Art in Context | William Henry Fox Talbot’s “Pencil of Nature” and the Products of Industry

Free admission
About this program

The Pencil of Nature, William Henry Fox Talbot's first photographically illustrated book, was published in installments between 1844 and 1846. In it, he presented readers with a vision of assorted uses for his new medium. This talk focuses on Talbot’s plates depicting handmade and manufactured goods and their positioning of photography in relation to products of craft and mechanization. The talk will examine The Pencil of Nature from the point of view of the industrial and colonial networks encircling it, prompting a reconsideration of the narrative of photography’s invention.

About Fionn Montell-Boyd

Fionn Montell-Boyd is a doctoral candidate in the history of art at the University of Oxford and a residential scholar at the Yale Center for British Art. Her thesis examines the materials and industry of photography’s emergence in Britain, with a focus on the transatlantic commerce in silver. Her wider research interests include the networks of production underpinning visual experimentation from the late eighteenth to mid-nineteenth centuries, and photographic representations of labor.


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Art in Context

Presented by faculty, staff, Student Guides, and Visiting Scholars, these talks focus on a particular work of art—often in the museum’s collections or special exhibitions—through an in-depth look at its style, subject matter, technique, or time period.

Top image
William Henry Fox Talbot, Articles of Glass (detail), ca. 1843, salted paper print on paper, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund