The French and English Fleets, Cherbourg, Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820–1884), Albumen silver print from glass negative

The French and English Fleets, Cherbourg

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820–1884)
August 1858
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Mount: 21 in. × 26 3/4 in. (53.3 × 68 cm)
Image: 11 13/16 in. × 16 in. (30 × 40.7 cm)
Credit Line:
Bequest of Maurice B. Sendak, 2012
Accession Number:
Not on view
Le Gray emerged around 1850 as the most important member of a group of French artists that elected photography as an alternative to painting. His technically superior ability to capture momentary effects of light and atmosphere—in seascapes, landscapes, and architectural views—won him critical praise and prestigious commissions and presaged the concerns and pictorial strategies of the Impressionists a decade later. Le Gray had been photographing the sea for years when he headed to Cherbourg and Brest in August 1858 to record the naval exercises of the mighty French and English fleets. The maritime series shows the artist’s mastery of the landscape even as the seemingly small scale of the very real warships suggests a bit of child’s play with models afloat in a bath.
Inscription: Signature stamp in red ink on print, recto BRC; Photographer's blind stamp to mount, recto C: "PHOTOGRAPHIE // GUSTAVE LE GRAY & C // PARIS"; Inscribed in ink on mount, recto BLC: "20,828."; Inscribed in ink on mount, recto BRC: "Flotte franciase en Rade de Brest" ["Brest" marked through in pencil]; Inscribed in pencil on mount, recto BRC: [after "Flotte franciase en Rade de Brest"] "Cherbourg"; Inscribed in penicl on mount; verso BL: "116"
[...]; (Bearne's Auctioneers, UK, May 6, 2000, lot 86); [Hans P. Kraus Jr. Fine Photographs, New York, sold to Sendak on March 1, 2002]; Maurice Sendak

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photographs. "Johnson Gallery, Selections from the Collection 72," November 7, 2016–February 6, 2017.

Aubenas, Sylvie. Gustave Le Gray, 1820–1884. Paris: Bibliothèque Nationale de France, 2002. no. 160, 143, fig. 171.