History of Photography


History of Photography

A World History of Photography

The Story Behind the Pictures 1827-1991

Photographers' Dictionary



Chapter 7




ROBERT DEMACHY  (collection)







Pictorialist Societies: Goals and Achievements

By the early 1890s, established photographic societies, set up in an era when objectives in photography were largely undifferentiated, no longer served the needs of all photographers. Unconcerned with, and indeed often contemptuous of, the commercial and scientific aspects of photography that the older societies accommodated, partisans of aesthetic photographs began to form groups whose sole aim was to promote camera art. The Secession movement led to the formation of the Wiener Kamera Klub in 1891, The Linked Ring in 1892, the Photo-Club de Paris in 1894, and the Photo-Secession in New York in 1902. In the same years, amateur photographic societies in Germany, Italy, the Hapsburg domains, Russia, and the smaller cities of the United States made available forums for the exchange of information about aesthetic concepts and processes, and provided exhibition space for the work of local Pictorialists and that of the better-known figures of the Secession movement.

Exhibiting aesthetic photographs in an appropriate context was a paramount goal of the movement. Besides sponsoring their own gallery spaces, the most famous of which was the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession in New York (known as "291"), photographers attempted to interest galleries, museums, and fine arts academies in displaying camera images either alone or in conjunction with examples of graphic art. They urged also that photographers be represented on the juries of selection for photo-graphic shows, since they alone would have the experience to separate imaginative and tasteful from uninspired works. Starting in 1893, and continuing into the 20th century, a number of prestigious institutions in Germany and the United States began to exhibit camera images, among them the Royal Academy in Berlin, the Hamburg Kunsthalle, and the Albright, Carnegie, and Corcoran galleries in the United States. Artistic photographs were exhibited at several of the large fine and decorative art exhibitions, including one sponsored by the Munich Secession in 1898. and the international shows at Glasgow in 1901 and in Turin in 1904. An exhibition devoted entirely to artistic photography held in 1891 under the auspices of the Club der Amateur-Photogmphien of Vienna became a model for annual exhibitions or Salons that were started in London and Hamburg in 1893, in Paris in 1894, and in Brussels. Vienna, and The Hague in the following years.

Art photography attracted articulate support in periodicals and books. Before 1890, photographic, literary, and general interest journals in Europe and the United States had devoted space to a discussion of the artistic merits of the medium, and while they continued to do so, after 1890 a literature whose sole purpose was to promote the movement flowered not only in the cosmopolitan centers of the west but in Russia, Italy, and Eastern Europe. Camera Work, launched in New York in 1905 by members of the Photo-Secession, and praised for the exceptional level of design and gravure reproduction it maintained throughout its 14 years of existence, was one of a number of periodicals that included Photogram, La Revue Photographique and Photographische Kunst in which similar aesthetic positions were as lucidly (if not as tastefully) embraced. Magazines with a popular readership also included articles on artistic photography. Between 1898 and 1918, for example, American art critic Sadakichi Hartmann, who was eulogized "as the first art critic who realized the possibility of photography being developed into a fine art," placed some 500 articles on artistic photography in a variety of American and European journals. Around 1900, Mill-length works conceived in the tradition of earlier tracts on photographic art by Emerson or Henry Peach Robinson formulated the theoretical arguments for aesthetic photography'. To cite but two, La Photographic estelle une art? by French critic Robert de la Sizeranne—a work exceptionally influential in Eastern Europe as well as in France—and Photography as a Fine Art, by the American critic Charles Caffin, attempted to convince the cultivated viewer that since the same expressive concerns animated all artists no matter what medium they used, the same criteria should be applied to images made by camera and by hand.

The Linked Ring—the first major organization to institutionalize the new aesthetic attitudes—was formed by a number of English amateurs whose disenchantment with The Photographic Society of London (renamed the Royal Photographic Society in 1894) prompted them to secede from that body in 1891 and 1892. This group, which included George Davison, Alfred Horsley Hinton (editor after 1893 of Amateur Photography), Maskell, Lydell Sawyer, and Henry Peach Robinson, modeled their organization on a contemporary art group—the New English Art Club—and encouraged members, accepted by invitation only, to pursue "the development of the highest form of Art of which Photography is capable." Though Emerson himself was not a member, the Ring followed his precept that "a work of art ends with itself; there should be no ulterior motive beyond the giving of aesthetic pleasure. . . ." They established relationships with Pictorialist photographers in other countries, some of whom were honored with invitations to become "Links" and to submit work to the yearly exhibitions at the annual Salon of Pictorial Photography, known as the London Salon. British members seem to have been inspired primarily by landscape; their work is marked by the unusually somber moods visible in gum prints by Hinton (pi. no. 365) or in Davison's The Onion Field (also called An Old Farmstead, pi. no. 366), made using a camera with a pinhole instead of a lens. Combining the rural subject matter of Naturalistic photography with an impressionistic treatment that makes all substances—fields, buildings, sky, and clouds—appear to be made of the same stuff, this work was exceptionally influential among photographers of the time. For example, it prompted Alexander Keighlcy, a photographer of somewhat derivative genre scenes, to turn to romantic soft-focus treatments of landscape (pi. no. 367). A similar use of atmospheric haze and broad shapes and tonalities in dealing with city themes can be seen in John Dudley Johnston's Liverpool—An Impression (pi. no. 368), a pensive view with subtle Whistler-like nuances achieved by consummate handling of the gum process.

365. ALFRED HORSLEY HINTON. Recessional, c. 1895.
Gravure print. Royal Photographic Society, Bath. England.

366. GEORGE DAVISON. The Onion Field, 1890.
Gravure print. Kodak Museum, Harrow, England.

367. ALEXANDER KEIGHLEY. Fantasy, 1913.
Carbon print. Royal Photographic Society, Bath, England.

368. JOHN DUDLEY JOHNSTON. Liverpool—An Impression, 1906.
Gum bichromate print. Royal Photographic Society, Bath. England.

James Craig Annan, Frederick H. Evans, and Frank M. Sutcliffe represent members of the Ring who favored straight printing and chose to evoke poetic feelings through means other than the manipulation of printing materials. Annan, an accomplished gravure printer,' produced artistic effects by the subtle handling of light and shadow seen in the linear patterns in the water in Black Canal (pi. no. 369). Sutcliffe suggests the ethereal quality of fog-enshrouded places in View of the Harbor (pi. no. 370) by his control of the relationship of foreground to background tonalities. In Kelmscott Manor: In the Attics, Evans, the Ring's most esteemed architectural photographer, summons up a serene sense of peacefulness and of humane order in the arrangement of architectonic elements and delicate tonalities.

The Photo-Club de Paris was organized in 1894 by Maurice Bucquct to provide an alternative to the professionally oriented Soriete Frangaise de Photographies in the same year it inaugurated an annual Salon. Members included Demachy, LeBegue, and E. J. Constant Puyo, all ardent enthusiasts of handwork. Up until 1914, when he gave up the medium, Demachy used his considerable means and leisure to promote artistic photography and its processes, collaborating, as has been noted, with Maskell in 1897 and with Puyo in 1906 on a manual of artistic processes in photography. In his own work, he favored nudes, bucolic landscapes, and dancers, and frequently printed in red, brown, and gray pigments using the gum process. The images of ballet dancers (pi. no. 372) were considered "delightful" by his contemporaries, but when compared with paintings and drawings on this theme by Edgar Degas, they seem derivative and lacking in vitality, Puyo, a former commandant in the French army, at times favored impressionistic effects in landscape and genre scenes (pi. no. 373) and at other times sharply defined Art Nouveau decorative patterns, especially in portraits of fashionable women. He designed and used special lenses to create these effects but also condoned extensive manipulation as a way of vanquishing what he called "automatism"—that is, the sense that the image was produced by a machine-without feeling. Other members included Leonard Misonne, a Belgian photographer of city and rural scenes, and Dubreuil, who portrayed pastoral landscapes around Lille (pi. no. 374) in the manner of the French painter Constant Troyon, but later adopted modernist ideas.

The earliest international exhibition of Pictorialist works in German-speaking countries took place in Vienna in 1891 under the auspices of the Wiener Kamera Klub. It was seen by the Austrian Kuehn and the Germans Hugo Henneberg (pi. no. 375) and Hans Watzek (pi. no. 376); three years later these three emerged as the most prominent art photographers in eentral Europe, exhibiting together as the Trifolium or Kleeblatt. In Germany, the exhibitions held at Berlin, Hamburg, and especially Munich toward the end of the 19th century had made it clear that the camera was more than a practical tool and that the photograph might be a source of aesthetic pleasure as well as information.

Portraiture was one of the first motifs to be affected by the new sensibility, with inspiration coming from an exhibition of portraits by David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson included in the Hamburg International Exhibition in 1899 and in an exhibition in Dresden in 1904. Portrait photographers began to realize that artistic discrimination in lighting, combined with attention to expressive contour, might create more evocative works than was possible with the unmodulated studio illumination that played evenly over conventionally posed sitters. This awareness prompted a new approach by the well-known portrait team of Rudolf Duhrkoop and his daughter Minya Diez-Duhrkoop (pi. no. 377) in Hamburg and by Hugo Erfurth in Dresden. The strong tonal contrast and attention to contour in Erfurth's portrait of Professor Dorsch (pi. no. 378) continued to mark the persuasive portraits made by this photographer into the 1920s. Other portraitists of the time whose work reflected an interest in artistic lighting and treatment were Nicola Perscheid, working in Berlin and Leipzig, and the partners Arthur Benda and Dora Kallmus—better known as Madame D'Ora—who maintained a studio in Vienna from 1907 through 1925. Besides printing in silver and gum, all three were interested in a straight color printing process known as Pinatype, a forerunner of dye-transfer printing invented in France in 1903 (see A Short Technical History, Part II).

369. JAMES CRAIG ANNAN. A Black Canal (Probably Venice), 1894.
Gravure print. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Alfred Sticglitz Collection.

370. FRANK MEADOW SUTCLIFFE. View of the Harbor, 1880s.
Carbon print. Photography Collection, New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations.

372. ROBERT DEMACHY. A Ballerina, 1900.
Gum bichromate print. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Alfred Stieglitz Collection.


Robert Demachy (see collection)


Demachy, a Frenchman, was a banker by profession, and an amateur artist, becoming a leading photographer in the 1890s. He was the founder of the Photo Club of Paris, a member of London's Linked Ring, and of the Photo-Secession.
An influential photographer of the time was Dr. P. Emerson, who fostered a more subjective approach to photography than hitherto. As a result, there was an emphasis on minimum detail and soft focus.
However, for some photographers this was as far as one should go; it was perfectly admissible to control one's photography at the camera stage, but one should not tamper with the photograph at the printing stage beyond employing very modest negative re-touching techniques.
his was not sufficient for other photographers, and Robert Demachy, together with other photographers such as George Davidson and Alfred Maskell began to experiment at the printing stage as well. A familiar phrase attributed to Demachy is "The end justifies the means", which sums up his approach to picture making.
His photographic work was quite diverse; he exhibited portraits, street scenes and figure studies, and wrote a a number of books and about a thousand articles on photography.
He is an interesting photographer to study because his work epitomises the controversy which existed in the world of photography at the turn of the century. Demachy had little time for the "straight print" photographers, especially if they presumed to call themselves artists. No straight print, he declared, with "its false values, its lack of accents, its equal delineation of things important and useless" could really be called art. "A straight print may be beautiful, and it may prove.. that its author is an artist; but it cannot be a work of art... A work of art must be a transcription, not a copy, of nature...This special quality.." (which makes it a work of art) "is given in the artist's way of expressing himself... If a man slavishly copies nature, no matter if it is with hand and pencil or through a photographic lens, he may be a supreme artist all the while, but that particular work of his cannot be called a work of art..."
However, perhaps to counter argument, he also made the observation that manipulation was not necessarily art: "Too many pictorialists will meddle with their prints in the fond belief that any alteration, however bungling, is the touchstone of art...."
In addition to deliberately using soft focus lenses to blur and soften the image, he also used printing processes which required manipulation. The final result was by no means pure photography, because the finished result in many of his pictures was achieved by using brushwork together with photography.
An example of this technique is his Figure Study from an Etched Negative, a gum print produced in 1906. One can readily see the long diagonal lines etched over the body greatly reducing photographic detail.
Among his favourite subjects was young ballet dancers, in a style very much reminiscent of Degas' work. He also made studies of people.
A powerful image is En Bretagne, which must be a composite from a number of negatives.

ROBERT DEMACHY. Vitesse (Speed), 1903


373. E. J. CONSTANT PUYO. Summer, 1903.
Green pigment ozotype. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Alfred Stieglitz Collection.

374. PIERRE DUBREUIL. Dusk on the Marsh in the Snow, 1898.
Silver bromide print. Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg.

375. HUGO HENNEBERG. Italian Landscape and Villa, 1902.
Pigment gum print. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933.

376. HANS WATZEK. Still Life, from the portfolio Gummidrucke, c. 1901.
Gravure print. Art Museum, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ.

Oil pigment print. Royal Photographic Society, Bath. England

RUDOLF DUHRKOOP (see collection)

(German, 1848-1918)



378. HUGO ERFURTH. Professor Dorsch, 1903.
Gum bichromate print. Staatliehe Landesbildstcllc, Hamburg; Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg.

HUGO ERFURTH (see collection)

(German, 1874-1948)

Was a German photographer known for his portraits of celebrities and cultural figures of the early twentieth century.

HUGO ERFURTH. Portrait of boy,1906


Landscapes, still life, and tigural compositions, many of which were subject to extensive manipulation, absorbed both professional and amateur photographers in Germany. Large works in gum in strong colors, produced jointly by the Hamburg amateurs Oskar and Theodor Hofmeister (pi. no. 379), were exhibited at the London Salon and 291, and collected by Stieglitz, but other German Pietorialists were equally adept and turned out images similar in style and quality; The Reaper (pi. no. 380), a gum print in blue pigment by Perseheid, is typical of the genre. Heinrich Beck, a minor government official, was awarded a silver medal at the 1903 Hamburg exhibition of art photography (pi. no. 381); Georg Einbeek, a former painter, combined graphic and photographic techniques to create exhibition posters; and Gustav E. B. Trinks, an employee of an import-export company, exhibited silver bromide and gum prints at all the important Pictorialist exhibitions. Otto Scharf, in his time one of the most respected art photographers in Germany, was extravagantly praised for the brilliance with which he handled silver, platinum, and colored gum materials to evoke mood and feeling in scenes typified by Rhine Street, Krefeld (pi. no. 382), a green gum print of 1901.

Artistic photography made headway elsewhere in Europe, too, with individuals in Holland, Belgium, and the Scandinavian countries drawing inspiration from Pictorialist activity in France and Germany. The work of Finnish photographers Konrad Inha (born Nystrom) and Wladimir Schohin suggests the range of artistic camera work outside the better-known cosmopolitan centers of Europe. Inha, a journalist, made romantic images of rural landscape and peasant life in the Naturalist mode, which he published in 1896 as Pictorial Finland, while Schohin, owner of a retail business in Helsinki, used carbon, gum, and bromoil processes, and experimented with Auto-chrome, in his depictions of the middle-class life of his milieu.

To the south, the city of Turin, Italy, played host to the International Exposition of Modern Decorative Art in 1903, thereby providing Italians with an opportunity to see a collection of American works selected by Stieglitz. A year later, La Fotqgrafica Artistica, an Italian review of international pictorial photography was founded, and a small sroup began to make artistic works in the medium. Their work ran a gamut from the previously mentioned reconstructed religious scenes to genre studies of provincial life to atmospheric landscapes. The Spanish amateur photographer Jose Ortiz Echague began to work in the Pictorialist style around 1906, continuing in this tradition until long after the style had become outmoded; his artfully posed and lighted genre images (pi. no. 383), reproduced in several publications on Spanish life that appeared during the 1930s, tend toward picturesqueness.

Despite the political instability and economic changes taking place in eastern Europe and the continued emphasis in many localities on ethnographic photographs to advance the cause of nationalism, a strong interest in photography as self-expression led to the formation of amateur Pictorialist societies in the major cities of an area that now includes Czechoslovakia, Rumania, and Hungary, with the movement especially vital in Poland. The Club of Photographic Art Lovers and the journal Photographic Review, established in Lvov in 1891 and followed by similar groups in other Polish cities, provided an opportunity for the exhibition and reproduction of the works of important Pictorialists, including Demachy, Kuchn, and Steichen. The president of the Lvov group, Henryk Mikolasch observed that artistic photographs might "reflect thought, soul, and word," in place of "tasteless and pedantic... exactness," a concept that led him to idealize peasant life in his own images, which he printed in gum with much Pictorialist photography outside of London, Paris, and New York, artistic camera work in Poland was firmly tied to naturalism and the Barbizon tradition, to which the so-called ennobling processes added a sense of atmosphere; eventually these means were integrated into the modernist style that emerged in Poland in the 1920s (see Chapter 9).

Around 1900, the concept of art photography attracted a number of Russian photographers of landscape and genre, who heeded the call by Nikolai Petrov, later artistic director of the Pictorialist journal Vestnik Fotografi (Herald of Photography), to go beyond the unfeeling representation of nature. Employing gum and pigment processes, they, too, adopted a creative approach to subjects taken from Russian village life. This work, exemplified in photographs by Sergei Lobovikov (pi. no. 384) that were exhibited in Dresden, Hamburg, and Paris as well as in Russia, also evolved from the concept of the nobility of peasant life, but with their subtle balance of art, documentation, and compassion they have a distinctive character that avoids sentimentality. In contrast, Alexis Mazourine, descendant of an esteemed Moscow family, sought inspiration in the more cosmopolitan centers of Hamburg and Vienna, where his platinum landscapes (pi. no. 385) and figure compositions were as well known as in his own country. A group that emerged in Japan around 1904 devoted itself to art photography, producing lyrical, soft-focus scenes that often resemble popular paintings.


379. OSKAR AND THEODOR HOFMEISTER. The Haymaker, c. 1904.
Gum bichromate print. Royal Photographic Society, Bath, England.

380. NICOLA PERSCHEID. The Reaper, 1901.
Gum bichromate print. Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg.


381. HEINRICH BECK. Childhood Dreams, 1903.
Gum bichromate print. Museum fur Kunst mid Gewerbe, Hamburg.

382. OTTO SCHARF. Rhine Street, Krefeld, 1898.
Gum bichromate print. Museum rur Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg.

383. JOSE ORTIZ ECHAGUE. Young Singers, c. 1934.
Direct carbon print. San Diego Museum of Art; purchased by the Fine Arts Society, 1934.

JOSE ORTIZ ECHAGUE  (see collection)

(Spanish, 1886-1982)

Seated Woman from Montehermosa, 1931

Cartusian Brother II, 1945


384. SERGEI LOBOVIKOV. Peasant Scene, probably late 1890s.
Gelatin silver print. Sovfoto Magazine and VAAP, Moscow.

385. ALEXIS MAZOURINE. River Landscape with Rowboat.
Platinum print. Staatliche Landesbildstelle, Hamburg; Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbc, Hamburg.


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