Constant Puyo

Born in 1857 in Morlaix (France) – died in 1933 in Morlaix

Lac de Lugano, Suisse, between 1890 and 1900
Digital print from an Aristotype, 6 x 18 cm

Musée d’Orsay collection – Paris / RMN reproduction

After studying at the Ecole Polytechnique and spending several years as a French artillery officer, Constant Puyo became fully involved in the practice of photography and became one of the leaders of pictorialism alongside Robert Demachy. This movement, which unfolds between 1890 and 1914, represents a crucial stage in the history of photography: it aims to break with a photo capture practice that had become accessible, and therefore standardized, and accept it as an artistic act developing its own aesthetics and sensitivities. The principle is no longer to reproduce reality but to interpret it. In this perspective, pictorialists abound with inventive techniques to rethink the medium. They crop the images, play with the light and even find ways to intervene manually at the moment of capture. Constant Puyo will even create, with Jean Leclerc de Pulligny, a camera allowing artistic blurs. The ‚Lac de Lugano, Suisse’ photography is undoubtedly the most figurative work of the exhibition, being the only one to have a direct relationship with the place that houses it. Nevertheless, a mysterious impression emerges from it. It is as if time was suspended. Floating. Stretched over 18 centimeters, the image seems to fade gradually, as if erased by a luminous fog. On the right, the pier of a seaside resort draws the eye to the ground. The background softened by the mist suggests ghost woods and mountains. Finally, the blur gains territory until the observer is lost between lake and sky.  

Constant Puyo, Lac de Lugano, Suisse, between 1890 and 1900 Arystotype 6 x 18 cm Paris, musée d’Orsay – Photo © RMN-Grand Palais (musée d’Orsay) / image RMN-GP