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Gustave Le Gray
Étude de nuages
Albumen silver print, from glass negatives
32 x 41.8 cm (12 5/8 x 16 7/16 ins) (image)
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Bequest of Maurice B. Sendak, 2013 Accession Number: 2013.159.39
Le Gray’s majestic marine views created an international sensation when they were first exhibited in London and Paris. At a time when camera exposures often lasted for several seconds, viewers were amazed by Le Gray’s ability to freeze the motion of breaking waves, and the perfectly backlit clouds drifting above reinforced the feeling of spontaneity. That the clouds and waves were printed from two separate negatives remained the artist’s secret during his lifetime. Although Le Gray never publicly acknowledged his method, he did leave some inadvertent clues in the pictures themselves. Here, the same dramatic cloud formation floats above two different beaches—one in Normandy, the other two along France’s Mediterranean coast.