Colors of 1876 or The Short Triumph of Vidal’s Process
When photography was born, the family of inventors and the community of witnesses was certainly extremly happy but a little concern about, let’s say, the monochromatic aspect of the new born technology. Where had gone the rainbow colors ?
Rare artists praised the elegant simplicity of monochromes, and Delacroix wrote in his Diary: “Thursday,November 24th 1853. Walk in the Galerie Vivienne in the evening, where I saw photographs in a bookshop. What caught my eye was Rubens’ Raising of the Cross, and it particularly interested me : the imperfections, now that they are no longer hidden by the technique or the color, are more visible. The sight, or rather the memory of my emotion in front of that masterpiece have kept me occupied the rest of the evening, in a charming way.” (Eugène Delacroix, Journal, French ed. Corti, page 714).
But the challenge was to capture colors. Two French inventors simultaneously submitted scientific processes to the Academy of Science based on a trichromic separation during the year 1869: Charles Cros and Louis Ducos du Hauron. The Prussian invasion delayed the work in progress, and when in 1876 they could show the first realisazion, they were completely outbidded by Leon Vidal industrial staged colors solution. The prints, woodburytypes with rich miniatures colors and gold and silver manual additions, were so spectacular that the natural colors looked much too pale. The Triumph of Vidal was short and his prints extremly scarce. A cheaper semi-industrial process was soon invented in Switzerland until the Lumiere brothers gave to the Natural light its revenche in 1907 with the autochrome.
Let’s quote Nathalie Boulouch: