Musée d'Orsay: Heinrich Kühn, perfect photography

Heinrich Kühn, perfect photography

Heinrich KühnMary on the hillside (detail)© ONB, Vienne /Wolfgang Reichmann
The great ambition of Heinrich Kühn (1866-1944) was to create photographs whose artistic merit could rival that of painting. An important figure in international Pictorialism around 1900, and closely linked with Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen, the two great representatives of that movement, Kühn came to develop a Modernist body of work which, although limited to the context of his family life, was far ahead of its time.

At the start of his career around 1895, Kühn met Hugo Henneberg and Hans Watzek through his involvement in the "Camera Club" of Vienna, and the three of them formed the "Trifolium". Together they experimented with new techniques in photographic printing, and particularly with the gum bichromate process, perfected by the Frenchman Robert Demachy and applied with a paintbrush, to give the print a painterly appearance. Their large format photographs reveal their desire to confront painting.

Later, influenced by his friend Alfred Stieglitz, Kühn moved from a "Romantic" Impressionism to a less detailed, almost abstract style where only the study of light and the rendering of tonal values mattered, a style that reflected the development of the Vienna Secession with whom he often used to exhibit his works. He was also the undisputed master of the autochrome, a technique with rich and delicate colours perfected by the Lumière brothers, yet whose greatest exponents were the Anglo-Saxon Pictorialists.
Kühn's images with their bold and highly simplified compositions established him as one of the central figures of international Pictorialism.

General curator

Monika Faber, chief curator of photography, Albertina Museum, Vienna


Françoise Heilbrun, chief curator, Musée d'Orsay; Anne Tucker, chief curator of Photography, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The exhibition will also be presented at the Albertina in Vienna, from 9 June to 19 September and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, in the spring of 2011

6 October 2010 - 24 January 2011

Paris, musée de l'Orangerie