Leonard Misonne (1870-1943)

Leonard Misonne was born in Gilly, Belgium on July 1, 1870 near Charleroi. He is the son of Belgium industrialist and lawyer Louis Misonne and Adele Pimez.

Misonne studied Greek and humanities at the Jesuit College in Charleroi. He studied to become a mining engineer at the University of Louvain. In 1890 he made his first photographs. He soon became a part of the Louvain circle of photography, which was to influence him during the rest of his life.

In 1895 he received his degree in mining engineering, but he decided not to pursue his profession. Instead he took up photography, painting and the piano. He returned to Gilly where he spent the rest of his life. There he administered the family fortune. In 1896 he joined the Association Belge de Photographie and then exhibited at a show organized by this group–the first of many exhibitions that he participated in. He then decided to devote himself entirely to photography.

He traveled to Germany, Switzerland and France. He visited the museums in Paris, where he saw and admired the work of Gustave Dore and Corot. He also visited London. He traveled by bicycle all over Belgium during this time and actually won many bike races.

Throughout 1903-07 his images were used in Photo Club de Paris magazine. In 1906 he married Valentine Labin, who he had eight children with. He also took his last major tour to Switzerland and Italy. But he suffered from asthma and became house bound for much of the rest of his life.

In 1912, Misonne became a member of the Societe Francaise de Photographie. He became seriously ill in 1940 and finally he died September 14, 1943 in his beloved city of Gilly, Belgium.

His pictorialist work is highly sought after by collectors and curators. His work is in the collections of hundreds of museums, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the San Diego Museum of Photographic Arts, the Art Institute of Chicago, the George Eastman House, the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, the Amon Carter Museum, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, the Rijksmuseum, the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, the Norsk Museum for Fotografi, the National Museum of American History, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the New Orleans Museum of Art and the Sydney Art Gallery of New South Wales, just to mention a few.

There are six of his works at the National Library of Australia, that can be viewed by the general public in the Pictures and Manuscripts Reading Room. In the catalogue they are listed as “Collection of photographs (picture) / Leonard Misonne.”

His biography is in the George Eastman House and Auer & Auer databases. Several books have been written on his work. A major retrospective has been on exhibit at the Musee de la Photographie (Charleroi, Belgium) and a catalogue has been published.

See also: