Le Poème de l’âme

The other day, I wrote about the Baltard exhibit at the musée d’Orsay. There’s another, overlapping exhibit there until March 10, 2013 about late 19th-century photographer Félix Thiollier (1842 – 1914). He’s not exactly a household name, but he’s quite an interesting artist. At age 35, Thiolliet retired from a career in ribbon manufacturing business and lived off his family income. He decided to pursue art and archeology, although he soon gave up trying to be a painter himself and turned to photography. The exhibit includes some of Thiollier’s photos of Baltard’s Les Halles.

He started off in his own little corner of the world, Saint- Étienne in the Forez region, to promote both the natural beauty as well as his artist friends. Thiolliet started publishing illustrated books in support of these passions, helping to give a sense of identity to his region.

His own identity became that of a gentleman farmer instead of a wealthy industrialist. He owned many paintings of the Barbizon school, and he tried to capture the same romantic feeling in his photographs of the countryside and the people who lived there who continued to practice the old skills that were dying out. Thiolliet’s pictures show his fascination with trying to capture the beauty of the sky and the play of light on the clouds. His pictures often convey a sense of solitude and silence as the long shadows of dusk crept across the landscape.

But Thiollier also turned his artistic idea to the industrial world and the men who labored in the factories. Some of the pictures could be seen as early environmentalist creeds, mutely testifying to the ravages of slagheaps and pitheads on the landscape that he so loved.

His first book was named Le Poème de l’âme (luh poe-em duh lamb), which means “the poem of the soul.” Thiollet received a silver medal for this and his subsequent booksat the universal exhibition in Paris in 1889, the one where the Eiffel Tower made its debut, and again in 1900. In 1895, he received the Légion d’Honneur for his work as a photographer. Not bad for an amateur photographer.

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About Patricia Gilbert

Patricia Gilbert is a French teacher. She's Canadian, lives in the United States, but dreams of living in France. Follow her on Instagram @Onequalitythefinest and on Twitter @1qualthefinest.
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1 Response to Le Poème de l’âme

  1. Pingback: C’est dans le besoin quand connaît ses amis | One quality, the finest.

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