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PICTORIALISM Photography as Fine Art.

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1 PICTORIALISM Photography as Fine Art

2 Is Photography Art? In the beginnings of the Photography medium, this was an important question. Looking back about 150 years, painter Paul Delaronde exclaimed “…from today painting is dead”, referring to the opinion that photography would overtake the traditional fine arts. Was he right?

3 How is photography made to be like art?
In 1853, Sir William Newton spoke to the Photographic Society of London about ‘Photography in an Artistic View.’ He felt that pictures should “…not be so chemically as artistically beautiful. I do not conceive it to be necessary that the whole of the subject should be what is called in focus, on the contrary, I have found that the object is better obtained by the whole subject being a little out of focus, thereby giving a greater breadth of effect and consequently more suggestive of the true character of nature.

4 SUBJECT MATTER Art was understood to embrace certain area: Landscape
Portraiture Still life Figure studies Genre studies Religious themes

5 By this time, the novelty of capturing images was beginning to fade, and many were now questioning whether the camera was in fact extremely accurate and detailed. This, in addition with the fact that painting enjoyed a much higher status than this new mechanical process, cause some photographers to look for new techniques that, as they saw it, could make photography more of an art form.

6 Edward Steichen, The Pond, Moonlight , 1904

7 The term Pictorialism is used to describe photographs in which the actual scene shown, is of less importance than the artistic quality of the image. For Pictorialists the aesthetics and, the emotional impact of the image, was much more important than what was in front of the camera. To accomplish their task, the Pictorialists used different techniques: · Combination printing (from several negatives) ·The use of soft focus in the camera, ·The manipulation of the negative (scratching or painting over the negative)  ·Gum bichromate, which greatly lessened the detail and produced a more artistic image.

8 Photographers adopted these subjects and tried to imitate paintings’ characteristics
Soft focus Composite photographs Genre photos Visual narrative Moral themes Recreation of Classics Theatricality of costumes and backdrops An escape from Realism…

9 Julia Margaret Cameron

10 At the age of 49 Julia got her first camera as a gift.

11 Cameron's early work concentrated on allegorical and religious themes
Cameron's early work concentrated on allegorical and religious themes. By 1866 she was producing her best known work, which was portraiture. St. Agnes,

12 Cameron used collodion negatives and her images have an out-of-focus quality. She was criticised by some of her contemporaries for what they considered the technical failure of her work given that the collodion negative could produce images of great clarity and detail. The appearance of her work, however, was intentional. 'When focusing and coming to something which, to my eye, was very beautiful, I stopped there instead of screwing on the lens to the more definite focus which all other photographers insist upon.' Julia Margaret Cameron, 'Annals to my Glass House', 1874 Her exposure times of three to seven minutes compounded the soft focussing of her images as her subjects were likely to move during that time.

13 Virginia Wolfe

14 Italian Man Sir William Herschel

15 In referring to portraiture, Cameron said:
“When I have had such men before my camera , my whole sole has endeavored to do its duty towards them in recording faithfully the greatness of the inner as well as the features of the outer man.” Charles Darwin

16 In the early 1870s her photographs were used as illustrations of literary works including Tennyson's 'Idylls of the King' (1874-5). The Camerons moved to Ceylon in 1875, where she produced a few works and where she died in 1879.

17 King Lear King Arthur wounded lying in the barge, 1875

18 Henry Peach Robinson Henry Peach Robinson was born in England in He began work as a bookseller, but in 1857 he switched careers and opened a portrait studio. He was then and is still most famous for his artfully produced combination prints. In addition to his photographic work Henry wrote passionately about photography and was influential with the pen as well. Henry as one of the first victims of overexposure to toxic photo chemicals. He made himself sick and had to give up his career.

19 Fading Away,1858 Henry Peach Robinson was a pioneer of pictorialist photography. His most famous photograph is “Fading Away”, is a composition of five negatives, in which he shows a young girl dying of tuberculosis surrounded by her family. It was very controversial, because many felt that it was acceptable for the painters to approach this kind of tragic and intimate moments, but it was not appropriate for a photographer to do so.

20 Combination printing

21 It seemed that since a photograph is usually a recorded proof of an incident that in reality took place in life, to see an 'untruthful' or artistic photograph was shocking to the viewers of the time. The public felt that though it was all right for painters to paint pictures on the themes of death and grief, it was not natural for the photographers to falsify such a setting. This controversy however, made him the most famous photographer in England and the leader of the 'Pictorialist' movement. The exhibitions of "Fading Away" were a huge success. Article Source:

22 Picasso, Science and Charity,1897
This academic painting shows a woman on her deathbed, a doctor on her right and a nun on her left. The doctor looks away from the patient as he takes her pulse and goes about his science. The religious sister holds the woman's soon-to-be-orphaned child, proffering a glass toward the woman offering comfort. Both the nun and the doctor wear the same colors of black and white, and appear as two sides of a scale. But the balance is tipped slightly toward the sister as the light shines on her while the doctor is cast in shadow. At the moment of death his science is useless, but the charitable care of the sister can offer solace. Picasso, Science and Charity,1897

23 Henry Peach Robinson Lady of Shalott, 1861
Imitation of Pre-Raphaelite painting -literary inspiration for subject matter

24 Rossetti


26 Genre subject matter -



29 Robert de Machy

30 Robert DeMachy was born in France in 1859
. He practiced photography toward the end of the pictorialism period when movement was already underway to champion "straight" photography as art. DeMachy was firmly set against accepting "straight" photography; without the hands-on manipulation of the artist to provide an expressive and interpretive character, a photograph was not art, in his opinion. His prints are often hard to identify as originally photographs. Robert DeMachy was a vocal advocate of Pictorialism and like Robinson he wrote and published extensively. . Eventually he moved away from photography and took up drawing and painting directly.

31 Contrasts, 1904


33 Robert de Machy, Struggle, 1904

34 Oscar Rejlander Hard Times, 1860

35 Oscar Rejlander was born in 1813 in Sweden
Oscar Rejlander was born in 1813 in Sweden. He studied for a career in painting and moved to England. Photography caught his eye and he shifted his career and opened a Studio. Becomes a master of practice of combination printing -- using multiple negatives to construct elaborate images. Combination prints were one type of photo that the pictorialists had good success getting accepted by the fine art establishment


37 Raphael, School of Athens, 1510-11

38 Shown in 1857 at an exhibition in Manchester, it provoked considerable controversy. Victorians were quite used to the portrayal of nakedness in paintings and sculptures, but photographs were so true to life that even though the posing was discreet, this was too much . At one stage this photograph went to Scotland to be exhibited and the picture was considered so controversial that the left hand side of the picture was concealed, only the right side being shown. However, there were others who saw in this picture a valiant attempt to use photography in a domain which up to that time painters had dominated, and when Queen Victoria purchased a copy for her husband (at ten guineas), this seemed to make his photograph respectable!

39 Oscar Rejlander Storytelling allegory. What do you think is going on here?!

40 Two Ways of Life, 1857

41 Rejlander presents a father sending his two sons out on their journey of life. One is tempted by sirens who offer him gambling, temptation, sex and debauchery whilst the other son follows a righteous path of religion, science and learning. In the centre appears the veiled, partly clothed figure symbolising repentance and turning towards the good. The image caused an uproar in its day due to the left hand side containing naked figures (not a problem in paintings but photography meant these people had to be naked in real life!) . Rejlander was a composite pro!

42 Many artists turned to photography and Rejlander had worked as a portrait painter upto the 1840s.
He used photography to create his own artistic projects and cut and pasted many negatives together to achieve the huge images he wanted to create. He could not have physically had a studio large enough to place all the models in many of the images he wished to create. So he devised a way of working which allowed him to photograph the models individually and then join the negatives together later.

43 The image was the first publicly exhibited photograph of a nude, the first major art photograph and the first photo-montage. The wet-plate negatives, 32 in all, were meticulously exposed onto the carefully matted silver gelatin print, starting with the foreground images. The final print, 31" × 16", required two sheets and took all of six weeks to complete.

44 Perhaps in response to the controversial nature of the photo, Rejlander later produced a second version of the image, with the wise sage looking in the direction of virtue. From a carte-de-visit:


46 Hard Times, Rejlander

47 PETER HENRY EMERSON Naturalism, rather than artifice, was the means of bringing his medium to full flower. Gathering water lilies, 1886 “…nature is so full of surprises that, all things considered, she is best…as she is.”

48 Naturalistic photography

49 While Emerson insisted on ‘pure photography’ without artifice, and took his lead from painting and artists he admired, he had a clear view of photography as its own medium. He saw photography as a parallel medium to painting, a medium with its own qualities. Emerson Millet, The Angelus,

50 End of the Furrow, 1887

51 A Rushy Shore , -opposed to Robinson's artificial manipulation of the medium,

52 Frederick Holland Day Solitude, 1901

53 Passion of Christ Series, 1912
Just before the turn of the century Day decided to portray the last seven days of the life of Christ. This project he planned with meticulous care, and since he decided that he would play the part of Christ he grew his hair long and virtually starved himself before the photographs were taken. He then hanged himself on a cross, using fake nails.


55 Just prior to the reenacted Crucifixion, he made this series of close-up self-portraits—the most powerful images in his entire series—which represent Christ’s seven last words: FATHER FORGIVE THEM; THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO. TODAY THOU SHALT BE WITH ME IN PARADISE. WOMAN, BEHOLD THY SON; SON, THY MOTHER MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAST THOU FORSAKEN ME? I THIRST. INTO THY HANDS I COMMEND MY SPIRIT. IT IS FINISHED.

56 Saint Sebastian, 1907 Pilate Pilate Youth sitting on a Stone

57 Edward Steichen Self-Portrait as an Artist. Clearly defining himself as more than just a technician. Using a gum-print technique to create the painterly effect of the image. Self Portrait, 1901

58 His photos of gowns for the magazine Art et Décoration in 1911 are regarded as the first modern fashion photographs ever published. From 1923 to 1938, Steichen was a photographer for the Condé Nast magazines Vogue and Vanity Fair while also working for many advertising agencies . During these years, Steichen was regarded as the best known and highest paid photographer in the world. In 1944, he directed the war documentary The Fighting Lady, which won the 1945 Academy Award for Best Documentary. After World War II, Steichen was Director of the Department of Photography at New York's Museum of Modern Art until While at MoMA, he curated and assembled the exhibit The Family of Man, which was seen by nine million people.


60 Edward Steichen “The Pond Moonlight” 1904

61 In February 2006, a print of Steichen's early pictorialist photograph, The Pond—Moonlight (1904), sold for what was then the highest price ever paid for a photograph at auction, U.S. $2.9 million. Steichen created the impression of color by manually applying layers of light-sensitive gums to the paper. Only three known versions of the Pond—Moonlight are still in existence and, as a result of the hand-layering of the gums, each is unique.

62 The Flatiron, 1909

63 Steichen ,Rodin

64 Monet, 1894

65 Alfred Stieglitz The most influential pictorialist photographer. Also noted for his writing/producing of the magazine ‘Camera Work’, where many of the ideas and images of pictorialism were published. Portrait taken by Steichen. While studying at age 17 in Berlin, he saw a camera in a store….

66 The Terminal, 1893

67 Night Reflections, 1897


69 Winter, Fifth Avenue, 1892

70 The snow was a critical aspect, for this picture was also a Stieglitz experiment in atmosphere. Rather than use a special soft-focus lens (called a “Lens of Atmosphere” in advertisements), Stieglitz wanted to take straight, hand-held “detective camera” photos of real, observed moments. He needed naturally-occuring atmosphere to create a mood, situating his pictures squarely in the realm of the art world. Weather provided the atmosphere, the fuzzy, soft-focus effects that could double as brushstrokes

71 The Camera Club was formed in 1896 with Stieglitz as VP
He transformed the Club’s newsletter into a publication called Camera Notes They organized an exhibition in 1896 in Washington. The Director of the National Museum was so impressed that they purchased 50 photographs for museum’s collection. This was the first recorded purchase of photos for a museum as works of art!

72 Stieglitz also instilled in Camera Notes his belief that photographers should be familiar with other arts, since he saw his primary mission as promoting photography as a fine art itself. He included articles on Impressionism, Symbolism, genre painting and portraiture, and commentaries on aesthetics from well-known art critics and artists.

73 But by the end of the First World War, Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen decided Pictorialism was too mannered and old-fashioned for where they thought photography should go, and along with Edward Weston in the years to come, ushered in Modernism which to this day remains the dominant aesthetic in photography.

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