V. Dijon (French)
Albumen silver print from paper negative
10 5/8 x 11 3/4 in. (27 x 29.9 cm)
Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift through Joyce and Robert Menschel, Samuel J. Wagstaff Jr. Bequest, and Pfeiffer Fund, 1993 (1993.70)
This farmyard scene, modeled in strong chiaroscuro, is thought to be the work of an amateur photographer working in the region of Vichy. Few photographs by V. Dijon are known, and no other print of this striking image is believed to exist.
Although made by a virtual unknown, this photograph possesses the aesthetic sophistication and technical mastery of the most advanced works of the 1850s. Unlike his Parisian counterparts, however, this artist exploited the large scale and dramatic lighting commonly reserved for the depiction of monumental architecture and historic statuary for a rustic, vernacular scene.
Renewed attention to seventeenth-century Dutch genre scenes spurred an interest among pre-Impressionist painters in the motif of the humble cottage, most often centering on the structure in the context of a landscape or on its role as a setting for manual labor, as in the work of Jean-François Millet. In this photograph, a whirlwind of disorder and patchwork of intense light and shadow, the half-timbered, thatch-roofed barn and farmyard implements—rakes, baskets, butter churns, buckets—suggest the activity of rural life. The innovative pictorial approach, with multiple and competing points of focus, closely parallels a natural way of seeing the world.