The Open Door

Artist: William Henry Fox Talbot (British, Dorset 1800–1877 Lacock)

Date: before May 1844

Medium: Salted paper print from paper negative

Dimensions: Image: 14.3 x 19.4 cm (5 5/8 x 7 5/8 in. )

Classification: Photographs

Credit Line: Gilman Collection, Purchase, Joseph M. Cohen and Robert Rosenkranz Gifts, 2005

Accession Number: 2005.100.498


Among the most widely admired of Talbot's compositions, The Open Door is a conscious attempt to create a photographic image in accord with the renewed British taste for Dutch genre painting of the seventeenth century. In his commentary in The Pencil of Nature, where this image appeared as plate 6, Talbot wrote, "We have sufficient authority in the Dutch school of art, for taking as subjects of representation scenes of daily and familiar occurrence. A painter's eye will often be arrested where ordinary people see nothing remarkable." With this concept in mind, Talbot turned away from the historic buildings of Lacock Abbey and focused instead on the old stone doorframe and simple wooden door of the stable and on the humble broom, harness, and lantern as vehicles for an essay on light and shadow, interior and exterior, form and texture.