The first in-depth exploration of the museum’s extensive, beautiful, and unique collection of American Pictorialist photography highlights work from this turn-of-the-twentieth-century international movement. It was the first concerted, widespread effort to release photography from the constraints of mechanical reproduction and elevate it to the realm of personal expression—that is, to the status of fine art.
Responding to the rapid expansion of cheap, commercial photography and the advent of the amateur “snapshooter,” the Pictorialists conceived of the medium as one of imagination rather than reportage. Emphasizing the hand and eye of the artist, its practitioners derived their inspiration from painting and drawing. In search of new ways to express artistic creativity through the camera, they either sought out new visions in the natural world or staged idyllic scenes.
Photographers also experimented with new print media, freely manipulating both negative and print to construct elegant and distinctive compositions. The show features works by Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Gertrude Käsebier, Edward Weston, and Karl Struss as well as a number of Ohio artists including Margaret Bourke-White and Jane Reece.
At the heart of the exhibition is a large group of prints by Clarence H. White, a leading Pictorialist who lived and photographed in Newark, Ohio, 1893–1906. These images were donated to the museum by the children of Julia McCune Flory, one of his favorite models, including his work prints––rare documents that expose the artist’s imaginative thought process to realize the composition.