The Art-Union and Photography, 1839-1854: The First Fifteen Years of Critical Engagement between Two Cultural Icons of Nineteenth-Century Britain Page: 40
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the photograph as an artistic object-whether individually or as a part of an exhibition-is rarely
a topic of exploration in these journals.19 It is unknown why these journals did not provide their
readers with detailed analysis of this or any other exhibitions.20 Such exhibitions were rare
during this period, but at least six major expositions occurred between 1839 and 1846.21 Groups
such as the British Association, the Royal Scottish Academy, and the Royal Polytechnic
sponsored them; they included works by well-known contemporary photographers, such as
Daguerre, Talbot, and Antoine Claudet. The Athenaeum, in the "Our Weekly Gossip" section of
its March 16, 1839 issue, mentions that "specimens of photogenic drawing, by Mr. Fox Talbot
19 The Art-Union discusses in its March 1841 issue an exhibition at the Royal Polytechnic Institution of proof-
impressions made from daguerreotype plates by Dr. Christian Joseph Berres (1796-1844) of Vienna. Berres,
professor of anatomy in Vienna, researched and published works on microscopic anatomy, including blood vessels,
nerves, and tissue. In 1840, Berres as well as "the Viennese physical scientist Andreas Ritter von Ettingshausen
produced wonderfully sharp daguerreotype images of microscopic cross-sections of botanical specimens." Berres
was also interested in photography. He was a member of the Ftirstenhofrunde, which was a club of photographic
pioneers that existed from 1840 to 1842, and is traditionally viewed as "the earliest association which centered on
the application of photography in Austria." Berres succeeded in converting the "daguerreotype image into a printing
plate suitable for intaglio printing" through either "direct chemical action, or by electro-chemical processes in
engraving these plates." He was the first person to publish a work containing these etched daguerreotypes, Phototyp
nach der Erfindung des Prof Berres in Wien (Vienna, 1840). It contained five photomechanical heliogravures
plates from daguerreotypes, etched with nitric acid-and was an early example of photographic illustration
accompanying printed text. plates created by the etching of daguerreotype plates with nitric acid. The Art-Union
article describes the works as having been made by chemically engraving the plates, which gave them an appearance
of aqua-tinting as they hung framed in the gallery. No individual works are noticed, and instead of assessing the
exhibition's overall artistic quality, the article states that these proof-impressions are "curious and interesting
specimens of recent progress in the science of metallurgy." The Athenaeum noted merely that the same exhibition
had opened whereas the Literary Gazette gives no mention of this event. But, the Literary Gazette did provide an
example of a review of a single photographic image in 1842, which was something that neither The Art-Union nor
the Athenaeum did until their reviews of Talbot's The Pencil of Nature from 1844 to 1846. The Literary Gazette
offered a review of Claudet's daguerreotype of Queen Victoria's favorite horse, "Snowdrop": "The likeness is most
perfect. A glance will convey the knowledge that "Snowdrop" is a dapple-grey, and a horse of fine form. Saddled
and bridled, and martingaled, held by a groom, he is taken as ready for his august rider." The Art-Union 3 (March
1841): 49; Athenaeum no. 699 (March 20, 1841): 227; John Hannavy, ed., Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century
Photography (New York: Taylor & Francis Group, 2008): 1097, 1118, 1120, 1286; Historischen Kommission bei
der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, Vol. 2 (Leipzig: Duncker &
Humblot, 1875): 507; Literary Gazette no. 1318 (23 April 1842): 284.
20 It is difficult to speculate why this was the case.
21 The Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography claims that the first exclusively photographic exhibition
was not held until 1852. A database maintained by De Montfort University lists examples of photographic
exhibitions from 1839 forward, but the exhibitions held prior to 1852 also contained equipment displays, and as
such, were unlike a purely artistic gallery exhibition. For more information on photographic exhibitions in Victorian
Britain, see John Hannavy, ed., Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography (New York: Taylor & Francis
Group, 2008), 508-509, and Roger Taylor, Photographic Exhibitions in Britain 1839-1865: Records from Victorian
Exhibition Catalogues (Leicester, England: De Montfort University, n.d.), http://peib.dmu.ac.uk/index.php (accessed
September 15, 2008).
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Boetcher, Derek Nicholas. The Art-Union and Photography, 1839-1854: The First Fifteen Years of Critical Engagement between Two Cultural Icons of Nineteenth-Century Britain, thesis, August 2011; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc84178/m1/44/: accessed February 17, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .