Gustave Le Gray: Brig upon the water, 1856
Staatsgalerie Stuttgart photo ©Staatsgalerie Stuttgart

Camera and Canvas

Photography and painting in the 19th century
9 March – 2 June 2019

 

Artists all over the world were both fascinated and shaken by the advent of photography in 1839. Without a pencil or brush, it was suddenly possible to capture reality more swiftly and with more detail than ever before.

This prompted Der Humorist, a Vienna satirical magazine, to write: “Who is still to paint tomorrow if the hungry daguerreotype swallows all the pictures in the world?”

 

The Camera and Canvas exhibition traces the eventful parallel histories of painting and photography in the 19th century and their relationship characterised by the fear of competition, the joy of experimenting and the pride of the artists. It covers the period between the media revolution in 1839 and the recognition of photography as a fine art around 1900.

 

Whether portraits or nudes, studies of clouds or Orientalist pictures, architecture paintings or spirit photography, the exhibition generates a dialogue between paintings and photographs. The roughly 200 works on display underscore the potential of both media in depicting a fantasy world or contributing to new discoveries in natural science. Camera and Canvas thus combines paintings by great artists such as Gustave Courbet, Johann Wilhelm Schirmer, Hans Makart, Anselm Feuerbach, James Tissot, Camille Pissarro, Lovis Corinth and Alfred Sisley with pictures by pioneers of photography such as Hermann Biow, Charles Nègre, Francis Frith, Julia Margaret Cameron, Adolphe Braun, Louis Darget, Josef Eder, Heinrich Kühn and Edward Steichen.

 

In the final room, an installation re-interprets a photographic process of yesteryear. Entitled Tomorrow’s History, this work by the Japanese artist Takashi Arai includes some thirty daguerreotypes shot since 2016.

 

The exhibition was developed in collaboration with the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg, where it was on display in 2018 under another guise.

Takashi Arai: Tomorrow's History
Takashi Arai: Tomorrow's History, 2016
© 2016-2017 Takashi Arai

Inspired by paintings of the New Objectivity movement and the series People of the 20th Century by photographer August Sander, the Japanese artist Takashi Arai (born in 1978) endeavoured to represent the future using photographs.

 

To this end, he shot impressive portraits of young Japanese living in locations ravaged by nuclear disasters such as Hiroshima or Fukushima and asked the young people to express their expectations. His sound and picture installation Tomorrow’s History includes some thirty daguerreotypes shot since 2016.

 

One of the rare contemporary photographers using daguerreotypes, Arai values this process, which has fallen into oblivion since the 1860s, as it delivers a unique image of a moment that, likewise, is intrinsically unique. His discursive concept takes advantage of the fragility of daguerreotypes to render the weakness of individuals and society. Moreover, the reflections on the surface where the image appears establish a direct connection between the viewer and the unknown person portrayed.

Photostudio of 1850

 

Photographs have become an integral part of our everyday life. This applies in particular to self-portraits, as selfies have now become a common practice. The „Photostudio of 1850“, by contrast, invites visitors of the exhibition to discover the conditions under which portraits were shot in the 19th century.

 

Audioguide

 

A trilingual audioguide (English, German, French) provides detailed information on selected works and the techniques involved.