Lenses Embracing the Beautiful: Pictorial Photographs from the Two Red Roses Foundation

Sept. 7, 2021 - Jan. 9, 2022

Spanning two generations of photographers, from the 1890s to the 1940s, Lenses Embracing the Beautiful features more than 150 stunning photographs and rare books made by pictorial photographers from around the world. The pictorialists were serious amateurs who sought to create camera-generated images that spoke to the artistic possibilities of the medium. To achieve their creative, subjective, and emotional results, they chose accessible subject matter (such as landscapes, still lifes, and figure studies), carefully composed their images (by eliminating superfluous objects and emphasizing simplicity), and utilized soft-focus effects (to mimic the appearance of paintings). The resulting photographic prints, made by special processes such as platinum, photogravure, and gum-bichromate, were always richly toned and attractively presented.

Pictorial photography coincided with the American Arts and Crafts movement and can be seen as part of this larger context. Both placed an emphasis on individually made items, whether it was a piece of hand-formed pottery or a hand-manipulated photograph. Both strove for a minimum of decoration, producing furniture with clean lines or photographs with great visual unity. The two movements allowed significant participation by women, and shared some personnel, such as American educator/artist Arthur Wesley Dow and English photographer/bookseller Frederick H. Evans. And both spread their messages by extensive circuits of organizations, exhibitions, and publications. Pictorialists and craftsmen joined together to embrace the simple life and aesthetic beauty.

Organized by the Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement, Lenses Embracing the Beautiful features the work of significant pictorialists such as Alfred Stieglitz, the towering leader of American pictorialism; Edward S. Curtis, known for his extensive rendering of the North American Indian; Heinrich Kühn, the leading Austrian pictorialist; and Belgian Léonard Misonne, who excelled at dramatically lit landscapes.