Atelier 41

The workshop is closed until July 20, 2021

Smile (sorridere)

Various photographers, 1860-1960

From an idea of Michele Smargiassi, whose text is reproduced by courtesy of his publisher,

Curated by Sonia Natale and Oliviero Casacchia


   “The inventor of the magic formula, and also a bit authoritarian, that relaxes the zygomaticus maior and the zygomaticus minor, the risorius, the orbicularis, the buccinator and the whole muscular-facial family, I mean the inventor of say cheese!, has not been traced so far. Historians of manners look for him among the teachers in Her Britannic Majesty's public schools around 1910, schools that were freshly reformed and newly opened to the exciting novelty of the class photo. Where the smile was for families a reassuring certificate of serenity.

   Since when has a smile, in a photograph, been a sort of social obligation, a cultural convention so strong that it has been condensed into a coded order. But if a command is needed, it means that it doesn't come so spontaneously...”

Michele Smargiassi


Mexico after the revolution, 1924

Justino Fernández Garcia (1904-1972)

Sixteen vintage photographs of the first elections after the revolution and the enlightment of the Mexican capital by Justino Fernández Garcia (1904-1972).

Proposed by Christine Barthe


   Fernández studied elementary school at the French School of La Perpetua. The effervescence of the Revolution took him to the United States. He returned to Mexico in 1923, just as a strong artistic movement was reviving Mexican mural painting and fine arts were being taught in schools throughout the country.

   When Álvaro Obregón became president in 1920, he created the Secretariat of Public Education (SEP) in 1921 and named José Vasconcelos as its head. Under Obregón, the national budget had two key expeditures; the military was first, the second was education.

   Among the young artists from the Seccion de Dibujos were three students of UNAM : Domingo Quijano, Virginia Andrade and Justino Fernández (1904-1972) who created those modernists photographs of the first street lights of Mexico in 1924.


Georgette Chadourne (1899-1983)

Photo-diary of travels and vacations of an independant young French female photographer, Georgette Chadourne (1899-1983), before, during and after WWI.

Proposed by Christine Barthe

   We are tempted to comment on the twirling images of Georgette Chadourne by comparing them to those of Jacques-Henri Lartigue: laughter, movement, speed, facetiousness.

   Yet their striking difference lies in the fundamentally feminine universe represented here. We see another facet of his practice, different from his portraits of great men artists and writers.

   At the beach, in the studio, on a plane, young girls, women, joyfully in action, shine through.

   Georgette Floriet, whose mother married Italian Duke Melzi d'Eril di Lodi grew up in an artistic environment. Many women in her family had chosen the artistic path... Her aunt Jane Margyl was a mezzo-soprano singer who had proved herself at the Folies Bergères and then at the Paris Opera.

Paris in time of reconstruction

Mirjam Schwarz (1924-2005)
Photographic essays of a Swiss student during a trip to France and Paris to attend conferences by Le Corbusier in the years of Reconstruction.

   Mirjam and her friend Willi were two young Swiss students from Basel neighborhood who traveled through Europe just after the end of the war, studying architecture, listening to Le Corbusier in Paris and participating to the Reconstruction Era. After the tragic death of Willi Menzi, circa 1954, Mirjam Schwarz interupted her drawing diaries.

She later married architect Gorges Kinzel (1916-2000). The generous and altruist couple gave most of their collections and assets to Basel Kunstmuseum.

The last days of the Romanov

Pierre Gilliard (1879-1962) & alii
Moving images of the Romanov family photographed by Pierre Gilliard.
Proposed by Daniel Girardin

   At the beginning of the 20th century, Swiss Pierre Gilliard spent thirteen years at the Russian court as a tutor to the five children of the imperial family: Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia and Alexis. He quickly became a close friend and confidant of the children, especially of the Tsarevich, whose health was very precarious due to a hereditary disease.

   His position allowed him to live in the intimacy of the Russian imperial family, whose captivity and tragic fate he shared until the last moments. Perhaps because he was a Swiss citizen, he was spared at the last moment.

   A passionate photographer, he took dozens of pictures that he was able to save by discreetly entrusting them to the British consul. These singular photographs show the intimate face of the imperial family, without censorship or manipulation, far from the official portraits.