This lavishly illustrated book establishes the towering influence of the scientist Victor Regnault (1810-1878) in the earliest decades of photography, a period of experimentation ripe with artistic, commercial, and scientific possibility. Regnault has a double significance to the early history of photography, as the first leader of the Société Française de Photographie (S.F.P.) and as the maker of more than two hundred calotype (paper negative) portraits and landscapes. His photographic and scientific careers intersected a third field with his appointment in 1852 as director of the Sèvres porcelain works.
Readers are treated to Regnault's own beguiling pastoral, garden, and forest scenes; striking portraits of the scientists and artists in his circle of friends; quirky images of acoustic experiments; and an insider's view of the Sèvres porcelain works. Regnault's richly varied photographs also encompass perhaps the most extensive group of family portraits in early photography, and his romanticized landscapes reflect a moment when the rural outskirts of Paris were being aggressively suburbanized and industrialized.
Occupying a unique and powerful position in the overlapping spheres of photography, science, industry, and art, Regnault was elected president of the newly formed S.F.P. in 1855. By examining his intertwined activities against the backdrop of French photography's nascent pursuit of institutional legitimacy, this book illuminates an important and overlooked body of images and the irregular cultural terrain of early photography.
"In Laurie Dahlberg's Victor Regnault and the Advance of Photography, you will find much to satisfy both curiosity about photography's early technology and pleasure in his subjects. . . . A fascinating book, it combines stunning images with a thoughtful biography."--Maggie McDonald, New Scientist
"Laurie Dahlberg has resorted the record of Regnault's contributions during the critical decades of photography's introduction in France. She successfully conveys the importance and relevance of Regnault's work--and the evolving impact of photography--across several disciplines."--Helena E. Wright, Technology and Culture
"The most complete account of Regnault to date, this book will add tremendously to our knowledge about an important figure in early photography. But even more important is the expanded view Dahlberg creates of the invention in its historical time. The writing is excellent; you really feel a personality guiding you through the material with enthusiasm. Readers concerned with art history, cultural studies, and the history of industrialization in nineteenth-century France will find much to interest them here."--Nancy Keeler, independent scholar
"Dahlberg has produced an engaging and clearly argued biography that centers on the uniqueness of the individual--all the while demonstrating the reactions of this individual to a tumultuous and complex era. Through Regnault, the reader sees that many photographers were either wealthy or prominent professionals, and may observe how political tumult from the 1840s to the 1870s combined with the unstoppable advance of technology affected the actions and worldviews of people in positions of influence, from the royals to the middle-classes."--Mary Warner Marien, Syracuse University, author of Photography: A Cultural History
Table of Contents:
Chapter 1: The Art of Avoiding Errors 13
Chapter 2: The Bull in the China Shop: photography at the Manufacture De SSvres 43
Chapter 3: Fraternity and Family 79
Chapter 4: Landscape in the Shadow of Industry 131
Chapter 5: The Three Faces of Photography 181
Selected Bibliography 199