Léonard Misonne - B.K.W. Gallery
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Léonard Misonne


Master of the Light


September 27th, 2013 – November 10th, 2013


Born in Gilly, Charleroi in 1870, Léonard Misonne is a reference in the Belgian artistic stage. Grown up in a prosperous family, he studied mining engineering, although he has never practised it. His work is historically linked to the Pictorialist Movement, an international photography school created by amateurs. Their ideas drove the Pictorialism movement to an international recognition of its members and their works.


Pictorialism and Léonard Misonne had an umbilical bond: Pictorialism brought into light Léonard Misonne and he propelled Pictorialism to an acknowledged art movement.


An idea is a product of its time


The decline of liberalism and arising of socialism, the industrial revolution and diffusion of the photographic processes provoked deep aesthetic debates to artists and pushed them into a conclusion where they defended that photography should be designated among the fine arts. The Belgian Association of Photography, due to its structure, played a major role in the development of photography in Belgium, which Léonard Misonne joined in 1897.


Leaving their ateliers behind, photographers turned themselves into landscape observation. Deeply involved in this process, they moved from a definite objects approach to an emotional one, seeing nature as shapes, lines, masses and textures. In this sequence, photographers have focused on how composition, distribution of light and shade affect the way a painting or a picture is perceived.


It is the first time that a subjective relationship arises between the photographer and the reality he sees.

“If I were asked what I have learned during my forty years as a photographer, I should reply – the most important thing I have learned is to observe the beautiful effects of atmosphere and light”.


Technically, Pictorialists faced challenges: they could not select from the landscape the objects they wished to integrate in their composition, whilst they were confined to the moment of the snapshot; therefore, the prevailing condition of the light and the weather conditions needed to be the right ones. Furthermore, they needed to have a negative that would have the necessary qualities to produce a good print. And finally, the print must reproduce the craved qualities that inspired them. Léonard Misonne used different manipulated processes that became more complex with time. Until 1910-15, Misonne worked with Bromide and Fresson Process, moving to the use of Bromoil, which he used until 1930-35. As from 1935, he developed a process which combines both techniques, named Mediobrome. Known for his bucolic and timeless style, Léonard Misonne is a Pictorialist master often referred as the “Corot of Photography”.


Léonard Misonne work is fundamental to understand the link between tradition and modernity and how it ensured a delicate transition.