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Boulineau: Unknown 19th Century French Photographer discovered by Student

Vanessa Fleet was a student pursuing a master’s degree in museum studies at the University of Toronto. Last summer when completing her internship at the Art Gallery of Ontario, she discovered that a series of 1,702 photographs auctioned at Christie's in 1997 and acquired by the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in 2005 were taken by the previously unknown French photographer and painter Abel Boulineau. She re-examined the photographs after learning that Gallery curators questioned the original attribution—to French photographer Émile Fréchon. The reattribution was spurred by Fleet’s discovery of an inscription written on the back of one of the photographs by the photographer: “Auberive—Avenue de l’Abbatiale—where I was born, 16 March 1839.” 

A new AGO exhibition tells the story of this discovery and displays for the first time more than 70 of Boulineau’s photographs depicting French regional life. The photographs in the collection were taken between 1897 and 1916 and feature charmingly composed rural scenes of shopkeepers and children, washerwomen and tradespeople, markets and villages, and scenic landscapes.

Completely unknown in the history of photography, Abel Boulineau was a painter and teacher at l’Association polytechnique in Paris. There is much evidence to suggest that Boulineau modeled many of his paintings after the photographs in this collection, which was given to the AGO by an anonymous donor in 2005. Boulineau died in 1934.

The news article can be found here, and details of the exhibition here.

 

Photo:  Abel Boulineau, Dax: Jeanne Dupary and washerwomen on the banks of the Adour River, 1906, gelatin silver printing-out-paper. Anonymous gift, 2005 ©2011 Art Gallery of Ontario.

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