What Was the Effect of Photography on Painting in the Nineteenth Century

Topics: Photography, Daguerreotype, Image Pages: 4 (1512 words) Published: March 8, 2009
What was the effect of photography on painting in the nineteenth century? The photograph was developed in 1839 simultaneously in England and France by Talbot and Daguerre. That is the technique of chemically fixing of an image produced by exposure to rays of sun. William Fox Talbot was an English scholar and scientist who developed the negative and positive process. He used sensitive paper soaked in sodium hyposulphite called calotype. This became the basis for all subsequent photography. Photography joined the art-world after a long struggle. Although early photography such as Daguerreotype and Calotype appeared by the mid 19th-century, photographs only began to be displayed in art galleries and museums only in the early 20th century. The art critics were of the view that photography is such a mechanical process that there is no scope for artistic interpretation. In fact in the early days, photographers imitated paintings to claim its artistic status. They pursued the same subject matter familiar to painting world such as landscapes, buildings and portraits and often added dreamy softness to images so that it was not taken as an objective factual record. Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863) and Gustave Courbet (1819-77) were two painters who didn’t see photography as a threat to painting. They and others later, quickly embraced it as a means of referencing such details as facial expression, ephemeral light effects, and motion. Delacroix even wrote in his journal that ‘if a man of genius should use the daguerreotype as it ought to be used; he will raise himself to heights unknown to us’. Some painters, notably Edgar Degas, Pierre Bonnard, Edvard Munch, and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, themselves became accomplished photographers. It was rather the popular Salon painter Paul Delaroche (1797-1856), celebrated for the technical precision of his work, who reportedly declared, on seeing his first daguerreotype, ‘From today, painting is dead.’ The fear that photography would...

Bibliography: Moholy-Nagy, László, Painting, Photography, Film (1927). Scharf, A Art and Photography (1968). Crary, Jonathan, Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century (1992). Franz von Stuck und die Photographie (1996).
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