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Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre
Louis Jacques Maude Daguerre (Obituary - Fine Arts Almanak)
The Almanack of the Fine Arts for the Year 1852 edited by Robert William Buss (London: George Rowney & Co., 1852) , p.76-77.
The celebrated Louis Jacques Maude Daguerre, died July 10th, 1851, at Petit Brie, sur Mame, near Paris. Daguerre was favourably known to the world before the announcement of his discovery of the daguerfrotype. His attempts to improve panoramic painting, and the production of dioramic effects, were crowned with the most eminent success. The following pictures attracted much attention at the times of their exhibition: "The Midnight Mass," " Land-slip in the Valley of Goldau," "The Temple of Solomon," and "The Cathedral of Saiute Marie de Montreal." In these, the alternate effects of night and day of storm and sunshine were beautifully produced. To these effects of light were added others, which rocks tumbling from the mountains replaced the prospect of a smiling valley. The methods adopted in these pictures were published at the same time with the process of the daguerreotype, by order of the French government, who awarded an annual pension of 10,000 francs to Daguerre and M. Niepce, jun., whose father had contributed towards the discovery of the daguerreotype. Originally a scene-painter, Daguerre became desirous of executing his works so as to produce the greatest possible illusion. To his exertions for this purpose, the beautiful pictures, exhibited for a succession of years at the Diorama, Regent's-park, owe their origin. In these great works he was associated with M. Bouton. The view of "Holyrood Chapel," which was exhibited at the commencement of the Diornmn, astonished every one with its complete illusion, although this exhibition does not combine all the advantages of the Panorama, yet it produces a far greater degree of optical illusion. The peculiar and almost magical effect of M. Daguerre's invention, arises from the contrivance cmployed in exhibiting the painting, which is viewed through a large aperture, or proscenium. The spectator is kept in comparative darkness, while the picture receives a concentrated light from a ground glass roof. The transitions from ordinary daylight to sunshine, or to darkness, are produced by shutters attached to the glazed ceiling. Besides which, some parts of the paintings are transparent, admitting of being lighted from behind. The combination of transparent, semi-transparent, and opaque colouring still further assisted by the power of varying both the effects and the degree of light and shade, renders the Diorama the most perfect scenic representation of nature, and adapts it peculiarly for moonlight subjects, or for showing such accidents in landscape as sudden gleams of sunshine or lightning. It is also unrivalled for showing architecture, particularly interiors, as powerful relief may be obtained without that exaggeration in the shadows which is almost inevitable in every other mode of painting. But the scientific acquirements and active mind of Mons. Daguerre has bequeathed a greater benefit to mankind than the Diorama, in the wonderful discovery of a mode of obtaining portraits and views by the action of sunlight upon prepared metal plates, so well known as the daguerreotype. The idea, however, was not original with Daguerre and his co-partner, M. Niepce; for in 1802, Wedgewood, assisted by Sir Humphrey Davy, had obtained sun-impressed images upon glass prepared with nitrate of silver; but not being able to fix them, or prevent the continued effect of the sun upon them, the process was abandoned for a time. In 1827, M. Niepce produced some specimens of pictures upon glass, copper plated with silver, and highly polished tin; after which he soon entered into partnership with Mons. Duguerre. The latter, after repeated, and it would seem fruitless attempts to prepare a sensitive paper, entered upon those experiments which ended in the discovery of the beautiful process on silver plates which bears his name. In the interval, Mr. Henry Fox Talbot made known the results of his inquiries into the action of light upon salts of silver, in a paper read before the Royal Society, in January, 1839. This invention is called, in compliment to him, the Talbotype. So important was the discovery of Daguerre deemed by the French government, that, in consideration of it being thrown open to the world, they granted annuities for life to Messrs. Niepce and Daguerre; but owing to some ingenious legal construction, England was considered out of the world, M. Daguerre's process patented, and locked up in this country. Messrs. Claudet and Beard have obtained a patent right in the daguerreotype. It does not appear that M. Daguerre made farther advances in his astonishing discovery, for most of the improvements have originated with other practitioners. The perfection to which photographic lenses have been brought is due to Voightlander, in Germany; Chevalier Lerebour, in Paris; and Ross, in London. Of daguerreotype, the Americans appear to have produced infinitely the best; and the numerous and beautiful specimens of this art, exhibited at the Crystal Palace, in Hyde-park, surpass in depth of color and definition any other examples sent. Since M. Daguerre announced his progress to the world, a vast body of information has been accumulated by photographists, who have pursued the subject upon scientific principles. A far greater degree of sensitiveness has been produced on the coating of the silvered plates; and portraits are now taken by Mr. Mayall, which bear on expression on the features only to be obtained by an almost instantaneous exexposure. An attempted improvementhas been introduced recently, called enamelling, but it appears to impair, in a greater or less degree, the exquisite detail which is found in a successful daguerreotype. M. Daguerre, by his wonderful discovery, is destined to exert a great influence upon art, as the truth of nature's autograph admits of no dispute, and the conventionalities of picture making receive no encouragement from the plain truths discoverable in photography. To M. Daguerre is attributable the honor of preserving to posterity, from this time, the portraits of great men, reflected from the originals themselves, such as they would appear in a mirror, divested of colour. The admirers of Daguerre's art of heliography were much gratified by seeing his portrait, executed by his process, by M. Claudet, and exhibited as one of the chief attractions amongst the photographic views and apparatus in the Great Exhibition, in Hyde-park.