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Prints and Authors in the Time of Manet

Gustave Le Gray
French, about 1820–1882

The Mediterranean with Mount Agde

Albumen print from multiple wet collodion negatives, 1856–59
Purchased with funds from the John S. and Catherine Chapin-Kobacker Family and with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, 1997.283

The seascapes of Gustave Le Gray remain his most admired and important photographs. Although trained as a painter, Le Gray turned to photography as a new, modern medium having infinite possibilities. He explored and adapted the new techniques to create remarkable images that still astound and puzzle collectors and photographers alike.
This is a broad view looking west over the Mediterranean from the southwest coast of France. The sea dominates the scene on the left, with the shoreline on the right. In the distance, Mt. Agde can be seen. Mt. Adge was the sight of a medieval monastery and until the early 20th century was a featured area for travel.
This photograph is remarkable in size, daring in composition, and revolutionary in creative use of new technology (photography was barely 20 years old at the time). In his views of the Mediterranean, Le Gray experimented with a system of multiple negatives. For this photograph he exposed one negative for the dark water and one for the bright sky, combining them to create a seamless image with striking light effects.