National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Moscow, Domes of Churches in the Kremlin Roger Fenton (artist)
British, 1819 - 1869
Moscow, Domes of Churches in the Kremlin, 1852
salted paper print from paper negative
image: 18.2 x 21.2 cm (7 3/16 x 8 3/8 in.) mat: 40.6 x 50.8 cm (16 x 20 in.) framed: 61 x 71.1 cm (24 x 28 in.)
Paul Mellon Fund
2005.52.1
Not on View
From the Tour: Selected Photographs from the Collection
Object 4 of 15

One of the most important of all 19th-century photographers, Roger Fenton first trained as a lawyer, then studied painting for several years but without much success. In 1851 he attended the Great Exhibition in London. Like many others, he was fascinated with the photographs he saw there. But he was appalled at the dismal state of British photography, especially in comparison to the art form as practiced in America and France. He took it as his mission to elevate both the quality and the standing of photography in Great Britain.

After studying with the renowned French photographer Gustave Le Gray, Fenton began to make photographs himself in late 1851 or early 1852. By the fall of 1852 he had embarked on a bold expedition with the British engineer Charles Vignoles to photograph a bridge that Vignoles was constructing over the Dnieper River in Kiev, then part of Russia. Fenton faced numerous obstacles. He had to transport his bulky equipment hundreds of miles and work in the cold temperatures and dim light of the Russian autumn with a process he had been using for less than a year. That he was able to make any photographs is remarkable; that he was so successful is an indication of his fierce commitment to his art. Moscow, Domes of Churches in the Kremlin is the most accomplished of his photographs from this trip. To emphasize the onion-shaped domes, Fenton climbed high up into the cathedral and positioned his camera to capture a sweeping view of the exotic scene. And by using Le Gray's method of waxing his negatives, he was able to suggest the twinkling luminosity of the domes themselves.

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