The J. Paul Getty Museum announced the acquisition of 39 early French and British architecture and landscape photographs dating between the 1840s through the 1860s, some of the most impressive prints and negatives of their time. The works were previously owned by Santa Monica resident Jay McDonald, who has collected photography since the 1970s and currently holds of one of the best private collections of the 19th-century photography in the country.
The collection includes six prints and four negatives by Charles Nègre; four prints by Louis-Auguste and Auguste-Rosalie Bisson; three prints by André Giroux; three paper negatives by Louis–Rémy Robert; a print and negative by Henri Le Secq; a print and negative by Captain Linnaeus Tripe; and single works by Édouard Baldus, Eugène Cuvelier, Louis De Clercq, Roger Fenton, Frédéric Flacheron, John Beasley Greene, Louis-Adolphe Humbert De Molard, Gustave Le Grey, Charles Marville, Léon-Eugène Méhédin, Dr. John Murray, Victor Regnault, Captain Horatio Ross, Benjamin Brecknell Turner, and one anonymous photographer.
All 39 works are in sterling condition, demonstrating the importance of craftsmanship to these early masters. The boldly composed photos, which depict sites such as the Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Roman Colosseum, the Taj Mahal, and locations in Burma, “reflect the active debate on aesthetic and scientific aspects of early photography that animated the medium at the time,” according to a press release.
Photography curator and department head Virginia Heckert said in a statement,
“As rare as it is to find individual prints and negatives of this quality, it is all the more extraordinary to have the opportunity to acquire a collection that has been so expertly assembled and preserved. The sixteen paper negatives in the group comprise a particularly important component of the acquisition, as they triple our holdings of paper negatives by French makers and add four excellent negatives by British makers.”
This acquisition also broadens the scope of the museum’s photography collection, as many early photographers originally trained as painters, and their experimentation played a crucial role in the development of modern art.
In a statement, Getty director Timothy Potts declared,
“With this acquisition, the Getty Museum is poised to become one of the most important resources for the sustained study of early negative/positive photography that came out of the revolutionary first generation of experimentation with the new medium. It represents one of the rare moments when science and art come together to produce something totally unexpected – indeed a totally new art form. This acquisition also reinforces our commitment to collecting photography that spans the full history of the art form and places the Getty among the most significant repositories of early paper negatives in an American collection, rivaled only by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the George Eastman House.”