Posts Tagged ‘Society for Photographing Relics of Old London

23
Apr
22

Exhibition: ‘Adolf Mas. The Eyes of Barcelona’ at Fundación MAPFRE, Barcelona

Exhibition dates: 18th February – 8th May, 2022

Curator: Carmen Perrotta

 

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'View of Portal de l'Àngel' 1902

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
View of Portal de l’Àngel
1902
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

 

At the moment I’m still recovering from my appendicitis operation… slowly, slowly.

While Adolf Mas is certainly not in the league of the great Eugène Atget in terms of his importance to the history of art photography1, nor are his photographs of Barcelona to the standard of the latter’s “records of a rare and subtle perception” – vis a vis Atget’s subtle placement of the camera and his visionary, almost hallucinatory, renditions of Old Paris – the documentary photographs by Mas of the old and new city have a certain, stimulating, viscerality to them (a quality of being related to the physical as opposed to the virtual or imaginary world or reality).

Unlike Atget’s photographs of a deserted Paris, it is wonderful to see Mas’ early photographs of Barcelona grounded in the people who lived in the city: playing games, watching entertainment, waiting for a train and, in groups (mainly children), watching the performance of the photographer with unabashed inquisitiveness. Mas’ city photographs are more reminiscent of the photographs of an earlier era (notably those of the Danish-American social documentary photographer Jacob Riis and those taken by the photographers of the Society for Photographing Relics of Old London directed by Alfred Marks) than those of Atget. They are direct and frontal but still possess a delightful “atmosphere”. Just look at the light in Carrer del Sant Crist de l’Argenteria des del carrer Argenteria (before 1911, below) and Pati de la casa núm. 25 del carrer dels Mercaders (before 1911, below) and tell me this man didn’t know his business.

Just as impressive are Mas’ staged mise-en-scène group portraits such as Ramon Casas painting Júlia and Flora Peraire in the presence of Adolf Mas (1912, below) and Lactation House (1903, below). The formal arrangement of figures is like a piece of music as it rises and falls: chairs to people to easels to screens or, the curve of the adult figures as they spiral in towards the baby on the weighing apparatus. The men have an almost idealistic, Rembrandt-esque feel to them, such as the figures in The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp (1632) … surrounded by Baroque chairs, cupboards of instruments and the mechanics of medicine. And the light, the light!

If ever there were such a thing, I wonder whether Mas died at the right time (1936). Although I don’t know his political values any artist who produces an extraordinary record of the intellectual and artistic circles of his time would surely have been dismayed, had he lived, at the outcome of the Spanish Civil War, with the “long Spanish postwar recovery during the 1940s and 1950s creating a cultural wasteland within the destroyed, hungry and isolated Spain, exacerbated by repression, the ‘purification’ of the educational system and cultural institutions, the purges of books, and widespread censorship. Compared with the preceding period, called the Silver Age (la Edad de Plata), shows one of the clearest contrasts in the cultural history of Spain.”2

It’s such a pity, with 100,000 negatives to play with, that there aren’t other photographs available to publish online. I would have liked to have seen more of this artist’s work.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Atget’s documentary vision proved highly influential, first on the Surrealists, in the 1920s, who found his pictures of deserted streets and stairways, street life, and shop windows beguiling and richly suggestive (these were published in La Révolution surréaliste in 1926, with a fourth, of a crowd gathered to watch an eclipse, on the cover); and then on two generations of American photographers, from Walker Evans to Lee Friedlander … In 1931, four years after Atget’s death, the American photographer Ansel Adams wrote, “The Atget prints are direct and emotionally clean records of a rare and subtle perception, and represent perhaps the earliest expression of true photographic art.”
    Ansel Adams, in The Fortnightly (San Francisco) 1, no. 5 (Nov. 5, 1931), 25 quoted in Natalie Dupêcher. “Eugène Atget,” on the MoMA website 2017 [Online] Cited 23/04/2022.
  2. “Art and culture in Francoist Spain,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 23/04/2022

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Many thankx to Fundación MAPFRE for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Born in Solsona (Lérida) on September 28, 1860, Adolf Mas moved to Barcelona shortly before 1890. He left his hometown and a job as a solicitor for an uncertain future in the big city and initially made a niche for himself in the textile industry. A few years later he frequented the local Els Quatre Gats, where he established relationships with intellectuals and artists of the time. After his training as a photographer, in 1901 he founded his first establishment selling photographic material, which would become, a few years later, the “Estudio de Fotografía A. Mas”, the predecessor of “Archivo Mas”.

Mas established himself as the photographer of reference for architects such as Josep Puig i Cadafalch, who hired him to photograph their buildings as an inventory. The author produced a wide range of reports, most notably images of the Sagrada Familia.

A pioneer of photojournalism in Catalonia at the beginning of the 20th century, his commissioned portraits for illustrated magazines are an extraordinary record of the intellectual circles of the time. From 1910 onwards, his production focused on recording artistic and monumental heritage, especially after being commissioned to compile an iconographic catalogue of Spain in 1915. His work therefore focused on the administration of a powerful archival structure for public consultation which, in 1936, the year of his death, contained approximately 100,000 negatives.

Text from the Fundación MAPFRE website

 

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'The "Xiquets de Valls"' June 29th 1907

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
The “Xiquets de Valls”
June 29th 1907
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Games. Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes' 1906

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Games. Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes
1906
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Arxiu Mas (Mas Archive) 'Neighbourhood of La Barceloneta' 1916

 

Arxiu Mas (Mas Archive)
Neighbourhood of La Barceloneta
1916
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

 

In collaboration with the Mas Archive of the Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic, Fundacion MAPFRE presents Adolf Mas: The Eyes of Barcelona, a journey through the work of this Catalan photographer, recognised for his major contribution to the field of heritage photography, and a figure of paramount importance for understanding the social transformation of Barcelona during the early 20th century.

Born in Solsona (Lleida) on September 28, 1860, Adolf Mas moved to Barcelona prior to 1890. He left his hometown and his work as a solicitor for an uncertain future in the Condal city, initially making his way in the textile industry. A few years later, he became a regular at the Els Quatre Gats café where he established contacts with the intellectuals and artists of the day. In 1901, after training as a photographer, he founded his first business selling photographic materials, a business that years later would become the “Estudi de Fotografía A. Mas” (the A. Mas Studio of Photography), the predecessor of the “Mas Archive.”

Mas became the main photographer for architects such as Josep Puig i Cadafalch, who commissioned him to photograph his buildings, as if he were compiling an inventory. He also produced a repertoire of other images, of which those of the Sagrada Familia stand out.

A pioneer of photojournalism in Catalonia, he documented a wide range of cultural and current events, as well as the new infrastructures and healthcare initiatives that were flourishing in Barcelona in the early 20th century. His commissioned portraits produced for illustrated magazines are an extraordinary testimony of the intellectual circles of the time.

From 1910 his production was centred on compiling a registry of artistic and monumental heritage, and in 1915 he received a commission to produce an iconographic repertoire of Spain. From this time on his work would focus on the administration of an impressive archival resource which was intended for public consultation; by 1936, the year of his death, it consisted of approximately 100,000 negatives.

“The photographs by Adolf Mas portray Barcelona in the midst of a socio-cultural, artistic, political, and urban transformation. The graphic narrative constructed by the photographer allows us to explore a reality that was rapidly changing, and understanding his photographic legacy is fundamental for the correct interpretation of the dynamics linked to early 20th-century Barcelona.

Adolf Mas is mainly known for the creation and consolidation of the renowned Mas Archive and for being one of the first heritage photographers in Catalonia. However, he is also a more complex photographer. His beginnings as a photojournalist ran in parallel with something akin to artistic photography, which became apparent in his portraits. These were not traditional, and brought his work closer to the artistic circles of the time. Although Mas’s production cannot be included in the movement known as pictorialism, it undoubtedly goes beyond what was being done in other contemporary photographic studios, and it is an aspect of his work that this exhibition highlights.

Over the years, many national and international exhibitions covering a wide range of topics have included works by Adolf Mas and other photographers. However, Adolf Mas. The Eyes of Barcelona is a monographic project that aims to present him in the round, as a photographer and as manager of one of the most important photographic archives in Spain.”

Adolf Mas: The Eyes of Barcelona offers a broad overview of the work of this key figure in Catalan Noucentista photography through 200 photographs and a wide range of documentary material that are divided into four thematic sections and address the main aspects of his career.

The core of the show includes the author’s photographic production centring on the city of Barcelona. Adolf Mas captured the architectural, social and cultural changes in the city through images that combine aspects of documentary recording with the aesthetic concerns of contemporary European artistic movements. Barcelona was a city of contrasts, ranging from the slums on the periphery to the mansions of the Eixample district; and from the luxurious cafés frequented by the bourgeoisie to the shanty towns built by panhandlers in the Barceloneta area.

The exhibition ends with a section dedicated to the campaigns on heritage indexing undertaken by Adolf Mas and the articulation of what has been recognised as the most important photographic archive on Spanish heritage in Europe: the Mas Archive.

Works by artists such as Ramon Casas, Alexandre de Riquer, and Eusebi Arnau produced in the context of Adolf Mas’s photographic studio business will be on display along with the author’s photographs.

The exhibition is part of the program Fundación MAPFRE has established at KBr Barcelona Photo Center in collaboration with Catalan institutions dedicated to preserving Catalonia’s rich photographic heritage. On this occasion, the exhibition has been organised in collaboration with Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic. It has been supported by the Diputació de Barcelona. Arxiu General; the Biblioteca Nacional de Catalunya in Barcelona; the Arxiu Històric de la Ciutat de Barcelona; the Arxiu Fotogràfic de Barcelona, Barcelona City Hall; the MAE-Theater Institute; and the private collection of the Pasans Bertolin Family, who have all generously loaned their works.

Adolf Mas: The Eyes of Barcelona brings together the extraordinary visual landscape and collective memory of early 20th-century Barcelona as seen through the eyes of Adolf Mas, one of the key figures in the history of modern photography in Spain.

Press release from Fundación MAPFRE

 

Pau Audouard Deglaire (Spanish, 1857-1918) 'Adolf Mas touching up an image' c. 1909

 

Pau Audouard Deglaire (Spanish, 1857-1918)
Adolf Mas touching up an image
c. 1909
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

 

Pau Audouard (1857-1918) was a photographer active in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain at the end of the 19th century.

Adouard was born in Havana, Cuba. He moved with his family to Barcelona in 1879, where he opened a studio. He became one of the most important photographers in Spain in the late 19th century, winning two gold medals for his work from the Real Sociedad Económica Aragonesa in 1886. Two years later, he was appointed official photographer of the 1888 Barcelona World’s Fair. Adouard was a member of the French Société française de photographie from 1879 to 1894. From 1905 to 1915, he lived and worked in the Casa Lleó Morera, built by architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Pau Audouard Deglaire (Spanish, 1857-1918) 'Adolf Mas touching up an image' c. 1909 (detail)

 

Pau Audouard Deglaire (Spanish, 1857-1918)
Adolf Mas touching up an image (detail)
c. 1909
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Carrer d'Aragó Station' c. 1903

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Carrer d’Aragó Station
c. 1903
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Carrer d'Aragó Station' c. 1903 (detail)

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Carrer d’Aragó Station (detail)
c. 1903
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Interior of a Tower in the Sagrada Familia' 1905

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Interior of a Tower in the Sagrada Familia
1905
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Sagrada Familia' 1927

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Sagrada Familia
1927
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Arxiu Mas (Mas Archive) 'Barcelona at Night (Passeig de Gràcia)' 1917

 

Arxiu Mas (Mas Archive)
Barcelona at Night (Passeig de Gràcia)
1917
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Carrer de les Donzelles' (Street of the Maidens) c. 1908

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Carrer de les Donzelles (Street of the Maidens)
c. 1908
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Sunset at the Llobregat River' c. 1911

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Sunset at the Llobregat River
c. 1911
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

 

The exhibition Adolf Mas. Los ojos de Barcelona traces the work of this key figure in Catalan noucentista photography, through 200 photographs and diverse documentary material, divided into four thematic sections that deal with the central aspects of his career.

The central core of the exhibition features the photographs taken by the author in the context of Barcelona. Adolf Mas captures the architectural, social and cultural changes of the city in images that interweave a documentary record with the aesthetic lines of contemporary European artistic tendencies: a Barcelona of contrasts, stratified between the barraca shacks in the suburbs and the mansions of the Eixample, between the luxurious cafés in the centre for the pleasure of the bourgeoisie and the shantytowns built by beggars in Barceloneta.

The exhibition is part of the program that Fundación MAPFRE has initiated in Barcelona in collaboration with Catalan institutions that house a rich photographic heritage. On this occasion, the exhibition has been organised in collaboration with the Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic. We have also benefited from the generosity of the Diputació de Barcelona. Arxiu General; Biblioteca de Catalunya. Barcelona; the Arxiu Històric de la Ciutat de Barcelona; the Arxiu Fotogràfic de Barcelona. Barcelona City Hall; the MAE-Institut del Teatre; and the Familia Pasans Bertolin private collection, who have altruistically lent their works.

 

Four key features

 

Archivo Mas

Created by Adolf Mas in 1900 for the purpose of inventorying the iconographic catalog of Catalonia and, subsequently, the whole of Spain, this is the most important photographic archive in Europe on Spanish heritage. A monumental work developed over more than thirty years in which an avant-garde idea, conceived originally for commercial purposes, materialised without losing sight of the importance of documenting and disseminating a shared cultural heritage. After the Spanish Civil War, the Archivo Mas was acquired by Teresa Amatller in 1941, and is now part of the holdings of the Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic.

 

Els Quatre Gats

On June 12, 1897, Els Quatre Gats, designed by a young Josep Puig i Cadafalch, opened its doors on the first floor of the Casa Martí on Carrer Montsió in Barcelona. A famous café that was modelled after Le Chat Noir in Paris, as intended by its founders: Ramon Casas, Pere Romeu, Santiago Rusiñol and Miquel Utrillo. Over the six year period that it was active, the celebrated café was a landmark in Catalan modernism. A catalyst of ideas and trends in Barcelona’s artistic and intellectual scene, the place was frequented by figures such as Antoni Gaudí, Isidre Nonell and Pablo Picasso. Adolf Mas documented its interior from 1900 onwards and forged important links with the artists associated with the establishment, in particular with Ramon Casas, whose friendship would continue over the years.

 

Artistic competition on old Barcelona

In 1908, the construction of the future Via Laietana, foreseen by the great urban reform implemented by the “Pla Cerdà” plan, led to the demolition of a densely populated area in Barcelona’s old town. The city council, at the request of the Barcelona artists’ union, organised a competition to document the architectural heritage destined to be torn down. The initiative was very successful and 38 series of drawings and photographs were submitted. Adolf Mas was one of the most decorated artists. His images, reminiscent of Eugène Atget’s photographs of Old Paris, show the presence of people who humanise the architectural vistas, in a clear attempt to dignify the history of those buildings, as well as their inhabitants, in the face of their imminent disappearance.

 

Photographs of spectacle

Within the framework of his activity as a portraitist, Mas developed a range of works specifically linked to the show business sector. Examples of this activity include the reports made between 1914 and 1915 dedicated to two iconic figures of the time: the dancer Tórtola Valencia (1882-1955) and the soprano María Barrientos (1884-1946). The spectacular nature of the images in these series, in which technical execution and the charisma of the artists themselves are undoubtedly fundamental, is highlighted by a striking chromaticism that references an interest in the exotic.

Text from Fundación MAPFRE

 

Estudi de Fotografia A. Mas. 'Ramon Casas painting Júlia and Flora Peraire in the presence of Adolf Mas' 1912

 

Estudi de Fotografia A. Mas
Ramon Casas painting Júlia and Flora Peraire in the presence of Adolf Mas
1912
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

 

Ramon Casas i Carbó (Catalan pronunciation: [rəˈmoŋ ˈkazəs]; 4 January 1866 – 29 February 1932) was a Catalan artist. Living through a turbulent time in the history of his native Barcelona, he was known as a portraitist, sketching and painting the intellectual, economic, and political elite of Barcelona, Paris, Madrid, and beyond. He was also known for his paintings of crowd scenes ranging from the audience at a bullfight to the assembly for an execution to rioters in the Barcelona streets (El garrot). Also a graphic designer, his posters and postcards helped to define the Catalan art movement known as modernisme.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Estudi de Fotografia A. Mas. 'Ramon Casas painting Júlia and Flora Peraire in the presence of Adolf Mas' 1912 (detail)

 

Estudi de Fotografia A. Mas
Ramon Casas painting Júlia and Flora Peraire in the presence of Adolf Mas (detail)
1912
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Lactation House' 1903

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Lactation House
1903
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Lactation House' 1903 (detail)

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Lactation House (detail)
1903
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Nuns and children from the Sanatori Marítim de Sant Josep in the neighbourhood of La Barceloneta' 1913

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Nuns and children from the Sanatori Marítim de Sant Josep in the neighbourhood of La Barceloneta
1913
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Nuns and children from the Sanatori Marítim de Sant Josep in the neighbourhood of La Barceloneta' 1913 (detail)

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Nuns and children from the Sanatori Marítim de Sant Josep in the neighbourhood of La Barceloneta (detail)
1913
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Relining of "La Batalla de Tetuan" by Marià Fortuny in one of the halls of the Diputació Provicial' 1914

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Relining of “La Batalla de Tetuan” by Marià Fortuny in one of the halls of the Diputació Provicial
1914
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

 

Marià Josep Maria Bernat Fortuny i Marsal (Catalan pronunciation: [məɾiˈa ʒuˈzɛb məˈɾi.ə βəɾˈnat fuɾˈtuɲ i məɾˈsal]; Spanish: Mariano José María Bernardo Fortuny y Marsal; June 11, 1838 – November 21, 1874), known more simply as Marià Fortuny or Mariano Fortuny, was the leading Spanish painter of his day, with an international reputation. His brief career encompassed works on a variety of subjects common in the art of the period, including the Romantic fascination with Orientalist themes, historicist genre painting, military painting of Spanish colonial expansion, as well as a prescient loosening of brush-stroke and colour. …

 

Legacy

Fortuny paintings are colorful, with a vivacious iridescent brushstroke that at times recalls the softness of Rococo painting but also anticipates impressionist brushwork. Richard Muther states:

his marvellously sensitive eye … discerned the stalls of Moorish carpet-sellers, with little figures swarming, and the rich display of woven stuffs of the East; the weary attitude of old Arabs sitting in the sun; the sombre, brooding faces of strange snake-charmers and magicians. This is no Parisian East… every one here speaks Arabic.

.
Fortuny often painted scenes where contemporary life had still not shaken off the epaulets and decorations of ancient traditions such as the “Burial of a matador” and couples signing marriage contracts (La Vicaria). Each has the dazzle of bric-a-brac ornament, but as in his painting of the Judgement of the Model, that painterly decorative air of Rococo and Romanticism was fading into academicism and left to confront the naked reality of the represented object. He inherited Goya’s eye for the paradox of ceremony and reality.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Marià Fortuny Marsal (Spanish, 1838–1874) 'La Batalla de Tetuan' Between 1862 and 1864

 

Marià Fortuny Marsal (Spanish, 1838–1874)
La Batalla de Tetuan
Between 1862 and 1864
Oil on canvas
300cm (118.1 in) x 972cm (10.6 yd)
Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Relining of "La Batalla de Tetuan" by Marià Fortuny in one of the halls of the Diputació Provicial' 1914 (detail)

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Relining of “La Batalla de Tetuan” by Marià Fortuny in one of the halls of the Diputació Provicial (detail)
1914
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Arxiu Mas (Mas Archive) 'Work Room and Library at the Mas Archive' 1927

 

Arxiu Mas (Mas Archive)
Work Room and Library at the Mas Archive
1927
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

 

Adolf Mas: The Eyes of Barcelona

When ADOLF MAS GINESTÀ (1860-1936) – solicitor by obligation and photographer by vocation – journeyed through the streets of Barcelona in around 1900, the city’s walls had already disappeared decades ago and its urban layout was being enriched by the effervescence of Modernism. The city was changing and the people of Barcelona were witnessing the establishment of new social infrastructures.

At that time, camera in hand, Mas captured in his photographs a profound and simultaneously dynamic vision of a city that had just shed its provincial reputation. His eyes became a vehicle through which to approach this new reality. The illustrated press found its way into people’s homes, and so did the photographer’s reportages. His photographs provided insight into a new urban, social, and institutional reality by portraying current and public events, as well as the city’s new infrastructures. The paths he traced between the broad arteries of the Eixample district and the narrow alleys of the city’s old quarter – sometimes awaiting their imminent demolition – configured a collective memory of early 20th century Barcelona.

But Mas’s photographic work went beyond urban reportage. The relationships he established with important architects and art historians of the time led to his specialisation in the subject of heritage. In 1907 his participation in the mission set up by the Institut d’Estudis Catalans with the objective of documenting Pyrenean artistic heritage signified a turning point for his career and for his business; indeed his business would go on to become the main photographic archive in Europe specialising in Spanish heritage.

Carmen Perrotta, curator of the exhibition

 

Adolf Mas Ginestà was one of the key figures in the field of Catalan photography in the early 20th century. Born into a wealthy family from Solsona (Lleida), he renounced a stable job as a solicitor in order to move to Barcelona, the city where he trained as a photographer. He must have arrived in the city before 1890, because that year he married Apolonia Castañeda de Ortega (1866-1954), a young seamstress from Itero de la Vega (Palencia) with whom he had two children: Pelai (1891-1954) and Màrius (1896-1902).

Although evidence exists of his activity as a photographer during the last decade of the 19th century, it was not until the early 20th century that his first reportages were published in the press. In 1901, as the director of Helius, he combined his role as manager of the business with that of a photojournalist. From 1905 Helius, a newly renamed commercial enterprise, would become known as Etablissements “MASS” (also Estudi de Fotografia A. Mas, Estudio de Fotografia A. Mas and Photographic Studio A. Mas). In the decade of 1910 further restructuring of the business would lead to the consolidation of the Mas Archive as we know it today. In 1924 the business moved its commercial headquarters located on Carrer del Rosselló to Carrer de la Freneria, leaving the recently renovated Eixample district behind and taking over a space in the old quarter that had once belonged to two important figures in Catalan art nouveau, Alexandre de Riquer and Miquel Utrillo.

Mas’s ties to the cultural and artistic circles of the time were reflected in his photographic repertoires – which ranged from artists’ studios to portraits of the musicians, poets and intellectuals of the time – and also in the graphic and advertising materials produced for the business from its early beginnings as Helius until its final years as the Mas Archive. Ramon Casas, a friend of the photographer and a great exponent of Catalan art nouveau, was one of the renowned artists Mas commissioned to produce emblematic logos for the business.

The famous café Els Quatre Gats (1897-1903), located on the ground floor of Casa Martí on Carrer del Montsió and designed by Josep Puig I Cadafalch, was an important catalyst in Mas’s relationship with the artistic trends linked to Barcelona. A drawing by Ricard Opisso from 1900 is proof that Adolf Mas was a regular visitor at the café, possibly since it first opened. His familiarity with the cultural circles linked to the establishment undoubtedly allowed him to come into contact with the great figures of the time, such as Santiago Rusiñol and Ramon Casas. The reportages he produced in the company of the most important artists of his generation give a perspective on the interiors of the main studios operating at the time, from the studio of Lluís Masriera to that of Manuel Cano de Castro, and from the studio of Salvador Alarma to that of Félix Urgellés de Tovar.

The elite of early 20th century Catalan society – painters, architects, sculptors, musicians, dancers, singers, intellectuals, collectors and politicians, among others – posed in front of Mas’s camera at some point during their time in the limelight. These images were mostly unpublished portraits and allow an even more precise understanding of Mas’s position in contemporary artistic circles, while also revealing a previously unknown aspect – one that was far from the kind of documentary photography with which he is generally associated. Although he cannot be directly linked to pictorialism, his portraits were reminiscent of an aesthetic search and his use of formal devices such as blurring, contrasts in lighting, and the representation of introspective states of mind sets them apart from the structure of conventional portraiture; in this way they are similar to the artistic movement known as pictorialism which clearly influenced Mas. The interplay of light and shadow, and the use of extreme close-ups on the subjects’ faces, give the portraits a strength and intensity and in some cases a resemblance to phantasmagoric apparitions.

The first reportages by Adolf Mas were set in Barcelona, a city that from a social, cultural and urban planning perspective was undergoing a radical change. Assignments produced for illustrated magazines such as Los Deportes, Álbum Salón, Ilustració Catalana, Femina and Ilustración Artística, among others, led to the substantial growth of Mas’s photographic repository. His collaboration with the publishers Editorial López, at the time managed by Antoni López i Benturas, resulted in his reportages being circulated in the main journalistic outlets of the day. Mas began to make his way in photojournalism and was one of the first photojournalists of his generation in Catalonia.

Among his first repertoires are those of the main sporting events that took place in the early 20th century, such as the celebrations of the Spanish Gymnastics Federation (1900); the grand political events linked to the Liga Regionalista, among others; and a wide range of recreational events like the Fiesta de las Palomas, organised by the Real Sociedad Colombófila de Cataluña (1904), and the traditional Batalla de Flores (1907).

Mas also participated in the documentation of ambitious urban projects like the construction of Via Layetana, and took part in the Old Barcelona artistic competition (1908).

In 1909 his camera bore witness to the dramatic event of the Semana Trágica. In addition to his documentation of the destruction suffered by ecclesiastical heritage, there were other images related to a wide range of motifs such as his portrayal of the Compañía Barcelonesa de Electricidad, which he photographed after the building had been raided. Within the framework of his production, it is also important to note Mas’s documentation of the avant-garde infrastructures that were being implemented by a number of institutions at this time. These included social initiatives promoted by the Diputació de Barcelona and led to a turning point in welfare practices. Early 20th century Barcelona cannot be properly understood without the photographic repertoires of Adolf Mas: his wide-ranging body of work not only encompasses images of recreational, political, and religious events, but also documents Spain’s cultural heritage.

 

Perfumería Ideal and Bar Torino

Perfumería Ideal (established by Teodoro Sánchez Illá at number 642 Gran Vía de les Corts Catalanes) and bar Torino (founded at number 18 Passeig de Gràcia by Faminio Mezzalama, the representative of Martini & Rossi vermouth in Barcelona) [see photograph below] were the finalists of the first annual competition for urban buildings and businesses awarded by Barcelona City Hall in 1902, in the new category for best decorated business opened that year. Both were included in the Anuario estadístico de la ciudad de Barcelona (1903), which highlighted Perfumería Ideal’s “ostentatious richness […] boasting its grandiose construction and splendid decorations” while Bar Torino’s “flattering simplicity and its fine and aristocratic elegance […] surpass anything seen before.” Ultimately, the latter – which was the work of Ricard Capmany, Antoni Gaudí, Pere Falqués, Josep Puig I Cadafalch, Eusebi Arnau, and Ricard Urgell, among others – became the winner of the competition.

 

Photography and Press

Photography became fully integrated into the Spanish press from the 1890s, when the great illustrated magazines – such as Blanco y Negro, which stands out for its track record – began to appear. At the turn of the century, the growing demand for photographic repertoires by newspapers, magazines, and large editorial projects, which illustrated their pages with photographs, consolidated the profession of the photojournalist. It was during the first three decades of the century that Spanish photojournalism achieved a high degree of professionalism, and photographic techniques advanced considerably. Text and photography began to be regarded as an informative unicum and Noucentista reporters were faced with readers who were eager to consume eloquent and immediate images capable of relaying information while remaining clear and understandable. The binary relationship between press and photography allowed public figures to enter readers’ homes enabling their deferred participation in the most contemporary current affairs.

 

The legacy of Adolf Mas goes beyond his work as a photographer. In order to fully understand his oeuvre one must look at the photographic repository and business model he established, which was unlike any other at that time. The innovative nature of this enterprise, on which Mas spent nearly twenty years, was based on a hybrid formula offering both the sale of photographic materials and the possibility of consulting the collections on-site, following the model of a public archive. Anyone interested in consulting the photographic materials at the archives could do so in dedicated rooms by means of “graphic cards”. These were presented in the form of postcards printed directly onto photographic paper which showed an image of the subject on the front and provided basic information on the location and characteristics of the subject on the back. The system was unique in Europe and Mas took advantage of the 1925 VI Congrès International de Photographie in Paris to reveal it to an international audience.

At this point Mas’s business had already moved toward a specialisation in heritage photography. Its participation in the expedition organised by the Institut d’Estudis Catalans with the object of documenting Pyrenean heritage would be another turning point. In 1915 Adolf Mas was commissioned to compile an iconographic repertoire of Spain for what would become the 1929 Barcelona International Exhibition. The scope of the project led him to expand the number of staff photographers as his son Pelai, who had been officially working alongside his father since 1907, was no long able to cover all the business’s production requirements.

The success of the Mas Archive, which survives today as part of the repository at the Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic, must be understood as the result of the work of its founder Adolf Mas, his wife Apolonia, and their son Pelai. It is also important to highlight the work of archive staff, a team comprising apprentices, archivists, typists, photographers, officers and lab directors.

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Bar Torino' 1905

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Bar Torino
1905
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Bar Torino' 1905 (detail)

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Bar Torino (detail)
1905
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Montserrat Blanc' c. 1909

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Montserrat Blanc
c. 1909
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Palau de la Música Catalana' 1908

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Palau de la Música Catalana
1908
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Photograph for an automobile catalog. Barral Brothers Workshop' 1909

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Photograph for an automobile catalog. Barral Brothers Workshop
1909
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'María Barrientos. Opera "Carmen"' 1915

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
María Barrientos. Opera “Carmen”
1915
© MAE-Institut del Teatre

 

 

María Alejandra Barrientos Llopis (4 March 1884 – 8 August 1946) was a Spanish opera singer, a light coloratura soprano.

Barrientos was born in Barcelona on 4 March 1884. She received a thorough musical education (piano and violin) at the Municipal Conservatory of Barcelona, before turning to vocal studies with Francisco Bonet. She made her debut at the Teatro Novedades in Barcelona, as Ines in L’Africaine, on March 10, 1898, aged only 15, quickly followed by the role of Marguerite de Valois in Les Huguenots.

She was immediately invited to all the major opera houses of Europe, singing in Italy, Germany, England, France, to great acclaim. It is however in South America, especially at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, that she enjoyed her greatest triumphs. Her career was temporarily interrupted in 1907 by her marriage and the birth of a son, the union did not prove a happy one and she returned to the stage in 1909.

Barrientos made her Metropolitan Opera debut on January 31, 1916, in the title role of Lucia di Lammermoor with Giovanni Martinelli as Edgardo, Pasquale Amato as Enrico, and Gaetano Bavagnoli conducting. She remained committed to that house through 1920 where her other roles included Adina in L’elisir d’amore, Amina in La sonnambula, Elvira in I puritani, Gilda in Rigoletto, Rosina in The Barber of Seville, and the title roles in Lakmé and Mireille. She notably portrayed The Queen of Shemakha in Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel for the opera’s United States premiere on March 6, 1918. Her Met career came to an end on May 1, 1920 with a tour performance of L’elisir d’amore opposite Enrico Caruso.

Barrientos continued appearing on stage in standard coloratura roles until 1924. She then restricted herself to recitals, and became an admired interpreter of French and Spanish songs.

Barrientos was a singer with a voice of almost instrumental limpidity. She made a valuable set of recordings for Fonotipia Records and Columbia Records. She retired to the south-west of France, where she became an enthusiastic bridge player. She died at Ciboure on 8 August 1946.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Tórtola Valencia. The Dance "La Bayadère"' 1914

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Tórtola Valencia. The Dance “La Bayadère”
1914
© MAE-Institut del Teatre

 

 

Carmen Tórtola Valencia

Carmen Tórtola Valencia (June 18, 1882 – February 13, 1955) was a Spanish early modern dancer, choreographer, costume designer, and painter, who generally performed barefoot. Tórtola Valencia is said to have been the inspiration for Rubén Darío’s poem, La bailarina de los pies desnudos (“The Barefoot Dancer”).

 

Biography

Born in Seville to a Catalan father (Florenç Tórtola Ferrer, d. 1891) and Andalusian mother (Georgina Valencia Valenzuela, d. 1894), she was three years old when her family emigrated to London. In his book Tortola Valencia and Her Times (1982), Odelot Sobrac, one of her early biographers, said Tórtola Valencia developed a style that expressed emotion through movement and that she was inspired by Isadora Duncan. A member of Generación del 13, her costumes are part of the collection of Centre de Documentació i Museu de les Arts Escèniques. Her Spanish modernismo style enabled a career as a solo concert dance artist who performed classic, Oriental, and Spanish pieces. She made her debut at the Gaiety Theatre in London (1908), appearing at the Berlin Wintergarten theatre and the Folies Bergère of Paris in the same year. She performed in Nuremberg and London in 1909. One of the people she taught was the Anglo-Indian dancer Olive Craddock aka Roshanara. In 1911, she made her Spanish debut at the Romea Theatre of Madrid. She was at the Ateneo de Madrid in 1913.

 

The feminist

Tórtola Valencia was also a “pioneer Spanish feminist of the 20th century”. Being gay and having leftist ideas, Tórtola Valencia was jailed at the end of the Spanish Civil War. In 1928, she met Magret Angeles-Vila and they were inseparable thereafter. She danced for the last time in 1930 in Quito. She began painting in Barcelona where she died in 1955 and is buried at Poblenou Cemetery.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

La Bayadère

La Bayadère (“the temple dancer”) (ru. «Баядерка», Bayaderka) is a ballet, originally staged in four acts and seven tableaux by French choreographer Marius Petipa to the music of Ludwig Minkus. The ballet was staged especially for the benefit performance of the Russian Prima ballerina Ekaterina Vazem, who created the principal role of Nikiya. La Bayadère was first presented by the Imperial Ballet at the Imperial Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, on 4 February [O.S. 23 January] 1877. From the first performance the ballet was universally hailed by contemporary critics as one of the choreographer Petipa’s supreme masterpieces, particularly the scene from the ballet known as The Kingdom of the Shades, which became one of the most celebrated pieces in all of classical ballet. By the turn-of-the 20th century, The Kingdom of the Shades scene was regularly extracted from the full-length work as an independent showpiece, and it has remained so to the present day.

Nearly all modern versions of La Bayadère are derived from the Kirov Ballet’s production of 1941, which was a severely redacted edition staged by Vakhtang Chabukiani and Vladimir Ponomarev in Leningrad in 1941. Natalia Makarova’s 1980 production of La Bayadère for American Ballet Theatre was the first full-length production to find a permanent place in the repertories of western ballet troupes, having been staged by several theatres throughout the world. Makarova’s version is itself derived from Chabukiani and Ponomarev’s 1941 redaction for the Mariinsky Theatre.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Carl Van Vechten (American, 1880-1964) '(Portrait of Adolfo Mas, Barcelona)' June 17, 1935

 

Carl Van Vechten (American, 1880-1964)
(Portrait of Adolfo Mas, Barcelona)
June 17, 1935
Gelatin silver print
Library of Congress

 

Jacob Riis (Danish-American, 1849-1914) 'Bandit's Roost at 59½ Mulberry Street' 1888

 

Jacob Riis (1849-1914)
Bandits’ Roost, 59 1/2 Mulberry Street
1888
Gelatin silver print, printed 1958
Museum of Modern Art
Public domain

 

 

Jacob August Riis (May 3, 1849 – May 26, 1914) was a Danish-American social reformer, “muckraking” journalist and social documentary photographer. He contributed significantly to the cause of urban reform in America at the turn of the twentieth century. He is known for using his photographic and journalistic talents to help the impoverished in New York City; those impoverished New Yorkers were the subject of most of his prolific writings and photography. He endorsed the implementation of “model tenements” in New York with the help of humanitarian Lawrence Veiller. Additionally, as one of the most famous proponents of the newly practicable casual photography, he is considered one of the fathers of photography due to his very early adoption of flash in photography.

While living in New York, Riis experienced poverty and became a police reporter writing about the quality of life in the slums. He attempted to alleviate the bad living conditions of poor people by exposing their living conditions to the middle and upper classes.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Alfred Bool (British, 1844-1926) and John Bool (British, 1850-1933) 'The entrance to the Oxford Arms' 1875

 

Alfred Bool (British, 1844-1926) and John Bool (British, 1850-1933)
The entrance to the Oxford Arms
1875
Carbon print
Yale Center for British Art

 

 

The first photograph released by the Society for Photographing Relics of Old London.

 

Alfred and John Bool were a pair of British brothers who photographed 19th century London. Alfred Henry Bool (1844-1926) and John James Bool (1850-1933) were both born in London. They opened a photo studio together in Pimlico in the 1860s, and John Bool worked there until 1918.

In 1875 the brothers were hired by Alfred Marks, the director of the Society for Photographing Relics of Old London, and would go on to photograph historic buildings including the Oxford Arms Inn, Lincoln’s Inn, the Smithfield area, Temple Bar, Gray’s Inn, St. Bartholomew’s and the Cloth Fair. The album prints were made by the brothers in the company of Henry Dixon.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

[Alfred] Marks was well-positioned for such nostalgia. He was an antiquarian scholar, and his father had been a coach builder, which may explain his particular attachment to the Oxford Arms. When he heard the building was to be demolished, Marks raised money from a few friends. He hired Alfred and John Bool, a father-son photography team best known for their landscapes, to take photos of the Arms. He then started looking for others who felt the same way he did, and might want to buy the work. “Should any readers … interested in London antiquities desire to join the subscription, I shall be happy to hear from them,” he announced in the London Times.

The Society launched “one of the first efforts” to use photography to document endangered buildings, says Foote. It was also special in that its photos were meant to be collected, like fine art. All were printed in carbon – an expensive process – to ensure they wouldn’t fade.

The first photograph set, released in 1875, consisted of six different views of the Oxford Arms, including the entrance, the yard, and the galleries. The second, which came a year later, focused on old houses and inns near Wynch Street and Drury Lane. In 1878, Marks doubled his production speed, going from six photos per year to 12. Three years later, he began writing up short texts about the buildings, printing them out, and issuing them to subscribers along with the photographs.

“The project became much bigger than he originally intended,” says Chitra Ramalingam, the Assistant Curator of Photography at the Yale Center for British Art, which exhibited SPROL’s photographs in 2016. Still, Marks ran the show, choosing which buildings to focus on, and particular details to highlight. (Despite its name, there’s no evidence the Society ever met up in real life, or had any true members besides Marks.) …

Marks gave such scrupulous instructions to the Bools – as well as to Henry and Thomas James Dixon, who he hired to replace them in 1879 – that each photograph was effectively “a collaboration between Marks and the photographer,” says Ramalingam. …

Marks disbanded his Society in 1886, 11 years after he’d started it. By this point, he had released 120 photographs, in 12 sets, and had enjoyed a certain amount of commercial success, selling over 100 subscriptions. “It is not suggested that the subject has been exhausted,” he wrote at the time, “but it is hoped that the work may be regarded as fairly complete within the lines at first marked out.”

Cara Giaimo. “The Victorian Photographic Society That Tried to Preserve ‘Old London’,” on the Atlas Obscura website June 13, 2018 [Online] Cited 23/04/2022

 

Further photographs

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Carrer de l'Arc de Sant Francesc' (Street of the Arch of St. Francis) Before 1911

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Carrer de l’Arc de Sant Francesc (Street of the Arch of St. Francis)
Before 1911
Gelatin silver print
10.5 x 8cm
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic
Public domain

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Carrer Tarascó' (Tarascó Street) Before 1911

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Carrer Tarascó (Tarascó Street)
Before 1911
Gelatin silver print
12 x 5.6cm
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic
Public domain

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Entrades als carrers Graciamat i Sant Crist de la Tapineria' Before 1911

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Entrades als carrers Graciamat i Sant Crist de la Tapineria
Before 1911
Gelatin silver print
11.5 x 8.1 cm
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic
Public domain

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Carrer del Sant Crist de l'Argenteria des del carrer Argenteria' (Street of the Sant Crist de l'Argenteria from Argenteria street) Before 1911

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Carrer del Sant Crist de l’Argenteria des del carrer Argenteria
(Street of the Sant Crist de l’Argenteria from Argenteria street)
Before 1911
Gelatin silver print
16.1 x 8.5cm
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic
Public domain

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Pati de la casa núm. 25 del carrer dels Mercaders' (Patio of the house no. 25 of the Street of the Merchants) Before 1911

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Pati de la casa núm. 25 del carrer dels Mercaders
(Patio of house no. 25 of the Street of the Merchants)
Before 1911
Gelatin silver print
9.9 x 8.6cm
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic
Public domain

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Interior del pati de la casa núm. 6 de la Riera de Sant Joan' (Interior of the patio of house no. 6 of the Riera of Saint Joan) Before 1911

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Interior del pati de la casa núm. 6 de la Riera de Sant Joan
(Interior of the patio of house no. 6 of the Riera of Saint Joan)
Before 1911
Gelatin silver print
11.7 x 8.3cm
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic
Public domain

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Plaça Nova (plaça de l'Àngel) i entrades als carrers de la Princesa i de la Bòria' (Nova Square (Square of the Angel) with the entrance to the Street of the Princess and the Boria) Before 1911

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Plaça Nova (plaça de l’Àngel) i entrades als carrers de la Princesa i de la Bòria
(Nova Square (Square of the Angel) with the entrance to the Street of the Princess and the Boria)
Before 1911
Gelatin silver print
11.7 x 8.3cm
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic
Public domain

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Sense títol (Plaça en obres)' (Untitled (Place under construction)) About 1908-1911

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Sense títol (Plaça en obres) (Untitled (Place under construction))
About 1908-1911
Gelatin silver print
17.3 x 12.2cm
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic
Public domain

 

The banner says “the bakery moves to the same street no. 27”

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Untitled (Street)' Before 1911

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Untitled (Street)
Before 1911
Gelatin silver print
17.3 x 12.1cm
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic
Public domain

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936) 'Santa Maria del Mar' Nd

 

Adolf Mas (Spanish, 1861-1936)
Santa Maria del Mar
Nd
Albumen print
28 x 21cm
© Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic
Public domain

 

 

FUNDACIÓN MAPFRE – KBr Photography Center
Avenida Litoral, 30 – 08005 Barcelona
Phone: +34 93 272 31 80

Opening hours:
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Tuesday to Sundays (and holidays): 11am – 8pm

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04
Oct
15

Exhibition: ‘Victorian London in Photographs 1839 to 1901’ at the London Metropolitan Archives

Exhibition dates: 5th May – 29th October 2015

 

 

Henry Flather. 'Building the Metropolitan Railway' 1862

 

Henry Flather (British)
Building the Metropolitan Railway
1862
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

This photograph by Henry Flather shows workers at Baker Street as they construct London’s first Tube line.

 

 

This is a fascinating exhibition about the history of London portrayed through Victorian era photographs.

The best photographs in the posting are by John Thomson. The composition of these images is exemplary with their eloquent use of light and low depth of field. The seemingly nonchalant but obviously staged positioning of the figures is coupled with superb rendition of light in photographs such as Old Furniture, London Nomades and Recruiting Sergeants At Westminster (all 1877, below).

The details are intriguing, such as shooting contre-jour or into the light in Recruiting Sergeants At Westminster with one of the soldiers and the two street lads in the distance staring directly at the camera. This seems to be a technique of Thomson’s, for there is always one person in his intimate group photographs staring straight at the camera, which in this era is unusual in itself. The women on the steps of the Romany caravan stares straight at the camera, one of the two children framed in the doorway behind slightly blurred, telling us the length of the exposure.

Then we have the actual characters themselves. With his tall hat and what seems to be scars around his mouth, the man centre stage in The Cheap Fish Of St. Giles’s (1877, below) reminds me of that nasty character Bill Sikes out of Charles Dicken’s immortal Oliver Twist (1837-39). And the poverty stricken from the bottom of the barrel… the destitute women and baby in The “Crawlers” – Portrait of a destitute woman with an infant (1877, below). “The abject misery into which they are plunged is not always self sought and merited; but is, as often, the result of unfortunate circumstances and accident.” It must have been so tough in that era to survive every day in London. See Matthew Beaumont. Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London, Chaucer to Dickens. London and New York: Verso, 2015.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the London Metropolitan Archives for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Philip Henry Delamotte. 'Setting up the Colossi of Rameses the Great' 1854

 

Philip Henry Delamotte (British, 1821-1889)
Setting up the Colossi of Rameses the Great, The Crystal Palace
1854
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

 

Philip Henry Delamotte was commissioned to record the disassembly of the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park in 1852, and its reconstruction and expansion at Sydenham, a project finished in 1854. This image, entitled Setting up the Colossi of Rameses the Great, is part of an incredible set of photographs which record a large scale project in fascinating detail.

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Opening ceremony of the Blackwall Tunnel' 1897

 

Anonymous photographer
Opening ceremony of the Blackwall Tunnel
1897
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

 

This image shows the opening ceremony of the Blackwall Tunnel. The tunnel was finally opened by the then Prince of Wales (Edward VII) in 1897, having been originally proposed in the 1880’s. It was constructed using a ‘tunnel shield’ to create the tunnel and remove debris. A major engineering project of the period, the tunnel was created to improve commerce and trade in the East End by providing a Thames crossing for a mixture of foot, cycle, horse-drawn and vehicular traffic.

 

Anonymous photographer. 'St Paul's Cathedral' c. 1855

 

Anonymous photographer
St Paul’s Cathedral
c. 1855
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

 

This photograph was taken from Southwark Bridge by an anonymous photographer. The foreground shows London’s lost wharf buildings, including Iron Wharf and Bull Wharf.

 

George Washington Wilson and Charles Wilson (photographers) Marion & Co (publishers) 'Piccadilly, London' 1890

 

George Washington Wilson (Scottish, 1823-1893) and Charles Wilson (photographers)
Marion & Co
(publishers)
Piccadilly, London
1890
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

 

The name derives from ‘picadil’, a fashionable stiff collar of the early seventeenth century. The Aberdeen photographers George Washington Wilson and his son Charles specialised in high quality topographical views. This image is believed to be the work of the Wilsons, many of which were published by the firm of Marion & Co. The distinctive viewpoint is several feet above the carriageway. The photographers and their large format camera were driven round London in a covered wagon hired from Pickfords removals firm. This method allowed them to take candid photographs of streets and people.

 

 

Life in Victorian London Exposed

The arrival of photography in London in 1839 would change the way people saw their city, and each other, forever. Quite suddenly it was possible to see life captured ‘in the flesh’, rather than as an artist’s sketch or painting. The new medium was embraced as a means of recording the progress of grand engineering projects and revealing the shocking poverty that haunted the capital’s poorer districts.

The collections at London Metropolitan Archives contain an extraordinary range of photographs from Queen Victoria’s reign, recording the city and its people in stunning detail. Whether in carefully posed studio portraits or images of people gathered in the street, it seems that almost everyone wanted to be recorded on camera. This exhibition delves into these collections to present some of most striking images of the era; from the first known photograph of London to the opening of Blackwall Tunnel at the end of the century, taking in the Crystal Palace, the first Tube line and the harsh realities of life on the city’s streets. This free exhibition runs from Tuesday 5th May to Thursday 8th October at London Metropolitan Archives.

Images on display will include photographs from these astonishing Victorian collections:

 

Street Life in London

The industrial and social developments of the nineteenth century and their effect on the city and by extension the poor in Britain were subjects of interest and detailed study in the Victorian period. Street Life in London by Adolphe Smith and John Thomson was an early use of photography as a medium to expose the lives of London’s poor and dispossessed in the late 1870’s. (More images from the book can be found on the LSE Digital Library website)

 

Preserving the Disappearing City

In March 1875 a letter appeared in The Times calling attention to the immanent demolitions affecting The Oxford Arms, a lovely but ramshackle seventeenth century coaching inn near to the Old Bailey. A response came a few days later, in the same column, announcing that a photographic record would be made. The group of historians and photographers responsible for this initiative called themselves Society for Photographing Relics of Old London. Between 1875 and 1886 they published 120 beautifully composed photographs of buildings. These images of a City swept away by the new Victorian world provide a surprising and beautiful record of a long forgotten London.

 

The Crystal Palace

Constructed for The Great Exhibition of 1851 in Hyde Park, the Crystal Palace remains an enduring and enticing ‘lost’ icon of Victorian London. The building was re-erected in Sydenham in 1852 and photographer Philip Henry Delamotte was engaged to record the full process, creating 160 images which begin with the first girder going into the ground and end with Victoria and Albert’s appearance at the opening ceremony. The many fabulous highlights include Roman and Egyptian courts, a cast of the Sphinx, the dinosaurs of Crystal Palace Park and an incredible recreation of the Colossi of Aboo Simbel.

 

H. L. Lawrence. 'Portrait of a woman' Nd

 

H. L. Lawrence
Portrait of a woman
Nd
Cabinet card
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

 

Replacing the smaller carte de visite in the 1870’s, cabinet cards were a popular way to share and collect images of friends and acquaintances.

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Portrait of a boy, The Ragged School' c. 1860

 

Anonymous photographer
Portrait of a boy, The Ragged School
c. 1860
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

 

This photograph is taken from a case book of the Ragged School Union which provides biographical information and images of a group of boys who were prepared for emigration to Canada.

 

John Thomson (publisher). 'Portrait of a destitute woman with an infant' 1877

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
The “Crawlers” – Portrait of a destitute woman with an infant
1877
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

 

This image was published in 1877 by John Thomson in Street Life in London, alongside stories written by Adolphe Smith.

“Some of these crawlers are not, however, so devoid of energy as we might at first be led to infer. A few days’ good lodging and good food might operate a marvellous transformation. The abject misery into which they are plunged is not always self sought and merited; but is, as often, the result of unfortunate circumstances and accident. The crawler, for instance, whose portrait is now before the reader, is the widow of a tailor who died some ten years ago. She had been living with her son-in-law, a marble stone-polisher by trade, who is now in difficulties through ill-health. It appears, however, that, at best, “he never cared much for his work,” and innumerable quarrels ensued between him, his wife, his mother-in-law, and his brother-in-law, a youth of fifteen. At last, after many years of wrangling, the mother, finding that her presence aggravated her daughter’s troubles, left this uncomfortable home, and with her young son descended penniless into the street. From that day she fell lower and lower, and now takes her seat among the crawlers of the district.”

 

The industrial and social developments of the 19th century and their effect on the city and by extension the poor in Britain were subjects of interest and detailed study in the Victorian period. Street Life in London by Adolphe Smith and John Thomson is a good example of this and in particular, its use of early photographic processes.

Adolphe Smith was an experienced journalist connected to social reform movements. While John Thomson was a photographer who had spent considerable time in the Far East, especially China, and central to his work was the photography of streets and individuals at work. Produced in 12 monthly issues, starting in February 1877, each issue had three stories accompanied by a photograph. Most of the text was written by Smith, although two are attributed to Thomson – London Nomades and Street Floods in Lambeth. The images were staged as tableau rather than being spontaneous street scenes and the relatively new process – Woodburytype – was used to reproduce the images consistently in large numbers for the publication.

Text from the London Metropolitan Archives Facebook page

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Portrait of actor William Terriss' late 19th century

 

Anonymous photographer
Theatre magazine (producer)
Portrait of actor William Terriss
late 19th century
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

 

This is a typical example of the portraits of performers produced by the Theatre magazine between 1878 and 1897. Known for heroic roles such as Robin Hood, Terriss was murdered outside the Adelphi Theatre in 1897.

 

Henry Dixon. 'The Oxford Arms Coaching Inn' 1875

 

Henry Dixon (British, 1820-1893)
The Oxford Arms Coaching Inn
1875
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

 

Shot by Henry Dixon as part of the ‘Society for Photographing Relics of Old London’ project to record heritage on the verge of destruction as Victorian London re-invented itself. Amongst the subjects recorded were the galleried coaching inns which had existed in some form since the time of Chaucer and which were swept away by the coming of the railways. Most ended their days as slum dwellings before being demolished. Only one, the George, now survives.

 

John Thomson. 'Old Furniture' 1877

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
Old Furniture
1877
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

 

This image was published in 1877 by John Thomson in Street Life in London, alongside stories written by Adolphe Smith.

“At the corner of Church Lane, Holborn, there was a second-hand furniture dealer, whose business was a cross between that of a shop and a street stall. The dealer was never satisfied unless the weather allowed him to disgorge nearly the whole of his stock into the middle of the street, a method which alone secured the approval and custom of his neighbours. As a matter of fact, the inhabitants of Church Lane were nearly all what I may term “street folks” – living, buying, selling, transacting all their business in the open street. It was a celebrated resort for tramps and costers of every description, men and women who hawk during the day and evening the flowers, fruits and vegetables they buy in the morning at Covent Garden. When, however, the question of improving this district was first broached, Church Lane stood condemned as an unwholesome over-crowded, thoroughfare, and the houses on either side are now almost entirely destroyed, and the inhabitants have been compelled to migrate to other more distant and less convenient parts of the metropolis.”

 

John Thomson. 'Recruiting Sergeants At Westminster' 1877

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
Recruiting Sergeants At Westminster
1877
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

 

This image was published in 1877 by John Thomson in Street Life in London, alongside stories written by Adolphe Smith.

“Recruiting in London is almost exclusively circumscribed to the district stretching between the St. George’s Barracks, Trafalgar Square, and Westminster Abbey. Throughout London it is known that all information concerning service in the army can be obtained in this quarter, and intending recruits troop down to this neighbourhood in shoals, converging, as the culminating point of their peregrinations, towards the celebrated public-house at the corner of King Street and Bridge Street. It is under the inappropriate and pacific sign-board of the ‘Mitre and Dove’ that veteran men of war meet and cajole young aspirants to military honours. Here may be seen every day representatives of our picked regiments. […]

“The most prominent figure in the accompanying photograph, standing with his back to the Abbey, and nearest to the kerb stone, is that of Sergeant Ison, who is always looked upon with more than ordinary curiosity as the representative of the 6th Dragoon Guards, or Carbineers – a regiment which of late has been chiefly distinguished for having included in its ranks no less a person than Sir Roger Tichborne himself! To the Carbineer’s right we have the representatives of two heavy regiments, Sergeant Titswell, of the 5th Dragoon Guards, and Sergeant Badcock, of the 2nd Dragoons, or Scots Greys; the latter is leaning against the corner of the public-house. Close to him may be recognized the features of Sergeant Bilton, of the Royal Engineers, while Sergeant Minett, of the 14th Hussars, turns his head towards Sergeant McGilney, of the 6th Dragoons, or Enniskillen, whose stalwart frame occupies the foreground. This group would not, however, have been complete without giving a glimpse at Mr. Cox, the policeman, to whose discretion and pacific interference may be attributed the order which is generally preserved even under the most trying circumstances at the ‘Mitre and Dove.'”

 

John Thomson. 'The Cheap Fish Of St. Giles's' 1877

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
The Cheap Fish Of St. Giles’s
1877
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

 

A street market in the notorious St Giles in the Fields area, noted as one of the worst slums in Britain during the Victorian period, 1877. This image was published in 1877 by John Thomson in ‘Street Life in London’, alongside stories written by Adolphe Smith.

This image was published in 1877 by John Thomson in Street Life in London, alongside stories written by Adolphe Smith.

“Awaiting the moment when the costermonger is able to procure a barrow of his own he must pay eighteen pence per week for the cost of hiring. Then he must beware of the police, who have a knack of confiscating these barrows, on the pretext that they obstruct the thoroughfare and of placing them in what is termed the Green Yard, where no less than a shilling per day is charged for the room the barrow is supposed to occupy. At the same time, its owner will probably be fined from half a crown to ten shillings so that altogether it is much safer to secure a good place in a crowded street market. In this respect, Joseph Carney, the costermonger, whose portrait is before the reader, has been most fortunate. He stands regularly in the street market that stretches between Seven Dials and what is called Five Dials, making his pitch by a well-known newsagent’s, whose shop serves as a landmark. Like the majority of his class, he does not always sell fish, but only when the wind is propitious and it can be bought cheaply. On the day when the photograph was taken, he had succeeded in buying a barrel of five hundred fresh herrings for twenty five shillings. Out of these he selected about two hundred of the largest fish, which he sold at a penny each, while he disposed of the smaller herrings at a halfpenny.

“Trade was brisk at that moment, though the fish is sometimes much cheaper. Indeed, I have seen fresh herrings sold at five a penny; and this is all the more fortunate, as notwithstanding the small cost, they are, with the exception of good salmon, about the most nutritious fish in the market.”

 

John Thomson. 'London Nomades' 1877

 

John Thomson (Scottish, 1837-1921)
London Nomades
1877
© City of London: London Metropolitan Archives

 

 

This image was published in 1877 by John Thomson in Street Life in London, alongside stories written by Adolphe Smith.

“The class of Nomades with which I propose to deal makes some show of industry. These people attend fairs, markets, and hawk cheap ornaments or useful wares from door to door. At certain seasons this class ‘works’ regular wards, or sections of the city and suburbs. At other seasons its members migrate to the provinces, to engage in harvesting, hop-picking, or to attend fairs, where they figure as owners of ‘Puff and Darts’, ‘Spin ’em rounds’, and other games. […]

“The accompanying photograph, taken on a piece of vacant land at Battersea, represents a friendly group gathered around the caravan of William Hampton, a man who enjoys the reputation among his fellows, of being ‘a fair-spoken, honest gentleman’. Nor has subsequent intercourse with the gentleman in question led me to suppose that his character has been unduly overrated. […]

“He honestly owned his restless love of a roving life, and his inability to settle in any fixed spot. He also held that the progress of education was one of the most dangerous symptoms of the times, and spoke in a tone of deep regret of the manner in which decent children were forced now-a-days to go to school. ‘Edication, sir! Why what do I want with edication? Edication to them what has it makes them wusser. They knows tricks what don’t b’long to the nat’ral gent. That’s my ‘pinion. They knows a sight too much, they do! No offence, sir. There’s good gents and kind ‘arted scholards, no doubt. But when a man is bad, and God knows most of us aint wery good, it makes him wuss. Any chaps of my acquaintance what knows how to write and count proper aint much to be trusted at a bargain.’ […]

“The dealer in hawkers’ wares in Kent Street, tells me that when in the country the wanderers ‘live wonderful hard, almost starve, unless food comes cheap. Their women carrying about baskets of cheap and tempting things, get along of the servants at gentry’s houses, and come in for wonderful scraps. But most of them, when they get flush of money, have a regular go, and drink for weeks; then after that they are all for saving… They have suffered severely lately from colds, small pox, and other diseases, but in spite of bad times, they still continue buying cheap, selling dear, and gambling fiercely.’ […]

“Declining an invitation to ‘come and see them at dominoes in a public over the way’, I hastened to note down as fast as possible the information received word for word in the original language in which it was delivered, believing that this unvarnished story would at least be more characteristic and true to life.”

 

Unknown photographer. 'Trafalgar Square' c. 1867

 

Unknown photographer
Trafalgar Square
c. 1867
© City of London : London Metropolitan Archives

 

 

The first proposal for a square on the site of the former King’s Mews was drawn up by John Nash. It was part of King George IV’s extravagant vision for the west end curtailed by his death in 1830. Trafalgar Square was completed between 1840 and 1845 by Sir Charles Barry. There had been proposals to erect a monument to Horatio Nelson since his death at Trafalgar in 1805 but it was 1838 before a committee was formed to raise funds and consider proposals. William Railton’s design was chosen from dozens of entrants and his impressive Devonshire granite column with its statue of Nelson by E. H. Baily was erected in 1839-43. It was already attracting photographers before the scaffolding was dismantled. The four lions at the base of the column were originally to be in stone rather than bronze but it was 1857 before a commission was given to the artist Sir Edwin Landseer (1802-1873). This photograph shows two of the lions when newly positioned some ten years later.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Construction of Tower Bridge' 1892

 

Unknown photographer
Construction of Tower Bridge
1892
© City of London : London Metropolitan Archives

 

 

London Bridge was the only crossing over the river Thames in London until the eighteenth century, after which a number of bridges and tunnels were constructed. Perhaps the most famous of these is Tower Bridge. There were a number of designs for different types of bridges but the City of London Corporation decided on a bascule (French for see-saw) design. This remarkable anonymous photograph was taken two years before the bridge opened.

 

 

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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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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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