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June 21, 2009 – extended till November 29, 2009
The Museum of the Zakopane Style 
at Koliba villa
ul. Kościeliska 18, Zakopane

This exhibition comes from the collection of Museo Nazionale della Montagna (the National Museum of Mountains) in Turin, Italy. On display are twenty two important and rare photographs that document the beginnings of Alpine photography. Of these, seventeen are new acquisitions, made possible thanks to the financial assistance of Compagnia di San Paolo in Turin, while the others are older acquisitions of the Museum's Centre of Documentation, which holds one of the world's largest collections of mountain photography.


Thanks to the documentary, historical and artistic value of these photographs, it is easier to understand the emotions which drove intellectuals such as John Ruskin and Théophile Gautier to discover the picturesque spectacle offered by mountains. All this happened at a historical moment when the landscape of the European Alps started to become a place where people gained experience, conducted research and tested the achievements of 19th-century engineering.

Photographs taken by the Bisson brothers as a royal gift to the Italian king Victor Emanuel II masterfully conveyed the awe and wonder felt by many people at the time the summits and glaciers of Mont Blanc were first climbed. Less than ten years later, in 1868, Luigi Alberto Vialardi immortalized the changing spirit of the times by documenting the construction of the Alps' first tunnel, the Fréjus tunnel. Fascination for large building sites and machines, for the controlled and predictable work of human hands, was slowly replacing the threatening and unpredictable aspects of nature, perfectly symbolized by the Mer de Glace glacier, photographed by various photographers.

Under closer scrutiny, these precious photographs reveal a harmonious synthesis of economic and cultural changes throughout the 19th century.

All these photographs were taken between 1853 and 1868 by talented authors - among them Edouard Baldus, the Bisson brothers, Charles Marville, Giorgio Sommer, Luigi Alberto Vialardi from Piedmont, Victor Muzet and John Stewart. Their work allows the contemporary viewer to understand the astonishment of a 19th-century viewer, who would have seen, thanks to photographs such as these, Alpine landscapes for the first time. These images were displayed at exhibitions, such as the Paris exhibition in 1855, and then gathered in elegant albums and collections that were the precursors of today's tourist and travel publications. They were often tinged with romanticism, depicting nature as untouched, or nearly untouched, by human hands.



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Translated & edited by: Joanna Holzman, Adrian Smith, Anna Wende-Surmiak