The renowned 19th-century French photographer, Charles Marville, has remained a mystery for so long partly because documents that would shed light on his biography were thought to have disappeared in a fire that consumed Paris' city hall in 1870. The whereabouts of others were simply unknown. However, new research by exhibition curator Sarah Kennel and independent researcher Daniel Catan has uncovered a wealth of documents that have been critical in reconstructing Marville's personal and professional biography.
Both Kennel and Catan have made astounding discoveries in Parisian archives that have provided the basis for a completely new history of Marville. The most important revelation is his given name: Charles-François Bossu. Born into an established Parisian family in 1813 (and not 1816, as previously thought), the young Bossu adopted the pseudonym Marville just as he was embarking on a career as an illustrator and painter in the early 1830s. Although he continued to be known as Marville until his death in Paris on June 1, 1879, (two facts also just uncovered), he never formally changed his name and therefore many of the legal documents pertaining to his life have gone unnoticed for decades.
The first exhibition in the United States and the very first scholarly catalogue on Marville will present recently discovered, groundbreaking scholarship informing his art, including his identity, background, and family life. On view at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, from October 1, 2012 through January 6, 2013, Charles Marville, 1813–1879 will include some 100 photographs that represent the artist's entire career, from his city scenes and landscape and architectural studies of Europe in the early 1850s to his compelling photographs of Paris and its environs in the late 1870s. The exhibition is organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington.
Photo: Rue de Constantine, Paris; Charles Marville c1865 (Metropolitan Museum of Art )