From 17 February to 14 May 2018, the Musée Unterlinden in Colmar will be presenting Photographic Adventures – Adolphe Braun, based on an exhibition created by the Stadtmuseum in Munich.
The French photographer Adolphe Braun was a past master at exploiting and perfecting different processes – wet-plate collodion on glass negatives, dry-plate collodion, salted paper prints, albumen prints, carbon prints. He was active for around thirty years, from 1851 to 1877, a period that saw the advent of large print runs and a profusion of technical processes.
Since 1968, the Musée Unterlinden has held a collection of prints and negatives from the Braun company that represents a huge resource in material and scientific terms and a rich repository of cultural heritage (10,500 glass plates, 55,000 prints). So in partnership with the Munich Stadtmuseum, the museum decided to reveal the immense interest of this archive to the public, experts and enthusiasts. Visitors will be able to discover more than 200 photographs, complemented by around twenty paintings by renowned artists (Gustave Courbet, Ernest Meissonier, Claude Monet, Eugène Fromentin, Jean-Jacques Henner) examining the interaction of photographic subjects with painting and printmaking in the 19th century.
The research conducted into Adolphe Braun’s work over some twenty years has revealed his influence both on the artists of his era and on the history of photography. The exhibition will be divided into ten sections and will examine his work through his favourite themes: flower photography, the Alsace region, mountain landscapes, Egypt, the Franco-Prussian war, panoramas…
Thanks to loans from the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers, the Musée Français de la Photographie and the Musée Niépce, we show how Braun’s photographic equipment determined the conditions in which he shot his images and his aesthetic choices. Alongside the prints, original glass negatives will also be on display, most of them from the Musée Unterlinden’s Braun archive, bringing a crucial stage in analogue photography into focus by revealing these intermediate artefacts between the act of photographing and the print.
This fresh approach is used to reveal the figure of a major 19th century photographer, whose career illustrates the close links between photography and business. His exceptional reputation as an entrepreneur in the reproduction of artworks earnt Braun the nickname of the “Gutenberg of the art world”. His company, the largest of its kind in Europe, was held up as an example in terms of the quality of its prints and the efficiency of its organisation. Numerous museums and collectors, both in Europe and the United States, built up vast collections of Braun’s works.
Through the mass circulation of photographic prints, Braun took photography from the studio to the factory and transformed it into a force for cultural change, making artworks and landscapes from around the world accessible to the largest possible audience. The Braun company symbolised the idealism of numerous 19th century artists, inventors and scientists, who were aware that photography would bring incalculable cultural and economic benefits to ordinary people.
Curators of the exhibition
Musée Unterlinden: Raphaël Mariani, adjunct curator – Musée Unterlinden, responsible for the historic photographic collections, with the assistance of Casey Ackermann.
Münchner Stadtmuseum: Ulrich Pohlmann, director of the photographic collection – Münchner Stadtmuseum, Paul Mellenthin, researcher attached to the University of Basel.
The exhibition will be accompanied by the publication of a catalogue in French and German versions.
Braun, Clément & Cie, Le Cervin et le lac Riffelsee, 1893, tirage au charbon, 50,5 x 40,5 cm. Collection particulière / Droits réservés