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Through the Looking Glass Exhibit - Reception

  • Cahoon Art Museum 4676 Falmouth Rd. (RT. 28) Cotuit, Ma. United States (map)


September 6 – October 30
Opening Reception: September 13 | 4:30 – 6:00pm

This exhibition is a comprehensive survey celebrating the art of the daguerreotype- the first successful method of photography. Through the Looking Glass features important examples from America, France, England, and the Middle East. The nearly 150 plates include both cased examples and larger framed plates. All the major collecting genres of daguerreotypes -landscapes, architectural studies, occupationals, erotic stereoviews, post-mortems, and of course portraiture- are represented by superb, often surprising examples.

The daguerreotype was the first successful method of photography. It is a unique positive image that lives in a highly polished silver-coated copper plate. Its invention was announced to an electrified audience in Paris on August 19, 1839, at a joint meeting of the Académie des Sciences and the Académie des Beaux- Arts. A joint forum was the appropriate venue, as Louis Daguerre’s invention would prove equally revolutionary in science and technology, in social history, and in the arts.

Also at the meeting was the “American Leonardo” Samuel Morse, the painter, who was being honored for his invention of the telegraph. While in Paris, Morse learned daguerreotypy from Daguerre himself; back in New York, Morse then taught the art to interested colleagues in both the arts and sciences who would go on to open portrait studios of their own. While “daguerreotypomania” swept both France and America, it was in America that it had its greatest social (and commercial) impact, as portraiture of the common man captured the essence of Jacksonian democracy. The daguerreotype was the dominant mode of photography in France in the 1840s, but in America the daguerreian era would last through the 1850s. By the time of the Civil War it had been supplanted by the ambrotype, the tintype, and especially the albumen print from a collodion-on-glass negative, which would prevail till the turn of the century.

The show is organized by art2art Circulating Exhibitions, LLC All works are from the collection of Michael Mattis and Judith Hochberg.