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Photograph - Solar Effect in the Clouds - Ocean
  • Solar Effect in the Clouds - Ocean
    Le Gray, Gustave, born 1820 - died 1884
  • Enlarge image

Solar Effect in the Clouds - Ocean

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    France (made)

  • Date:

    1856 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Le Gray, Gustave, born 1820 - died 1884 (photographer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Albumen print from collodion on glass negative

  • Credit Line:

    Transferred from the British Museum

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level H, case DELTA, shelf 3

When first shown, the luminous, shimmering effects of such images amid Le Gray’s otherwise dark seascapes were often mistaken for moonlight. It is easy to see why this misconception arose from these monochrome images, where darkness encroaches from the edges of the scene. In fact, Le Gray achieved the moonlight effect by pointing the camera in the direction of the sun during daylight. Absent from this scene are boats, heavy waves or any sign of humanity. The viewer is left in confrontation with the sea and potentially threatening clouds.

Collodion-on-glass negatives were introduced in 1851. Le Gray adopted them in preference to paper negatives to achieve maximum sharpness coupled with even faster exposure times. The glass plate was covered with a solution of ether and guncotton (cotton steeped in nitric and sulphuric acids). It was then sensitised. The negative had to be exposed in the camera while still wet and developed immediately afterwards.

Most of the V&A’s fine group of Le Gray seascapes came to the Museum in 1868 as part of the bequest of the millionaire art collector Chauncy Hare Townshend. He had kept them in portfolios along with his watercolours, etchings and engravings. They have therefore remained in excellent condition, preserved to museum standards almost since they were made.

Physical description

seascape, albumen silver photograph, mounted

Place of Origin

France (made)


1856 (made)


Le Gray, Gustave, born 1820 - died 1884 (photographer)

Materials and Techniques

Albumen print from collodion on glass negative

Marks and inscriptions

lower corner of mount; inscribed

lower left corner of photo; inscribed

Vue de mer, Le Soleil.
on mount; inscribed; red ink

Gustave Le Gray
lower left of print; stamped; red ink

BRITISH MUSEUM 1857 3 14 62
reverse of mount; stamped

mount; blind stamped


Height: 30.9 cm image, Width: 39.7 cm image, Height: 52.2 cm mount, Width: 67.3 cm mount

Descriptive line

Photographic seascape

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Ebloussants reflets. Normandie Impressionniste - Rouen Rouen: musées des Beaux-Arts, 2013. ISBN: 9782711860623.


Albumen silver process

Subjects depicted

Moonlight; Seascape




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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