View of European artists on the “New World”: trips and expeditions organized by various European courts in the 19th century (sponsorship of Tsars, kings and princes, etc.). Over several years, with explorers and artists. Paintings and engravings on cities (Rio), ethnography and Brazilian nature. Many botanists are also artists and depict the nature of the Amazonian and Atlantic forests in an approach that is half artistic and half scientific.
Landscape painting in Brazil took off in the 19th century
History of botanical iconography in Brazil: artistas viajantes, Clarac, Flora Brasiliensis, the Langsdorff expedition, Taunay, Austrian expedition to Brazil: VASCONCELLOS.
The context of the Amazon rainforest explorations, and the works of art drawn from it, changes over the centuries. First, in the 19th century, Brazil was explored by Europeans because it was seen as a new place, no consideration for the civilizations already present and their relationship to the forest and plants. We note the desire to document “new and pristine” landscapes. The paintings are made by and for Europeans. New botanical species arouse the curiosity of settlers.
VASCONCELLOS’ stance is different: for him, it is necessary nowadays to rediscover the Amazon rainforest, while our civilization lets the forest die. To show the forest is to protect it, as well as the indigenous peoples who inhabit it.
Cássio VASCONCELLOS is the great-great-grandson of Ludwig RIEDEL, who was part of the Langsdroff expedition. Brazilian photographer, he begins his series at Picturesque Voyage Through Brazil in 2015.
The story of his explorer and botanist artist ancestor inspired him, and he too decided to "map" the jungle. To produce this series, he crossed the Amazonian and Atlantic forests, camera in hand, to offer us a photographic testimony of the beauty and majesty of its vegetation. The particular shooting technique gives a unique grain to the photographs, and they appear to be lithographs. Green is everywhere, trees and forest are characters in their own right.
Romain VEILLON explored the history of the penal colony of Guyanne, on Île Saint-Joseph, in the footsteps of Papillon. Papillon is the nickname of Henri CHARRIÈRE, a former convict made famous for his semi-autobiographical book. His multiple escapes have built the legend of this man.
Romain VEILLON went back in the footsteps of this former prisoner and observed the passage of time. The vegetation has largely damaged the integrity of the penitentiary facility. The abolition of the penal colony was obtained under the Popular Front in 1938 by the Guyanese deputy Gaston Monnerville. The convicts must however finish their sentences. The penal colony of Guyana was therefore finally suppressed in 1945 and the last prisoners were released in 1953. This place of suffering was then abandoned.
Romain VEILLON, 2018:
With this series of photographs, I wanted to question myself on this contradiction which seemed essential to me. For this, I tried to transcribe as faithfully as possible the atmosphere laden with memories that emerges from its ruins.
Mitch DOBROWNER is a famous American photographer specializing in landscape photography. He enjoys the work of his illustrious predecessors, such as Ansel ADAMS or Minor WHITE. The history of landscape photographers is a major part of world photography. They laid the foundations for an aesthetic which is illustrated by virtuosity in the play of contrasts of black and white photography. You can find this story through our online exhibition about american black and white landscapes. It is also their work which is at the origin of the constitution of the American national parks, powerful system of environmental protection and nature preservation.
The following photographs of trees and plants should be placed in the context of the work of Mitch DOBROWNER: he is fond of monumental landscapes, remarkable “works” of nature, the great American expanses, and phenomena geological and meteorological. Here, large trees and plants are treated the same.
The black and white accentuates the contrast between trunk, branches and leaves. Surrounded by the clouds and climatic phenomena which make the mark of DOBROWNER, the trees bathe in an evanescent light which surrounds and animates them. The trees they photograph are spared by construction and the presence of humans: they are the main characters, and the photographs seem timeless. It thus gives to see a preserved space.