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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Pierre Dubreuil

Dates:  1872, 5 March - 1944, 9 January
Born:  France, Lille
Died:  France, Grenoble
Active:  France
Early pictorialist who was elected to the Linked Ring (1903). He became interested in ‘Vorticist‘ and Abstract images.
Pierre Dubreuil (1872-1944)
Born into a wealthy mercantile family in Lille, Dubreuil was a "gentleman photographer" and a prominent figure in European Pictorialist circles at the turn of the century. He first exhibited his work at the Photo-Club de Paris in 1896, at various international salons and with the Linked Ring Brotherhood, to which he was elected 1903. In 1910 his work was included in the important exhibition of pictorial photography organized by Alfred Stieglitz for the Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo.
While many of his fellow Pictorialists favoured pastoral or allegorical subjects, Dubreuil embraced the modern machine age. He is considered one of the early modernists, photographing the urban landscape from unexpected perspectives (birds eye) as well as making close-ups of the machine as an emblem of the modern era. An influential figure in the development of the "New Photography," he consistently emphasized design and idea rather than content. He experimented with a range of printing techniques (e.g. platinum, gum bichromate and the carbon process) but from 1904 he settled on Bromoil printing. His work often involved non-traditional compositional devices, giving greater importance to what might be considered the more mundane elements of the image. His work was considered to be influenced by Cubism, Futurism and Surrealism.
Dubreuil lived in Paris from 1908 to 1910 and after WWI he suffered terrible personal losses and moved to Belgium in 1924 where he continued his experimental photographic work exploring fragmented images and close-ups, but he returned to France before he died.
Sickness and poverty led him to sell his archives to Gevaert in 1943 although this lead to their loss when the factory was bombed during the war.
He became president of the Association Belge de Photographie in 1932 and his career culminated in 1935 when he was honoured with a retrospective at the Royal Photographic Society in London. After his death in 1944 his work was largely forgotten until 1988 when interest in Dubreuil was revived by Tom Jacobson, a San Diego photographer, collector and dealer who sought out surviving examples of his photographs in Europe. Drawing upon these rediscovered images, an exhibition of Dubreuil's work was organized by the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (1988).
(Courtesy of Brian Law, pers. email, 23 April 2012)

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Further research

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Pierre Dubreuil
Self-portrait of Pierre Dubreuil 
1909 (ca)
Family history 
If you are related to this photographer and interested in tracking down your extended family we can place a note here for you to help. It is free and you would be amazed who gets in touch.

Visual indexes

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Internet biographies

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Getty Research, Los Angeles, USA has an ULAN (Union List of Artists Names Online) entry for this photographer. This is useful for checking names and they frequently provide a brief biography. Go to website
The Cleveland Museum of Art, USA has a biography on this photographer. [Scroll down the page on this website as the biography may not be immediately visible.] Go to website

Printed biographies

The following books are useful starting points to obtain brief biographies but they are not substitutes for the monographs on individual photographers.

• Auer, Michele & Michel 1985 Encyclopedie Internationale Des Photographes de 1839 a Nos Jours / Photographers Encylopaedia International 1839 to the present (Hermance, Editions Camera Obscura) 2 volumes [A classic reference work for biographical information on photographers.] 
• Lenman, Robin (ed.) 2005 The Oxford Companion to the Photograph (Oxford: Oxford University Press)  [Includes a short biography on Pierre Dubreuil.] 

Useful printed stuff

If there is an analysis of a single photograph or a useful self portrait I will highlight it here.

• Sobieszek, Robert A. and Deborah Irmas 1994 the camera i: Photographic Self-Portraits (Los Angeles: LACMA - Los Angeles County Museum of Art) p.215, Plate 30 [When the Audrey and Sydney Irmas collection was donated to LACMA - Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1992 the museum gained a remarkable collection of self portraits of notable photographers. If you need a portrait of Pierre Dubreuil this is a useful starting point.] 
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