Daguerreian Society

On the first of this month, I posted an article reprinted in a 
promotional pamphlet from the Gurney gallery.  Today I will give 
another article from the same pamphlet.
   From Jeremiah Gurney, "Etchings on Photography" (New York: John P. 
Pratt, Printer, 1856) pp. 23-24.
- - - - - - - -

     From Glances at the Metropolis


We have bridled the lightning, and enchained the sun.  Not long ago, 
one of our greatest artists said, on leaving GURNEY'S Daguerrean 
Gallery, 349 Broadway, that he was amazed to see the taste and artistic 
discrimination displayed in the arrangement, light, shade and draping 
of the pictures.  Painters have alleged that the Daguerreotype is too 
mechanical to admit of high artistic developments.  But here as 
elsewhere it is the man who makes the art. For all practical--not 
ideal--purposes, the Daguerreotype accomplishes in hours, what art in 
its higher forms only achieves in years.  The Daguerrean Artist of 
talent and research brings to his aid the subtlest secrets of science.  
In grouping and draping his figures, in softening or intensifying 
light, in subduing minor parts by well chosen mazes of dark, and in the 
atmosphere, which corresponds delicately and effectively to all these--
he has a field in which competition soon shows the difference between 
the mechanic and the man of sentiment.  This word sentiment reveals 
much of all art;  for without it the feelings are not touched.  Hence, 
Cimabue and Fra Angelica, who were the "resurrection and the life" of 
art in the middle ages, by the magic power of devotion and sensibility 
breathed through their works, recall scenes the devout witnessed when 
God's fire descended to light the flames of his own sacrifice.  All 
this has much to do with the Daguerreotype;  for no man has any right 
to call himself an artist unless he feels what art is. In this respect 
Gurney claims admiration.  He lives in his atelier, studying the 
effects of his art in every impression the sun paints for him, and dots 
down his observations like a philosopher and an artist.  This patient 
course of practical study accounts for his being at the very head of 
the Daguerrean Art.  Let our readers, in passing through his superb 
gallery, not forget to look at a copy of Freeman's Historical Picture, 
"The Marys at the Tomb of the Saviour."  The best Daguerreotypists of 
Rome had vainly attempted to make good copies of this picture;  and 
failing, pronounced the difficulties insurmountable.  Gurney, however, 
did not find them so.  The painting was brought to this country, and 
his copy therefrom illustrates his superior knowledge in contending 
with the difficulties of copying by this process a picture painted on 
so peculiar a key, where the Principal mass of light is raised to the 
highest intensity of the pallet, and where the secondary groups are 
graduated from, a brilliant half-tint into a night of shadows;  beyond 
which stretches that line of sad mourning light--half revealed--which 
glooms solemnly over the "Holy City."  The Roman Daguerreotypists never 
could bring out the angels in this picture, without losing the women;  
for here the heavenly could not be seen in their light, with the 
earthly in their shadow;  and if they brought out the Marys, they had 
to keep the instrument so long before the picture that the angels were 
burnt out.  This glorious triumph of the Daguerreotype is immeasurably 
the finest work of the kind we have ever seen, and it is but a just 
tribute to Gurney, to say that he is now the all-excelling Artist, 
painting with the sunbeams of Heaven.

Posted for your enjoyment.     Gary W. Ewer     

Return to: DagNews 1999

homepage society info search
resources galleries

Copyright 1995-2005, The Daguerreian Society -