|Dates: ||1861, 26 November - 1935, 24 June|
|Born: ||Italy, Turin|
|Died: ||Italy, Turin|
Italian photographer who started out taking photographs of his alpine trips but who adapted his style to the Pictorialist approach and he had two of his images published in ‘Camera Work‘.
Approved biography for Guido Rey
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)
Guido Rey was Italy’s top pictorialist at the beginning of the twentieth century. He was born on November 26, 1861, into a family of textile industrialists in Turin, where he spent his whole life. Working in the family business allowed Rey to travel, including to the United States, and he spent his leisure time drawing, painting, and reading literature. He became friends with many contemporary Italian painters and kept abreast of artistic developments in Europe, facilitated by Turin’s close proximity to France.
Rey was inspired by his uncle, Quintino Sella, to take up mountain climbing, an activity he pursued with much passion. He helped open new routes and wrote articles and books on the subject, including The Matterhorn (1907), which went through numerous English and American printings. In 1885, Rey began photographing on his expeditions, making documentary images that sometimes illustrated his publications.
It was about fifteen years later—in the late 1890s—that Rey began to realize the artistic possibilities of the camera. In 1899, he helped found the Società Fotografica Subalpina. Initially, he created historical reenactments of classical Greek and Roman genre scenes, making figure studies with props and clothing that he collected. A prolific worker, he eventually turned to seventeenth-century Dutch paintings for his inspiration, most notably the light-filled canvases of Jan Vermeer. His most popular and notable images feature an individual or two in elaborate costume, next to leaded-glass windows and surrounded with period objects.
Rey was recognized both at home and abroad. In 1905, the English art critic Charles Holme, declared Rey, "beyond doubt the most finished of the Italian art photographers." Two years later, the American critic Sadakichi Hartmann wrote a lead article on him for the March 1907 issue of the Photographic Times. Between 1898 and 1915, he exhibited at shows in Brussels, Florence, Genoa, London, and Turin. The Second American Photographic Salon, which traveled the country during 1905-06, included nine of his photographs, a quantity met by only one other exhibitor. He frequently won medals and in 1925 showed at the Primo Salon Italiano d’Arte Fotografica Internazaionale in his hometown.
His distinctive and recognizable images were published internationally. Among the major books that included them were Holme’s Art in Photography: With Selected Examples of European and American Work (London, 1905) and A. J. Anderson’s The Artistic Side of Photography, in Theory and Practice (1910). Alfred Stieglitz presented two of Rey’s Vermeer-like images as photogravures in the October 1908 issue of Camera Work. England’s Photograms of the Year reproduced his work every year between 1912 and 1915. America’s Photographic Times also did so regularly for five years beginning in 1906, giving him two covers, four frontispieces, and additional halftones. His work was also seen in the Photo-Club de Paris’s Revue de Photographie and his home country’s Bulletino della Società Fotografica Italiana.
Late in life Guido Rey was involved in a car accident that curtailed his climbing and from which he never fully recovered. He died at his Turin home on June 24, 1935.
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.
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