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Photograph - The Brig

The Brig

  • Object:

    Photograph

  • 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:

    Bequeathed by Chauncey Hare Townshend

  • Museum number:

    67995

  • Gallery location:

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

The Brig was Le Gray’s first exhibited seascape and his most highly praised. Its appeal derives largely from the poignancy of the little ship seen alone against an immensity of sea and sky. It was enthusiastically greeted in the photographic press for its technical accomplishment, capturing light and atmosphere, and was widely exhibited at Photographic Society exhibitions in Britain and France. The Brig became probably the most famous photographic image in Europe during the late 1850s and 1860s. It may also be the first example of a photograph conceived as fine art to achieve both commercial success and critical admiration. The London photographic dealers Murray & Heath reported 800 prints being ordered within the first two months of its being offered for sale. To facilitate printing of such numbers, copy negatives of the original image were made.

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

Photograph of a ship at sea

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

Dimensions

Height: 355 mm sheet size, Width: 450 mm sheet size, Height: 324 mm image size, Width: 409 mm image size

Descriptive line

19thC, Townshend Bequest; Le Gray, Gustave. Brig on the Water, 1856

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

Hunt, Tristram and Victoria Whitfield, Art Treasures in Manchester: 150 years on Manchester: Manchester Art Gallery, 2007. ISBN 978 0 90167 372 5.
Ebloussants reflets. Normandie Impressionniste - Rouen Rouen: musées des Beaux-Arts, 2013. ISBN: 9782711860623.

Labels and date

Gallery 100, ‘History of photography’, 2011-2012, label text :

Gustave Le Gray (1820-84)
‘The Brig’
1856

‘The Brig’ was Le Gray’s first exhibited seascape. Its
appeal derives from the poignancy of the little ship
seen alone against a vast expanse of sea and sky.
It was highly praised in the photographic press for
its technical accomplishment and dramatic
atmosphere. It may be the first photograph
conceived as fine art to achieve both commercial
success and critical acclaim.

Albumen print
Chauncey Hare Townshend Bequest 1868
Museum no. 67.995
[07 03 2014]

Techniques

Albumen silver process

Subjects depicted

Seascape; Ship

Categories

Photographs

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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