Of Spirit & Form: The Monuments of France in Photographs
by Édouard Baldus and Médéric Mieusement
Sheldon Art Galleries - Bernoudy Gallery of Architecture and
the Gallery of Photography
September 29, 2006 - January 6, 2007
Although Mieusement documented components of religious architecture throughout most of the twenty-five years he provided images for the French government, in April 1881 he was hired by the Ministry of Religion to specifically photograph a large group of cathedrals and churches under the direction of diocesan architects. One of the most distinctive stylistic variations Mieusement would often incorporate into his church interior studies is the random placement of chairs throughout the nave, some of which would then be moved midway through the exposure. Many architectural photographers of the time chose to remove all of the portable elements from the interior area within the frame to allow a view of the most basic architectural components. Mieusement, however, seems more interested in providing some visual fill for the space and, perhaps more importantly, provide a reminder of the many craftsmen required to create the structure and whose spirits is still reside in the work.
Médéric Mieusement was known as a charming conversationalist, a man of great heart and intelligence, and a conscientious artist. In 1879 he helped found the Société d’Excursions Artistiques group in his hometown of Blois and remained its president until his death. He continued as a photographer in the service of the Commission des Monuments Historiques and the Ministry of Religion even after his son-in-law, Paul Robert (c. 1866-1898), took control of his establishment about 1891. In 1893 Mieusement traveled to Algeria to photograph Roman and Islamic monuments and about the same time produced a series of views of the Nouvelle Major in Marseille, the modern work of Léon Vaudoyer and Henry Espérandieu, just before its completion.
The architectural critic Russell Sturgis (1836-1909) acquired nearly six hundred photographic prints created by Mieusement after they became available for purchase in 1884, many of which contain the Monuments Historiques seal along with the artist’s blindstamp. These images, like those of Édouard Baldus, provided elements of reference for artists, historians and architects, but also effectively fused the descriptive characteristics of the medium of photography with its aesthetic possibilities.
- David R. Hanlon, Curator of Sheldon Exhibit
3 Bruno Guignard, “Mieusement, ombres et Lumières,” in Regards Objectifs: Mieusement et Lesueur photographes à Blois, (Paris and Blois, 2000), pp. 32-33. This artistic society visited and studied regional sites several times a year and issued publications, occasionally illustrated with Mieusement photographs.
4 Jean-Jacques Poulet-Allamagny, Archives photographiques des monuments historiques, (Paris, 1980), p. 3.
5 In January 1884, the administration of the Monuments Historiques gave Mieusement the right to print from his material in the archives as well as negatives they had bought from him that represented the work of other photographers. This agreement, with the goal of “popularizing the finest examples of architecture and French sculpture,” was extended in February 1889 and allowed Mieusement the ability to sell his prints in several outlets in Paris, including the Musée de la Sculpture Comparée in the Trocadéro palace.