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picturesque building

October 8, 2013

Negre compFrom Benjamin

Early master photographer Charles Nègre‘s (1820-1880) work has a rare presentation in NY at the Hans P Kraus Jr. gallery. Nègre’s background in painting shows through – from his choice of subjects to his composition, and indeed, his first use of photos was to serve as models for his paintings. But it also gave him an unlikely freedom in using a paintbrush in his preparations – before the ensuing parochial attitude to photography’s “pure” role as document set into the field. To many of the strikingly large, calotypes – wax-paper negatives – on show, pigment was applied directly to create highlights, or accentuate – and manipulate – our focus.
“Being a painter myself…whenever I could dispense with architectural precision, I indulged in the picturesque, in which case I sacrificed a few details… in favor of an …effect…” C. Nègre.
As pictures, the finished works delight. But as artifacts, the negatives have an often strange & haunting beauty.

This, Nègre’s first U.S. solo photography exhibition, is up through November 1.

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