Summary of Mary Warner Marien’s Essay on Charles Nègre’s Chimney Sweep Walking.

Chimney Sweep Walking, Nègre, Charles, 1851

The essay initially starts with a discussion on what were seen in 1839 as the strengths and weaknesses of photography and its limitations as an art form at the time. she mentions that Negre was a painter as well as a photographer and tells us that his interest was in making photography not just about realism and exact naturalism, but to take a more artistic and painterly approach, to experiment with shape, abstaction, pattern and tone.

She relates how under his painting tutorage under Paul Delaroche, gave Negre the confidence to try and relate painting technique to photographic technique, and how this led to him using the mediums of both formal art and photography to produce his best work. Using standard and traditional stock figures as a basis, he would use the underclass/ working class people of Paris to depict his scenes.

She then relates the historical context of using the chimney sweep in recently industrialised towns and cities, and the area in which the picture was taken, and also writes about how the technical limitations of the time may have determined a certain amount of composition, and then about the controlled ideas of the composition itself, the appaerance of movement, the shadowing of faces, the imagined or implied relationship between the sweeps themselves.[…]

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