Autochromes Lumière

 The Investigations of the Lumière Brothers (1891 - 1895)

Initial Attempts Arising from the Interferencial Method of G. Lippmann
The Lumière brothers' interest in colour seems to date back to 1891, the year the physician Gabriel Lippmann presented his interferencial process before the French Académie des sciences. At that time, it was the only method for registering colour that allowed for a full reconstruction of the colour spectrum without alterations to its purity. Seduced by the idea, Louis and Auguste Lumière began collaborating with Lippmann in order to improve the formulation of the photosensitive emulsion. The emulsion had to have a very fine crystallography, which presented a substantial challenge for the means available at the time. Despite the high level of reconstruction that it allowed, the process remained too complex for the amateur to master.

The Lumière Brothers Redirect Themselves Towards the Work of L. Ducos-du-Hauron
In 1895, Auguste and Louis Lumière directed their research towards the additive method, which had been formulated in a treatise published twenty-six years earlier by  Louis Ducos-du-Hauron. One year earlier, in 1894, the Irishman John Joly had attempted to carry out a similar project, but without much success, and then again in 1896, the American Mac Donough would similarly follow in the path evoked by Ducos-du-Hauron, who had claimed: "there is one last method by which the triple operation (selection of colours) may be made on a sole surface. Sieving the three simple colours is achieved, no longer by means of a system of coloured glass, but by means of a single translucent sheet with a layer of each of three colours superimposed mechanically." Imagining the integration of a selection of different filters inside a single, multi-layered image, Ducos-du-Hauron had invented the fundamental principle of the additive process. Unfortunately for him, his visionary spirit pre-dated the solutions that his work would bring to the industry by thirty years. Ducos-du-Hauron died in 1920, having dedicated most of his life in vain to advancing his ideas on colour.

More >>