Calotypes by photography pioneer William Talbot on sale at Sotheby’s

Dated to the mid-1840s, nearly 200 photographs of Louis Daguerre’s unfortunate British rival will be auctioned off in April.

He was the great rival of Frenchman Louis Daguerre and one of the pioneers of photography, William Talbot (1800-1877) is also one of the artists in the spotlight of a sale organized next month by Sotheby’s, at the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the auction house’s photography department. Nearly 200 salted paper photographs of the British inventor will go under the hammer in New York; a unique testimony to the beginnings of an art that has conquered the entire planet today.

A little less than 200 years old, these photographs – some dated 1843-1846 – were taken in the decade following the invention of the first image fixation processes. “Over the years, these photographs have become more and more difficult to find, because they are snatched up and are in private or institutional collections., indicated for CNN Emily Bierman, vice-president of Sotheby’s New York in charge of the photography department. Finding a complete collection, archives … it’s something you can’t even dream of.»

Irish poet Thomas Moore (1779-1852) with the Talbot family in 1844. Sotheby’s

This historical collection belonged to William Talbot’s half-sister, Horatia Gaisford (née Feilding), to whom the photographer had gifted a few photo albums in the 1840s, and in whose family they remained for almost two centuries. They represent images of nature, monuments of London (Westminster, Nelson’s column under construction), groups of friends, domestic scenes. “While many of these images are well known, a number of them are significantly less common and possibly unique.“The auction house said in a statement. The set of 191 photos includes, for example, a portrait of the Irish poet Thomas Moore (1779-1852), captured a few years before his death. Present in several of these photographs, Horatia Gaisford left behind a notebook of drawings and watercolors which will also be offered for sale. Presented in a single lot, this Talbot collection is estimated at $ 300,000-500,000 by Sotheby’s.

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If it is not the oldest of the photographic processes, the calotype (or talbotype) of William Talbot is one of the first modern systems of fixing images on a surface. Patented in 1841, it follows the heliographic experiments of Nicéphore Niépce in the 1820s, and – above all – the invention by Louis Daguerre, in 1839, of the daguerreotype, the first reliable photographic system widely marketed. Contrary to the precision of Daguerre’s invention, which was produced on metal plates, the calotype – which was the subject of an exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay in 2008 – made images more hazy and romantic. , printed on salted paper, and which were once popular in British social circles.

Straddling New York and London, the Sotheby’s sale will also auction – on April 21 and 22 – more modern prints, combining the entire history of photography. We will find pell-mell a male nude by Eugène Atget, a print of Elisabeth II by Chris Levine or, to name a handful, photographs of women artists such as Lee Miller, Imogen Cunningham and Anne Brigman. .


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