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Photograph - Cloudy Sky - Mediterranean Sea
  • Cloudy Sky - Mediterranean Sea
    Le Gray, Gustave, born 1820 - died 1884
  • Enlarge image

Cloudy Sky - Mediterranean Sea

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Europe (made)

  • Date:

    1857 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

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

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Albumen print from collodion-on-glass negative

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Chauncey Hare Townshend

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case X, shelf 103, box AI

This scene is identifiable as the Mediterranean coast with Mount Agde, in the south of France, visible in the distance. With the mountain as a reference point, it is possible to prove that Le Gray sometimes combined two separate negatives for sea and sky. Prints in other collections show that the same negative was used for the sea and mountain but was coupled with several different negatives for the cloud formations. Le Gray was secretive about his use of these ‘combination printing’ or montage techniques. In some circles, they were condemned as cheating and seen as an untruthful way of representing the world through the camera. For others, montage allowed the photographer to mediate raw nature, restructuring and modifying with discernment to create art.

Le Gray made a series of seascapes that was famous for capturing dramatic lighting and weather conditions. He used glass negatives that were the same size as his photographs (around 40 x 30 cm). He placed the negative directly on top of photographic paper and printed in sunlight. The prints were then toned in a solution of gold chloride in hydrochloric acid. This resulted in a rich, violet-purple colour and had the added benefit of stabilising the images to help them withstand fading over time.

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

Photographic seascape

Place of Origin

Europe (made)


1857 (made)


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

Materials and Techniques

Albumen print from collodion-on-glass negative


Height: 30 cm, Width: 41 cm

Descriptive line

19thC, Townshend Bequest, 1868; Le Gray, Gustave. Cloudy Sky - Mediterranean with Mount Agde, 1856-59


Albumen silver process

Subjects depicted

Seascape; Montage


Photographs; Landscapes


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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