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Photograph - Seascape with Cloud Study
  • Seascape with Cloud Study
    Le Gray, Gustave, born 1820 - died 1884
  • Enlarge image

Seascape with Cloud Study

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    France (made)

  • Date:

    1856-57 (photographed)

  • Artist/Maker:

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

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Albumen silver photograph

  • Credit Line:

    Transferred from the British Museum

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

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

Gustave Le Gray’s seascapes are one of the greatest achievements in the art of photography. Their exquisite tonal quality, impressive scale and innovative exposure and printing methods set high technical standards, while also elevating the evocative and poetic capacity of the new medium.

Le Gray was born in 1820 near Paris and trained there as a painter. Around 1847 he took up photography. His seascapes were, and are still, his greatest public, commercial and aesthetic success. He took them on the French coast at Normandy in the summer of 1856 and a second set from the Mediterranean coast in spring 1857, though it is not known at which location this image was made.

Despite its title, the image shows almost no sea and is more of a cloud study, concentrating upon the massive, billowing formations. In his writing, Le Gray set out a ‘theory of sacrifices’. This suggested that in a work of art detail could be sacrificed in the interests of the overall impression of light and shade. Here he illustrates that theory using the most ethereal of subject matters.

Physical description

seascape, albumen silver photograph, mounted

Place of Origin

France (made)


1856-57 (photographed)


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

Materials and Techniques

Albumen silver photograph

Marks and inscriptions

vue de mer, Ciel Nuageux
lower left of mount; inscribed

lower left corner of mount; printed

lower left corner of print; printed

Gustave le Gray
Maker's identification; lower left corner; stamped; red ink

BRITISH MUSEUM 3 1857 14 61
reverse of mount; stamped


Height: 30.1 cm image, Width: 40.7 cm image, Height: 52.9 cm mount, Width: 67.3 cm mount

Object history note

Acquired by the British Museum in 1857 and transferred to the V&A in 2000

Descriptive line

Le Gray, Gustave. 'Vue de Mer, Ciel Nuageux', 19th c., albumen print

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

Apollo Magazine, February 2007

Subjects depicted

Seascape; Clouds




Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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