The Pictorialist collection of AnamorFose

Is photography an Art? Relevant or irrelevant question? Totally irrelevant. The answer is yes. No discussion about it.

This has not always been so obvious.

At the end of the nineteenth century photography was still considered as an mechanical system of reproduction. Photography was allowed at World Exhibitions as a technical achievement or as a curiosum but wasn't allowed at the art salons.

The Pictorialist movement was one of the first movements worldwide who wanted to change that. Pictorialist Photography wat at the time considered as a kind of frustration, a reaction against something. Not as a positive, innovating, inventing and creative movement.

Pictorialism and the bourgeoisie.

If you look at Pictorialism you may not forget the social context of the period. Pictorialism is a typical Bourgeois expression. Most photographers where well-off amateurs. Amateurs in the sense of not being obligated to live from their art. But they where professional in the way they organised their work and movement.

At the end of the nineteenth century the bourgeoisie was at the top of their power and culture. It was the period of decadence. They were at the top of their financial, economical and political power. Only, they were not recognised by the art world.

Pictorialist aesthetics

Does pictorialism have a language of its own or is it simply a copy of the other arts? Both. European and American art photography was strongly influenced by the fin-de-siecle art movements including, French Impressionism, the Viennese School and the English Pre-Raphaelite Movement.

The Collection

Pictorialism has a special place in the AnamorFose collection. In the first place because of my personal interest in this movement and secondly because there are many very good Belgian pictorialists. Best known is Léonard Misonne but there is also Gustave Marissiaux and a whole range of forgotten amateur photographers who created excellent pictorialist work.

It hasn't been easy to structure to the collection in a transparent way. Various choices had to be made: classifying in chronological order, by photographer, in different styles (symbolist, romantic, poetic, scenic, etc.) or by theme. I have chosen to divide the collection by theme in order to provide a clear overview of the different styles and photographers. This way of classifying also makes it easier to compare the different photographers.

I hope you enjoy our Pictorialist gallery. Have a nice visit.

Xavier Debeerst

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