Friday, June 26, 2009

Daguerre, Painter

Louis Daguerre is best known as one of the pioneers of photography, but he was first a painter.

In 1803 he became a pupil of Degotti, a scene painter for the Paris Opera, and soon began he working on panorama paintings. He created enormous realistic depictions of cities and historical scenes.

To add to the illusion of reality, Daguerre’s paintings were arranged in rotundas lit from above. In 1822 he invented the diorama, a form of scenic entertainment that combined the panorama with a “diaphanorama,” which used translucent oiled paper lit from the side in subtly changing vistas.

To audiences of his day, these spectacles must have held the same “gee-whiz” appeal of HDTV or 3D movies in our time.

12 comments:

Susan Adsett said...

Are you kidding me? those paintings have a "gee whiz" appeal even today! There's an astounding amount of depth - even in a small reproduction.

Victor said...

It's shame that his talents as a painter were completely overshadowed by his innovations in photography.

For more interesting links between photography and painting, read up on Meissonier, Muybridge and Stanford (of Stanford University fame).

Drew said...

Seriously, this stuff still has a wow appeal. I'd love to see the diaphanorama.

I'm always floored when I see these dramatically lit paintings. I usually end up struggling to push values, so whenever I see something like this, it's always an eye opener.

On an unrelated note, my verification word for the day is "hypersti". Sometimes I wonder if this thing is trying to learn a language, instead of just spitting out random gibberish.

James Gurney said...

Drew, I've heard that the data from verification word identifications ("captchas") are used to help understand the computer/human perceptual interface: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Captcha
....but as you say, maybe it's SETIs talking to us.

Yes, as Susan says, a well-painted diorama--including the AMNH backdrops by James Perry Wilson--is every bit as spellbinding as a movie effect. In some ways I'm personally more floored by the still image than the moving one because its effect on me has always been more indelible.

Steve said...

Well, if Word Verification is helping with the human/computer interface, I wonder if "they" are having fun researching the mind's tendency to supply the familiar when confronted with a near-miss. I recently had to concentrate to type "carnla" rather than the "carnal" that almost happened.

I agree, Jim, a still image can have more power. When I was teaching, I would do a lot of videotaping throughout the year and then edit the hours of moving images down to a two hour "yearbook" for the kids and their families, with portions set to music. Doing some sections with still images -- like a slide show -- always seemed to carry more emotional weight. True, even those images were gone in a few moments, but they registered more deeply than the moving footage all the same. Extrapolating from that to the impact of something on the scale of Dauerre's paintings seems clear when compared to the fleeting edits in a movie. The possibility for contemplation is one reason why I preferred your Dinotopia books to the tv version.

p.s. I had to type "hellin" to publish this comment...

=shane white= said...

This work is akin to matte painting. Very cool.

=s=

S. Weasel said...

Sorry for being irreverent, but I thought these (particularly the bottom one) were stills from a computer game. Very beautiful, in any case.

S. Weasel said...

Waaaait a second! Obviously, they didn't have color reproduction in the early 19th C, so clearly they've kept these or we wouldn't know what they look like. Are these small preliminary studies, or is there a gigantic storage place for old backdrops somewhere?

James Gurney said...

S.Weasel, good question, and I should have clarified. Some old dioramas have survived, amazingly, but I believe both of these samples are large standalone canvases, which Daguerre also painted. I saw the moonlight scene at the Met, and it was about 4x5 feet.

Charley Parker said...

I was completely unaware that he was a painter. Wonderful. Thanks.

Roberto said...

Daguerre, Niépce, Muybridge (and Stanford?) were some pretty creative guys!
These innovative artists were exploring the illusions/delusions/perceptions of space, light and movement, (similer to the artists of the Renaissance): Observing, analyzing, building models and experimenting with paints, emulsions, and mediums (medeii?) in order to create images of power, mystery, and beauty. They were alchemists of light or scientific shamans of illusion. Their work not only laid the foundations for Photography and Film(Cinema), but also for Animation and now CG. (If we throw a wide enough net we could also include Edison and Disney… but that might be pushing it.)

Say Victor, (if your still around) I didn’t get the connection to Juste Aurèle Meissonier (1695-1750) the French goldsmith, sculptor, painter, architect, and furniture designer; or Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier (1815-1891), the French painter and sculptor? But I did enjoy reading about them. Thanx for the Journey. -RQ

hklinke said...

Can you recommend a biography on Daguerre and the dioramas? Where did you have your information from?
Thanks
H.