Monthly Archives: October 2010
October 15, 2010Posted by on
Robert Demachy (1859–1936) was a prominent French Pictorial photographer of the late 19th and early 20th century. He is best known for his intensely manipulated prints that display a distinct painterly quality.
Early years (1859-1875)
Léon-Robert Demachy was born in the home of his grandmother in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, on the outskirts of Paris, on 7 July 1859.
Seminal years (1876-1899)
Sometime in the late 1870s he began experimenting with photography. It’s not known what or who influenced him to become involved, but he could devote as much time and money to this endeavor as he wanted and he quickly became highly proficient with a camera. For the next thirty years he devoted all of his time to both taking photographs and writing extensively about photography.
In 1882 Demachy was elected to the Société Française de Photographie, where he interacted with some of the leading photographers in Europe. Within a few years he became frustrated with the conservative views of many of the photographers around him, and in 1888 he joined with Maurice Bucquet to form the new Photo-Club de Paris. The members of the Photo-Club advocated the aesthetics of Pictorialist photography, and soon the Photo-Club was playing a similar role in France as that of the Photo-Secession in the U.S.
In 1895 he had his first exhibition of gum prints at the Photo-Club de Paris. This helped to promote his increasingly international status, and later that same year he was elected to The Linked Ring in London.
In 1897 he published first book, with co-author Alfred Maskell, Photo-aquatint or Gum Bichromate Process (London: Hazell, Watson & Vinery)
In 1898 he began corresponding with Stieglitz, often complaining about the lack of true artistic photography in France. The two would continue writing each other for more than fifteen years.
Master photographer (1900-1913)
During the first decade of the 20th century Demachy continued his extensive writing about photography, and he soon became one of the prolific writers about photography even to this day. Over his lifetime he wrote more than one thousand articles on the aesthetics and techniques of manipulated prints.
In 1904 six of his photographs, three photogravures and three half-tones were published in Alfred Stieglitz’s famous journal Camera Work, accompanied by a review by Joseph Keiley. These images were seen by American photographer Anne Brigman, who wrote to Stieglitz that they had a serious influence on her own work.
Jack and His Dog, from A Portfolio of Sixteen Rare Prints
Artist: Robert Demachy, 1859–1936
Gift of Richard Germann
© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston