Jean Baptiste Louis Gros

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Jean Baptiste Louis Gros
Datos generales
Nombre Jean Baptiste Louis Gros
Fecha de nacimiento 08 de febrero de 1793
Nacionalidad Francés
Ocupación Político, pintor, fotógrafo
País de nacimiento Francia
Ciudad de nacimiento Ivry sur Seine
Fecha de fallecimiento 17 de agosto de 1870
País de fallecimiento Francia
Ciudad de fallecimiento París
Familia Antoine Jean Gros (Padre)

Jean Baptiste Louis Gros was a French painter, photographer, and diplomat, born on February 8, 1873, in Ivry-sur-Seine. In the history of Colombian art, Gros is recognized as an eminent mid-nineteenth century landscape painter and a transcendental figure in the development of photography in the country through the introduction of the daguerreotype. His images have contributed not only to the arts, but to other fields of knowledge such as geology and archaeology, by providing visual testimonies of the territory and culture in the countries he visited during his diplomatic missions. He died in Paris on August 17, 1870.


Jean Baptiste Louis Gros was the son of Antoine Jean Gros, a painter and portraitist to Napoleon Bonaparte and given the title of baron by King Charles X in 1830. Gros developed a diplomatic career that took him to several countries in Europe, the Americas, and the Orient throughout his life, being commissioned by King Louis-Philippe of France to attend to affairs in New Granada in 1839, in relation to the construction of the Panama Canal and disputes over American goods.

He landed in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, on June 25, 1839 and arrived in Bogotá on September 5. He served as Charge d'Affaires of France in Bogotá from 1839 to 1843; intervened in various matters related to French interests in the Panama Canal, and was responsible for negotiating the compensation received by the French subjects whose merchandise was seized by the authorities of Granada in the North American schooner " By Chance ", through an agreement signed by him and Mariano Ospina in 1843.

In addition to showing great interest in national art, Barón Gros was able to appreciate Colombian landscapes, from which he was inspired to paint a series of oils on typical motifs; his most memorable paintings are: the Tequendama Falls and the Icononzo Bridge.

Artistic career

Gros's artistic work began in painting and demonstrates meticulous academic training. He is catalogued among the generation of “traveling artists” for his periods of work in countries such as Mexico and Colombia between 1830 and 1860, where he produced landscapes in a scientific spirit that were at the same time nourished by the romanticism of the Humboldt school. He also had experience as a lithographer. As for photography, Gros began his exploration for his own interest, just a few months after the invention of the daguerreotype in 1839. His privileged position allowed him to acquire the equipment, supplies, and manuals necessary to begin operating in this new technique that dazzled him with the possibility of capturing images with photosensitive plates. Through his self-taught learning, he achieved expertise in the field, producing important photographic archives as well as written works in which he shared his own findings on the use of the medium. Within a decade, his experience earned him a place as president of the Heliographic Society of France.

Characteristics of his work

His paintings and photographs contributed to the development of the fields of geology and archaeology in Colombia during the nineteenth century. His photographs of Parthenon friezes and the constructions of the acropolis in Athens were catalogued as key elements for knowledge of this archaeological site. Meanwhile, paintings such as Grutas de Cacahuamilpa (Cacahuamilpa Grottos), taken during his trip to Mexico, and La cascada del Tequendama (Tequendama Falls), taken during his stay in Bogotá, served to clarify details of the topography of these regions in contrast to previous scientific observations. In particular, the latter recalls Gros's verification of the height measurement of the falls provided by Alexander von Humboldt, with whom he corresponded. Among the oil paintings and watercolors produced of this impressive Colombian waterfall in the mid-nineteenth century, Gros's. painting stands out for its frontal view centered on the falls and the fog produced by the impact of the water on the canyon below. In painting, Gros was recognized for his mastery in the execution of landscapes, keeping the precepts of the academic tradition but balancing it with the scientific vision of nature. Several of his works are preserved in art collections in Latin American, including by Banco de Bogotá[1] and Banco de la República in Colombia and the Soumaya Museum in Mexico City.[2] As for the daguerreotype, his rigorous and disciplined work in preparing images, controlling exposure times, the stability of the camera, and the preparation of the media has been noted. In Colombia, his photographic legacy is appreciated for the reconstruction of the history of art, as he is credited with the rapid introduction of the daguerreotype into the country, just a few months after its invention in France. He is the author of the two oldest preserved photographs of Bogotá and is presumed to have been responsible for passing on the craft to the first Colombian photographers, such as Luis García Hevia. At the international level, several art collections hold his photographs, such as the Metropolitan Museum of New York[3] and the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.[4]In these, the caliber of the composition and the play of light as well as the technical mastery are notable. These images also convey the social position of the French diplomat, as well as his tastes and refinements.

Featured works

  • 1835: Grutas de Cacahuamilpa (Cacahuamilpa Grottos)
  • 1841: La cascada del Tequendama (Tequendama Falls)
  • 1842: First daguerreotypes of Colombia: Observatory Street, Bogotá (Calle del Observatorio, Bogotá) and View of the Bogotá Cathedral (Vista de la Catedral de Bogotá)
  • 1850: Series of approximately 80 photographic plates of the Acropolis in Athens
  • 1850-1857: El salón del barón Gros (The Salon of Baron Gros)
  • 1862: Paisaje (Landscape)

Works by Jean Baptiste Louis Gros in the Banco de la República Collections

Works by Lika Mutal in the Banco de la República Collecitons
Title Year Location Technique Registration number
Paisaje con puente de madera (Landscape with Wooden Bridge) 1842 Exhibited, MAMU, Ruptures and Continuities Painting AP3909


  • 1793: Born in France on February 8.
  • 1823: Began his diplomatic career in the French government with the Portuguese court.
  • 1828: Moved to Egypt on a mission.
  • 1831: Traveled on a diplomatic mission to Mexico.
  • 1839: Traveled on a diplomatic mission to Colombia, to Cartagena de Indias in August and Bogotá in September.
  • 1842: Took the first two daguerreotypes in Colombia.
  • 1843: Ended his stay in Colombia.
  • 1847: Recolección de recuerdos y nuevos procesos relativos a la fotografía (Published Recollection of Memories and New Processes Concerning Photography).
  • 1850: Captured images of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece.
  • 1851: Chaired the Heliographic Society of France.
  • 1870: Died in Paris on August 17.

See also


  1. Moreno de Ángel, P. (2000). El daguerrotipo en Colombia. Bogotá: Bancafé.
  2. Paisaje, 1862. Soumaya Museum, Mexico City. Accessed at Google Arts & Culture:
  3. El salón del barón Gros, 1850-1857. MET Museum, New York:
  4. Copia en daguerrotipo del grabado A dream of joy, 1852-1853. Getty Museum, Los Ángeles:


1. Londoño, S. (2009). Testigo ocular: la fotografía en Antioquia, 1848-1950. Medellín: Universidad de Antioquia.

2.Orrantia, R. (2004). Tres estudios sobre fotografía de viaje. Tesis de maestría en Historia y teoría del arte y la arquitectura, Universidad Nacional de Colombia.

3.Sougez, M., y Pérez, H. (2003). Diccionario de historia de la fotografía. Madrid: Cátedra.

4. Uribe, V. (2019). Pintar el ruido con silencio: descripciones sonoras y representaciones visuales decimonónicas del Salto del Tequendama. Anales del Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, 41, p. 9-60.

Banco de la República Art Collection

Related links on Banrepcultural


1.Research and text: Oscar David Rodríguez, mediator of Banco de la República museums and collections, for Banrepcultural.

2.Review and editing: Inti Camila Romero Estrada and Diana Marcela Salas Solórzano. Public and Educational Services, Art and Other Collections Unit (UAOC).