Place de l'Hôtel de Ville avec les arbres, Paris

Gustave Le Gray French

Not on view

Justly renowned for his landscapes and seascapes, Le Gray is less known for his architectural photography, especially of Paris, which has been overshadowed by the work of his compatriots, Edouard Baldus and Charles Marville. Prints of Le Gray’s Parisian views are relatively rare and, until the discovery of a cache of glass negatives at the Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris around the year 2000, his work in France’s capital was underestimated. In fact, Le Gray completed a series of Parisian views during his final years in the city, before he declared bankruptcy and fled France in 1860. This view of the Hôtel de Ville—which would be destroyed just more than a decade later during the Paris Commune in 1871—distills Le Gray’s expressive and descriptive powers into a tour de force of architectural photography. The building’s monumental and emphatic frontality is countered by the play of light across its flat and recessed surfaces, as well as by the variously opened or closed curtains, so that mass and detail exist in perfect harmony.

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