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Charles Marville: Photographer of Paris
September 29, 2013 – January 5, 2014
West Building Ground Floor

This exhibition is no longer on view at the National Gallery.

Around 1832 Parisian-born Charles-François Bossu (1813–1879) shed his unfortunate last name (bossu means hunchback in French) and adopted the pseudonym Marville. After achieving moderate success as an illustrator of books and magazines, Marville shifted course in 1850 and took up photography, a medium that had been introduced 11 years earlier. His poetic urban views, detailed architectural studies, and picturesque landscapes quickly garnered praise. Although he made photographs throughout France, Germany, and Italy, it was his native city—especially its monuments, churches, bridges, and gardens—that provided the artist with his greatest and most enduring source of inspiration.
By the end of the 1850s, Marville had established a reputation as an accomplished and versatile photographer. From 1862, as official photographer for the city of Paris, he documented aspects of the radical modernization program that had been launched by Emperor Napoleon III and his chief urban planner, Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann. In this capacity, Marville photographed the city’s oldest quarters, and especially the narrow, winding streets slated for demolition. Even as he recorded the disappearance of Old Paris, Marville turned his camera on the new city that had begun to emerge. Many of his photographs celebrate its glamour and comforts, while other views of the city’s desolate outskirts attest to the unsettling social and physical changes wrought by rapid modernization. Taken as a whole, Marville’s photographs of Paris stand as one of the earliest and most powerful explorations of urban transformation on a grand scale.
By the time of his death, Marville had fallen into relative obscurity, with much of his work stored in municipal or state archives. This exhibition, which marks the bicentennial of Marville’s birth, explores the full trajectory of the artist’s photographic career and brings to light the extraordinary beauty and historical significance of his art.

Organization: The exhibition is organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, in association with The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Sponsor: The exhibition is made possible through the generous support of Leonard and Elaine Silverstein. Additional support is provided by The Exhibition Circle of the National Gallery of Art.

Passes: Passes are not required for this exhibition.

Catalog: Sarah Kennel, et al., Charles Marville: Photographer of Paris, University Of Chicago Press, 2013.

Other Venues: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, January 27–May 4, 2014
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, June 13–September 14, 2014

Image: Charles Marville, The Seine from the Pont du Carrousel Looking towards Notre Dame, 1853, salted paper print from paper negative mounted on paperboard, Patrons' Permanent Fund, 1995.36.102