Pictorialist who was a founding member of the Photo-Club de Paris in 1888 and the first French photographer to join the Linked Ring Brotherhood in 1894. He exhibited with the Photo-Club, Paris in the 1890s and first decade of the 20th century.
Approved biography for René Le Begue
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)
Paris pictorialist René Le Bègue became known in this country around the turn of the twentieth century, largely through the efforts of Alfred Stieglitz. Stieglitz, who collected work by Le Bègue, included photogravures by him in both Camera Notes and Camera Work. Le Bègue became a member of the Photo-Secession and contributed work to the exhibition of French photographs that Stieglitz presented at the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession in January 1906. Stieglitz also included his work in two large exhibitions he organized, at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (Philadelphia) in 1906 and the Albright Art Gallery (Buffalo) in 1910.
In 1888, Le Bègue helped found the Photo-Club de Paris, with Robert Demachy and other leading creative photographers. Six years later, the group organized the Première Exposition d’Art Photographique, which subsequently became known as the Paris salon and in which Le Bègue exhibited regularly for many years. In 1894, he also was the first Frenchman to be admitted to the Linked Ring Brotherhood, England’s exclusive group of photographers.
In 1898, the book Art Photographique: Le Nu et le Drapé en Plein Air was published, with text and photographic images by Le Bègue and Paul Bergon, a relative with whom he later shared a plein-air studio.
Le Bègue photographed primarily the female nude, but also made portraits and figure studies, which he usually produced as gum-bichromate prints. He had fully embraced this technique, which allowed heavy manipulation of the image during development with a brush, by 1904, when he had a one-person exhibition at Galerie Otto, in Paris.
This solo show was near the end of the ten-year period in which Le Bègue exhibited the most. In addition to Paris, his pictures were seen in exhibitions in Berlin, Brussels, Glasgow, Hamburg, London, Montreal, and Philadelphia. In 1902, his work was included in the photography section of the important Esposizione International d’Arte Decorative Moderna in Turin, Italy, which he reviewed for the Bulletin du Photo-Club de Paris.
Le Bègue’s images appeared frequently in the Bulletin, as well as other photographic publications. In 1897, he helped illustrate the book Costume d’Atelier, along with other French pictorialists. England’s Photograms of the Year often featured his images between 1895 and 1909. And, in this country, the American Annual of Photography did so in 1899 and 1900.
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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