National Gallery of Art - RESOURCES

Image Collections: Photographs

detail of Self-Portrait at Age Twenty-Six   detail of Conwy Castle, Wales   detail of Henri Matisse Sketching Henriette Darricarrere   detail of Industrial Hall Glasgow International Exhibition
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The Department of Image Collections includes rare materials, such as photographic albums, photographs of artists, and reproductive prints. These holdings represent the bulk of the Department's historically significant objects because of their age and subject matter.

Prominent in the history of the photography of works of art is the production of albums containing reproductive prints or photographs of a particular subject. In the late 1970s the Department began to actively collect such objects, significantly strengthening the nineteenth-century rare holdings. These albums concern all facets of art history, with particular attention given to images of Salon exhibitions, international fairs, and expositions. They range from professionally bound books intended for circulation to scrapbooks of an individual's trip abroad. Personal snapshot photography did not become widespread until the 1890s; therefore, most of the images in these scrapbooks were purchased from professionals as mementos of a trip and then arranged in an album by the traveler.

In addition to its importance for art history, the album collection is of great interest to students of the history of photography because of the wide range of processes represented. These include photomechanical prints such as letterpress halftones, photogravures, and collotypes, as well as true photographs, including woodburytypes and platinotypes, and albumen, collodion, carbon, gelatin, and salted paper prints (note: many of these processes are also found in other areas of the collection, particularly albumen, carbon, and gelatin prints). The collection includes 450 albums to date.

Photographs of Artists
Through the acquisition of personal archives such as that of René Huyghe, a small collection of nineteenth-century photographs of artists has been established. In recent years, the Photographic Archives has begun to collect actively in this area. The Archives' collection depicts artists in both formal and studio settings. Most of these photographs were taken by anonymous photographers, but there are some examples in which both the sitter and the portraitist are known, such as Paul Nadar's portrait of Claude Monet or Lucienne Bloch's image of Diego Rivera, who is shown painting at the New Worker's School in New York. Other notable examples of artists included in this collection are:

Jean Baptiste Camille Corot (1796-1875)
Daniel Chester French (1850-1931)
Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)
Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780-1867)
Henri Matisse (1869-1954)
Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Nadar [Gaspard Felix Tournachon] (1820-1910)
Auguste Rodin (1840-1917)
John Ruskin (1819-1900)
Theophile Alexandre Steinlen (1859-1923)

The Archives' album holdings complement the photographs of artists with the Galerie Contemporaine Artistique and Galerie Contemporaine des Illustrations Françaises, two multivolume nineteenth-century publications that include photographs of French artists.

Reproductive Prints
The acquisition of personal archives has also led to a small collection of reproductive and photomechanical prints of works of art. These images are particularly significant as they mark the beginning of society's desire and ability to record its artistic heritage for posterity and for a mass audience. Before the advent of photography, prints, such as this interior of Mont-Saint-Michel, made it possible for a monument in France to be seen by people all over the world. Engravings were also made of paintings and sculpture, such as this print after Albrecht Dürer's Self-Portrait at Age Twenty-Six in the Prado, Madrid. The collection is especially strong in prints after works by François Boucher, Pierre Paul Prud'hon, Raphael, Rembrandt van Rijn, Peter Paul Rubens, Titian, J.M.W. Turner, and Anthony van Dyck.

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