Photography: The Sense of a Magic New Gift

In New York, an exhibition of 19th century French pioneers

There she lies: a traditional reclining nude, very like Ingres's La Grande Odalisque, the body blandly composed, smooth, supernaturally white. But the feet are unclassically dirty from padding around a grimy atelier. The model's face, half turned toward the camera, wears an unsettling tigerish expression. In another picture, black-clad climbers struggle up the snowy folds of Mont Blanc looking like a necklace of chocolate chips dropped into a vanilla sundae. Meanwhile, journalistic history is displayed in a set of pictures and captions from the...