IMPRESSIONISM & PHOTOGRAPHY

Work in Progress / Bing Translation From the French Page

Nadar , ce faux peintre , ce faux poète , ce photographe!

I knew a variant of this line pronounced by Renoir against Mr. Tournachon by Degas. Who copied the other one? Mystery… but the joke seems to circulate among the Impressionists. If the painter of fleshy and carnal women gave birth to one of the greatest filmmakers of the 20th century his taste for the practice of photography is not proven, unlike Edgard. Painter, sculptor and poet in his own time, he willingly lends himself, before being an operator himself, to stagings for a photographer based in Dieppe, W Barnes, and a tribute to classicism, to J. B. Ingres in particular.

Equipped with a room, he will portray his friends, his models, and will not forget himself. Some of his photographs, like T. Robinson, an American Impressionist painter, are also canvases. His photographic approach being unknown or almost unknown during his lifetime, he will not be the subject of a controversy which Monet, sure of his art, contradicts about a London postcard undermining his full air. Although Nadar is neither a poet nor a painter, his portraits fully satisfy Giverny's master and mistress. A shadow cast on the pond with nympheas will make an acceptable self-portrait too.

Let's stay in the realm of the Givernian anecdote. Bonnard, who moved to Vernonnet for a time, visits his neighbour. On the paths of the famous garden they motto on the painting, on the division of light of Seurat, and surely also on this camera of which the Nabis are all equipped: the Kodak Camera, a portable camera putting the photo within the reach of the amateur. A leather-covered wooden case, a 100-view roll film with a sensitivity of 5 ASA, requiring plenty of light, a 57mm lens opening to f/9 and a shutter speed of 1/25th of a second. This invention, in part, of Mr. Eastman is a revolution.

1/25th of a second, the subject interests Rodin, impressionist sculptor? It is discussed, but not here, during an interview with Paul Gsell in 1911: " Have you ever looked carefully in instant photographs of the men on the move? suddenly asked me Rodin.

And on my affirmative answer:

"Well, that's it. What did you notice?

"That they never seem to be moving forward. In general, they seem to stand still on one leg or jump to a bell.

"Very accurate! And hold, for example, while my Saint John is depicted with both feet on the ground, it is likely that an instant photograph of a model that would perform the same movement would show the back foot already raised and moving towards the other. Or, on the contrary, the front foot would not be on the ground if the rear leg occupied in the photograph the same position as in my statue.

It is precisely for this reason that this photographed model would present the bizarre aspect of a man suddenly paralysed and petrified in his pose, as happens in Perrault's beautiful tale to the servants of Sleeping Beauty, all of whom suddenly come to rest in the attitude of their function.

And this confirms what I have just outlined to you about movement in art. If, in the instantaneous photographs, the characters, though captured in action, suddenly seem frozen in the air, it is because all parts of their bodies being reproduced exactly at the same twentieth or fiftieth of a second, there is not, as in art, progressive unfolding of the gesture.

"I hear you very well, master," I said. but it seems to me— excuse me for risking this remark — that you are contradicting yourself.

"What do you mean?"

"Have you not repeatedly told me that the artist must always copy Nature with the utmost sincerity?"

"No doubt, and I stand by it."

"Well, that's it. when, in the interpretation of the movement, he finds himself in complete disagreement with photography, which is an irreconcilable mechanical testimony, it obviously alters the truth.

"No," replied Rodin. it is the artist who is truthful and it is photography that is the liar; for in reality time does not stop: and if the artist succeeds in producing the impression of a gesture that is performed in several moments, his work is certainly much less conventional than the scientific image where time is abruptly suspended.

This interview with Rodin, sometimes classified as an impressionist sculptor alongside Medardo Rosso or Degas, about the instant photo, obtained at speeds of the order of 1/500th or 1/1000th of a second by Etienne-Jules Marey in 1886, confirms the interest in it by modern artists, even if some refuse to contribute it.

This proximity between painting, sculpture and photography was evident from the beginning of Niépce's work. Let's take the first photo in the world, capturing the view from a window in Le Gras. What do we read about it to argue what we're talking about?A reference to Leon Battista Alberti Renaissance figurehead (see Leonardo and France on epubandpub.com). A forerunner nod to the motif, the roofs, chosen by Degas, Caillebotte and Pissarro.













This proximity does not escape anyone, no need for a scholarly demonstration, we can just bring three readings together for fun.

The first is an excerpt from Arago's daguerreotype report: The effect occurs [the blackening of silver salts by light] before the solar shadows have had time to move in a significant way.

The second, Lilla Cabot Perry's testimony about Monet's effects: He tells me that for one of his Poplars, the effect lasted only seven minutes... Time, that of effect, effects, shooting, capture or series, turns out to be a variable too often neglected to define Impressionism. From the time of an effect, requiring when it disappears another canvas to capture another effect, to that of a pose, of several poses, from Monet to Le Gray, there is a similarity: From this exposure time depends all the beauty of the image: I could not commit too much to attach to it, and the photographer to specify, for the landscape with dry wax paper, and the ordinary milk sugar alone and with a simple normal lens and a diaphragm 15 to 20 millimeters in diameter, the exposure should be 30 seconds to 20 minutes in the sun, depending on its intensity and season. The pose must also vary depending on the colour of the objects being reproduced. Thus, for example, in equal light, a monument would require 30 seconds of exposure, while it would take perhaps 20 minutes to reproduce trees in the forest.

The last, one of Monet's most interesting interviews in 1898.Maurice Guillemot, journalist of the Revue Illustrée, accompanies him at dawn to the confluence of the Epte and the Seine, evoking the first exhibition called Impressionist the Cowardly Painter: The landscape is only an impression, and instantaneous... The proximity of vocabulary will not surprise anyone, only beware, to refer to an instant photographic capture we will wait for the invention of the Kodak of 1888. An all-world gentleman's camera marketed by G. Eastman, with a soft 70 mm photosensitive roll of film, with a unique 1/25-second installation time, a 57 mm lens, an opening at f/9. Without a viewfinder, we hold this two-handed case with one finger on the shutter. The snapshot of the painter and the photographer: a capture of the eye and the shutter. In 10 years, does the term (snapshot in English) linked to new photographic technology gain the pictorial vocabulary?

The realization and the rendering diverge but they are of a different order: the technique. The master of the Nympheas suggests a digital pixellization: When you go out, to Lilla Cabot Perry, to go paint, try to forget the objects that are in front of you, tree, house, field, whatever. Think instead: here there is a small blue square, here a pink rectangle, here a yellow stripe, and paint it just like it appears to you with the exact color and shape, until it leads to your naïve impression of the scene in front of you.












Very soon the debate will focus on the genesis of a photo: the fruit of a technology, a mechanical art, intended for industry, or child of a muse, destined for the art market, the walls of museums?

To simplify, though, which of Baudelaire adopting a strong position against the elevation of photography to the rank of 8th art, Delacroix perhaps thinking about it: What you say to me in your kind last [letter] regarding photography confirms me in the esteem that I had designed for this wonderful discovery. For the moment, I see the death of chic and of any mannered execution, a reminder of the great principles of art, the justification of the masters and a better intelligence of their various methods, and for the future a more certain direction printed with art. This discovery will become a link between the artist and the amateur, a language common to both, a neutral ground on which each of them will have to rely, one to produce, the other to appreciate; or Degas the "intransigent" accepting an exhibition of his work at Tasset, his color merchant on Rue Fontaine, sees right?Between these three sizes we have many opinions and arguments for or against, only time as usual will do its work.

Monet, leader, if not the father (it is necessarily discussed), of the Impressionist movement, remains dissatisfied on the subject, his companions also for that matter. We know many photos of families, portraits of each one made by Nadar, Degas, Robinson the American Impressionist painter/photographer, Murray, the future lover of Frida Kahlo, journalists and anonymous.Nothing that caused a scandal, like this London postcard demanded by Monet from a friend to finish his last campaign on the banks of the Thames. It provoked hallali among English critics. They then scoffed at the paragon of Impressionism, undermining one of the major concepts of the movement initiated in the 1970s on the banks of the Seine, namely: outdoor painting. On the Epte side, the controversy is brushed with a furious brushstroke and an exhibition in the land of Albion is cancelled.

Postcard or photo, comparing certain works of painting to pre-photographs to the works of our rapins, we must admit a definite influence of the pioneers of the clear room.

Some motifs, notably in Normandy or Fontainebleau, were the subject of photographic prints long before painted canvases.

It is quite easy to compare the patterns of Dieppe's ports and cliffs treated by each other, Le Secq / Pissaro for example. It is easy to reconcile the views of Le Gray's Le Havre with Monet's.

Some framings can be found on both mediums, but the most important, without a doubt, is iconography.

This iconography, of an everyday life, of an ordinary life, of ordinary people and ordinary things. We think of Japanese prints, paintings by Renoir, Pissarro, Monet, Caillebotte etc. We remember the descriptions of Zola, Maupassant and sometimes Proust, we will add the photos of Atget.

Here we are in the presence of a third variable specific to Impressionism, a major variable for the photographer of the streets of Paris, but also of the suburbs, Rouen, nature, a little-known precursor according to Walter Benjamin of modern photography: Atget has almost always missed the "beautiful views and so-called curiosities" - but not a long row of boots, neither a Parisian courtyard where the handcarts line up in the row from morning to evening, nor a table after the meal, when the dishes have not yet been put away, as there are at the same time hundreds of thousands, nor the brothel rue, No. 5 , the five of which is written in large at four different places of the façade.

Recovered by the Surrealists, its wooden pavers more certainly extend the Raboteurs and Painters in letters from Caillebotte. Its reflections of fronds and clouds on the surface of a pond plunge us back into this fabulous series of Dawns at the confluence of the island of nettles. It would take other examples, they exist, to challenge opinion, in our opinion not very sharp and surely shared by many, by Waldemar George, one of the first relevant critics of photography: The analogy that exists between the works of contemporary photographers and "painters" is the result of an identical vision (the term: vision, is not used in the sense: perception or observation), and not the identity of themes, treated on both sides.

Why did the vision, the eye of some differ from the eye of others, why can the roofs of Niépce of 1826 not be close to those of Pissarro, Degas or Caillebotte?













Why deny photographers direct influence over some of Monet's early navies? Without the input of photography they simply would not exist. Only there is a catch, Impressionism, as aesthetic segmentation, did not yet exist.

It is then preferable to free oneself from this deceptive categorization, in an attempt to bring the distinctive elements of the art of the band closer to Monet, the Intransigent among others, precursors, with the rendering obtained by the writers of light (see the etymology of the word photo / graphie) thanks to silver salts.

Niepce the roofs from Saint-Loup-de-Varennes.
Kodak advertising for snapshot camera