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Contemporary Landscape Photographs of Nascent Impressionism

From the 1860s on, photography occupied an increasingly important position in the representation of landscape. In addition to excellent mastery of light and reflections, Charles Marville’s work is characterized by the nuances of light in his prints. In his photographs of the Bois de Boulogne and then of the park at Bagatelle, with their severe, almost austere compositions, he doesn’t try to conceal the artificial character of the recreated landscape, but on the contrary tries to emphasize its harmony. More picturesque panoramas, drawn from the vedute and engraving traditions, invite the eye to slide through the landscape. In a very pretty series by Victor Prout on the Thames, for example, skilful work on the progression of planes in depth gives the impression of a silent scrolling of the landscape, similar to what is felt by a traveller on a train or a boat.  During the same period, a major group of landscape photographers such as Eugène Cuvelier, Constant Famin and Achille Quinet, close to the Barbizon School, concentrated on nature studies and documents for artists. Numerous painters in fact used photographs before taking them themselves, when the introduction of amateur cameras to the market made photography accessible to all. Finally, stereoscopic views, extensively distributed from the end of the 1850s, probably constitute a source of inspiration for painters, for their natural and instantaneous appearance.

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