Lot 31
  • 31

Pierre Dubreuil

50,000 - 70,000 USD
50,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Pierre Dubreuil
  • Oil print
  • 8¾ by 10¾ in. (22.2 by 27.3 cm.)
oil print, the photographer's monogram on the image, on a layered triple mount of brown and buff-colored papers, on a secondary mount, circa 1909


The Collection of Tom Jacobson, San Diego, California

Christie's New York, 13 October 2000, Sale 9484, Lot 183


San Diego, The Museum of Photographic Arts, Pierre Dubreuil Rediscovered, 1988, and traveling thereafter to Alliance Francaise, New York, 1989, and The Detroit Institute of the Arts, 1990

Catalogue Note

It is believed that the photograph offered here is unique as an oil print and is one of only two known prints of this image.  The other, a gelatin silver print, is in a private collection.  There are few surviving examples of Dubreuil’s photography.  On the eve of the second World War, experiencing financial difficulties and concerned for the safety of his life’s work, Dubreuil sold his negatives and many of his prints to the Gevaert photographic company in Belgium.  The Gevaert factory was subsequently bombed during the war, and Dubreuil’s work was destroyed.

Dubreuil was a technical master and expert at photographic lighting, directly attuned to a lens’s capability to affect the path of light.  In the present image, the hand of the photographer adjusts with great purpose the knob of the Dallmeyer-Bergheim soft-focus portrait lens, first manufactured in London in 1896.  The knob does not control focus, but rather focal length, similar to a telephoto lens.  The merits of this lens were trumpeted in an 1896 issue of Anthony’s Photographic Bulletin: ‘A softness and delicacy is obtainable with this lens that will please photographers.  When stopped down, defining power and sharpness increase, this being absolute with about one-third the full aperture’ (Vol. 27, p. 16).  The image that appears in the background, in the upper right corner of the photograph, is Dubreuil's Notre Dame de Paris from 1908. 

Collector and Dubreuil authority, Tom Jacobson, from whom this photograph originally comes, rediscovered the work of this innovative photographer in the 1980s.  Jacobson brought this long-forgotten work to public attention through the international exhibition, Pierre Dubreuil, Photographs 1896-1935, and its accompanying catalogue, which remains the definitive text on Dubreuil.