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In the summer of 1860 Fenton made his most deliberate and exacting photographs to date: a series of still lifes. Although the subject obviously had its roots in painting, his densely packed compositions are far removed from the renditions of everyday life by the Dutch masters. Instead, Fenton extravagantly piled luscious fruits and intricately patterned flowers on top of one another and pushed them to the front of his composition so that they seem almost ready to tumble out of the photograph into the viewer's space. It is that very immediacy—the precarious composition, the lush sensuousness of the objects, and our knowledge of their imminent decay—that makes these photographs so striking.


engraved lower center: Photographed by R. Fenton; by later hands, bottom center in graphite: F115; bottom right in grpahite: 38; by Hans P. Kraus, Jr., Inc., lower left in graphite: 300602.68


The photographer; by descent from his brother; (Hans P. Kraus, Jr., Inc., New York); NGA purchase, 2005.

Exhibition History

In the Darkroom: Photographic Processes Before the Digital Age, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 2009 - 2010, unnumbered catalogue.
In Light of the Past: Celebrating Twenty-Five Years of Collecting Photographs at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, May 3 – July 26, 2015
The Eye of the Sun: Nineteenth-Century Photographs from the National Gallery of Art, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 2019, unnumbered catalogue.

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