"Where I was born…" : A Photograph, a Clue, and the Discovery of Abel Boulineau
March 5, 2011 – May 20, 2012
This exhibition features for the first time the work of a completely unknown French photographer and his photographs of French regional life at the turn of the 20th century. The group of 1,702 gelatin silver printing out paper prints was acquired by the AGO as the work of Émile Fréchon (1848-1921) but recent research has revealed the work to be by Abel Boulineau (1839–1934), a painter and teacher at the Association polytechnique in Paris, not known until now to have made photographs.
It is unclear how or why Boulineau learned photography, but every summer from 1897 to 1916, he traveled through different regions of France. Many of the photographs he made became the basis for paintings. He was indeed drawn to similar subjects no matter where he traveled: to washerwomen and tradespeople, shopkeepers and children, markets and villages, as well as the landscape. While these subjects were not uncommon for other artists of Boulineau’s day, his annual pursuit of these scenes highlights his romance with the rural and has yielded an unparalleled photographic record of the people he met and the places he visited.
Through a focused selection of more than 70 works in the AGO’s Tanenbaum Gallery, visitors will find out how they came to be attributed to Boulineau and will discover Boulineau’s gem-like photographs of the regions of Brittany, Aquitaine and the Rhône-Alps.
A University of Toronto student completing an internship at the Art Gallery of Ontario last summer discovered that a series of 1,702 photographs auctioned at Christie’s in 1997 and acquired by the AGO in 2005 were taken by the previously unknown French photographer and painter Abel Boulineau.