Within the space of the atelier on the first-floor piano nobile of Palazzo Fortuny, the exhibition comprises more than one hundred photographs taken by Mariano Fortuny in the years between 1890 and 1930. Part of the museum’s extensive photographic archives (totalling more than 11 thousand negatives), these have been selected with care and, as far as possible, printed using contemporary techniques, in order to convey all the original character and colour tones of the images.
The first of the two sections into which the exhibition is divided occupies the southern wing of the atelier. Here are more than sixty panoramic views taken between 1901 and 1908 using a Kodak-Panoram n.4, a very refined camera for the time. Works of remarkably modern technique, these show the artist’s creativity and his delight in experimentation. Chronicling Fortuny’s actual journey through France and Germany on his way to Venice, they echo an intellectual journey across an ‘artistic landscape’ that embraces both Proust and Wagner.
The fascination of these images also lies in the fact that they capture some very unusual details: for example, St. Mark’s Square without the Bell-Tower (a picture taken after the collapse of that structure in 1902), or the way the photographer captures the movement of trains and the passage of clouds.
The second section fits in perfectly with the main space of the atelier, where the working environment of Mariano Fortuny is recreated through precious wall-hangings, paintings, and the famous lamps – all objects that testify to the artist’s work and his travels. Alongside these one can also see a display of the objects and instruments used in conserving the photographic negatives and in producing prints from them.
The photographs here number around fifty and date from the entire period 1890-1930.
More intimate works, they show family groups, friends and the famous celebrities who formed part of Fortuny’s social circle. There are also interior shots and self-portraits as well as images of the less well-known corners of Venice.
This selection of high-quality photographs reflects the various creative stimuli at work in Fortuny’s art, revealing how his eye developed over time. Here, mastery of the photographic medium blends together technical skill and expressive content.
In effect, Fortuny’s use of the camera reveals how the lens can become a living eye; how, in capturing complex perceptions and transfigurations, the machine leaves ample room for artistic intention.