“Brig upon the Water” created a sensation when it was first exhibited at the Photographic Society of London in December 1856, because it was reported to have been printed from one negative. Such an achievement was considered extraordinary, because the light sensitivity of the materials used was very uneven and typically yielded either well-defined scenes with completely washed-out skies or very dark, unreadable scenes with well-developed skies. To fuse the sky with the scene the photographer usually either in-painted clouds by hand or printed twice, using one negative for the sky and another for the scene. Perhaps Le Gray succeeded with this seascape because he kept the composition simple. Here the exposure time for the sky and water was equal, and the brig, while dark indeed, appears as an appealing silhouette.
Artist Gustave Le Gray, French, 1820 - 1882
  • Brig upon the Water
Date ca. 1856
Medium albumen print
Dimensions Image: 12 3/8 × 15 7/8 inches (31.4 × 40.3 cm)
Sheet: 15 3/4 × 20 1/2 inches (40 × 52.1 cm)
Framed: 22 11/16 × 28 11/16 × 1 1/2 inches (57.6 × 72.9 × 3.8 cm)
Credit Line Founders Society Purchase, Henry E. and Consuelo S. Wenger Foundation Fund
Accession Number F78.41
Department Prints, Drawings & Photographs
Not On View
Daniel Wolf Gallery (New York, New York, USA);
1978-present, purchase by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)
Photographs from Detroit Collections. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1983, p.8, fig. 4 (ill.).

Ramstedt, N. "The Photographs of Gustave Le Gray." Unpublished dissertation, University of California, Santa Barbara, 1977, no. 65, p. 270 (ill.).

Ramstedt, Nils. "An Album of Seascapes by Gustave Le Gray." History of Photography 4, no. 2 (April 1980): 121-137, p. 129 (ill.).

"Special Photography Issue." Printable News (September 1979): 2 (ill.).