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HomeContents > People > Photographers > William James Mullins

Other: William J. Mullins 
Dates:  1860, 21 August - 1917, 17 January
Born:  US, OH, Stubenville
Died:  US, PA, Pittsburgh

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for William James Mullins
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)

The naturalistic photographer William James Mullins was born in Stubenville, Ohio, on August 21, 1860. He was reared in Pittsburgh and attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He moved to Franklin, Pennsylvania, as a chemist for the Standard Oil Company, but quit in 1893, after his father died and made him independently wealthy. Artistically, he initially painted and developed friendships with figures such as Louis Comfort Tiffany.
By the late 1890s, however, Mullins had shifted his focus to photography and his work was included in the first Philadelphia Photographic Salon, held at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia (1898). He soon became known for his small, intimate landscapes, rendered in the subtle tonalities of platinum.
Despite Franklinís isolated location (more than sixty miles from Pittsburgh), Mullins associated with two prominent groups of photographers in New York. He joined the Camera Club of New York and showed in their membersí exhibitions in 1901, 1902, and 1905. More impressively, he became a member of the Photo-Secession, Alfred Stieglitzís elite cadre of artistic photographers. Stieglitz included work by Mullins in the Secessionís major museum exhibitions in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Buffalo. The last of these, presented at the Albright Art Gallery in 1910, featured a dozen of Mullinsís landscape photographs.
Illustrations by Mullins appeared in the photographic press frequently at this time. In 1900 alone the Photographic Times reproduced no less than ten of his images. The October 1901 issue of Camera Notes, the revered quarterly edited by Stieglitz, included a sensitive waterscape of his in the shape of a Japanese fan. The American Annual of Photography featured two of his pictures in both 1901 and 1902. And, the May 1914 issue of Platinum Print ran a landscape by him.
Internationally, Mullinsís photographs were displayed at camera clubs in Toronto in 1902 and Vienna in 1905. His last known exhibition appearances were in An Exhibition Illustrating the Progress of the Art of Photography in America, organized by Clarence H. White and shown at the Montross Galleries in New York in 1912, and American Pictorial Photography at Syracuse University in 1915.
Mullins was a leading citizen of Franklin, where he generously supported the church he attended and the local library and hospital. He died of pneumonia on January 17, 1917, in Pittsburgh, where, ironically, he had gone to attend the funeral of his brother-in-law. 
Christian A. Peterson Pictorial Photography at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Christian A. Peterson: Privately printed, 2012) 
This biography is courtesy and copyright of Christian Peterson and is included here with permission. 
Date last updated: 1 June 2013. 
We welcome institutions and scholars willing to test the sharing of biographies for the benefit of the photo-history community. The biography above is a part of this trial.
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