128. Charles Nègre

Grasse 1820 – 1880 Grasse

Nocturnal View from the Quai du Louvre in Paris, c. 1850

Mostly known as a photographer, Charles Nègre features among the pioneers of the technique and is seen as a precursor of street photography. In describing photographs he took in the south of France in August 1852, Nègre wrote that, being a painter himself, he kept painters in mind and: “Wherever I could dispense with architectural precision, I have indulged in the picturesque; I have sacrificed a few details, when necessary, in favour of an imposing effect […]”.1 This brilliantly atmospheric study in oils captures the artist’s painterly sensibility. The silhouettes of the Pont du Carrousel and the Louvre merge into a dark mass, broken up by the yellow dots of the street lanterns and set against a sky of glowing red and purple clouds. Nègre’s studio was located at 21 Quai Bourbon, just a short walk away on the Île Saint-Louis. The painting has never been varnished, which enhances the dryness of the execution. It was part of a group that remained with the artist’s family and only appeared on the market in 2014, alongside three other studies painted from almost the same spot at sunset.

1Charles Nègre, cited by Françoise Heilbrun: Charles Nègre photographe, cat., Réunion des musées nationaux, 1980, p. 352-354.