Gustave Le Gray - The Odyssey of Collecting: Photographs from Joy of Giving Something Foundation, Part 1 New York Monday, April 3, 2017 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Robert Hershkowitz, Ltd., Sussex, 1993

  • Literature

    Aubenas, Gustave Le Gray: 1820-1884, pl. 117, no. 99
    Kunsthaus Zurich, Happy Birthday Photography: Bokelberg Sammlung, pl. 53

  • Catalogue Essay

    An additional print of this image is in the collection of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.

    The photographs that Gustave Le Gray made in the forest of Fontainebleau in the mid-1850s represent a refinement of his technique and photographic vision. He had previously photographed in the forest – the famed outdoor studio for painters of the Barbizon school – in the 1840s. Those early trips saw him master the waxed-paper negative process. The later images of the 1850s were made with wet-plate glass negatives – new technology that Le Gray also mastered to his own high standards. He understood the aesthetic use of clarity and detail that glass negatives could deliver and exploited these properties to great effect in Troncs d’Arbres. Here, Le Gray records the individuality of each tree, along with the complex play of the sunlight upon the trunks and forest floor, creating an image that is as much about its subjects as the action of light within the space of the forest. Like the best of Le Gray’s work, the photograph is both documentary and revelatory. Le Gray’s Fontainebleau photographs were made during the same period as his signature seascapes. Both bodies of work show the photographer working at the peak of his abilities to produce images of unprecedented quality.

    Sylvie Aubenas, in her definitive study of the photographer’s career, Gustave Le Gray 1820-1884, writes that his earlier paper-negative work in Fontainebleau showed more generalized views of the wooded landscape, while the 1850s work “tended toward simplification and refinement . . . The strength of the framing, the larger format, the sensitivity and sharpness of the collodion, the subtlety of the light whose slightest vibrations he captured, make these the absolute reference standards of a genre that others, such as Quinet and Famin, would later expand upon” (p. 98).


Troncs d’Arbres, Fontainebleau

Albumen print, mounted.
13 1/4 x 9 3/8 in. (33.7 x 23.8 cm)
'Épreuve 2me CHOIX' stamp on the recto.

$100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for $200,000

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The Odyssey of Collecting: Photographs from Joy of Giving Something Foundation, Part 1

New York 3 April 2017