History of Photography



Introduction  
History of Photography

A World History of Photography

The Story Behind the Pictures 1827-1991

Photographers' Dictionary









 

 


THE STORY BEHIND THE PICTURES 1827-1991

 

 

1   Nicephore Niepce. View from the Study Window, 1827

2   Louis-Jacques-Mande Daguerre. Boulevard du Temple, 1838

3   Eugene Durieu/Eugene Delacroix. Nude from Behind, ca. 1853

4   Duchenne de Boulogne. Contractions musculaires, 1856

5   Auguste Rosalie Bisson. The Ascent of Mont Blanc, 1862

6   Nadar. Sarah Bernhardt, ca. 1864

7   Francois Aubert. Emperor Maximilian's Shirt, 1867

8   Andre Adolphe Eugene Disderi. Dead Communards, 1871

9   Maurice Guibert. Toulouse-Lautrec in His Studio, ca. 1894

10 Max Priester/Willy Wilcke. Bismarck on his Deathbed, 1898

11 Heinrich Zille. The Wood Gatherers, 1898

12 Alfred Stieglitz. The Steerage, 1907

13 Lewis Hine. Girl Worker in a Carolina Cotton Mill, 1908

14 August Sander. Young Farmers, 1914

15 Paul Strand. Blind Woman, 1916

16 Man Ray. Noire et blanche, 1926

17 Andre Kertesz. Meudon, 1928

18 Robert Capa. Spanish Loyalist, 1936

19 Dorothea Lange. Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, 1936

20 Horst P. Horst. Mainbocher Corset, 1939

21 Henri Cartier-Bresson. Germany, 1945

22 Richard Petersen. View from the Dresden City Hall Tower, 1945

23 Robert Doisneau. The Kiss in Front of City Hall, 1950

24 Dennis Stock. James Dean on Times Square, 1955

25 Bert Stern. Marilyn's Last Sitting, 1962

26 Gerard Malanga. Andy Warhol and The Velvet Underground, 1966

27 Helmut Newton. They're Coming!, 1981

28 Sandy Skoglund. Revenge of the Goldfish, 1981

29 Robert Mapplethorpe. Lisa Lyon, 1982

30 Joel-Peter Witkin. Un Santo Oscuro, 1987

31 Sebastiao Salgado. Kuwait, 1991

 

 

see also:

Maurice Guibert





Chapter 9

 


ca. 1894
 


Maurice Guibert

 


Toulouse-Lautrec in His Studio
 

The Artist and his

 Photographer

At some point in the mid-1890s - presumably in 1894 -Maurice Guibert photographed his friend Toulouse-Lautrec in the latter's studio. Although the amateur photographer was simply following one of the common photographic conventions of the turn of the century, his ironic perspective on the subject drew emphasis to the special position of the already internationally known artist.
 

 

He has laid his brush and palette aside, his hands in the pockets of his trousers. It's a little as if he is standing there because the director of the photograph wanted him in the picture only for the sake of a vague symmetry. And yet, he is the protagonist of the scene, even if the gaze of the unprejudiced viewer is caught initially, and is probably held for some time, by the unclothed woman to the left in the picture. That she is standing barefoot and completely naked may at first seem rather curious. Her nudity acquires a 'deeper' significance, however, when one realizes that around 1900, artists - both painters and sculptors -often had them-selves photographed with their models in the studio. Usually the camera 'caught' them at their work: the visualization of the breath of genius, a literal transformation of transitory flesh into 'eternal' art, as it were. But here, there is no question of work, and furthermore, the studio appears remarkably orderly. The presentation of what are recognizably seven panel paintings reminds one rather of a kind of informal vernissage in which the naked muse, not only unclothed but also holding a lance in her hand, does not really seem to fit, Even her supposed role as 'model' is questionable if one looks more closely at the pictures on the floor and on the easels: there is not a single nude in the academic sense among them. Further doubts about the role of this 'model' arise when one considers that this genre did not really constitute the creative center of the work of our artist, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, painter, draftsman, poster artist and, by the time of the photograph, a both celebrated and castigated personality of fin de siecle art.

Maurice Guibert
(1856 - 1913)
Toulouse-Lautrec in His Studio

Maurice Guibert
(1856 - 1913)
Toulouse-Lautrec in His Studio
 

 

Bourgeois clothing of English cut

 

Toulouse-Lautrec has donned formal attire, wearing long trousers, a dark vest, a white shirt with stand-up collar and tie. It is rumored that he also owns a suit cut from green billiard-table felt - but this seems rather to be only a gag reserved for special occasions. As a rule, the artist tended toward bourgeois clothing of English cut, irrespective of his affinity for what we would today refer to as the 'subculture'. What his contemporaries may well have found odd, however, was that even in closed rooms, he never removed his hat. The brim, as he took care to explain his foible, eliminated glare when he was painting. In addition, the hat made him appear a little taller - and also covered a deformity in the formation of his head, one that nobody spoke about: a fontanel where the bones had not grown together properly. According to recent medical research, this - together with the many other bodily infirmities that the child born Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec in the southern French town of Albi in 1864 suffered from in the course of his short life - resulted from the long history of incestuous marriages entered into by his noble ancestors. The artist lisped, was short-sighted, and spoke with a marked stentorian voice - but these were only the smaller problems. He had large and clearly protruding nostrils, a receding chin, and abnormally thick red lips that he concealed behind his dark beard. On a more serious order, he suffered from a generally weak constitution combined with pyknodystosis, a rare from of dwarfism. In addition, two broken legs that he suffered at age thirteen and fourteen ensured that Toulouse-Lautrec would move about only awkwardly and painfully for the rest of his life. "I walk badly," he liked to say, with a touch of self irony, "like a duck - but a runner duck."

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was short: five feet in height, to be exact. He was a cripple, fleeing from the many virtues extolled particularly by his father, a passionate rider and huntsman, not to mention lady-killer. The son sought refuge in the bohemian world of Paris during the Belle Epoque, in the demimonde of Montmartre, where he found friends of both sexes, and which became a spiritual home, and almost a family, to him. He had been in the city on the Seine - at first with interruptions -since 1878, studying with the animal painter Rene Princeteau, and later with Leon Bonnat and Fernand Cormon, both of whom were recognized exponents of an academic style. If their salon painting did not really further the talented young man artistically, at the same time neither did it interfere with the development of his free brush strokes - nor does it particularly seem to have placed obstacles in his incipient interest in the world of the bordello, cabaret, and cafe concert. During the same period, Emile Bernard and Aristide Bruant became his friends and important sources of inspiration for him, as did the ten-year-older Vincent Van Gogh, whom Lautrec immortalized in a remarkable pastel in 1887. A year earlier, in 1886, he had rented a spacious studio on Montmartre at 7 rue Tourlaque at the corner of rue Caulaincourt 27 (today No. 21). It was in this studio, where he stayed approximately ten years, that he probably finished the majority of his oeuvre of 737 paintings, 275 watercolors, 5,084 drawings, as well as 364 graphic works and posters. Our photograph, too, bearing the title Toulouse-Lautrec dons son Atelier, was certainly taken here, even if we do not know precisely when. But the fact that his large-format painting Au Solon de la rue des Moulins (a major work of which several studies and variations exist), which dominates the composition, was completed only in 1894 offers at least a vague reference point for the photograph.

Maurice Guibert
(1856 - 1913)
Henri deToulouse-Lautrec
1892
 

 

The myth and cliche of the Belle Epoque

 

To the left in the photograph, although partially cut off, we see the full-length portrait of Georges-Henri Manuel, which has been dated 1891 (today in the Buhrle Collection, Zurich). A little further to the right, half visible through the legs of the unclothed young woman, is a sketch titled Monsieur, Madame et le chien. The bordello scene Femme tirant son bos, painted in 1894 (today in the Musee d'Orsay), constitutes the striking center point of the works displayed on the floor. Finally, to the right, is the last of the identifiable tableaus, Alfred la Cuigne, painted in 1891 (today in the National Gallery of Art in Washington). Who arranged the pictures for display and why precisely these? Who is the woman with the seemingly meaningless lance? Is she perhaps to be interpreted as a parody of William-Adolphe Bouguereau's painting Venus et I'Amour of 1879: a prostitute who recognizes herself in the large panel painting - an interior of the well-known bordello in the rue des Moulins, in which Lautrec is supposed to have lived for a time? The fact that she presents herself naked before the camera, the manner in which she inspects the painting, as well as her, so to speak, thoroughly non-academic measurements, which do not at all correspond to the ideal of an artist's model, argue for this possibility. Admittedly we don't know the answer, for neither Toulouse-Lautrec nor 'his' photographer, Maurice Guibert, commented on the picture. All we have is a fairly large original print of 9 1/2 x 18 3/4 inches that stems from Guibert's estate and was donated to the Paris National Library by his granddaughter. Art-lovers and visitors to Paris are familiar with the photograph as a postcard, in which format the picture has become a bestseller, effortlessly taking advantage of several cliches: Paris as a city that is both art-minded and generous, lascivious and open to sensual joys - a Paris in which the Belle Epoque has become a myth, a regular ideal of the pleasures of bourgeois life.

Toulouse-Lautrec, like Maurice Guibert, knew nothing of a 'Belle Epoque', a term that arose only in the 1950s. But no one disagrees that before 1900 both were part of the merry and carefree society centered in Montmartre, although Lautrec seems to have maintained a special relationship to Guibert. In letters to his mother, Toulouse-Lautrec is always speaking of his "friend, Maurice Guibert" (July 1891) or the "faithful Guibert" (August 1895), who seems in fact to have been something of an elongated shadow of the artist in the Paris years. There is also evidence of several journeys jointly undertaken, for example, to NTmes; the castles on the Loire; Malrome, the estate of his mother, located near Bordeaux; Arcachon; or, in 1895, a ship voyage from Le Havre to Bordeaux, during which Guibert was able only with great exertion to restrain the painter, blinded with love for a young beauty, from following her to Africa. Lautrec accorded Guibert no such impressive portrait as the one he painted of another photographer, namely Paul Sescau (1891, now in the Brooklyn Museum, New York), but Guibert appears in no fewer than six other paintings and twenty-five drawings as exactly what he in fact was for Lautrec: a drinking partner, a friend who could hold his alcohol well and who accompanied the artist on nightly romps, a companion on visits to the legendary mai-sons closes - in short, a bon vivant whose stout figure is easy to identify in pictures such as A la Mie (With the girlfriend, 1891), and Au Moulin Rouge (1892-93). Little more is known about Maurice Guibert, except that he was born in 1856, died in 1913, lived in a handsome inherited es-tate in the rue de la Tour, was primarily employed as the representative of the champagne firm Moet et Chandon, and indulged in a remarkable hobby in his free time; photography. Guibert was an active member of the Societe francaise de photographic and the Societe des excursionnistes photographes, a loose association of amateur photographers with a pen-chant for hiking, to which the well-known science photographer Albert Londe also belonged. Several albums in the possession of the National Library in Paris, including a volume with the thematic title Ma vie photographique (1886-95), provide proof of Guibert's photographic interests, which - remarkably enough - were not at all aimed at ennobling the art of the camera by means of artistic photographic techniques, as the inter-national community of the pictorialists were striving for at the time. Instead, Guibert pursued a kind of privately defined 'snapshot' photo¬graphy characterized by wit and a sense of fun in setting up scenes. The dry gelatin plates that came into use in the 1880s, which made amateur photography in our modern sense possible for the first time, proved of course very useful to Guibert and his ultimately artistically unambitious approach.


Maurice Guibert
(1856 - 1913)
Henri deToulouse-Lautrec

Maurice Guibert
(1856 - 1913)
Henri deToulouse-Lautrec

 

Maurice Guibert
(1856 - 1913)
Henri deToulouse-Lautrec

Maurice Guibert
(1856 - 1913)
Henri deToulouse-Lautrec


Maurice Guibert
(1856 - 1913)
Henri deToulouse-Lautrec

 

Maurice Guibert
(1856 - 1913)
Henri deToulouse-Lautrec

 


Costumed in front of the camera

 

The relevant lexicons remain silent on the photographer Maurice Guibert. And without a doubt he and his small ceuvre would have been forgotten, if the playboy and boon companion of Toulouse-Lautrec had not in the course of the years become something of a 'family and court photographer' to the painter. Lautrec himself seems to have taken an interest in photography from early on, although it must be said that his relation to photography on the whole still awaits a proper analysis. What is certain is that Toulouse-Lautrec, like many contemporary painters - one needs only to think of Degas or Bonnard - used photographs as patterns for his painting; in contrast to these other artists, however, Lautrec was himself not an ambitious photographer. In a photograph depicting the tipsy Maurice Guibert at the side of an unknown woman - the pictorial basis of A la Mie - Lautrec may have released the shutter of the camera. But basically he seems to have left the medium to Paul Sescau or precisely to Maurice Guibert, who seems to have advanced around 1890 to becoming the private and unofficial pictorial chronicler of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. What have survived are photographs of Lautrec swimming naked during a sailing meet on the sea by Arcachon (1896). In a letter to his mother from November 1891, the artist speaks of "wonderfully beautiful photographs of Malrome" that Guibert will send to her. It was above all Guibert who urged his friend to have his portrait taken repeatedly - and in the most ridiculous clothing: Lautrec dressed as a woman, wearing Jane Avril's famous hat decorated with boa on his head (1892); Lautrec as a squinting Japanese in a traditional kimono (also 1892); or as Pierrot (1894) - a sad clown who apparently needed little by way of costuming to create a convincing image. Jean Adhemar has subjected this portfolio to searching analysis: "Thanks to Guibert," writes the former curator of the Bibliotheque nationale, "we accompany Lautrec from 1890 to his death. One sees him in the most various surroundings and in all possible poses. It is particularly striking, however, that we meet a natural Lautrec at most only two or three times. The artist always poses himself; aware that he is being photographed, he places himself in a scene, he never seeks to hide his deformities. On the contrary, he presents them openly, expressly emphasizing his ugliness and his dwarfish stature." Why does he engage in these travesties? Adhemar finds a logical explanation: "When Lautrec underlines his infirmity to such an extent, then it is very simply because he was suffering from it - more than we realize. In this sense, his form of masochism becomes a distracting maneuver. He would like to laugh about himself before others do so, or rather: to give his audience occasion to make jokes about something that in fact has nothing to do with his physical defects." It would have been very simple for Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec to have visited one of the prominent Paris photography studios to ensure, with the help of a practiced portraitist exploiting the photographic means at his command - lighting, pose, framing, perspective, retouching of the negative and positive - a pleasing half- or three-quarters portrait. Instead, the artist left in the hands of a friend and amateur the task of creating the photographic witness that still today defines our image of the tragic genius: Toulouse-Lautrec in his studio. Not at work. Not painting before an easel, but in visual dialogue with a naked prostitute(?). In other words, the loner of Montmartre pursued his own course also in his dealings with photography.

Maurice Guibert
(1856 - 1913)
Henri deToulouse-Lautrec

 
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