Victor Regnault and the Advance of Photography: The Art of Avoiding Errors

Victor Regnault and the Advance of Photography: The Art of Avoiding Errors

by Laurie Dahlberg


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Victor Regnault and the Advance of Photography: The Art of Avoiding Errors by Laurie Dahlberg

This lavishly illustrated book establishes the towering influence of the scientist Victor Regnault (1810-1878) in the earliest decades of photography, a period of experimentation ripe with artistic, commercial, and scientific possibility. Regnault has a double significance to the early history of photography, as the first leader of the Société Française de Photographie (S.F.P.) and as the maker of more than two hundred calotype (paper negative) portraits and landscapes. His photographic and scientific careers intersected a third field with his appointment in 1852 as director of the Sèvres porcelain works.

Readers are treated to Regnault's own beguiling pastoral, garden, and forest scenes; striking portraits of the scientists and artists in his circle of friends; quirky images of acoustic experiments; and an insider's view of the Sèvres porcelain works. Regnault's richly varied photographs also encompass perhaps the most extensive group of family portraits in early photography, and his romanticized landscapes reflect a moment when the rural outskirts of Paris were being aggressively suburbanized and industrialized.

Occupying a unique and powerful position in the overlapping spheres of photography, science, industry, and art, Regnault was elected president of the newly formed S.F.P. in 1855. By examining his intertwined activities against the backdrop of French photography's nascent pursuit of institutional legitimacy, this book illuminates an important and overlooked body of images and the irregular cultural terrain of early photography.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691118796
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 02/20/2005
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 11.00(w) x 9.75(h) x 0.91(d)

About the Author

Laurie Dahlberg is Associate Professor of Art History and Photography, and Chair of the Program in Art History, at Bard College. She has contributed essays to numerous books and exhibition catalogues.

Table of Contents

Introduction 7

Chapter 1: The Art of Avoiding Errors 13

Chapter 2: The Bull in the China Shop: photography at the Manufacture De SŠvres 43

Chapter 3: Fraternity and Family 79

Chapter 4: Landscape in the Shadow of Industry 131

Chapter 5: The Three Faces of Photography 181

Notes 189

Selected Bibliography 199

Acknowledgments 202

Index 203

What People are Saying About This

Roger Taylor

The period chosen by Laurie Dahlberg for her novel and appealing look at Victor Regnault is now widely understood to have been one of the most vibrant and formative in the history of French photography, creating some of the most celebrated masterworks. Her choice of Regnault is equally fortuitous, as his name resonates across the years as a pivotal and influential figure, well regarded by his scientific and photographic colleagues alike.
Roger Taylor, coauthor of "Lewis Carroll: Photographer"

Nancy Keeler

The most complete account of Regnault to date, this book will add tremendously to our knowledge about an important figure in early photography. But even more important is the expanded view Dahlberg creates of the invention in its historical time. The writing is excellent; you really feel a personality guiding you through the material with enthusiasm. Readers concerned with art history, cultural studies, and the history of industrialization in nineteenth-century France will find much to interest them here.
Nancy Keeler, independent scholar

Mary Warner Marien

Dahlberg has produced an engaging and clearly argued biography that centers on the uniqueness of the individual—all the while demonstrating the reactions of this individual to a tumultuous and complex era. Through Regnault, the reader sees that many photographers were either wealthy or prominent professionals, and may observe how political tumult from the 1840s to the 1870s combined with the unstoppable advance of technology affected the actions and worldviews of people in positions of influence, from the royals to the middle-classes.
Mary Warner Marien, Syracuse University, author of "Photography: A Cultural History"

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