Recent Acquisitions - 6 of 12

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Huntsman in an Alley of Trees at Précicet by Félix Thiollier

Félix Thiollier
French, 1842–1914
Huntsman in an Alley of Trees at Précicet
Gelatin silver print
15 9/16 x 11 9/16 in. (39.5 x 29.3 cm)
Acquired by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 2007

When he first took up photography as a hobby in the 1860s, Thiollier was a successful businessman in the textile industry of Saint-Étienne, a center for coal mining in the Loire Valley. By the end of his life, he had produced tens of thousands of glass negatives and printed enlargements, which he neither sold nor exhibited. A brilliant amateur, Thiollier was a loner who combined a prodigious work ethic with a natural eye for composition. His body of work reflects his awareness of international trends in contemporary photography and places him among the first ranks of the French pictorialists. Pictorial (“picture-like”) photography emerged in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in response to the heated debate over the status of photography: while some critics argued that the medium was nothing more than a tool of visual documentation, many photographers insisted that it was a fine art. Inspired by Romanticism, Art Nouveau, and Symbolism, pictorial photographers produced richly toned, affecting images that mimicked the appearance and compositional principles of painting. This photograph, one of eleven by the artist acquired in 2007, testifies to the poetic intensity of Thiollier’s unique vision. The misty path cutting between bare trees, wandered by a solitary man in derby hat with rifle, evokes feelings of both timeless mystery and modern isolation.