Collection Theme

Pictorialist Photography

Pictorialism, the name given to a style of photography that began at the end of the 19th century, describes the work of photographers who hoped to elevate their medium to the status of art.

Pictorialists gravitated to romantic themes such as the purity of motherhood, untroubled childhood, agrarian landscapes, and lyrical nude studies, often rendered with a soft focus that gave the works the effect of painting. Alfred Stieglitz was a leader in this nascent field of art photography; he edited two journals—Camera Notes, and later Camera Work—still regarded as the finest journals of photography ever published. Carnegie Museum of Art has a fine collection of Pictorialist photographs and journals; including a near-complete set of Camera Notes and almost half of the published volumes of Camera Work. The museum’s connection to the Pictorialist movement dates back to its earliest days, when Alfred Stieglitz agreed to organize an exhibition in 1904 for Carnegie Institute.