Durieu and Delacroix: Photographing and Painting Nudes
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This is the latest in a series of photo essays on early French photographers
Jean-Louis-Marie-Eugène Durieu, known as Eugène Durieu, was born in Nîmes in the year 1800. Once he retired from his career as a lawyer, he dedicated himself to photography. Durieu took this photograph (pictured above) since his good friend, the famous painter Eugène Delacroix, had asked him to photograph nudes as models. These photographs aided Delacroix as he did studies of nudes. Based on the photographs, Delacroix’s paintings are exquisite. But Durieu’s artwork certainly equals that of his friend.
In Durieu’s photo, the pose is deliberate. Turning away from the camera creates torque that makes for an interesting photograph. Shot straight-on we would see only a nude woman; angled in this way, she can be so much more: a Renaissance statue or a goddess on the frieze of a Greek temple. Like Nadar’s portraits, the simple drape of fabric is free of ornamentation and the background is alive but not detailed. As a result, her beauty is pure and the image is timeless.
Durieu’s skill as a photographer was proven time and time again in his work. He posed his subjects naturally, lit them superbly, highlighting male beauty as wall as female. Delacroix chose his assistant well and we, too, are the beneficiaries of that choice.
Lead photo credit : Nude by Durieu. Public domain
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