'The Brig', photograph by Gustave Le Gray

'The Brig', photograph by Gustave Le Gray

'The Brig'
Photograph by Gustave Le Gray
1856
Albumen print from collodion on glass negative
Museum no. 67:995
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Brig was Le Gray’s first exhibited seascape and his most highly praised. Its appeal derives largely from the poignancy of the little ship seen alone against an immensity of sea and sky.

In the 1850s and 1860s this was probably the most famous photographic image in Europe. It may also be the first example of a photograph conceived as fine art to achieve both commercial success and critical admiration. The London photographic dealers Murray & Heath reported 800 prints being ordered within the first two months of it being offered for sale. To facilitate printing of such numbers, copy negatives of the original image were made.