Alternately titled Le Vapeur(The Steamship), this photograph of a tugboat leaving a black cloud of steam in its wake is a study in atmospheric textures. Presumably pulling the sailing ship back to port, the tugboat, which is dwarfed by the luxury boat, exerts itself fully, judging from the vaporous emission that it spouts in the effort. The activity stands in dramatic relief to the serenity of the sea that it crosses; a few other boats are barely visible dots on the horizon. Gustave Le Gray favored such fleeting moments, scenes that existed only long enough to be photographed. He positioned his camera to eliminate all reference to the shoreline, which gives the illusion that the photographer was on the water with the vessels.


  • Title: The Tugboat
  • Creator: Gustave Le Gray
  • Date Created: 1857
  • Location Created: Sète, France
  • Physical Dimensions: 30 × 41.3 cm (11 13/16 × 16 1/4 in.)
  • Type: Print
  • External Link: Find out more about this object on the Museum website.
  • Medium: Albumen silver print
  • Terms of Use: Open Content
  • Number: 86.XM.604
  • 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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