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Exhibition: The Staging of Artists in photography of the 19th and 20th century

"Bohemia is the first stage in artistic life; it is the preface to the Academy, the hospital, or the Morgue."

The term from the French author Henri Murger's 1851 novel, Scènes de la Vie de Bohème, became synonymous with 19th century artists. In the middle of this period in which the legend of the Bohemian swelled to bolster the self-confidence of the artists’ feelings, came the invention of photography. How far this approach to life was mirrored in photographic stagings of artists can now be examined in an exhibition entitled "La Bohème: The Staging of Artists in photography of the 19th and 20th century" held at Museum Ludwig.

The span of the work covered here extends from the earliest daguerreotypes to the striking portraits by Nadar and the opulent artists’ banquets of the 1920s. For example, Louis Alphonse de Brébisson staged around 1842 a group of friends painting and playing instruments as the quintessence of a romantic artists’ association in Bohemia. Felix Tournachon, known as Nadar, was not only a leading member of the Parisian Bohemians, he also created legendary portraits of his friends and contemporaries.

No less ingenious was the collaboration between David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson, whose group photographs such as Edinburgh Ale (pictured apparently sharing a drink and a joke with James Ballantine and Dr George Bell) aimed at positioning themselves close to the artistic Bohemia. Historical pageants and so-called tableaux vivants tell of the lengths people went to dress up, not least for the artists’ and academy balls in the 19th century. Also on show are numerous poetic stagings done after historical models by David Wilkie Wynfield, a Pre-Raphaelite photographer, and Julia Margaret Cameron.

Details of the exhibition can be found here.

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