The exhibition 'Nature’s Picture. Photography meets painting in the 19th century' was on display from 5 March to 5 June 2016.
It’s now hard to imagine life without photography, but in the 19th century, it was a new and labour-intensive medium. Soon after its invention in 1839, photography began to take its cue from painting. A lively dialogue arose between photographers and painters regarding landscapes. They worked side by side in the forest at Fontainebleau, influencing each other. The exhibition Nature’s Picture used early landscape photos and paintings to visualise this extraordinary encounter between the two art forms.
The Mesdag Collection united its outstanding collection of Barbizon paintings with early landscape photographs from collections including those of the Musée d’Orsay and the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. Magnificent photographs by the likes of Gustave Le Gray and Eugène Cuvelier illustrated how painting influenced these photographers, while rarely exhibited clichés-verre (glass plate prints) by Camille Corot and Charles-François Daubigny highlighted how photographic techniques merged with those of fine art.
In the Netherlands, photography and painting also merged late in the 19th century. Louis Apol, for instance, took photographs as preparatory studies for his snowy landscapes, as we can see from the spatters of paint on his photos. Hendrik Willem Mesdag also commissioned photographs for his Panorama of Scheveningen, to help in the creation of what became his masterpiece.
Nature’s Picture at The Mesdag Collection was the first time that these photographs went on public display, allowing visitors to compare them with Mesdag’s painted study for the Panorama.
Nature’s Picture used rarely-exhibited works to illustrate the unique encounter that took place between photography and painting in the 19th century.