Gustave Le Gray's life was as romantic as any novel. A young painter in Rome, then a fashionable portrait photographer in Paris, Le Gray received commissions from Napoléon III, and astonished viewers with his painterly landscapes and ravishing seascapes. Facing bankruptcy, he fled Paris with Alexandre Dumas to Palermo, traveled to the Middle East, and finally settled in Egypt, where he became drawing master to the ruler's children and continued to make photographs until his death in 1884.
Le Gray's work had remained largely unknown by the general public until he was rediscovered in the 1960s and was deemed by connoisseurs to be the Monet of photography. The fruit of years of research, this complete retrospective offers, as no volume before it, an assessment of Le Gray's important place in the history of photography.
This catalogue was originally published in French to accompany the exhibition Gustave Le Gray, Photographer (1820-1884) at the Bibliothèque Nationale in spring 2002. This English-language edition, edited by Gordon Baldwin, associate curator of photographs at the Getty Museum, coincides with an abridged version of the same exhibition at the Getty Museum that will run from July 9 to September 29, 2002.