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Call for Papers: American Art and Photography from 1895 to 1925: Rethinking “Pictorialism”

'Pictorialism' as a loosely constituted, international movement advocating photography’s assimilation into the traditional fine arts, succeeded to the extent that it fostered widespread acceptance of the medium as 'art' prior to World War I, but failed in the post-War period as its aesthetic agenda was condemned as 'anti-modernist', agrarian, bourgeois, and imitative of an outmoded, idealizing painting.

The purpose of this symposium, and the retrospective exhibition of the works of Clarence H. White that it accompanies, is to reconsider and complicate the stylistic goals, methods, influences, politics, and social networks of photographers who identified as 'pictorialists' and yet produced works that ranged from book and magazine illustrations, commercial portraits, fashion photos, to Salon prints, and from sharp-focus, silver bromides to multiple-gums. White’s own career serves as a model for the ways that aspiring art photographers responded to changing economic, political, and aesthetic conditions from the fin-de-siècle to the Roaring Twenties, thus straining the very definition of what “pictorialism” might mean.

Topics might include:

  • ŸIndividual bodies of work by American pictorialists, particularly those in the Photo-Secession
  • ŸEarly photographs by White’s students
  • ŸAmerican magazine illustration and photography
  • ŸPictorial photography and the Arts and Crafts movement
  • ŸSocialism, anarchism, progressivism: the politics of pictorialism
  • ŸAmerican regional or international organizations and museums/galleries that hosted pictorialist shows 
  • ŸPhotographic exhibition design, mounting, and framing
  • ŸTonalist painters and photography
  • ŸManual training and the teaching of art photography (the Teachers College, the Pratt Institute, Syracuse University)
  • ŸPictorialist printing processes and their use
  • ŸAdvertising and fashion photography (pre-1925)
  • ŸWomen in the Photo-Secession
  • The Simple Life; the Colonial Revival; agrarianism and pictorialist subjects
  • ŸRepresenting the modern child
  • ŸWar photography and its impact on art photography
  • ŸSilent cinema and pictorial photography
  • ŸAmateurism and photography
  • ŸCritics, patrons and collectors of pictorialism
  • ŸHistoriography of pictorialism

Although the focus of this symposium will be aspects of American art and pictorial photography, papers dealing with European photographers and artists who had an impact on or connections with American pictorialists are welcome. Papers should be ca. 30 minutes in length.

All selected participants will receive RT travel to Princeton (coach fare), hotel (1-2 nights, depending on distance), and an honorarium.

American Art and Photography from 1895 to 1925: Rethinking 'Pictorialism'
Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, Friday–Saturday, 20-21 October 2017

Symposium organized in conjunction with the exhibition at the Princeton University Art Museum, “Clarence H. White and His World: The Art and Craft of Photography, 1895-1925” (curated by Anne McCauley, Dept. of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University)

Deadline: Sept. 1, 2016. Please submit a 250-word abstract and c.v. in English to Anne McCauley, mccauley@princeton.edu 

Image: Clarence H. White, Clarence White developing a negative with his wife and two children, from the Princeton University Art Museum collection. 

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