Château de La Faloise, Late Morning, 1856, by Édouard Baldus, Clark Art Art Institute
Mysterious Photographs of French Château Reunited in Fall Exhibition at the Clark
For Immediate Release
September 05, 2003
In 1856, pioneering French photographer Édouard Baldus (1813-1889) created a series of photographs on the grounds of the Château de La Faloise, featuring the family and friends of château owner Frédéric Bourgeois de Mercey. The nine photographs, most of which exist in only one print, will be reunited for the first time in an exhibition opening at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute on October 4. Édouard Baldus: Landscape and Leisure in Early French Photography unveils the mystery behind these photographs and explores them in the context of early photographic depictions of country houses and people at leisure. The exhibition comprises approximately 50 19th-century photographs by Baldus and his contemporaries, including Gustave Le Gray, Charles Nègre, Charles Marville, and Camille Silvy.
"The Clark acquired a remarkable Baldus photograph of the Château de La Faloise in 1998, at the beginning of our ongoing initiative to develop a collection of early photography," said Clark director Michael Conforti. "This exhibition not only gives us an opportunity to feature this growing collection but demonstrates the dedication to presenting new scholarship to the public that is the hallmark of the Clark's exhibition program. Édouard Baldus concentrates on the artistic process and what went in to making these masterpieces. This kind of focused exploration is new to the study of 19th-century photography and marks the emerging maturity of scholarship in a field that has drawn more and more interest over the past decade."
The exhibition is organized by James A. Ganz, curator of prints, drawings, and photographs at the Clark. After the Clark acquired Château de La Faloise, Late Morning, Ganz became intrigued by the mysterious nature of the series, and tracked down other photographs taken on the château grounds from public and private collections in North America and Europe. He undertook extensive research on the château, Frédéric de Mercey, and the identity of the other sitters.
"These images give the sense of stumbling upon the scenes from a lost novel, yet the characters are real," said Ganz. "The sense of place, and of interrupted narrative, is so strong, and yet so elusive. Anyone who has ever become fascinated by an old family photograph-a lost moment frozen in time-will be drawn in by these evocative views. In a way, this exhibition is as much a detective story as it is the product of art historical research."
The Château de La Faloise is located in the tiny village of La Faloise, about 65 miles from Paris, in northern France. In the 1850s it was the summer home of Frédéric de Mercey, a painter, author, and Salon administrator. Baldus's photographs show the country house itself from various angles with groups of figures posed on the grounds. The people include de Mercey and members of his household: his English wife, Anna Morgan, their twin sons, a priest, and an unidentified visitor in a top hat.
The Clark Art Institute now owns three of the nine photographs, which will be joined for the exhibition by works from the collections of the Gilman Paper Company, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, the Musee d'Orsay, the Bibliotheque Nationale de France, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Four of the photographs in the series have never before been exhibited or published.
The exhibition will also examine the open-air portrait photography of leisure in France of the 1840s and 1850s. Among the outdoor portraits taken in public and private gardens is a self-portrait of Baldus from the collection of the Troob Family Foundation. A section of the exhibition will focus on photography circa 1855, the time of the Paris World's Fair.
Édouard Baldus: Landscape and Leisure in Early French Photography will be on view at the Clark from October 4 through December 28.
Photography at the Clark
The Clark began building a collection of early photographs in May 1998. Since then the Institute has assembled a core collection of about 200 photographs that date from the invention of the medium in 1839 to the threshold of modernism in the 1920s and reflect the quality and character of the Clark's collections of paintings, prints, and drawings. The invention and development of photography informed every aspect of art in the 19th century, the period for which the Clark is perhaps best known, yet the medium was generally neglected in the art market when founders Sterling and Francine Clark were building their collection. The couple collected no photographs but did amass some 500 drawings and 1400 prints that formed the basis for a curatorial department devoted to works on paper-now the department of prints, drawings, and photographs.
In addition to the Baldus photographs the works collected to date include The Angel at the Sepulchre (1869) by Julia Margaret Cameron, an important nude study (ca. 1855) by Gustave Le Gray, The Nile with the Theban Hills in the Background (ca. 1853-54) by John Beasley Greene, Woman Wearing Foxes, Bois de Bologne (1911) by Jacques-Henri Lartigue, and Jules Taschereau, Edgar Degas, and Jacques-Emile Blanche (1895) by Edgar Degas.
The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute is one of the country's foremost art museums and also a dynamic center for research and higher education in art history and criticism. The Clark's exceptional collections of Old Master, Impressionist, and 19th-century American art on display in the museum's intimate galleries are enhanced by its dramatic 140-acre setting in the Berkshires.
The Institute is one of only a few art museums in the U.S. that is also a major research and academic center, with an international fellowship program and regular conferences, symposia, and colloquia, and an important art research library. The Clark, together with Williams College, jointly sponsors one of the nation's leading M.A. programs in art history and encompasses one of the most comprehensive art history libraries in the world. Its Fellows and conference programs draw university and museum professionals from around the world.
The Clark Art Institute is located at 225 South Street in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Throughout the Baldus exhibition, the Clark galleries will be open Tuesday through Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Through October 31, adult admission is $10 (free to children 18 and under, students, and members); admission is free from November through May. For more information, call 413-458-2303 or visit www.clarkart.edu.