Lewis Hine, Power house mechanic working on steam pump, 1920. Photograph, George Eastman Museum, Rochester, New York


Art and photography: a cultural history

  • Begins: Tuesday 8 October 2019
    Until: Tuesday 5 November 2019
  • The Art Workers' Guild, 6 Queen Square, Bloomsbury, London WC1N 3AT
  • Lecturer: Tim Satterthwaite

This course explores the historical connections between visual art and photography: the evolution of photographic aesthetics, and the influe nce of the new, mechanical medium on the forms and subject matter of fine art.

1. The Pencil of Nature

The relationship between photography and fine art was complex and  shifting in the Victorian era. The early studio photographers drew on the conventions of salon painting whilst at the same time the more widespread commercial and documentary uses of photography had a profound influence on developments in the visual arts.

2. Pictorialism in Europe and America

In the final decades of the nineteenth century an assertive, self-conscious movement emerged in artistic photography, principally in the United States and Britain. Pictorialist photography, with its high-minded symbolism and painterly aesthetics, was derided by modernists, and its popular reputation has never fully recovered.

3. Atget and his legacy

The French photographer Eugène Atget (1857–1927) earned his living as an unassuming maker of visual ‘documents for artists’. His photography was richly diverse and had profound influence on later photographers.

4. Modern perspectives

In the years leading up to and following the First World War, progressive photographers in Europe and America captured the rise of technological modernity. Photography emerged as the defining visual medium of the machine age, describing the new photographic approaches of the interwar decades.

5. Photographic fictions

The work of artist-photographers such as Cindy Sherman, Jeff Wall, Philip Lorca di Corcia, and Gregory Crewdson represents from one perspective an ironic return to the melodramatic photo-tableaux of the Victorian age. Photography is now fully embraced as an artistic medium, but has it, in the process, lost its implicit connection to the physical world and our shared humanity?


Dr Tim Satterthwaite is a lecturer in the History of Art and Design at University of Brighton, and a tutor on The Courtauld Summer School. His first book, Modernist Magazines and the Social Ideal, will be published by Bloomsbury in spring 2019.

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