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Faking It Symposium: Constructed Truths


Mediterranean Sea at Sète

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820–1884)

Albumen silver print from two glass negatives
Image: 32.1 x 41.9 cm (12 5/8 x 16 1/2 in.) Mount: 52.7 x 87.3 cm (20 3/4 x 34 3/8 in.)
Credit Line:
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Robert Rosenkranz Gift, 2005
Accession Number:
  • Description

    The dramatic effects of sunlight, clouds, and water in Gustave Le Gray's Mediterranean and Channel coast seascapes stunned his contemporaries and immediately brought him international recognition. At a time when photographic emulsions were not equally sensitive to all colors of the spectrum, most photographers found it impossible to achieve proper exposure of both landscape and sky in a single picture; often the mottled sky of a negative was painted over, yielding a blank white field instead of light and atmosphere.
    In many of his most theatrical seascapes, Le Gray printed two negatives on a single sheet of paper--one exposed for the sea, the other for the sky, sometimes made on separate occasions or at different locations. Although the relationship of sunlight to reflection in this example was carefully considered and the two negatives skillfully printed, one can still see the joining of the two negatives at the horizon. Le Gray's marine pictures caused a sensation not only because their simultaneous depiction of sea and heavens represented a technical tour de force, but because the resulting poetic effect was without precedent in photography.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Stamped signature in red ink on print, BR; paper label with printed text affixed to mount, recto BR: "MER MEDITERRANEE_CETTE // No. 18."; inscribed in ink on mount, recto BL: "7136"; oval blindstamp on mount below image, recto C: "PHOTOGRAPHIE // GUSTAVE LE GRAY & C. // PARIS"

  • Provenance

    [Robert Koch Gallery]; Gilman Paper Company Collection, February 23, 1984

  • See also