Jules Lejeune is one of the numerous photographers forgotten in time. Unlike the other photographers Lejeune is himself responsible for this situation. During his lifetime he never came out in the open with his work, although it is of outstanding quality. The only trace of public appearance is a postcard announcing an exhibition in Antwerp in 1930.
Jules Lejeune was born in 1885 in Brussels as the only son of a middle class family. He studied at the University of Liège (Belgium) to be a chemical engineer and developed a successful career in the chemical industry. He had one son, Jean, and died in 1946.
Jules Lejeune only portraited his wife and son. He didn't like photographing other people. When he, for example, went out to photograph farms and the farmers aked him to take their pictures, he did so but without a film in the camera ...
In fact Jules Lejeune was a "pur sang" amateur photographer in real pictorialist tradition. Being a scientist, he had a very rational job, for which he travelled throughout Europe and Russia. But he never took photographs on these trips. Photographs were a different part of his life and he didn't mix them with his professional life. The internal psychological conflict between realism and romanticism lead him to photography, he needed a way to express himself. Because of his expertise in sciences photography became the obvious choice for expression.
Being a real amateur Jules Lejeune spent his weekends with photography. On Sundays he went out in the fields and forests in the South of Brussels looking for the vanishing landscapes. Typical 19th century romanticism. He registered his walks on a topographical map and indicated the places where he took his pictures
This map is a part of a photographical diary in which he wrote down all his experiments and illustrated them with the photographs. This valuable source of information is a part of the exhibition "Body and Landscape" at the Photo Gallery. The diary registrates the period between 1920 and 1922, as do most of the pictures in the exhibition.
In 1920 Jules Lejeune met Léonard Misonne. They became close friends. Lejeune made a rare portret of Misonne. The glass negative is in the collection. Misonne and Lejeune met each other in the Café on the corner and talked about photography and drunk...
Lejeune was clearly influenced by Misonne who at the time dominated a whole generation of Belgian photographers. Lejeune was not at all into associations and clubs, he was directly influenced by Misonne, his personnal friend. Misonne taught Lejeune how to work with oil and bromoil processes. From 1921 onwards Lejeune experimented with "le flou net". The results, however, didn't satisfy him and he changed to paper negatives. In this way he had more freedom to manipulate the image by working on the back of the paper negative with ink, pencil and acquarel.
According to Jean Lejeune, Misonne persuaded Jules Lejeune to participate in an International Photogaphy contest in Paris, he won the Bronze Medal. I have no date and didn't find any trace.
Even without fancy prices and medals Jules Lejeune's work is worth being studied, conserved and exhibited.
I invite you to discover the beautiful and interesting work of a "pure sang" pictorialist. On this website you will find some examples of his oils and bromoils and also some paper negatives. In the Gallery there is a larger selection of the bigger images.