Pictorialist Photography in Cleveland

Editorial Staff Art, Exhibitions

Julia Margaret Cameron’s “photography has been a touchstone for generations of photographers. The pictorialists adored her,” writes Phillip Prodger in our article about the British photographer in this issue. And he couldn’t be more right, says Barbara Tannenbaum, curator of photography at the Cleveland Museum of Art and co-curator of the museum’s stunning exhibition Shadows and Dreams: Pictorialist Photography in America. “While the images of the pictorialists were related in part to the impressionist painters,” she says, “the aesthetic did indeed stem from Cameron, who was an important source of inspiration not just in terms of technique, but also content. Her emphasis on imagination over fact, subjectivity over objectivity, and poetry over description became core values of pictorialism.” As examples from the exhibition, Tannenbaum cites the work of Clarence H. White of Newark, Ohio, who would probably have learned of Cameron’s work through Alfred Stieglitz’s journal Camera Work. “White’s idyllic visions of female life, with his family and friends artfully posed in dresses from a bygone era, depict women inhabiting a sphere of beauty, calm, and natural bounty. Softly focused, features blurred, they are not portraits but rather allegorical fictions, the descendants of Cameron’s historical and literary scenes.”

The Orchard by Clarence H. White (1871–1925), 1905. Cleveland Museum of Art, gift of John Flory, Elizabeth Flory Kelly, and Phoebe Flory.

Shadows and Dreams: Pictorialist Photography in America • Cleveland Museum of Art • to January 17, 2016 • clevelandart.org