We celebrated last year, in 2020, the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Charles Nègre. That same year my father Joseph Nègre would have been one hundred years old because he was born in 1920, a century or so, after his illustrious great-uncle.
This coincidence of dates symbolically illustrates the continuity of my family’s interest in the work of Charles Nègre who has not wavered both during his life and after his death, during these past hundred years and beyond, since I also have the honor of contributing modestly to the legacy of my great-great-uncle.
And yet, nothing predestined Charles Nègre to become the artist and the creator he was. Son of an industrial confectioner in Grasse, he was lucky to have a father, Jean-Joseph, who after being confirmed that his son had the minimum talent required, allowed him, a rare thing at the time, to study art in Paris and to continue his artistic and research activities, giving him his confidence and financial support.
When he died in 1880, his photographs, his heliogravure and his archives, which probably interested his heirs, brothers and sisters less than his paintings, were not divided up between them and could therefore be kept in the family home.
The world of photography and permanent images, of Art in general, was thus fortunate that Charles Nègre was able, thanks to the support of his family, to develop his art and his creativity, and then his descendants were able to preserve the integrity of his work to bring it intact until the beginning of the 21st century before it was dispersed in March 2002 during a sale at Sothebys.
Françoise Heilbrun, Chief Curator at the Musée d’Orsay observes with regard to Charles Nègre that “the mass of documents which remain, piously preserved by the family and collectors, constitutes an entirely exceptional fact for the history of photography for which so few archives have been preserved ”.
Since the opportunity has been given to me, I would like to pay tribute to my father, who throughout his life, never ceased to promote, collect, illustrate, publicize and exhibit the work of his rear. great-uncle. In a family where all the generations in 130 years were born under the same roof, that of the apartments adjoining the Confectionery, it was almost normal that the last one to be born there, my father, devoted all his energy and his heart to bringing out Charles Nègre of the anonymity where he could have remained to give him his place among the great pioneers of photography and among the illustrious representatives of the city of Grasse that he loved so much.