The symposium “Inspirations – Interactions: Pictorialism Reconsidered,” hosted by the Kunstbibliothek in Berlin November 21–23, 2013, had the goal of providing new impulses to the discussion of art photography around the turn of the last century. Thirteen international scholars were invited to take part and present new views on Pictorialism, with particular attention to frequently neglected themes; these include the relationship between art photography and other media, the late phase of the Pictorialist movement, and the movement’s complex relationship with the expressions of photographic Modernism that followed. Points of departure for the new and strengthened interest in this particular photographic direction was the Kunstbibliothek’s own work on the collection of Ernst Juhl within the framework of its Pictorialism research project. For one thing, the Juhl collection contains works that encompass typically “Pictorialist” motifs, implemented using the elaborate printing techniques that were established at the time. At the same time, however, it contains photographs that drew on a reduced, geometric formal vocabulary that already point clearly toward a new photographic aesthetic. In texts he wrote as the art director of the Photographische Rundschau, Juhl wrote in support of the role of reduction and empty space in composition.

Areas of Focus

The symposium placed particular emphasis on subjects that researchers have hitherto given little consideration to – for example the way Pictorialists used painterly compositions to define a world of bourgeois ideals, and how this offered a basis for artists of the early twentieth century to express themselves differently – using specific photographic means – on behalf of a modern society. With imagery that set them apart from commercial photographers, Pictorialists examined new aesthetic and social issues – questioning, for example, the depiction of physical movement as well as the ways gender roles were changing. They also thematized emerging forms of mass production and mass media.

The lectures examined such aspects as the materiality and objecthood of Pictorialist photography (Alison Nordström, Patrizia di Bello), the visualization of masculinity and femininity (Gabriele Betancourt Nuñez), contemporary perspectives on time, mechanization, and standardization (Michel Poivert), ideals and stylistic paradoxes within the movement (Russell Lord), hitherto unknown Japanese-American positions (David Martin), retouching practices (Dagmar Keultjes), transatlantic relationships (Christian Joschke), nineteenth-century reception of Pictorialism (Dominique de Font-Réaulx), as well as regional centers of gravity in photographic practice (Hanne Holm-Johnsen) and collecting activities (Maria Gourieva, Agnes Matthias.)

Our wish with this symposium was to give a new thrust to discussions of Pictorialism and to make fruitful use of the latest assessments. The texts included here are based on talks delivered in Berlin in November 2013.


Claudia Pfeiffer / Ulrich Rüter,
Berlin / Hamburg:
Introduction / The Ernst Juhl Collection in the Kunstbibliothek Berlin
Gabriele Betancourt Nuñez,
“Famous Men & Fair Women” – Focusing on the Pictures of Julia Margaret Cameron
Dominique de Font-Réaulx,
La Photographie est-elle un art? Issues Raised by Roger de la Sizeranne’s Book in 1897
Patrizia di Bello,
Rough Surfaces: Pictorialist Photographs of Sculptures
Maria Gourieva,
St. Petersburg:
Pictorialist Photography in the Collection of the State Museum and Exhibition Centre ROSPHOTO
Hanne Holm-Johnsen,
The Pictorialist Movement in Scandinavia, with Emphasis on Norway
Christian Joschke,
Ernst Juhl and Alfred Stieglitz: The Friendship That Never Was
Dagmar Keultjes,
Let’s Talk about the Weather! Negative Manipulation Techniques Used to Produce Atmosphere in Landscape Photography 1850–1900
Russell Lord,
New Orleans:
The Opposite of Pictorialism: Contradictions and Paradoxes in the Pictorialist Movement
David Martin,
Innovative Isolation: Re-examining Pictorialism Through the Recovery of Reputation
Agnes Matthias,
"A selection of the best that has been achieved in the wide field of amateur photography." On the Origin of the Photography Collection of Dresden's Kupferstich-Kabinett
Alison Nordström,
The Pictorialist Object
Michel Poivert,
French Pictorialism: Anti-Modernity and Avant-Garde in Photography

Program of the symposium

Maria Gourieva
© Lars Spengler

Participants of the symposium
© Lars Spengler

Agnes Matthias
© Lars Spengler