Curtain of Trees

Object Details


Curtain of Trees


Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820 - 1884)




Paris, France (Place created)


about 1849


Salted paper print from a paper negative


19.8 × 26.4 cm (7 13/16 × 10 3/8 in.)

See more

See less

Look closely at the brilliantly illuminated white trees on the left of the image. High upon the right side of the tree trunk is a marker for tourists, who would have been following a carefully prescribed guidebook path through the Forest of Fontainebleau. In the mid-nineteenth century, the forest was an extremely popular destination for artists, especially the Barbizon School of landscape painters, as well as vacationing Parisians. The image's only direct light seems to seek out this human intrusion, somehow vindicating the notion that the experience of nature requires instructions. This view may, in fact, be the other side of Gustave Le Gray's photograph The Road to Chailly, Fontainebleau; the clearing here in the distance suggests that Le Gray was not far from such a road.

When Le Gray made this photograph in the 1840s, the chemistry of the photographic negative was not sensitive to the color green, so the foliage appears darker in the photograph than it would have in real life.

Gustave Le Gray (May 3 to August 28, 1988)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), May 3 to August 28, 1988
Arrows of Time: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (January 24 to April 2, 1995)
  • Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center at UCLA (Los Angeles), January 24 to April 2, 1995
Gustave Le Gray, Photographer (July 9 to September 29, 2002) (78)
  • Bibliothèque nationale de France (Paris), March 18 to June 16, 2002
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), July 9 to September 29, 2002
From Corot to Monet (March 2 to October 19, 2008) (22)
  • National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), March 2 to June 8, 2008
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, July 13 to October 19, 2008
Real / Ideal: Photography in France, 1847-1860 (August 30 to November 27, 2016)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), August 30 to November 27, 2016

Baldwin, Gordon. Gustave Le Gray: Photographer, exh. brochure (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum), fig. 1.