[The Great Wave, Sète]

Artist: Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820–1884)

Date: 1857

Medium: Albumen silver print from glass negative

Dimensions: 33.7 x 41.4 cm (13 1/4 x 16 5/16 in.)

Classification: Photographs

Credit Line: Gift of John Goldsmith Phillips, 1976

Accession Number: 1976.646

Description

The dramatic effects of sunlight, clouds, and water in Le Gray's 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. Le Gray solved this problem by printing two negatives on a single sheet of paper: one exposed for the sea, the other for the sky, and sometimes made on separate occasions or in different locations. 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 also because the resulting poetic effect was without precedent in photography.

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