Gustave Le Gray
French (1820- ca.1882)
Biography | Bibliography
“Originally a painter who studied with artist Paul Delaroche, Le Gray turned to photography and in 1848 opened a portrait studio in Paris. He introduced his waxed-paper adaptation of the calotype process in 1850 and used the technique in his photographic documentation of historical monuments in the Aquitaine and the Touraine. One of the first to suggest the use of collodion, Le Gray also developed a method for producing cloud effects in landscapes by combining a separate negative of clouds with the original scene, thus solving the problem of blank skies inherent in collodion photography. He is well known for his seascapes, in which he used this cloud technique.
He taught photography to students such as Charles Nègre, Henri Le Secq, Nadar, Olympe Aguado, and Maxime Du Camp. In 1851 he became one of the first five photographers hired for the Missions Héliographiques to document French monuments and buildings. In that same year he helped found the Société Héliographique, the “first photographic organization in the world”. Le Gray published a treatise on photography, which went through four editions, in 1850, 1851, 1852, and 1854.
Le Gray recorded scenes of military life at the camp at Châlons, covered Napoleon III’s visit there in 1858, and photographed at the barricades at Palermo. He also did some portraiture and photographed landscapes, but his lack of interest in the popular vogue for cartes de visite caused him to close his studio, which he sold in 1859. He then disappeared from sight. He apparently left Paris by 1864, and in 1865 was reported in Cairo, where he served as professor of drawing and painting at the viceroy’s school while continuing to make photographs, chiefly for copying by engravers. He died in Cairo”1
1From Lee D. Witkin, and Barbara London, Selected Photographers: A Collector’s Compendium, The Photograph Collector’s Guide, Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1979, 182.
Gordon Baldwin, Sylvie Aubenas, Gustave Le Gray 1820-1884, Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2002.
Sylvie Aubenas, Le Gray: L’oeil D’Or de la Photographie, Paris: Bibliotheque Nationale de France, ca. 2006.
Ken Jacobsen, The Lovely Sea-Views: A study of the Marine Photographs, Published by Gustave Le Gray, Essex, England: Ken & Jenny Jacobson, 2001.
Andre Jammes, Eugenia Parry Janis, The Art of French Calotype, 1845-1870, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983.
Eugenia Parry Janis, The Photography of Gustave le Gray, Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago, 1987.
Jacques Perot, Florence Le Corre, Une Visite au Camp de Chalons sous le Second Empire: Photographies de Messieurs Le Gray, Prevot, Paris: Musee de l Armee, 1996.
Michael Prazan, Gustave Le Gray Galerie Laurent Herschtritt, Paris: Galerie Laurent Herschtritt.