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The Breaking Wave

A work made of albumen print, no. 15 from the album "vistas del mar".
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of albumen print, no. 15 from the album "vistas del mar".




Gustave Le Gray
French, 1820–1884

About this artwork

Trained as a painter before taking up photography around 1847, Gustave Le Gray was highly regarded for his composition as well as his technique. His seascapes, which were publicly exhibited in London and Paris in 1857 to great acclaim, displayed his technical mastery: he combined two negatives—one exposed for the sea, the other for the sky—to render a scene otherwise unable to be captured photographically. Moreover, Le Gray managed to arrest a breaking wave in this dramatic vertical image, an accomplishment almost unheard of at a time when exposures required several seconds. This photograph comes from an extremely rare album of Le Gray’s seascapes possibly assembled for a Spanish patron.


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Photography and Media


Gustave Le Gray


The Breaking Wave


France (Artist's nationality)


Made 1857


Albumen print, No. 15 from the album "Vistas del Mar"


Signed recto, lower right, on image, in red pencil [?]: "Gustave Le Gray"; blind stamped recto, on album page, lower center: "PHOTOGRAPHIE / GUSTAVE LE GRAY & C / PARIS"; unmarked verso


Image/paper: 41.4 × 33.6 cm (16 5/16 × 13 1/4 in.); Album page: 64.5 × 50.8 cm (25 7/16 × 20 in.)

Credit Line

Hugh Edwards Fund

Reference Number


IIIF Manifest  The International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) represents a set of open standards that enables rich access to digital media from libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural institutions around the world.

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Extended information about this artwork

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