michael Mattis and Judy Hochberg. Gustave Le Gray. The Great Wave, Sète, 1857. Albumen print from two collodion-on-glass negatives. Collection of Michael Mattis and Judy Hochberg. Anonymous. Ferns, 1850s, cyanotype print, 8 5/8 X 6 7/8 inches. Collection of Michael Mattis and Judy Hochberg. © Barnes Foundation

For more information about this display, visit the Barnes Foundation's website, All images are from the press kit.

2019-04-28

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