René Le Bègue
René Le Bègue French, 1857-1914
René Le Bègue was an amateur photographer in Paris who specialized in studies of women, especially nudes. His work, done principally in the gum bichromate process, had an artistic orientation. Amateurs, he wrote, through "personal intervention" in their prints, could lift photography toward art, overcoming the "mechanical and servile" way in which the lens copies nature.
Le Bègue's images were widely published and shown. He was a founder of the Photo Club of Paris, participating in its first exhibition, and was the first French photographer admitted to the Linked Ring. Le Bègue frequently worked with his uncle, Paul Bergon (1863-1912), and their careers are closely intertwined. He also worked with Constant Puyo and Robert Demachy, other exponents of an artistic approach to photography.
It is believed that Le Bègue stopped photographing upon the death of Bergon. His work was introduced to the United States in a 1906 group exhibition at the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession in New York, and through publication of two of his photographs in Camera Work that same year. T.W.F.
Robert Demachy French, 1859-1936
Born in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Robert Demachy was a banker of independent means whose rarefied and varied interests ranged from racing cars to music, literature, and art. His American wife, Julia Adelia Delano, was related to Franklin Roosevelt. In the field of photography, Demachy was both practitioner and theoretician, writing five books and more than 1,000 articles on aesthetic and technical issues. He was a leader in the manipulative style in which the negative was used as the basis for producing prints that approached aquatint and other intaglio media in their overtly artistic, handworked qualities. He was especially known for his work with the gum bichromate and oil printing processes, the latter of which he pioneered and developed with Alfred Maskell. He later abandoned photography for sketching and drawing.
Demachy's photographs often have the quality of paintings, drawings, or intaglio prints and are frequently printed in color. His varied subject matter is often treated in an idealized manner, characteristic of the pictorialism prevalent during the time he worked (roughly 1880-1914). Demachy was a member of the Société française de photographie, the Linked Ring, and the Photo-Secession. In 1894 he helped to found the Photo Club de Paris. He was also a member of honor of the Royal Photographic Society and a chevalier of the Légion d'honneur. T.W.F.