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January 23, 2013

Wonderful Color Photographs of Belgium From the Early 20th Century

These awesome autochromes of Belgium were taken by photographer Charles Courbet (1868–1936) from between 1909 and 1914. Compared with his two other autochromist friends (A. Van Besten and P. Sano), Corbet seems to have been more subtle in the composition of his photographs. Lady in park avenue is an example of the way Corbet attuned the attire of his model to the surrounding colors of nature. In the plate Reclining woman by river the artist worked on the contrast of the big boulders and the soft feminine form of his model. The almost monochromatic Melancholia breaths an atmosphere in which one can almost sense the upcoming Belgian Surrealist Movement.

Corbet was always keen to picture sundowns of which there are quite a few examples in the collection. Especially Sunset on the heath. The various studies of still lifes are also worthwhile analyzing. Discover on this page the beauty of Corbet’s autochromes by yourself.

The Autochrome, a positive color transparency on glass, was invented by Auguste and Louis Lumière in 1907 and manufactured by them until 1933. Autochromes were made by coating a glass plate with a sticky varnish and dusting it with a layer of randomly distributed, translucent potato-starch grains. These grains, which were dyed red-orange, violet, and green, were then interspersed with fine black carbon dust, and again varnished. The plates were next coated with a light-sensitive gelatin silver-bromide or silver-iodide emulsion. When the plate was inserted into a camera, the light from the lens passed through the dyed starch grains, which acted as color filters before reaching the emulsion. After exposure, the plate was processed to make a unique, full-color, positive silver image.


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