The Question of Art


1839 Paul Delaroche declared "from this day, painting is dead" in reference to the newly announced daguerreotype

Arguments against photography's artistic merits:
  • Machines cannot create art
  • Art should be grand and dramatic, not realistic
  • Photography reduced art to common materials and anyone could do it
  • Painters feared that photography would make their media obsolete
Paul Delarouche, Execution of Lady Jane Gray, 1834.











George Barnard, Destruction of Hood's Ordinance Train, Atlanta, 1864.


The American civil war then and now


more Civil War photos from Brady's corps











Alexander Gardner and his portable dark room, 1867.











Home of the Rebel Sharpshooter

Alexander Gardner, Home of the Rebel Sharpshooter, Gettysburg, 1863.


"If a studio photographer's duty was to arrange the sitter for a specific effect, and if the resulting image was considered reality, then where were the boundaries of truthfulness when a photographer went outside the studio?" - Robert Hirsch











Was Mathew Brady's effort to document the Civil War a profitable venture?

Harvest of Death

  • 1869 Brady petitiond U.S. government to purchase negative archive for $125,000
  • After U.S. refused to purchase, Brady went bankrupt and had to sell his portrait studio
  • In 1875 the government paid Brady $27,840
  • Brady died in the charity ward of Presbyterian Hospital in NY
  • Gardner also petitioned government to buy his archive and was rejected
  • 90,000 of Gardner's glass plate negatives were scrapped for the glass and silver
Timothy O' Sullivan, A Harvest of Death, Gettysburg, 1863.








Manifest Destiny and the Western Frontier
Manifest Destiny = the duty and the right of the United States to expand its territory and influence throughout North America

John Gast,  American Progress, c. 1872.





















Photographer Unknown, Cutting on the Forty-Ninth Parallel, 1860 - 1861.










Alexander Gardner, Westward, the Course of Empire Takes Its Way c. 1869.










Trestle Work

Andrew J. Russell, Trestle Work, Promontory Point, Salt Lake Valley, c. 1868 - 1869. Albumen silver print.











Meeting of the Rails

Andrew J. Russell, Meeting of the Rails, Promontory Point, Utah, 1869. Albumen print.











The Western Landscape


Mt. Broderick

Carlton E. Watkins, Mt. Broderick, Yosemite, 1861.  Albumen silver print.  16 X 21.











William Henry Jackson using mammoth plate camera

William Henry Jackson using a mammoth plate camera











Carlton E. watkins, Three Brothers,  c. 1861.  Albumen silver print.


contemporary shot of the Three Brothers










Yosemite Falls

Carlton E. Watkins, Yosemite Falls, c. 1866. Albumen print.











Carlton E. Watkins, From the Best General View,” Mariposa Trail, c. 1865 - 1866.











Hayden Survey Team

William Henry Jackson, Members of the Hayden Survey Team, 1870. Albumen print.











Timothy O'Sullivan, Sand Dunes, Carson Desert, c. 1868.











Timothy O' Sullivan, Ancient Ruins in the Canyon de Chelle, New Mexico, 1873. Albumen print.











Shoshone Falls
Carleton E. Watkins, Three Brothers, c. 1861.
Timothy O' Sullivan, Shoshone Falls, Idaho, 1868.










Mountain of the Holy Cross

William Henry Jackson, The Mountain of the Holy Cross, 1873.











Geysers on the Yellowstone Reservation

William Henry Jackson, Old Faithful, 1872.


Geysers on the Yellowstone Reservation. Drawn from photographs by William Henry Jackson. From the Illustrated Christian Weekly, November 30, 1872.












more on the near extinction of the American bison
William Temple Hornaday and the last wild buffalo
Unknown, Pile of bison skulls, 1870s.










Charles Baudelaire, On Photography

Photography had become "the refuge of failed painters with too little talent"
"I am convinced that the badly applied advances of photography, like all purely material progress for that matter, have greatly contributed to the impoverishment of French artistic genius."
"From that moment onwards, our loathsome society rushed, like Narcissus, to contemplate its trivial image on a metallic  plate.  A form of lunacy, an extraordinary fantaicism took hold of these new sun-worshippers."
Nadar, Portrait of Charles Baudelaire, 1863.











1820 - 1910


Nadar. Self-Portrait. c. 1855. Salted paperprint.


Gaspard Felix Tournachon

"Tourne a dard" = one who stings











Nadar's aim in portraiture was to find "that instant of understanding that puts you in touch with the model - helps you sum him up, guides you to his habits, his ideas, and character and enables you to produce a really convincing and sympathetic likeness, an intimate portrait." - A World History of Photography

Sarah Bernhardt

Nadar, Sarah Bernhardt, 1865. Albumen.











Sarah Bernhardt

Nadar, Sarah Bernhardt, 1865. Albumen print.

Napoleon Sarony, Sarah Bernhardt, c. 1880. Albumen print.











Nadar, Marie Laurent, 1856.
Nadar, Charles Deburau as Pierrot, 1854.











Nadar considered himself a "daredevil, always on the lookout for currents to swim against."
Nadar "elevating photography to the condition of art", 1862, Honoré Daunier. This caricature appeared in Le Boulevard on 25 May, 1862.











Nadar, Arc de Triumph and the Grand Boulevards, Paris, from a Baloon, 1868.
Nadar, The Catacombs, 1861 - 1862.


More Nadar images