The Boulevards at Paris

William Henry Fox Talbot British

Not on view

Talbot traveled to Paris in May 1843 to negotiate a licensing agreement for the French rights to his patented calotype process and, with Henneman, to give firsthand instruction in its use to the licensee, the Marquis of Bassano.
No doubt excited to be traveling on the continent with a photographic camera for the first time, Talbot seized upon the chance to fulfill the fantasy he had first imagined on the shores of Lake Como ten years before. Although his business arrangements ultimately yielded no gain, Talbot's views of the elegant new boulevards of the French capital are highly successful, a lively balance to the studied pictures made at Lacock Abbey. Filled with the incidental details of urban life, architectural ornamentation, and the play of spring light, this photograph, unlike much of the earlier work, is not a demonstration piece but rather a picture of the real world. The animated roofline punctuated with chimney pots, the deep shopfront awning, the line of waiting horse and carriages, the postered kiosks, and the characteristically French shuttered windows all evoke as vivid a notion of mid-nineteenth-century Paris now as they must have when Talbot first showed the photographs to his friends and family in England.
A variant of this scene, taken from a higher floor in Talbot's Paris hotel, appeared as plate 2 in "The Pencil of Nature."

The Boulevards at Paris, William Henry Fox Talbot (British, Dorset 1800–1877 Lacock), Salted paper print from paper negative

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