Camille Silvy,
Photographer of Modern Life
National Portrait Gallery, London
from 15 July 2010
until 24 October 2010

Camille Silvy (1834-1910) is one of the great French photographers of the nineteenth century. Silvy photographed in a ten year creative burst from 1857-67. His career was at the heart of the surge of economic, technological, industrial and cultural change that produced the modern world. Silvy photographed in Algeria, rural France – notably the Eure-et-Loir, where he was born – as well as in Paris and London. His subjects included the modern landscape of leisure, studies of twilight, fog, and sunlight, and the life of city streets. He also expertly photographed theatre, opera and how modern people wore fashionable dress. Silvy was a master of the vivid fashionable portraiture created in the ‘carte-de-visite’ format popular around 1860. The craze for assembling albums of these portraits anticipates the social networking sites of today’s Internet. Silvy came closest in photography to embodying the vision of ‘the painter of modern life’ sketched out by Charles Baudelaire (1821-67) in his famous essay. The photographer Nadar (1820-1910) remembered Silvy as one of the ‘Primitives’ of photography – the enthusiasts who first embraced and defined the medium. Another distinguished photographer, Thomas Sutton (1819-75), called Silvy a ‘photographic genius’. Silvy created some of the most beautiful photographs of all time, pioneered many now familiar branches of the medium – including the reproduction of works of art - and transformed photography from an art into an industry.

"Camille Silvy: Photographer of Modern Life" is produced by Jeu de Paume, Paris, in association with the National Portrait Gallery, London. This is the first ever Silvy retrospective and it will feature some 150 works drawn from public and private collections, many of them never previously exhibited in modern times. The curator is Professor Mark Haworth-Booth, Honorary Research Fellow, Victoria and Albert Museum.

The exhibition catalogue by Mark Haworth-Booth will include much new research and feature 100 plates.

National Portrait Gallery
St Martin’s Place
WC2H 0HE, Londres