"Impressed by Light: British Photographs from Paper Negatives, 1840–1860," which runs through 30 December at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, is the first exhibition to explore the opening decades of paper photography in the country of its birth, focusing exclusively on photographs printed from negatives of fine writing paper.
This early process—replaced almost entirely by glass negatives by 1860—was favored especially by men of learning and leisure who not only accepted but appreciated the medium’s tendency to soften details and mass light and shadow in a self-consciously artistic way. At home, their most frequent subjects—ancient oaks, rocky landscapes, ruined castles and abbeys, gatherings of friends and family—provided an antidote to the ills of modern, industrialized society; abroad, they were drawn to the glories of past civilizations manifest in Roman ruins, medieval churches, or Indian temples. Nearly 120 works by 40 artists have been assembled from 27 private and public collections; most are being exhibited in the United States for the first time.
Above: Robert Henry Cheney (British, 1800–1866); Guyscliffe, 1850s; albumen silver print; 7 x 8 3/4 in. (17.7 x 22.3 cm); Collection Centre Canadien d'Architecture/Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal.
Here are a few of the images included in the exhibition; for more, visit the MMA website. Read the informative New York Times review here.
Above: John Murray (English, 1809–1898); The Taj Mahal from the Banks of the Yamuna River, 1858–62; albumen silver print; 15 3/4 x 17 3/8 in. (39.9 x 44 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gilman Collection, Purchase, Joseph M. Cohen Gift, 2005.
Above: John McCosh (Scottish, 1805–1885), Englishman at the Entrance to a Pagoda, 1848–50; salted paper print; 6 1/4 x 5 in. (15.8 x 12.6 cm); Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Above: John Muir Wood (British, 1805–1892); Family Group, Leith, 1847–52; salted paper print; 4 1/2 x 5 1/2 in. (11.3 x 14 cm); Scottish National Photography Collection, National Galleries of Scotland.
Above: Thomas Keith (Scottish, 1827–1895); Cardinal Beaton's House, Edinburgh, 1854–57; salted paper print; 11 x 9 3/4 in. (27.9 x 24.8 cm); Royal Scottish Academy, Edinburgh.