National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Scène de Marché au Port de l'Hôtel de Ville, Paris (Market Scene at the Port of the Hôtel de Ville, Paris) Charles Nègre (artist)
French, 1820 - 1880
Scène de Marché au Port de l'Hôtel de Ville, Paris (Market Scene at the Port of the Hôtel de Ville, Paris), before February 1852
salted paper print from paper negative
sheet: 14.7 x 19.9 cm (5 13/16 x 7 13/16 in.)
Patrons' Permanent Fund
Not on View
From the Tour: Selected Photographs from the Collection
Object 3 of 15

Charles Nègre was a highly inventive member of the first generation of French photographers. Praised for his artistic talent, he is also known for both the range of his subject matter and the extent of his ambition. Although he trained as a painter in the studio of Paul Delaroche, he began to make photographs in 1844. During a career of about 20 years he explored every available photographic process of the day: daguerreotypes; paper, waxed-paper, collodion, and even albumen negatives; as well as salted and albumen prints, and photogravure. A consummate printmaker, he fully understood his processes and exploited their potential as an integral part of the meaning and beauty of his images.

Nègre was among the first photographers to recognize that a great strength of the medium was its ability to capture a moment in time. In the early 1850s he began making genre scenes, focusing on Parisian street life. Many of his photographs were posed, but in 1851 he perfected a lens that allowed him to record nearly instantaneous images, such as Market Scene at the Port of the Hotel de Ville, Paris. This photograph was acclaimed at the time for its revolutionary depiction of the natural tableau of daily life, as if caught by the peripheral vision of a passerby. Since the 1950s this print has been frequently reproduced as a seminal example of the early history of photography.

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