Search the Collections

Charles Marville
Birth Date: 
Birth Place: 
Death Date: 
Charles Marville was a leading photographer in Paris of the mid-19th century. He worked as a painter, lithographer and engraver before he turned to photography, and designed wood-engraving illustrations for periodicals and books from 1834 to 1851. Marville’s first photographs are dated to 1851, when he began providing negatives to Louis-Desiré Blanquart-Evard (1802-1872), a publisher of photographic albums in Lille. His works were generally landscapes and notable architectural landmarks in France, Italy and along the Rhine, and reproductions of works of art. Marville opened a photographic studio in 1854 in Paris. During that decade he photographed old master drawings in Italy for the Louvre, and was commissioned by the painter and draughtsman Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867) to photograph many of his drawings. Marville’s early negatives were calotypes, but in 1856 he began using the collodion process (on glass). He received significant recognition for his work, being commissioned in 1858 to photograph the Bois de Boulogne. He was named photographer to Imperial Museum at the Louvre in 1862 and of the City of Paris. Perhaps his best-known photographs document the streets and sights of Paris in the 1860s and 1870s, as Paris was transformed by Emperor Napoleon III (1803-1873) and Baron Georges-Eugene Haussmann (1809-1891). Marville received a commission from the government in the early 1860s to document new boulevards and parks then being built. In 1865 he received a commission from the Service des Travaux historiques to photograph streets to be demolished. Working systematically, often only one step ahead of Haussmann's demolition crews, Marville assembled an extraordinary photographic record of the narrow, mysterious streets of Old Paris. Then in 1877 he received a second commission from the Service des Travaux historiques for one hundred photos of the new boulevards that we know today. While these projects were executed as professional commissions, Marville was one of the great artists of his day. His photographs were shown in the Exposition Universelle of 1878. Beyond their historical value, Marville's photographs are extraordinary examples of the albumen process, one that creates photographs with a tonal range far beyond that available through the use of today's gelatin silver process. (Rev. TNB 2/2010.) Selected bibliography: Chambrod, Jacqueline, ed., Charles Marville: photographs of Paris at the time of the Second Empire on loan from the Musée Carnavalet, Paris. Exhibition catalog. With essays by Maria Morris Hambourg and Marie de Thézy. New York: Alliance Française, 1981. Hannavy, John ed., Encyclopedia of 19th Century Photography, New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2008, v. 2, pp. 901-903. Hungerford, Constance Cain. “Charles Marville, Popular Illustrator: The Origins of the Photographic Sensibility”, History of Photography, vol. 9, no. 3 (1985), pp. 227–46. Thézy, Marie de. Charles Marville: Réverbères. Exhibition catalog, Paris: Téte D’Affiche, 1993.