Study of Trees and Pathways
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Gustave Le Gray
French, Fontainebleau, 1849
Salt print, from a waxed calotype negative
7 13/16 x 10 3/8 in.

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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.