Edward Steichen, American, 1879–1973. M. Auguste Rodin, 1911. Photogravure from original negative. Gift of Henry Javor, 1985.18.9.
At the start of the 20th century, photography served as a scientific and documentary tool and an aid to the fine arts but had yet to achieve status as an artistic medium. The Photo-Secession, a group of American photographers established in 1902, worked against the medium’s identity as a technology of precision and mass production to promote photography as a fine art. In their quarterly journal, Camera Work, they emphasized the photographer’s subjective vision and manipulation of the photographic print and claimed photography to be “a means of individual expression” or “pictorial expression.”
Pictorial photography comprised a variety of styles and photographic techniques which often referenced other artistic media, such as painting, drawing, printmaking, architecture, and sculpture. Rather than showing photography’s dependence on the other arts, photographers created new ways of seeing traditional media and demonstrated its ability to extend beyond the visual arts. Though the growing Pictorialist movement ultimately produced diverging definitions of art photography, the medium remained essential in transforming artistic conventions and subject matter over the course of the 20th century.
Curated by Chloe Downe Wells, 2020-2021 Barringer-Lindner Fellow
This exhibition is made possible through support from The Fralin Museum of Art Volunteer Board. The Fralin Museum of Art’s programming is made possible through generous support from The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation. Thanks to our in-kind donors: WTJU 91.1 FM and Ivy Publications LLC’s Charlottesville Welcome Book.