British photographic history

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1845 - the world's first photography exhibition in an art museum?

Frankfurt's Städel Museum is claiming to be the first art museum in the world to have exhibited photographic works. The first mention of a photo exhibition at the Städel Museum dates from 1845, when the Frankfurt Intelligenz Blatt – the official city bulletin – ran an advertisement. The museum is claiming this is the earliest known announcement of a photography show in an art museum worldwide.

The 1845 exhibition featured portraits by the photographer Sigismund Gerothwohl of Frankfurt, the proprietor of one of the city’s first photo studios who has meanwhile all but fallen into oblivion. Like many other institutions at the time, the Städel Museum had a study collection which also included photographs: then Städel director Johann David Passavant began collecting photos for the museum in the 1850s. In addition to reproductions of artworks, the photographic holdings comprised genre scenes, landscapes and cityscapes by such well-known pioneers in the medium as Maxime Du Camp, Wilhelm Hammerschmidt, Carl Friedrich Mylius or Giorgio Sommer. An 1852 exhibition showcasing views of Venice launched a tradition of presentations of photographic works from the Städel’s own collection.

The museum is now marking the 175th anniversary of the announcement of the invention of photography with a new photography exhibition. The special exhibition dealing with European photo art – Lichtbilder. Photography at the Städel Museum from the Beginnings to 1960 – presents the photographic holdings of the museum’s Modern Art Department, which have recently undergone significant expansion.

From 9 July to 5 October 2014, in addition to such pioneers as Nadar, Gustave Le Gray, Roger Fenton and Julia Margaret Cameron, the show will feature photography heroes of the twentieth century such as August Sander, Albert Renger-Patzsch, Man Ray, Dora Maar or Otto Steinert, while highlighting virtually forgotten members of the profession. While giving an overview of the Städel’s early photographic holdings and the acquisitions of the past years, the exhibition will also shed light on the history of the medium from its beginnings to 1960.

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Image: Giorgio Sommer (1834–1914), Naples: Delousing, ca. 1870.

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Comment by Roddy Simpson on July 10, 2014 at 17:47

At the Royal Scottish Academy annual exhibition in 1841 there were exhibited daguerreotypes of Edinburgh and Paris by “D Montreal of Paris”. The RSA also exhibited the photographs of D O Hill and Robert Adamson at its exhibition in 1844, 1845 and 1846.

Comment by Michael Pritchard on July 10, 2014 at 9:38

Yes, I suspect this may come down to definition... It certainly seems very early. 

Comment by Giles Hudson on July 10, 2014 at 9:22
1845 would be hard to beat. Is it an exhibition proper, I wonder?

Photogenic drawings were "exhibited" in the Ashmolean Museum in May 1839, but at a meeting of the Ashmolean Society, rather than in an exhibition per se.

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