Brig on the Water, 1856

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Although Gustave Le Gray began as a painter, he is best known for his seascape photography. Through his use of contra-jour, a photographic technique in which the camera points directly toward a source of light, he produced images with strong contrasts in lighting, emphasizing the shape of the subject’s silhouette. Often combining two different negatives, Le Gray created a sharper, more focused image which achieved a tonal balance between sea and sky. The result is a fantastical scene made out of two moments: a turbulent sky that pushes against the horizon, and a calm, small vessel upon the vast sea. Of the approximately 30 pictures of the sea, Brig on the Water is one of his most iconic; selling around 800 prints in the first two months of its sale.

Brig on the Water
Artist Life
Accession Number
Curator Approved

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