Artist: Édouard Baldus (French, born Prussia, 1813–1889)
Date: ca. 1861
Medium: Albumen silver print from glass negative
Dimensions: Image: 30.7 x 43.6 cm (12 1/16 x 17 3/16 in.)
Mount: 46 x 60.5 cm (18 1/8 x 23 13/16 in.)
Credit Line: Gilman Collection, Gift of The Howard Gilman Foundation, 2005
Accession Number: 2005.100.364.69
In July 1861 the Paris-Lyon-Méditerranée (PLM) Railroad commissioned Baldus to produce an album of views of the rail constructions and principal sites served by the line between Lyon, Marseille, and Toulon. In the album, Chemins de fer de Paris à Lyon et à la Méditerranée, Baldus intermixed his landscape and architectural images with bold, geometric views of the modern landscape-railroad tracks, stations, bridges, viaducts, and tunnels-effectively addressing the influence of technology (of which both the railroad and the camera were prime examples) on the world and its representation.
In the final pair of images in the PLM album, Ollioules Gorge and Toulon, Baldus restated the central theme of the volume: wilderness and civilization-Nature and Man. Ollioules Gorge is barren and untamed landscape. By contrast, there is a highly rational order to the arrangement of space and structures in the album's final picture. The materials are iron and glass, dressed stone and brick. Everything is crisp, industrial, modern. Most dramatically, the tracks-the "great demarcation line between past and present," in the words of William Thackeray-race straight back through the station as if pointing toward Nice and the Italian frontier (lines already viewed as the next logical extension of the PLM network) and toward the future.