Salt prints, photolithographs, cyanotypes, waxed paper negatives
and gelatin silver prints (ca. 1930 and 1974) made from the waxed paper
Henri Le Secq began his photographic career in the late 1840s
still a painter in the studio of Paul Delaroche. With Charles Nègre, a
neighbor and fellow painter from Delaroche’s studio, Le Secq
experimented with the various paper processes of the day. He apparently
received instruction from Gustave Le Gray in the dry waxed paper
negative process, a process he would continue to use throughout his
By 1851 Le Secq was considered one of the best architectural
photographers in France and was a founder of the Société
Héliographique. He was one of five photographers commissioned by the
Commission des Monuments Historiques to create a photographic record of
the monuments of France. Le Secq worked at Chartres, Strasbourg, Reims,
and other cathedrals and churches surrounding Paris.
By 1855, Le Secq had completed the bulk of his architectural work.
year later, however, he produced an unusual group of still lifes, his
Though photography played a smaller role in Le Secq’s life in the 1860s
and 70s, he did not abandon it altogether. During these years he
reprinted many of his earlier prints, now in either cyanotype or
Le Secq’s later years were spent painting, supporting the work of
contemporary painters, including James McNeil Whistler, and forming a
large collection of domestic ironwork.
Bib. Ref: The Art of the French Calotype. Andre Jammes and
Parry Janis. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1983.
Le Secq’s architectural work comprises the bulk of the Eastman House
collection, with nearly 90 photographic views or studies of architecture
or sculptural details. Chartres Cathedral is represented by 2 salt
prints, 3 cyanotypes, and 25 photolithographs (l’encre grasse
process). Strasbourg Cathedral is represented by 5 salt prints, and the
Cathedral of Reims is pictured in 6 salt prints.
Ten of Le Secq’s still lifes are held in the collection as waxed paper
negatives. Modern prints of 9 of these negatives were made by Gabriel
Cromer (ca. 1930). The remaining negative was printed by the GEH
darkroom (ca. 1974).
Fifteen of Le Secq’s waxed paper negatives came to the museum as part
the Gabriel Cromer collection, along with 16 prints made by Cromer from
these negatives. Sixty salt prints and cyanotypes were purchased in
1950 from the bookseller E. Weil and the 25 Chartres photolithographs
were purchased in 1979 from the photographic dealer, Daniel Wolf.