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Photographic representations of Brussels at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries: from documentation to artistic expression

Les représentations photographiques de Bruxelles au tournant des 19e et 20e siècles : de la documentation à l’expression artistique
Fotografische voorstellingen van Brussel rond de vorige eeuwwisseling (19e-20e eeuw): van documentatie tot artistieke expressie
Danielle Leenaerts
Traduction de Jane Corrigan
Cet article est une traduction de :
Les représentations photographiques de Bruxelles au tournant des 19e et 20e siècles : de la documentation à l’expression artistique [fr]
Autre(s) traduction(s) de cet article :
Fotografische voorstellingen van Brussel rond de vorige eeuwwisseling (19e-20e eeuw): van documentatie tot artistieke expressie [nl]

Résumés

Les années 1880 à 1900 ont été déterminantes à la fois pour l’urbanisme bruxellois et pour la reconnaissance artistique de la photographie. La politique de grands chantiers menée par Léopold II va s’avérer essentielle à la définition de l’identité urbaine bruxelloise. Dans le même temps, la photographie voit le statut de ses praticiens redéfini. Aux photographes pionniers de la période précédente, va succéder une génération d’amateurs – au sens noble du terme – qui vont défendre l’autonomie de ce qu’ils considèrent comme un art à part entière. Rejoignant un mouvement de fond à l’échelle internationale, apparu au milieu des années 1880 sous l’appellation de « Pictorialisme », ils tendent à prendre modèle sur la peinture et à privilégier des sujets atemporels. La relation entre la ville et sa représentation photographique s’en trouve modifiée, celle-ci se voyant davantage appréhendée en tant que paysage, y compris péri-urbain. Les points de vue personnels sur le paysage urbain se multiplient, encouragés par les cercles de photographie d’art, fédérés par l’Association belge de Photographie.

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Introduction

  • 1 The question of the representation of Brussels in photographic art was the subject of the following (...)
  • 2 The publication by Steven JOSEPH and Christian SPAPENS, Photographie et mutations urbaines à Bruxel (...)
  • 3 For more information on this aspect of the reign of Léopold II, see: Liane RANIERI, Léopold II urba (...)
  • 4 The Belgian Photography Association was formed in 1874, gathering professional and amateur photogra (...)

1The turn of the 19th and 20th centuries – which we shall consider to be between the years 1880 and 1900 – was a determining moment for urbanism in Brussels as well as for the recognition of photography as an art form. This technical representation emerged at the end of the 1830s, when Brussels became the Belgian capital. Half a century later, both the city and photography entered a new phase in their development and their dialogue1. Following the modernisation policy led by Jules Anspach2, Brussels inaugurated a series of big work sites during the reign of King Leopold II – who was referred to as the “builder king”3 – which were the subject of debate and opposition, such as in the case of the development of Mont des Arts or the North-South Junction. These works proved to be essential in the definition of the Brussels urban identity. At the same time, the status of photographers was redefined. The pioneering photographers from the previous period – a large part of whom had a documentary conception of photography – were followed by a generation of photography lovers who defended the autonomy of what they considered to be an art form in itself. As part of a fundamental international movement referred to as “Pictorialism” which emerged in the mid 1880s, they modelled their work after painting and favoured timeless subjects. The relationship between the city and its photographic representation was modified, and was seen more as a landscape, including a periurban one. The documentary status which was given as a priority to photography was gradually replaced by the creative and artistic ambitions of those who viewed it above all as a means of expression. The personal points of view of the city therefore multiplied and the subjective views of Brussels were encouraged by the artistic photography circles united within the Belgian Photography Association.4

  • 5 This perception may be understood with respect to the continuous development of the suburbs of Brus (...)

2While professional photographers continued to produce essentially descriptive imagery, artistic photographers tended to favour a more distanced representation. The printing methods of Pictorialists call to mind the manual arts, while the urban motif is distanced, either due to the representation method or to the preference of some for the green areas on the outskirts of Brussels. They appeared as the symptoms of an opposition between intact and lasting nature and the transient urban setting.5 We propose to examine these contradictions by means of a series of images provided as examples, in the light of a contextualisation of the photographic practices of this period.

1. The wharves in the city centre. The point of view of the professional photographer compared with that of the amateur

3Among the professional photographers who were active in Brussels at the end of the 19th century – whose activity was mainly centred on portrait photography – the Géruzet brothers occupied an important place. The two eldest sons of Jules Géruzet – Albert (1842‑1890) and Alfred (1845‑1903) – took over the studio of their father, a famous portrait photographer from Brussels who died in 1874. The Géruzet brothers essentially continued the production of business card portraits, while playing a key role in the field of photography in Belgium. Alfred Géruzet was one of the founding members of the Belgian Photography Association and was the general secretary between 1879 and 1884. Albert joined his brother in 1875 in the Brussels branch of the association, which he participated in until 1890.

4A series made in 1882 illustrates their interest in a specific work site in the city centre: the new Marché aux Poissons (fig. 1). Following the sanitisation works on the Senne, the fish market was temporarily moved to the central food market, until a better location was ready. The central food market was part of the works to fill the wharves of the inland port of Brussels. Among these, the Bassin des Marchands – located between Saint Catherine church and around the Rue du Peuplier – was designated by the public authorities. The area of this site was big enough for the creation of the new market infrastructure, without requiring any expropriation. This photograph by the Géruzet brothers shows the work site with the foundations of the future Marché aux Poissons. Taken from a diagonal and slightly raised perspective, it shows onlookers and passers-by on the old quays, which had not yet been converted into roads. The closing of the space by Saint Catherine church, which stands out in the blurred background, gives an idea of the former configuration of the wharf. The first part of the market was completed only one year after this photograph was taken. This site experienced many more misadventures, and it was not until 1910 that the Bassin des Marchands was filled entirely. The Marché aux Poissons – which had gradually become obsolete – was destroyed in 1955 and was replaced by an open car park. It was not until 1981 that the development of the site located between the Quai aux Briques and the Quai au Bois à Brûler was finished.

Figure 1. Jules Géruzet, “Le nouveau Marché aux Poissons”, 1882

Figure 1. Jules Géruzet, “Le nouveau Marché aux Poissons”, 1882

Fotomuseum, Antwerp

5The Géruzet brothers’ representation of the new Marché aux Poissons depicts a precise moment in its construction. In accordance with the archival use of photography, the memorial function of this means of representation serves to preserve a trace of urban transformation in action. It is the in-between period of a site in the midst of change which the photographers were representing, by ensuring the most visibility possible. The elevation and the diagonal angle of this perspective provide a view of the whole work site, thus giving the viewer a more complete idea of the site than if he or she were there in person. This is an example of the predominant idea which existed in the 19th century, whereby photography was the prosthesis of the human gaze. On the right side of the image, however, there are the blurred marks of moving people who were not captured in the image. Instant photography – which would soon overcome this pitfall – was still in its early stages at the beginning of the 1880s.

6Amateur photographer Adolphe Lacomblé (1857‑1935) gives us a different view of a nearby site: the Bassin de l’Entrepôt (fig. 2).

Figure 2. Adolphe Lacomblé, “Le bassin de l’Entrepôt”, 1890s

Figure 2. Adolphe Lacomblé, “Le bassin de l’Entrepôt”, 1890s

Private collection, Brussels

  • 6 In this respect, let us mention the research work begun by Gilbert De Keyser in the framework of an (...)

7Lacomblé was a lawyer at the Brussels court of appeal, and became a member of the B.P.A. in 1893. He was the president of the association from 1905 to 1907, after having held the positions of secretary and vice-president of the Brussels branch of the association. His work as a photographer between 1891 and 1921 was still unrecognised.6 It consisted mainly of portraits of relatives and close acquaintances, and photographs of landscapes in Campine, Ardenne and the surroundings of Brussels (Tervuren, Sonian forest, etc.). He took a few rare photographs of the capital, such as this view of the Bassin de l’Entrepôt. This waterway was perpendicular to the Bassin des Marchands, and led to the original location of the city council, which was replaced in 1851 by the one designed by architect Louis Spaak along the Bassin du Commerce, until it was replaced by a much larger building built by Ernest Van Humbeek on the site of Tour et Taxis. The original warehouse was transformed into an arsenal in the 1850s, and was then refurbished to house the Flemish Theatre in 1887. The Bassin de l’Entrepôt was among the last five wharves to be filled between 1910 and 1911.

  • 7 See Louis Ghémar, Assainissement de la Senne. Bruxelles en 1867. Vues photographiques prises à l’em (...)

8Adolphe Lacomblé’s poetic representation made use of the effects of reflections on the water and the sails of docked boats in the foreground of the image. There is no activity on the wharf, and the photograph is dominated only by the presence of boats. Their allegorical value in the image evokes the open sea and journeys, and confronts the city with maritime imagery, which is, however, far away from the urban reality. The lyricism of this photograph also calls to mind that of Ghémar’s photographs at the end of the 1860s before the Senne was enclosed.7 The picturesque aspect of the neighbourhoods – accentuated by the presence of water – was highlighted by these two photographers with the same desire to preserve a memory of old Brussels which was above all poetic.

9This artistic perception seems to go against that of the needs met by the transformation of interior wharves, in terms of communication routes and hygienism. Thierry Demey points out the fact that it was the general wish of the people who lived near the water:

“The water from the Senne – polluted by industrial and household waste – led into the wharves, which emitted an unbearable odour during each period of drought. Each time, a chorus of complaints woke the city council from its torpor. […] The quays were cluttered with warehouses and were barely passable, while the canal – with only two narrow bridges – divided the neighbourhood.”

This situation also had an impact on the split between the lower and upper parts of the city, as the author recalls:

  • 8 Thierry DEMEY, Bruxelles. Chronique d’une capitale en chantier, Volume I (“Du voûtement de la Senne (...)

“For a long time, the inhabitants of the lower part of the city had demanded the construction of fixed bridges in order to join them. They witnessed the massive exodus of well-to-do populations towards the luxurious neighbourhoods of the upper part of the city, with the feeling of being abandoned, and demanded developments which could retain them.”8

10Far from these urbanistic claims, this photograph by Lacomblé is now perceived with a feeling of nostalgia, as the city is poetised by the presence of water which has now disappeared from the centre of Brussels. Contrary to the descriptive value of the photograph by the Géruzet brothers, Lacomblé rejects the literal value of the image of a current event, in favour of a timeless representation of the urban environment, which proves to be vain due to the inexorable covering of the wharves whose disappearance had already been announced at the time this photograph was taken. This image is more of a seascape than an urban photograph in the strict sense, with the city itself becoming secondary, pushed into the background of the image in its architectural version. This alteration of the city motif in favour of its poetic interpretation is a common characteristic of Pictorialist photographers.

2. The technical nature of photographs of Brussels

11The Bulletin de l’Association Belge de Photographie published photographs of Brussels which were considered to be remarkable due to their technical and documentary qualities, presented as top criteria in the evaluation of photographic images. In 1886, a full-page reproduction of a photograph by Henri Tournay ( –1899) – founding member of the association (fig. 3) – was published.

Figure 3. Henri Tournay, “Vue prise du coin du Boulevard Anspach vers le temple des Augustins”, 1885

Figure 3. Henri Tournay, “Vue prise du coin du Boulevard Anspach vers le temple des Augustins”, 1885

Reproduction in the Bulletin de l’Association belge de Photographie, Vol. 13, No. 4, 1886, p. 149.

12Taken at the Stock Exchange – which does not appear in the image – this photograph depicts the central boulevard ending at the Temple des Augustins. The photograph was taken in 1885, before the church was dismantled and rebuilt at the end of Rue du Bailli. The Continental Hotel was built in its place in 1893 facing Place De Brouckère, which was adorned with a monument in honour of Jules Anspach, composed of a fountain with an obelisk.

13While the boulevard acts as the basis of the photograph’s composition, the activity in the street attracts the viewer’s attention as much as the architecture. The circulation of people and horse-drawn carriages is depicted in detail, which is why the photograph was published in the Bulletin, as mentioned in the caption of the image.

  • 9 Bulletin de l’Association belge de Photographie, Vol. 13, No. 4, 1886, p. 204.

“The illustration in this issue […] depicts the comings and goings in a very busy part of the centre of Brussels. Distinguished amateur M. H. Tournay received the gold medal for this photograph in the latest negative competition”.9

This “very busy part of the centre of Brussels” was the location of the tramway terminus, which was the reason for the heavy traffic in its vicinity. The instant capture of this is an example of another conquest of photography, i.e. the precise and clear depiction of movement. Instantaneousness was made possible in the 1880s through the use of gelatin bromide as a photosensitive emulsion, and led to new subjects in photographic representations, such as the activity in busy city streets. In addition to the architectural framework, the surrounding activity also acquires new visibility. The quality of the instantaneousness – evaluated according to the level of precision at the moment the photograph was taken – is what earned Henri Tournay the gold medal in the “negative competition”.

14Technical qualities were also highlighted on the occasion of the reproduction of a photograph by Hector Colard (1851‑1923), whose distinctive feature is that it was taken in the moonlight (fig. 4).

Figure 4. Hector Colard, “Photographie de l’école No. 13, à Bruxelles, faite au clair de lune”, 1887

Figure 4. Hector Colard, “Photographie de l’école No. 13, à Bruxelles, faite au clair de lune”, 1887

Reproduction in the Bulletin de l’Association belge de Photographie, Vol. 14, nº 2, 1888, p. 69.

  • 10 Hector COLARD, “La Photographie la nuit”, in Bulletin de l’Association belge de Photographie, Vol.  (...)

15The photographer commented on it in an article about night photography. It was taken from above, through the window of his studio, and depicts the facade of school No. 13 at Place Joseph Lebeau, behind a foreground of rooftops. He specifies in his comments that the exposure time was an hour and fifteen minutes and that the slightly blurred edges of the image were due to the fact that the lens did not have a diaphragm. The author states that “everything appeared nevertheless, including the facade which remained in the shadows, as certain details which are invisible to the naked eye are clearly visible in a photograph taken in the moonlight. In the distance on the left, two small white spots produced by the light of two street lamps may be seen among the trees in a street.” The result obtained differs in one respect from that which would have been obtained with sunlight: “The faraway objects have appeared admirably without a trace of overexposure. […] In the sunlight, they would inevitably have been solarised.”10 Colard hardly discusses the aesthetic consequences of the luminosity produced by the moon, only considering the criteria of clearness and controlling the intensity of the light. The photographer points out that he increased the exposure time proportionally, as the moon produces less light than the sun. However, this unique luminosity produces a strange image of architecture, creating the sensation of artificial or improbable light. The technical skill also results in a poetic interpretation.

16This type of duality is emblematic of the work of Hector Colard, who integrated the Pictorialist principles of creation until the 1920s. His work involved descriptive imagery as well as the manipulation of photographs in the purest Pictorialist manner. Furthermore, let us mention that Colard played a key role in the propagation of this aesthetic approach, in particular through the French translation of the essays on photography by Henry Peach Robinson (De l’effet artistique en photographie, 1885; La photographie en plein air, 1886; L’atelier du photographe, 1888) and Alfred Horsley Hinton (L’art photographique dans le paysage, 1894). In addition to his participation in the Brussels branch of the B.P.A. between 1874 and 1914, his participation in the Linked Ring (London) and the Paris Photo Club are evidence of the recognition his work received on behalf of foreign Pictorialist circles.

3. “Pictorialist” Brussels: the city reinterpreted by the art of photography

  • 11 The foundations of this movement were presented in 1886 by English photographer Peter Henry Emerson (...)

17Pictorialism11 – which advocated a distancing of observed reality – substituted the precision of the negative and documentary qualities of the photographic image which were valued in the previous decades, with an identifiable artistic touch in the photography and printing methods. These methods tended to hinder the legibility of the photograph, which was no longer considered to be the end result of an art form whose aim was above all to express the stylistic features used by the photographer. In so doing, the upholders of this movement contrasted expertise with popular photography, which surged following the apparition of the Kodak system. In 1888 – with the marketing of the Kodak camera – George Eastman’s American company reduced the practice of photography to a simple “click”, leaving the development and printing of photographs entirely to the company.

18The support of the Belgian Photography Association for Pictorialist aesthetics emerged in the 1890s, in particular through the visibility given by the Bulletin to works which were representative of this movement. On the occasion of the 4th International Fair organised by the association in 1902, it published one of the works exhibited there and mentioned the other ones by duplicating the catalogue. Readers were able to admire a view of the pond at the Rouge-Cloître (fig. 5).

Figure 5. William Van Renynghe, “L’étang du Rouge-Cloître à Auderghem”, ca 1902

Figure 5. William Van Renynghe, “L’étang du Rouge-Cloître à Auderghem”, ca 1902

Reproduction in the Bulletin de l’Association belge de Photographie, Vol. 29, No. 3, 1902.

  • 12 The activity of the Rouge-Cloître painters was documented extensively in the catalogue of the Musée (...)

19The photograph is attributed to William Van Renynghe, a member of the Brussels branch of the association, and is a perfect illustration of the aesthetic concerns of Pictorialism. This begins with the choice of subject. The Rouge-Cloître – an area of virgin nature on the outskirts of the city at the entrance to the Sonian forest – is a place with strong connotations, evocative of spirituality as suggested by the former religious occupation of the site. This is all the more true as a school of painters was established there, with painters practising their art outdoors.12 Photographers went there to vie with the painters on their own territory and above all to be reunited with the reassuring permanence of nature, far from the hubbub of the city. Within this natural landscape, the aquatic element provided the photographer with a precious ally, splitting its motifs by reflecting them. This was the reason for the Pictorialists’ interest in depicting cities with waterways, in particular Bruges. But there is no urban reminiscence in this photograph. The solitude of the person seen from behind evokes a perfect communion with nature, which is a refuge for the city dweller. In this respect, it is striking to observe the power of attraction exerted by the Rouge-Cloître on the photographers of the Belgian Photography Association. In the catalogue of the 1902 fair, three other photographs of this site are mentioned in addition to the printed work; these were taken by Camille Van de Moortele, member of the Courtrai branch, and Édouard Adelot and Henri Van Mons, both members of the Brussels branch of the association.

20The catalogue of this fair also mentions a work by Alfred Cumont, Vieux Marché à Bruxelles (fig. 6) which was printed in 1903 in the Bulletin de l’Association Belge de Photographie.

Figure 6. Alfred Cumont, “Vieux Marché”, ca 1902

Figure 6. Alfred Cumont, “Vieux Marché”, ca 1902

Reproduction in the Bulletin de l’Association belge de Photographie, Vol. 30, No. 4, 1903.

21The comments specify that it was a gum bichromate print, which received quite some attention at the fair. By making use of artificial light, the photographer gives a chiaroscuro depiction of this market scene, transforming the people into silhouettes and the street lights into incandescent points. The scene is the object of a purely artistic interpretation by the photographer who expresses himself with force, while the description of forms and their recognition become secondary. Along with this individualisation of the work, a special gum bichromate process is used, which assimilates photography with drawing and conveys the expressiveness of the photographer, thus raising photography among the ranks of art. It is precisely this individual subjectivity which Albert Dutry applauded in Pictorialist work, when he wrote a few weeks later in the Bulletin:

  • 13 Albert DUTRY, “L’Art photographique contemporain”, Bulletin de l’Association belge de Photographie, (...)

“Truly artistic photographers are able to make prints which no longer have the technical, mechanical and impersonal aspect they once had. Individualism is emerging. Just as the watercolourist takes care that each print of his work is in a way a unique copy, the artistic photographer is able to give his works an original and personal touch. And, in this respect, photographers make works of art, as originality (in the sense of individuality) is still one of the characteristics of this sort of print. Artistic photographs may rank among charcoal drawings and etchings, which they sometimes resemble so much that a lay person might be fooled”.13

22The work of the Pictorialists shows that when they were interested in the city, they did not aim for the recognition of places in the image, but rather the visual translation of a feeling created by an atmospheric effect, for example. This is the case with Brouillard (fig. 7), a work by Brussels photographer Édouard Mahy, which was presented at the Belgian Photography Association fair in 1902.

Figure 7. Édouard Mahy, “Brouillard”, ca 1903

Figure 7. Édouard Mahy, “Brouillard”, ca 1903

Reproduction in the Bulletin de l’Association belge de Photographie, Vol. 30, No. 12, 1903.

23As its title indicates, it is above all the disappearance of the urban landscape due to the effect of this natural screen, which appears to be the object of this photograph. Like the Old Market photographed by Cumont, the boulevard was a pretext for the depiction of the surrounding atmosphere, with the fog providing a detachment from the realism of the urban setting. Instead of being situated, it is recreated by the photographer as the setting of a scene, in which passers-by and horse-drawn carriages move and disappear.

  • 14 In 1901, 47 founding members created the Brussels circle, L’Effort. Its will to be part of the art (...)

24The artist’s individual expression – which became the very subject of an image – was the main concern of the members of the Brussels Pictorialist circle, L’Effort.14 While the city was a rare feature in the repertoire of the members of this circle, when it did appear it was still in the form of a pretextual motif, for example in the expression of a winter landscape, as in the work by Léon Bovier Bruxelles l’hiver (fig. 8), printed in the 1901‑1902 Bulletin du Cercle l’Effort.

Figure 8. Léon Bovier, “Bruxelles, l’hiver”, ca 1901

Figure 8. Léon Bovier, “Bruxelles, l’hiver”, ca 1901

Reproduction in the Bulletin du Cercle l’Effort, 1901‑1902

25However, this time the image was lighter and more detailed, reflecting the aesthetic position of the members of this artistic photography circle. Opposed to touch ups to clarify the subject – which was practised by a large number of Pictorialists and was a subject of debate within the movement – they aimed more so at taking advantage of the effects which were specific to the photographic medium itself. They refused to alter the objects they represented, and refined their observation in a desire to aestheticise daily life. It may therefore be asserted that a work such as this marks a turning point towards a purification and an acceptance of the aspect of realism in the photographic representation, which did not take place until the interwar period. The twilight romanticism of Mahy’s photograph made room for a legible street scene captured in the moment. The snow as a natural element no longer swallowed up the urban space, but instead transformed the appearance of city traffic and activity on the surface. Admittedly, the photographer played with the reflections and marks on the snow-covered ground as well as with the shiny aspect of the umbrellas, but these were not the main elements in the image. The fundamental parameters of photographic art – of which light was the main one – gradually became the subjects of the image.

26It thus appeared that at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the dialogue between Brussels and its photographic representations became the object of new challenges. Following the acceptance of the photographic technique as a true means of artistic expression beyond its descriptive qualities, they first consisted in denying the transient aspects of urban modernity in favour of photographs of the outskirts of Brussels. The classicism of timeless subjects was then replaced by an urban motif, interpreted by the photographer or by means of the devices used to the point of making the object unrecognisable. While the urban landscape became a genre in itself, it went on to arouse a perpetually renewed interest on behalf of photographers. The photographic iconography of Brussels is still evidence of this as it continues to stir the imagination, which may claim these images as its source.

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Notes

1 The question of the representation of Brussels in photographic art was the subject of the following work, which this article stems from in part: Danielle Leenaerts, L’image de la ville. Bruxelles et ses photographes des années 1850 à nos jours, Brussels, CFC-Éditions, 2009.

2 The publication by Steven JOSEPH and Christian SPAPENS, Photographie et mutations urbaines à Bruxelles, 1850‑1880 (Cahier, Brussels, C.I.D.E.P., 2008) provides a rich collection of photographic representations of these works.

3 For more information on this aspect of the reign of Léopold II, see: Liane RANIERI, Léopold II urbaniste, Brussels, Hayez, 1973.

4 The Belgian Photography Association was formed in 1874, gathering professional and amateur photographers who differed from the latter due to their financial disinterest and the freedom of their creative choices. Its 143 founding members – among whom 66 Brussels residents – had a common will to unite the photography world by structuring it and stimulating emulation within it. The association had two means of doing so: the publication of a monthly bulletin and the organisation of exhibits and competitions. The three International Photography Exhibitions organised in 1875, 1883 and 1891 demonstrated the gradual recognition of photography as an art form, as well as the association’s support for the Pictorialist aesthetic.

5 This perception may be understood with respect to the continuous development of the suburbs of Brussels, which intensified the urbanisation of the surrounding natural spaces. This caused what Yvon Leblicq refers to as a centrifugal movement to occur in the inner ring of the city. In contrast, while it was a centripetal movement which characterised its development throughout the 19th century, the inner ring of the city began to lose many of its inhabitants at the end of the century, to the advantage of the suburbs which attracted a growing population. This trend continued throughout the first half of the 20th century, and as the author points out, “from 1890 to 1947, the inner ring of the city lost 75 530 inhabitants mainly to its suburbs, i.e. 47% of its population.” (Yvon LEBLICQ, “Quelques aspects sociologiques de l’urbanisation bruxelloise”, In: Villes en mutation. XIXe‑XXe siècles, Actes du 10e colloque international, Bruxelles, Crédit Communal, Collection Histoire Pro Civitate, series No. 64, 1982, p. 387.)

6 In this respect, let us mention the research work begun by Gilbert De Keyser in the framework of an academic collaboration with Espace photographique Contretype. In 1983, it led to an exhibit of a series of works by the photographer held there.

7 See Louis Ghémar, Assainissement de la Senne. Bruxelles en 1867. Vues photographiques prises à l’emplacement du nouveau boulevard à ouvrir au travers de la Ville de Bruxelles par Ghémar Frères, pour la Belgian Public Works Company Limited.

8 Thierry DEMEY, Bruxelles. Chronique d’une capitale en chantier, Volume I (“Du voûtement de la Senne à la Jonction Nord-Midi”), Brussels, Paul Legrain/Éditions CFC, 1990, p. 156.

9 Bulletin de l’Association belge de Photographie, Vol. 13, No. 4, 1886, p. 204.

10 Hector COLARD, “La Photographie la nuit”, in Bulletin de l’Association belge de Photographie, Vol. 14, No. 2, 1887, pp. 69, 70.

11 The foundations of this movement were presented in 1886 by English photographer Peter Henry Emerson, on the occasion of a conference given to the members of the London Camera Club, entitled “Photography: A Pictorial Art”. Inspired by naturalism, he tried to go beyond the mechanics of photography, depicting the imperfections of natural vision. His ideas were similar to others, contributing to a certain eclecticism of this movement which also stood out as regards its geographic scope. For further information, see the following work: Francis Ribemont (under the supervision of), La Photographie pictorialiste en Europe, 1888‑1918, Paris, Le Point du Jour, 2005.

12 The activity of the Rouge-Cloître painters was documented extensively in the catalogue of the Musée d’Ixelles exhibition in 2009 devoted to outdoor painters in the Sonian forest. See Van de Putte (Emmanuel), Les Peintres de la Forêt de Soignes, 1850‑1950, Brussels, Racine, 2009.

13 Albert DUTRY, “L’Art photographique contemporain”, Bulletin de l’Association belge de Photographie, Vol. 29, No. 10, 1902, p. 605.

14 In 1901, 47 founding members created the Brussels circle, L’Effort. Its will to be part of the art of its time is without a doubt what made it different from its Belgian counterparts, as observed by Claire Leblanc: “It was not with respect to its claims – i.e. the defence and promotion of the art of photography – that the circle presented itself as being innovative for Belgian photography, as it had already found an ardent voice a few years earlier in the Belgian Photography Association as well as among the organisers of the magazine Sentiment d’Art. It was rather through its application and means of expression, as well as the importance given to foreign reformist photographers in its exhibits that the circle appeared to be particularly modernist.” (p. 96) Although the circle L’Effort was dissolved in 1910, the aesthetic which it advocated still existed in Belgium for two more decades. See Claire LEBLANC, “L’Effort. Cercle d’art photographique belge (1901‑1910), Brussels, La Lettre volée (Coll. “Palimpsestes”), 2001.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1. Jules Géruzet, “Le nouveau Marché aux Poissons”, 1882
Crédits Fotomuseum, Antwerp
URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/1082/img-1.png
Fichier image/, 3,6M
Titre Figure 2. Adolphe Lacomblé, “Le bassin de l’Entrepôt”, 1890s
Crédits Private collection, Brussels
URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/1082/img-2.png
Fichier image/, 2,7M
Titre Figure 3. Henri Tournay, “Vue prise du coin du Boulevard Anspach vers le temple des Augustins”, 1885
Crédits Reproduction in the Bulletin de l’Association belge de Photographie, Vol. 13, No. 4, 1886, p. 149.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/1082/img-3.png
Fichier image/, 3,8M
Titre Figure 4. Hector Colard, “Photographie de l’école No. 13, à Bruxelles, faite au clair de lune”, 1887
Crédits Reproduction in the Bulletin de l’Association belge de Photographie, Vol. 14, nº 2, 1888, p. 69.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/1082/img-4.png
Fichier image/, 3,6M
Titre Figure 5. William Van Renynghe, “L’étang du Rouge-Cloître à Auderghem”, ca 1902
Crédits Reproduction in the Bulletin de l’Association belge de Photographie, Vol. 29, No. 3, 1902.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/1082/img-5.png
Fichier image/, 4,4M
Titre Figure 6. Alfred Cumont, “Vieux Marché”, ca 1902
Crédits Reproduction in the Bulletin de l’Association belge de Photographie, Vol. 30, No. 4, 1903.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/1082/img-6.png
Fichier image/, 5,4M
Titre Figure 7. Édouard Mahy, “Brouillard”, ca 1903
Crédits Reproduction in the Bulletin de l’Association belge de Photographie, Vol. 30, No. 12, 1903.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/1082/img-7.png
Fichier image/, 2,7M
Titre Figure 8. Léon Bovier, “Bruxelles, l’hiver”, ca 1901
Crédits Reproduction in the Bulletin du Cercle l’Effort, 1901‑1902
URL http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/docannexe/image/1082/img-8.png
Fichier image/, 2,8M
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Danielle Leenaerts, « Photographic representations of Brussels at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries: from documentation to artistic expression », Brussels Studies [En ligne], Collection générale, n° 57, mis en ligne le 05 mars 2012, consulté le 25 août 2019. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/brussels/1082 ; DOI : 10.4000/brussels.1082

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Auteur

Danielle Leenaerts

Danielle Leenaerts has a doctorate in art history and is a lecturer at Université Libre de Bruxelles and Institut des Hautes Études en Communication Sociale, as well as at Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts and École Supérieure des Arts Le 75. She is the author of Petite histoire du magazine Vu (1928‑1940). Entre photographie d’art et photographie d’information (P.I.E. Peter Lang, 2010) and L’image de la ville. Bruxelles et ses photographes des années 1850 à nos jours (CFC Éditions, 2009). She has published many articles on photography and contemporary creation, in particular regarding the narrativity of the photographic image and urban representation.

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