American Arts & Crafts Photography

The ability to make a truly artistic photograph is not acquired off-hand but is the result of an artistic instinct coupled with years of labor.

–Alfred Stieglitz

A photography movement emerged during the late nineteenth century featuring soft-focus effects, tonally subtle images, and atmospheric elements that mimicked the popular Tonalism style of painting. Practitioners referred to this as Pictorialism and used their work to help champion the cause of photography as one of the fine arts. Numerous printing techniques were used to create the hazy, dreamy look that the photographers wanted–platinum, gum-bichromate, photogravure–processes which often allowed significant handwork to be performed on the negative or print. Pictorialists banded together in societies to share their knowledge and encourage one another. Many magazines and books were published to further the movement, and exhibitions of the best work were presented at clubs, galleries, and museums. Pictorial photography is closely related to the Arts and Crafts movement, which shared with the former an emphasis on hand craftsmanship, merging art and life, and popular appeal.

The Two Red Roses Foundation is fortunate to own more than 250 photogravures, platinum prints, pigment prints, gum-bichromates, carbon prints, and cyanotypes of some of the best images by the leading artists of the Pictorialist and Photo-Secessionist movements–artists such as Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Gertrude Käsebier, Clarence H. White, Arthur Wesley Dow, and Edward S. Curtis. The collection also includes important photographic books and periodicals, including two influential sets of full issues of journals edited by Alfred Stieglitz, Camera Notes and Camera Work.

In addition, the TRRF has published a catalogue of its photography collection written by noted author and scholar, Christian Peterson. “Lenses Embracing the Beautiful”: Pictorial Photographs from the Two Red Roses Foundation (2016) analyzes the aesthetics and techniques of Pictorial photography and discusses camera clubs, exhibitions, and publications that were essential to the success of the movement. More than forty separate artists are featured, along with their biographies and over one hundred full-color plates of their best work from the collection.

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