Purchase, Jennifer and Joseph Duke Gift and several members of The Chairman's Council Gifts, 2000
Not on view
"Being a painter myself, I have kept painters in mind," wrote Charles Nègre after photographing in the south of France in August 1852. "Wherever I could dispense with architectural precision I have indulged in the picturesque . . . I have sacrificed a few details, when necessary, in favor of an imposing effect . . . [and] poetic charm." Nègre's new medium was, in fact, perfectly suited to the lessons he had learned in the painting studio: the course texture of his paper negatives and their tendency to mass light and shadow mirrored the "effect" sought by painters like his studio mate Daubigny.
Most striking in this photograph, made in Nègre's hometown Grasse, is the geometry of his composition-the road zigzagging up the page to a nearly Cubist rendering of the mills and houses. The entire scene is laced with paths for the eye and punctuated by carefully placed details, such as the woman washing clothes, the laundry draped over the wall, and the young man seated on the hillside as if leaning against the left edge of the picture.