Archive for the 'space' Category

29
Jul
15

Exhibition: ‘Carnival: Photographs by Roger Vail’ at Joseph Bellows Gallery, La Jolla, California

Exhibition dates: 11th July – 22nd August, 2015

 

 

For the length of each ride

I just love these photographs. They are thrilling, like the rides themselves.

The photographer Roger Vail comments,

“There was no initial inspiration, just an experiment. I had already been making photographs at night with a 4×5 (later 8×10) camera which involved time exposures. I went to a carnival to shoot the facades. While there I decided to see what would happen it I made a time exposure of the ferris wheel in question. First sight of the negative was thrilling so I decided to make more. Most of the fun was in not knowing what the end result would look like. I made these into large silver prints throughout the seventies. In the nineties I learned to make platinum-palladium prints and after printing one of the older negatives decided to do them again specifically for that medium. Finally in 2001, at the suggestion of my wife Carol, I did them for a third time shooting 8×10 transparencies.”

All the light is ambient light, with the exposures usually around 3 minutes (hence the ghostly shadows of people moving in the foregrounds of some of the photographs). Vail observes, “Carnival grounds are often flooded with fairly bright light, so balancing the exposures is not that difficult. I found out early on that virtually all carnival rides last around 3 minutes. So I would adjust the F stop accordingly to get the maximum rotation and therefore pattern.”

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I am in awe of this extended investigation. What a passion for what is coming on 45 years working on one idea.

Just as Hiroshi Sugimoto’s time lapse movie screens (where the exact length of a movie was captured by the open lens of the camera, the substance of time and space evidenced by a seemingly empty screen) were wonderfully poetic and transformational – the gesture of compressing the narrative, reality and action of a movie into a single frame of light – so Vail’s photographs focus on the process of transition, the process of transition in the flow of time and space. Whereas Sugimoto captures the exact length of a movie, Vail’s photographs, ‘for the length of each ride’, could be a metaphor for the length of a life, for these rides contain the body of human beings, their embodiment, even though we can’t see them.

All the signs are there. The concentric circles with no beginning and no end. The YoYo circus of circuits or Wave Swinger with atomic cloud remind me of Fritz Lang’s seminal film Metropolis (1927). And then the colour work – Inverter with its Möbius strip non-orientable boundary, giving life a half-twist, SpinOut‘s nuclear intensity, and Evolutions DNA-like strands. And all of this done through serendipity, a fortunate happenstance, with the artist not knowing exactly what each negative will bring, but ultimately thrilling when (exposure) time – overseer of all things – is right. No wonder Vail was excited when he saw his first negative.

A total surprise, these photographs proffer a liminal space, one beyond our usual realm of understanding. Our cycle of life. The process of transition in the flow of space and time.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

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

 

 

“I started making urban night photographs at the end of graduate school in 1969. I used a 4×5 and later an 8×10 view camera which required time exposures of 30 seconds or more. At a carnival in 1971 I decided to set up in front of a ferris wheel, clueless about what the result would look like. I was greatly excited by what I saw when I looked at the first negative and print – a total surprise. The later color images are exposed for the length of each ride cycle.”

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Roger Vail

 

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In 1970, Vail began photographing carnivals and their thrill rides with his 8 x 10 inch view camera. His pictures were made in the evening hours with long exposure times, resulting in images that track the momentum of the ride with a sense wonderment that is both tangible and otherworldly.  Carnival will feature Vail’s extraordinary, large-scale photographs of carnival rides in full motion; tracing the kaleidoscopic light play seen only through an extended moment that photography permits.  In addition to the large-scale color and black and white images, his smaller, more intimate platinum/palladium prints will be featured in the atrium gallery.

Vail’s carnival rides are described and transformed through the act of photography. He allows the viewer to experience the flux of the ride in a single scene, rendering both the atmosphere of the night and the energy of his subject, against the recognizable background of the state fair.

Roger Vail earned his BFA and MFA degrees from the Art Institute of Chicago. His photographs are in the collection of numerous institutions, including: Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, NY, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Princeton University Art Museum.

 

 

Roger Vail. 'SkyDiver 2' 1996

 

Roger Vail
SkyDiver 2
1996
Platinum/palladium print

 

Roger Vail. 'Spinning Carnival Ride' 1971

 

Roger Vail
Spinning Carnival Ride
1971
Gelatin silver print

 

Roger Vail. 'Untitled' 1996

 

Roger Vail
Untitled
1996
Platinum/palladium print

 

Roger Vail. 'YoYo' 1996

 

Roger Vail
YoYo
1996
Gelatin silver print
18 x 23.5 inches

 

Roger Vail. 'YoYo #2' 1996

 

Roger Vail
YoYo #2
1996
Platinum/palladium print

 

Roger Vail. 'Wave Swinger' 1996

 

Roger Vail
Wave Swinger
1996
Gelatin silver print

 

Roger Vail. 'Kamikaze #3' 1996

 

Roger Vail
Kamikaze #3
1996
Platinum/palladium print
10 x 8 inches

 

 

“Joseph Bellows Gallery is pleased to announce its upcoming exhibition, Carnival: Photographs by Roger Vail. This solo shows will open on July 11th, with a reception for the artist from 6-8 p.m., and will continue through the 22nd of August. The exhibition will feature Vail’s extraordinary large-scale photographs of carnival rides in full motion; tracing the kaleidoscopic light play seen only through the extended moment that photography permits. In addition to the large-scale color and black and white images, his smaller, more intimate platinum/palladium prints will be featured in the atrium gallery.

In 1970, Vail began photographing carnivals and their thrill rides with his 8 x 10 inch view camera. His pictures were made in the evening hours with long exposure times, resulting in extended moments which track the momentum of the ride with a sense wonderment that is both tangible and otherworldly.

One such image graced the cover of Life magazine, introducing a picture essay with an accompanying text by Garrison Keilor titled, A Magical Spin on a Summer Night (2006). Vail’s carnival rides are described and transformed through the act of photography. He allows the viewer to experience the flux of the ride in a single scene, rendering both the atmosphere of the night and the energy of his subject, against the recognizable background of the state fair.”

Press release from the Joseph Bellows Gallery

 

Roger Vail. 'Evolution 3' 2001

 

Roger Vail
Evolution 3
2001
Chromogenic print mounted to aluminium

 

Roger Vail. 'Giant Wheel' 2001

 

Roger Vail
Giant Wheel
2001
Chromogenic print mounted to aluminium

 

Roger Vail. 'Inverter' 2001

 

Roger Vail
Inverter
2001
Chromogenic print mounted to aluminium
30 x 37.5 inches

 

Roger Vail. 'Kamakazi' 2002

 

Roger Vail
Kamakazi
2002
Chromogenic print mounted to aluminium

 

Roger Vail. 'SpinOut' 2001

 

Roger Vail
SpinOut
2001
Chromogenic print mounted to aluminium

 

Roger Vail. 'Wave Swinger' 2001

 

Roger Vail
Wave Swinger
2001
Chromogenic print mounted to aluminium

 

Roger Vail. 'Evolution' 2001

 

Roger Vail
Evolution
2001
Chromogenic print mounted to aluminium

 

 

Joseph Bellows Gallery
7661 Girrard Avenue
La Jolla, California
T: 858 456 5620

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday, 10am – 5pm, and Saturday by appointment 

Joseph Bellows Gallery website

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26
Jul
15

Photographs and text: ‘Quandong, New South Wales, Australia’ 1887

July 2015

 

A fascinating set of albumen prints mounted on cabinet cards of Quandong, New South Wales, Australia in 1887. These images are probably among the first ever taken of the area, most likely by a travelling photographer. The reverse of the cards bearing the monogram C.A. or A.C. Each image measures 10 x 8 cm (c. 4 x 3 inches), on slightly larger card (12 x 9.2 cm / 4.8 x 3.6 inches).

It is instructive to look at the structure of the images to see how this unnamed photographer visualised his subject matter. Firstly, the three photographs of the house. Taken from the top of a barn (imagine lugging a large camera up there!), one image offers a three-quarter profile of the homestead, in the background wildness, with two white picket gates providing entry through a guardian hedge that protects the habitation. Next the photographer swings the camera around 180 degrees, photographing the homestead not from front on but again on an angle for dramatic effect, framing the foreground with a fence made of chopped down trees which encloses a sparse, newly planted garden. In one dark exposure, two men stand in formal pose stand with the grandmother sitting wrapped in a shawl beside one of the men. In the other lighter exposure (the photographer obviously had trouble here), we again have a formal placement of people, this time with the grandmother (without shawl) and grandfather sitting opposite each other, probably with their grandsons with dogs in front of them. Anyone who has lived in rural Australia would understand the significance of the verandah as a gathering place and congregational space to sit, and for youngsters, to play with their dogs.

Secondly, we observe the two side-on photographs of the horse and carts. Both show a distinctly formal placement of the objects within the picture plane with a limited spatial depth to the photographs, with no vanishing point. But there are distinctive differences between the two photographs. The horse and trap evidence the status of the people involved, the two horses and large carriage being held steady by a third person and far left of picture. The second photograph is much more informal… the horse and young foal, the man in relaxed pose, hand on knee and then, in the foreground – as though to emphasise the working nature of this cart – a pile of logs and trees fill our vision, a stark contrast to the dark trees in the background. There is nothing in the foreground of the first photograph, forcing the eye to rest on the formal structure of man/horse/men/trap.

Next we observe two photographs of a flock of sheep and men. In the first image the photographer has framed the man and dog at left with horse behind the flock of sheep, while at right a group of three men stand close together before a wooden fence… holding up the right hand side of the image. Wilderness can be seen beyond. Notice how there is a flat empty area at the front of the image which leads the eye to the right and up to the men, thence to the tall trees beyond. Lovely spaces in this image, with the grouping of the sheep and men, the horizontal line of the fence dividing the tonality of the image – dark at the bottom, light at the top. In the second image the photographer has not moved the camera but he has moved the men at right. The framing of the man at left and the horse and flock of sheep are still the same, but now he has removed one man and moved the other two men to be slightly behind the spatial plane of the man with the dog. The sun has come out as we can see the shadow of the two men on the ground, and the exposure must have been short, for we can see the paw of the dog caught in mid-air. It is interesting to note that the photographer does not mind the two trees coming out of the tops of the men’s heads at right, instead of placing them in the negative space between the trees. Further evidence of the nature of the environment in which this homestead was evolving can be found in the photograph At Quandong, an almost modernist rendition of the wilderness, in which the image is divided into a series of horizontal lines – foreground fence, mid-ground fence, horizon line with the wild beyond. The photographer thought this view important enough to warrant a photograph, even though there is nothing obviously substantial contained in the image. It does, however, graphically illustrate the isolation of the homestead within the environment.

Lastly we have the images of Shearing in Woolshed and Shearing, Quandong. The light is absolutely beautiful in both of these images, entering as it does through the door at bottom left of the images and, as an opposite, through the open doors at the top left of the image. Shearing, Quandong is the more successful of the two images through its pure simplicity. Note the strong diagonal from top left to bottom right, which in Shearing in Woolshed is disturbed by the presence of the two overseers. Also note how in the image that was likely taken first, Shearing in Woolshed, the camera is placed higher up. We can tell this by the visibility of the poles behind the overseer and the fact that we can’t see the base of the wooden pole at right. In this image the lad at right has his hat on. In Shearing, Quandong the distance between the door, poles and the top of the image at back is much shorter and we can now see the base of the wooden pole at right. The lad has taken off his hat and put in on the floor there.

How young both of these lads are, with their crew cut hair, using huge manual shears. What backbreaking work it must have been in the heat and humidity… and the one thing that you cannot get an idea of, is the smell of these woolsheds. If you have ever been in one of these woolsheds you know what a pungent aroma these places have.

These photographs were taken a year before the iconic Australian painting by Tom Roberts Shearing the Rams (1888-1890), an archetypal vision of Australian pastoral life, and through them we can see how much they confirm Roberts’ vision of Australian rural life. Leigh Astbury observes that, “Roberts was not, however, the first artist to depict the subject of shearing sheep. It had been previously treated in a few isolated paintings but, more frequently, shearers were shown at work in photographs and in illustrated newspapers and magazines during the 1870s and 80s. An exploration of the contemporary pictorial tradition reveals that in the formulation of his painting Roberts followed an established photographic and illustrative convention, as opposed to originating a new subject for artistic attention.”

“Roberts began preparatory studies for the picture at the Brocklesby station during the spring of 1888 when he made between seventy and eighty sketches of ‘the light, the atmosphere, the sheep, the men and the work’. … During the following spring of 1889 Roberts set out his canvas in the Brocklesby shed and began to paint the final work. He ‘picked out the most characteristic and picturesque of the shearers, the “rouseabouts” and the boy’, and carefully posed them in the manner he required… Shearing the rams was a carefully and consciously formulated painting executed over a long period, not an informal, ‘slice of life’ glimpsed in an Australian shearing shed. 

“Roberts, who worked as a photographer’s assistant, may have been aware of shearing scenes which appeared in contemporary photographs. A photograph entitled Shearing [see below], by a well-known Melbourne photographer, Charles Nettleton, anticipates the construction of pictorial space found in Shearing the rams. There is the same slightly diagonal thrust into distance, accentuated by the lines of the floorboards. The structure of the shearing shed roof plays a similar role in the composition, while one gains the same sense of rhythmic interval as the central poles recede into the background. Equally significant is the way the photograph conveys the quality and sources of light in the shed: the light filters through from outside and permeates the atmosphere.”

(Extract from Leigh Astbury. “Tom Roberts’s Shearing the rams: the hidden tradition,” in Sonia Dean (ed.,). Art Journal 19. National Gallery of Victoria, Nd. [Online] Cited 26/07/2015)

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This carefully planned composition, based on photographs and black and white illustrations, is a (social) construction and performance based on a reality that excludes outsiders and Other (namely Indigenous Australians in this case in point). Artist Dianne Jones rightly questions this deterministic, colonial envisioning of Australian heritage and national identity.

“Jones uses appropriation and reinterpretation to create conversations about issues that are important to her. By placing Aboriginal figures into historical artworks where previously there were none,  Jones makes us aware of their absence from Australian art and from Australian history…

Shearing the Rams provides an example of Jones’ ongoing concern with the lack of accurate Indigenous representation within Australian culture, particularly within iconic nationalistic images. The original oil painting created by Tom Roberts in 1890 celebrated pastoral life and labour, and came to be considered an icon of Australian Impressionism and popular history. Even if the painting itself is not instantly recognisable to the viewer, the sentiment behind it is familiar, it is a sentiment repeated within iconic images of Australia’s post-colonial history. By replacing some of the figures, who are all white men in Roberts’ painting, with male members of her own family, Jones is reasserting their previously unrecognised presence in this part of Australian history. Her family were actively involved in the pastoral industry, but this involvement has not previously been acknowledged or celebrated in any way.”

(Extract from Sarah Norris. “Dianne Jones: Revisiting/Revising Australian Icons,” on the Art Right Now website June 2013 [Online] Cited 16/07/2015)

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This blindness and bigotry towards others continues to this day in rural and regional Australia. I have experienced it myself in rural areas of New South Wales. A certain right-wing conservatism permeates the land, is almost embedded in its ongoing structures. We need artists like Jones to shine a light into the dark corners of the Australian psyche, for only then will we begin to understand the long path as a nation that we have to travel, the new narratives that we must construct.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

 

Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Cabinet card of Quandong, New South Wales, Australia, 1887

 

Unknown photographer
Shearing, Quandong
1887
Albumen print on cabinet card
10 x 8 cm

 

Unknown photographer. 'Shearing, Quandong' (detail) 1887

 

Unknown photographer
Shearing, Quandong (detail)
1887
Albumen print on cabinet card
10 x 8 cm

 

Cabinet card of Quandong, New South Wales, Australia, 1887

 

Unknown photographer
Shearing in Woolshed, Quandong
1887
Albumen print on cabinet card
10 x 8 cm

 

Unknown photographer. 'Shearing in the Woolshed, Quandong' (detail) 1887

 

Unknown photographer
Shearing in the Woolshed, Quandong (detail)
1887
Albumen print on cabinet card
10 x 8 cm

 

Charles Nettleton. 'Seven Creeks Station near Longwood. Shearing' c. 1880

 

Charles Nettleton (1826-1902, photographer)
Seven Creeks Station near Longwood. Shearing
c. 1880
Albumen silver photograph
23.5 x 28.5 cm. on mount
Currie collection, State Library of Victoria

 

Tom Roberts (1856 - 1931) 'Shearing the Rams' 1888-1890

 

Tom Roberts (1856 – 1931)
Shearing the Rams
1888-1890
Oil on canvas on composition board
122.4 x 183.3 cm

 

Dianne Jones. 'Shearing the rams' 2001

 

Dianne Jones
Shearing the rams
2001

Inkjet on canvas, edition of 10
121.9 x 182.6cm
© Dianne Jones

Please note: This image is used under conditions of “fair use” for the purpose of academic scholarship and art criticism.

 

 

Dianne Jones: Revisiting/Revising Australian Icons

“Imagery plays an influential role in the formation of national identity. When this imagery is dominated by a particular cultural and ethnic perspective it results in the formation of a mythology that does not accurately reflect the culture it informs. Through her art practice Jones examines the relationship between popular imagery and national and personal identity. By questioning the validity of the imagery that has illustrated Australian history and has long been considered representative of Australian culture, Jones gives a voice, and a face, to those who were previously denied a place within the paradigm of Australian art.

Jones creates reproductions of classic Australian paintings in which the original image has been altered and reinterpreted. Images by artists such as Tom Roberts, Eugene von Guerard and Max Dupain have come to be representative of a romanticised Australian history. These well-known and well-loved images have had a significant role in defining Australian national identity, their nationalistic tone reflects a particular viewpoint of Australia’s post-colonial history. This viewpoint is limited and denies the experiences of many Australians, including the history of  Jones’ family. In spite of these limitations, these images continue to hold significant cultural value for many Australians. The status of the original paintings Jones reinterprets, as highly valued and iconic works, make them ideal choices for affective reinterpretation.

Jones uses appropriation and reinterpretation to create conversations about issues that are important to her. By placing Aboriginal figures into historical artworks where previously there were none,  Jones makes us aware of their absence from Australian art and from Australian history. She tries to make us aware of the lack of diversity in the images that are seen to illustrate Australian history and represent Australian culture. She highlights the absence of certain cultural groups by placing them back into the picture. In doing this she shows us how we can create a new and more accurate history that is inclusive rather than exclusive…

Shearing the Rams provides an example of Jones’ ongoing concern with the lack of accurate Indigenous representation within Australian culture, particularly within iconic nationalistic images. The original oil painting created by Tom Roberts in 1890 celebrated pastoral life and labour, and came to be considered an icon of Australian Impressionism and popular history. Even if the painting itself is not instantly recognisable to the viewer, the sentiment behind it is familiar, it is a sentiment repeated within iconic images of Australia’s post-colonial history. By replacing some of the figures, who are all white men in Roberts’ painting, with male members of her own family, Jones is reasserting their previously unrecognised presence in this part of Australian history. Her family were actively involved in the pastoral industry, but this involvement has not previously been acknowledged or celebrated in any way.”

Extract from Sarah Norris. “Dianne Jones: Revisiting/Revising Australian Icons,” on the Art Right Now website June 2013 [Online] Cited 16/07/2015

 

 

Cabinet card of Quandong, New South Wales, Australia, 1887

 

Unknown photographer
Untitled [Horse and trap]
Quandong, 1887
Albumen print on cabinet card
10 x 8 cm

 

Cabinet card of Quandong, New South Wales, Australia, 1887

 

Unknown photographer
At Quandong [Horse, foal and cart]
Quandong, 1887
Albumen print on cabinet card
10 x 8 cm

 

Cabinet card of Quandong, New South Wales, Australia, 1887

 

Unknown photographer
Quandong from top of barn
Quandong, 1887
Albumen print on cabinet card
10 x 8 cm

 

Cabinet card of Quandong, New South Wales, Australia, 1887

 

Unknown photographer
Quandong
1887
Albumen print on cabinet card
10 x 8 cm

 

Cabinet card of Quandong, New South Wales, Australia, 1887

 

Unknown photographer
Quandong
1887
Albumen print on cabinet card
10 x 8 cm

 

Unknown photographer. 'Quandong' (detail) 1887

 

Unknown photographer
Quandong (detail)
1887
Albumen print on cabinet card
10 x 8 cm

 

Cabinet card of Quandong, New South Wales, Australia, 1887

 

Unknown photographer
Quandong, N.S.W.
1887
Albumen print on cabinet card
10 x 8 cm

 

Cabinet card of Quandong, New South Wales, Australia, 1887

 

Unknown photographer
Quandong
1887
Albumen print on cabinet card
10 x 8 cm

 

Unknown photographer. 'Quandong' (detail) 1887

 

Unknown photographer
Quandong (detail)
1887
Albumen print on cabinet card
10 x 8 cm

 

Cabinet card of Quandong, New South Wales, Australia, 1887

 

Unknown photographer
At Quandong
1887
Albumen print on cabinet card
10 x 8 cm

 

Cabinet card of Quandong, New South Wales, Australia, 1887

 

Unknown photographer
Stile at Acme hut, Quandong
1887
Albumen print on cabinet card
10 x 8 cm

 

 

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18
Jul
15

Exhibition: ‘Mario Giacomelli. Against Time’ at Fotomuseum WestLicht, Vienna

Exhibition dates: 26th June – 9th August 2015

 

Mario Gaicomelli has a unique signature as an artist. His photographs could never be anyone else’s work.

The press release states, “His works, all of them conceived as series, combine elements of reportage with lyrical subjectivity and a symbolic aesthetic which seems almost calligraphic in its harsh contrasts between black and white… On the one hand, they express a personal feeling; on the other, they embody a clear, courageous and conceptually groundbreaking attitude.” It continues, “His singular style caused him to remain beyond photographic fashions. In the five decades of his work, he created a body of work that is unparalleled in its aesthetic and thematic consistency.”

To remain beyond photographic fashions. In other words, he didn’t fit in, he was an outsider, he was Other. He did not conform.

He crafted, and I use the word deliberately, a conceptual response to life and landscape, to memory and existence – his symbolic aesthetic – that also expresses an enormous respect for personal feeling, for the stuff of life. There is a consistency to his enquiry, both aesthetically and thematically, that marks him out from the pack.

The calligraphic nature of his work has links back to his training as a printer. The aerial photographs of the landscape from the series Presa di coscienza sulla natura / Awareness of Nature (below) possess the quality of an etching. Mix in an dash of surrealism, such as in the series Verrà la morte e avrà i Tuoi Occhi / Death will come and have your eyes (below)1 and the macabre, as in the series Slaughterhouse, and you have a potent mix of portrayal of the irreality of everyday life. Some photographs, such as an image below from the series Scanno Italy, Scanno even posses the 3D quality of stereoscopic cards.

Above all, there is a sense of the mysteries of life contained within the spaces of his work. Is the white cat flying in mid-air or is clinging to someone that we can’t see, who has been printed out by the photographer because of his previsualisation of the work. What is that shape hovering next to his mother? I think it looks like a moth, and the mother is a Japanese mother after Hiroshima with a withered hand. She almost looks like she is dressed in a kimono as well. We’re not supposed to know what that is – actually it’s Agfa paper, hardest possible grade, and skilled use of bleach by the artist – and that is the mystery. Its an interesting print because it is printed so that it could be any gender.

I do love artists who push the boundaries of the sensual and the symbolic. Praise be to traces of differences.

Marcus

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

 

1. See the case of Christine Papin and Léa Papin who were two French maids who murdered their employer’s wife and daughter in Le Mans, France, on 2 February 1933. They had both been beaten to the point of being unrecognisable, and one of the daughter’s eyes was on the floor nearby. Madame Lancelin’s eyes had been gouged out and were found in the folds of the scarf around her neck.

 

Italian Neorealism (Neorealismo)

Italian Neorealism came about as World War II ended and Benito Mussolini’s government fell, causing the Italian film industry to lose its center. Neorealism was a sign of cultural change and social progress inItaly. Its films presented contemporary stories and ideas, and were often shot in the streets because the Cinecittà film studios had been damaged significantly during the war.

The neorealist style was developed by a circle of film critics that revolved around the magazine Cinema, including Luchino Visconti, Gianni Puccini, Cesare Zavattini, Giuseppe De Santis and Pietro Ingrao. Largely prevented from writing about politics (the editor-in-chief of the magazine was Vittorio Mussolini, son of Benito Mussolini), the critics attacked the white telephone films that dominated the industry at the time. As a counter to the popular mainstream films some critics felt that Italian cinema should turn to the realist writers from the turn of the 20th century.

Both Antonioni and Visconti had worked closely with Jean Renoir. In addition, many of the filmmakers involved in neorealism developed their skills working on calligraphist films (though the short-lived movement was markedly different from neorealism). Elements of neorealism are also found in the films of Alessandro Blasetti and the documentary-style films of Francesco De Robertis. Two of the most significant precursors of neorealism are Toni (Renoir, 1935) and 1860 (Blasetti, 1934). In the Spring of 1945, Mussolini was executed and Italy was liberated from German occupation. This period, known as the “Italian Spring,” was a break from old ways and an entrance to a more realistic approach when making films. Italian cinema went from utilizing elaborate studio sets to shooting on location in the countryside and city streets in the realist style.

The first neorealist film is generally thought to be Ossessione by Luchino Visconti (1943). Neorealism became famous globally in 1946 with Roberto Rossellini’s Rome, Open City, when it won the Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival as the first major film produced in Italy after the war…

The films are generally filmed with nonprofessional actors – although, in a number of cases, well known actors were cast in leading roles, playing strongly against their normal character types in front of a background populated by local people rather than extras brought in for the film. They are shot almost exclusively on location, mostly in run-down cities as well as rural areas due to its forming during the post-war era.

The topic involves the idea of what it is like to live among the poor and the lower working class. The focus is on a simple social order of survival in rural, everyday life. Performances are mostly constructed from scenes of people performing fairly mundane and quotidian activities, devoid of the self-consciousness that amateur acting usually entails. Neorealist films often feature children in major roles, though their characters are frequently more observational than participatory…

The period between 1943 and 1950 in the history of Italian cinema is dominated by the impact of neorealism, which is properly defined as a moment or a trend in Italian film, rather than an actual school or group of theoretically motivated and like-minded directors and scriptwriters. Its impact nevertheless has been enormous, not only on Italian film but also on French New Wave cinema, the Polish Film School and ultimately on films all over the world.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

 

Mario Giacomelli. From the series 'Awareness of Nature, Italy, Senigallia' 1980

 

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000)
From the series Presa di coscienza sulla natura / Awareness of Nature
Italy, Senigallia
1980

 

Mario Giacomelli. From the series 'Awareness of Nature, Italy, Senigallia' c. 1987

 

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000)
From the series Presa di coscienza sulla natura / Awareness of Nature
Italy, Senigallia
c. 1987

 

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000) From the series 'The Good Earth, Italy' c. 1965

 

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000)
From the series The Good Earth, Italy
c. 1965

 

Mario Giacomelli. From the series 'Awareness of Nature, Italy, Senigallia' 1982-92

 

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000)
From the series Presa di coscienza sulla natura / Awareness of Nature
Italy, Senigallia
1982-1992

 

 

“The images by Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000), one of the most well-known Italian photographers of the post-war period, are distinctive and possessed of an almost painful intensity. Inspired by Neorealismo cinema, Giacomelli, a typesetter and printer by training who had been experimenting with painting and literature, turned to photography during the 1950s, developing a highly individual visual idiom characterised by graphic abstraction. His works, all of them conceived as series, combine elements of reportage with lyrical subjectivity and a symbolic aesthetic which seems almost calligraphic in its harsh contrasts between black and white.

Starting with the people and landscape of his native central Italy, Giacomelli’s pictures always deal with the fundamental questions of existence: life and death, faith and love, the relationship of man and his roots, the traces of time. One of his most well-known images shows a group of young priests in their cassocks dancing a round in the snow – a moment of innocence already inscribed with loss. Giacomelli’s images of the farm land around his native town of Senigallia, taken from an airplane, dissolve the fields into picturesque networks of lines, showing the landscape as a product of human toil and the passing of time. On the one hand, they express a personal feeling; on the other, they embody a clear, courageous and conceptually groundbreaking attitude.

The photographs on display are part of the Photography Collection OstLicht, curated by Rebekka Reuter and Fabian Knierim.”

Text from the Fotomuseum WestLicht website

 

Mario Giacomelli. 'From the series: Puglia Italy, Puglia' 1958

 

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000)
From the series Puglia Italy, Puglia
1958

 

Mario Giacomelli. From the series 'Scanno Italy, Scanno' 1959

 

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000)
From the series Scanno Italy, Scanno
1959

 

Mario Giacomelli. From the series 'Lourdes France, Lourdes' 1966

 

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000)
From the series Lourdes France, Lourdes
1966

 

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000) From the series 'Io non ho mani che mi accarezzino il volto / I have no Hands caress my face' Italy, Senigallia 1961-1963

 

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000)
From the series Io non ho mani che mi accarezzino il volto / I have no Hands to caress my face
Italy, Senigallia
1961-1963

 

 

“Among his most famous designs include the photographs of the series Io non ho mani che mi accarezzino il Volto (I have no hands that caress my face, after a poem by David Maria Turoldo), 1961-63. Giacomelli observed in a group of priest candidates at their boisterous games and silliness between the seriousness of the lessons. An image showing the young clergy, as they dance in their cassocks a dance in the snow – a moment of innocence, the loss already acknowledged. The soil is so that the seminarians seem to float as black silhouettes on nothing in the recording of a pure white surface without any drawing.

At the end of the 1950s Giacomelli photographed the street scenes of Puglia and Scanno. Both series show a largely untouched by modernity village community. The archaic rural life that still has a clearly vital undertone in Puglia (1958), turns into the black-clad figures of Scanno (1957/59), an image of gloomy Providence.

Over several years, from 1954 to 1983, Giacomelli returned to the nursing home where his mother had worked in the days of his childhood, to photograph there. As in all his series he took, even with Verrà la morte e avrà i Tuoi Occhi (Death will come and will have your eyes on a poem by Cesare Pavese), Giacomelli builds a relationship to the place and its people. The recordings are marked by a harsh realism of human decay, the white of the deductions seem to exhaust the fragile body which possesses an almost existential quality. Simultaneously Giacomelli’s identification with the residents and his silent anger at the suffering is obvious and so the ancients always remain hidden in his eyes.

Giacomelli’s shots from the plane of farmland of his birthplace Senigallia, finally resolve the fields in picturesque interwoven lines and show the landscape as a drawn from the people and time. On one hand, an expression of a personal feeling, these images embody at the same time a clear, bold and pioneering conceptual attitude. Giacomelli’s art is always a rebellion against the impositions of human existence. The bitter irony of the transience of life, he meets by means of photography. His singular style caused him to remain beyond photographic fashions. In the five decades of his work, he created a body of work that is unparalleled in its aesthetic and thematic consistency.”

 

Mario Giacomelli

Mario Giacomelli was born in 1925 in Senigallia. The small town on the Italian Adriatic coast in the province of Ancona remained until his death in 2000, the center of his life. Giacomelli grew up in poverty. His father he lost before he was nine years old, his mother worked as a laundress in a retirement home. At thirteen, he left school and began an apprenticeship as a printer. With a partner, he opened after the war in Senigallia his own printing business. Inspired by photography magazines and the neo-realist film, he discovered at the beginning of the 1950s photography for himself and bought his first camera. He successfully participated in a number of photo contests and regional exhibitions. He received an important impetus in this period by Giuseppe Cavalli, with whom he founded the Photo Group Misa in 1954. In the same year he began his work on Verrà la morte. In 1957 he undertook trips to Scanno and Lourdes, from which emerged the first images of the same series. International presentations of his photographs – the Subjective Photography 3 exhibition, 1959 organized by Otto Steinert in Brussels, at Photokina in Cologne, or the George Eastman House, Rochester (both 1963) – made Giacomelli known beyond Italy. An exhibition curated by John Szarkowski at MoMA in New York meant an international breakthrough for Giacomelli 1964.”

Translated from the German press release

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Mario Giacomelli. Against Time' at Fotomuseum WestLicht© WestLicht / Sandro E. E. Zanzinger

Installation view of the exhibition 'Mario Giacomelli. Against Time' at Fotomuseum WestLicht© WestLicht / Sandro E. E. Zanzinger

Installation view of the exhibition 'Mario Giacomelli. Against Time' at Fotomuseum WestLicht© WestLicht / Sandro E. E. Zanzinger

Installation view of the exhibition 'Mario Giacomelli. Against Time' at Fotomuseum WestLicht© WestLicht / Sandro E. E. Zanzinger

 

Installation views of the exhibition Mario Giacomelli. Against Time at Fotomuseum WestLicht
© WestLicht / Sandro E. E. Zanzinger

 

Mario Giacomelli. From the series 'Slaughterhouse' Italy 1961

 

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000)
From the series Slaughterhouse
Italy 1961

 

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000) From the series: 'Verrà la morte e avrà i Tuoi Occhi / Death will come and have your eyes' Italy 1954

 

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000)
From the series: Verrà la morte e avrà i Tuoi Occhi / Death will come and have your eyes
Italy 1954

 

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000) 'Mia Madre / Mother' Italy 1959

 

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000)
Mia Madre / Mother
Italy 1959

 

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000) From the series: 'Verrà la morte e i Tuoi Occhi avrà / Death will come and your have eyes' Italy, 1955-1958

 

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000)
From the series: Verrà la morte e i Tuoi Occhi avrà / Death will come and your have eyes
Italy, 1955-1958

 

 

WestLicht
Westbahnstraße 40
A-1070 Vienna

Opening hours:
Tue, Wed, Fri 2 – 7 pm
Thu 2 – 9 pm
Sat, Sun 11 am – 7 pm
Mon closed

WestLicht website

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14
Jul
15

Thomas Eakins photography

July 2015

 

Please click on the photography for a larger version of the image.

Marcus

 

 

For Eakins, the camera was a teaching device comparable to anatomical drawing, a tool the modern artist should use to train the eye to see what was truly before it.

 

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In the 1880s, through a series of technical advances that greatly simplified its practice, photography had expanded from being the province solely of the specialist into an activity accessible to the millions. To define photography as a discipline distinct from its casual, commercial, and scientific applications became the overriding goal of many American artists in the last two decades of the century, who claimed for it a place commensurate with those artistic endeavors that celebrated the complex, irreducible subjectivity of their makers. The photographs of Thomas Eakins are a perfect example of this development.

In addition to being an accomplished painter, watercolorist, and teacher, Thomas Eakins was a dedicated and talented photographer. Working with a wooden view camera, glass plate negatives, and the platinum print process, he distinguished himself from most other painters of his generation by mastering the technical aspects of the new medium and requiring his students to do the same. For Eakins, the camera was a teaching device comparable to anatomical drawing (43.87.23; 43.87.19), a tool the modern artist should use to train the eye to see what was truly before it.

Although it is not known from whom or when Eakins learned photography, it is clear that by 1880 he had already incorporated the camera into his professional and personal life. The vast majority of photographs attributed to Eakins are figure studies (nude and clothed) and portraits of his pupils (43.87.17), extended family (including himself) (43.87.23), and immediate friends (41.142.2). More than 225 negatives survive in the Bregler collection at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and approximately 800 images are currently attributed to Eakins and his circle – ample proof of the intensity with which Eakins worked with the camera.

Eakins did not generally use photographs as a preparatory aid to painting, although there are a small number of oils which have direct counterparts in existing photographs: the Amon Carter Museum’s The Swimming Hole [below] and the Metropolitan’s Arcadia [below] being the foremost examples. To the contrary, Eakins saw a different role for photography – one related to his extraordinary interest in knowing the figure and improving his sensitivity to complex figure-ground relationships. Committed to teaching close observation through the practice of dissection and preparatory wax and plaster sculpture, Eakins introduced the camera to the American art studio. At first his photographs were likely quick studies of pose and gesture; later, perhaps during the process of editing and cropping the negatives, and then making enlarged platinum prints, he saw the photographs as discrete works of art on paper, at their best on equal status with his watercolors.

The artistic freedom of the classical world that Eakins strove to bring to life in his academic programs at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (and in his Arcadian paintings) also appears as an important element in many of his nude studies (43.87.19) with the camera. These photographs, far more than the paintings, celebrate the male physique; even today, more than a century after their creation, their unabashed frontal nudity still has the power to shock contemporary eyes.

Text from The Metropolitan Museum of Art website

 

Thomas Eakins 'Thomas Eakins and J. Laurie Wallace at the Shore' 1883

 

Thomas Eakins (American, 1844-1916)
Thomas Eakins and J. Laurie Wallace at the Shore
1883

 

Thomas Eakins 'Thomas Eakins and J. Laurie Wallace at the Shore' 1883

 

Thomas Eakins (American, 1844-1916)
Thomas Eakins and J. Laurie Wallace at the Shore
1883

 

 

The great American painter and photographer Thomas Eakins was devoted to the scientific study of the human form and committed to its truthful representation. While teaching at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Eakins made at least two excursions with his students in order to make a series of nudes out of doors. This photograph was probably made during the summer of 1883 at Manasquan Inlet at Point Pleasant, New Jersey. Although neither of the figures in this study play the pipes, the photograph seems related to the unfinished oil Arcadia, in the Metropolitan’s collection [below]. Posed at the edge of a lake, with hands behind their backs, or dangling, the figures seem to float, lost in thought. They are neither athletes nor swimmers contemplating a dip in the water, but two common men – professor (Eakins) and student (J. Laurie Wallace) – each an Adam. Direct and revealing, such photographs celebrate the body and increase our understanding of Eakins’ refined naturalism and his respect for the essential beauty and complexity of the human form. (Text from The Metropolitan Museum of Art website)

 

Thomas Eakins (1844-1916) 'Arcadia' c. 1883

 

Thomas Eakins (American, 1844-1916)
Arcadia
c. 1883
Oil on canvas
98.1 × 114.3 cm (38.6 × 45 in)
Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Thomas Eakins 'Thomas Eakins and J. Laurie Wallace at the Shore' 1883

 

Thomas Eakins (American, 1844-1916)
Thomas Eakins and J. Laurie Wallace at the Shore
1883

 

Thomas Eakins (1844-1916)  'Swimming / The swimming hole' 1885

 

Thomas Eakins (American, 1844-1916)
Swimming / The swimming hole
1885
Oil on canvas
27.625 × 36.625 in (70.2 × 93 cm)
Amon Carter Museum of American Art

 

Thomas Eakins 'Unidentified model, Thomas Anschutz and J. Laurie Wallace' 1883

 

Thomas Eakins (American, 1844-1916)
Unidentified model, Thomas Anschutz and J. Laurie Wallace
1883

 

Thomas Eakins 'Unidentified model, Thomas Anschutz and J. Laurie Wallace' 1883

 

Thomas Eakins (American, 1844-1916)
Unidentified model, Thomas Anschutz and J. Laurie Wallace
1883

 

Thomas Eakins. 'Wrestlers' 1899

 

Thomas Eakins (American, 1844-1916)
Wrestlers
1899
Oil on canvas
48 3/8 x 60 in. (122.87 x 152.4 cm)
Image: Museum Associates/LACMA
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) Image Library

 

 

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12
Jul
15

Exhibition: ‘Lee Miller’ at the Albertina, Vienna

Exhibition dates: 8th May – 16th August 2015

Curator: Walter Moser

 

 

Leave artist’s alone

It takes some time to form an opinion as to the merit of Lee Miller’s work, given the amount of photographs available online, including the ones available on the Lee Miller Archives website. It is also difficult to separate the muse/socialite from the artist, the icon from the person.

Certainly there are unforgettable photographs, such as the haunting SS Guard in Canal, Dachau, Germany (1945, below). Once seen, never forgotten. But then there are the usual fashion photographs for Vogue that are no different from anyone else, a lot of pretty average social documentary photographs, some excellent and not so excellent portraits of friends and artists, and some surreal offerings that sometimes hit the mark.

Only so often do her photographs raise themselves above the mundane. This is not the fault of Lee Miller, but the fault of people claiming that someone is more than they are. The fault of people in control of her image. And that all comes down to money and power.

Instead of limiting access to her photographs, if her work was just left to breathe – just letting Lee Miller be nothing, in a Zen sense – just let the work be what it is, then she and the work might attain more credibility than it has at the moment. If Lee Miller was not set up as this icon, if she just is, then the work would be all the better for it. Icon and artist need to be separated. Let’s see more of the work freely available, for only then can we truly understand, believe.

At the moment I have the feeling that this is a rather mediocre photographer being made out to be more than she was.

Marcus

 

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

 

Lee Miller (1907-1977) is considered one of the most fascinating artists of the 20th century. In only 16 years, she produced a body of photographic work of a range that remains unparalleled, and that unites the most divergent genres. Miller’s oeuvre extends from surrealistic images to photography in the fields of fashion, travelling, portraiture and even war correspondence; the Albertina presents a survey of the work in its breadth and depth, with the aid of 100 selected pieces.

Lee Miller began her artistic career as a surrealist photographer in the Paris of 1929. She alienated motifs by using narrow image frames and applying experimental techniques like solarisation, so that it would be possible to see paradox reality. Travel photography, in which she translated the landscape into modernistic and ambiguous shapes, originated in Egypt in 1934.

As one of just a handful of female photojournalists, she began to photograph the disastrous consequences of the Second World War back in 1940. Lee Miller photographed the attack on London by the German Luftwaffe (“the Blitz”), as well as the eventual liberation of Paris. Her reporting led her to Vienna via Salzburg in 1945 where she photographed a cityscape destroyed by war, as well as the hardships in the children’s hospitals. In this exhibit, the focus is specifically placed on the vast bulk of this unpublished group of works.

 

 

Lee Miller | Surrealist Photography from Albertina Vienna.

 

Lee Miller | War Photography from Albertina Vienna.

 

Lee Miller. 'Floating Head (Mary Taylor), New York Studio, New York, USA' 1933

 

Lee Miller (1907-1977)
Floating Head (Mary Taylor), New York Studio, New York, USA
1933
© Lee Miller Archives England 2015. All Rights Reserved

 

Man Ray. 'Portrait of Lee Miller, Paris, France' 1929

 

Man Ray
Portrait of Lee Miller, Paris, France
1929
© MAN RAY TRUST / ADAGP, Paris / Bildrecht Wien 2015
Courtesy Lee Miller Archives, England 2015. All rights reserved

 

Lee Miller. 'Untitled (Exploding Hand), Paris, France' c. 1930

 

Lee Miller (1907-1977)
Untitled (Exploding Hand), Paris, France
c. 1930
© Lee Miller Archives England 2015. All Rights Reserved

 

Lee Miller. 'Self Portrait, New York Studio, New York, USA' 1932

 

Lee Miller (1907-1977)
Self Portrait, New York Studio, New York, USA
1932
© Lee Miller Archives England 2015. All Rights Reserved

 

Lee Miller. 'Paris' 1944

 

Lee Miller (1907-1977)
Paris
1944
Silver gelatin print
© Lee Miller Archives England 2015. All Rights Reserved

 

Lee Miller. 'Picnic, Ile Sainte Marguerite, France' 1937

 

Lee Miller (1907-1977)
Picnic, Ile Sainte Marguerite, France [Man Ray second from right]
1937
© Lee Miller Archives England 2015. All Rights Reserved

 

Lee Miller. 'Nude bent forward' 1930

 

Lee Miller (1907-1977)
Nude bent forward
1930
© Lee Miller Archives England 2015. All Rights Reserved

 

 

Lee Miller exhibition text

 

Lee Miller exhibition text

 

Lee Miller exhibition text

 

Lee Miller exhibition text

 

Lee Miller exhibition texts

 

Lee Miller. 'Fire Masks, London, England' 1941

 

Lee Miller (1907-1977)
Fire Masks, London, England
1941
© Lee Miller Archives England 2015. All Rights Reserved

 

Lee Miller. 'Irmgard Seefried, Opera Singer, Singing an Aria from Madame Butterfly, Vienna Opera House, Vienna, Austria' 1945

 

Lee Miller (1907-1977)
Irmgard Seefried, Opera Singer, Singing an Aria from Madame Butterfly, Vienna Opera House, Vienna, Austria
1945
© Lee Miller Archives England 2015. All Rights Reserved

 

Lee Miller with David E. Scherman. 'Lee Miller in Hitler's Bathtub, Munich, Germany' 1945

 

Lee Miller with David E. Scherman
Lee Miller in Hitler’s Bathtub, Munich, Germany
1945
© Lee Miller Archives England 2015. All Rights Reserved

 

Lee Miller. 'Luxembourg' 1944

 

Lee Miller (1907-1977)
Luxembourg
1944
© Lee Miller Archives England 2015. All Rights Reserved

 

Lee Miller. 'SS Guard in Canal, Dachau, Germany' 1945

 

Lee Miller (1907-1977)
SS Guard in Canal, Dachau, Germany
1945
© Lee Miller Archives England 2015. All Rights Reserved

 

Lee Miller. 'Scharnhorst Boy, Vienna, Austria' 1945

 

Lee Miller (1907-1977)
Scharnhorst Boy, Vienna, Austria
1945
© Lee Miller Archives England 2015. All Rights Reserved

 

Lee Miller. 'The latest hat model, Vogue Studios, London, April 1942' 1942

 

Lee Miller (1907-1977)
The latest hat model, Vogue Studios, London, April 1942
1942
© Lee Miller Archives England 2015. All Rights Reserved

 

Man Ray. 'Solarised Portrait of Lee Miller' c. 1929

 

Man Ray
Solarised Portrait of Lee Miller
c. 1929
© MAN RAY TRUST / ADAGP, Paris / Bildrecht Wien 2015

 

Lee Miller. 'Solarized Portrait of an unknown model' 1930

 

Lee Miller (1907-1977)
Solarized Portrait of an unknown model
1930
© Lee Miller Archives England 2015. All Rights Reserved

 

Man Ray and Lee Miller. 'Neck (Portrait of Lee Miller), Paris, France' c. 1930

 

Man Ray and Lee Miller
Neck (Portrait of Lee Miller), Paris, France
c. 1930
© Lee Miller Archives England 2015. All Rights Reserved
© MAN RAY TRUST / ADAGP, Paris / Bildrecht Wien 2015

 

Albertina
Albertinaplatz 1
1010 Vienna, Austria
T: +43 (0)1 534 83-0

Opening hours:
Daily 10 am – 6 pm
Wednesday 10 am – 9 pm

Albertina website

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08
Jul
15

Exhibition: ‘Germaine Krull (1897-1985) A Photographer’s Journey’ at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Exhibition dates: 2nd June 2015 – 27th September 2015

Curator: Michel Frizot, historian of photography

 

 

Je l’adore cette femme. Je pense que je suis en amour.

I absolutely love this women’s art. Everything she touches is inventive, vibrant, made with panache. The light, the hands, the angles, the objects – cranes and barges, brooding ancient architecture hanging in time – and then, to top it all off, the sensuality!

Left-wing convictions, lesbian love affairs, “the love of cars and road trips, the interest in women (whether writers or workers), the fascination with hands, and the free, maverick spirit that drove her work and kept her outside schools and sects.”

How can an artist make two piles of cauliflowers seem so enigmatic, so surreal and wondrous – like so many excised eyes of dead creatures staring at you, coming at you from out of the darkness. Les Halles de nuit (en toute amitié à Van Ecke) (around 1920, below) amazes me every time I look at it.

If I had to name one period above all others that I enjoy looking at most in the history of photography, the avant-garde period of the 1920s-30s would be up there near the very top. Especially the female photographers.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

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

 

 

 

Germaine Krull. 'Rue Auber in Paris' about 1928

 

Germaine Krull
Rue Auber in Paris
about 1928
Gelatin Silver Print
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of David H. McAlpin, by exchange
© Estate Germaine Krull, Museum Folkwang, Essen

 

Germaine Krull. 'Étalage: les mannequins [Display: mannequins]' 1928

 

Germaine Krull
Étalage: les mannequins [Display: mannequins]
1928
Gelatin Silver Print
10.8 x 15.7 cm
Amsab-Institut d’Histoire Sociale, Gand
© Estate Germaine Krull, Museum Folkwang, Essen

 

Germaine Krull. 'Mannequins in a shop window' 1930

 

Germaine Krull
Mannequins in a shop window
1930
Gelatin Silver Print
13.7 x 23.5 cm
Collection Bouqueret-Rémy
© Estate Germaine Krull, Museum Folkwang, Essen

 

Hans Basler. 'Portait of Germaine Krull, Berlin' 1922

 

Hans Basler
Portait of Germaine Krull, Berlin
1922
Gelatin Silver Print
15.9 x 22 cm
Museum Folkwang, Essen
© Estate Germaine Krull, Museum Folkwang, Essen

 

Germaine Krull. 'Nude' Nd

 

Germaine Krull
Nude
Nd
Gelatin Silver Print
Collection Dietmar Siegert
© Estate Germaine Krull, Museum Folkwang, Essen

 

Anonymous. 'Germaine Krull in her car, Monte-Carlo' 1937

 

Anonymous
Germaine Krull in her car, Monte-Carlo
1937
Gelatin Silver Print
13 x 18.3 cm
Museum Folkwang, Essen
© Germaine Krull Estate, Museum Folkwang, Essen

 

 

“Germaine Krull (Wilda-Poznań, East Prussia [after 1919: Poland], 1897-Wetzlar, Germany, 1985) is at once one of the best-known figures in the history of photography, by virtue of her role in the avant-garde’s from 1920 to 1940, and a pioneer of modern photojournalism. She was also the first to publish in book form as an end in itself.

The exhibition at Jeu de Paume revisits Germaine Krull’s work in a new way, based on collections that have only recently been made available, in order to show the balance between a modernist artistic vision and an innovative role in print media, illustration and documentation. As she herself put it – paradoxically, in the introduction to her Études de nu (1930) -, ‘The true photographer is the witness of each day’s events, a reporter.’

If Krull is one of the most famous women photographers, her work has been little studied in comparison to that of her contemporaries Man Ray, László Moholy-Nagy and André Kertész. Nor has she had many exhibitions: in 1967, a first evocation was put on at the Musée du Cinéma in Paris, then came the Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Bonn, in 1977, the Musée Réattu, Arles, in 1988, and the 1999 retrospective based on the archives placed at the Folkwang Museum, Essen.

The exhibition at Jeu de Paume focuses on the Parisian period, 1926-1935, and more precisely on the years of intensive activity between 1928 and 1933, by relating 130 vintage prints to period documents, including the magazines and books in which Krull played such a unique and prominent role. This presentation gives an idea of the constants that run through her work while also bringing out her aesthetic innovations. The show features many singular but also representative images from her prolific output, putting them in their original context.

Born in East Prussia (later Poland) to German parents, Krull had a chaotic childhood, as her hapless father, an engineer, travelled in search of work. This included a spell in Paris in 1906. After studying photography in Munich, Krull became involved in the political upheavals of post-war Germany in 1919, her role in the communist movement leading to a close shave with the Bolsheviks in Moscow. Having made some remarkable photographs of nudes during her early career, noteworthy for their freedom of tone and subject, in 1925 she was in the Netherlands, where she was fascinated by the metal structures and cranes in the docks, and embarked on a series of photographs that, following her move to Paris, would bear fruit in the portfolio Métal, publication of which placed her at the forefront of the avant-garde, the Nouvelle Vision in photography. Her new-found status earned her a prominent position on the new photographic magazine VU, created in 1928, where, along with André Kertész and Eli Lotar, she developed a new form of reportage that was particularly congenial to her, affording freedom of expression and freedom from taboos as well as closeness to the subject – all facilitated by her small-format (6 x 9 cm) Icarette camera.

This exhibition shows the extraordinary blossoming of Krull’s unique vision in around 1930, a vision that is hard to define because it adapted to its subjects with a mixture of charisma and empathy, while remaining constantly innovative in terms of its aesthetic. It is essential, here, to show that Krull always worked for publication: apart from the modernist VU, where she was a contributor from 1928 to 1933, she produced reportage for many other magazines, such as Jazz, Variétés, Art et Médecine and L’Art vivant. Most importantly, and unlike any other photographer of her generation, she published a number of books and portfolios as sole author: Métal (1928), 100 x Paris (1929), Études de nu (1930), Le Valois (1930), La Route Paris-Biarritz (1931), Marseille (1935). She also created the first photo-novel, La Folle d’Itteville (1931), in collaboration with Georges Simenon. These various publications represent a total of some five hundred photographs. Krull also contributed to some important collective books, particularly on the subject of Paris: Paris, 1928; Visages de Paris, 1930; Paris under 4 Arstider, 1930; La Route Paris-Méditerranée, 1931. Her images are often disconcerting, atypical and utterly free of standardisation.

An energetic figure with strong left-wing convictions and a great traveller, Krull’s approach to photography was antithetical to the aesthetically led, interpretative practice of the Bauhaus or Surrealists. During the Second World War, she joined the Free French (1941) and served the cause with her camera, later following the Battle of Alsace (her photographs of which were made into a book). Shortly afterwards she left Europe for Southeast Asia, becoming director of the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok, which she helped turn into a renowned establishment, and then moving on to India where, having converted to Buddhism, she served the community of Tibetan exiles near Dehra-Dun.

During all her years in Asia, Krull continued to take photographs. Her thousands of images included Buddhist sites and monuments, some of them taken as illustrations for a book planned by her friend André Malraux. The conception of the books she published throughout her life was unfailingly original: Ballets de Monte-Carlo (1937); Uma Cidade Antiga do Brasil; Ouro Preto (1943); Chieng Mai (c. 1960); Tibetans in India (1968).

In her photojournalism, Krull began by focusing on the lower reaches of Parisian life, its modest, working population, the outcasts and marginal of the “Zone,” the tramps (subject of a hugely successful piece in VU), Les Halles and the markets, the fairgrounds evoked by Francis Carco and Pierre Mac Orlan (her greatest champion). The exhibition also explores unchanging aspects of her tastes and attachments: the love of cars and road trips, the interest in women (whether writers or workers), the fascination with hands, and the free, maverick spirit that drove her work and kept her outside schools and sects.

The works come from a public and private collections including the Folkwang Museum, Essen; Amsab, Institute for Social History, Ghent; the Ann and Jürgen Wilde Foundation, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich; The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; the Centre Pompidou, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris; the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris; the Collection Bouqueret-Rémy; the Dietmar Siegert Collection.”

Press release from the Jeu de Paume

 

Germaine Krull. 'Self Portrait with Icarette' around 1925

 

Germaine Krull
Self Portrait with Icarette
around 1925
Gelatin silver print
23.6 x 17.5 cm
Purchase through the patronage of Yves Rocher, 2011. Former collection Bouqueret Christian. Centre Pompidou, Paris. National Museum of Modern Art / Industrial Design Centre
© Germaine Krull Estate, Museum Folkwang, Essen
Photo: © Centre Pompidou MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN / picture Centre Pompidou-CCI MNAM

 

Germaine Krull. 'Self Portrait, Paris' 1927

 

Germaine Krull
Self Portrait, Paris
1927
Gelatin silver print
23.9 x 17.9 cm
Foundation Ann and Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
© Estate Germaine Krull, Museum Folkwang, Essen

 

Germaine Krull. 'Assia's profile' 1930

 

Germaine Krull
Assia’s profile
1930
Gelatin Silver Print
22.2 x 15.8 cm
Collection Bouqueret-Rémy
© Estate Germaine Krull, Museum Folkwang, Essen

 

Germaine Krull. 'Étude pour La Folle d’Itteville [Study for The Madwoman of Itteville]' 1931

 

Germaine Krull
Étude pour La Folle d’Itteville [Study for The Madwoman of Itteville]
1931
Gelatin Silver Print
21.9 x 16.4 cm
Purchase through the patronage of Yves Rocher, 2011. Former collection Bouqueret Christian. Centre Pompidou, Paris. National Museum of Modern Art / Industrial Design Centre
© Germaine Krull Estate, Museum Folkwang, Essen.
Photo: © Centre Pompidou MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN / Guy Carrard

 

Germaine Krull. 'Advertising Study for Paul Poiret' 1926

 

Germaine Krull
Advertising Study for Paul Poiret
1926
Gelatin Silver Print
Purchase through the patronage of Yves Rocher, 2011. Former collection Bouqueret Christian. Centre Pompidou, Paris. National Museum of Modern Art / Industrial Design Centre
© Germaine Krull Estate, Museum Folkwang, Essen
Photo: © Centre Pompidou MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN / Georges Meguerditchian

 

Germaine Krull. 'Female nude' 1928

 

Germaine Krull
Female nude
1928
Gelatin Silver Print
21.6 x 14.4 cm
Purchase through the patronage of Yves Rocher, 2011. Former collection Bouqueret Christian. Centre Pompidou, Paris. National Museum of Modern Art / Industrial Design Centre
© Germaine Krull Estate, Museum Folkwang, Essen
Photo: © Centre Pompidou MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN / Guy Carrard

 

Germaine Krull. 'Jean Cocteau' 1929

 

Germaine Krull
Jean Cocteau
1929
Gelatin Silver Print 1976
23.7 x 17.2 cm
Bouqueret Remy collection
© Germaine Krull Estate, Museum Folkwang, Essen

 

Germaine Krull. 'André Malraux' 1930

 

Germaine Krull
André Malraux
1930
Gelatin Silver Print
23 x 17.3 cm
Museum Folkwang, Essen
© Estate Germaine Krull, Museum Folkwang, Essen

 

Germaine Krull. 'Tibetan religious ceremony offering of the white scarf' Undated

 

Germaine Krull
Tibetan religious ceremony offering of the white scarf
Undated
Gelatin silver print
24.1 x 18.5 cm
Museum Folkwang, Essen
© Germaine Krull Estate, Museum Folkwang, Essen

 

 

Germaine Krull (1897-1985) A Photographer’s Journey

A famous figure of the avant-garde in the 1920-1940s, Germaine Krull (Wilda, Poland, 1897-Wetzlar, Germany, 1985) was a pioneer of modern photojournalism and of the photographic book. Produced mainly between 1928 and 1931, her innovative work cannot be understood outside the context of her chaotic and poorly educated childhood and her activist youth, which saw her become involved in the Spartacist uprising in Germany in 1919.

After Berlin, where she produced some ambiguous nude photographs in 1923, Paris was where her career as a photographer took off. She won acclaim for her fers, the photographs of metal structures, bridges and cranes that featured in her portfolio Métal (1928), their unusual angles and framing typical of the New Vision in photography. In March 1928 she began producing innovative reportage for the newly created photographic magazine VU, focusing particularly on Parisian life, the marginal world of humble folk and popular neighbourhoods, and the “Zone.”

Often disconcerting and seemingly casual, these images taken with a hand-held Icarette were nevertheless well received by a number of illustrated magazines. Krull innovated even more as sole author of books and portfolios, which were a novelty at this time: 100 x Paris (1929), Études de nu (1930), Le Valois (1930), La Route Paris-Biarritz (1931), Marseille (1935), and the first photo-novel (phototexte) with Georges Simenon, La Folle d’Itteville (1931). Taken together, these publications represent some five hundred photos.

A woman of action and initiative, Krull had a great love of cars and road travel (which inspired  several books), and was particularly interested in behaviour, gesture and the work of women, as well as in the expressiveness of hands. Her free, maverick spirit was always in evidence, as if taking a fresh look at the world also meant constantly rising to new challenges in her photography. “Germaine Krull,” noted Pierre Mac Orlan, “does not create easy anecdotes, but she makes visible the secret details that people do not always see.”

Berlin and Paris: early days

After a free adolescence, Germaine Krull studied  photography in Munich, later contributing to a portfolio of female nudes. Her involvement with the Spartacist uprising of 1919 led all the way to prisons in Moscow in 1921. Returning to photography in 1923, she produced more female nudes, with strong erotic connotations (one series shows two women “friends”). Moving to Paris in 1926, she worked as a fashion photographer, mainly for Sonia Delaunay’s textile studio.

1928: “My fers” and VU

In 1928 Krull became known for her fers, dramatically framed photographs of cranes, bridges and silos, and of the Eiffel Tower. Often low-angle shots, these established her as an “avant-garde” photographer. At the end of  the year her portfolio Métal (64 plates) had a tremendous impact in modernist photographic circles and in progressive artistic magazines (L’Art vivant, Jazz).

Reportage and magazines

Krull’s greatest contribution was in the field of  reportage, which she pioneered in March 1928 for the magazine VU. Her favourite subject was Parisian popular culture – fairgrounds and flea markets, bars and dance halls, tramps. Her approach was free and spontaneous, favouring closeness to the subject, photographed at eye height (as enabled by her 6 x 9 Icarette), rather than elegance and balance of composition. Her idiosyncratic and highly evocative images were appreciated by the bolder magazines, which published some six hundred of them between 1928 and 1934.

Paris, Paris!

For a determined photographer like Krull, the big city represented a unique set of opportunities with real potential: department stores, shop window mannequins, effects of lighting at night and the banks of the Seine were among the subjects. Enthusiastic about the book format, she published 100 x Paris, a book of a hundred unusual views of Paris, in 1929, and contributed to Visages de Paris by Warnod (1930), and Paris by Adolf Hallman (1930). Her images gave visual expression to the “social fantastic” explored by her friend, writer Pierre Mac Orlan (Quai des Brumes, 1927).

Cars, the open road

Krull was fascinated by cars, speed and machines. In Paris she photographed the teeming traffic. After a commission to take advertising photos for  the Peugeot 201 in 1929, she developed a strong enthusiasm for road trips, the great novelty of the day, and photographed sites glimpsed from inside the vehicle. This daring work bore fruit in a new kind of photography book, Le Valois de Gérard de Nerval (1930), La Route Paris-Biarritz (1931), La Route de Paris à la Méditerranée (1931) and Marseille (1935), an aesthetic and mental as well as geographical journey to the south.

Women

As a woman photographer, Krull took an interest in artistic women such as Colette, the actress Berthe Bovy who played in La Voix humaine by Cocteau, and the singer Damia. She was especially keen to do social reportage on women’s themes, a notable example being her series on working women in Paris, published by VU in 1931-1932. Her Études de nu (1930) was an aesthetic manifesto by virtue of its  fragmented and unstructured vision of the female body. Another innovation was her photography for La Folle d’Itteville, a ground-breaking photographic version of a Simenon story, featuring an enigmatic Mrs Hubbell.

“My collection of hands”

Krull was fascinated by hands, which she  photographed with a blend of imagination and  invention. Her “collection” included Cocteau with his hand in front of his eyes or mouth, and Malraux with his cigarette. In her reportage, she homed in on gestures and postures in which the hands were signally expressive. Shown on their own, they became portraits, intriguing the viewer.

Le Courrier littéraire, 1930

The second issue (April-May-June 1930) of this ephemeral magazine contained an astonishing  portfolio of Krull’s work, with 24 photos over 17  pages. The rather emphatic presentation showed  her as a true artist, and as part of the avant-garde of the day. A letter from Cocteau was reprinted by way of an introduction. In it, the poet, Krull’s friend, expresses his surprise at her striking photos, both of Berthe Bovy in La Voix humaine and of his own hands.

Free spirit

Krull liked to concentrate on “the visual side  of things” and escape from the documentary imperatives of reportage. Her bold framing, details and situations, her use of cast shadow and touch of fantasy stimulate the imagination and create surprise. Her series on superstitions, published in VU and Variétés, was conceived with the enthusiasm of an amateur photographer exclusively intent on the narrative power of the images. Without ever entering the world of Surrealism, her very individual vision brought out an unexpected strangeness in apparently ordinary things.

War

In 1940 Krull took the boat to Brazil, aiming to work for Free France. In 1942 she was sent to Brazzaville to set up a propaganda photography  service. She also produced reportage around French Equatorial Africa. In 1943 she travelled to Algiers as a reporter, then sailed with the troops of De Lattre, arriving in the South of France and heading up to Alsace, where she witnessed the Battle of Alsace and the liberation of the Vaihingen  concentration camp.

Asia

Keen to continue working as a reporter in Southeast Asia, in 1946 Krull settled in Bangkok. Not long after, she became manager of the Oriental Hotel there, which she turned into a highly renowned establishment. Drawn to Buddhism, she photographed its temples and statues in Thailand and Burma. Leaving her position at the hotel, she travelled to India, where she took up  the cause of the Tibetan exiles (Tibetans in India, 1968). Ill, impecunious, and having lost most of her prints, Krull returned to Germany, where she died on 30 July 1985.

The films

Through Joris Ivens, Krull was in touch with many of the avant-garde filmmakers of the day, including René Clair, Georges Lacombe and Alberto  Cavalcanti. Although she claimed to dislike cinema’s complicated interdependence of machines, script and actors, she did make two short films, both in 1931: Six pour dix francs (9 min) and Il partit pour un long voyage (11 min 20 s). The second, about a young boy who dreams of travel and distant  lands and hides on a barge on the Seine at Bercy, allowed her to take some “photographically” meticulous shots of activities along the river.

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Michel Frizot
Exhibition curator

 

Germaine Krull. 'Gibbs Advertising' L'Illustration, No. 4533, January 18, 1930

 

Germaine Krull
Gibbs Advertising
L’Illustration, No. 4533, January 18, 1930
36.7 x 27.8 cm
Private collection
© Estate Germaine Krull, Museum Folkwang, Essen

 

Germaine Krull. 'Pol Rab (illustrator)' 1930

 

Germaine Krull
Pol Rab (illustrator)
1930
Photomontage, Gelatin silver print
19.5 x 14.5 cm
Amsab-Institute of Social History, Ghent
© Germaine Krull Estate, Museum Folkwang, Essen

 

Germaine Krull. '100 x Paris' 1929

 

Germaine Krull
100 x Paris
1929
Cover, Publisher of the series Berlin-Westend
24.3 x 17.3 cm
Private collection
© Germaine Krull Estate, Museum Folkwang, Essen

 

Germaine Krull. 'Cover of the photogravure portfolio Métal (set of 64 plates)' 1928

 

Germaine Krull
Métal
Cover of the photogravure portfolio Métal (set of 64 plates)
1928
30 x 23.5 cm
Collection Bouqueret-Rémy
© Estate Germaine Krull, Museum Folkwang, Essen

 

Germaine Krull. 'Bridge crane, Rotterdam' from the series 'Métal', about 1926

 

Germaine Krull
Bridge crane, Rotterdam
about 1926
from the series Métal
Gelatin Silver Print
21.9 x 15.3 cm
Foundation Ann and Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
© Estate Germaine Krull, Museum Folkwang, Essen

 

Germaine Krull. 'Ancient architecture: printing house Clock' 1928

 

Germaine Krull
Architecture ancienne: imprimerie de l’Horloge [Ancient architecture: printing house Clock]
1928
Gelatin Silver Print
21.9 x 15.2 cm
Amsab-Institute of Social History, Ghent
© Germaine Krull Estate, Museum Folkwang, Essen

 

Germaine Krull. 'Electric plant, Issy les Moulineaux' 1928

 

Germaine Krull
Electric plant, Issy les Moulineaux
1928
Gelatin Silver Print
22.6 x 16.6 cm
Amsab-Institute of Social History, Ghent
© Germaine Krull Estate, Museum Folkwang, Essen

 

Germaine Krull. 'Halls of Night (in friendship to Van Ecke)' around 1920

 

Germaine Krull
Les Halles de nuit (en toute amitié à Van Ecke) [Halls of Night (in friendship to Van Ecke)]
around 1920
Gelatin Silver Print
22 x 16.2 cm
Amsab-Institute of Social History, Ghent
© Germaine Krull Estate, Museum Folkwang, Essen

 

Germaine Krull. 'At the right corner, Paris' 1929

 

Germaine Krull
Au bon coin, Paris [At the right corner, Paris]
1929
Gelatin Silver Print
14.2 x 10.5 cm
Collection Bouqueret-Rémy
© Estate Germaine Krull, Museum Folkwang, Essen

 

Germaine Krull. 'Marseille' June 1930

 

Germaine Krull
Marseille
June 1930
Gelatin Silver Print
21.2 x 15.3 cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Thomas Walther Collection.Gift of Thomas Walther
© Estate Germaine Krull, Museum Folkwang, Essen
Photo: © 2015. Digital image, The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Scala, Florence

 

 

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05
Jul
15

Exhibition: ‘In Light of the Past’ at the National Gallery of Art, Washington

Exhibition dates: 3rd May – 26th July 2015

Curators: The curators of In Light of the Past: Celebrating 25 Years of Photography at the National Gallery of Art are Sarah Greenough, senior curator and head of the department of photographs, and Diane Waggoner, associate curator, department of photographs, National Gallery of Art.

 

 

What a great title for an exhibition. Photography always evidences light of the past, we live in light of the past (the light of the Sun takes just over 8 minutes to reach Earth) and, for whatever reason, human beings never seem to learn from mistakes, in light of the past history of the human race.

My favourites in this postings are the 19th century photographs, to which I am becoming further attuned the more I look at them. There is almost a point when you become psychologically enmeshed with their light, with the serenity of the images, a quality that most contemporary photographs seem to have lost. There is a quietness to their presence, a contemplation on the nature of the world through the pencil of nature that is captivating. You only have to look at Gustave Le Gray’s The Pont du Carrousel, Paris: View to the West from the Pont des Arts (1856-1858, below) to understand the everlasting, transcendent charisma of these images. Light, space, time, eternity.

Marcus

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

The Collection of Photographs at the National Gallery of Art, Washington (110kb Word doc)

 

 

William Henry Fox Talbot. 'A Scene in York: York Minster from Lop Lane' 1845

 

William Henry Fox Talbot
A Scene in York: York Minster from Lop Lane
1845
Salted paper print
16.2 x 20.4 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Edward J. Lenkin Fund, Melvin and Thelma Lenkin Fund and Stephen G. Stein Fund, 2011

 

A British polymath equally adept in astronomy, chemistry, Egyptology, physics, and philosophy, Talbot spent years inventing a photographic process that created paper negatives, which were then used to make positive prints – the conceptual basis of nearly all photography until the digital age. Calotypes, as he came to call them, are softer in effect than daguerreotypes, the other process announced in 1839. Though steeped in the sciences, Talbot understood the ability of his invention to make striking works of art. Here the partially obstructed view of the cathedral rising from the confines of the city gives a sense of discovery, of having just turned the corner and encountered this scene.

 

Carleton E. Watkins. 'Piwac, Vernal Falls, 300 feet, Yosemite' 1861

 

Carleton E. Watkins
Piwac, Vernal Falls, 300 feet, Yosemite
1861
Albumen print
39.9 x 52.3 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mary and David Robinson, 1995

 

The westward expansion of America opened up new opportunities for photographers such as Watkins and William Bell. Joining government survey expeditions, hired by railroad companies, or catering to tourists and the growing demand for grand views of nature, they created photographic landscapes that reached a broad audience of scientists, businessmen, and engineers, as well as curious members of the middle class. Watkins’s photographs of the sublime Yosemite Valley, which often recall landscape paintings of similar majestic subjects, helped convince Congress to pass a bill in 1864 protecting the area from development and commercial exploitation.

 

Charles Nègre. 'Market Scene at the Port of the Hotel de Ville, Paris' before February 1852

 

Charles Nègre
Market Scene at the Port of the Hotel de Ville, Paris
before February 1852
Salted paper print
14.7 x 19.9 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund, 2003

 

Eugène Cuvelier. 'Belle-Croix' 1860s

 

Eugène Cuvelier
Belle-Croix
1860s
Albumen print
Image: 25.4 x 34.3 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gail and Benjamin Jacobs for the Millennium Fund, 2007

 

In the second half of the nineteenth century, some photographers in France, hired by governmental agencies to make photographic inventories or simply catering to the growing demand for pictures of Paris, drew on the medium’s documentary abilities to record the nation’s architectural patrimony and the modernization of Paris. Others explored the camera’s artistic potential by capturing the ephemeral moods of nature in the French countryside. Though photographers faced difficulties in carting around heavy equipment and operating in the field, they learned how to master the elements that directly affected their pictures, from securing the right vantage point to dealing with movement, light, and changing atmospheric conditions during long exposure times.

 

Gustave Le Gray. 'The Pont du Carrousel, Paris: View to the West from the Pont des Arts' 1856-1858

 

Gustave Le Gray
The Pont du Carrousel, Paris: View to the West from the Pont des Arts
1856-1858
Albumen print
37.8 x 48.8 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund, 1995

 

Édouard-Denis Baldus. 'Toulon, Train Station' c. 1861

 

Édouard-Denis Baldus
Toulon, Train Station
c. 1861
Albumen print
27.4 x 43.1 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund, 1995

 

 

In Light of the Past: Celebrating 25 Years of Photography at the National Gallery of Art, on view in the West Building from May 3 through July 26, 2015, will commemorate more than two decades of the Gallery’s robust photography program. Some 175 of the collection’s most exemplary holdings will reveal the evolution of the art of photography, from its birth in 1839 to the late 1970s. In Light of the Past is one of three stellar exhibitions that will commemorate the 25th anniversary of the National Gallery of Art’s commitment to photography acquisitions, exhibitions, scholarly catalogues, and programs.

In Light of the Past includes some of the rarest and most compelling photographs ever created,” said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art, Washington. “It also honors the generous support of our donors who have enabled us to achieve this new place of prominence for photography at the Gallery.”
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About the exhibition

In Light of the Past begins with exceptional 19th-century salted paper prints, daguerreotypes, and albumen prints by acclaimed early practitioners such as William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877), Gustave Le Gray (1820-1884), Roger Fenton (1819-1869), Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879), Albert Sands Southworth (1811-1894, and Josiah Johnson Hawes (1808-1901). It also displays works by American expeditionary photographers, including William Bell (1830-1910) and Carleton E. Watkins (1829-1916).

The exhibition continues with late 19th- and early 20th-century American pictorialist photographs by Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946), Clarence H. White (1871-1925), Gertrude Käsebier (1852-1934), and Alvin Langdon Coburn (1882-1966), among others, as well as European masters such as Eugène Atget (1857-1927). The exhibition also examines the international photographic modernism of artists such as Paul Strand (1890-1976), André Kertész (1894-1985), Marianne Brandt (1893-1983), László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946), and Ilse Bing (1899-1998) before turning to the mid-20th century, where exceptional work by Walker Evans (1903-1975), Robert Frank (b. 1924), Harry Callahan (1912-1999), Irving Penn (1917-2009), Lee Friedlander (b. 1934), and Diane Arbus (1923-1971) will be on view.

The exhibition concludes with pictures from the 1960s and 1970s, showcasing works by photographers such as Robert Adams (b. 1937), Lewis Baltz (1945-2014), and William Eggleston (b. 1939), as well as Mel Bochner (b. 1940) and Sol LeWitt (1928-2007), which demonstrate the diverse practices that invigorated photography during these decades.”

Press release from the National Gallery of Art

 

Albert Sands Southworth and Josiah Johnson Hawes. 'The Letter' c. 1850

 

Albert Sands Southworth and Josiah Johnson Hawes
The Letter
c. 1850
Daguerreotype
Plate: 20.3 x 15.2 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund, 1999

 

Working together in Boston, the portrait photographers Southworth and Hawes aimed to capture the character of their subjects using the daguerreotype process. Invented in France and one of the two photographic processes introduced to the public in early 1839, the daguerreotype is made by exposing a silver-coated copper plate to light and then treating it with chemicals to bring out the image. The heyday of the technique was the 1840s and 1850s, when it was used primarily for making portraits. The daguerreotype’s long exposure time usually resulted in frontal, frozen postures and stern facial expressions; this picture’s pyramidal composition and strong sentiments of friendship and companionship are characteristic of Southworth and Hawes’s innovative approach.

 

Clarence H. White. 'The Hillside' c. 1898

 

Clarence H. White
The Hillside
c. 1898
Gum dichromate print
20.8 x 15.88 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund, 2008

 

The Photo-Secession

At the turn of the century in America, Alfred Stieglitz and his colleague Edward Steichen led the movement to establish photography’s status as a fine art. In 1902 Stieglitz founded an organization called the Photo-Secession, consisting of young artists who shared his belief in the creative potential of the medium. Many of the photographers featured here were members of the group, including Gertrude Käsebier, Clarence White, and Alvin Langdon Coburn. Through the exhibitions Stieglitz organized in his New York gallery, called 291, and the essays he published in his influential quarterly, Camera Work, he and the Photo-Secession promoted the pictorialist aesethetic of softly textured, painterly pictures that elicit emotion and appeal to the imagination. Occasionally the photographers’ compositions refer to other works of art, such as Steichen’s portrait of his friend Auguste Rodin, whose pose recalls one of the sculptor’s most famous works, The Thinker. Influenced by the modern European and American painting, sculpture, and drawing he exhibited at 291, Stieglitz lost interest in the Photo-Secession in the early 1910s and began to explore a more straightforward expression.

 

Eugène Atget. 'Saint-Cloud' 1926

 

Eugène Atget
Saint-Cloud
1926
Albumen print
22.2 x 18.1 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mary and Dan Solomon and Patrons’ Permanent Fund, 2006

 

Using a cumbersome camera mounted on a tripod, Atget recorded the myriad facets of Paris and its environs at the turn of the century. Transforming ordinary scenes into poetic evocations, he created a visual compendium of the objects, architecture, and landscapes that were expressive of French culture and its history. He sold his photographs to artists, architects, and craftsmen, as well as to libraries and museums interested in the vanishing old city. Throughout his career he returned repeatedly to certain subjects and discovered that the variations caused by changing light, atmosphere, and season provided inexhaustible subjects for the perceptive photographer.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron. 'The Mountain Nymph, Sweet Liberty' June 1866

 

Julia Margaret Cameron
The Mountain Nymph, Sweet Liberty
June 1866
Albumen print
36.1 x 26.7 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, New Century Fund, 1997

 

Ensconced in the intellectual and artistic circles of midcentury England, Cameron manipulated focus and light to create poetic pictures rich in references to literature, mythology, and history. Her monumental views of life-sized heads were unprecedented, and with them she hoped to define a new mode of photography that would rival the expressive power of painting and sculpture. The title of this work alludes to John Milton’s mid-seventeenth-century poem L’Allegro. Describing the happy life of one who finds pleasure and beauty in the countryside, the poem includes the lines:

Come, and trip it as ye go
On the light fantastic toe;
And in thy right hand lead with thee,
The mountain nymph, sweet Liberty.

 

Dr Guillaume-Benjamin-Amant Duchenne (de Boulogne). 'Figure 63, "Fright" from "Mécanisme de la physionomie humaine (Mechanism of human physiognomy)" (1862)' 1854-1855

 

Dr Guillaume-Benjamin-Amant Duchenne (de Boulogne)
Figure 63, “Fright” from “Mécanisme de la physionomie humaine (Mechanism of human physiognomy)” (1862)
1854-1855
Albumen print
21.5 × 16 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund, 2015

 

A neurologist, physiologist, and photographer, Duchenne de Boulogne conducted a series of experiments in the mid-1850s in which he applied electrical currents to various facial muscles to study how they produce expressions of emotion. Convinced that these electrically-induced expressions accurately rendered internal feelings, he then photographed his subjects to establish a precise visual lexicon of human emotions, such as pain, surprise, fear, and sadness. In 1862 he included this photograph representing fright in a treatise on physiognomy (a pseudoscience that assumes a relationship between external appearance and internal character), which enjoyed broad popularity among artists and scientists.

 

Lewis Hine. 'An Anaemic Little Spinner in a New England Cotton Mill (North Pownal, Vermont)' 1910

 

Lewis Hine
An Anaemic Little Spinner in a New England Cotton Mill (North Pownal, Vermont)
1910
Gelatin silver print
24.1 × 19.2 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund, 2015

 

Trained as a sociologist and initially employed as a teacher, Hine used the camera both as a research tool and an instrument of social reform. One of the earliest and most influential social documentary photographers of his time, he made many pictures under the auspices of the National Child Labor Committee, an organization formed in 1904 to promote better working conditions for children. Hine’s focus on the thin, frail body of this barefoot twelve-year-old spinner, who stands before rows of bobbins in the mill where she worked, was meant to illustrate the unhealthy effects of her employment. Photographs like this one were crucial to the campaign to change American child labor laws in the early twentieth century.

 

 

In Light of the Past: Twenty-Five Years of Photography at the National Gallery of Art

Georgia O’Keeffe and the Alfred Stieglitz Estate laid the foundation of the photography collection of the National Gallery of Art in 1949 with their donation of 1,650 Stieglitz photographs, an unparalleled group known as the Key Set. Yet the Gallery did not start actively acquiring photographs until 1990, when it launched an initiative to build a collection of works by European and American photographers from throughout the history of the medium and mount major exhibitions with scholarly publications. Now including nearly fifteen thousand prints, the collection encompasses the rich diversity of photographic practice from fine art to scientific and amateur photography, as well as photojournalism. It is distinguished by its large holdings of works by many of the medium’s most acclaimed masters, such as Paul Strand, Walker Evans, André Kertész, Ilse Bing, Robert Frank, Harry Callahan, Lee Friedlander, Gordon Parks, Irving Penn, and Robert Adams, among others.

In Light of the Past celebrates the twenty-fifth anniversary of the 1990 initiative by presenting some of the Gallery’s finest photographs made from the early 1840s to the late 1970s. It is divided into four sections arranged chronologically. The first traces the evolution of the art of photography during its first decades in the work of early British, French, and American practitioners. The second looks at the contributions of late nineteenth and early twentieth-century photographers, from Stieglitz and the American pictorialists to European masters such as Eugène Atget. The third section examines the international photographic modernism of the 1920s and 1930s, and the fourth features seminal mid-twentieth-century photographers. The exhibition concludes with pictures representing the varied practices of those working in the late 1960s and 1970s.
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The Nineteenth Century: The Invention of Photography

In 1839 a new means of visual representation was announced to a startled world: photography. Although the medium was immediately and enthusiastically embraced by the public at large, photographers themselves spent the ensuing decades experimenting with techniques and debating the nature of this new invention. The works in this section suggest the range of questions addressed by these earliest practitioners. Was photography best understood as an art or a science? What subjects should photographs depict, what purpose should they serve, and what should they look like? Should photographers work within the aesthetics established in other arts, such as painting, or explore characteristics that seemed unique to the medium? This first generation of photographers became part scientists as they mastered a baffling array of new processes and learned how to handle their equipment and material. Yet they also grappled with aesthetic issues, such as how to convey the tone, texture, and detail of multicolored reality in a monochrome medium. They often explored the same subjects that had fascinated artists for centuries – portraits, landscapes, genre scenes, and still lifes – but they also discovered and exploited the distinctive ways in which the camera frames and presents the world.
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Photography at the Turn of the Twentieth Century

In the late nineteenth century, improvements in technology and processing, along with the invention of small handheld cameras such as the Kodak, suddenly made it possible for anyone of middle-class means to take photographs. Many amateurs took up the camera to commemorate family, friends, and special events. Others, such as the sociologist Lewis Hine, used it as a tool for social and political change. Partially in response to the new ease of photography, more serious practitioners in America and Europe banded together to assert the artistic merit of the medium. Called pictorialists, they sought to prove that photography was just as capable of poetic, subjective expression as painting. They freely manipulated their prints to reveal their authorial control, often resulting in painterly effects, and consciously separated themselves from amateur photographers and mechanized processes.
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Photography Between the Wars

In the aftermath of World War I – the first modern, mechanized conflict – sweeping changes transformed photography. Avant-garde painters, graphic designers, and journalists turned to the medium, seeing it as the most effective tool to express the fractured, fast-paced nature of modernity and the new technological culture of the twentieth century. A wide variety of new approaches and techniques flourished during these years, especially in Europe. Photographers adopted radical cropping, unusual angles, disorienting vantage points, abstraction, collage, and darkroom alchemy to achieve what the influential Hungarian teacher László Moholy-Nagy celebrated as the “new vision.” Other photographers, such as the German August Sander or the Americans Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston, and Walker Evans, sought a more rigorous objectivity grounded in a precise examination of the world.
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Postwar Photography

Photography thrived in the decades after World War II, invigorated by new ideas, practices, and expanding venues for circulating and displaying pictures. Immediately after the war, many photographers sought to publish their pictures in illustrated magazines, which prospered during these years. Some, such as Gordon Parks, made photographs highlighting racial, economic, and social disparities. Others, such as Louis Faurer, Sid Grossman, and Robert Frank, turned to the street to address the conditions of modern life in pictures that expose both its beauty and brutality. Using handheld cameras and available light, they focused on the random choreography of sidewalks, making pictures that are often blurred, out of focus, or off-kilter.

In the later 1950s and 1960s a number of photographers pushed these ideas further, mining the intricate social interactions of urban environments. Unlike photographers from the 1930s, these practitioners, such as Garry Winogrand, Lee Friedlander, and Diane Arbus, sought not to reform American society but to record it in all its complexity, absurdity, and chaos. By the late 1960s and 1970s, other photographers, such as Robert Adams and Lewis Baltz, looked beyond conventional notions of natural beauty to explore the despoliation of the urban and suburban landscape. Their pictures of tract houses, highways, and motels are stripped of any artistic frills, yet they are exquisitely rendered and replete with telling details. Also starting in the 1960s, many conceptual or performance artists working in a variety of media embraced what they perceived to be photography’s neutrality and turned to it as an essential part of their experiments to expand traditional notions of art. In the late 1960s, improvements in color printing techniques led others, such as William Eggleston, to explore the artistic potential of color photography.

 

Edward Steichen. 'An Apple, A Boulder, A Mountain' 1921

 

Edward Steichen
An Apple, A Boulder, A Mountain
1921
Platinum print
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund, 2014

 

After World War I, Steichen became disillusioned with the painterly aesthetic of his earlier work and embarked on a series of experiments to study light, form, and texture. Inverting an apple, he demonstrated how a small object, when seen in a new way, can assume the monumentality and significance of a much larger one. His close-up scrutiny of a natural form closely links this photograph with works by other American modernists of the 1920s, such as Edward Weston, Paul Strand, and Georgia O’Keeffe.

 

Paul Strand. 'People, Streets of New York, 83rd and West End Avenue' 1916

 

Paul Strand
People, Streets of New York, 83rd and West End Avenue
1916
Platinum print
Image: 24.2 x 33 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund, 1990

 

Strand was introduced to photography in high school by his teacher Lewis Hine, who instilled in him a strong interest in social issues. In 1907, Hine took his pupil to Alfred Stieglitz’s 291 gallery in New York, which launched Strand’s desire to become a fine art photographer. By the early 1910s, influenced by Stieglitz, he began to make clearly delineated portraits, pictures of New York, and nearly abstract still lifes. Strand came to believe that photography was a gift of science to the arts, that it was an art of selection, not translation, and that objectivity was its very essence.

 

American 20th Century. 'Untitled' c. 1930

 

American 20th Century
Untitled
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print
Image: 5.7 x 10 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Robert E. Jackson, 2007

 

Snapshots

After World War I, a parade of technological improvements transformed the practice of photography. With smaller cameras, faster shutter speeds, and more sensitive film emulsions, both amateurs and more serious practitioners could now easily record motion, investigate unexpected angles and points of view, and work in dim light and inclement weather. The amateur’s less staid, more casual approach began to play an important role in the work of modernist photographers as they explored spontaneity and instantaneity, seeking to capture the cacophony and energy of modern life. Blurriness, distorted perspectives, and seemingly haphazard cropping-once considered typical amateur mistakes-were increasingly embraced as part of the modern, vibrant way of picturing the world.

 

Robert Frank. 'City of London' 1951

 

Robert Frank
City of London
1951
Gelatin silver print
23 x 33.6 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Robert Frank Collection, Purchased as a Gift of The Howard Gilman Foundation, in Honor of the 50th Anniversary of the National Gallery of Art, 1991

 

Robert Frank. 'Woman/Paris' 1952

 

Robert Frank
Woman/Paris
1952
Gelatin silver print in bound volume
Image: 35.1 x 25.4 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Robert Frank Collection, Gift (Partial and Promised) of Robert Frank, in Honor of the 50th Anniversary of the National Gallery of Art, 1990

 

 

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Frank made several handbound volumes of photographs, exploring different ways to link his pictures through non-narrative sequences. While in Zurich in October 1952, he assembled pictures taken in Europe, South America, and the United States in a book called Black White and Things. With a brief introductory quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry – “it is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye” – the photographs are arranged in a sophisticated sequence that uses formal repetition, conceptual contrasts, and, as here, witty juxtapositions to evoke a range of ideas …

While in Zurich in October of 1952, Frank assembled photographs taken in Europe, South America, and the United States in the preceding years into a bound book called Black White and Things. Designed by Frank’s friend Werner Zryd, and with only a brief introductory statement describing the three sections, the photographs appear in a sophisticated sequence that relies on subtle, witty juxtapositions and powerful visual formal arrangements to evoke a wide range of emotions.

Frank made three copies of this book, all identical in size, construction, and sequence. He gave one copy to his father, gave one to Edward Steichen, and kept one. The book that belonged to his father is now in a private collection; Steichen’s copy resides at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; and in 1990 Frank gave his copy to the Robert Frank Collection at the National Gallery of Art.

 

Robert Frank. 'Trolley - New Orleans' 1955

 

Robert Frank
Trolley – New Orleans
1955
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 21 x 31.6 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Maria and Lee Friedlander, 2001

 

Roy DeCarava. 'Mississippi Freedom Marcher, Washington, D.C.' 1963

 

Roy DeCarava
Mississippi Freedom Marcher, Washington, D.C.
1963
Gelatin silver print
Image: 25.5 x 33 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation through Robert and Joyce Menschel, 1999

 

Lee Friedlander. 'New York City' 1966

 

Lee Friedlander
New York City
1966
Gelatin silver print
Image: 13.3 x 20.6 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Trellis Fund, 2001

 

Heir to the tradition of documentary photography established by Eugène Atget, Walker Evans, and Robert Frank, Friedlander focuses on the American social landscape in photographs that can seem absurd, comical, and even bleak. In dense, complex compositions, he frequently depicts surprising juxtapositions that make the viewer look twice. He has made numerous self-portraits, yet he appears in these pictures in oblique and unexpected ways, for example reflected in a mirror or window. The startling intrusion of Friedlander’s shadow onto the back of a pedestrian’s coat, at once threatening and humorous, slyly exposes the predatory nature of street photography.

 

Giovanni Anselmo. 'Entering the Work' 1971

 

Giovanni Anselmo
Entering the Work
1971
Photographic emulsion on canvas
Image: 49 x 63.5 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Glenstone in honor of Eileen and Michael Cohen, 2008

 

 

Conceptual Photography

In the 1960s, many painters and sculptors questioned the traditional emphasis on aesthetics and turned to creating art driven by ideas. Photography’s association with mechanical reproduction appealed to them as they sought to downplay the hand of the artist while promoting his or her role as idea maker. Some conceptual artists, such as Sol Lewitt and Mel Bochner, used photographs to explore an interest in perspective, scale, and mathematics. Others turned to photography as a tool to record performances and artistic undertakings, the resulting pictures acting as an integral part of those projects.

Anselmo was a member of the Italian Arte Povera group, which sought to break down the separation of art and life through experimental performances and the use of natural materials such as trees and leaves. To make this work, Anselmo set his camera up with a timed shutter release, and raced into view so that his running figure creates a modest yet heroic impression on the landscape.

 

Robert Adams. 'Colorado Springs, Colorado' 1974

 

Robert Adams
Colorado Springs, Colorado
1974
Gelatin silver print, printed 1983
Image: 15.2 x 15.2 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mary and Dan Solomon and Patrons’ Permanent Fund, 2006

 

For more than forty years, Adams has recorded the changing American landscape, especially the ongoing settlement of the West. Although he has photographed roads, tract houses, and strip malls that have utterly transformed the landscape, he has also captured the beauty that remains and indeed, that refuses to die, as in his poetic picture of morning fog over California hills. He is convinced, as he wrote in 1974, that “all land, no matter what has happened to it, has over it a grace, an absolutely persistent beauty.”

 

Margaret Bourke-White. 'Fort Peck Dam, Montana' 1936

 

Margaret Bourke-White
Fort Peck Dam, Montana
1936
Gelatin silver print
Image: 33.02 × 27.31 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund, 2014

 

One of the most iconic photographs by the pioneering photojournalist Bourke-White, Fort Peck Dam, Montana was published on the cover of the inaugural issue of Life magazine on November 23, 1936. A striking representation of the machine age, the photograph depicts the stark, massive piers for an elevated highway over the spillway near the dam. The two men at the bottom of the print indicate the piers’ massive scale while revealing the vulnerable position of the worker in the modern industrial landscape.

 

György Kepes. 'Juliet with Peacock Feather and Red Leaf' 1937-1938

 

György Kepes
Juliet with Peacock Feather and Red Leaf
1937-1938
Gelatin silver print with gouache
15.7 × 11.6 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund, 2014

 

Trained as a painter at the Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest, Kepes was an influential designer, educator, aesthetic theorist, and photographer. In 1930 he moved to Berlin, where he worked with László Moholy-Nagy, but eventually settled in Chicago and later Cambridge, Massachusetts. Created soon after his arrival in America, this startling photograph is both an intimate depiction of Kepes’s wife and a study of visual perception. Like the red leaf that seems to float above the image, the peacock feather – its eye carefully lined up with Juliet’s – obscures not only her vision but also the viewer’s ability to see her clearly.

 

Irving Penn. 'Woman with Roses (Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn in Lafaurie Dress), Paris' 1950

 

Irving Penn
Woman with Roses (Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn in Lafaurie Dress), Paris
1950
Platinum/palladium print, 1977
Overall: 55.1 x 37 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Irving Penn, 2002

 

One of the most influential fashion and portrait photographers of his time, Penn made pictures marked by refinement, elegance, and clarity. Trained as a painter and designer, he began to photograph in the early 1940s while working at Vogue; more than 150 of his photographs appeared on the cover of the magazine during his long career. A perfectionist, Penn explored earlier printing techniques, such as a late nineteenth-century process that used paper coated with solutions of platinum or palladium rather than silver, to achieve the subtle tonal range he desired.

 

 

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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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