Exhibition: ‘Laure Albin Guillot (1879-1962), The Question of Classicism’ at The Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne

Exhibition dates: 5th June – 1st September 2013


Laure Albin Guillot (1879-1962) 'Nude Study' c. 1940


Laure Albin Guillot (French, 1879-1962)
Nude Study
c. 1940
Collections Roger-Viollet / Parisienne de Photographie
© Laure Albin Guillot / Roger-Viollet



Six new images in this posting that I have not published before in a previous posting on this exhibition, at a different venue. I love her style and sensuality!


Many thankx to The Musée de l’Elysée for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.





Laure Albin Guillot (French, 1879-1962)
Louis Jouvet
c. 1925
Collections Roger-Viollet / Parisienne de Photographie
© Laure Albin Guillot / Roger-Viollet



Louis Jouvet (24 December 1887 – 16 August 1951) was a renowned French actor, director, and theatre director.

Overcoming speech impediments and sometimes paralysing stage fright as a young man, Jouvet’s first important association was with Jacques Copeau’s Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier, beginning in 1913. Copeau’s training included a varied and demanding schedule, regular exercise for agility and stamina, and pressing his cast and crew to invent theatrical effects in a bare-bones space. It was there Jouvet developed his considerable stagecraft skills, particularly makeup and lighting (he developed a kind of accent light named the jouvet). These years included a successful tour to the United States.

While influential, Copeau’s theatre was never lucrative. Jouvet left in October 1922 for the Comédie des Champs-Élysées (the small stage of the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées). In December 1923 he staged his single most successful production, the satire Dr. Knock, written by Jules Romains. Jouvet’s meticulous characterisation of the manipulative crank doctor was informed by his own experience in pharmacy school. It became his signature and his standby; “Jouvet was to produce it almost every year until the end of his life”.

Jouvet began an ongoing close collaboration with playwright Jean Giraudoux in 1928, with a radical streamlining of Giraudoux’s 1922 Siegfried et le Limousin for the stage. Their work together included the first staging of The Madwoman of Chaillot in 1945, at the Théâtre de l’Athénée, where Jouvet served as director from 1934 through his death in 1951.

Jouvet starred in some 34 films, including two recordings of Dr. Knock, once in 1933 and again in 1951. He was professor at the French National Academy of Dramatic Arts. He had a heart attack while at his beloved Théâtre de l’Athénée and died in his dressing room on August 16, 1951. Jouvet is buried in the Montmartre Cemetery in Paris. The Athénée theatre now bears his name.

Text from the Wikipedia website



Louis Jouvet in a scene from Entrée des artistes (Marc Allegret, 1938)


Laure Albin Guillot (1879-1962) 'Off-print for the Mayoly-Spindler laboratory, Paris' c. 1940


Laure Albin Guillot (French, 1879-1962)
Off-print for the Mayoly-Spindler laboratory, Paris
c. 1940
Pivate collection, Paris


Laure Albin Guillot (1879-1962) 'Advertisement for the Manufacture Jaeger-LeCoultre' c. 1940


Laure Albin Guillot (French, 1879-1962)
Advertisement for the Manufacture Jaeger-LeCoultre
c. 1940
Private collection, Paris


Laure Albin Guillot (1879-1962) 'Jean Cocteau' 1939


Laure Albin Guillot (French, 1879-1962)
Jean Cocteau
Private collection, Paris
© Laure Albin Guillot / Roger-Viollet



Trailer for Beauty and the Beast by Jean Cocteau, narrated by Cocteau himself


Laure Albin Guillot (1879-1962) 'Hubert de Givenchy' 1948


Laure Albin Guillot (French, 1879-1962)
Hubert de Givenchy
Collections Roger-Viollet / Parisienne de Photographie
© Laure Albin Guillot / Roger-Viollet



The Fashion Designer and His Muse – Audrey Hepburn and Hubert de Givenchy



Laure Albin Guillot (French, 1879-1962), a “resounding name that should become famous”, one could read just after World War II. Indeed, the French photographic scene in the middle of the century was particularly marked by the signature and aura of this artist, who during her lifetime was certainly the most exhibited and recognised, not only for her talent and virtuosity but also for her professional engagement.

The exhibition presented at the Musée de l’Elysée in collaboration with the Jeu de Paume gathers a significant collection of 200 original prints and books by Laure Albin Guillot, as well as magazines and documents of the period from public and private collections. A large number of the original prints and documents on show come from the collections of the Agence Roger-Viollet, in collaboration with Parisienne de Photographie, which acquired Laure Albin Guillot’s studio stock in 1964. Made up of 52,000 negatives and 20,000 prints, this source has made it possible to question the oeuvre and the place that the photographer really occupies in history. The photographer’s work could appear as a counter-current to the French artistic scene of the 1920s to 40s, whose modernity and avant-garde production attract our attention and appeal to current tastes. It is however this photography, incarnating classicism and a certain “French style” that was widely celebrated at the time.

If Laure Albin Guillot’s photography was undeniably in vogue between the wars, her personality remains an enigma.

Paradoxically, very little research has been carried out into the work and career of this artist. Her first works were seen in the salons and publications of the early 1920s, but it was essentially during the 1930s and 40s that Laure Albin Guillot, artist, professional and institutional figure, dominated the photographic arena. As an independent photographer, she practised several genres, including portraiture, the nude, landscape, still life and, to a lesser degree, documentary photography. Technically unrivalled, she raised the practice to a certain elitism. A photographer of her epoch, she used the new means of distribution of the image to provide illustrations and advertising images for the press and publishing industry.

She was notably one of the first in France to consider the decorative use of photography through her formal research into the infinitely tiny. With photomicrography, which she renamed “micro­graphie”, Laure Albin Guillot offered new creative perspectives in the combination of art and science. Finally, as member of the Société des artistes décorateurs, the Société française de photo­graphie, director of photographic archives for the Direction générale des Beaux-Arts (forerunner of the Ministry of Culture) and director of the project for the Cinémathèque nationale, president of the Union féminine des carrières libérales, she emerges as one of the most active personalities and most aware of the photographic and cultural stakes of the period.

Organised in four parts, the exhibition explores the various aspects of Laure Albin Guillot’s work



Laure Albin Guillot began her career in the early 1920s with portraits and fashion photography. Already, her trademark was elegance, her method was quite systematic and she used various artifices: pared-back decor, close-ups, limited depth of field, simple lighting. The sought-after effect of interiority and intimacy was accentuated by inspired poses that translate the sitter’s character as is done by painters. She accepted being compared to the Pictorialists. At the start she was quite close to them in her form and technique, following an aesthetic whose expression was facilitated by her use of lenses that blur (Opale and Eïdoscope). Her sessions were short (never more than twenty minutes), the lamps were positioned to supplement each other and not a detail was left in the shadow thanks to a weaker lighting facing the first; while claiming not to go beyond a certain naturalism, she improved the natural: contours are softened, the diffused light is flattering.

In the exercise of the nude, the photographer privileged the mastery of form over inspiration, she sought a poetic purity, a dematerialisation of the body through the power of the spirit; her nudes are constructed by light, they tend towards the ideal. In complete contrast to the importance of character in the portrait, its reduction to a visual form makes the model into a collection of lines, the face is pushed into the corners, almost rubbed out. Laure Albin Guillot did not practise a fragmented language, she proposed fluid forms that appear simple but in reality are highly worked. The reference to statuary is assumed and provides a wide variety of uses for the photographs, each containing several.


A Decorative Art

After 1918, Paris rediscovered its artistic vocation and the “French style” triumphed at the 1925 Exposition internationale des arts indus­triels et modernes. Alongside the artists and craftsmen, Laure Albin Guillot exhibited an exceptional series of portraits of decorators. She herself made some kakemonos [a Japanese unframed painting made on paper or silk and displayed as a wall hanging], starting from stylised photographs and, inspired by Japanisation, she had some of her photographs inserted into lacquered wood as screens or fire guards.

In 1931, her book Micrographie décorative won her instant international recognition; the work is a visual curiosity, playing on the ambiguity between the origins of the photographic subject and the nature of the reproduced image. The twenty plates of diatoms, minerals and plants taken through a microscope are as much aesthetic propositions as the magisterial culmination of a reflection shared with her late husband, himself a collector of microscopic preparations. This much publicised publication triggered a series of glowing articles that enthused on the fusion between science and art. The micrographs were declined in wallpaper, silks, bindings and assorted objects. In the debate between partisans and detractors of photography as art, she provided her answer: according to her, photography is a decorative art. Micrographie décorative was to be published with a preface by Paul Léon, Director of Fine Art, in homage to Albin Guillot, deceased in 1929.


Advertising Photography

In 1933, Laure Albin Guillot published Photographie publicitaire (Advertising Photography). This book is one of the rare theoretical works written by a French photographer between the wars. At the time she was known for her portraits, her decorative proposals, her fashion photographs and advertising images. But she was also an institutional figure, director of both the photographic archives of the Beaux-Arts (the future Ministry of Culture) and the Cinémathèque nationale.

Laure Albin Guillot was fully aware of the media and commercial stakes developing around the cinema, radio and the illustrated press. Based on her own experience, she tried with this book to define the role that photography could play in the world of advertising that was taking shape. From the end of the 1920s, she carried out a large number of advertising illustrations. She thus elaborated a repertory of simple, effective and easily understandable visual diagrams. A large proportion of her work concerned luxury products such as fine watchmaking, jewellery or fashion. But she also carried out numerous advertisements for the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries, the newest and most dynamic industrial sectors of the time.


Books and Bibliophile Editions

Laure Albin Guillot’s work was published extensively. The photographer did not work only for the press but also for book publishers, whether it was a matter of portraits of writers for the frontispiece of novels or photographs used here and there in collective works. Between 1934 and 1951, she illustrated no less than eleven books of varying type and subject: novel, school textbook, guide to the Musée du Louvre, prayer book, etc.

In parallel, in collaboration with Paul Valéry, Henry de Montherlant, Marcelle Maurette and Maurice Garçon, she made sumptuous “artist’s books” combining literature and photography. It was with a real strategy of promoting her work that the photographer undertook these works, which were mostly sold by subscription. Their fabrication, luxury and rarity made them true collectors’ pieces at a time when a photography market did not exist (“I made photography an accepted part of bibliophilia,” she would write at the end of her life).

Exhibitions and artist’s books were intimately linked in her method: their publication was heralded by the presentation at a salon or a gallery of sets of prestigious proofs (the large majority pigmented proofs from Ateliers Fresson). Thus, the large-format prints exhibited in this section showing roads or landscapes were probably destined to appear in albums finally not published.

Press release from the The Musée de l’Elysée website


Laure Albin Guillot (1879-1962) 'Micrography, Hippuric Acid' c. 1931


Laure Albin Guillot (French, 1879-1962)
Micrography, Hippuric Acid
c. 1931
Collection société française de photographie
© Laure Albin Guillot / Roger-Viollet


Laure Albin Guillot (1879-1962) 'Untitled' c. 1935-1940


Laure Albin Guillot (French, 1879-1962)
c. 1935-1940
Collection du Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Paris, 2012
Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais


Laure Albin Guillot (1879-1962) 'Nude Study' 1939


Laure Albin Guillot (French, 1879-1962)
Nude Study
Bibliothèque nationale de France
© Laure Albin Guillot / Roger-Viollet


Laure Albin Guillot (1879-1962) 'Nude Study' c. 1938


Laure Albin Guillot (French, 1879-1962)
Nude Study
c. 1938
Collections Roger-Viollet / Parisienne de Photographie
© Laure Albin Guillot / Roger-Viollet


Laure Albin Guillot (1879-1962) 'Les tierces alternées', illustration for 'Les préludes de Claude Debussy' 1948


Laure Albin Guillot (French, 1879-1962)
Les tierces alternées, illustration for Les préludes de Claude Debussy
Musée français de la photographie / Conseil général de l’Essonne, Benoît Chain
© Laure Albin Guillot / Roger-Viollet



Claude Debussy – Prelude No.10: La cathedrale engloutie – Krystian Zimerman



The Musée de l’Elysée
18, avenue de l’Elysée
CH - 1014 Lausanne
Phone: + 41 21 316 99 11

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Monday, 10am – 6pm
Closed Tuesday, except for bank holidays

The Musée de l’Elysée website


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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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