Charles Marville, Paris Before Lartigue @Greenberg

JTF (just the facts): A total off 11 albumen prints (from wet collodion negatives), framed in brown and matted, and hung in the book alcove. The images were taken and printed in the 1860s/1870s, and are approximately 11×14 or reverse. (Installation shot at right, top.)

There are three other supporting exhibits also on view in the side galleries:

  • Eugène Atget: 8 images, a mix of albumen, arrowroot and gelatin silver chloride prints, taken between 1900 and 1926, all approximately 9×7 or reverse, framed in black and matted, against green walls. (Installation shot at right, bottom.)
  • Brassaï: 9 images, all gelatin silver prints, taken in the 1930s and mostly printed later, generally 12×9, framed in black and matted, in one of the viewing rooms.
  • John Collins: 10 images, all gelatin silver prints, taken in 1917, all approximately 4×5, framed in black and matted, in the other viewing room.

Comments/Context: The Marville exhibit now on view at Greenberg is really just one of four supporting shows that give the larger Lartigue exhibit some historical and visual context. The Marville works are the earliest in terms of chronology, documenting Paris in the mid-19th century; most are from his series of streetlamps (some free standing, others attached to gates, fences and railings), while the rest are empty street scenes, full of cobblestone intersections, horse carriages, and patterned buildings. Marville is perhaps my favorite 19th century architectural photographer; the crispness of his images has a “modern” feeling that foreshadows what would come along decades later and the tonalities of his prints are always rich and tactile.

The back room near Greenberg’s office holds a group of Atget street scenes from the early 20th century (a few park and quay images are also mixed in), dark and shadowy views of inward leaning alleys and dense building facades. One of the side viewing rooms holds a group of Brassaï cafe scenes and night views from the 1930s, the other an earlier set of small Paris views (the Arc de Triomphe, the Seine etc.) by John Collins.

While none of these mini-shows really merits a special visit on its own, together they provide an excellent backdrop and contrast for the Lartigue show. In particular, they highlight how different Lartigue’s approach really was; while the others were captivated by the details of the changing architecture of Paris, Lartigue was seeing the people, brimming with energy and life.

Collector’s POV: The Marville images in the show are priced between $15000 and $40000. In the side galleries, the Atgets are priced between $12000 and $30000, the Brassaïs are $8000 to $25000, and the works by John Collins are $1000 each.

Rating: * (one star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:

  • Marville in MoMA collection (here), in SFMOMA collection (here)
  • Book: John F. Collins Photographs, 1904-1946 (here)

Charles Marville, Paris Before Lartigue
Through October 24th

Howard Greenberg Gallery
41 East 57th Street
New York, NY 10022

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Read more about: Brassaï (Gyula Halász), Charles Marville, Eugène Atget, John Collins, Howard Greenberg Gallery

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