The contre-jour [backlighted]effect and the passing gleam of light on the water produced by a momentary opening in the clouds aroused the wonder and envy of all photographers who saw this picture at the many exhibitions in which it was subsequently shown. The "moonlight" effect...was due to the necessary exposure.

So wrote a reviewer after the photograph was first exhibited in 1856. Though no seam can be found between sea and sky, viewers speculated that this image, like other seascapes by Le Gray, was a combination print. In the 1850s, it was virtually impossible to render both sea and sky in the same negative. If the photographer exposed the film so that the sea or land was fully rendered, the sky would be overexposed and appear white; if exposed for the sky, the sea or land would appear dark as a silhouette. As it happened, the luminosity of the cloud-laden sky was equal to that of the water, making it possible for Le Gray to render each area exquisitely in a single negative. Here the sun breaks through the clouds at the upper right and reflects on the sea's shimmering surface directly below. The brig appears to sail just into or out of the watery clearing.


  • Title: The Brig
  • Creator: Gustave Le Gray
  • Date Created: 1856
  • Location Created: Normandy, France
  • Physical Dimensions: 32.1 × 40.8 cm (12 5/8 × 16 1/16 in.)
  • Type: Print
  • External Link: Find out more about this object on the Museum website.
  • Medium: Albumen silver prints from glass negatives
  • Terms of Use: Open Content
  • Number: 84.XM.637.2
  • Culture: French
  • Credit Line: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
  • Creator Display Name: Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820 - 1884)
  • Classification: Photographs (Visual Works)

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