National Gallery of Art - EXHIBITIONS

Image: Undisturbed by Color: Art and the Early Photographic Album

This exhibition is no longer on view at the National Gallery. Please follow the links below for related online resources or visit our current exhibitions schedule.

Image: Raphael, Sistine Madonna Illustrated in Hanfstangel's "Die Vorzuglichtsen Gemalde der Konlichen Gallerie zu Dresden...", 1860 National Gallery of Art, WashingtonThe invention of photography dramatically shifted the study of art by creating a form of documentation that could be disseminated more easily than previously employed lithographs and engravings. This exhibition draws from the wealth of holdings in the National Gallery of Art Library's Department of Image Collections to illustrate the major role of photography in the development of the field of art history.

Highlighting the fusion of art and science, the exhibition traces the transformation of artistic study and the roots of a form of artistic expression. On view are the first photographically illustrated auction catalogue, issued in London in 1860; the first photographic facsimile of a manuscript, the Manuscript Sforza (1860); and an album from the 1850s representing one of the first attempts to photograph the drawings collection of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. In contrast to such commercially available books, a personal photograph album of snapshots and purchased images that was compiled over several years offers glimpses of life in Victorian England.

Photographic reproductions gradually became the preferred means by which connoisseurs could study painting and sculpture without having to travel to distant places. The medium became the art dealer's preferred method of reproduction, and ownership of albums of works of art demonstrated a collector's resourcefulness and erudition. Black-and-white reproductions were used for study and classroom instruction until the second half of the 20th century, when they began to be replaced by color images. With the development of mechanical reproductive processes such as photogravure, text and images could be printed simultaneously, making art books available to a much wider audience.

Organization: Organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington.