When Photos Looked Like Paintings: Dreamy Landscape Photographs

Belgian photographer Leonard Misonne (1870-1943) trained as an engineer before discovering photography. Raised in Gilly, Belgium, the photographer traveled throughout his homeland and beyond to capture the landscape and people of Europe in the Pictorialist style.

Photographs, characterized by soft, painterly scenes, were created through alternative printing processes that utilize materials such as oil and gum bichromate. The Pictorialist movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries sought to elevate photography to the level of other fine arts such as painting and sculpture.

Misonne said, “The sky is the key to the landscape.”

This philosophy is clear in many of Misonne’s images, often filled with billowing clouds, early morning fog, or rays of sunlight. The artist excelled at capturing his subjects in dramatic, directional light, illuminating figures from behind, which resulted in a halo effect. Favoring stormy weather conditions, Misonne often found his subjects navigating the streets under umbrellas or braced against the gusts of a winter blizzard.

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