Bonneville near Geneva on the Road to Chamonix

John HerschelAugust 13, 1821

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum
Los Angeles, United States

Prior to the invention of photography, drawing offered the most precise and immediate way for artists to visualize their ideas and document their experiences. In 1821 Sir John Herschel, a highly-accomplished British scientist, made a grand tour of Europe and recorded his observations of geographical and geological formations with the aid of a drawing tool called the camera lucida. Herschel looked at nature through this optical device and drew with his pencil in close-valued shades of graphite gray that anticipated photographs in composition and tonal scale. He rendered the mountains near Geneva, Switzerland with the same attention to detail that he gave to a tree in the foreground. By doing so, he achieved a uniform field of focus that is closer to photographic vision than it is to the selective focus of the unaided eye.
Adapted from getty.edu, Interpretive Content Department, 2008; and Weston Naef, The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Photographs Collection (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1995), 4, © 1995 The J. Paul Getty Museum.


  • Title: Bonneville near Geneva on the Road to Chamonix
  • Creator: Sir John Frederick William Herschel
  • Date Created: August 13, 1821
  • Physical Dimensions: 19.4 × 29 cm (7 5/8 × 11 7/16 in.)
  • Type: Graphic art
  • External Link: Find out more about this object on the Museum website.
  • Medium: Graphite drawing made with the aid of a camera lucida
  • Terms of Use: Open Content
  • Number: 91.GG.98.59
  • Culture: British
  • Credit Line: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of the Graham and Susan Nash Collection
  • Creator Display Name: Sir John Frederick William Herschel (British, 1792 - 1871)
  • Classification: Drawings (Visual Works)

Get the app

Explore museums and play with Art Transfer, Pocket Galleries, Art Selfie, and more


Google apps