Leonard Misonne Inventions


Misonne, Photo-Dessin, and His Other Inventions

Misonne was a French Pictorialist who was a master of the bromoil, and oil processes. From 1896 to 1915, Misonne utilized a carbon process much like Fresson. His photographs from this period are often considered his best work, and he reprinted many of these images during the rest of his life. He said, “The Sky is the key to the Landscape.” He became known as one of the premier pictorialists, but he never made the transition that some pictorialists made to Modernism. Just “Google” his name to see many of his works.

He developed Photo-Dessin, which translates from French to “Photo-Drawing.” In essence it is the process to turn a photograph into a line drawing. This is done very easily in Photoshop today, but an analogue method was developed Misonne in 1897. Yes, 1897! Here’s an example. Photo-Dessin was the name given by Misonne to the process he used constantly for over 30 years, especially after World War 1. He wrote extensively about it, and one description goes like this: A negative is projected on white paper and, with a pencil, the white areas are blackened so as to make them disappear, toning down the image to a uniform surface of black or grey. The process is basically a modern adaptation of the original camera obscura used by artists to help them draw from nature.

He also developed the mediobrome process, which is sometimes described as being in the bromoil and oil processes family, and as a process for altering tone values, removing distracting parts, and shifting emphasis in monochrome photographic prints by the use of oil paints. Nadeau[1] differs and describes mediobrome as; “This method of Oil-Reinforcement was popularized around 1938 when Léonard Misonne described the new technique to the Die Galerie. Misonne used this variant from 1935 until his death in 1943. Mediobrome is not really a process that falls into the category of Oil and Bromoil processes, since the image forming process is not induced photographically, but simply relies on the mechanical application of pigmented oil.  E.J. Wall describes the process as follow: “The whole print is covered with a dope of equal parts mastic varnish and linseed oil thinned with an equal amount of turpentine, to which pigment has been added. The pigment should match the color of the print… (the dope) … is wiped off locally with a clean cloth or a tuft of cotton to give various effects.”

Also developed by Misonne was the “Flou-Net”, literally translated means “Soft Sharp”. It is a screen used during enlarging that is a strip of ruffly celluloid with a wedgelike opening permitting the clear light rays to mingle with the distorted ones that must pass through the celluloid. And as it did not displace the image at all, it could be used during only a part of the exposure time so that as much diffusion as desired could be obtained.




[1] Louis Nadeau, Encyclopedia of Printing, Photographic, and Photomechanical Processes, 1st Ed., 2006, p. 126.