[Landscape with Clouds]

Artist: Roger Fenton (British, 1819–1869)

Date: probably 1856

Medium: Salted paper print from glass negative

Dimensions: Image: 31.4 x 44.3 cm (12 3/8 x 17 7/16 in.), irregular

Classification: Photographs

Credit Line: The Rubel Collection, Purchase, Anonymous Gift, Curator's Discretionary Grant from The Judith Rothschild Foundation, and Thomas Walther Gift, 1997

Accession Number: 1997.382.35


The towering figure in British photography of the 1850s, Fenton championed the medium's place among the fine arts and mastered all its genres, including architecture, landscape, reportage, still life, and tableau-vivant. Unlike the immensely popular and widely distributed seascapes of his French friend and counterpart Gustave Le Gray, with their theatrical sleight of hand (dramatic skies printed from a second negative), Fenton's expansive cloudscapes are intensely felt private meditations upon nature, printed once and kept in his personal albums. The descendant of Constable's cloud studies and Turner's explorations of atmosphere and light, Fenton's picture is so minimal and moving that it seems to hover between the visible and the imagined. He infused his landscapes with a distinctly English reverence for the observable world, recognizing, like Wordsworth at Tintern Abbey, "In nature and the language of the sense, / The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse, / The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul / of all my moral being."