Archive for the 'landscape' Category

17
Oct
14

Review: ‘Minor White: Manifestations of the Spirit’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 8th July – 19th October 2014

Curator: Paul Martineau is associate curator in the Department of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum.

 

Never the objective camera, always a mixture of spirit and emotion

Minor White and Eugène Atget. Eugène Atget and Minor White. These two photographers were my heroes when I first started studying photography in the early 1990s. They remain so today. Nothing anyone can say can take away from the sheer simple pleasure of really looking at photographs by these two icons of the art form.

I have waited six years to do a posting on the work of Minor White, and this exhibition is the first major retrospective of White’s work since 1989. This posting contains thirty seven images, one of the biggest collections of his photographs available on the web.

What drew me to his work all those years ago? I think it was his clarity of vision that so enthralled me, that showed me what is possible – with previsualisation, clear seeing, feeling and thinking – when exposing a photograph. And that exposing is really an exposing of the Self.

Developing the concept of Steiglitz’s ‘equivalents’ (where a photograph can stand for an/other state of being), White “sought to access, and have connection to, fundamental truths… Studying Zen Buddhism, Gurdjieff and astrology, White believed in the photographs’ connection to the subject he was photographing and the subject’s connection back via the camera to the photographer forming a holistic circle. When, in meditation, this connection was open he would then expose the negative in the camera hopeful of a “revelation” of spirit in the subsequent photograph.” (MB) The capturing of these liminal moments in the flux of time and space is such a rare occurrence that one must be patient for the sublime to reveal itself, if only for a fraction of a second.

Although I cannot view this exhibition, I have seen the checklist of all the works in the exhibition. The selection is solid enough covering all the major periods in White’s long career. The book is also solid enough BUT BOTH EXHIBITION AND BOOK ARE NOT WHAT WE REALLY WANT TO SEE!

At first, Minor White photographed for the individual image – and then when he had a body of work together he would form a sequence. He seemed to be able to switch off the sequence idea until he felt “a storm was brewing” and his finished prints could be placed in another context. It was only with the later sequences that he photographed with a sequence in mind (of course there is also the glorious fold-out in The Eye That Shapes that is the Totemic sequence that is more a short session that became a sequence). In his maturity Minor White composed in sequences of images, like music, with the rise and fall of tonality and range, the juxtaposition of one image next to another, the juxtaposition of twenty or more images together to form compound meanings within a body of work. This is what we really need to see and are waiting to see: an exhibition and book titled: THE SEQUENCES OF MINOR WHITE. I hope in my lifetime! **

How can you really judge his work without understanding the very form that he wanted the work to be seen in? We can access individual images and seek to understand and feel them, but in MW their meaning remains contingent upon their relationship to the images that surround them, the ice/fire frisson of that space between images that guides the tensions and relations to each other. Using my knowledge as an artist and musician, I have sequenced the first seven images in this posting just to give you an idea of what a sequence of associations may look like using the photographs of Minor White. I hope he would be happy with my selection. I hope I have made them sing.

Other than a superb range of tones (for example, in Pavilion, New York 1957 between the flowers in shadow and sun – like an elegy to Edward Weston and the nautilus shell/pepper in the tin) the size, contrast, lighter/darker – warmer/cooler elements of MW’s photographs are all superb. These are the first things we look at when we technically critique prints from these simple criteria, and there aren’t many that pass. But these are all well made images by MW. He was never Diogenes with a camera, never the objective camera, he was always involved… and his images were printed with a mixture of spirit and emotion. Now, try and FEEL your response to the first seven images that I have put together. Don’t be too analytical, just try, with clear, peaceful mind and still body, to enter into the space of those images, to let them take you away to a place that we rarely allow ourselves to visit, a place that is is out of our normal realm of existence. It is possible, everything is possible. If photography becomes something else -then it does -then it does.

Finally, I want to address the review of the book by Blake Andrews on the photo-eye blog (October 6, 2014). The opening statement opines: “Is photography in crisis again? Well then, it must be time for another Minor White retrospective.” What a thrown away line. As can be seen from the extract of an interview with MW (published 1977, below), White didn’t care what direction photography took because he could do nothing about it. He just accepted it for what it is and moved with it. He was not distressed at the direction of contemporary photography because it was all grist to the mill. To say that when photography is in crisis (it’s always in crisis!) you wheel out the work of Minor White to bring it back into line is just ridiculous… photography is -what it is, -what it is.

Blake continues, “Minor White was a jack-of-all-styles in the photo world, trying his hand at just about everything at one time or another. The plates in the book give a flavor of his shifting – some might say dilettantish – photo styles.” Obviously he agrees with this assessment otherwise he would not have put it in. I do not. Almost every artist in the world goes on a journey of discovery to find their voice, their metier, and that early experimentation is part of the overall journey, the personal and universal narrative that an artist pictures. Look at the early paintings of Jackson Pollock or Mark Rothko in their representational ease, or the early photographs of Aaron Siskind and how they progress from social documentary to abstract expressionism. The same with MW. In this sense every artist is a dilettante. Every photograph is part of his journey as an artist and has value in an of itself.

And I don’t believe that his mature voice was “internalized, messy, and deliberately obtuse,” – it is only so to those that do not understand what he sought to achieve through his images, those who don’t really understand his work.

Blake comments, “Twenty-five years later White’s star is rising again. One could speculate the reasons for the timing, that photography is in crisis, or at least adrift, and in need of a guru. But the truth is photography has been on the therapist’s couch since day one, going through this or that level of doubt or identity crisis. Is it an art? Science? Documentation? Can it be trusted? When Minor White came along none of these questions had been resolved, and they never will. But every quarter century or so it sure feels good to hang your philosopher’s hat on something solid. Or at least someone self-assured.”

Every quarter of a century, hang your philosophers hat on something solid? Or at least someone self-assured? The last thing that you would say about MW was that the was self-assured (his battles with depression, homosexuality, God, and the aftermath of his experiences during the Second World War); and the last thing that you would say about the philosophy and photographs of MW is that they are something solid and immovable.

For me, the man and his images are always moving, always in a constant state of flux, as avant-garde (in the sense of their accessing of the eternal) and as challenging and essential as they ever were. Through his work and writings Minor White – facilitator, enabler – allowed the viewer to become an active participant in an aesthetic experience that alters reality, creating an über reality (if you like), one whose aesthetics promotes an interrogation of both ourselves and the world in which we live.

“There are plays written on the simplest themes which in themselves are not interesting. But they are permeated by the eternal and he who feels this quality in them perceives that they are written for all eternity.”

Constantin Stanislavsky, (1863 – 1938) / My Life in Art.

 

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

** The Minor White Archive at Princeton University Museum of Art has a project called The Minor White Archive proof cards: “The ultimate goal of this project is a stand-alone website dedicated to the Minor White Archive, and the completely scanned proof cards represent significant progress to this end. The website will be an authoritative source for the titles and dates of White’s photographs. All of the scanned proof cards will be available on the website so that users can search the primary source information as well as major published titles. Additionally, the website will include White’s major published sequences, with additional sequences uploaded gradually until the complete set is online. Eventually, the hope is to have subject-term browsing available, adding another access point to the Archive.”

.
Many thankx to the J. Paul Getty Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“Self-discovery through a camera? I am scared to look for fear of discovering how shallow my Self is! I will persist however … because the camera has its eye on the exterior world. Camera will lead my constant introspection back into the world. So camerawork will save my life.”

“When you try to photograph something for what it is, you have to go out of yourself, out of your way, to understand the object, its facts and essence. When you photograph things for what ‘Else’ they are, the object goes out of its way to understand you.”

.
Minor White

 

 

When Paul Martineau, an associate curator at the J. Paul Getty Museum, in Los Angeles, was collecting photographs for a new retrospective of Minor White’s photography, he discovered an album called The Temptation of Saint Anthony Is Mirrors. Only two copies of the volume were produced, each containing thirty-two images of Tom Murphy, Minor’s student and model. “It’s a visual love letter: he only created two, one given to Tom and one for him,” Martineau told me.

Martineau’s show, Minor White: Manifestations of the Spirit, is the first major retrospective of White’s work since 1989. White was born in Minneapolis, in 1908, took photographs for the Works Progress Administration during the nineteen-thirties, and served in the Army during the Second World War. He kept company with Ansel Adams, Alfred Steiglitz, and Edward Steichen, and, in 1952, he helped found the influential photography magazine Aperture. Martineau said that, while the Getty retrospective “comes at a time when life is rife with visual imagery, most of it designed to capture our attention momentarily and communicate a simple message,” White aimed to more durably express “our relationships with one another, with the natural world, with the infinite.” White believed that all of his photographs were self-portraits; as Martineau put it, “he pushed himself to live what he called a life in photography.”

 

 

Minor White. 'Vicinity of Rochester, New York' 1954

 

Minor White 
Vicinity of Rochester, New York
1954
Gelatin silver print
18.4 x 23.2 cm (7 1/4 x 9 1/8 in.)
Promised gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced with permission of the Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum
© Trustees of Princeton University

 

Minor White. 'Stony Brook State Park, New York' 1960

 

Minor White 
Stony Brook State Park, New York
1960
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 24.1 cm (12 x 9 1/2 in.)
Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced with permission of the Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum
© Trustees of Princeton University

 

Minor White. '72 N. Union Street, Rochester, New York' 1960

 

Minor White 
72 N. Union Street, Rochester, New York
1960
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 24.1 cm (12 x 9 1/2 in.)
Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced with permission of the Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum
© Trustees of Princeton University

 

Minor White. 'The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Pultneyville, New York' 1957

 

Minor White 
The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Pultneyville, New York
1957
Gelatin silver print
24.4 x 25.1 cm (9 5/8 x 9 7/8 in.)
Purchased in part with funds provided by Daniel Greenberg, Susan Steinhauser, and the Greenberg Foundation
Reproduced with permission of the Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum
© Trustees of Princeton University

 

Minor White. 'Haags Alley, Rochester, New York' 1960

 

Minor White
Haags Alley, Rochester, New York
1960
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 24.1 cm (12 x 9 1/2 in.)
Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced with permission of the Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum
© Trustees of Princeton University

 

Minor White. 'Tom Murphy, San Francisco, California' 1948

 

Minor White
Tom Murphy, San Francisco, California
1948
Gelatin silver print
12.5 x 10 cm (4 15/16 x 3 15/16 in.)
The Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum, bequest of Minor White
© Trustees of Princeton University

 

Minor White. '72 N. Union Street, Rochester, New York' 1958

 

Minor White 
72 N. Union Street, Rochester, New York
1958
Gelatin silver print
26.7 x 29.2 cm (10 1/2 x 11 1/2 in.)
Promised gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced with permission of the Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum
© Trustees of Princeton University

 

 

“Controversial, misunderstood, and sometimes overlooked, Minor White (American 1908-1976) pursued a life in photography with great energy and ultimately extended the expressive possibilities of the medium. A tireless worker, White’s long career as a photographer, teacher, editor, curator, and critic was highly influential and remains central to understanding the history of photographic modernism. Minor White: Manifestations of the Spirit, on view July 8 – October 19, 2014 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center is the first major retrospective of his work since 1989.

The exhibition includes never-before-seen photographs from the artist’s archive at Princeton University, recent Getty Museum acquisitions, a significant group of loans from the collection of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser, alongside loans from the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Portland Art Museum, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Also featured is White’s masterly photographic sequence Sound of One Hand (1965).

“Minor White had a profound impact on his many students, colleagues, and the photographers who considered him a true innovator, making this retrospective of his work long overdue” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “The exhibition brings together a number of loans from private and public collections, and offers a rare opportunity to see some of his greatest work alongside unseen photographs from his extensive archive.”

One of White’s goals was to photograph objects not only for what they are but also for what they may suggest, and his pictures teem with symbolic and metaphorical allusions. White was a closeted homosexual, and his sexual desire for men was a source of turmoil and frustration. He confided his feelings in the journal he kept throughout his life and sought comfort in a variety of Western and Eastern religious practices. This search for spiritual transcendence continually influenced his artistic philosophy.

Early Career, 1937-45

In 1937, White relocated from Minneapolis, where he was born and educated, to Portland, Oregon. Determined to become a photographer, he read all the photography books he could get his hands on and joined the Oregon Camera Club to gain access to their darkroom. Within five years, he was offered his first solo exhibition at the Portland Art Museum (1942). White’s early work exhibits his nascent spiritual awakening while exploring the natural magnificence of Oregon. His Cabbage Hill, Oregon (Grande Ronde Valley) (1941) uses a split-rail fence and a coil of barbed wire to demonstrate the hard physical labor required to live off the land as well as the redemption of humankind through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

During World War II, White served in Army Intelligence in the South Pacific. Upon discharge, rather than return to Oregon, he spent the winter in New York City. There, he studied art history with Meyer Shapiro at Columbia University, museum work with Beaumont Newhall at the Museum of Modern Art, and creative thought in photography with photographer, gallerist, and critic Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946).

Midcareer, 1946-64

In 1946, famed photographer Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) invited White to teach photography at the California School of Fine Arts (CSFA) in San Francisco. The following year, White established himself as head of the program and developed new methods for training students. His own work during this period began to shift toward the metaphorical with the creation of images charged with symbolism and a critical aspect known as “equivalence,” meaning an image may serve as an idea or emotional state beyond the subject pictured. In 1952, White co-founded the seminal photography journal Aperture and was its editor until 1975.

In 1953, White accepted a job as an assistant curator at the George Eastman House (GEH) in Rochester, New York, where he organized exhibitions and edited GEH’s magazine Image. Coinciding with his move east was an intensification of his study of Christian mysticism, Zen Buddhism, and the I Ching. In 1955, he began teaching a class in photojournalism at the Rochester Institute of Technology and shortly after began to accept one or two live-in students to work on a variety of projects that were alternately practical and spiritually enriching. During the late 1950s and continuing until the mid-1960s, White traveled the United States during the summers, making his own photographs and organizing photographic workshops in various cities across the country.

By the late 1950s, at the height of his career, White pushed himself to do the impossible – to make the invisible world of the spirit visible through photography. White’s masterpiece – and the summation of his persistent search for a way to communicate ecstasy – is the sequence Sound of One Hand, so named after the Zen koan which asks “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”

“White’s sequences are meant to be viewed from left to right, preferably in a state of relaxation and heightened awareness,” says Paul Martineau, associate curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum and curator of the exhibition. “White called on the viewer to be an active participant in experiencing the varied moods and associations that come from moving from one photograph to the next.”

Late Career, 1965-76

In 1965, White was appointed professor of creative photography at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he developed an ambitious program in photographic education. As he aged, he became increasingly concerned with his legacy, and began working on his first monograph, Mirrors Messages Manifestations, which was published by Aperture in 1969. The following year, White was awarded a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, and he was the subject of a major traveling retrospective organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1971.

Beginning in the late 1960s and continuing until the early 1970s, White organized a series of groundbreaking thematic exhibitions at MIT – the first of which served as a springboard for forming the university’s photographs collection. In 1976, White died of heart failure and bequeathed his home to the Aperture Foundation and his photographic archive of more than fifteen thousand objects to Princeton University. The exhibition also includes work by two of White’s students, each celebrated photographers in their own right, Paul Caponigro (American, born 1932) and Carl Chiarenza (American, born 1935).

“An important aspect of Minor White’s legacy was his influence on the next generation of photographers,” says Martineau. “Over the course of a career that lasted nearly four decades, he managed to maintain personal and professional connections with hundreds of young photographers – an impressive feat for a man dedicated to the continued exploration of photography’s possibilities.”

Press release from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

 

Minor White. 'Navarro River, California' 1947

 

Minor White 
Navarro River, California
1947
Gelatin silver print
35.6 x 45.7 cm (14 x 18 in.)
Lent by Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck
Reproduced with permission of the Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum
© Trustees of Princeton University

 

Minor White. 'Nude Foot, San Francisco, California' Negative, 1947; print, 1975

 

Minor White 
Nude Foot, San Francisco, California
Negative, 1947; print, 1975
Gelatin silver print
22.9 x 30.5 cm (9 x 12 in.)
Promised gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser Reproduced with permission of the Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum. © Trustees of Princeton University

 

Minor White. 'Pavilion, New York' 1957

 

Minor White 
Pavilion, New York
1957
Gelatin silver print
22.5 x 29.5 cm (8 7/8 x 11 5/8 in.)
Purchased in part with funds provided by Daniel Greenberg, Susan Steinhauser, and the Greenberg Foundation
Reproduced with permission of the Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum
© Trustees of Princeton University

 

Minor White. 'Cabbage Hill, Oregon (Grande Ronde Valley)' 1941

 

Minor White
Cabbage Hill, Oregon (Grande Ronde Valley)
1941
Gelatin silver print
18 x 22.9 cm (7 1/16 x 9 in.)
The Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum, bequest of Minor White
© Trustees of Princeton University

 

Minor White. 'Self-Portrait, West Bloomfield, New York' 1957

 

Minor White
Self-Portrait, West Bloomfield, New York
1957
Gelatin silver print
17.8 x 20.6 cm (7 x 8 1/8 in.)
The Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum, bequest of Minor White
© Trustees of Princeton University

 

 

Interview with Minor White

Q. How would you like to see photography develop?

A. It makes absolutely no difference what I want it to do. It’s going to do what it’s going to do. All I can do is stand back and observe it.

Q. What don’t you want it to do?

A. That doesn’t make any difference either, It’ll do that whether I want it to or not!

Q. Surely , you’ve got to have some feelings?

A. In one sense I don’t care what photography does at all. I can just watch it do it. I can control my photography, I can do what I want with it  – a little. If I can get into  contact  with something much wiser than myself , and it says get out of photography , maybe I would. I hesitate to say this because I know its going to be misunderstood. I’ll put I this way  – I’m trying to be in contact with my Creator when I photograph. I know perfectly well its not possible to do this all the time, but there can be moments.

Q. Do you see anything in contemporary photography that distresses you?

A. What ever they do is fine.

Q. Is there any work that you are particularly interested in?

A. What ever my students are doing.

Q. There seems to be a passing on of certain sets of ideas and understandings. Do you feel yourself to be an inheritor of a set of ideas or ideals?

A. Naturally. After all I have two parents, so I inherited some thing.  I’ve had many spiritual fathers for example. The photographers who I have been influenced by for example. There have been many other external influences. Students have had an influence. In a sense that’s an inheritance. After a while we work with material that comes to us and it becomes ours, we digest it. It becomes energy and food for us, its ours . And then I can pass it on to somebody else with a sense of responsibility and validity. I am quoting it in my words, it has become mine and that person will take it from me – just as I have taken it from people who have influenced me. Take what you can use, digest it, make it yours, and then  transmit it to your children or your students.

Q. It’s a cycle?

A. No, it’s a continuous line. Not a cycle at all.

.
Interview by Paul Hill and Thomas Cooper of Minor White, published in 3 parts in the January, February and March editions of Camera 1977.

 

Minor White. 'Point Lobos, California' 1948

 

Minor White 
Point Lobos, California
1948
Gelatin silver print
16.8 x 19.5 cm (6 5/8 x 7 11/16 in.)
The Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum, bequest of Minor White
© Trustees of Princeton University

 

Minor White. 'San Francisco, California' 1949

 

Minor White
San Francisco, California
1949
Gelatin silver print
18.5 x 18.7 cm (7 5/16 x 7 3/8 in.)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase
Reproduced with permission of the Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum
© Trustees of Princeton University

 

Minor White. 'Vicinity of Dansville, New York' Negative, 1955; print, 1975

 

Minor White 
Vicinity of Dansville, New York
Negative, 1955; print, 1975
Gelatin silver print
22.9 x 30.5 cm (9 x 12 in.)
Promised gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced with permission of the Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum
© Trustees of Princeton University

 

Minor White Images in the bound sequence 'The Temptation of Saint Anthony Is Mirrors'

 

(top)
Minor White
Images 9 and 10 in the bound sequence The Temptation of Saint Anthony Is Mirrors
1948
Gelatin silver prints
9.3 x 11.8 cm; 11.2 x 9.1 cm
The Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum, bequest of Minor White
© Trustees of Princeton University

(bottom)
Minor White
Images 27 and 28 in the bound sequence The Temptation of Saint Anthony Is Mirrors
1948
Gelatin silver prints
5.3 x 11.6 cm; 10.6 x 8.9 cm
The Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum, bequest of Minor White
© Trustees of Princeton University

 

Minor White. 'Rochester, New York' 1963

 

Minor White 
Rochester, New York
1963
Gelatin silver print
9.2 x 7.3 cm (3 5/8 x 2 7/8 in.)
Promised gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced with permission of the Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum
© Trustees of Princeton University

 

 

Minor White: Manifestations of the Spirit book

Controversial, eccentric, and sometimes overlooked, Minor White (1908-1976) is one of the great photographers of the twentieth century, whose ideas and philosophies about the medium of photography have exerted a powerful influence on a generation of practitioners and still resonate today. Born and raised in Minneapolis, his photographic career began in 1938 in Portland, Oregon with assignments as a “creative photographer” for the Oregon Art Project, an outgrowth of the Works Progress Administration (WPA).

After serving in World War II as a military intelligence officer, White studied art history at Columbia University in New York. It was during this period that White’s focus started to shift toward the metaphorical. He began to create images charged with symbolism and a critical aspect called “equivalency,” which referred to the invisible spiritual energy present in a photograph made visible to the viewer and was inspired by the work of Alfred Stieglitz. White’s belief in the spiritual and metaphysical qualities in photography, and in the camera as a tool for self-discovery, was crucial to his oeuvre.

Minor White: Manifestations of the Spirit (Getty Publications, 2014) gathers together for the first time a diverse selection of more than 160 images made by Minor White over five decades, including some never published before. Accompanying the photographs is an in-depth critical essay by Paul Martineau entitled “‘My Heart Laid Bare': Photography, Transformation, and Transcendence,” which includes particularly insightful quotations from his journals, which he kept for more than forty years.

The result is an engaging narrative that weaves through the main threads of White’s work and life – his growth and tireless experimentation as an artist; his intense mentorship of his students; his relationships with Edward Weston, Alfred Stieglitz, and Ansel Adams, who had a profound influence on his work; and his labor of love as cofounder and editor of Aperture magazine from 1952 until 1976. The book also addresses White’s life-long spiritual search and ongoing struggle with his own sexuality and self-doubt, in response to which he sought comfort in a variety of religious practices that influenced his continually metamorphosing artistic philosophy.

Published here in its entirety for the first time is White’s stunning series The Temptation of Anthony Is Mirrors, consisting of 32 photographs of White’s student and model Tom Murphy made in 1947 and 1948 in San Francisco. White’s photographs of Murphy’s hands and feet are interspersed within a larger group of portraits and nude figure studies. White kept the series secret for years as at the time he made the photographs it was illegal to publish or show images with male frontal nudity. Anyone making such images would be assumed to be homosexual and outed at a time when this invariably meant losing gainful employment.

Other works shown in this rich collection are White’s early images of the city of Portland that depict his experimentations with different styles and nascent spiritual awakening; his photographs of the urban streets of San Francisco where he lived for a time; his elegant images of rocks, sandy beaches and tidal pools in Point Lobos State Park in Northern California that are an homage to Edward Weston; and the series The Sound of One Hand made in the vicinity of Rochester, New York where he also taught classes at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and curated shows at the George Eastman House (GEH). Paul Martineau describes this iconic series as “White’s chef d’oeuvre, the work that is the summation of his persistent search or a way to communicate ecstasy.” Among the eleven images in the Getty collection are Windowsill Daydreaming, Rochester, Night Icicle, 72 N. Union Street, Rochester, and Pavilion, New York.

Text from the J. Paul Getty Museum

 

Minor White. '"Something Died Here," San Francisco, California' 1947

 

Minor White 
“Something Died Here,” San Francisco, California
1947
Gelatin silver print
22.8 x 17.5 cm (9 x 6 7/8 in.)
The Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum, bequest of Minor White
© Trustees of Princeton University

 

Minor White. 'Dodd Building, Portland, Oregon' c. 1939

 

Minor White 
Dodd Building, Portland, Oregon
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
34.3 x 26.7 cm (13 1/2 x 10 1/2 in.)
Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration

 

Minor White. 'San Mateo County, California / Leonard Nelson, Vicinity of Stinson Beach, Marin County, California, November 1947' 1947

 

Minor White 
San Mateo County, California / Leonard Nelson, Vicinity of Stinson Beach, Marin County, California, November 1947
1947
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 50.8 cm (12 x 20 in.)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Ralph M. Parsons Fund
Reproduced with permission of the Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum
© Trustees of Princeton University

 

Minor White. 'Lily Pads and Pike, Portland, Oregon' c. 1939

 

Minor White 
Lily Pads and Pike, Portland, Oregon
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
34 x 26.8 cm (13 3/8 x 10 9/16 in.)
Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services

 

Minor White. 'Design (Cable and Chain), Portland, Oregon' c. 1940

 

Minor White 
Design (Cable and Chain), Portland, Oregon
c. 1940
Gelatin silver print
33.8 x 25.8 cm (13 5/16 x 10 3/16 in.)
Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration

 

Minor White. 'Peeled Paint, Rochester, New York' 1959

 

Minor White 
Peeled Paint, Rochester, New York
1959
Gelatin silver print
31.1 x 22.9 cm (12 1/4 x 9 in.)
Promised gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced with permission of the Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum
© Trustees of Princeton University

 

Minor White. 'Empty Head, 72 N. Union Street, Rochester, New York' 1962

 

Minor White
Empty Head, 72 N. Union Street, Rochester, New York
1962
Gelatin silver print
30 x 23 cm (11 13/16 x 9 1/16 in.)
Purchased in part with funds provided by Daniel Greenberg, Susan Steinhauser, and the Greenberg Foundation
Reproduced with permission of the Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum
© Trustees of Princeton University

 

Minor White. 'Burned Mirror, Rochester, New York' 1959

 

Minor White 
Burned Mirror, Rochester, New York
1959
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 22 cm (12 x 8 11/16 in.)
Purchased in part with funds provided by Daniel Greenberg, Susan Steinhauser, and the Greenberg Foundation
Reproduced with permission of the Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum
© Trustees of Princeton University

 

Minor White. 'Essence of Boat, Lanesville, Massachusetts' 1967

 

Minor White 
Essence of Boat, Lanesville, Massachusetts
1967
Gelatin silver print
31.8 x 23.8 cm (12 1/2 x 9 3/8 in.)
Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced with permission of the Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum
© Trustees of Princeton University

 

Minor White. 'Ivy, Portland, Oregon' Negative,1964; print, 1975

 

Minor White 
Ivy, Portland, Oregon
Negative,1964; print, 1975
Gelatin silver print
22.9 x 30.5 cm (9 x 12 in.)
Promised gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced with permission of the Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum
© Trustees of Princeton University

 

Minor White. '72 N. Union Street, Rochester, New York' 1960

 

Minor White 
72 N. Union Street, Rochester, New York
1960
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 24.1 cm (12 x 9 1/2 in.)
Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced with permission of the Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum
© Trustees of Princeton University

 

Minor White. 'Moencopi Strata, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah' 1962

 

Minor White 
Moencopi Strata, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
1962
Gelatin silver print
32.7 x 24.1 cm (12 7/8 x 9 1/2 in.)
Promised gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced with permission of the Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum
© Trustees of Princeton University

 

Minor White. 'Windowsill Daydreaming, Rochester, New York' 1958

 

Minor White 
Windowsill Daydreaming, Rochester, New York
1958
Gelatin silver print
24.4 x 25.1 cm (9 5/8 x 9 7/8 in.)
Purchased in part with funds provided by Daniel Greenberg, Susan Steinhauser, and the Greenberg Foundation
Reproduced with permission of the Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum
© Trustees of Princeton University

 

Minor White. 'Notom, Utah' 1963

 

Minor White 
Notom, Utah
1963
Gelatin silver print
39.4 x 31.1 cm (15 1/2 x 12 1/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Reproduced with permission of the Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum
© Trustees of Princeton University

 

Minor White. 'Gloucester, Massachusetts' 1973

 

Minor White
Gloucester, Massachusetts
1973
Gelatin silver print
21.6 x 29.2 cm (8 1/2 x 11 1/2 in.)
Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced with permission of the Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum
© Trustees of Princeton University

 

Minor White. 'Batavia, New York' 1958

 

Minor White
Batavia, New York
1958
Gelatin silver print
34 x 20.3 cm (13 3/8 x 8 in.)
Purchased in part with funds provided by Daniel Greenberg, Susan Steinhauser, and the Greenberg Foundation
Reproduced with permission of the Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum
© Trustees of Princeton University

 

Minor White. 'Night Icicle, 72 N. Union Street, Rochester, New York' 1959

 

Minor White 
Night Icicle, 72 N. Union Street, Rochester, New York
1959
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 23 cm (12 x 9 1/16 in.)
Purchased in part with funds provided by Daniel Greenberg, Susan Steinhauser, and the Greenberg Foundation
Reproduced with permission of the Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum
© Trustees of Princeton University

 

Minor White. '203 Park Ave., Arlington, Massachusetts' 1966

 

Minor White
203 Park Ave., Arlington, Massachusetts
1966
Gelatin silver print
34.3 x 12.7 cm (13 1/2 x 5 in.)
Promised gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced with permission of the Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum
© Trustees of Princeton University

 

gm_34199701-WEB

 

Minor White 
Easter Sunday, Stony Brook State Park, New York
1963
Gelatin silver print
23.7 x 9.2 cm (9 5/16 x 3 5/8 in.)
Promised gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced with permission of the Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum
© Trustees of Princeton University

 

 

Minor White. 'Mission District, San Francisco, California' 1949

 

Minor White 
Mission District, San Francisco, California
1949
Gelatin silver print
33.8 x 9.5 cm (13 5/16 x 3 3/4 in.)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase
Reproduced with permission of the Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum. © Trustees of Princeton University

 

 

The J. Paul Getty Museum
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, California 90049

Opening hours:
Tues – Friday 10 am – 5.30 pm
Saturday 10 am – 9 pm
Sunday 10 am – 9 pm
Monday closed

The J. Paul Getty Museum website

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09
Oct
14

Exhibition: ‘Sharp, Clear Pictures: Edward Steichen’s World War 1 and Condé Nast Years’ at The Art Institute of Chicago

Exhibition dates: 24th June – 13th October 2014

 

Brave man, hanging over the side of a rickety biplane at 15,000 feet taking aerial photographs during World War One but just look at the images he brought back, especially the hellish Untitled (Vaux) (1918-19, below). I’m still not that convinced by his portraiture. The technical proficiency is magnificent (lighting, set, costume) but they are just too styled for me – the cat in the top left corner of Noel Coward (1932, below), the bowler hat of Charles Chaplin (1931, below) and the double shadow of Fred Astaire in Funny Face (1927, below) coupled with bands of light/dark and tons of “atmosphere” (certainly not sharp and clear!) which echo the mannerisms of Pictorialism. I see little modernist aesthetics and advertising tactics in these photographs. They are beautiful but they leave me unengaged. I much prefer the advertising photography in the next posting, much more angular and modern. You will have to wait and see what it is!

Marcus

.
Many thankx to The Art Institute of Chicago for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

“At the start of World War I in 1914, Edward Steichen was a pioneering champion of art photography – catapulting to fame as a leading member of the Photo Secessionists and as cofounder of the trailblazing magazine Camera Work. Yet by the early 1920s, Steichen had rejected the soft focus, dreamy landscapes and portraits of his early years in favor of realist photographs made for informational purposes or popular consumption. This turning point was first marked by his role in World War I as chief of the Photographic Section of the American Expeditionary Forces from 1917 to 1919; and was fully realized in his subsequent work as lead photographer at Condé Nast publications from 1923 to 1937.

While on military duty, Steichen helped adapt aerial photography for intelligence purposes, implementing surveillance programs that had a lasting impact on modern warfare. He later reflected: “The wartime problem of making sharp, clear pictures from a vibrating, speeding airplane ten to twenty thousand feet in the air had brought me a new kind of technical interest in photography… Now I wanted to know all that could be expected from photography.” Steichen began to value photography’s capacity to transmit and encode information, and he soon proved his savvy as a collaborator and producer rather than a solitary auteur – new skills that enabled his subsequent groundbreaking career in magazines. Upon his return to New York in 1923, Steichen joined Condé Nast publications, creating iconic fashion photographs and celebrity portraits for Vogue and Vanity Fair. Over a period of nearly 15 years he created images that redefined the field through their clever use of modernist aesthetics and advertising tactics, becoming an influential impresario who promoted photography as a mass-media tool.

Focusing on rarely seen Steichen photographs drawn from the Art Institute’s collection, this exhibition includes a unique album of over 80 World War I aerial photographs assembled and annotated by Steichen himself as well as a group of iconic glamour portraits and fashion photographs done for Condé Nast, featuring notable figures such as Greta Garbo, Fred Astaire, and Gloria Swanson.”

Text from The Art Institute of Chicago website

 

 

Photographic Section, U.S. Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) and Major Edward J. Steichen, A.S.A. 'Bomb Dropped From Airplane' 1918

 

Photographic Section, U.S. Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) and Major Edward J. Steichen, A.S.A.
Bomb Dropped From Airplane
1918
Gelatin silver print, from loose-leaf album of aerial photographs from the Photographic Section, Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces, World War I
The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of William Kistler
© 2014 The Estate of Edward Steichen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

 

Photographic Section, U.S. Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) and Major Edward J. Steichen, A.S.A. 'In Chateau Thierry Sector showing service bridges destroyed by retreating enemy forces' September 7, 1918

 

Photographic Section, U.S. Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) and Major Edward J. Steichen, A.S.A.
In Chateau Thierry Sector showing service bridges destroyed by retreating enemy forces
September 7, 1918
Gelatin silver print, from loose-leaf album of aerial photographs from the Photographic Section, Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces, World War I
The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of William Kistler
© 2014 The Estate of Edward Steichen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Photographic Section, U.S. Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) and Major Edward J. Steichen, A.S.A. 'In Chateau Thierry Sector showing service bridges destroyed by retreating enemy forces' (detail) September 7, 1918

 

Photographic Section, U.S. Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) and Major Edward J. Steichen, A.S.A.
In Chateau Thierry Sector showing service bridges destroyed by retreating enemy forces (detail)
September 7, 1918
Gelatin silver print, from loose-leaf album of aerial photographs from the Photographic Section, Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces, World War I
The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of William Kistler
© 2014 The Estate of Edward Steichen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Photographic Section, U.S. Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) and Major Edward J. Steichen, A.S.A. 'Concrete landing platform for airplanes at Puxieux (each strip about 50 ft. wide by 250 ft long), crescent shape mass was formed by the pile of broken concrete when the platform was removed, altitude 15,000 ft.,' August 23, 1918

 

Photographic Section, U.S. Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) and Major Edward J. Steichen, A.S.A.
Concrete landing platform for airplanes at Puxieux (each strip about 50 ft. wide by 250 ft long), crescent shape mass was formed by the pile of broken concrete when the platform was removed, altitude 15,000 ft.,
August 23, 1918
Gelatin silver print, from loose-leaf album of aerial photographs from the Photographic Section, Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces, World War I
The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of William Kistler
© 2014 The Estate of Edward Steichen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Photographic Section, U.S. Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) and Major Edward J. Steichen, A.S.A. 'Concrete landing platform for airplanes at Puxieux (each strip about 50 ft. wide by 250 ft long), crescent shape mass was formed by the pile of broken concrete when the platform was removed, altitude 15,000 ft.,' (detail) August 23, 1918

 

Photographic Section, U.S. Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) and Major Edward J. Steichen, A.S.A.
Concrete landing platform for airplanes at Puxieux (each strip about 50 ft. wide by 250 ft long), crescent shape mass was formed by the pile of broken concrete when the platform was removed, altitude 15,000 ft., (detail)
August 23, 1918
Gelatin silver print, from loose-leaf album of aerial photographs from the Photographic Section, Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces, World War I
The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of William Kistler
© 2014 The Estate of Edward Steichen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Photographic Section, U.S. Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) and Major Edward J. Steichen, A.S.A. 'Untitled (Vaux)' 1918/19

 

Photographic Section, U.S. Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) and Major Edward J. Steichen, A.S.A.
Untitled (Vaux)
1918-19
Gelatin silver print, from loose-leaf album of aerial photographs from the Photographic Section, Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces, World War I
The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of William Kistler
© 2014 The Estate of Edward Steichen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Edward Steichen. 'Mary Duncan in "Lilly,"' 1931

 

Edward Steichen
Mary Duncan in “Lilly”
1931
The Art Institute of Chicago, bequest of Edward Steichen by direction of Joanna T. Steichen and George Eastman House
© 2014 The Estate of Edward Steichen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

 

“Throughout his extensive career, famed photographer Edward Steichen (1879-1973) championed photography’s multiple roles – from his earliest efforts to promote American photography as an equal among the modern fine arts, to his groundbreaking work for the magazine industry. A new exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, Sharp, Clear Pictures: Edward Steichen’s World War I and Condé Nast Years, on view from June 28 – September 28, 2014, in Galleries 1-4, examines a crucial period in Steichen’s career, when he rejected the painterly Pictorialist aesthetic of his early years in favor of a straight, information-based approach. This turning point was first signaled by Steichen’s role in World War I, as chief of the Photographic Section of the American Expeditionary Forces from 1917 to 1919, and was fully realized in his work as lead photographer at Condé Nast Publications from 1923 to 1937.

Focusing on rarely seen Steichen photographs drawn from the Art Institute’s collection, this exhibition includes a unique album of over 80 World War I aerial photographs assembled and annotated by Steichen himself as well as a group of iconic glamour portraits and fashion photographs done for Condé Nast, featuring such early Hollywood royalty as Mary Pickford, Greta Garbo, Fred Astaire, Charlie Chaplin and Gloria Swanson, as well as key historical figures like Winston Churchill.

Prior to WWI, Edward Steichen was a pioneering champion of art photography – he had a leading reputation in the Photo Secession movement in New York, and, along with his mentor Alfred  Stieglitz, had cofounded its trail-blazing fine-art journal Camera Work. Together, they opened the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession, later 291, which first presented Picasso, Bråncusi, and a range of progressive photographers to the American public. In 1906, seeking a change, Steichen moved to Voulangis, France, with his family, where he immersed himself in European modern art. They remained there until the outbreak of the war in 1914, when, under the threat of advancing German troops, they fled home to the United States.

In July 1917, Steichen entered active duty with the goal of becoming “a photographic reporter, as Mathew Brady had been in the Civil War,” but he quickly abandoned this romantic notion to help implement the newest weapon of war – aerial photography. While on military duty, Steichen helped adapt aerial photography for intelligence purposes, implementing surveillance programs that had a lasting impact on modern warfare. He later reflected: “The wartime problem of making sharp, clear pictures from a vibrating, speeding airplane ten to twenty thousand feet in the air had brought me a new kind of technical interest in photography… Now I wanted to know all that could be expected from photography.” Steichen began to value photography’s capacity to transmit and encode information, and he soon proved his savvy as a collaborator and producer rather than a solitary auteur – new skills that enabled his subsequent groundbreaking career in magazines.

Following his military discharge in 1919, Steichen returned to Voulangis, where for a period of three years he created work that embraced clear focus, close cropping, and other techniques of modernist photography. Upon his return to New York in 1923, Steichen joined Condé Nast Publications, creating iconic fashion photographs and celebrity portraits for Vogue and Vanity Fair. In undertaking this challenging endeavor, the organizational and technical skills Steichen gained during his time in the military and in Voulangis proved invaluable.

Steichen championed the cultural and economic potential of celebrity, fashion, and advertising photography, creating images that became the foundation for contemporary magazine photography. Over a period of nearly 15 years he created images that redefined the field through their clever use of modernist aesthetics and advertising tactics, becoming an influential impresario who promoted photography as a mass-media tool.”

Press release from The Art Institute of Chicago website

 

Edward Steichen. 'Self-Portrait with Brush and Palette' 1902

 

Edward Steichen
Self-Portrait with Brush and Palette
1902
The Art Institute of Chicago, Alfred Stieglitz Collection
© 2014 The Estate of Edward Steichen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Edward Steichen. 'Mary Pickford' 1924

 

Edward Steichen
Mary Pickford
1924
The Art Institute of Chicago, Bequest of Edward Steichen by direction of Joanna T. Steichen and George Eastman House
© 2014 The Estate of Edward Steichen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Edward Steichen. 'Fred Astaire in Funny Face' 1927

 

Edward Steichen
Fred Astaire in Funny Face
1927
The Art Institute of Chicago, Bequest of Edward Steichen by direction of Joanna T. Steichen and George Eastman House
© 2014 The Estate of Edward Steichen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Edward Steichen. 'Noel Coward' 1932

 

Edward Steichen
Noel Coward
1932
The Art Institute of Chicago, bequest of Edward Steichen by direction of Joanna T. Steichen and George Eastman House
© 2014 The Estate of Edward Steichen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Edward Steichen. 'Charles Chaplin' 1931

 

Edward Steichen
Charles Chaplin
1931
The Art Institute of Chicago, Bequest of Edward Steichen by direction of Joanna T. Steichen and George Eastman House
© 2014 The Estate of Edward Steichen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Edward Steichen. 'Lily Pons' 1932

 

Edward Steichen
Lily Pons
1932
The Art Institute of Chicago, bequest of Edward Steichen by direction of Joanna T. Steichen and George Eastman House
© 2014 The Estate of Edward Steichen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Edward Steichen. 'Winston Churchill' 1932

 

Edward Steichen
Winston Churchill
1932
The Art Institute of Chicago, Bequest of Edward Steichen by direction of Joanna T. Steichen and George Eastman House
© 2014 The Estate of Edward Steichen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Edward Steichen. 'Greta Garbo and John Gilbert' 1928

 

Edward Steichen
Greta Garbo and John Gilbert
1928
The Art Institute of Chicago, bequest of Edward Steichen by direction of Joanna T. Steichen and George Eastman House
© 2014 The Estate of Edward Steichen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

 

The Art Institute of Chicago
111 South Michigan Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60603-6404
T: (312) 443-3600

Opening hours:
Monday – Wednesday, 10.30 – 5.00
Thursday, 10.30 – 8.00
Friday, 10.30 – 8.00
Saturday – Sunday, 10.00 – 5.00
The museum is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s days.

The Art Institute of Chicago website

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30
Sep
14

Exhibition: ‘Lichtbilder. Photography at the Städel Museum from the Beginnings to 1960′ at the Städel Museum, Frankfurt

Exhibition dates: 9th July – 5th October 2014

Curators: Felicity Grobien, curatorial assistant, Modern Art Department, Städel Museum; Dr Felix Krämer, head of the Modern Art Department at the Städel Museum

 

There are some absolutely stunning images in this posting. It has been a great pleasure to put the posting together, allowing me the chance to sequence Roger Fenton’s elegiac London: The British Museum (1857, below) next to Werner Mantz’s minimalist masterpiece Cologne: Bridge (c. 1927, below), followed by Carlo Naya’s serene Venice: View of the Marciana Library (c. 1875, below) and Albert Renger-Patzsch’s sublime but disturbing (because of the association of the place) Buchenwald in November (c. 1954, below). What four images to put together – where else would I get the chance to do that? And then to follow it up with the visual association of the Royal Prussian Institute of Survey Photography’s Cologne: Cathedral (1889, below) with Otto Steinert’s Luminogram (1952, below). This is the stuff that you dream of!

The more I study photography, the more I am impressed by the depth of relatively unknown Eastern European photographers from countries such as Hungary, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Bulgaria and Turkey. In this posting I have included what details I could find on the artists Václav Jíru, Václav Chochola and the well known Czech photographer František Drtikol. The reproduction of his image Crucified (before 1914. below) is the best that you will find of this image on the web.

I would love to do more specific postings on these East European photographers if any museum has collections that they would like to advertise more widely.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

PS. Lichtbilder = light images.

.
Many thankx to the Städel Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Lichtbilder. Photography at the Städel Museum from the Beginnings to 1960'

Installation view of the exhibition 'Lichtbilder. Photography at the Städel Museum from the Beginnings to 1960'

Installation view of the exhibition 'Lichtbilder. Photography at the Städel Museum from the Beginnings to 1960'

Installation view of the exhibition 'Lichtbilder. Photography at the Städel Museum from the Beginnings to 1960'

Installation view of the exhibition 'Lichtbilder. Photography at the Städel Museum from the Beginnings to 1960'

Installation view of the exhibition 'Lichtbilder. Photography at the Städel Museum from the Beginnings to 1960'

Rudolf Koppitz. 'Head of a Man with Helmet' c. 1929. Installation view of the exhibition 'Lichtbilder. Photography at the Städel Museum from the Beginnings to 1960'

 

Rudolf Koppitz (1884-1936)
Head of a Man with Helmet
c. 1929
Carbon print, printed c. 1929
49.8 × 48.4 cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt a. M., donated by Annette and Rudolf Kicken 2013

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Lichtbilder. Photography at the Städel Museum from the Beginnings to 1960'

 

Installation views of the exhibition Lichtbilder. Photography at the Städel Museum from the Beginnings to 1960 at the Städel Museum, Frankfurt

 

 

In 1845, the Frankfurt Städel was the first art museum in the world to exhibit photographic works. The invention of the new medium had been announced in Paris just six years earlier, making 2014 the 175th anniversary of that momentous event. In keeping with the tradition it thus established, the Städel is now devoting a comprehensive special exhibition to European photo art – Lichtbilder. Photography at the Städel Museum from the Beginnings to 1960 – presenting the photographic holdings of the museum’s Modern Art Department, which have recently undergone significant expansion. From 9 July to 5 October 2014, in addition to such pioneers as Nadar, Gustave Le Gray, Roger Fenton and Julia Margaret Cameron, the show will feature photography heroes of the twentieth century such as August Sander, Albert Renger-Patzsch, Man Ray, Dora Maar or Otto Steinert, while moreover highlighting virtually forgotten members of the profession. While giving an overview of the Städel’s early photographic holdings and the acquisitions of the past years, the exhibition will also shed light on the history of the medium from its beginnings to 1960.

“Even if we think of the presentation of artistic photography in an art museum as something still relatively new, the Städel already began staging photo exhibitions in the mid 1840s. We take special pleasure in drawing attention to this pioneering feat and – with the Lichtbilder exhibition – now, for the first time, providing insight into our collection of early photography, which has been decisively expanded over the past years through new purchases and generous gifts,” comments Städel director Max Hollein. Felix Krämer, one of the show’s curators, explains: “With Lichtbilder we would like to stimulate a more intensive exploration of the multifaceted history of a medium which, even today, is often still underestimated.”

The first mention of a photo exhibition at the Städel Museum dates from all the way back to 1845, when the Frankfurt Intelligenz Blatt - the official city bulletin – ran an ad. This is the earliest known announcement of a photography show in an art museum worldwide. The 1845 exhibition featured portraits by the photographer Sigismund Gerothwohl of Frankfurt, the proprietor of one of the city’s first photo studios who has meanwhile all but fallen into oblivion. Like many other institutions at the time, the Städel Museum had a study collection which also included photographs: then Städel director Johann David Passavant began collecting photos for the museum in the 1850s. In addition to reproductions of artworks, the photographic holdings comprised genre scenes, landscapes and cityscapes by such well-known pioneers in the medium as Maxime Du Camp, Wilhelm Hammerschmidt, Carl Friedrich Mylius or Giorgio Sommer. An 1852 exhibition showcasing views of Venice launched a tradition of presentations of photographic works from the Städel’s own collection.

Whereas the photos exhibited in the Städel in the nineteenth century were contemporary works, the show Lichtbilder will focus on the development of artistic photography. The point of departure will be the museum’s own photographic holdings, which were significantly expanded through major acquisitions from the collections of Uta and Wilfried Wiegand in 2011 and Annette and Rudolf Kicken in 2013, and which continue to grow today through new purchases. The exhibition’s nine chronologically ordered sections will span the history of the medium from the beginnings of paper photography in the 1840s to the photographic experiments of the fotoform Group in the 1950s. …

 

Édouard Baldus (1813-1889) 'Orange: The Wall of the Théâtre antique' 1858

 

Édouard Baldus (1813-1889)
Orange: The Wall of the Théâtre antique
1858
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
43.4 x 33.4 cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK

 

Roger Fenton (1819-1869) 'London: The British Museum' 1857

 

Roger Fenton (1819-1869)
London: The British Museum
1857
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
32.2 x 43 cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK

 

Werner Mantz (1901-1983) 'Cologne: Bridge' c. 1927

 

Werner Mantz (1901-1983)
Cologne: Bridge
c. 1927
Gelatin silver print on baryta paper
16.7 x 22.5 cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

Werner Mantz began his career as a portrait and advertising photographer, later becoming known for his architectural photographs of the modernist housing projects in Cologne during the 1920s. This portfolio of photographs was selected by the artist towards the end of his life as representative of his finest work. These rare prints reveal Mantz’s mastery in still-life and architecture photography, and are considered some of the most influential works created in the period. (Text from the Tate website)

 

Carlo Naya (1816-1882) 'Venice: View of the Marciana Library, the Campanile and the Ducal Palace' c. 1875

 

Carlo Naya (1816-1882)
Venice: View of the Marciana Library, the Campanile and the Ducal Palace
c. 1875
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
41.3 x 54.1 cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK

 

Carlo Naya (1816, Tronzano Vercellese – 1882, Venice) was an Italian photographer known for his pictures of Venice including its works of art and views of the city for a collaborative volume in 1866. He also documented the restoration of Giotto’s frescoes at the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua. Naya was born in Tronzano di Vercelli in 1816 and took law at the University of Pisa. An inheritance allowed him to travel to major cities in Europe, Asia, and northern Africa. He was advertising his services as portrait photographer in Istanbul in 1845, and opened his studio in Venice in 1857. He sold his work through photographer and optician Carlo Ponti. Following Naya’s death in 1882, his studio was run by his wife, then by her second husband. In 1918 it was closed and publisher Osvaldo Böhm bought most of Naya’s archive. (Text from Wikipedia website)

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Buchenwald in November' c. 1954

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Buchenwald in November
c. 1954
Gelatin silver print
16.5 x 22.4 cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

Royal Prussian Institute of Survey Photography (est. 1885) 'Cologne: Cathedral' 1889

 

Royal Prussian Institute of Survey Photography (est. 1885)
Cologne: Cathedral
1889
Gelatin silver prints mounted on cardboard
79.8 x 64.5 cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK

 

Otto Steinert (1915-1978) 'Luminogram' 1952

 

Otto Steinert (1915-1978)
Luminogram
1952
Gelatin silver print on baryta paper mounted on cardboard
41.5 x 59.5 cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK
© Nachlass Otto Steinert, Museum Folkwang, Essen

 

Otto Steinert (1915-1978) 'Ein-Fuß-Gänger' 1950

 

Otto Steinert (1915-1978)
Ein-Fuß-Gänger
1950
Gelatin silver print
28.5 × 39 cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK

 

Paul Outerbridge (1896-1958) 'Egg on Block' 1923

 

Paul Outerbridge (1896-1958)
Egg on Block
1923
Platinum print
11.9 x 9.4 cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK
© Paul Outerbridge, Jr., © 2014 G. Ray Hawkins Gallery, Beverly Hills, CA

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Untitled (Close-up of a Zip Fastener)' 1928-1933

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Untitled (Close-up of a Zip Fastener)
1928-1933
Gelatin silver print
23 x 16.9 cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

 

“In the entrance area to the show, the visitor will be greeted by a selection of Raphael reproductions presented by the Städel in exhibitions in 1859 and 1860. They feature full views and details of the cartoons executed by Raphael to serve as reference images for the Sistine Chapel tapestries. The art admirer was no longer compelled to travel to London to marvel at the Raphael cartoons at Hampton Court, but could now examine these masterworks in large-scale photographs right at the Städel. The following exhibition room is devoted to the pioneers of photography of the 1840s to ’60s. No sooner had the invention of the new medium been announced in 1839 than enthusiasts set about conquering the world with the photographic image. The aspiration of the bourgeoisie for self-representation in accordance with aristocratic conventions soon rendered photographic portraiture a lucrative business; to keep up with the growing demand, the number of photo studios in the European metropolises steadily increased. Works of architecture and historical monuments, art treasures and celebrities were all recorded on film and made available to the public. Quite a few photographers – for example Édouard Baldus, the Bisson brothers, Frances Frith, Wilhelm Hammerschmidt and Charles Marville – set out on travels to take pictures of the cultural-historical sites of Europe and the Near East, and thus to capture these testimonies to the past on film.

Among the most successful exponents of this genre was Georg Sommer, a native of Frankfurt who emigrated to Italy in 1856 and made a name for himself there as Giorgio Sommer. The second section of the show will revolve around the image of Italy as a kind of paradise on Earth characterized by the Mediterranean landscape and the legacy of antiquity. That image, however, would not be complete without views of the simple life of the Italian population. These genre scenes – often posed – were popular as souvenirs because they fulfilled the travellers’ expectations of encountering a preindustrial, and thus unspoiled, way of life south of the Alps. Faced with the challenges presented by the climate, the long exposure times and the complex photographic development process, photographers were constantly in search of technical improvements – as illustrated in the third section of the presentation. Léon Vidal and Carlo Naya, for example, experimented with colour photography, Eadweard Muybridge with capturing sequences of movement, and the Royal Prussian Photogrammetric Institute with large-scale “mammoth photographs.”

While the pictorial language of professional photography hardly advanced, increasing emphasis was placed over the years on its technical aspects. The section of the show on artistic photography demonstrates how, at the end of the nineteenth century, enthusiastic amateur photographs worked to develop the medium with regard to aesthetics as well. Whereas until that time, professional photographers had given priority to genre scenes and other motifs popular in painting, the so-called Pictorialists set out to strengthen photography’s value as an artistic medium in its own right. Atmospheric landscapes, fairy-tale scenes and stylized still lifes were captured as subjective impressions. While Julia Margaret Cameron very effectively staged dialogues between sharp and soft focus, Heinrich Kühn employed the gum bichromate and bromoil techniques to create painterly effects.

After World War I, a new generation of photographers emerged who questioned the standards established by the Pictorialists. Their works are highlighted in the following room. Rather than intervening in the photographic development process, the adherents to this new current – who pursued interests analogous to those of the New Objectivity painters – devoted themselves to austere pictorial design and sought to establish a “new way of seeing.” The gaze was no longer to wander yearningly into the distance, but be confronted directly and immediately with the realities of society. The prosaic and rigorous images of August Sander and Hugo Erfurth satisfy the demands of this artistic creed. The exhibition moreover directs its attention to early photojournalism and the development of the mass media. Apart from documentary photographs by the autodidact Erich Salomon, Heinrich Hoffmann’s portraits of Adolf Hitler – purchased for the Städel collection in 2013 – will also be on view. Although it was Hitler himself who had commissioned them, he later prohibited the portraits’ reproduction. For in actuality, Hoffmann’s images expose the hollowness of the dictator’s demeanour. The show devotes a separate room to the work of Albert Renger-Patzsch, whose formally rigorous scenes are distinguished by uncompromising objectiveness in the depiction of nature and technology.

The photographers inspired by Surrealism pursued interests of a wholly different nature, as did the representatives of the Czech photo avant-garde – the focusses of the following two exhibition rooms. In the section on Surrealist photography, the works oscillate between fiction and reality, and photographic experiments unveil the world’s bizarre sides. Employing strange effects or unexpected motif combinations, artists such Brassaï, André Kertész, Dora Maar, Paul Outerbridge and Man Ray sought the unusual in the familiar. The Czech photographers of the interwar period, for their part, explored the possibilities of abstract and constructivist photography. Their works, many of which exhibit a symbolist tendency, are concerned with the aestheticization of the world.

The final section of the show is dedicated to Otto Steinert and the fotoform Group. It sheds light on how Steinert and the members of the artists’ group took their cues from the experiments of the photographic vanguard of the 1920s, while at the same time dissociating themselves from the propagandistic and heroizing use of photography during the National Socialist era. The six photographers who joined to found the fotoform Group in 1949 – Peter Keetman, Siegfried Lauterwasser, Wolfgang Reisewitz, Toni Schneiders, Otto Steinert and Ludwig Windstosser – coined the term “subjective photography” and emphasized the photographer’s individual perspective.

The show augments the joint presentation of photography, painting and sculpture practised at the Städel Museum since its reopening in 2011 and also to be continued during and after Lichtbilder. The aim of this exhibition mode is to convey the decisive role played by photography in art-historical pictorial tradition since the medium’s very beginnings. The presentation is being accompanied by a catalogue which – like the exhibition architecture – foregrounds the specific “palette” of photography as a medium conducted in black and white. The subtle tones of grey are mirrored not only in the works’ reproductions, but also in the colour design of the individual catalogue sections. When the visitor enters the exhibition space, he is surrounded by an architecture that is grey to the core, while at the same time making clear that no one shade of grey is like another. In the words of curator Felicity Grobien: “The exhibition reveals how multi-coloured the prints are, for in them – contrary to what we expect from black-and-white photography – we discover a vast range of subtle colour nuances that emphasize the prints; distinctiveness.”

Press release from the Städel Museum

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879) 'Mrs Herbert Duckworth' 1867

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879)
Mrs Herbert Duckworth
1867
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
35 x 27.1 cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK

 

Giorgio Sommer (1834-1914) 'Naples: Delousing' c. 1870

 

Giorgio Sommer (1834-1914)
Naples: Delousing
c. 1870
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
25.5 x 20.6 cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK

 

Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) 'Alexandra "Xie" Kitchin as Chinese "Tea-Merchant" (on Duty)' 1873

 

Lewis Carroll (1832-1898)
Alexandra “Xie” Kitchin as Chinese “Tea-Merchant” (on Duty)
1873
Albumen print
19.8 x 15.2 cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK

 

Dora Maar (1907-1997) 'Mannequin With Perm' 1935

 

Dora Maar (1907-1997)
Mannequin With Perm
1935
Gelatin silver print on baryta paper mounted on cardboard, 23.4 x 17.7 cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

August Sander (1876-1964) 'Country Girls' 1925 (print 1980 von by Gunther Sander)

 

August Sander (1876-1964)
Country Girls
1925 (print 1980 von by Gunther Sander)
Gelatin silver print
27.4 x 20 cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

Otto Steinert (1915-1978) 'La Comtesse de Fleury' 1952

 

Otto Steinert (1915-1978)
La Comtesse de Fleury
1952
Gelatin silver print on baryta paper mounted on hardboard
39.2 x 29.1 cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK
© Nachlass Otto Steinert, Museum Folkwang, Essen

 

Additional images

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Tropical Orchis, cattleya labiata' c. 1930

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Tropical Orchis, cattleya labiata
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print, printed c. 1930
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK

 

Man Ray (1890–1976) 'Schwarz und Weiß' 1926

 

Man Ray (1890-1976)
Schwarz und Weiß (Black and white)
1926 (printed 1993 by Pierre Gassmann)
Silver gelatin print
24.8 x 35.3 cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

Man Ray. 'Retour à la Raison' 1923

 

Man Ray
Retour à la Raison (Return to Reason)
1923 (printed c. 1979 from Pierre Gassmann)
Gelatin silver print
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Acquired in 2013 as a gift from Annette and Rudolf Kicken
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

 

Václav Jíru. 'Untitled (Sunbath)' 1930s

 

Václav Jíru
Untitled (Sunbath)
1930s
Gelatin silver print
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Acquired in 2013 as a gift from Annette and Rudolf Kicken

 

Jíru started to shoot as an amateur photographer, and since 1926 published photos and articles. He first exhibited in 1933 and collaborated with the Theatre Vlasta Burian, photographed in the Liberated Theatre, was devoted to advertising photography, and became well known in the international press (London News, London Life, Picture Post, Sie und Er, Zeit im Bild).

In 1940 he was arrested by the Gestapo for resistance activities, and sentenced to life in prison by the end of the war. In the book Six Spring, where there are pictures taken shortly after liberation, he described his experience of prison and concentration camps. After the war he became a member of the Union of Czechoslovak Journalists and in 1948 a member of the Association of Czechoslovak Artists. He continued shooting, but also looking for new talented photographers. In 1957, he founded and led four languages ​​photographic Revue Photography. By the end of his life he organized a photographic exhibition and served on the juries of photographic competitions.

The photographs of Václav Jírů, especially in the pre-war stage, was very wide: sports photography, theatrical portrait, landscape, nude, social issues, report. After the war he concentrated on the cycles of nature, landscapes and cities. A frequent theme of his photographs was Prague, which unlike many other photographers he photographed in its unsentimental everyday life (Prague mirrors, walls Poetry Prague, Prague ghosts). (Text translated from Czech Wikipedia)

 

Werner Mantz (1901-1983) 'Förderturm – Im Auftrag der Staatsmijnen Heerlen/Niederlande' 1937

 

Werner Mantz (1901-1983)
Förderturm – Im Auftrag der Staatsmijnen Heerlen/Niederlande (Headframe – On behalf of the States Mine Heerlen / Netherlands)
1937
Gelatin silver bromide print
22.6 x 16.7 cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

 

Václav Chochola. 'Kolotoc-Konieci' (merry-go-round horse) c. 1958

 

Václav Chochola
Kolotoc-Konieci (merry-go-round horse)
c. 1958
Gelatin silver print
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Acquired in 2013 as a gift from Annette and Rudolf Kicken

 

Chochola (January 31, 1923 in Prague – August 27, 2005) was a Czech photographer, known for classic Czech art and portrait photography. He began photography while studying at grammar school in Prague-Karlin. After leaving the photographer taught and studied at the School of Graphic Arts. He was a freelance photographer, photographed at the National Theatre and has collaborated with many other scenes. Chochol created a series of images using non-traditional techniques, creating photograms, photomontage and roláže.

In his extensive work Chochol was devoted to candid photographs, portraits of celebrities (famous for his portrait of Salvador Dali), acts or sports photography. His documentary images from the Prague uprising in May 1945 are invaluable. In 1970 Chochol spent a month in custody for photographing the grave of Jan Palach. He died after a brief serious illness in Motol Hospital in Prague. (Text translated from Czech Wikipedia)

Jde užasle světem, o kterém jako kluk na předměstí snil a od něhož byl vždy oddělen červenou šňůrou, a do něhož má najednou přístup. Skutečnost, že v tomto světě nikdy nebyl úplně doma, dokázal proměnit v nepřehlédnutelnou přednost: zbystřilo mu to oko a zahlédl detaily, které my oslněni jinými cíli ani nevidíme.

It astonished world that as a kid in the suburbs and dreamed of which was always separated by a red cord, and which suddenly has access. The fact that in this world was never quite at home, he could turn into immense advantages: it sharpened his eye and saw the details that dazzled my other goals can not even see.

 

Frantisek Drtikol (1883-1961) 'Crucified' before 1914

 

Frantisek Drtikol (1883-1961)
Crucified
before 1914 (printed before 1914)
Gelatin silver print
22.7 x 17.3 cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Acquired in 2013 as a gift from Annette and Rudolf Kicken
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013

 

František Drtikol (3 March 1883, Příbram – 13 January 1961, Prague) was a Czech photographer of international renown. He is especially known for his characteristically epic photographs, often nudes and portraits.

From 1907 to 1910 he had his own studio, until 1935 he operated an important portrait photostudio in Prague on the fourth floor of one of Prague’s remarkable buildings, a Baroque corner house at 9 Vodičkova, now demolished. Jaroslav Rössler, an important avant-garde photographer, was one of his pupils. Drtikol made many portraits of very important people and nudes which show development from pictorialism and symbolism to modern composite pictures of the nude body with geometric decorations and thrown shadows, where it is possible to find a number of parallels with the avant-garde works of the period. These are reminiscent of Cubism, and at the same time his nudes suggest the kind of movement that was characteristic of thefuturism aesthetic.

He began using paper cut-outs in a period he called “photopurism”. These photographs resembled silhouettes of the human form. Later he gave up photography and concentrated on painting. After the studio was sold Drtikol focused mainly on painting, Buddhist religious and philosophical systems. In the final stage of his photographic work Drtikol created compositions of little carved figures, with elongated shapes, symbolically expressing various themes from Buddhism. In the 1920s and 1930s, he received significant awards at international photo salons. (Text from Wikipedia)

 

August Sander. 'Ret Bearbeitet' 1927

 

August Sander (1876-1964)
Ret Bearbeitet
1927
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014

 

 

Städel Museum
Schaumainkai 63
60596 Frankfurt

Opening hours:
Tuesday, Friday – Sunday 10.00 am – 6.00 pm
Wednesday and Thursday 10.00 am – 9.00 pm

Städel Museum website

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27
Sep
14

Exhibition: ‘The Museum of Photography. A Revision’ at Museum Ludwig, Cologne

Exhibition dates: 28th June – 5th October 2014

 

The ghost of the photography museum. The ghost of the machine.

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Many thankx to Museum Ludwig for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Museum of Photography. A Revision' at Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Museum of Photography. A Revision' at Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Museum of Photography. A Revision' at Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest

 

Installation views of the exhibition The Museum of Photography. A Revision at Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest

 

Marcus A. Root. 'Daguerreotype of a Mother and Child' 1840

 

Marcus A. Root
Daguerreotype of a Mother and Child
1840
Museum Ludwig
Photo: © Rhenish image archive

 

Gustave Le Gray. 'Pier and lighthouse at Le Havre' 1856

 

Gustave Le Gray
Pier and lighthouse at Le Havre
1856
Museum Ludwig
Photo: © Rhenish image archive

 

Hermann Wilhelm Vogel. 'Three-color printing process by Bird Ulrich. Uptake by oil paintings and natural butterflies' 1892

 

Hermann Wilhelm Vogel
Three-color printing process by Bird Ulrich. Uptake by oil paintings and natural butterflies
1892
Museum Ludwig
Photo: © Rhenish image archive

 

 

“A ghost has been haunting podiums, periodicals, and arts pages for decades: the ghost of the photography museum. “We need one,” say advocates; “really?” counter opponents. Chemist Erich Stenger (1878-1957), a passionate collector of photographs, viewed them not as art, but as technological evidence. Yet the way he envisaged presenting them was in a museum. At an early date he called for the establishment of a (technology-based) museum of photography, accumulating items for it and drawing up a display plan. Among the first collectors of photography, he amassed holdings of nineteenth-century landscapes, portraits, photographs taken by airmen in World War I, portraits framed as decorative items, prizewinning pictures of animals from the first half of the twentieth century, caricatures about photography, and much else besides. As a scientist, Stenger collected data and represented it in the form of tables and diagrams. That is also how he ordered everything relating to photography that he could lay his hands on. He distinguished some one hundred categories, from architecture photography to trick photography. His museum was to resemble an encyclopedia of photography, and in that sense he was very much a man of the nineteenth century. He showed his collection at most major photography exhibitions held during his lifetime, including Pressa in Cologne in 1928.

Stenger’s collection is now integrated into the Agfa collection, which in turn forms an important part of the photography holdings at the Museum Ludwig. The items amassed by Stenger now therefore constitute a museum within a museum – within an art museum, in fact. How is an art museum to deal with a collection of this kind? Individual items and sections from it have been exhibited since the early years of the twentieth century. At the Museum Ludwig it has been represented in Facts (2006), Silber und Salz (Silver and Salt; 1988), An den süssen Ufern Asiens (On the Sweet Shores of Asia; 1989), and many other shows. Stenger’s ideas about his collection are now being spotlighted and presented under one roof. This seems appropriate at a time when museums and archives are the subject of heated debates and intensive self-examination. As institutions, they shape and regulate cultural memory; and photography in museums, in particular, influences our view of the past and the present. This function of the Stenger collection acquired semi-official status in 2005, when it was named a national cultural treasure. That is reason enough to subject it to a reappraisal, re-examining its contents, the criteria governing its accumulation, and the ways in which an art museum might want to approach it today.

The exhibition comprises approximately 250 photographs and objects.”

Press release from Museum Ludwig website

 

Unknown photographer. 'Portrait Erich Stenger' 1906

 

Unknown photographer
Portrait Erich Stenger
1906
Museum Ludwig
Photo: © Rhenish image archive

 

Henry Traut. 'Portrait, Munich' 1932

 

Henry Traut
Portrait, Munich
1932
Museum Ludwig
Photo: © Rhenish image archive

 

Franz Schensky. 'Möwenpaar' 1930

 

Franz Schensky
Möwenpaar
1930
Museum Ludwig
Photo: © Rhenish image archive

 

Franz Grainer. 'Portrait' 1920

 

Franz Grainer
Portrait
1920
Museum Ludwig
Photo: © Rhenish image archive

 

Unknown artist. 'Template for a photomontage (Royal Bavarian Infantry Regiment)' 2nd half of the 19th century

 

Unknown artist
Template for a photomontage (Royal Bavarian Infantry Regiment)
2nd half of the 19th century
Museum Ludwig
Photo: © Rhenish image archive

 

 

Museum Ludwig 
Hein­rich-Böll-Platz
50667 Köln
Phone +49 221 221 26165

Opening hours:
Tues­day to Sun­day (in­cl. holi­days): 10.00 am – 6.00 pm
Ev­ery first Thurs­day of the month: 10.00 am – 10.00 pm
Closed Mon­days

Museum Ludwig website

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26
Sep
14

Exhibition: ‘Rothko to Richter: Mark Making in Abstract Painting from the Collection of Preston H. Haskell’, Class of 1960 at the Princeton University Art Museum

Exhibition dates: 24th May – 5th October 2014

 

Think about the big 4 colours:  Red Green Blue Yellow – and then there are the browns, the purples, magenta, cyan etc etc… Then have a look at the Gerhard Richter (Abstract Painting (613-3), 1986 below) in that light. A great colourist – but very reliant on the big four. Now compare him to Helen Frankenthaler (Belfry, 1979 below) – with this artist it’s a sort of a green, a sort of a red. And she used that palette in her watercolours as well.

They are both certainly aware of the presence of something else. I don’t know if Helen Frankenthaler would say that, and Gerhard Richter certainly wouldn’t, but there is an energy that is not human in the work of both of these artists. My benchmark in photography has always been the first Paul Caponigro exhibition which was called “In the presence of …” : hardly the vibrancy or the zietgeist of R and F, but he had it right in front of his camera.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Princeton University Art Museum for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the art work for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Frank Stella. 'Double Scramble' 1978

 

Frank Stella
Double Scramble
1978
Oil on canvas
174.9 x 350.5 cm
Collection of Preston H. Haskell, Class of 1960
© 2014 The Franz Kline Estate / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / photo Douglas J. Eng

 

Josef Albers. 'Study for Homage to the Square' 1964

 

Josef Albers
Study for Homage 
to the Square
1964
Oil on paper
30.8 x 33.3 cm
Collection of Preston H. Haskell, Class of 1960
© 2014 The Franz Kline Estate / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / photo Douglas J. Eng

 

Study for Homage to the Square reveals a great deal about the series that has done more than any other to establish Josef Albers’s reputation in the United States. More than one thousand Homages to the Square exist, some paintings, others prints. Launched in 1950, the series forecasts many of the key concerns of the 1960s, including seriality and repetition. In its predilection for regular shapes and methodical compositions, as well as spatial and chromatic illusionism, Homage to the Square also lays the foundation for that decade’s romance with geometric abstraction. Importantly, Homages to the Square are rooted in interwar Constructivism. Albers spent more than ten years at the Bauhaus, from 1920 to 1933, experimenting with glass, typography, furniture design, photography, printmaking, and painting. There he was weaned on the insights of artists like Piet Mondrian and fellow teachers Laslo Moholy-Nagy and Walter Gropius. Albers also played an important role in transmitting European modernism to a younger generation of American artists, first at Black Mountain College, where he taught between 1933 and 1949, and then at Yale, where he was an instructor from 1950 to 1958.1

Each work in the Homage to the Square series conforms to one of four formats, all based on nested squares. What distinguishes one format from another is the mathematical ratio governing the intervals between the squares.2 Within this standardized program, however, Albers extracts incredible variety. The squares are rendered in a range of hues that vary in their degree of brightness and saturation, creating “optical reversals” that cause some squares to project and others to recede. Albers once described the Homage to the Square series as a stage on which color might “act.”3 While individual works experiment with different “color climates,” the cycle in its entirety explores the “relational” character of color.4 Color, Albers believed, is one of the most mutable, contingent, even deceptive phenomena in the world: any one color is invariably affected by the colors around it, altering its identity and manipulating perception in the process.5 What we see is never what we see in the Homage to the Square cycle. The paint handling in Study is much looser than in other works from the series, whose smooth, fastidious surfaces are free of what Albers called “hand-writing,” by which he meant texture, impasto, and visual incident.6 However, the very informality of this smaller piece underscores an often overlooked feature of the series as a whole: the gentle, imprecise edges separating one square from another. In finessing the boundaries between shapes, Albers also finessed the boundaries between colors, investing his works with maximum visual intensity. KB

 

1 Richard Anuszkiewicz studied with Albers at Yale between 1953 and 1955.

2 See Werner Spies, Josef Albers (New York: Abrams, 1970), pp. 48-50.

3 See Sewell Sillman, Josef Albers: Paintings, Prints, Projects (New York: Clarke and Way / Associates in Fine Arts, 1956), p. 36.

4 See Spies, Josef Albers, 44. In 1963, Albers published the important Interaction of Color.

5 In this respect, Albers sought to exploit the “discrepancy” between “physical fact” and “psychic effect.” See Hal Foster, “The Bauhaus Idea in America,” in Albers and Moholy-Nagy: From the Bauhaus to the New World, ed. Achim Borchardt-Hume (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006), p. 99.

6 Kynaston L. McShine, Josef Albers: Homage to the Square (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1964), n.p. In the same publication, Albers describes his painting technique, which involved applying paint directly from the tube with a palette knife in one thin, even coat to create a “homogenous” “paint film.”

 

Robert Motherwell. 'Untitled (red)' 1972

 

Robert Motherwell
Untitled (red)
1972
Acrylic on canvas
182.6 x 137.3 cm
Collection of Preston H. Haskell, Class of 1960
© 2014 The Franz Kline Estate / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / photo Douglas J. Eng

 

Willem de Kooning. 'Untitled (Woman)' 1965

 

Willem de Kooning
Untitled (Woman)
1965
Oil on paper
73.7 x 58.4 cm
Collection of Preston H. Haskell, Class of 1960
© 2014 The Willem de Kooning Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / photo Douglas J. Eng

 

Willem de Kooning. 'Untitled (Woman)' (detail) 1965

 

Willem de Kooning
Untitled (Woman) 
(detail)
1965
Oil on paper
73.7 x 58.4 cm
Collection of Preston H. Haskell, Class of 1960
© 2014 The Willem de Kooning Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / photo Douglas J. Eng

 

Woman II and Untitled (Woman) attest to de Kooning’s pursuit of fluidity and irresolution. Over the course of the 1960s, he altered his materials so as to facilitate his protracted editing process and increase the speed, vitality, and fluency of his brushwork – smooth supports reduced drag while safflower oil and kerosene slowed the drying time of his paints. As de Kooning said in 1960, “I was never interested . . . [in] how to make a good,” as in a perfect, finished “painting.” “I didn’t want to pin it down at all.”

 

Helen Frankenthaler. 'February's Turn' 1979

 

Helen Frankenthaler
February’s Turn
1979
Oil on canvas
Collection of Preston H. Haskell, Class of 1960
© 2014 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / photo Douglas J. Eng

 

Helen Frankenthaler. 'Belfry' 1979

 

Helen Frankenthaler
Belfry
1979
Acrylic on canvas
208.4 x 219.7 cm
Collection of Preston H. Haskell Class of 1960
© 2014 The Franz Kline Estate / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / photo Douglas J. Eng

 

An intriguing paradox lies at the heart of Helen Frankenthaler’s work. In 1952 the artist started to create paintings that were gestural in appearance but not in fact. Thanks to a novel technique called staining, in which paint is poured onto canvas, Frankenthaler made marks that mimicked the sweeping strokes of Abstract Expressionism but indexed neither her hand nor her distinctive personality. Insofar as she minimized the role of will, choice, and subjectivity, Frankenthaler heralded a paradigm shift in postwar painting, breaking with Abstract Expressionism and planting a wedge between gesture and hand, art and artist. Frankenthaler’s technique, which evolved over time to include implements as unconventional as rags, mops, basters, sponges, squeegees, and windshield wipers,1 also has bearing on the equally paradoxical space of her paintings. In one respect, Frankenthaler strove to acknowledge, through the very act of painting, the feature that distinguishes painting from every other medium – flatness.2 This she did by thinning her paint and applying it to unprimed canvas, allowing the paint to penetrate the fabric. What results is not only a flat surface that reiterates the flat support on which it resides but also an image that is identified exactly with its ground. At the same time,

Frankenthaler’s work generates undoubtedly atmospheric effects. As the artist said in 1971, “Pictures are flat and part of the nuance and often the beauty or the drama that makes a work, or gives it life … is that it presents such an ambiguous situation of an undeniably flat surface, but on it and within it an intense play and drama of space, movements, light, illusion, [and] different perspectives.”3 Belfry and February’s Turn, both from the midpoint of Frankenthaler’s career, rely on just such an ambiguous sensation of space and depth. In their case, however, this ambiguity is exacerbated by the intrusion of marks that contradict the illusion of “aerated” flatness.4 Take the anomalous, almost gratuitous brushstroke in the center right of Belfry, for instance, or the beige clump and the area of black impasto in February’s Turn, all of which lie obstinately on the surface of otherwise dyed canvases.

These marks very clearly qualify as painterly touches. As such, they introduce a degree of materiality to Frankenthaler’s mostly disembodied paintings and recall traditional Abstract Expressionism. Belfry and February’s Turn likewise exemplify a theme that concerned Frankenthaler from the very beginning of her career: landscape. Although abstract, these paintings evoke, through format, palette, and composition, the environments in which the artist lived and traveled, including the waterfront property she bought in Connecticut in 1978 and the arid, sunburned deserts of Arizona, which she visited in 1976 and 1977. KB

 

1 Susan Cross, “The Emergence of a Painter,” After Mountains and Sea: Frankenthaler 1956-1959 (New York: Guggenheim Museum, 1998), p. 41.

2 See, for instance, Clement Greenberg’s, “Modernist Painting [1960-65],” in Art in Theory, 1900-1990: An Anthology of Changing Ideas, ed. Charles Harrison and Paul Wood (Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 1993), pp. 754-60.

3 Cindy Nemser, “Interview with Helen Frankenthaler,” Arts Magazine 46 (November 1971), p. 54.

4 John Elderfield, Frankenthaler (New York: Abrams, 1989), 66, 255. See also E. A. Carmean, “On Five Paintings by Helen Frankenthaler,” Art International 22, No. 4 (1978): pp. 28-32; and Karen Wilkin, Frankenthaler: The Darker Palette (Savannah, GA: Savannah College of Art and Design), 1998.

 

Paul Caponigro. 'Monument Valley, Utah' 1970

 

Paul Caponigro
Monument Valley, Utah
1970
From Portfolio II
Gelatin silver print

 

Paul Caponigro. 'Rock Wall, Connecticut' 1959

 

Paul Caponigro
Rock Wall, Connecticut
1959
Gelatin silver print

 

Gerhard Richter. 'Abstract Painting (613-3) 1986

 

Gerhard Richter
Abstract Painting (613-3)
1986
Oil on canvas
260.7 x 203 cm
Collection of Preston H. Haskell, Class of 1960
© 2014 The Franz Kline Estate / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / photo Douglas J. Eng

 

Few artists have tackled the subject of painting with more self-consciousness, with greater sensitivity to the history, dilemmas, and possibilities of the medium, than Gerhard Richter. For the last five decades, Richter has explored the very nature of painting with and in paint, making his an especially reflexive enterprise. In many ways, contradiction defines his prolific body of work, as does diversity, whether of mode, style, technique, or content. A student of two very different art academies, one in Dresden and the other in Düsseldorf, where he trained with Joseph Beuys, Richter was weaned on Eastern European Social Realism as well as Western Pop and Fluxus. His earliest mature canvases, from the early 1960s, consist of blurry renditions of mostly ready-made photographs representing subjects both banal and chilling, from automobiles and Nazi officials to military aircraft and aerial cityscapes. By 1966, Richter had begun to experiment with abstraction. To this day, he still alternates between objective and nonobjective painting.

The groundwork for pieces like Abstract Painting (613-3) was laid in the early 1970s, when Richter began a series of nonrepresentational paintings based on photographic enlargements of brushstrokes.1 Because they depict, in a highly illusionistic manner, reproductions of otherwise abstract marks, such paintings confuse the handmade and the technological, the original and the copy. Richter continued to duplicate brushstrokes until 1980, when he started to make actual abstract paintings, albeit in unconventional ways.2 Abstract Painting (613-3) exemplifies the technique for which Richter is recognized today, one in which editing, subtraction, and cancellation play crucial roles.3 Here as elsewhere, the artist fleshed out a preliminary composition with ordinary brushes. As it was drying, he covered the hard edge of a squeegee with paint and dragged it across the surface of the canvas, an action that blended some layers but removed others, thereby revealing what was previously concealed.4 The resulting works are tapestries of abrasions and palimpsests, heterogeneous fields of visual incident. Discontinuity is particularly evident in Abstract Painting (613-3), due to variations in the directionality of paint, the combination of cool and warm hues, and the presence of a vertical seam near the middle of the canvas. To the extent that it cedes some control to chance and introduces the specter of mechanicity, Richter’s process “muffles singular signs of personal expression”5 and trades existential drama for moderation, unlike the gestural, virtuosic canvases his paintings superficially resemble. As with many of his abstractions after 1980, Abstract Painting (613-3)’s palette is bright and sumptuous in appearance but not necessarily in tone.6 For Richter, color does not signify “happiness,” he once said, but instead a “tense” or “artificial” “cheeriness” associated with “gritted teeth.”7 KB

 

1 See Robert Storr, Gerhard Richter: Forty Years of Painting (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2002), 53, pp. 68-69.

2 These new abstractions coincided with a revival of Expressionism, called Neo-Expressionism, in the United States and Europe, a tradition from which Richter felt alienated and to which his works stand in pointed contrast. See “MoMA Interview with Robert Storr, 2002,” in Gerhard Richter: Writings, 1961-2007, ed. Dietmar Elger and Hans Ulrich Obrist (New York: D.A.P., 2009), p. 428.

3 See ibid., pp. 71–74.

4 Richter’s squeegees are essentially long pieces of rectangular plastic, often as wide as his canvases, to which handles are attached. While abrading a surface with the squeegee, Richter will sometimes use a brush or a knife to further blend and scrape. See Gerhard Richter Painting, directed by Corinna Belz (Berlin: Zero One Film, 2011), dvd.

5 Hal Foster, “Semblance According to Gerhard Richter,” Raritan 22 (Winter 2003): 160. See also Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, Gerhard Richter: Abstract Paintings 2009 (Cologne: Walther Kônig, 2009), 89, 95. Richter does not always agree with this reading of his work. See “Interview with Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, 1986,” in Gerhard Richter: Writings, p. 180.

6 The stringent quality of this and other abstractions by Richter is due as much to his predilection for bright, sharply contrasting colors as it is to his avoidance of earth tones.

7 See “Interview with Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, 2004,” p. 489.

 

Gerhard Richter. 'Abstract Painting (613-3)' 1986 (detail)

 

Gerhard Richter
Abstract Painting (613-3) (detail)
1986
Oil on canvas
260.7 x 203 cm
Collection of Preston H. Haskell, Class of 1960
© 2014 The Franz Kline Estate / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / photo Douglas J. Eng

 

 

Extract from MARK, MAKER, METHOD by Kelly Baum

The paintings in Rothko to Richter narrate a history of postwar art whose greatest points of tension and most important moments of breakthrough revolve around facture, from the Latin facere, meaning “to make.”3 Together they demonstrate a fundamental fact: when painting’s prerogatives change, so too do its procedures. Focusing on select works from the Haskell Collection, this essay explores the nature of marks and mark-making in abstract painting after World War II. In the case of the artists seen here, mark-making was an activity of incredible consequence. The success or failure of any one painting might rest on something as elementary as the choice between oil paint and acrylic paint or a brush and a palette knife. It might depend on the difference between staining and smearing, between choppy strokes and fluid swipes, or between painting dry-on-dry and wet-on-wet.

With this in mind, my essay examines how and what marks signify within a single artist’s work as well as in postwar painting as a whole. How do shifts in the way marks are made signal broader shifts in artistic practice? What are the different, often competing logics of mark-making at any given moment? How do marks reflect or, alternately, disavow the impact of mass media, technology, and photomechanical reproduction in the mid- to late twentieth century? Such an investigation is premised on a particular understanding of the word “mark.” First and foremost, “mark” is a product as well as a process – more specifically, it is an end that cannot be separated from its means. Marks are also structural – as well as vocal – components of any given painting. Not only do they reveal a great deal about a painting’s meaning, they also shape that meaning, give it form and substance, for the viewer. For the purposes of this essay, then, I consider the mechanics of mark-making to be socially, physically, symbolically, and historically important.

Marks are the constituent feature, the backbone, of painting. A painting may be comprised of hundreds, if not thousands, of marks. In most cases, these marks are made in paint, on a support, by the hands of an artist. Even when those hands wield an implement – a brush or palette knife, for example – a physical connection still obtains between artist and mark.4 (What are implements like these, after all, but prostheses that extend the hand’s reach and capability?) Many of the artists in Rothko to Richter exploit this very character of the mark. In their paintings, a direct, transparent relationship exists between mark and method, a one-to-one correspondence between every stroke of paint and every movement of the artist’s hand. Here mark and method are tautological: the former records the latter. However, not every artist in Rothko to Richter subscribes to this approach. Several developed techniques designed to depersonalize the act of mark-making, to literally divorce the mark from the artist’s hand. Some even went so far as to erase the traces their tools left behind, effacing marks as soon as they were created. Instead of flaunting the process by which their paintings were produced, these artists dissimulated.

Dominating the Haskell Collection are Abstract Expressionist painters and their counterparts in Europe, including Appel, de Kooning, Goldberg, Kline, Riopelle, Rothko, and Tworkov.5 To varying degrees, these artists prized immediacy, virtuosity, and expression. Autographic gestures play a key role in their paintings.6 Such marks constitute a kind of painterly handwriting that indexes the artist’s distinct will, personality, and psychological state – his or her very self.

Etymologically, “gesture” derives from the Medieval Latin gestura, meaning “to carry.” In its original form, gesture denoted bearing – that is, the manner in which human beings deport themselves physically. It was also affiliated with rhetoric: in the past, gesture delineated a set of “bodily movements, attitudes, expression of countenance” intended to “giv[e] effect to oratory.”7 Gesture was a supplement to speech, a kind of accent or embellishment, in other words. All such connotations are relevant to the Expressionist canvases in the Haskell Collection: for artists like Goldberg and Kline, gestures were overtures, forms of communication that served to address viewers directly and invite them to participate in a subjective exchange. Gesturing involved gesticulating in the sense we understand that word today. In Appel’s Dans la Tempête (1960) or de Kooning’s Woman II (1961), for instance, the artist’s hand, wrist, and arm – sometimes his entire body – are marshaled so as to externalize otherwise private impulses, instincts, and passions. The affective power of such gestures was in direct proportion to their muscularity, fluidity, and dynamism, traits enthusiastically embraced by American and European Expressionists, who equated intensity of spirit with intensity of brushwork.

As art historian Meyer Schapiro astutely argued in 1957, the new emphasis on gesture among abstract painters of the postwar generation precipitated concomitant changes in technique. “The consciousness of the personal and spontaneous” in painting, Schapiro wrote, “stimulates the artist to invent devices of handling, processing, surfacing, which confer to the utmost degree the aspect of the freely made. Hence the great importance of the mark, the stroke, the brush, the drip, the quality of the substance of paint itself, and the surface of the canvas as a texture and field of operation.”8 This holds true of Appel’s Dans la Tempête (1960), de Kooning’s Untitled (Woman) (1965), Goldberg’s The Keep (1958), and Kline’s Untitled (1960), among other works, whose richly impastoed surfaces and bold, impetuous brushwork register not only heightened emotion but also the presence of the artist.

If Schapiro championed these paintings as enthusiastically as he did, it was because they represented, in his view, the “last hand-made personal objects within our culture.”9 Insofar as Rothko’s and de Kooning’s canvases preserved increasingly obsolete methods of fabrication, privileging manual over industrial forms of production, they “affirmed the individual in opposition to the contrary qualities of the ordinary experience of working and doing.”10 For Schapiro, the importance of painters like Goldberg and Tworkov lay precisely in their efforts to humanize art at a moment when the subject was under assault from the dehumanizing forces of science, technology, and mass media. In his view, Abstract Expressionism represented the last bastion of freedom and individuality in an increasingly homogenous, mechanized world, a bulwark against the intrusion of standardization into every walk of life.

However, by the late 1950s, when Schapiro made this claim, a sea change was already well under way in the world of art. Even then, a younger generation of artists, represented by Rauschenberg and Stella, was beginning to embrace at the level of technique the very shifts in society and subjectivity that Schapiro and the Abstract Expressionists decried. As the 1950s gave way to the 1960s, increasing numbers of artists would cease to identify either physically or emotionally with their canvases. Simultaneously, they began to align painting with fabrication, deriving insight from the fields of design and engineering. Gradually, the taste for “the machine-made, the impersonal, and reproducible,” likewise “an air of coolness and mechanical control,” would infiltrate art, heralding a break with Abstract Expressionism.11

 

3 Sometimes reduced to “texture,” facture designates the way a work of art has been made and the manner in which its material components have been manipulated.

4 As much as possible, I have tried to avoid falling into the all-too-common trap of fetishizing the painted mark. Although much can be learned about a painting by deciphering the marks that comprise it, the mark is often conflated with something more problematic, the artist’s touch, a supposed symbol of singularity and authenticity that is inextricably related to the work’s exchange value and its status as a commodity on the market.

5 For more information on Expressionism in Europe, see Serge Guilbaut, “Disdain for the Stain: Abstract Expressionism and Tachisme,” in Abstract Expressionism: The International Context, ed. Joan Marter (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2007).

6 As Michael Leja argues, this was a historically, culturally, and ideologically specific self that invested great importance in “irrationality” and reflected new knowledge about the human mind, psyche, and condition. See his Reframing Abstract Expressionism: Subjectivity and Painting in the 1940s (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993), pp. 2-9, pp. 36-41. See also Ann Eden Gibson, Abstract Expressionism: Other Politics (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997).

7 Oxford English Dictionary Online, s.v. “Gesture,” http://www.oed.com/search?searchType=dictionary&q=gesture&_searchBtn=Search.

8 Meyer Schapiro, “Recent Abstract Painting (1957),” in Modern Art: 19th and 20th Centuries (New York: George Braziller, 1978), p. 218.

9 Ibid., p. 217.

10 Ibid., p. 218.

11 Ibid., p. 219. As Schapiro notes, if science and engineering were “distasteful” to the Abstract Expressionists, it was due largely to the role they played in World War II and the Holocaust.

 

Franz Kline. 'Untitled' 1960

 

Franz Kline
Untitled
1960
Brush and oil on canvas
47 x 45.1 cm
Collection of Preston H. Haskell, Class of 1960
© 2014 The Franz Kline Estate / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / photo Douglas J. Eng

 

Hans Hofmann. 'Composition #3' 1952

 

Hans Hofmann
Composition #3
1952
Oil on canvas
76.8 x 61.3 cm
Collection of Preston H. Haskell, Class of 1960
© 2014 Estate of Hans Hofmann / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / photo Douglas J. Eng

 

Hans Hofmann. 'Midday' 1956

 

Hans Hofmann
Midday
1956
Oil on canvas
46.4 x 35.9 cm
Collection of Preston H. Haskell, Class of 1960
© 2014 Estate of Hans Hofmann / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / photo Douglas J. Eng

 

Hans Hofmann is generally associated with the New York School, but he actually belongs to an earlier generation of artists based in Europe. Indeed, Hofmann witnessed firsthand the invention of abstraction while living in Paris from 1904 to 1914. Between 1933 and 1958, he would impart the lessons of Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso as well as those of Wassily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian to the students who attended his art schools in New York and Provincetown, Massachusetts.1 Later in life, after the works in the Haskell Collection were made, Hofmann helped broker the transition from Abstract Expressionism to Minimalism, a movement that shared his more recent predilection for restraint, objectivity, and pictorial problem-solving.2

Hofmann was never wedded to any one approach to painting. Indeed, “diversity” was in many respects his signature style. Before the late 1940s, he produced paintings of abstracted interiors, still lifes, landscapes, and figure studies, all of which bear the imprint of Cubism and Fauvism. By 1950, however, his paintings were reliably abstract: no, or almost no, recognizable content remained. Characterized by radiant luminosity, brilliant color contrasts, and tactile surfaces, Composition #3 and Midday were created just a few years before the artist closed his two schools, a moment that coincided with his critical recognition as a painter. Color serves a structural role in both paintings, generating form and defining space. In Composition #3, paint is added and subtracted, sometimes ferociously, with implements ranging from fingertips and spatulas to thick brushes and sharp paintbrush handles, all of which register clearly on the canvas. Clement Greenberg could have been describing this work when he wrote, “Klee and Soutine were perhaps the first to address the picture surface consciously as a responsive rather than inert object, and painting itself as an affair of prodding and pushing, scoring and marking, rather than of simply inscribing or covering. Hofmann has taken this approach further, and made it do even more.”3 For its part, Midday exemplifies Hofmann’s distinctive brand of “grandiose Pointillism,” a manner adopted around 1954.4 Covered in a dense crust of paint, the work is made of staccato brush marks that extend from edge to edge, resulting in an atomized, decomposed surface whose impasto projects into space.5 Midday’s resemblance to a mosaic is more than coincidental: in 1950 and 1956, Hofmann received commissions to create monumental mosaics for public spaces. KB

 

1 On the ways in which Hofmann divests the tradition of abstraction embodied by Mondrian and Kandinsky of its social and utopian aspirations, see Sam Hunter, “Introduction,” in Hans Hofmann, ed. James Yohe (New York: Rizzoli, 2002), pp. 15-16.

2 Like many of his contemporaries in Europe and the United States, Hofmann often linked the creation of art to spirituality, on the one hand, and to the artist’s personal temperament, on the other. However, these priorities were far less pronounced in his work than in that of artists such as Mondrian and Rothko. Hofmann’s concern was more for the mechanics – the grammar – of art. Ibid., p. 16, 20.

3 “Hans Hofmann [1958],” in Art and Culture: Critical Essays (Boston: Beacon Press, 1961), p. 195.

4 Hunter, “Introduction,” p. 29.

5 On the art historical importance of Hoffmann’s “fat” surfaces, which contribute to the perception of his pictures as “objects,” see Clement Greenberg, Hofmann (Paris: G. Fall, 1961), p. 32, 34.

 

Hans Hofmann. 'Midday' 1956 (detail)

 

Hans Hofmann
Midday (detail)
1956
Oil on canvas
46.4 x 35.9 cm
Collection of Preston H. Haskell, Class of 1960
© 2014 Estate of Hans Hofmann / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / photo Douglas J. Eng

 

 

IN THE WAKE OF ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM by Hal Foster

This selection from the Haskell Collection focuses on Abstract Expressionism and its aftermath and, as such, provides an occasion to reflect on the fate of these two terms, abstraction and expression, in the advanced painting of this period. I want to do so briefly here, one term at a time.

In Western painting at least since Rembrandt, we look for expression, first and foremost, in brushwork, especially brushwork that exceeds the task of representation, brushwork that appears as gesture. Gesture in excess of representation tends to be read as the mark of the artist, not only of his distinctive touch but of that touch at a particular moment. We thus take gesture to be singular, original, authentic, in a word, individual – an indication, perhaps, of the very subjectivity of the artist at that instant in time. Now, what happens to this set of associations when we jump two hundred and fifty years, from Rembrandt to Van Gogh (to stay on a Dutch axis), and then move fifty years further, from Van Gogh to Willem de Kooning (who is represented in the Haskell Collection by two oil studies for his great Woman paintings)? In what ways do these associations, these conventions (for that is what they are), come under pressure?

Pitched in this way, the question is too general; so consider the works in the Haskell Collection produced by 1960 or so by Karel Appel, Michael Goldberg, Hans Hofmann, Franz Kline, Jean-Paul Riopelle, and Jack Tworkov. Can we agree that, in each case, the artist appears to believe in his gesture as defined above, that is, as a bearer of a uniquely subjective touch? All of these pieces, even when not large, conceive the picture as an “arena” for “action” (per the famous account of Abstract Expressionism given by the critic Harold Rosenberg in 1952).1 At the same time, this action is always qualified by calculation: note, for example, how Hofmann minds the edges of his canvases; and this gesture is sometimes willful: note, for instance, how Goldberg seems a little forced in his painterly attack.

Once reiterated, a gesture, whether within one painting or from one painting to another, becomes a performance (not simply an action) as well as a sign (not simply an expression), and in this way it becomes divided from the very presence that it appeared to register in the first place. Jackson Pollock struggled with this conundrum – it was one factor that led to his partial return to figuration as early as 1951 – and we can sense this struggle in some of the works in the Haskell Collection, too (I see it in the Riopelle, among others). This problem of the reiteration of gesture is compounded by the greater difficulty of the repetition of style, that is, the repetition of the set of conventions that is Expressionism. For if de Kooning, Pollock, and friends worked in the wake of German Expressionism, so their followers labored in the aftermath of Abstract Expressionism; thus they were belated Expressionists, in effect, twice over. As gesture came under existential pressure and Expressionism under art historical pressure, they could not help but see that the former might not be as singular, nor the latter as original, as they had once thought.2

Note what occurs after 1960, in part in response to this predicament, in the Color Field painting of Helen Frankenthaler, Paul Jenkins, and Morris Louis: gesture becomes muted, and the paint is loosened from the brush. Letting paint flow is what Frankenthaler learned from the drip paintings of Pollock, and what Louis and others learned from Frankenthaler (they exploited the new fluidity of acrylics here). And yet, however liberated, this paint speaks less of the expressive presence of the painter than of the material conditions of the painting – the fact that acrylic paint runs, mixes, responds to gravity, and stains the canvas (if it is not gessoed) in such a way that its weave becomes apparent and its flatness is foregrounded. “Flatness and the delimitation of flatness”: according to the critic Clement Greenberg, these are, respectively, the essential attribute of painting in general and the distinctive capability of abstract painting in particular.3 In this respect, see how Louis, in the 1962 painting in the Haskell Collection, lets his long bands of paint develop in a way that declares not only the vertical hang of the painting but also its flat surface; here the physical characteristics of paint, color, and canvas are the sole subjects. Indeed, the painting seems to be produced as though by gravity alone, as though it were almost automatic; in comparison with Abstract Expressionism, the expressivity of the artist is here suppressed.

Such is the lesson that Frank Stella took from Louis in paintings like Double Scramble (1978) – a late example of work initiated in the mid-1960s. The critic Michael Fried termed such compositions “deductive structures” because they seemed to derive strictly from the rectangle of the support and the width of the stretcher, that is, they were deduced from the given structure of the painting alone.4 Here we are even further from the expressivity of Abstract Expressionism than we were with Louis: the composition seems to draw itself. Expressivity appears to return in the abstractions of Gerhard Richter, who is also represented in the Haskell Collection, yet the victory is a Pyrrhic one: like his  canvases, his gestures are so numerous and so reiterative that they seem to cancel one another out and so to nullify as much as to register any expressive self.

Like expression, abstraction also comes under pressure during the period surveyed by the Haskell Collection. Although presented in transcendental terms by pioneers of abstract painting such as Wassily Kandinsky in the 1910s, it was largely drained of this metaphysics by the 1960s, to the point where Stella could describe his work in the most positivist of terms: “What you see is what you see.”5 At the same time, abstraction was still endowed with great consequence for art history in general. In 1936, when the curator Alfred H. Barr Jr. presented his famous diagram of “Cubism and Abstract Art” for his show of that title at the new Museum of Modern Art in New York, abstraction served as the through-line of twentieth-century art, one that Greenberg made not only coherent but also ineluctable through his narrative of the progressive self-refinement of “modernist painting.” This story provided continuity as well as goal to twentieth-century art: “I cannot insist enough,” Greenberg wrote in “Modernist Painting” (1961), “that Modernism has never meant, and does not mean now, anything like a break with the past.”6

However, this story soon hit a large bump in the road. As abstract painting focused evermore on its own materiality, its status as an object became impossible to avoid; clearly the next step, it seemed to some avant-gardists, was to dispense with paintings altogether and to produce objects instead. Greenberg already glimpsed this heretical possibility with Stella, and this is why he never included Stella in his canon. Even if Fried still regarded Stella as the exemplar of “modernist painting,” for others, such as his close friend Carl Andre, Stella was on the other side, their side, the side of the Minimalist object as defined by the artist-critic Donald Judd. At this point, then, a “deductive structure” by Stella could be read – was read – as pure painting by some and as specific object by others.

This ambiguous status of abstract painting – as both transcendental force and mere thing, as both full and null – was already glimpsed in its first years. For example, for Kazimir Malevich, the monochrome, in its ideality, pointed to a world beyond this one; for his compatriot Aleksandr Rodchenko, however, the monochrome, in its materiality, underscored that this world was the only one we have. (At times these poles switched their charge: for some artists, transcendental abstraction suggested an emptying out of painting, a sort of Zen nullity of its own, while for others, mundane abstraction suggested a thingly presence, a fullness of its own, but the ambiguous status remained constant.) The paradox of abstraction as both full and null returns in the period surveyed by the Haskell Collection: the canvases by Robert Motherwell, Mark Rothko, and others clearly hold to the metaphysical power of abstract painting, whereas the paintings by Richter, Stella, and others manifestly do not.

Abstract painting was challenged by more than its own objecthood; it also faced an external threat, one that was even more grave. This problem runs back to its early days too, for abstraction emerged, circa 1912 – 13, along with two other avant-garde inventions, the collage and the readymade, which brought the mass-media image and the mass-produced object into the frame of high art. For many artists and critics, abstract painting was all the more important for the stout resistance it offered to these troublesome incursions (this is certainly what Greenberg believed), yet it could not fend off such mediation forever, and in the 1950s and 1960s it mostly gave up.7 De Kooning, for example, used bits of collage in his Woman series, and Robert Rauschenberg, who is also represented in the Haskell Collection, added massive amounts of mediated images to his paintings.8 By the time of Richter, such mediation is fully folded into painting: almost from the start of his career, he has moved back and forth between abstract paintings and figurative ones based on photographs (both appropriated and his own); moreover, as suggested above, his abstract paintings appear mediated in their own ways. And this always-already mediated condition is the very point of departure of the spectacular paintings by Jack Goldstein in the Haskell Collection: however abstract they appear, they are worked up entirely from appropriated images. At this point the categories of abstraction and expression are transformed beyond recognition.9

 

1 Harold Rosenberg, “The American Action Painters,” Art News 51 (December 1952).

2 As represented in the Haskell Collection, some artists, such as Sam Francis and Joan Mitchell, carried on as if these problems didn’t matter much.

3 Clement Greenberg, “After Abstract Expressionism,” Art International 25 (October 1962), p. 30.

4 Michael Fried, Three American Painters: Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, Frank Stella (Cambridge, MA: Fogg Art Museum, 1965).

5 Frank Stella, quoted in Bruce Glaser, “Questions to Stella and Judd,” Art News 65 (September 1966), p. 59.

6 Clement Greenberg, “Modernist Painting,” Arts Yearbook 4 (1961), p. 108.

7 It is not clear how opposed abstraction was to these other forms in the first place. For example, a monochrome or a grid painting is already a kind of readymade, and as soon as paint comes from an industrial tube, it is a sort of readymade too.

8 De Kooning was rarely fully abstract; Greenberg comments on his “homeless representation” in “After Abstract Expressionism,” p. 25.

9 These complications continue in the current work of Wade Guyton, Amy Sillman, Christopher Wool, and many others; indeed, they are largely what sustain advanced painting in the present.

 

Karel Appel. 'Dans la Tempête' 1960

 

Karel Appel
Dans la Tempête
1960
Oil on canvas
88.9 x 115.9 cm
Collection of Preston H. Haskell, Class of 1960
© 2014 Estate of Hans Hofmann / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / photo Douglas J. Eng

 

Karel Appel. 'Dans la Tempête' (detail) 1960

 

Karel Appel
Dans la Tempête (detail)
1960
Oil on canvas
88.9 x 115.9 cm
Collection of Preston H. Haskell, Class of 1960
© 2014 Estate of Hans Hofmann / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / photo Douglas J. Eng

 

“We live always in a tremendous chaos,” Karel Appel stated to an interviewer in 1986, “and who can make the chaos positive anymore? Only the artist.”1 Registering, but also redeeming, social, political, and psychic conflict was an ethical imperative for Appel, who came of age as an artist in the 1940s. Appel witnessed firsthand the brutalization of human beings by war, prejudice, deprivation, and occupation, and he sought to visualize these experiences through art. His canvases are ravaged, quite literally, by brushes, palette knives, and fingers. Choked by thick layers of impasto, their surfaces are as agitated as the animals and figures the paintings depict. Form, color, content, and technique all serve as corollaries to the period of profound turmoil in which Appel worked. Importantly, the artist’s approach to historical trauma was dialectical. The devastation of pre- and postwar Europe, he believed, was a tabula rasa making possible the rebirth of both art and human beings.2

Appel was a founding member of Cobra (1948-51), a group of Expressionist painters from Amsterdam, Brussels, and Copenhagen. Appel shared with other Cobra artists an appreciation for the art of the untutored, including children and the mentally ill, whose supposed alienation from Western, classical tradition granted them privileged access to the wellsprings of creativity: fantasy, passion, and instinct.3 Believing that society had been betrayed by logic and science, Appel turned to the irrational for inspiration. His predilection for the primal aligned him with Jean Dubuffet and Art Brut, an association formalized by his appearance in French critic Michel Tapié’s 1952 exhibition Un Art autreDans la Tempête was painted in 1960, three years after Appel relocated temporarily to New York, where he socialized with Abstract Expressionists such as Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline. Upon arriving in Manhattan, Appel was struck not only by the spontaneous, improvisatory spirit of jazz but also by the city’s “unfinished quality.”4 He subsequently sought to translate this contingency into paintings like Dans la Tempête. Trapped in a state of arrested development, this work also demonstrates Appel’s longstanding fascination with the “creaturely,” that is, with the reduction of humans to the condition of animals.5 Here as elsewhere, the artist elides the one and the other, manufacturing from their cross-pollination a grotesque bestiary of mutants whose anatomical deformations evoke distress. Much as Appel blends pigment by painting wet-onwet, so too does he blur the boundaries between things and the grounds they inhabit: permeability trumps both spatial and physical integrity, as seen in Dans la Tempête, where a yellow zoomorphic shape at the left and a barely legible demi-human at the right thrash amongst swirls of paint.6 KB

 

1 Sam Hunter, “Karel Appel in the Spirit of Our Time,” Arts Magazine 62 (January 1988), p. 60.

2 Hal Foster, “Creaturely, Cobra,” October 141 (Summer 2013), p. 7.

3 See Karel Appel, Psychopathological Notebook: Drawings and Gouaches, 1948-1950 (Bern: Gachnang and Springer, 1999).

4 Hunter, “Karel Appel,” p. 62.

5 Foster, “Creaturely, Cobra,” pp. 6-8.

6 Appel described his work from 1955 to 1960 as “nightscapes” that merge “paysage” and “visage.” Helena Kontova and Giancarlo Politi, “Karel Appel,” Flash Art, no. 134 (May 1987), p. 53.

 

Jack Tworkov. 'Bond' 1960

 

Jack Tworkov
Bond
1960
Oil on canvas
154.9 x 91.4 cm
Collection of Preston H. Haskell, Class of 1960
© 2014 Estate of Hans Hofmann / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / photo Douglas J. Eng

 

Jack Tworkov. 'Bond' 1960 (detail)

 

Jack Tworkov
Bond
(detail)
1960
Oil on canvas
154.9 x 91.4 cm
Collection of Preston H. Haskell, Class of 1960
© 2014 Estate of Hans Hofmann / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / photo Douglas J. Eng

 

Jean Dubuffet. 'Mire G119' 1983

 

Jean Dubuffet
Mire G119
1983
Acrylic on paper
135.7 x 99.5 cm
Collection of Preston H. Haskell, Class of 1960
© 2014 Estate of Hans Hofmann / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / photo Douglas J. Eng

 

Modularity, seriality, and repetition – three of his main concerns here – ground us firmly in modernity, in the realm of synthetics and industrial production. Importantly, the title of the series, Mires, has both televisual and physiological connotations: it is French for “test pattern” (a signal used to calibrate television sets), but it also means “sight” as well as “aim,” as in “the sense of focusing sight on a point in an unlimited continuum.” Instead of the visionary, then, the Mires address vision itself. As the artist once wrote, the Mires “represent the spectacles that are offered to our eyes,” by which he meant the myriad optical enticements that bombard viewers in the form of signs, displays, and advertisements. Following from this, we might say that Dubuffet sought in works like Mire G119 to fashion an artistic equivalent for the “mobile,” “dynamic,” “impulsive,” and wholly mediated character of vision in the late twentieth century. KB

 

Richard Diebenkorn. 'Untitled (Ocean Park)' 1983

 

Richard Diebenkorn
Untitled (Ocean Park)
1983
Acrylic, gouache, crayon, and pasted paper on paper
96.2 x 63.5 cm
Collection of Preston H. Haskell, Class of 1960
© 2014 Estate of Hans Hofmann / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / photo Douglas J. Eng

 

Paul Jenkins. 'Phenomena Spanish Cape' 1975

 

Paul Jenkins
Phenomena Spanish Cape
1975
Acrylic on canvas
86.7 x 86.7 cm
Collection of Preston H. Haskell, Class of 1960
© 2014 Estate of Hans Hofmann / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / photo Douglas J. Eng

 

Although his paintings seem to share a great deal with those of Morris Louis and Helen Frankenthaler, Paul Jenkins never counted himself a member of the Color Field school – or indeed, of any school at all. Jenkins moved to New York in 1948, during the heyday of Abstract Expressionism, but relocated to Paris just five years later, joining an artistic community that included Joan Mitchell, Jean-Paul Riopelle, Michel Tapiés, and Wols. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Jenkins absorbed a dizzying array of writing on matters ranging from art and magic to psychoanalysis and Zen Buddhism.1 From this heady brew, he developed a distinctly mystical art that sought to make the invisible visible. The role of the artist, Jenkins believed, was to serve as a conduit, or “medium,” through which memories, emotions, and experiences passed directly onto canvas.2

In 1959-60, Jenkins’s work took a dramatic turn: after visiting a small port on the northeast coast of Spain, near the Cap de Creus, he began to prioritize fluidity as both a style and a concept, a decision that led him to experiment with water-based acrylic. Method played a crucial role in creating the effect of flux that Jenkins sought. In Phenomena Spanish Cape paint is poured directly onto the canvas from a can or watering pot, allowing for continuous, uninterrupted shapes to emerge.3 The downward flow of paint was hastened by gravity but controlled by the artist, who tilted the support right and left, up and down, to encourage the medium in one direction or another. Jenkins used water to mute or lighten tones and ivory knives, which left no discernible trace on the canvas, to spread the paint as it pooled.4 The result is a paradox: a painting born of the artist but from which all evidence of his hand—his labor – has been effaced. Phenomena Spanish Cape suggests expansion, radiation, and suspension. Evoking eddies, clouds, and tides, the sheets of color seem to swell and drift like the natural events whose appearances they distill.5 We might also recognize in the work’s composition – with its veils of color that project out from a dominant red mass into areas of white-primed canvas – an aerial view of a peninsula, perhaps the Spanish cape referenced in the title. In all of Jenkins’s paintings after 1960, the title of the work is prefaced by the word “phenomena,” meaning an event of spiritual and subjective import, a snapshot of “ever-changing reality” objectified on canvas.6 KB

 

1 For more on Jenkins’s spiritual and intellectual background, see Albert Elsen, Paul Jenkins (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1973), pp. 20-21, p. 35, 46, 67.

2 Ibid., p. 19.

3 Ibid., p. 56. Jenkins first experimented with pouring paint in 1953-54.

4 For more on the artist’s technique and materials, which he honed, quite literally, to a science, see ibid., pp. 65-76.

5 On the role of nature in his work, see Jean Cassou, Jenkins (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1963), pp. 13-14.

6 Ibid., p. 6.

 

Mark Rothko. 'Untitled' 1968

 

Mark Rothko
Untitled
1968
Oil on paper laid down on canvas
Collection of Preston H. Haskell, Class of 1960
© 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / photo Douglas J. Eng

 

Mark Rothko. 'Untitled' 1968 (detail)

 

Mark Rothko
Untitled (detail)
1968
Oil on paper laid down on canvas
Collection of Preston H. Haskell, Class of 1960
© 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / photo Douglas J. Eng

 

 

Princeton University Art Museum
McCormick Hall, Princeton, NJ ‎
T: (609) 258-3788

The Museum is located on the Princeton University campus, a short walk from Nassau Street in downtown Princeton. Once on campus, simply follow the lamppost Museum banners.

Opening hours:
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday 10.00 am – 5.00 pm
Thursday 10.00 am – 10.00 pm
Sunday 1.00 – 5.00 pm

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23
Sep
14

Exhibition: ‘The Metropolis Experiment: Vienna and the 1873 World Exhibition’ at Wien Museum, Vienna

Exhibition dates: 15th May – 28th September 2014

 

Many thankx to Wien Museum for allowing me to publish the art work and photographs in the posting. Please click on them for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Anonymous 'Main entrance to the World Exhibition' (detail) 1873

 

Anonymous
Main entrance to the World Exhibition (detail)
1873
Photograph
© Wien Museum

 

Anonymous. 'The Palace of Industry under construction' 1872

 

Anonymous
The Palace of Industry under construction
1872
Photograph
© Wien Museum

 

Anonymous. 'Presentation of sanitary equipment' 1873

 

Anonymous
Presentation of sanitary equipment

1873
Photograph
© Wien Museum

 

Friedrich von Schmidt. 'Winning design for the new City Hall building' 1869

 

Friedrich von Schmidt
Winning design for the new City Hall building
1869
Ink drawing and watercolour
© Wien Museum

 

 

A panoramic view of the era around 1870

After “The struggle for the city”, a major exhibition on politics, art and everyday life around 1930, Wien Museum presents another panoramic view of an era. This time, the spotlight is trained on the years around 1870, a crucial transformative phase in Vienna’s development towards becoming a major modern metropolis. From 550,000 around 1850, Vienna’s population had almost doubled to about one million by the 1870s.

For Vienna, 1873 became the key year of the era. Like the construction of the new Ringstraße, the World Exhibition symbolised the city’s ambitions of attaining international standing. It was the first event of its kind not to be held in London or Paris, and an ostentatious display of superlatives: an area five times as large as the previous show in Paris, 53,000 exhibitors from 35 nations, 194 extravagantly designed pavilions, and crowning it all the Palace of Industry with its 85-metre-high Rotunda, then the world’s largest domed structure and a new Viennese landmark, and the 800-metre-long Engine Hall. The Exhibition attracted more than seven million visitors between 1 May and 2 November, yet its objectives were only partially met. 1873 was also the year of the great stock exchange crash which brought the phase of economic prosperity and optimistic hopes for the future to an abrupt end.

The Wien Museum exhibition tells the story of large-scale building projects and the movers and shakers of the Gründerzeit era, of miserable social conditions, migration and the advent of the mass political parties, of increased mobility thanks to faster transport, of the advances made in medicine and technology and of the fashions of the period, which was a golden age in the decorative arts. Most of the 1000 or so objects on display are from the Wien Museum collections, with the focus on the extensive holdings of over 1600 photos from the Vienna Photographers’ Association, many of which feature here. Also on show are a large number of original exhibits from the 1873 World Exhibition.

 

A “festival of progress”: how the World Exhibition came about

1867 marked a turning point. After a number of disastrous years the economy made a sudden recovery. A “miracle harvest” opened up opportunities for export, while the state reform that created the Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy (the “Compromise” with Hungary) placed trade, customs and fiscal policy on a new basis. Iron production, mechanical engineering and the construction industry were the drivers behind the upswing. Vienna also established itself as a centre of finance, with countless sometimes dubious joint stock companies springing up in the period before 1873.

These boom years presented industrialists, tradespeople and commercial policy-makers, as well as the proponents of reform in the applied arts, with the opportunity to put into action a plan they had long held dear, namely that of staging a World Exhibition in Vienna. Since the “Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations” held in London in 1851 there had been three further World Exhibitions (1855 and 1867 in Paris, 1862 in London). These “festivals of progress” not only acted as a forum for global exchange of expertise among engineers and manufacturers but also presented bourgeois society and the respective host country with an ideal platform for self-presentation and image boosting. The Vienna of the Gründerzeit era was “on the fast track” and intended to present itself to the world as a large modern city on its way to becoming a major metropolis.

It was not until 1870 – barely three years before the opening – that Emperor Franz Joseph enacted a sovereign resolution on the holding of the World Exhibition, in the face of resistance from the City Council, the municipal authorities and Mayor of Vienna Cajetan Felder, who cautioned against excessive costs. The influence of the local politicians was still limited at this point, though their scope for action expanded from the 1860s onwards with the end of the neo-absolutist regime. A prominent symbol of the heightened self-confidence of the civic administration vis-à-vis the imperial house was Vienna’s monumental new City Hall, on which work started in 1873.

 

The city as construction site

The municipal politicians of the liberal age laid the groundwork for a modern technical infrastructure which became a prime driver of the economic boom and radically transformed the city. One of the key projects was the regulation of the Danube, which was undertaken for flood protection purposes as well as with a view to the city’s further expansion. The cutting of a new channel to shift the Danube closer to the city was expected to entail advantages in terms of trade, commerce and transport, the aim being to make the Danube into a navigable waterway. The idea of containing the main arm of the river in a uniform, perfectly straight bed was not a new one, but it was not until now, with the aid of modern steam engines, that it became possible to implement the plan within the space of a few years, from 1869 to 1875.

The most costly of the urban infrastructure projects was the construction of Vienna’s first mountain spring water pipeline (1870-73), which tapped the Alpine springs of the Rax-Schneeberg massif to supply water to the city and its million-plus inhabitants. Repeated water shortages nevertheless ensued as a result of planning errors coupled with escalating water consumption. Besides water supply and sewage disposal the city fathers also tackled another hygienic problem: like the city as a whole, Vienna’s “communal” cemeteries were in urgent need of expansion by the middle of the century. In 1863 the City Council introduced a system of central planning, and the new Central Cemetery in Simmering was officially opened eleven years later. The “burial question” was fraught with technical, religious and cultural implications that prompted heated debate in Vienna.

Last but not least, Vienna’s transport infrastructure also underwent a radical transformation: the years around 1870 saw the construction of four of the city’s six major Gründerzeit railway termini (Südbahnhof, Nordwestbahnhof, Franz-Josefs-Bahnhof and Staatsbahnhof (later Ostbahnhof)), and within a period of six years five new bridges were built over the newly regulated Danube, among them the Kaiser-Franz-Josefs-Brücke (later Floridsdorfer Brücke) and the Kronprinz-Rudolf-Brücke (which became the Reichsbrücke). To coincide with the World Exhibition, the City Council also had several bridges over the Danube Canal and the River Wien renovated or rebuilt. A task not considered to be within the remit of the civic authorities was the expansion of the public transport network, which was left to private investors: by 1873 a basic tramway system consisting of the Ringstraße lines and some initial links to the suburbs was in place, still operated by horse-drawn trams. The municipal politicians were likewise little concerned with the housing market, with the result that the speculation-driven expansion of new districts on the outskirts was dominated by “American-style” gridiron streets lined with low-standard tenement blocks. Mass immigration of people looking for work and soaring living costs swiftly exacerbated the housing shortage and the squalid living conditions of the urban poor.

 

Boulevard of grandiose ambitions: the Ringstraße

Alongside the World Exhibition itself, the Ringstraße is another central theme of the exhibition. The Emperor ordered the demolition of the city walls and fortifications in 1857, and an international urban planning competition held a year later yielded the “master plan” which served as the blueprint for the key public buildings, green spaces, vistas and squares. The construction of the Ringstraße was a state-controlled, centrally managed, large-scale project. The overall supervisory role lay with the Ministry of the Interior, with the City of Vienna reduced to the status of onlooker while still being required to finance the new road and sewer network. The building of “New Vienna” became a bone of contention between the imperial court, government, military administration and civic authorities. Compromise was achieved, inter alia, through the assignment of parcels of land free of charge for the laying out of Stadtpark and Rathausplatz. The proceeds from the sale of building plots to private individuals enabled the state to finance representative public buildings like the State Opera House.

1 May 1865 saw the official opening ceremony for the Ringstraße – despite the fact that the major part of the boulevard was not yet built and still at the planning stage. Buildings, most of them inhabited, were already standing on Opernring, Kärntnerring and Schubertring, however, and the economic boom meant that intensive private-sector building activity continued right up until 1873. The clay beneath Vienna was thus transformed into “gold”, as illustrated by the meteoric career of brick manufacturer Heinrich Drasche: after founding the “Wienerberger” joint stock company in 1869, he subsequently rose to become the richest man in Vienna, commissioning the building of the “Heinrichhof”, a huge new-style luxury apartment building directly opposite the opera house. By 1873 all the main public buildings were already under construction or discussion, including the new City Hall, the Parliament and the museums. Vienna’s leading architects, notably Heinrich Ferstel, Theophil Hansen and Friedrich Schmidt, designed the first major buildings in “Viennese style“, an especially opulent variant of the neo-Renaissance style which caused an international furore.

 

A city within a city: the World Exhibition

Once the Emperor had given his approval for the World Exhibition, a planned city of gigantic proportions sprung up within a very short period of time in Vienna’s Prater area (the site occupied by today’s City Hall had also been discussed as a possible alternative), whose considerable distance from the city centre gave rise to substantial costs. The exhibition grounds not only housed the vast Palace of Industry, Engine Hall and Hall of the Arts and almost 200 national and corporate pavilions, but were also equipped with state-of-the-art infrastructure including a sewer network, rail tracks and their own railway station. At the same time, a side project also saw the long-established Wurstelprater remodelled and expanded into the modern Volksprater amusement park.

The preparatory phase scheduled for the World Exhibition was incredibly brief. Thanks to the latest developments in transport and communications (telegraphy), however, it proved possible, within a very short space of time, to organise worldwide participation, overcome the logistical problems associated with the transport of vast numbers of exhibits and mobilise huge streams of visitors. World Exhibitions were conceived as popular encyclopaedias of humanity, designed to cover an enormous spectrum of different aspects – industry, technology, science, the arts, culture, and so on. At the Vienna Exhibition, the task of representing the world with attributes such as progress, productivity and speed combined with the emotional experience provided by a huge variety of commodities, luxury and exoticism. The World Exhibition not only served as an economic stimulus, but also offered the broader public a global showcase of experiences on a whole new scale: Visitors embarked on a “sightseeing tour” of the Industrial Age, gazed in wonder at the clattering steam engines, looms and sewing machines and found out about innovations in the worlds of transport and science. A society fond of consumption revelled in the assembled profusion of craftsman-made objects and devoted itself to the pursuit of “good taste”, which from the Austrian point of view primarily meant luxury goods in the internationally acclaimed “Viennese Renaissance” style. Artistic designs by sculptors and architects, executed with precise craftsmanship, were a consequence of the reform of the applied arts – and formed the basis for the latter’s success.

But the aim was not only to educate the public: it was also about entertainment and the fascination of faraway places. At the Prater exhibition grounds visitors were able to take an architectural tour of the world; foreigners in exotic costume and authentic dishes from all over the globe became the talk of the town, and cocktails were served in a North American Indian wigwam. The oriental and Asian pavilions exerted the greatest attraction: a defining characteristic of the Vienna World Exhibition, they spawned trends in fashion, lifestyle and the applied arts.

The 1873 World Exhibition is remembered by posterity chiefly for the huge financial deficit it incurred – just 4.2 million gulden in revenues against expenditures of 19 million gulden. In the speculative fever that gripped the age, the hopes of vast attendance figures, not to mention the substantial influx of capital, had led to excessively inflated expectations. Exploding costs, the stock exchange crash and fewer visitors than anticipated – not least due to the cholera epidemic – resulted in sober disillusionment after the event. Ultimately, the only parties who really profited were individual exhibitors from the successful promotion of trade and industry and visitors from the effective transfer of knowledge. This notwithstanding, the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire succeeded in returning itself to centre stage in the eyes of the world for the first time since the Congress of Vienna.

Besides the themes outlined above, the Wien Museum exhibition also turns the spotlight on mass entertainments of the Gründerzeit period, innovations in home furnishings and engineering, the role played by the illustrated media, inventions such as pneumatic post and, not least, on the great arts debate of the time. As the capital city of music, Vienna around 1870 provided the stage for a musical “clash of the Titans” between the “consummator” of Viennese Classicism, Johannes Brahms, and the New German School represented by Anton Bruckner and Richard Wagner. The early 1870s also saw Austria’s first ever environmental campaign, to save the Vienna Woods from logging, as well as the expedition to the North Pole, which returned in 1874 after two years trapped in the ice. Grand hotels like the Metropol and Imperial opened their doors, while Lobmeyr unveiled the first “Arabian-style” range of glassware. The latest fashions were imported from the world’s major cities, among them ornate gowns with extravagant bustles.”

Press release from the Wien Museum

 

Anonymous. 'Construction site on Ringstrasse with Heinrichshof building' c. 1863

 

Anonymous
Construction site on Ringstrasse with Heinrichshof building
c. 1863
Photograph
© Wien Museum

 

Anonymous. 'Construction of a new bridge (Reichsbrücke) across the Danube' 1873

 

Anonymous
Construction of a new bridge (Reichsbrücke) across the Danube
1873
Photograph
© Wien Museum

 

Anonymous. 'Horse-drawn tramway on the Schottenring-Dornbach line' 1868

 

Anonymous
Horse-drawn tramway on the Schottenring-Dornbach line
1868
Watercolour
© Wien Museum

 

Anonymous. 'North American wigwam at the World Exhibition' 1873

 

Anonymous
North American wigwam at the World Exhibition
1873
Photograph
© Wien Museum

 

 

Wien Museum
1040 Vienna, Karlsplatz 8
T: +43 (0)1 505 87 47 0

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday and public holidays 10 am – 6 pm

Wien Museum website

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17
Sep
14

Exhibition: ‘The Great War: A Cinematic Legacy’ at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York

Exhibition dates: 4th August – 21st September 2014

 

Art Blart is running hot at the moment, with lots of exhibitions finishing up around the 5th October 2014. I shall then scale things back for a while to start making a new body of my own art work. To get the ball rolling the next three postings on consecutive days feature photography and the First World War.

In this posting I have included text about each film, theatrical film posters and video to supplement the media images.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the MoMA for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

'The Lost Patrol'. 1934. USA. Directed by John Ford

 

The Lost Patrol. 1934. USA. Directed by John Ford

 

The Lost Patrol is a 1934 war film made by RKO. It was directed and produced by John Ford. During World War I, the commanding officer of a small British patrol in the Mesopotamian desert is shot and killed by an unseen Arab sniper, leaving the Sergeant (Victor McLaglen) at a loss, since he had not been told what their mission is. He decides to try to rejoin the brigade, though he does not know where they are or where he is.

Eventually, the eleven men reach an oasis. During the night, one of the sentries is killed, the other seriously wounded, and all their horses are stolen, leaving them stranded. One by one, the remaining men are picked off by the unseen enemy. In desperation, the Sergeant sends two men chosen by lot on foot for help, but they are caught and tortured to death, before their bodies are sent back. The pilot of a British biplane spots the survivors, but nonchalantly lands nearby and is killed before he can be warned. The men take the machine gun from the airplane and set the plane on fire in a desperate bid to signal British troops. Sanders (Boris Karloff), a religious fanatic, goes mad.

In the end, only the Sergeant is left. When the Arabs finally show themselves, he manages to kill them all with the machine gun. Moments later, another British patrol arrives, attracted by the smoke from the burning plane. (Text from Wikipedia)

 

'The Lost Patrol' original theatrical poster

 

The Lost Patrol original theatrical poster

 

'Seventh Heaven.'  1927.  USA. Directed by Frank Borzage

 

Seventh Heaven. 1927. USA. Directed by Frank Borzage

 

7th Heaven (1927) is a silent film and one of the first films to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture (then called “Outstanding Picture”). The film was written by H.H. Caldwell (titles), Benjamin Glazer, Katherine Hilliker (titles) and Austin Strong (play), and directed by Frank Borzage.

 

'Hearts of the World'. 1918.  USA. Directed by D.W. Griffith

 

Hearts of the World. 1918. USA. Directed by D.W. Griffith

 

'Hearts of the World'. 1918. USA. Directed by D.W. Griffith

 

Hearts of the World. 1918. USA. Directed by D.W. Griffith

 

Hearts of the World (1918) is a silent film directed by D. W. Griffith, a wartime propaganda classic that was filmed on location in Britain and near the Western Front, made at the request of the British Government to change the neutral mindset of the American public.

Two families live next to one another in a French village on the eve of World War I. The Boy in one of the families falls for the only daughter in the other family. As they make preparations for marriage, World War I breaks out, and, although the Boy is American, he feels he should fight for the country in which he lives.

When the French retreat, the village is shelled. The Boy’s father and the Girl’s mother and grandfather are killed. The Girl, deranged, wanders aimlessly through the battlefield and comes upon the Boy badly wounded and unconscious. She finds her way back to the village where she is nursed back to health by The Little Disturber who had previously been a rival for the Boy’s affections. The Boy is carried off by the Red Cross. Von Strohm, a German officer, lusts after the Girl and attempts to rape her, but she narrowly escapes when he is called away by his commanding officer.

Upon his recovery, the Boy, disguised as a German officer, infiltrates the enemy-occupied village, finds the Girl. The two of them are forced to kill a German sergeant who discovers them. Von Strohm finds the dead sergeant and locates the Boy and Girl who are locked in an upper room at the inn. It’s a race against time with the Germans trying to break the door down as the French return to retake the village.

“I don’t believe that Mr. Griffith every forgave himself for making ‘Hearts of the World.’ ‘War is the villain,’ he repeated, ‘not any particular people'” said Lillian Gish, actress playing ‘The Girl’ (Text from Wikipedia)

 

'Hearts of the World' lobby poster

 

Hearts of the World lobby poster

 

'The Mysterious Lady'. 1928. USA. Directed by Fred Niblo

 

The Mysterious Lady. 1928. USA. Directed by Fred Niblo

 

The Mysterious Lady (1928) is an MGM silent film starring Greta Garbo, Conrad Nagel, and Gustav von Seyffertitz, directed by Fred Niblo, and based on the novel War in the Dark by Ludwig Wolff.

In Vienna, Captain Karl von Raden (Conrad Nagel) purchases a returned ticket to a sold-out opera and finds himself sharing a loge with a lovely woman (Greta Garbo). Though she repulses his first advance, she does spend an idyllic day with him in the countryside. Karl is called away to duty, however. Colonel Eric von Raden (Edward Connelly), his uncle and the chief of the secret police, gives him secret plans to deliver to Berlin. He also warns his nephew that the woman is Tania Fedorova, a Russian spy. Tania comes to him aboard the train, professing to love him, but he tells her he knows who she is. Dejected, she leaves. The next morning, when Karl wakes up, he finds the plans have been stolen. As a result, he is sentenced to military degradation and imprisonment for treason. However, Colonel von Raden visits him in prison and arranges for his release. He sends his nephew to Warsaw, posing as a Serbian pianist, to seek out the identity of the real traitor and thus exonerate himself.

In Warsaw, by chance, Karl is asked to play at a private party where he once again crosses paths with Tania. She is being escorted by General Boris Alexandroff (Gustav von Seyffertitz), the infatuated head of the Russian Military Intelligence Department. Foolhardily, Karl plays a tune from the opera they attended together. She recognizes it, but does not betray him. As the party goers are leaving, she slips away for a few stolen moments with her love. The jealous Alexandroff suspects their feelings for each other. He hires Karl to play the next day at a ball he is giving at his mansion for Tania’s birthday.

While Alexandroff and Tania are alone in his home office, he receives a parcel containing the latest secrets stolen by the traitor, whom he casually identifies as Max Heinrich. Later, Tania steals the documents, gives them to Karl, and sends him out via a secret passage. However, it is all a trap. Alexandroff comes in and tells Tania that what she stole was mere blank paper; he shows her the real documents. He pulls out a gun and announces that he intends to use it on Karl, who has been captured outside. She struggles with Alexandroff and manages to fatally shoot him; the sound goes unheard amidst the merriment of the party. When the guards bring the prisoner, she pretends the general is still alive and wants to see him alone. She and Karl escape with the incriminating documents and get married.  (Text from Wikipedia)

 

'What Price Glory'. 1952. USA. Directed by John Ford

 

What Price Glory. 1952. USA. Directed by John Ford

 

What Price Glory is a 1952 American Technicolor war film based on a 1924 play by Maxwell Anderson and Laurence Stallings, though it used virtually none of Anderson’s dialogue. Originally intended as a musical, it was filmed as a straight comedy-drama, directed by John Ford and released by 20th Century Fox on 22 August 1952 in the U.S.

 

'Broken Lullaby (The Man I Killed)'. 1932. USA. Directed by Ernst Lubitsch.

 

 

Broken Lullaby (The Man I Killed). 1932. USA. Directed by Ernst Lubitsch.

 

Broken Lullaby (1932) is an American drama film directed by Ernst Lubitsch and released by Paramount Pictures. The screenplay by Samson Raphaelson and Ernest Vajda is based on the 1930 playL’homme que j’ai tué by Maurice Rostand and its 1931 English-language adaptation, The Man I Killed, by Reginald Berkeley.

Haunted by the memory of Walter Holderlin, a soldier he killed during World War I, French musician Paul Renard (Holmes) confesses to a priest, who grants him absolution. Using the address on a letter he found on the dead man’s body, Paul then travels to Germany to find his family.

Because anti-French sentiment continues to permeate Germany, Dr. Holderlin (Barrymore) initially refuses to welcome Paul into his home, but changes his mind when his son’s fiancée Elsa identifies him as the man who has been leaving flowers on Walter’s grave. Rather than reveal the real connection between them, Paul tells the Holderlin family he was a friend of their son, who attended the same musical conservatory he did.

Although the hostile townspeople and local gossips disapprove, the Holderlins befriend Paul, who finds himself falling in love with Elsa (Carroll). When she shows Paul her former fiancé’s bedroom, he becomes distraught and tells her the truth. She convinces him not to confess to Walter’s parents, who have embraced him as their second son, and Paul agrees to forego easing his conscience and stays with his adopted family. Dr. Holderlin presents Walter’s violin to Paul, who plays it while Elsa accompanies him on the piano. (Text from Wikipedia)

 

'The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse'. 1921. USA. Directed by Rex Ingram

 

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. 1921. USA. Directed by Rex Ingram

 

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921) is an American silent epic war film produced by Metro Pictures Corporation and directed by Rex Ingram. Based on the Spanish novel The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, it was adapted for the screen by June Mathis. The film stars Pomeroy Cannon, Josef Swickard, Bridgetta Clark, Rudolph Valentino, Wallace Beery, and Alice Terry.

The film had a huge cultural impact, becoming the top-grossing film of 1921, beating out Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid, and going on to become the sixth-best-grossing silent film of all time. The film turned then-little-known actor Rudolph Valentino into a superstar and associated him with the image of the Latin Lover. The film also inspired a tango craze and such fashion fads as gauchopants. The film was masterminded by June Mathis, who, with its success, became one of the most powerful women in Hollywood at the time.

The film premiered in New York to great critical acclaim. Many critics hailed it as a new Birth of a Nation. However, the German press was less enthused with the portrayal of Germans in the film. With its extended scenes of the devastated French countryside and personalized story of loss, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is often considered to be one of the first anti-war films made. (Text from Wikipedia)

 

'Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse' Metro Pictures poster for the film (1921)

 

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse Metro Pictures poster for the film (1921)

 

 

Opening on the 100th anniversary of the day World War I began, The Museum of Modern Art’s The Great War: A Cinematic Legacy runs from August 4 through September 21, 2014, highlighting 60 feature-length films and thematic programs that attempt to provide a comprehensive view of the war as portrayed in film. The various films focus on prewar activities; espionage; the battlefields in the trenches, in the air, and on and beneath the sea; actualités; and the various homefronts before, during, and after the war. Familiar films, such as A Farewell to Arms (1932) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962), along with several lesser-known works from as far away as New Zealand – including Chunuk Bair (1992) – reflect the universality of a war that reshaped the prevailing values of what passed for civilization. In August, the program is predominately drawn from the early years, either during the war or in the succeeding decades, and includes several silent films. The program in September will concentrate mainly on later, more contemporary films up to, and including, Steven Spielberg’s War Horse (2011). The Great War is organized by Charles Silver, Curator, with Dave Kehr, Adjunct Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art.

Many of the films in the series deal with the entrenched stalemate in France, including Verdun, Vision d’Histoire (Verdun, Vision of History) (1928) directed by Leon Poirier. The film, largely pacifist in nature, is based on the great 1916 battle and integrates actual footage with realistic restaged material using many actors who had been soldiers in the war. Similarly, Les Croix de bois (Wooden Crosses) (1932), directed by Raymond Bernard, forms something of a pacifist trench-based trio with Lewis Milestone’s All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) and G. W. Pabst’s Westfront 1918 (1930). The Oscar-winning All Quiet on the Western Front, adapted from the novel by Erich Maria Remarque, depicts the disillusionment of German youth after experiencing the realities of war.

Another series of films highlights the importance of aviation in the war. William Wellman’s Wings (1927) was the first film to win the Oscar for Best Picture. The romantic action-war film, which effectively launched Gary Cooper’s career, features the story of a pair of American pilots fighting over Europe. The film was praised for its spectacular aerial sequences, which have an added air of authenticity because Wellman was himself an ace pilot with the Lafayette Escadrille and winner of the Croix de Guerre. Hell’s Angels (1930), directed by Howard Hughes, includes lavishly produced scenes of aerial warfare and Zeppelin bombing. Howard Hawks’s Dawn Patrol (1930) emphasizes the tension of a commander sending men on suicidal aerial missions in flying crates. Lilac Time (1928), from George Fitzmaurice, stars Cooper as a British aviator in a squadron based in France, who falls in love with a farmer’s daughter.

Several of the newer films in the exhibition exemplify how the horrors of the war have had a lasting effect on civilization. Steven Spielberg’s War Horse (2011), an adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s children’s novel about a thoroughbred in France, reminds us that war, and particularly World War I, is also a horror for non-human creatures. In My Boy Jack (2007), directed by Brian Kirk, Rudyard Kipling pulls strings to get his son John sent to France early in the war. Based on a play by David Haig, the film ends tragically at the Battle of Loos. Joyeux Noel (Merry Christmas) (2005), directed by Christian Carion, is a moving re-creation of a Christmas truce on the 1914 battlefield in France, as German, British, and French soldiers fraternize and exchange gifts.

Special thanks to Pacific Film Archive, Janus Films, Universal Pictures, Turner Classic Movies, Pathe.

Press release from the MoMA website

 

'Friendly Enemies'. 1942. USA. Directed by Allan Dwan.

 

Friendly Enemies. 1942. USA. Directed by Allan Dwan.

 

'The Great Dictator'. 1940. USA. Directed by Charles Chaplin.

 

The Great Dictator. 1940. USA. Directed by Charles Chaplin.

 

The Great Dictator is a 1940 American satirical political comedy-drama film starring, written, produced, scored, and directed by Charlie Chaplin, following the tradition of many of his other films. Having been the only Hollywood filmmaker to continue to make silent films well into the period of sound films, this was Chaplin’s first true talking picture as well as his most commercially successful film.

At the time of its first release, the United States was still formally at peace with Nazi Germany. Chaplin’s film advanced a stirring, controversial condemnation of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini’s fascism, antisemitism, and the Nazis. Chaplin’s film followed only nine months after Hollywood’s first parody of Hitler, the short subject You Nazty Spy! by the Three Stooges which itself premiered in January 1940, although Chaplin had been planning it for years before. Hitler had been previously allegorically pilloried in the German film by Fritz Lang, The Testament of Dr. Mabuse. In his 1964 autobiography, Chaplin stated that he would not have made the film had he known about the actual horrors of the Nazi concentration camps at the time. (Text from Wikipedia)

 

'The Heart of Humanity'. 1919. USA. Directed by Allen Holubar.

 

The Heart of Humanity. 1919. USA. Directed by Allen Holubar.

 

The Heart of Humanity is a 1918 American silent war propaganda film produced by Universal Pictures and directed by Allen Holubar. The film stars Dorothy Phillips, William Stowell and Eric von Stroheim. A copy of the film is preserved at the EmGee Film Library and in private collections.

The film “follows the general theme and construction of [D. W. Griffiths's film] Hearts of the World and, in places, parallels [its] plot”. The film was made toward the end of World War I and is known for showcasing von Stroheim as a lecherous ‘Hun’. The most notorious scene from this movie is the depiction of a near-rape prior to the defenestration of a crying baby.

 

'Kameradschaft (Comradeship)'. 1931. Germany. Directed by G. W. Pabst.

 

Kameradschaft (Comradeship). 1931. Germany. Directed by G. W. Pabst.

 

 

Comradeship (German: Kameradschaft, known in France as La Tragédie de la mine) is a 1931 dramatic directed by Austrian director G. W. Pabst. The French-German co-production drama is noted for combining expressionism and realism.

The picture concerns a mine disaster where German miners rescue French miners from an underground fire and explosion. The story takes place in the Lorraine/Saar region, along the border between France and Germany. It is based on an actual historical event, one of the worst industrial accidents in history, the Courrières mine disaster in 1906 in Courrières, France, where rescue efforts after a coal dust explosion were hampered by the lack of trained mine rescuers. Expert teams from Paris and Germany – miners from the Westphalia region – came to the assistance of the French miners. There were 1,099 fatalities, including children.

Kameradschaft in German means a bond between soldiers or those who have similar opinions and are in friendship. The word is similar to comradeship, camaraderie or fellowship.

In 1919, at the end of World War I the border between France and Germany changes, and an underground mine is split in two, with a gate dividing the two sections. An economic downturn and rising unemployment adds to tension between the two countries, as German workers seek employment in France but are turned away, since there are hardly enough jobs for French workers. In the French part of the mine fires break out, which they try to contain by building many brick walls, with the bricklayers wearing breathing apparatus. The Germans continue to work on their side, but start to feel the heat from the French fires.

Three German miners visit a French dance hall and one of them almost provokes a fight when Francoise (Andree Ducret), a young French woman, refuses to dance with him. The rejected miner thinks its because he’s German, but it’s actually because she’s tired. She and her boyfriend, Emile (Georges Charlia), a miner, leave, and she expresses her distress over the stories about fires and explosions in the mine. The next morning, he stops in to say goodbye to her before she leaves for Paris, then he and her brother, Jean (Daniel Mendaille), another miner, leave for work.

The fire gets out of control, causing an explosion that traps many French miners. In response, Wittkopp (Ernst Busch) appeals to his bosses to send a rescue team. As they ride out of town to help, the leader of the German rescue effort explains to his wife that the French are men with women and children and he would hope that they would come to his aid in similar circumstances. The trio of German miners breaks through the gate that marks the 1919 border. On the French side, an old retired miner (Alex Bernard) sneaks into the shaft hoping to rescue his young grandson (Pierre-Louis).

The Germans successfully rescue the French miners, not without difficulties. After all the survivors are rescued, there’s a big party with speeches about friendship between the French and Germans. French officials then rebuild the mining gate, and things return to the way they were before the disaster and rescue.

When the film was released in the United States in 1932, Mordaunt Hall, film critic for the New York Times, praised the realism and the screenplay, writing “[Kameradschaft is] one of the finest examples of realism that has come to the screen … [the] scenes in the mine are so real that one never thinks of them as being staged … [and] [t]hroughout the length of this tale of horror one feels as though one were permitted through some uncanny force to look into all parts of the mine … All the noises and sounds are wonderfully natural.” (Text from Wikipedia)

 

'The Road Back'. 1937. USA. Directed by James Whale.

 

The Road Back. 1937. USA. Directed by James Whale.

 

The Road Back is a 1937 drama film made by Universal Pictures, directed by James Whale. The screenplay is by Charles Kenyon and R. C. Sherriff from the eponymous novel by Erich Maria Remarque. Combining a strong anti-war message with prescient warnings about the dangers of the rising Nazi regime, it was intended to be a powerful and controversial picture, and Universal entrusted it to their finest director, James Whale.

The novel on which the film is based was banned during Nazi rule. When the film was made, Universal Pictures was threatened with a boycott of all their films by the German government unless the anti-Nazi sentiments in the script were watered down. Carl Laemmle and his son, Carl Laemmle, Jr., the former heads of Universal, had recently been ousted by a corporate takeover. The new studio heads, fearing financial loss, caved in to German pressure and the film was partially reshot with another director, and the remainder extensively re-edited, leaving it a pale shadow of Whale’s original intentions. To the director’s further displeasure, writer Charles Kenyon was ordered to interject the script with comedy scenes between Andy Devine and Slim Summerville, which Whale found unsuitable. Disgusted with the studio’s cowardice under its new management, Whale left Universal after completing Wives Under Suspicion, an unsuccessful remake of his own The Kiss Before the Mirror. He returned two years later to direct Green Hell, but never made another film for Universal after that. (Text from Wikipedia)

 

'The Road Back' theatrical poster

 

The Road Back theatrical poster

 

'The Secret Agent'. 1936. Great Britain. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

 

The Secret Agent. 1936. Great Britain. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

 

Secret Agent (1936) is a British film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, loosely based on two stories in Ashenden: Or the British Agent by W. Somerset Maugham. The film starred John Gielgud, Peter Lorre, Madeleine Carroll, and Robert Young. Future star Michael Redgrave made a brief, uncredited appearance; he would play the male lead in Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes two years later. This was alsoMichael Rennie’s film debut (uncredited).

Gielgud plays a British officer, a famous writer whose death is faked during World War I, and who is sent by the mysterious “R”, head of British intelligence, to Switzerland on a secret mission. Carroll plays a female agent who poses as his wife. Lorre appears as a British agent working with them, a killer known variously as “the Hairless Mexican” and “the General”. Typical Hitchcockian themes used here include mistaken identity and murder. (Text from Wikipedia)

 

'Tell England (The Battle of Gallipoli)'. 1931. Great Britain. Directed by Anthony Asquith, Geoffrey Barkas.

 

Tell England (The Battle of Gallipoli). 1931. Great Britain. Directed by Anthony Asquith, Geoffrey Barkas

 

Tell England is a 1931 British drama film directed by Anthony Asquith and Geoffrey Barkas and starring Fay Compton, Tony Bruce and Carl Harbord. It is based on the novel Tell England by Ernest Raymond which featured two young men joining the army, and taking part in the fighting at Gallipoli. Both directors had close memories of Gallipoli, as did Fay Compton’s brother, Compton Mackenzie. Asquith’s father Herbert Asquith had been Prime Minister at the time of the Gallipoli Landings, a fact which drew press attention to the film, while Barkas had personally fought at Suvla Bay in the Gallipoli campaign. In the United States it was released under the alternative title The Battle of Gallipoli.

 

 

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘The Songs of Eternity’ 1994

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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