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Photography and Painting, 1

The birth of photography

From scorn to recognition

Gustav Klimt
Photography, 2

Photography is a disruptive invention in the history of representation. Modernism in painting cannot be understood without taking into account this technological revolution.

1. The birth of photography

Bold inventions


Three mechanised image reproduction techniques (daguerreotype, calotype and cliché-verre) appeared in the 1840s and 1850s.

2.  Danger and discord

Portrait painting


Immediately after its invention, photography was seen as a competitor to painting and engraving, and the profession of portrait miniaturist simply disappeared. Only the most talented painters survived this technological revolution, but for the vast majority, including the greatest masters, it was at the cost of adopting the photographic aesthetic.

4. Cross-Channel antagonisms

Readings Aaron Scharf, Art and Photography, The Pingouin Press, 1968

Landscape painting, photomontage

  • In France, photographers and landscape painters shared a taste for nuanced outlines and atmospheric luminosity, in contrast to their English counterparts, who had a very Victorian taste for detail and sharp contours. 

  • The spirit of photomontage and the inherent imperfections of photography found their way into the pictorial work of some of Britain's greatest painters, including John Everett Millais.

Iconographic study

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