Pictorialism is the name given to a photographic movement in vogue from around 1885 following the widespread introduction of the dry-plate process. It reached its height in the early years of the 20th century, and declined rapidly after 1914 after the widespread emergence of Modernism.
Pictorialism largely subscribed to the idea that art photography needed to emulate the painting and etching of the time. Most of these pictures were black & white or sepia toned. Among the methods used were soft focus, special filters and lens coatings, heavy manipulation in the darkroom, and exotic printing processes.
Despite the aim of artistic expression, the best of such photographs paralleled the impressionist style then current in painting. Looking back from the present day, we can also see close parallel between the composition and picturesque subject of genre paintings and the bulk of pictorialist photography. An American circle of photographers later renounced pictorialism altogether and went on to found Group f/64, which espoused the ideal of unmanipulated, or straight photography.
Isle of Man Mansions
One of the most important publications that promoted Pictorialism was Alfred Stieglitz's "Camera Work" 1903 - 1917. Each publication had up to 12 plates that were reproduced in Photogravure, Halftone or Collotype. These plates are now collected and very sought after in the art world. Most of the photographers that made up the issues were members of the Photo-Secession, a group that promoted photography as art and soon moved away from the ideals of pictorialism.