Playmates from an Autochrome Lotte, Hans and Walther Kühn at the water  (Austrian-German, 1866-1944)

Founded in 1893, the British periodical The Studio was dedicated to art and design and featured illustrations primarily reproduced by photomechanical processes. Published as a special summer number of The Studio for 1905, Art in Photography presents examples of the "best work done in recent years by the leading photographic artists " from Great Britain, United States, France, Germany, Italy, and Belgium. The list of illustrations makes a particular note of those images reproduced by the photogravure process although only a couple of them are hand gravure. Three years later, The Studio published another special number, Colour Photography, one of the earliest books on the subject. Eighteen illustrations are reproduced in color-fourteen autochromes, two gum prints, and two oil prints. Enabling an appraisal of the "unique image on the Lumiere transparent ‘positive’ … reproduced with so much sensitive and meticulous loyalty" is a series of autochromes by a diverse group practitioners including J. Craig Annan, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Frank Eugene, Heinrich Kuhn, Baron De Meyer, and George Bernard Shaw. The introductory essay by Dixon Scott evaluates the aesthetic and artistic value of the autochrome and con­cludes that "Photography’s true sphere … must always be the world of mono­chrome; for colour is too frail and sensitive a thing to submit to these sudden pouncings and butterfly captures." [1]

Photography with autochrome plates was the first widely used process of colour photography. The process was invented by the brothers Lumiere in 1903 and was made commercially available in 1907. Heinrich Kuehn immediately started to experiment with this new technique and created wonderful examples of early colour photography between 1907 and 1913. Kuehn did not just perceive autochromes as a technical experiment but as a way of creating balanced colour compositions.


[1] Foster, Sheila J. Imagining Paradise: The Richard and Ronay Menschel Library at George Eastman House, Rochester. Rochester, NY: George Eastman House, 2007. p. 207