Émile Joachim Constant Puyo (French, 1857–1933)
2 11/16 x 3 3/16 in. (6.9 x 8.1 cm)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Harriette and Noel Levine Gift, 2005 (2005.100.118)
A career officer in the French army, Commandant Puyo was, with Robert Demachy, a major figure of French Pictorialism. Together, they were among the founders, in 1894, of the Photo Club de Paris and the organizers of its first salon. A skilled technician, Puyo designed new soft-focus lenses for portraits and adjustable ones for landscapes; he perfected the gum bichromate and oil transfer printing processes, writing widely on the subject; and with Demachy, who had revived the gum bichromate print, he published a treatise on photographic printing.
Mostly decorative, with a nod to a modish symbolism, Puyo's work is permeated with a Gallic joie de vivre and a fondness for beautiful women. Women appear in various guises: figure studies, nudes, portraits of professional models or elegant demimondaines; they are also seen simply, and more successfully, in pastoral landscapes as graceful silhouettes in vaporous, flowing dresses. Women gathering fruit or flowers was a favorite subject of the Pictorialists, who saw in the motif an agreeable enrichment of a feminine ideal. In a rare view of the photographer at work, this image of Puyo, Demachy, and their friend Paul de Singly reveals, not without irony, the photographers as hunters converging on their prey.