The J. Paul Getty Museum

[The Boulevards of Paris]

Object Details

Title:

[The Boulevards of Paris]

Artist/Maker:

William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800 - 1877)

Culture:

British

Place:

Paris, France (Place Created)

Date:

May 1843

Medium:

Salted paper print

Object Number:

84.XM.478.8

Dimensions:

16.4 × 21.4 cm (6 7/16 × 8 7/16 in.)

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Object Description

The fundamental virtue of the daguerreotype was seen as its perfect capture of details. In 1843 William Henry Fox Talbot boldly ventured into the home territory of his rival, Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, to prove that the calotype could do the same. He carefully selected a hotel room in the center of Paris near the present Place de l’Opéra whose windows had a commanding view over the city. His description of this scene, the second plate in The Pencil of Nature, Talbot’s 1844-46 illustrated treatise on photography, was the most complete of any in his text:

“The spectator is looking to the North-east. The time is the afternoon. The sun is just quitting the range of buildings adorned with columns: its façade is already in the shade, but a single shutter standing open projects far enough forward to catch a gleam of sunshine. The weather is hot and dusty, and they have just been watering the road, which has produced two broad bands of shade upon it, which unite in the foreground, because, the road being partially under repair (as is seen from the two wheelbarrows, &c. &c.), the watering machines have been compelled to cross to the other side.”

Perhaps most marvelous of all to Talbot was the fact that “a whole forest of chimneys borders the horizon: for, the instrument chronicles whatever it sees, and certainly would delineate a chimney-pot or a chimney-sweeper with the same impartiality as it would the Apollo of Belvedere.”

Talbot’s Paris Townhouses with Carriages, also in the Getty Collection, offers another perspective of a Parisian street.

Larry Schaaf, William Henry Fox Talbot, In Focus: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2002), 72. ©2002 J. Paul Getty Trust.

Provenance
Provenance
- 1974

Private Collection [sold, Sotheby's London, March 8, 1974, lot 55, to Samuel J. Wagstaff, Jr.]

1974 - 1984

Samuel Wagstaff, Jr., American, 1921 - 1987, sold to J. Paul Getty Museum, 1984.

Exhibitions
Exhibitions
Experimental Photography: Discovery and Invention (January 17 to April 2, 1989)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), January 17 to April 2, 1989
Capturing Time: A Celebration of Photographs (December 1, 1997 to March 1, 1998)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), December 1, 1997 to March 1, 1998
The Thrill of the Chase: The Wagstaff Collection of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum (March 15, 2016 to May 7, 2017)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), March 15 to July 31, 2016
  • Wadsworth Atheneum (Hartford), September 10 to December 11, 2016
  • Portland Museum of Art (Portland), February 13 to May 7, 2017
Bibliography
Bibliography

Schaaf, Larry J. William Henry Fox Talbot. In Focus: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2002), p. 72, pl. 33.

Martineau, Paul. The Thrill of the Chase: the Wagstaff collection of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2016), p. 51, pl. 3.

Education Resources
Education Resources

Education Resource

Subjects

Grades

Format

Capturing Light: The Science of Photography

Lesson in which students create pinhole cameras, analyze a nineteenth-century photograph, and use their cameras to capture buildings.

Visual Arts; Science

6-8

Three/Five-Part Lesson

Capturing Light: The Science of Photography

Lesson in which students create pinhole cameras. They analyze a photograph and shoot and develop photographs made with pinhole cameras.

Visual Arts; Science

9-12

Three/Five-Part Lesson