Back to: Nineteenth-Century Texts
Online Exhibitions | Helios | American Art Home

"Gossip" (Daguerreotypes at the Crystal Palace)
Photographic Art-Journal, September 1853

Crystal Palace Daguerreotypes vs: The New York Tribune.

Mr. Editor—My attention was called, yesterday, to a somewhat lengthy editorial upon the fifth page of the Tribune, under the caption of "American Art-Daguerreotypes," in which the writer, after endeavoring to explain the reason why American operators were inferior to the artists of Europe, indulges his readers with a criticism that honorably entitles him to wear the mantle of ancient Dogberry, for the remainder of his life. I cannot, Sir, determine whether it were better to admire the conceited attempts he has made to induce the public to imagine him conversant with the details of an art, of which he apparently knows absolutely nothing, or his equally absurd attempts to represent himself partially acquainted with the vernacular of his mother tongue. The lack of grammatical accuracy which is seen in every line of his composition, renders him most unfit for the position he occupies as a reporter, and qualifies him to exclaim, with his ancient namesake, "But masters, remember that I am an ass; though it be not written down, yet forget not that I am an ass." It is not a fair and impartial criticism that I object to; but any sensible man would avoid the kick of a vicious donkey, were it in his power to escape the infliction.

M. Daguerre has, in common with other distinguished savans, admitted that American operators have always excelled. The best operators now in London, Liverpool, and Paris are Americans. So much for his first position.—

I again quote from the private opinions, publicly expressed of this sapient Dogberry:

"Mr. Lawrence exhibits a case in which softness of tone, and distinctness of image are united with artistic arrangement. The latter quality is especially noticeable in 'The Three Ages.' The mechanical execution of these pictures is unexcelled. These pictures of Mr. L. were exhibited in London."

All very true, but why not go farther and state that these very pictures took the first prize medal at the Royal Exhibition, and that Mr. Lawrence has always kept this most important fact before the public. And why not also state, with equal truth, that these pictures were all taken by Gabriel Harrison, and that every process, from the polishing of the plates to the finishing of each separate picture, was performed by him alone. A fair expression of opinion is all that is required by myself, and if these pictures of Mr. Lawrence now at the Crystal Palace, are really worth noticing, why not give the name of the operator by whom they were taken? It will be hard to believe that the operator who produced pictures in 1851, that beat the world, should, with two years' experience in his art, aided by an establishment which for luxury, beauty, convenience, and capabilities, may safely challenge any other in existence, produce a group of pictures possessing "very indifferent mechanical execution."

Harrison & Hill have no "gaudy frame" in which to exhibit their picture. The chaste and elegant frame in which all their pictures are placed, is from the manufacture of Waller & Kreps, Broadway artists, who have no superiors in Europe or America. It is a gem of workmanship—that reflects honor upon the mechanics who produced it.

Dogberry alludes to "a picture well developed when the chemical action extends to the margin of the plate." An unhappy allusion, as the picture contains but two figures, both of which are in the centre of a plate 10 x 12 inches only. Our pictures are, some of them, 15 x 18, and contain one hundred and fifty square inches more surface than any other plates on exhibition. More than this, the objects in the picture are carried to the extreme edge of the plate. These are facts not [to] be disputed.

Apologizing for the length of the communication into which I have inadvertently betrayed myself, permit me to remain, with the highest respect.—Gabriel Harrison.

—We are almost inclined to apologise for occupying our "Gossip" space with such criticism; but as most of our readers must be as fond of a good joke as ourselves, and as it will serve to relieve the oppression of this hot weather, we shan't do it.

Back to: Nineteenth-Century Texts
Online Exhibitions | Helios | American Art Home