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Nègre, Charles
France (1820 - 1880)
Vincennes Imperial Asylum: The Doctor's Visit
Albumen print
6 3/4 in. (17 cm) diameter; 8 1/2 x 8 1/4 in. (21.6 x 21 cm) mount sheet size
Joseph and Elaine Monsen Photography Collection, gift of Joseph and Elaine Monsen and The Boeing Company
FA 97.120

Before taking up photography, Charles Nègre was an accomplished painter in the French academic tradition. At first, photography served him as a study tool. Only in 1847 did he abandon painting altogether for some of the earliest experiments in the use of photography to mimic such genres as still life and landscape. His success brought him a good deal of public attention and in late 1852 or early 1853, the French government commissioned him to create exhaustive photographic documents of Chartres Cathedral, the most significant works of art in the Louvre and the Imperial Asylum at Vincennes. Although both the Louvre and Chartres were accessible to the public during this period, the asylum was not. Carefully composed and dramatically lit to highlight the pathos of the situation at hand, this picture typifies Nègre’s use of academic painting techniques to introduce emotional content into the documentary form.

-- Label copy for The Photographic Impulse: Selections from the Joseph and Elaine Monsen Photography Collection, July 12 to November 10, 2002.

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