Object Details




William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800 - 1877)




England (Place created)


about 1835


Photogenic drawing negative


11.1 × 4.8 cm (4 3/8 × 1 7/8 in.)

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Textiles and plants were the subjects favored by William Henry Fox Talbot's for his early photogenic drawing experiments. Both were good subjects because of their ability to transmit light and to reveal shapes and patterns according to their density. A textile with a floral pattern, then, must have seemed exceptionally delightful to Talbot's creative and experimental mind.

Photogenic drawings of small objects such as this fraying scrap of linen were made by placing the object on paper that had been made sensitive to light with a combination of silver nitrate and ordinary table salt. The paper with the object on it was then exposed to sunlight. The salt accounts for the image's rich purplish-red color. This photogenic drawing, like most of Talbot's pictures before 1839, is a negative; that is, the actual tones of the object are reversed. One of the earliest photographs in the Getty Museum's collection, it has considerably darkened since the image was made.

Experimental Photography: Discovery and Invention (January 17 to April 2, 1989)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), January 17 to April 2, 1989

Naef, Weston J. Experimental Photography: Discovery and Invention, exh. brochure (Malibu: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 1989), fig. 2.

Lowry, Bates, and Isabael Barrett Lowry. The Silver Canvas : Daguerreotype Masterpieces from the J. Paul Getty Museum, exh. cat. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1998), p. 16, fig. 9.