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'Snapshot' Exhibition at Van Gogh Museum will Zoom in on Artists' Everyday Lives
George Hendrik Breitner (1857-1923), Bridge over the Singel near Paleisstraat in Amsterdam, ca. 1897. Oil on canvas, 100 x 152 cm. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, bequest of Mr and Mrs Drucker-Fraser.
AMSTERDAM.- At the end of the nineteenth century, the enthusiastic users of the earliest amateur cameras included many artists. What role did photography play in their lives and how did it influence their work? The exhibition Snapshot. Painters and Photography, 1888-1915 sheds a light on this creative process, presenting 220 photographs and 70 paintings, prints and drawings from seven artists.

The invention in 1888 of the first manageable, easy-to-use camera for amateurs made spontaneous photography possible: the snapshot was born. The painters George Hendrik Breitner, Pierre Bonnard, Maurice Denis, Henri Evenepoel, Henri Rivière, Felix Valloton and Edouard Vuillard latched onto this new possibility. Their intimate, personal snaps provide a broader picture of their time, and make it clear how photography and painting interacted. The exhibition will run from 14 October 2011 to 8 January 2012 at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

The seven painters from the Netherlands, Belgium and France who occupy centre stage in Snapshot. Painters and Photography 1888-1915 are all contemporaries of Van Gogh. They used the camera like everybody else, but with the added benefit of their artistic eye: making private photographs of their families and mistresses, their surroundings and one another. They mainly photographed what they found interesting, sometimes deciding later to use it in their art. For example, Breitner and Rivière were fond of photographs of urban renewal. Rivière made dizzying images of the Eiffel Tower as it was being built.

Breitner took numerous pictures of building pits in his home town of Amsterdam, even though he conspicuously never took any photos of the final result. Family photographs, portraits and photos of one another were recurring subjects for Bonnard, Denis, Valloton, Vuillard (all painters of the French Nabis group) and Evenepoel. The ‘living room photographs’ of the latter establish a clear picture of everyday life at the end of the 19th century. The painters were also fond of using the camera to immortalise their travels. Snapshot shows how the seven artists all experimented with photography and generally focused on the same subjects.

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