Eugene Le Dien And Gustave Le Gray


Little is known about the collaboration between Gustave Le Gray and Eugene Le Dien, one of his pupils. Only in recent years when a number of works appeared on the market with a blindstamp of Le Dien and Gustave Le Gray did their collaboration emerge and a number of works that were previously anonymous or attributed to other artists, including Caneva, could be securely ascribed to them.

However, the nature of their partnership is still unknown. The joint credit may denote a shared visit to Italy, from where all the known pictures, originate. However, whilst there is evidence for Le Dien's visit, there is no proof that Le Gray was also there. An alternative sugestions is that Le Dien, having trained with le Gray, visited Italy, used his teachers process and upon his return had Le Gray or members of his atelier print the works. It has been further speculated that this may have led to the suggestion of a joint publishing venture, hence the shared credit on the blind stamp.

Prints by Le Dien and Le Gray are exceptionally rare, especially those of the South of Italy that includes Naples and Pompeii. There are also prints of Rome. The main holdings are in the BNF in Paris which has an album of photographs of Le Dien's travels. The Hyman Collection has one of the finest groups of photographs by Le Dien and Le Gray in the world.

Jean Baptiste Gustave Le Gray was born on 20th August 1820, the son of Jean Martin Legray and Catherine Gay, at Villiers-le-Bel, France. From about 1839 until 1843, he studied drawing and painting in Paris before travelling to Switzerland and Italy where he met and married Palmyra Leonardi in 1844. Around 1847 he took up photography and despite his success in the realm of architectural, landscape and portrait photography by 1860 Le Gray was bankrupt, leaving Paris for Italy. Subsequently hopeful of returning to France to resume his photographic career, he had retained membership of the Societe francaise de la photographie until at least 1863, he finally settled in Egypt and worked as a drawing instructor, whilst also continuing to take photographs. Le Gray's death in 1882 was reported by Nadar.

Little is known about Firmin-Eugène Le Dien beyond basic biographical information. It is known that he was born in Paris, studied law and worked as a clerk before moving to Algiers in 1848. There he served as deputy magistrate for the colonial government and took up photography as an amateur. On his return to Paris, he moved in a circle of artists, writers, and aristocrats who were close to Gustave Le Gray. During 1852-1853 Le Dien traveled to Italy accompanied by the painters Léon Gérard and Alexandre de Vonne. His photographs show that he visited Rome, Naples, Pompeii, and the Amalfi Coast. His subjects are monuments and landscapes. It is unlikely that Le Gray travelled with Le Dien, but is likely that Le Gray printed Le Dien's waxed paper negatives at his own studio, hence the ink stamp with a joint credit that appears on some of these photographs.

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