Félix Arnaudin and Grande-Lande
Simon dit Félix Arnaudin (Labouheyre, 1844 – Labouheyre, 1921) devoted more than forty years of his life to photographing the evolution of his native region: Grande-Lande or Haute-Lande. Here is a discovery through the collections of the Aquitaine Museum in Bordeaux, online on Mona Lisa, the collective catalogue of museums.
Credits: this content was originally published on the Mona Lisa website. It was established in 2013 by Catherine Vigneron and Marie-Christine Hervé of the Aquitaine Museum in Bordeaux and Mathilde Huet of the French Museum Service. The museum’s records are online on POP, an open heritage platform. The content was updated in November 2022 by Elsa Tilly, in charge of computerizing the collections at the Aquitaine Museum.
The work of a lifetime
Simon dit Félix Arnaudin (Labouheyre, 1844 – Labouheyre, 1921) devoted more than forty years of his life to photographing the evolution of his native region: Grande-Lande or Haute-Lande.
Discover the arnaudin collection on Mona Lisa
A landscape transformed in half a century
The law of 19 June 1857 on the reorganization and cultivation of the Landes de Gascogne imposed, for sanitary but above all economic and speculative reasons, a massive afforestation in maritime pines which, in half a century, led to the present appearance of the landes forest. But the main purpose of this law was primarily to clean up and populate this wetland and desert region.
Certainly, the spiked pines and thelogging existed since antiquity, but their production remained limited. Through his artistic and ethnographic approach, Arnaudin intended to safeguard the landscapes of Grande-Lande while reforestation made them disappear for fifty years.
The country "scorned"
If other artists before him have interested in this regionArnaudin, in 1874, as a true collector of information, criss-crossed this «disdained» country in the wide stretches of moorland, heather and lagoons.
A universe gone and probably idealized
The 1026 negatives on the POP platform (out of 3230 kept at the Aquitaine Museum) bring back to life a lost and undoubtedly idealized universe. Besides the landscapes, the glass plates present various agropastoral activities of which the waders ; views of airials (land located outside the villages, herbaceous and planted with some oaks) and animal parks ; traditional habitats such as timber frame and awning houses, or the bordes (huts with thatched roofs); religious monuments such as churches and the votive fountains, or civil works such as pendulum shaft.
The human in the landscape
Composing like a painter, the photographer always puts the inhabitants at the heart of these landscapes and also realizes many portraits family or friends. It designates each image with topographical and toponymic precision, and with technical indications of light, orientation and plate pattern.
Past and modern
To faithfully return the past of his region, Arnaudin used photography, one of the most modern inventions of his time, from which he followed the technical evolutions, passing from plates to collodion to those at the gelatinbromide. Indeed, his work of memory can be compared with that of his exact contemporary, Eugene Atget (born in Libourne) who photographed, at the same time, an endangered «old Paris».
The work of Jean-Marie Paul Dourthe, nephew of Arnaudin
The fund also reveals 252 stereoscopic glass plates of Jean-Marie Paul Dourthe, nephew of Arnaudin and legatee of his photographic work. It is a valuable testimony to the Eastern campaign waged by France against the Austro-Hungarian Empire from 1916 to 1919. Dourthe left views immortalizing especially the shores of the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus, the ancient monuments of Athens, Thessaloniki and some mosques of Constantinople.