Marine moods: The art of seven pictorlal photographers

by | Feb 3, 2022 | Photography

Pictorialism was a short-lived movement in photography, born in the late 1860s and slowly fading away after the early 20th century. But it had the effect of changing how photography was viewed heretofore. It was a new mode of artistic expression, a way of seeing beyond what reality presented to the ordinary eye.

Henry Peach Robinson, a leading figure in the Pictorialist movement, described the philosophy behind it in these words:

It is a too common occurrence with photographers to overlook the inadaptability of a scene to artistic treatment, merely because they think it lends itself to the facility, which their art possesses, of rendering, with wondrous truth, minutiae and unimportant details. To many this rendering of detail, and the obtaining of sharp pictures, is all that is considered necessary to constitute perfection; and the reason for this is, that they have no knowledge of, and therefore can take no interest in, the representation of nature as she presents herself to the eye of a well-trained painter, or of one who has studied her with reverence and love.

Today, the pictures from the age of Pictorialism, exemplified by the following, still hold a certain charm.

Beachtalk, c. 1894
Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864–1946)
Courtesy of Photoseed.com via Wikimedia

Honfleur, 1905
Robert Demachy (French, 1859–1936)
Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Image dedicated by The Met to the public domain under CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication licence

Spider-webs, 1908
Alvin Langdon Coburn (American, 1882–1966)
Courtesy of the Library of Congress, USA

The Lobster Boat, 1888
Henry Peach Robinson (British, 1830–1901)
Courtesy of Zen.org

Venice, 1914
Edward Steichen (American, 1879–1973)
Courtesy of the Library of Congress, USA

Bude, 1910s–1920s
Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853–1943)
Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Image dedicated by The Met to the public domain under CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication licence

Little Good Harbor, Maine, c. 1913
Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852–1934)
Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

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