Art/ Collection/ Art Object

[Botanical Specimen]

Artist:
William Henry Fox Talbot (British, Dorset 1800–1877 Lacock)
Date:
ca. 1835
Medium:
Photogenic drawing
Dimensions:
Sheet: 7 3/8 × 4 7/16 in. (18.8 × 11.3 cm), irregularly trimmed
Classification:
Photographs
Credit Line:
Gilman Collection, Gift of The Howard Gilman Foundation, 2005
Accession Number:
2005.100.840
Not on view
This evanescent trace of a botanical specimen is among the earliest photographs known, dating from William Henry Fox Talbot's first period of experimentation with images produced solely by the action of light and chemistry. These earliest successful trials were cameraless images--what today we would call photograms. Here the plant itself was laid directly on top of a sheet of photosensitized paper, blocking the rays of the sun from darkening those portions it covered and thus leaving a light impression of its form.
To make his photogenic drawings (as he called this invention), Talbot used carefully selected writing paper prepared with a light coating of salt and brushed with a solution of silver nitrate. The lilac tone of this sheet is characteristic of his early prints, in which common salt was used to stabilize the photographic image after exposure.
Leaves, ferns, grasses, and other plants were often the subject of these early photogenic drawings, for Talbot was a serious and enthusiastic amateur botanist and he envisioned the accurate recording of such specimens to be among the important practical applications of his invention.
Inscription: Inscribed in pencil on print recto, BR: "XX".
Harold White; [Hans P. Kraus, Jr., New York]; Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York, January 21, 1988

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," May 25, 1993–July 4, 1993.

Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh, Scotland. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," August 7, 1993–October 2, 1993.

National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," June 19, 1994–September 11, 1994.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Framing a Century: Master Photographers, 1840–1940," June 3, 2008–September 1, 2008.

Newhall, Beaumont. Latent Image: The Discovery of Photography. 1st ed. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Company, 1967. no. 7.

Schaaf, Larry J. Sun Pictures, Catalogue Three: The Harold White Collection of Works by William Henry Fox Talbot. Sun Pictures. New York: Hans P. Kraus Jr. Fine Photographs, 1987. pl. 5.

Hambourg, Maria Morris, Pierre Apraxine, Malcolm Daniel, Virginia Heckert, and Jeff L. Rosenheim. The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993. no. 1.



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