JAIC 1985, Volume 24, Number 2, Article 4 (pp. 92 to 103)
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Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC 1985, Volume 24, Number 2, Article 4 (pp. 92 to 103)


Mervyn Ruggles


SHORTLY AFTER THE INVENTION of photography, artists in the United States and Canada began to explore in several ways the possibilities of the photographic image for their own use. Towards the latter part of the 19th century, some artists advertised themselves as “artist-photographers,” reflecting the aura of prestige of photography, which seemed to attract the notice of the general public. As the technical aspects improved, especially in the making of photographs, photographers who did not have artistic talents hired artists to work for them in the photo studio. Their patrons were eager to have photographs resemble painted likenesses. Prominent artists participated actively in producing painted photographs. Photographers prepared enlargements which were then painted over in oils by staff artists. By the 1860s, colored portraits became fashionable and techniques improved rapidly. Methods were found to photo-sensitize the canvas surface on which the enlarged portrait was projected and fixed. The artist then applied paint directly on the image. The finished art work would later be varnished and placed in an ornamented gilt frame. Frequently, these paintings are not easily recognized as being based directly on a photo image.

The influence of photography, from the time of its invention, on painting has been a powerful one and continues to the present day. Likewise, it cannot be denied that painting has had a profound effect on photography. Moreover, it is a rather significant fact that the first practical and popular method of taking photographs was invented by a professional artist, Joseph Jacques Mand� Daguerre (1787–1851), thereby starting that great on-going debate as to whether photography is an art or a science.

Copyright � 1985 American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works