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Albin-Guillot - Still Life of Box and Perfume Bottle
By Alex Novak
Laure Albin-Guillot was born in Paris on Valentine's Day, February 14, 1879. She went to school to study music and drawing. The latter skill she continued to use, nearly always drawing her subjects before photographing them.
In 1901 she married Albin Guillot, a noted scientific researcher. Over the next 30 years she worked with her husband photographing specimens, crystallizations, plant cells and animal organisms. She also wrote a number of articles on photomicrography. But photomicrography was not her sole interest in photography.
In 1922 she won a gold medal in a contest sponsored by the Revue Française de Photographie. That same year she researched silvered paper. During the next year she joined the Ecole de Paris, and Emile Sougez and Peter Pollack nicknamed her "the muse of portraiture and decorative fantasies." Her early work, while pictorialist in style, also captured the coming essence of modernism.
Albin-Guillot - "Narcisse"
Albin-Guillot received her first one-person show in 1925 in Paris. She exhibited 40 fine art photographs at the SFP's XXe Salon International de Photographie. She joined the Societe Française de Photographie and continued to provide leadership at the Ecole de Paris. She became a proponent of that school's "Real Photographic Aesthetics."
Starting in 1928, Albin-Guillot sold her images to the influential VU magazine, a publication that also balanced pictorialist and modernist trends within its pages.
Her husband died in 1931, but Albin-Guillot continued her photomicrographic research by working with Sorbonne professor H. Ragot, a geology attaché. That year the SFP and the Braun Company published her important work Micrographie Décorative in color photogravure including some printed on metallic papers. The next year Paul Leon, who was a co-author of the book and director of the Beaux-Arts, appointed her to head up the school's Archive Service. She documented many important pieces of art and the school sold her prints at very high prices.
In 1936 she illustrated Paul Valéry's book Le Narcisse, using model and actor Michel Lemoine, reputedly her lover, in the process. That year she also helped to jury the influential XXXI Salon International D'Art Photographique with Emile Sougez and others.
The next year she added to her publishing credits by providing the photography for Douze Chansons de Bilitis, an important book by Pierre Louys. She also then participated in the groundbreaking show organized by Beaumont Newhall at the NY Museum of Modern Art, entitled "Photography: 1839-1937".
In 1939 she photographed a smoking Jean Cocteau, which became one of her most noteworthy portraits. She photographed many of the top artists, authors, playwrights, fashion designers and other important people of Paris throughout the 1930s, 40s and early 50s, including André Gide, Paul Valéry, Colette, Jacques Fath and Henry de Montherlant.
In 1947 the two brothers Fresson began to do their own printing in their workshop in Dreux near Paris. Before this time they sold supplies and equipment to photographers and artists. Edmond was in charge of the prints made by contact, and Pierre of the new enlargements. Edmond was helped by his children Micheline and Jacques, and Pierre by his children Colette and Monique. They worked with a number of important fine art photographers, including Albin-Guillot, who had begun using the Fresson process in the 1930s. She was to use the process for nearly 20 years and became well known for these prints.
Albin-Guillot died at the Maison de Artistes, Nogent-sur-Marne on February 22, 1962.
Her images can be found in the following collections among others: the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Yale University Art Gallery, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Societe Française de Photographie, the George Pompideau Museum of Modern Art, Detroit Institute of Arts, the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art, the George Eastman House, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam), the Bibliotèque Nationale, the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, and the Akron Art Museum. Her photographic work has sold for as high as $20,000 at auction.
Information on Albin-Guillot can be found in the George Eastman House, and the Auer and Auer databases. She is also mentioned in Larousse's Dictionnaire Mondial De La Photographie: Des Origines à nos Jours, Witkin and London's The Photograph Collector's Guide, Lionel-Marie's Collection de Photographies du Musee National d'Art Modern, Naomi Rosenblum's A History of Women Photographers, and Christian Bouqueret's Les Femmes Photographes: De La Nouvelle Vision en France 1920-1940. But, of course, Bouqueret's Laure Albin Guillot ou La Volonte d'Art is the most important reference work on this artist.