a study of mysterious glass plates covered with potatoes

Do you know the Lumiere brothers? Of course. But did you know that they are the inventors of the first process for coloring photographic images? Maybe not. So, if you love photography and its history, watch the documentary “Le Trésor de Maître Gérardin”, a melancholy investigation into the traces of the mysterious boxes found in Nancy.

The documentary we invite you to watch above is a true investigation directed by Jean-Baptiste Mathieu. Searching around the boxes found in the storage room of the former Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Nancy, an extra box that also acted as a sort of trigger for his interest.

There are three main reasons to see Master Gerardi’s Treasure.

They are two photographers, two brothers, passionate about photography, who enjoy having things in common with the brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière: being two brothers and sharing a passion for photography. Jean-Michel and Emmanuel Aubrun run a photo shop in the Haussonville district that is well known to Nancy residents. And this is a short article about one of their discoveries Eastern Republic which attracted the attention and interest of director Jean-Baptiste Matthieu (“Unpublished autochromes by Julien Gérardin”, article for subscribers).

As a photography and history buff, you probably know what autochrome is. Otherwise, to put it simply, it’s a 1903 invention by the Lumière brothers that takes photography from black-and-white to color imaging. Thanks to the process of depositing potato starch on glass plates. The amazing effect of potatoes.

With the advent of the system invented by Kodak in 1935, an entire world, an entire era, completely ended.They exported their process to the United States, but it was not used because there was not a very easy support for the glass plate, one of the photographer brothers explains and the other continues: They stopped production in the early 1930s, and gradually the glass plate was replaced by more flexible, more practical and less fragile supports.“.

Therefore, the Aubrun brothers found a box with autochromes belonging to the notary Julien Gerardin. An investigator by nature, the director begins connecting the elements like pieces of a puzzle. He recalls that other boxes containing autochromes of the same Gerardi in question were in full swing in a corner of the old Nancy School of Art. Why so many boxes? How to be sure of the name of the author of these plates? But who is this Julien Gerardin, a notary in Nancy in the early 19th century, to whom the plate boxes are attributed? He is passionate about discovering these tablets to better understand their history and takes us along in his research.

The first clues come from the Aubrun brothers, but the two men keep part of their secret in finding their box. So it’s a matter of finding the information elsewhere. So from the Preville cemetery in Nancy to the botanical garden of Jean-Marie-Pelt in Villers-lès-Nancy, Jean-Baptiste Mathieu went in search of the elements. And it is in the archives of the new School of Art in Nancy, in the colorful complex of Artem, and in the autochrome collection of documentary artist Sophie Petitjean and director Julien Gérardin that you will be able to admire. 60 boxes of over 6,000 glass plates. In many of them, elegant women pose in gardens and gardens. Women, flowers, subjects are also dear to the artists of the School of Nancy, as well as impressionist artists, contemporaries of the notary photographer.

The director pulls all the strings of his investigation. Where was the notary’s office, where was Julien’s family home? Who were these women in the photos he called his “photographer friends”?

Intriguing her, these women dress before the First World War. They pose in the middle of flowers. they will inevitably evoke the painting Poppies Also by Claude Monnet flower women It is not far from reminiscent of the autochrome grain obtained by Alphonse Mucha and the technique of pointillism by spreading potato starch on a glass plate.

Yes, autochromes are sensitive!

Susana Gallego-Cuesta, Senior Curator, Nancy Art Museum

Susana Gallego-Cuesta, chief curator of the Museum of Fine Arts, comments on the work of master Gerardi: “autochromes are absolutely incredible objects: the texture of the images is dreamy, a little fluffy, the colors are very delicate; the dreamy side produced by potato starch, this less soft grain; yes they are sensitiveTherefore, the man would be inspired by the artistic trends of his time.

Soon the whole world will love colors.

Alfred Stieglitz, photographer

One thing that leads to something else, we learn a bit about his life as a bachelor, admirer or charmer of women. A big lover of flowers and nature. The celebrity is also a member of the Photographic Society of Lorraine and is passionate about modern techniques in the field, which will be admired by some of his fellow photographers. Even the famous American photographer Alfred Sieglitz discovered his own color autochromes and wrote: “Soon the whole world will be crazy about colors“.

In the loop of their next meeting, the director offers us a few more revelations that reveal more secrets.

A must-see documentary for a melancholic and dreamy dive into a world now gone.

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