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Petiot-Groffier practiced daguerrotypy in 1840, after which he traveled to India. In the 1850s, he began to use albumen and collodion, and later came to prefer the calotype process with which he produced his best work.
In the year 1854, Petiot-Groffier had become a founding member of Societe Francaise de Photographie, and that summer, he traveled with Baldus through Auvergne in central France. At the time, Petiot-Groffier was a sugar beet-refiner, inventor, entrepreneur, and politician, and he had renewed his interest in photography. During this trip, he worked in very close collaboration with Baldus, who was twenty-five years his junior. Despite their age difference, Baldus considered Petiot-Groffier his "best student." Together they worked their way through the countryside, carefully choosing motifs together, such as thatched huts, forest scenes, and generally the physical character of the Auvergne area. Baldus had never directed his artistic vision towards common architecture or unpopulated landscapes, and so much of the subject matter from the Auvergne journey was new compared to his prior photographic experience. Certain prints are signed by both photographers, and because of their extremely similar styles - even considered identical, at times - it is difficult to tell their work apart from one another.
Petiot-Groffier offered 15 prints to the Societe Francaise de Photographie in March 1855, and died later that year. Of those that survive, several duplicate images are signed by Baldus. The photos given by Petiot-Groffier were:
Monticule dans le village de Murol
Papeterie dans la vallée de Thiers (2)
Ancienne papeterie (2)
Rocher et Église de Saint-Michel
Château de Polignac, près le Puy
Royat, près Clermont
Pont, près d'Issingeaux (route de Saint-Étienne au Puy)
Vue prise dans la vallée de Royat
Château de Bouzol, près du Puy
Trou de l'Enfer, dans la vallée de Thiers
Intérieur de la Distillerie des Alouettes, près Chalon-sur-Saône (2)
Several paper negatives from the Auvergne trip are stored with the negatives of Baldus in the Bibliotheque Nationale and the Kodak-Pathe museum, Vincennes. Photographs of images that are signed by both Baldus and Petiot-Groffier include Le Creux d'Enfer; Pont de la Sainte; Chapel of Saint-Michel, Le Puy; Château de Polignac, and Wooden Bridge, Thiers. The initials "PG" in capital letters blind stamped on certain 19th C. photographs is an estate stamp indicating that the pictures were found in the collection of Petiot-Groffier.
Michele & Michel Auer. "Photographers Encyclopedia International, 1939 to the Present." Hermance: Editions Camera Obscura, 1985.
Malcolm Daniel. "The Photographs of Edouard Baldus." New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1994.
Andre Jammes & Eugenia Parry Janis. "The Art of the French Calotype, 1845-1870." Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983.
[Contributed by Erin McGrath - Lee Gallery]