21
Nov
21

Exhibition: ‘Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’ at the New-York Historical Society, New York

Exhibition dates: 1st October 2021 – 23rd January 2022

 

Unknown photographer. 'Ruth Bader as a child' 1935

 

Unknown photographer
Ruth Bader as a child
August 2, 1935
Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

 

 

The future Justice Ginsburg was born Joan Ruth Bader on March 15, 1933. Nicknamed “Kiki,” she grew up in Flatbush, a working-class neighbourhood in Brooklyn, New York. Her parents, Celia and Nathan Bader, rented a small first-floor apartment in a grey stucco row house. Many of her neighbours were immigrants or first- and second-generation Americans whose families had come from Ireland, Italy, and Eastern Europe in search of a better life.

 

 

Hero

 

The courage of her love, intelligence and convictions.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the New-York Historical Society for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the art work for a larger version of the image.

 

The New-York Historical Society honours the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG) – the trailblazing Supreme Court justice and cultural icon – with a special exhibition. Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is based on the popular Tumblr and bestselling book of the same name. A traveling exhibition organised by the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, the show takes an expansive and engaging look at the justice’s life and work, highlighting her ceaseless efforts to protect civil rights and foster equal opportunity for all Americans. Notorious RBG features archival photographs and documents, historical artefacts, contemporary art, media stations, and gallery interactives spanning RBG’s varied roles.

 

 

On what makes a meaningful life:

“If you want to be a true professional, you will do something outside yourself. Something to repair tears in your community. Something to make life a little better for people less fortunate than you. That’s what I think a meaningful life is – living not for oneself, but for one’s community.”

On social change:

“Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.”

On being an advocate:

“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

On relationships:

“Marty was most unusual. He was the first boy I ever met who cared that I had a brain. And he always thought I was better than I thought I really was.”

On speaking out:

“The number of women who have come forward as a result of the #MeToo movement has been astonishing. My hope is not just that it is here to stay, but that it is as effective for the woman who works as a maid in a hotel as it is for Hollywood stars.”

.
~ Ruth Bader Ginsburg

 

 

 

 

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg rare interview: ‘It’s not the best of times’ – BBC Newsnight

In a rare interview, US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says the US is “not experiencing the best of times” – but the “pendulum” will swing back. For Newsnight, she spoke to filmmaker Olly Lambert at the final dress rehearsal of Dead Man Walking at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.

 

 

 

Stanford Rathbun Lecture 2017 – Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Rathbun Visiting Fellow 2017, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, shares her vision for a meaning life while in conversation with The Rev. Professor Jane Shaw, Dean for Religious Life, on February 6, 2017 in Stanford Memorial Church. The Rathbun Lecture on a Meaningful Life honours the late Stanford Law School Professor Harry Rathbun.

 

 

 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Same-Sex Marriage, Women’s Rights, Health

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg talks about efforts to improve women’s rights and the outlook for legalising same-sex marriage. Ginsburg, speaking with Bloomberg’s Greg Stohr and Matthew Winkler in Washington on Wednesday, also discusses the her career, health and relationship with President Barack Obama.

 

Unknown photographer. 'The Alpha Epsilon Phi sorority at Cornell University in 1953, featuring Ruth Bader, class of 1954, pictured third from right standing in front of the porch' Published in 'The Cornellian' 1953

 

Unknown photographer
The Alpha Epsilon Phi sorority at Cornell University in 1953, featuring Ruth Bader, class of 1954, pictured third from right standing in front of the porch
Published in The Cornellian, 1953
Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library

 

 

“I got the idea that being a lawyer was a pretty good thing because in addition to practicing a profession, you could do something good for your society.” RBG began at Cornell University on a full scholarship in the fall of 1950. There, she began to view lawyers as vanguards against injustice.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Ruth as a bride' June 1954

 

Unknown photographer
Ruth as a bride
June 1954
Courtesy of Justice Ginsburg’s Personal Collection

 

 

Ruth Bader married Martin “Marty” D. Ginsburg (1932-2010) in 1954. Their marriage defied gender expectations of the period and embodied her belief that “men, women, and families are better when both partners share their lives and goals on equal footing.” For nearly 60 years, RBG and her husband worked as equals raising a family and practicing law. Marty was a passionate supporter of his life partner’s legal career and shared in child-rearing and household responsibilities long before men were expected to do so.

 

Unknown photographer. 'RBG and Marty with their daughter, Jane' 1958

 

Unknown photographer
RBG and Marty with their daughter, Jane
1958
Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

 

 

In 1957, Marty was diagnosed with testicular cancer. The doctor prescribed radical surgery and radiation for six weeks. The prognosis was grim. RBG poured her heart into making sure he remained on track with his studies, staying up all night to type his papers and class notes. When Marty fell asleep around 2 am, RBG would begin her own work. Her hours with their daughter Jane before bed helped leaven the library time.

 

 

The New-York Historical Society honours the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG) – the trailblazing Supreme Court justice and cultural icon – with a special exhibition this fall. On view October 1, 2021 – January 23, 2022, Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is based on the popular Tumblr and bestselling book of the same name. A traveling exhibition organised by the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, the show takes an expansive and engaging look at the justice’s life and work, highlighting her ceaseless efforts to protect civil rights and foster equal opportunity for all Americans.

“It is a great honour that we celebrate Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a native New Yorker whose impact on the lives of contemporary Americans has been extraordinary,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of New-York Historical. “Justice Ginsburg fought hard to achieve justice and equality for all, inspiring us with her courage and tenacity in upholding our fundamental American ideals. A special friend to New-York Historical, in 2018 she presided over a naturalisation ceremony in our auditorium. The exhibition is a memorial tribute to her achievements and legacy.”

Notorious RBG features archival photographs and documents, historical artefacts, contemporary art, media stations, and gallery interactives spanning RBG’s varied roles as student, wife to Martin “Marty” Ginsburg, mother, lawyer, judge, women’s rights pioneer, and internet phenomenon. Highlights include a robe and jabot from RBG’s Supreme Court wardrobe; the official portraits of RBG and Sandra Day O’Connor – the first two women to serve on the Supreme Court – on loan from the National Portrait Gallery; and QR-code listening stations where visitors can hear RBG’s delivery of oral arguments, majority opinions, and forceful dissents in landmark Supreme Court cases on their own devices.

The exhibition also displays 3D re-imaginations of key places in RBG’s life – such as her childhood Brooklyn apartment; the kitchen in RBG and Marty’s home, with some of Marty’s favourite recipes and cooking utensils; and the Supreme Court bench and the desk in her chambers.

Personal materials range from home movies of RBG with Marty on their honeymoon and in the early years of their marriage to yearbooks from RBG’s academic life – from her Brooklyn high school to Harvard, Columbia, and Rutgers Universities – to a paper that she wrote as an eighth grader exploring the relationship between the Ten Commandments, the Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, and the recently formed United Nations Charter.

Special to New-York Historical’s presentation are remembrances from RBG’s visit to the Museum in 2018 to officiate a naturalisation ceremony of new citizens after she learned about New-York Historical’s Citizenship Project which teaches U.S. history and civics to green card holders, a video featuring a map and photographs of key places in her life as a New Yorker, and an overview of the memorials that cropped up around her hometown in the wake of her passing. As part of New-York Historical’s upcoming public program series, on December 8, Supreme Court expert Linda Greenhouse looks at where the courts stand following Justice Ginsburg’s death. Families can explore the exhibition with a specially created family guide, and themed story times will take place throughout the exhibition’s run.

After debuting at the Skirball Cultural Center in 2018, Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg has toured the country. After its New York run, the exhibition will travel to the Holocaust Museum Houston in Houston (March 2022) and the Capital Jewish Museum in Washington, D.C. (September 2022).

Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been coordinated at New-York Historical by Valerie Paley, senior vice president and Sue Ann Weinberg Director, Patricia D. Klingenstein Library; Laura Mogulescu, curator of women’s history collections; and Anna Danziger Halperin, Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Women’s History and Public History, Center for Women’s History.

Press release from the New-York Historical Society

 

About Ruth Bader Ginsberg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was born in Brooklyn, New York, on March 15, 1933.

Ginsburg was born in 1933 in Flatbush, and her stoicism was forged in a childhood spent in a house that, she said, bore “the smell of death.” When she was 2, her only sister died of meningitis; one day short of her high-school graduation, her mother died of cervical cancer. Celia Bader, who had once broken her nose reading while walking down the street but whose sweatshop wages had gone to her brother’s education, left behind secret college savings for her daughter and a will to accomplish what Celia had been denied.

She received her BA from Cornell University, attended Harvard Law School, and received her LLB from Columbia Law School. Ginsburg served as a law clerk to Judge Edmund L. Palmieri of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York from 1959 to 1961. She then became associate director of the comparative law project sponsored by Columbia University, where she studied the Swedish legal system and produced the first official English language book on the subject. In 1963 Ginsburg joined the faculty of Rutgers Law School in Newark, New Jersey. In 1972 she was hired by Columbia Law School, where she taught until 1980. Ginsburg served as a fellow at the Center for Advance Study in the Behavioral Sciences in Stanford, California, from 1977 to 1978. In the 1970s Ginsburg litigated sex discrimination cases from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and was instrumental in launching its Women’s Rights Project in 1973. She served as general counsel of the ACLU from 1973 to 1980 and on the National Board of Directors from 1974 to 1980. President Jimmy Carter appointed Ginsburg to the United States Court of Appeals from the District of Colombia Circuit in 1980. On June 14, 1993, Ginsburg accepted President Bill Clinton’s nomination to the Supreme Court and took her seat on August 10, 1993.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Ruth Bader Ginsburg teaching at Columbia Law School' 1972

 

Unknown photographer
Ruth Bader Ginsburg teaching at Columbia Law School
1972
Courtesy of Columbia Law School

 

 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’59 is appointed the first female member of the Columbia Law School faculty in 1972. She had taught previously at Columbia in International Civil Procedure with Prof. Hans Smit ’58 LL.B. in 1961. She is the first female candidate to earn tenure at Columbia Law School.

In 1972, RBG become Columbia Law School’s first tenured female professor, which she juggled with her responsibilities at the Women’s Rights Project. Almost immediately, the women at Columbia began contacting RBG for help. Did RBG know that Columbia employees didn’t have pregnancy coverage and that women got lower pension benefits and lower pay? Now that she did, RBG helped file a class-action lawsuit.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Ruth Bader Ginsburg, detail from 1972 Harvard Law School Yearbook' 1972

 

Unknown photographer
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, detail from 1972 Harvard Law School Yearbook
1972
© Harvard Law School Yearbook Association, Courtesy of Harvard Law School Library, Historical and Special Collections

 

 

RBG strongly preferred the prefix “Ms.” to “Mrs.” However, there is no information about how she felt when this 1972 Harvard Law School yearbook misidentified her as “Mr. Ginsburg.”

 

Unknown photographer. 'RBG and Marty taking a break from work' 1972

 

Unknown photographer
RBG and Marty taking a break from work
1972
Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

 

 

With the same fondly amused grin he usually wore, Marty (1932-2010) would portray himself as the lucky guy who came along for the ride of a lifetime, who moved to Washington when his wife got a “good job.” In fact, Marty was a superstar in his own right, whose tax law chops earned him clients like Ross Perot, the adulation of his peers, and millions of dollars. But he was proudest of the accomplishments of his wife, saying, “I think that the most important thing I have done is enable Ruth to do what she has done.”

 

Unknown photographer. 'RBG as a federal appeals court judge' 1980

 

Unknown photographer
RBG as a federal appeals court judge
1980
Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

 

 

President Jimmy Carter nominated Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on April 14, 1980. RBG saw the role of an appeals court judge as fundamentally different than her old job at the ACLU; she was to follow precedent, not try to change it. As a judge, she looked for consensus.

 

Unknown photographer. 'RBG and Marty travel to Paris' 1988

 

Unknown photographer
RBG and Marty travel to Paris
1988
Courtesy of Justice Ginsburg’s Personal Collection

 

Unknown photographer. 'Justice Antonin Scalia and RBG riding an elephant' 1994

 

Unknown photographer
Justice Antonin Scalia and RBG riding an elephant
February 1994
Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

 

 

Some liberals found the Scalia-Ginsburg friendship hard to grapple with. Even their clerks were mystified by the relationship. But clerks work at the court for only a year. Justices work there for life. Whatever their disagreements, they stuck together. The two shared a love of opera, and RBG liked people who could make her laugh.

 

Everett Raymond Kinstler (American, 1926-2019) 'Ruth Bader Ginsburg' 1996

 

Everett Raymond Kinstler (American, 1926-2019)
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
1996
Oil on canvas
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Gift of Everett Raymond Kinstler
© 1996 Everett Raymond Kinstler

 

 

RBG wasn’t President Bill Clinton’s first choice for the Supreme Court in 1993 – he came close to offering the position to several men. But RBG had the backing of key women in the administration and a tireless lobbying campaign by her husband in her favour. Above all, she dazzled the president in their first meeting. “She got the actual human impact of these decisions,” Clinton later recalled.

 

Frank Chi and Aminatou Sow. 'Can't Spell Truth Without Ruth' 2013

 

Frank Chi and Aminatou Sow
Can’t Spell Truth Without Ruth
2013
Poster

 

 

In July 2013, after a flurry of important SCOTUS decisions, along with dissents authored by Justice Ginsburg, Chi and his friend Aminatou Sow created a poster, “Can’t Spell Truth Without Ruth,” celebrating Ginsburg. They shared it online, where Shana Knizhnik – who created the blog “The Notorious RBG” (and who would go on to coauthor a New York Times best-selling book of the same title) – saw the poster and wrote about it, and then the internet did its thing. The three artists, who became friends, gifted a print of the poster to Justice Ginsburg in December 2014, when she invited them to the Supreme Court. “The internet brought it together into this meme, initially, and then into something that became a phenomenon,” said Chi. “And, Justice Ginsburg embraced it. If she hadn’t, ‘Notorious RBG’ would’ve been something that was cool on the internet for a few months. That’s what I think is amazing – she had such a long, celebrated career, and she finally got to be the presence she was obviously comfortable being, and the internet allowed that to happen.”

Anonymous text. “More than a Meme,” on the Bowdoin Magazine website, November 17, 2020 [Online] Cited 29/10/2021

 

Art Lien. 'Courtroom sketch of Justice Ginsburg's dissent in Shelby County v. Holder' June 25, 2013

 

Art Lien
Courtroom sketch of Justice Ginsburg’s dissent in Shelby County v. Holder
June 25, 2013

 

 

In Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to strike down a portion of the Voting Rights Act. In his majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts said the provision was no longer needed. “Any racial discrimination in voting is too much, but our country has changed in the last 50 years,” he declared. In her dissent, which inspired the nickname Notorious RBG, RBG compared getting rid of the provision to “throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you’re not getting wet.”

 

In 2013 RBG wrote a fiery response (officially known as a dissent) disagreeing with the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder. This bold dissent (and a few others made around the same time) earned her the nickname “Notorious RBG” in reference to the Brooklyn-born rapper Christopher Wallace, also known as “The Notorious B.I.G.” and “Biggie Smalls.”

With Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court decided to end part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This Act prohibited states from having laws that made it harder for Black Americans to vote. The Voting Rights Act also made it harder for states with a history of racial discrimination to make future changes to their voting laws–but Shelby County v. Holder reversed that.

RBG felt strongly that this ruling could lead to more restrictions in voting, negatively impacting Black and minority communities.

 

In her ringing dissent, RBG compared getting rid of pre-clearance to “throwing away your umbrella in a rain storm because you’re not getting wet.” She quoted Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous dictum, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” and added, “if there is a steadfast commitment to see the task through to completion. That commitment has been disturbed by today’s decision.” We have seen the destructive swath strewn across our electoral process in almost every election since, which of course was the intent of the decision. Yes, there is election fraud in this country, and it comes directly from the highest court in the land!

Erica A. Gordon. “The glorious, notorious Ruth Bader Ginsburg in a traveling exhibition,” on the Peoplesworld Social Media website, Oct 30, 2018 [Online] Cited 28/10/2021

 

Steve Petteway (American) 'Official portrait of United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Joan Bader Ginsburg' 2013

 

Steve Petteway (American)
Official portrait of United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Joan Bader Ginsburg
2013
Courtesy Steve Petteway
Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

 

 

At the age of 80, Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was reborn as the “Notorious RBG.” She earned the admiring, tongue-in-cheek nickname after a series of fiery, record-breaking dissents she gave from the Supreme Court bench in 2013 on voting rights, affirmative action, and workplace discrimination. Behind the nickname was a woman with a lifelong commitment to equality, justice, and the ideals of American law.

 

Adam Johnson (American) (illustrator) 'Notorious RBG' book cover illustration 2015

 

Adam Johnson (American) (illustrator)
‘Notorious RBG’ book cover illustration
2015
Courtesy of HarperCollins
Photos: Crown © by Hurst Photo/Shutterstock; Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

 

 

RBG became an icon to millions of people around the globe. All this is – to use the court’s language – without precedent, especially in a society that tends to dismiss the contributions of women as they age. Bestselling books about RBG for all age groups – including the 2015 book Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg that inspired the exhibition – could fill a bookshelf.

 

Roxana Alfer Geffen (American) 'Dissent Collar #9' 2016

 

Roxana Alfer Geffen (American)
Dissent Collar #9
2016
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

The signature dissent collar, a glinty Banana Republic affair she got in a Glamour Women of the Year gift bag, came in 2012. She broke the record for dissenting from the bench – the once rare act of making everyone at the opinion announcements listen to your protest – and a thousand memes were born.

Moved by her anger over the 2016 presidential election, Roxana Alger Geffen created a series of imaginative jabots in honour of RBG. Geffen was inspired by RBG’s choice to wear her famous dissent collar the day after the election.

 

Roxana Alfer Geffen (American) 'Dissent Collar #13' 2016

 

Roxana Alfer Geffen (American)
Dissent Collar #13
2016
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

 

Washington National Opera: The Daughter of the Regiment – Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s first appearance

RBG was known to be a major opera fan. In 2016 the Washington National Opera surprised its audience by featuring her in a cameo appearance as the Duchess of Krakenthorp in Gaetano Donizetti’s The Daughter of the Regiment at the Kennedy Center.

At the top of Act 2, the Duchess of Krakenthorp meets with the Marquise of Berkenfield to arrange the marriage of the opera’s heroine Marie with the Duke of Krakenthorp. Ruth Bader Ginsburg plays the non-singing role of the Duchess, and mezzo-soprano Deborah Nansteel is the Marquise.

 

Ari Richter (American, b. 1983) 'RBG Tattoo II' 2018

 

Ari Richter (American, b. 1983)
RBG Tattoo II
2018
Pigmented human skin on glass
Courtesy of the artist

 

 

RBG’s life and work have inspired unending creativity, including literally thousands of examples of fan-created RBG memorabilia. You can find RBG’s likeness on T-shirts, nail decals, and even as tattoos.

 

Nelson Shanks (American, 1937-2015) 'The Four Justices' 2012

 

Nelson Shanks (American, 1937-2015)
The Four Justices
2012
Oil on canvas
216.0 x 169.2cm
Ian and Annette Cumming Collection, on loan to the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery

 

 

Counterclockwise from bottom left: Sandra Day O’Connor born 1930; Ruth Bader Ginsburg born 1933; Elena Kagan born 1960; and Sonia Sotomayor born 1954

In 1880, Belva Lockwood became the first woman to argue before the Supreme Court. Distinguished jurist Florence Allen was considered for the Supreme Court in the 1940s, but opposition, including from the sitting justices, precluded her nomination. It was not until 1981 that Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman to serve as a Supreme Court justice. Over ten years later, in 1993, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was nominated by President Clinton. Today, Ginsburg serves alongside Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, who were nominated to the Supreme Court in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

The Cummings commissioned this portrait to recognise the accomplishments of all four justices. Justice O’Connor’s office arranged their busy schedules so that they could pose at the same time for Nelson Shanks and his camera. The artist drew on the traditions of Dutch group portraiture, and the setting is based on interiors and a courtyard within the Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C.

 

 

Installation view of Nelson Shanks’ The Four Justices (2012)

 

 

A major step in women’s struggle for equality came on March 3, 1879, when Belva Lockwood became the first woman to argue before the Supreme Court. In the 1940s, distinguished jurist Florence Allen was considered for the Court, but opposition, including from the sitting justices, precluded her nomination.

In 1981 Sandra Day O’Connor (born 1930) became the first woman to serve on the Court. O’Connor, a graduate of Stanford Law School, was serving on the Arizona Court of Appeals when President Ronald Reagan nominated her as an associate justice. O’Connor retired from the Court in 2006.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (born 1933) graduated from Columbia Law School. She was serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia when President Bill Clinton nominated her as an associate justice of the Supreme Court in 1993.

Sonia Sotomayor (born 1954) received her J.D. from Yale Law School. She was serving on the United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, when President Barack Obama nominated her as an associate justice in 2009. She became the first Latino to sit on the Supreme Court.

Elena Kagan (born 1960) graduated from Harvard Law School. She was President Obama’s solicitor general when the president nominated her as an associate justice of the Supreme Court in 2010.

Nelson Shanks was commissioned to create this portrait to recognise the accomplishments of all four justices. He has drawn on the traditions of Dutch group portraiture for his composition, and the setting is based on interiors and a courtyard within the Supreme Court Building in Washington.

 

“Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg paved the way for me and so many other women in my generation. Their pioneering lives have created boundless possibilities for women in the law. I thank them for their inspiration and also for the personal kindnesses they have shown me.”

~ Elana Kagan, June 28, 2010, in her opening statement at her confirmation hearing

 

 

 

 

The Four Justices: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was interviewed by Jan Smith, for the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. Justice Ginsburg is depicted in the “The Four Justices” painting by artist Nelson Shanks, along with Justices Sandra Day O’Connor, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

On October 28, 2013, the National Portrait Gallery celebrated the arrival of Nelson Shanks’s “The Four Justices,” a tribute to the four female justices who have served on the U.S. Supreme Court. The work is monumental; it measures approximately seven feet by five-and-a-half feet (in its custom-made frame it is almost nine-and-a-half feet by eight feet) and holds the west wall of the National Historic Landmark Building’s second-floor rotunda. Of the work, NPG Chief Curator Brandon Fortune noted, “The National Portrait Gallery is honoured to have such an ambitious group portrait on loan to the museum.”

The work is based on sittings the justices had with Shanks; the two senior justices are seated and the recent appointees standing. Although the logistics of bringing three active and one retired justice into his studio was challenging, Shanks prefers to draw from life, which he feels brings each sitter’s distinct presence into his work. “If you can imagine a painting – no matter how facile – that doesn’t show character, something is missing,” Shanks noted in an interview with NPG. “Representation of character is really what counts to me.”

Only men had sat on the bench of the Supreme Court until President Ronald Reagan appointed Sandra Day O’Connor in 1981. After O’Connor, the next woman to receive an appointment was Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a nominee of President Bill Clinton in 1993. President Barack Obama appointed Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan are still on the bench; O’Connor retired in 2006.

 

REUTERS/Andrew Kelly. 'RBG image projected onto New York State Civil Supreme Court building in Manhattan' September 19, 2020

 

REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
RBG image projected onto New York State Civil Supreme Court building in Manhattan
September 19, 2020
Courtesy Reuters/Andrew Kelly/Alamy Photo

 

 

An image of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Ruth Bader Ginsburg is projected onto the New York State Civil Supreme Court building in Manhattan, New York City, U.S. after she passed away September 18, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wasn’t just a titan whose life and career revealed many of the legal and historical developments of the 20th century. She also was a New Yorker. Her hometown viscerally felt her loss upon her death in September 2020.

 

Adrian Wilson and Matt Duncan. '50th Street subway stop altered in tribute to RBG' 2020

 

Adrian Wilson and Matt Duncan
50th Street subway stop altered in tribute to RBG
2020
Courtesy Adrian Wilson and Matt Duncan

 

 

The 50th Street ACE subway station sign in Manhattan was famously altered with a tribute sticker by Adrian Wilson and Matt Duncan on the day RBG passed.

 

Jennifer M. Mason (American) 'Fearless Girl with jabot' September 22, 2020

 

Jennifer M. Mason (American)
Fearless Girl with jabot
September 22, 2020
Courtesy Jennifer M. Mason / Shutterstock.com

 

 

The memory of the justice’s life and work fuelled activism during the ensuing presidential election season across the city and beyond.  The ‘Fearless Girl’ statue by Kristen Visbal in front of the New York Stock Exchange wearing a lace collar in tribute to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

 

Cristian Petru Panaite (American) 'RBG memorial outside Columbia University' 2020

 

Cristian Petru Panaite (American)
RBG memorial outside Columbia University
2020
Courtesy of Cristian Petru Panaite

 

 

Memorials sprung up spontaneously and organically across the city.

 

 

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
at Richard Gilder Way (77th Street)
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400

Opening hours:
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Friday: 11am – 8pm
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14
Nov
21

Exhibition: ‘John Coplans: La Vie Des Formes’ at Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris

Exhibition dates: 5th October 2021 – 16th January 2021

Curators: Jean-François Chevrier and Élia Pijollet

 

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Self Portrait (Two Hands Together)' 1988

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Self Portrait (Two Hands Together)
1988
Gelatin Silver Print
101.5 x 110.8cm (39.89 x 43.54 ins)
© The John Coplans Trust

 

 

A magnificent posting on the work of John Coplans whose art practice resulted in a photo essay, an extended, creative “body” of work (pardon the pun) which investigated the form, mass, volume and shape of the ageing human body – namely his own (as an auteur) – resulting in the most significant representation of the older human body in the history of photography.

Referencing the abstractions of Aaron Siskind’s Martha’s Vineyard rock formations and Bill Brandt’s nudes on the coast of East Sussex, Coplans abstracts the human body into singular and overlapping forms using shape, multiple self-portrait, multiple prints as frieze and mismatched dissections. As seen in the installation photographs in the video below, Coplans also pulls and pushes at the viewers perception of the scale of representation, the orientation of the body and the physicality of the photograph in the gallery space: a fragmented hand is larger and more imposing than a dissected foot; the body “lies” vertically upside down in Upside down No. 1 (1992, below); and the mass of the back overwhelms the viewer in Back with Arms Above (1984, below). Coplans depictions of large buttocks and back confront the viewer at eye level, much as Carravagio’s use of foreshortening in his paintings disturbed the status quo of the pictorial space in a church especially when seen by candlelight.

The artist frees the body from aesthetics – and the body becomes an/other structure, free of architecture.

This is not a degraded body but another body that just is… not the physicality of the body and certainly not my body as a temple, but an anti-commercial body, one that states that this is what we inevitably will become, despite our attempts to keep our beauty and attain immortality. This is about a recognition of the body as being undeniably present accepting an entire range of corpo/reality. While movement and action are suppressed (in stillness), change is the problem that Coplans has attempted to re/present – that is, “an attempt to capture a moment of transformation. In this case, it is both a physical change and a psychological set of responses…”1 Old age and mortality, age and youth, beauty.

I can also feel – sense, that Coplans work of the body is a tone poem, a piece of music (typically of one movement) on a descriptive theme. Tone is “often described as a “mood” that pervades the experience of reading the poem [as interpreted by the reader], it is created by the poem’s vocabulary, metrical regularity or irregularity, use of figurative language, and rhyme.”2 Here, Coplans figurative language (his life of forms) creates comparisons by linking the senses and the concrete to abstract ideas: the concreteness of the photograph to how we feel about an ageing body or, indeed, our own ageing body; the time freeze of the photograph to the feeling of lost youth; the immortality of the photograph to the knowledge that the artist is alive and dead – we have his preserved, embalmed, dissected body before us but what about his other, spirit?

We can know the phenomenal (the world of representation) but all we can ever do is intimate the noumenal world, the unknowable noumenon as an entity to which we can directly relate but can never know (we can know of death but never experience it).

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Footnotes

  1. Christopher P. Jones. “Great Paintings: Caravaggio’s ‘The Supper at Emmaus’,” on the Thinksheet magazine website Aug 30, 2019 [Online] Cited 14/11/2021
  2. Unknown author. “Tone,” in Glossary of Poetic Terms on the Poetry Foundation website Nd [Online] Cited 14/11/2021

.
Many thankx to the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

In early October, the new exhibition on John Coplans will open at Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, curated by Jean-François Chevrier and Élia Pijollet. It stands out through its selection and conversations with artists that Coplans admired, such as Brancusi, Weegee, Walker Evans, Lee Friedlander, Philip Guston and Jan Groover.

A formal and fearless photographer, Coplans uses his naked body as the sole material for his sensual, disconcerting, radical and personal compositions. Comprised of original works on loan from numerous French institutions and private lenders, this exhibition breaks new ground for the Fondation HCB, with a rare bird from the history of photography.

 

 

 

Teaser de l’exposition John Coplans – La vie des formes

 

 

Exhibition

Fondation HCB is presenting a remarkable exhibition on the oeuvre of John Coplans (1920-2003), in collaboration with Le Point du Jour, Centre d’Art Éditeur in Cherbourg-en-Cotentin. Works on show here, on loan from French collections, testify to the audacity of this British artist, known for uncompromising representations of his body.

Coplans, who emigrated to the United States at the start of the 1960s, was at first painter, art critic, museum director and curator before devoting himself fully to photography in the early 1980s. At sixty years old, after twenty years of promoting the work of other artists, he retired to take up a life in art. He then developed a photography practice in which he represented himself nude, in black and white and often fragmented, his head always out of frame. To all these images, produced between 1984 and 2002, he attributed the generic title Self Portrait; descriptive titles and subtitles specify the body part depicted or the posture.

As a primary, unique and impersonal object, the body is a medium for jubilant, ever-renewed explorations of the life of form. Coplans’ work, often reductively seen as a representation of the ageing body, has lighter, more universal ambitions and inscribes in a long history of art forms through its metaphorical connections to nature or sculpture. His oeuvre redefines the meaning of age, no longer a progression towards the end of life, instead, an opportunity for a long-term record of humankind and an initiative for recollecting primitive forms.

The absence of the face, and the choice of the fragment as plastic element released a flood of inventions and formal analogies that seemed inexhaustible, only stopping with the artist’s passing. Coplans’ images are by turns subdued and explosive, funny, provocative and always carefully considered. They answer to a demand for clarity that transfigures expressionist pathos.

The exhibition La Vie des Formes (Life of Forms) is structured in three sets presented chronologically. First, small prints made at the start of Coplans’ career in photography (Torso, Back, Hands, Feet…); followed by, in 1988, large formats and montage combining several body fragments to create a single but disjointed image; and finally, as a great connoisseur of art history, Coplans integrated research on artists he studied, exhibited and knew into his own work, and a selection of works by these artists (Brancusi, Carleton Watkins, Walker Evans, Lee Friedlander, Jan Groover, Weegee…) is presented.

 

Biography

John Coplans was born in London in 1920. The son of a doctor in medicine and art amateur, he spent most of his childhood between London and South Africa. In 1937, aware of the global danger posed by Nazi Germany, he joined the British army. He fought until 1945 in East Africa, then in India and Burma.

In 1946, John Coplans started an art degree but quickly gave up. He moved to London. For ten years or so, he has painted and contributed to the rise of abstract art, in the wake of lyrical abstraction, then Hard Edge. In 1960, Coplans emigrated to the United States and moved to San Francisco. In 1962, he participated in the creation of Artforum. The magazine quickly established itself as a monthly reference for art and creative news. The first of its kind on the West Coast, it supported and united artists, helping to bring out the “Los Angeles scene” and “West Coast art”. Coplans was its editor from 1971 to 1977 (in New York, where the magazine moved in 1967).

John Coplans was also a curator, director of the Art Gallery of the University of California at Irvine (1965-1967) and Senior Curator of the Pasadena Art Museum in (1967-1970). From 1978 to 1980, he directed the Akron Art Museum, Ohio. At this time, he began his first photographic experiments.

In 1980, he decided to cease these activities to become an artist again and to devote himself to photography. He moved to New York. From 1985 onwards, he exhibited regularly in France and Europe. In 1988, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) set up the first major exhibition of the photographer, which was then presented at the MoMA in New York the same year. John Coplans died in New York on August 21, 2003.

 

Publication

The exhibition will be accompanied by a book published by Le Point du Jour: John Coplans. Un corps, under the guidance of Jean-François Chevrier.

Press release from the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Self-Portrait: Three Times' 1987

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Self-Portrait: Three Times
1987
Gelatin Silver Print
© The John Coplans Trust

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Self Portrait: Six Times' 1987

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Self Portrait: Six Times
1987
Gelatin Silver Prints
© The John Coplans Trust

 

 

Emigrating to the United States in the early 1960s, John Coplans was first a painter, art critic, museum director and curator, before devoting himself fully to photography in the early 1980s. At the age of sixty, after having spent twenty years promoting the work of other artists, he retires to reconnect with the experience of creation. He then developed a photographic practice in which he represented his naked body, in black and white, often fragmented, his head always out of view. He used for all these images made between 1984 and 2002 the generic title Self Portrait; descriptive titles and sub-titles specify the body part or posture depicted.

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Knees with Fist' 1984

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Knees with Fist
1984
Gelatin Silver Print
© The John Coplans Trust

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Foot, Four Panels' 1988

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Foot, Four Panels
1988
Gelatin Silver Prints
© The John Coplans Trust

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Double Feet, Five Panels' 1988

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Double Feet, Five Panels
1988
Gelatin Silver Prints
© The John Coplans Trust

 

Bill Brandt (British, born Germany 1904-1983) 'Nude, East Sussex coast' 1959

 

Bill Brandt (British born Germany, 1904-1983)
Nude, East Sussex coast
1959
Gelatin silver print

Used under fair use conditions for the purpose of education

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Hand, Two Panels, Vertical' 1988

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Hand, Two Panels, Vertical
1988
Gelatin Silver Prints
© The John Coplans Trust

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Self-Portrait (Back of Hand, No. 1)' 1986

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Self-Portrait (Back of Hand, No. 1)
1986
Gelatin Silver Print
© The John Coplans Trust

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Self-Portrait (Front Hand, No. 3)' 1987

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Self-Portrait (Front Hand, No. 3)
1987
Gelatin Silver Print
© The John Coplans Trust

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Self-Portrait (Front Hand No. 6, Middle Fingers down)' 1988

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Self-Portrait (Front Hand No. 6, Middle Fingers down)
1988
Gelatin Silver Print
© The John Coplans Trust

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Front Hand, Thumb Up, Middle' 1988

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Front Hand, Thumb Up, Middle
1988
Gelatin Silver Print
© The John Coplans Trust

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Clenched thumb No. 2' 1988

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Clenched thumb No. 2
1988
Gelatin Silver Print
© The John Coplans Trust

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Self-Portrait (Clenched Thumb Sideways)' 1988

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Self-Portrait (Clenched Thumb Sideways)
1988
Gelatin Silver Print
© The John Coplans Trust

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Back with Arms Above' 1984

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Back with Arms Above
1984
© The John Coplans Trust

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Body Parts, No. 8' 2001

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Body Parts, No. 8
2001
Gelatin Silver Prints
© The John Coplans Trust

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Back Torso From Below' 1985

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Back Torso From Below
1985
Gelatin Silver Print
© The John Coplans Trust

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Torso' 1984

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Torso
1984
Gelatin Silver Print
© The John Coplans Trust

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Hands Holding Feet' 1985

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Hands Holding Feet
1985
Gelatin Silver Prints
© The John Coplans Trust

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Hands spread on knees' 1985

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Hands spread on knees
1985
Gelatin Silver Print
© The John Coplans Trust

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Self-Portrait: Hands Squeezing Knees' 1985

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Self-Portrait: Hands Squeezing Knees
1985
Gelatin Silver Print
© The John Coplans Trust

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Reclining Back, Three Panels, Left' 1990

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Reclining Back, Three Panels, Left
1990
© The John Coplans Trust

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Upside down No. 1' 1992

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Upside down No. 1
1992
Gelatin Silver Print
© The John Coplans Trust

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991) 'Untitled (Martha's Vineyard)' 1954

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991)
Untitled (Martha’s Vineyard)
1954
Gelatin silver print
33.9 × 26.5cm (image); 35.2 × 28cm (paper)
Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of Richard L. Menschel
© Aaron Siskind Foundation

Used under fair use conditions for the purpose of education

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Torso Front' 1984

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Torso Front
1984
Gelatin Silver Print
© The John Coplans Trust

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Lying Figure, Holding Leg, Four Panels' 1990

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Lying Figure, Holding Leg, Four Panels
1990
Gelatin Silver Print
© The John Coplans Trust

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003) 'Feet, Frontal' 1984

 

John Coplans (British, 1920-2003)
Feet, Frontal
1984
Gelatin Silver Print
© The John Coplans Trust

 

 

Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson
79 rue des Archives
75003 Paris

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11am – 7pm
Closed on Mondays

Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson website

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07
Nov
21

Exhibition: ‘In Lady Barclay’s Salon – Art and Photography around 1900’ at Moderna Museet, Stockholm

Exhibition dates: 19th June 2021 – 9th January 2022

Curator: Anna Tellgren

Artists represented in the exhibition: Anna Boberg, Helmer Bäckström, Julia Margaret Cameron, Uno Falkengren, Gustaf Fjæstad, Ferdinand Flodin, Henry B. Goodwin, John Hertzberg, Gösta Hübinette, Eugène Jansson, Nicola Perscheid and Ture Sellman.

 

 

Otto. 'Girl in Chair' c. 1892

 

Otto
Girl in Chair
c. 1892
Reproduction photo: Prallan Allsten/Moderna Museet

 

 

Apologies, a short text today… my lower back is not very good and I am not feeling that well.

Another “niche” exhibition that Art Blart likes to promote, one that fills a gap in our greater knowledge of world art and artists. But why the distinction in the title of the exhibition between art and photography? That old chestnut rears its ugly head again… why not just ‘art around 1900’?

My particular favourites in the posting are the muscular yet translucent Anna Boberg painting A Quiet Evening. Study from North Norway (Nd); the gossamer wispiness and beauty of Ferdinand Flodin’s Portrait of a young lady (1922); and the velvety softness and light of Ture Sellman’s Untitled landscape (c. 1915).

I have added detail of the artists and sitters where possible and information on early photographic processes.

Enjoy!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

Moderna Museet highlights Pictorialism – a movement in photography that arose around 1900. The exhibition In Lady Barclay’s Salon – Art and Photography Around 1900 also includes paintings from the same period, treating visitors to a selection of nearly 300 works from the collections of Moderna Museet and Nationalmuseum.

This exhibition is based on the rich collections of Moderna Museet and Nationalmuseum, with art and photography dating from the late 1800s to the First World War. During this period, pictorialism was a style that many prominent photographers worked in; it was inspired by impressionism, symbolism and naturalism.

Pictorialism was the first international art photography movement, with many active practitioners throughout Europe and the USA. Sweden was on the periphery of this movement, but the style became popular here too among several influential amateur and professional photographers. This was a pivotal period in painting, where the younger artists who went abroad and were inspired by a freer approach broke with the more conservative academic painters. This exhibition will highlight works by famous photographers and painters from the years around the turn of the century.

Dark haired, almond eyed, and irresistibly charming, Lady Sarita Enriqueta Barclay was an influential figure of Stockholm’s Pictorialism movement. Captivated by the experimental nature of Swedish art during the fin de siècle, she hosted elaborate viewings and events, and was photographed often. Known for diffused light, sepia tones, and romanticism, the impressionistic photographs of the era capture a cultural moment in Swedish history.

 

 

 

 

Look into Lady Barclays Salon: Live curator talk

Look into Lady Barclay’s salon and discover Pictorialism, the first art photo stream. Many prominent photographers worked in the style that prevailed from the 1890s and a few decades onwards. Anna Tellgren, curator and Karin Malmquist, program curator, talk about Pictorialism and some of the approximately 300 paintings and photographs that you can see in the exhibition “In Lady Barclays Salon”.

 

August Strindberg. 'Underlandet' (The Wonderland) 1894

 

August Strindberg (Swedish, 1849-1912)
Underlandet (The Wonderland)
1894
Oil on cardboard
72.5cm (28.5 in) x 52cm (20.4 in)
Nationalmuseum (Stockholm)

 

 

Johan August Strindberg

Johan August Strindberg (22 January 1849 – 14 May 1912) was a Swedish playwright, novelist, poet, essayist and painter. A prolific writer who often drew directly on his personal experience, Strindberg’s career spanned four decades, during which time he wrote more than sixty plays and more than thirty works of fiction, autobiography, history, cultural analysis, and politics. A bold experimenter and iconoclast throughout, he explored a wide range of dramatic methods and purposes, from naturalistic tragedy, monodrama, and history plays, to his anticipations of expressionist and surrealist dramatic techniques. From his earliest work, Strindberg developed innovative forms of dramatic action, language, and visual composition. He is considered the “father” of modern Swedish literature and his The Red Room (1879) has frequently been described as the first modern Swedish novel. In Sweden, Strindberg is known as an essayist, painter, poet, and especially as a novelist and playwright, but in other countries he is known mostly as a playwright. …

Strindberg, something of a polymath, was also a telegrapher, theosophist, painter, photographer and alchemist. Painting and photography offered vehicles for his belief that chance played a crucial part in the creative process.

Strindberg’s paintings were unique for their time, and went beyond those of his contemporaries for their radical lack of adherence to visual reality. The 117 paintings that are acknowledged as his were mostly painted within the span of a few years, and are now seen by some as among the most original works of 19th-century art.

Today, his best-known pieces are stormy, expressionist seascapes, selling at high prices in auction houses. Though Strindberg was friends with Edvard Munch and Paul Gauguin, and was thus familiar with modern trends, the spontaneous and subjective expressiveness of his landscapes and seascapes can be ascribed also to the fact that he painted only in periods of personal crisis.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Joseph Mallard William Turner (British, 1775-1851) 'A View of Deal' Nd

 

Joseph Mallard William Turner (British, 1775-1851)
A View of Deal
Nd
Oil on paper on panel
32 x 24cm (12.6 x 9.6 inches)
Nationalmuseum (Stockholm)

 

 

The years from 1890 to the first World War were a golden era for the arts in Sweden. This exhibition presents beautiful Pictorialist photographs and selected paintings from this period. The more than 300 works from the rich collections of Moderna Museet and Nationalmuseum give us an insight into art at the time.
In Lady Barclay’s Salon, we imagine a meeting between photographers and painters, their friends and the public. Lady Sarita Enriqueta Barclay (1891-1985) was married to a British diplomat, and they both lived in Stockholm for a few years around 1921. She was portrayed several times in the studio of the photographer Henry B. Goodwin. We can assume that she was prominent in the city’s social life and went to previews, dinners and other events.

This exhibition is an opportunity to see a selection of some 300 works by famous photographers and painters in the Moderna Museet and Nationalmuseum collections, including Anna Boberg, Helmer Bäckström, Julia Margaret Cameron, Uno Falkengren, Gustaf Fjæstad, Ferdinand Flodin, Henry B. Goodwin, John Hertzberg, Gösta Hübinette, Eugène Jansson, Nicola Perscheid and Ture Sellman.

 

Around the end of the previous century

In the years around 1900, a number of colourful personalities emerged in literature, music, art and architecture, and patrons such as Prince Eugen and Ernest Thiel were building major art collections. The Art and Industry Exhibition in Stockholm in 1897 and the Baltic Exhibition in Malmö in 1914 had sections for art and photography.

The exhibition “In Lady Barclay’s Salon” gives a picture of the visual culture at the time. It features mainly Swedish material, with a few international highlights. The works date from the late-19th century to 1930, a period when Pictorialism was emerging in photography. The style was inspired by impressionism, symbolism and naturalism, and there were lively debates on how to make photography more artistic.

Unlike the increasing number of amateur and professional photographers – who had gained access to the medium thanks to technological progress – the Pictorialists emphasised craftsmanship. Their images are characterised by soft focus and with colours ranging from brown, earthy tones to strong reds and blues. They worked with a variety of processes with the purpose of creating or “painting” on light-sensitive paper. This was the first international art photography movement, and it had many prominent practitioners throughout Europe and the USA.

 

A pivotal time for painting

This was a pivotal period in painting, when the younger artists who travelled abroad and were inspired by a freer approach broke with the more conservative academic painters. The French painter Paul Gauguin and the Pont-Aven school had a strong influence on Swedish artists who adopted symbolist or synthetist approaches. Images were reproduced and distributed more widely in books, posters and magazines, making it easier to share ideas. No longer was it necessary to visit other countries to see the latest art, but Paris was still a mecca for art students. Towards the end of the century, however, Paris was rivalled by Berlin, Munich, Dresden and Hamburg. Copenhagen, with its international relations and exhibitions, also offered a natural meeting place for Swedes.

Text from the Moderna Museet website

 

Ferdinand Flodin (Swedish, 1863-1935) 'View from My Window over Skeppsholmen, Stockholm' 1929

 

Ferdinand Flodin (Swedish, 1863-1935)
View from My Window over Skeppsholmen, Stockholm
1929
Bromoil print mounted on board
Moderna Museet
Reproduction photo: Prallan Allsten/Moderna Museet

 

Eugène Jansson (Swedish, 1862-1915) 'Hornsgatan nattetid' (Hornsgatan at night) 1902

 

Eugène Jansson (Swedish, 1862-1915)
Hornsgatan nattetid (Hornsgatan at night)
1902
Oil on canvas
152cm (59.8 in) x 182cm (71.6 in)
National Museum (Stockholm)

 

 

Moderna Museet highlights Pictorialism – a movement in photography that arose around 1900. The exhibition In Lady Barclay’s Salon – Art and Photography Around 1900 also includes paintings from the same period, treating visitors to a selection of nearly 300 works from the collections of Moderna Museet and Nationalmuseum.

Lady Sarita Enriqueta Barclay (1891-1985) became a prominent figure on the Stockholm arts scene after her husband, a British diplomat, had been posted to Stockholm. Lady Barclay frequently hosted cultural gatherings and events in the five years following the end of the First World War when she lived here. The photographer Henry B. Goodwin (1878-1931) portrayed Lady Barclay on several occasions, and his pictures show her as a stylish woman with a cosmopolitan air – an emblem of Sweden’s flourishing arts scene at the time.

In the years around 1900, a number of colourful personalities emerged in literature, music, art and architecture, and patrons such as Prince Eugen and Ernest Thiel were building major art collections. The Art and Industry Exhibition in Stockholm in 1897, and the Baltic Exhibition in Malmö in 1914, included separate sections for art and photography.

The exhibition In Lady Barclay’s Salon gives a picture of the visual culture at the time, and consists mainly of Swedish material, with a few international highlights. The works date from the late-19th century to 1930, a period when Pictorialism was emerging in photography. The style embraced inspiration from impressionist, symbolist and naturalism, and there was a lively debate on how to make photography more artistic. Unlike the increasing number of amateur and professional photographers – who had gained access to the medium thanks to technological progress – the Pictorialists emphasised craftsmanship. Their images are characterised by soft focus and with colours ranging from brown, earthy tones to strong reds and blues. They worked with a variety of processes with the purpose of creating or “painting” on light-sensitive paper.

Painting also moved into a new phase around 1900. While the older members of the artist federation Konstnärsförbundet, founded in 1886, maintained their dominance, a younger generation was beginning to step in at the turn of the century. The French artist Paul Gauguin and the Pont-Aven school had a strong influence on Swedish artists who adopted symbolist or synthetist approaches. Ideas could be shared more easily with mass-produced images in books, posters and magazines.

In Lady Barclay’s Salon presents a fictive encounter between photographers and painters, their friends and the audience. The exhibition features some 300 works from the collections of Moderna Museet and Nationalmuseum, including works by Anna Boberg, Helmer Bäckström, Julia Margaret Cameron, Uno Falkengren, Gustaf Fjæstad, Ferdinand Flodin, Henry B. Goodwin, John Hertzberg, Gösta Hübinette, Eugène Jansson, Nicola Perscheid and Ture Sellman.

“This is an opportunity to discover a less well-known part in the history of photography, where the artistic aspects of the medium were discussed fervently, and where there are many intriguing links to painting at the time,” says the exhibition’s curator, Anna Tellgren. “The exhibition highlights both famous and unknown photographers and artists who were practising around 1900, and reveals some fantastic visual treasures from our collection.”

Press release from Moderna Museet

 

Prince Eugen, Duke of Närke (Swedish, 1865-1947) 'Tidig vintermorgon' (Early winter morning) 1906-1907

 

Prince Eugen, Duke of Närke (Swedish, 1865-1947)
Tidig vintermorgon (Early winter morning)
1906-1907
Oil on canvas
77cm (30.3 in) x 89cm (35 in)
Nationalmuseum (Stockholm)

 

 

Prince Eugen

After finishing high school, Prince Eugen studied art history at Uppsala University. Although supported by his parents, Prince Eugen did not make the decision to pursue a career in painting easily, not least because of his royal status. He was very open-minded and interested in the radical tendencies of the 1880s. The Duke became one of the era’s most prominent landscape painters. He was first trained in painting by Hans Gude and Wilhelm von Gegerfelt.

Between 1887 and 1889, he studied in Paris under Léon Bonnat, Alfred Philippe Roll, Henri Gervex and Pierre Puvis de Chavannes. Puvis de Chavannes’s classical simplicity had the greatest influence on Prince Eugen’s work. The Duke devoted himself entirely to landscape painting. He was mainly interested in the lake Mälaren, the countryside of Stockholm (such as Tyresö, where he spent his summers), Västergötland (most notably Örgården, another summer residence) and Skåne (especially Österlen).

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Henry B. Goodwin (Swedish born Germany, 1878-1931) 'Bragevägen Stockholm's loveliest street' 1917

 

Henry B. Goodwin (Swedish born Germany, 1878-1931)
Bragevägen Stockholm’s loveliest street
1917
Reproduction photo: Prallan Allsten/Moderna Museet

 

 

About the exhibition In Lady Barclay’s Salon

The exhibition “In Lady Barclay’s Salon – Art and Photography around 1900” highlights the period from 1890 and up to the First World War. It was a golden age for the arts in Sweden. A number of noteworthy figures appear within the fields of literature, music, art and architecture. Among them are Verner von Heidenstam, Ellen Key, Selma Lagerlöf and August Strindberg.

Art patrons Prince Eugen and Ernest Thiel acquired large art collections, that can still be admired in their respective homes: Waldermarsudde and Thielska Galleriet on Djurgården. Both buildings were designed by the architect Ferdinand Boberg, who included Renaissance, oriental and late Jugend style elements.

The renowned artist Eva Bonnier was another important figure. Better communications in the form of railways and telephone networks contributed to the development of cities, and a growing, export-oriented industry in Sweden. The 1897 Art and Industry Exposition in Stockholm and, a few years later, the 1914 Baltic Exhibition in Malmö, were manifestations of this progressive outlook. Both included sections that showed art and photography.

It was a time of Scandinavianism, and many Nordic collaborations and groups were formed. The women’s movement gained momentum, and in 1919 women were finally given the right to vote. For the first time, after a long struggle, they were able to cast their vote in the 1921 lower house election – exactly one hundred years ago.

 

Pictorialism developed as a photographic movement

This exhibition offers a glimpse of visual culture from this period by means of some 300 works from the rich collections of Moderna Museet and National museum. While most of these are Swedish in origin, there are some international examples.

The works span a period from the late 19th century to 1930. During this period, Pictorialism developed as a distinct movement that took a different direction from amateur and professional photography. Technical advances, the arrival of roll film for example, made photography accessible to a wider circle of practitioners. The Pictorialists, however, were interested in the craft of photography.

The style was inspired by impressionism, symbolism and naturalism, and there was a heated debate on how to develop photography as an art form. The monochrome portrait paintings of the symbolist Eugène Carrière, for example, clearly influenced art photography around 1900.

The Pictorialists’ images are characterised by soft focus and a palette that ranges from brown, earthy tones to strong reds and blues. They worked with a variety of processes such as gum bichromate, platinum and bromoil printing with the purpose of creating or “painting” on light-sensitive paper.

This was the first international art photography movement to have a large number of prominent practitioners across Europe and the United States. Clubs were formed to promote this new art photography, among them were the Wiener Camera-Club, the Photo-Club de Paris and the Photo-Secession in New York, with famous members such as Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen. The works were judged in competitions and shown in galleries and museums and at international salons. The style thus spread to Belgium, Holland, Italy, Poland, Russia, Spain and the Nordic countries.

 

The artistic period

Sweden was on the periphery of this movement, but it found a following here too, with a number of talented photographers. This period is known as the “artistic period” (konstnärstiden), a term coined in an article by the keen Pictorialist Professor Helmer Bäckström. Bäckström was also an active member of Fotografiska Föreningen (the Photographic Association), a Swedish version of the clubs abroad. The association was established in 1888. Its purpose was to organise meetings and dinners where photography was discussed.

In the 1890s, the professional photographer Herman Hamnqvist was an important introducer of Pictorialism. He promoted artistic photography in his many articles and lectures. Other colourful representatives were Uno Falkengren, Ferdinand Flodin, John Hertzberg, Gösta Hübinette and Ture Sellman.

In Sweden, these new ideas were first picked up by the older generation. They were followed by a younger generation of photographers who introduced and disseminated Pictorialism. This second wave includes Henry B. Goodwin, a major figure in Sweden and the Nordic countries. Goodwin was renowned for his expressive, subdued portraits and his many Stockholm cityscapes.

He also kept up with what went on abroad; among his contacts was the well-known portrait photographer Nicola Persheid, who was active in Berlin for many years. Women photographers disappeared from the history of photography during this period. The networking that took place in clubs and associations seems to have excluded many women, even if they had their own successful studios.

 

Atmospheric style typical of the period

Around 1900, painters entered a new, exciting era. The older members of Konstnärsförbundet (the Artists’ Association), established in 1886, continued to dominate, but a new generation came to the fore around the turn of the century. The French artist Paul Gaugin and the Pont-Aven school were important influences among the Swedish artists.

Helmer Osslund was able to visit Gauguin’s studio, and he later put this experience to practice in his northern landscapes. Carl Wilhelmson was known for his many portraits with motifs from his native West Coast. He taught at the Valand art school in Gothenburg and had a major influence on many artists. Maja and Gustaf Fjæstad founded an artists’ colony by Lake Racken in Värmland where a style in line with current national romanticism tendencies developed. Several local circles or schools in a similar vein were formed across Sweden.

Other important artists at the time were Richard Bergh, Eugène Jansson, Nils Kreuger and Karl Nordström, who all represented and developed an atmospheric style typical of the period. New ideas were now rapidly disseminated via mass-produced pictures in books, volumes of prints and magazines. The artists did not always have to travel abroad in order to find inspiration. However, study trips to Paris, the current art hub, were still important, although Berlin, Munich, Dresden and Hamburg were taking over that role at the end of the 1800s. To Swedish artists, Copenhagen, with its international outlook and exhibitions, became a natural place to gather.

 

New ways of framing and cropping

Japanese art, especially colour woodcuts, which reached Europe via the impressionists were fashionable and encouraged painters and photographers to try new ways of cropping and framing their motifs. The ornamental details and undulating lines that are typical of the Jugend (Art Noveau) period also inspired many painters. Eccentrics such as Ivar Arosenius and Olof Sager-Nelson (see below) were renowned for their sensitive, almost fairy tale-like portraits.

The author August Strindberg (see above) experimented with both painting and photography, which has been studied closely in recent years. Around the turn of the last century, an intermediary generation were overshadowed by great national artists such as Bruno Liljefors, Carl Larsson and Anders Zorn. However, they became an important link to the emerging expressionism and other modernist movements that came to the fore in the first decades of the 20th century.

 

Lady Barclay’s Salon

In Lady Barclay’s Salon we have created a fictional encounter between photographers, painters, their friends and audiences. Sarita Barclay was married to a British diplomat, and the couple lived in Stockholm for a few years around 1921. During these years she attended several portrait sittings with Henry B. Goodwin. We can assume she visited exhibition openings, dinners and other society events.

Social circles do not seem to have mixed a great deal, but there is clear evidence of links between painting and photography. Portraits are a common motif, but the many landscapes, cityscapes, dancers and nudes also offer us information about and a glimpse of the past.

Text from the Moderna Museet website

 

Ferdinand Flodin (Swedish, 1863-1935) 'Greta Gustavsson Garbo' 1923

 

Ferdinand Flodin (Swedish, 1863-1935)
Greta Gustavsson Garbo
1923
Reproduction photo: Prallan Allsten/Moderna Museet

 

 

Greta Garbo

Greta Garbo (born Greta Lovisa Gustafsson 18 September 1905 – 15 April 1990) was a Swedish-American actress. She was known for her melancholic, somber persona due to her many portrayals of tragic characters in her films and for her subtle and understated performances. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Garbo fifth on its list of the greatest female stars of classic Hollywood cinema. She was nicknamed “The Divine” because of her whimsical attitude and her willingness to avoid the press. Garbo launched her career with a secondary role in the 1924 Swedish film The Saga of Gösta Berling.

 

James Bourn (Swedish) 'No title' 1905 

 

James Bourn (Swedish, Gothenburg)
No title
1905

 

Herrman Sylwander (Swedish, 1883-1948) 'Tora Teje in 'Inom lagens gränser'' (Tora Teje in 'Within the Limits of the Law') 1914 

 

Herrman Sylwander (Swedish, 1883-1948)
Tora Teje in ‘Inom lagens gränser’ (Tora Teje in ‘Within the Limits of the Law’)
1914

 

 

Tora Teje (17 January 1893 – 30 April 1970) was a Swedish theatre and silent film actress. She appeared in ten films between 1920 and 1939.

 

 

Photographic Processes and Materials around 1900

In 1888, Kodak launched the first roll-film hand camera. It revolutionised the market and turned photography into something everyone could enjoy. The specially constructed cameras were sent back to the factory where the pictures were processed. In 1900, Kodak introduced the popular Brownie, a classic box camera.
Another aspect of the increased interest in and use of photographs was that mass produced pictures were now easy to publish in books, volumes of prints and magazines. One example is photogravure, but there were many other processes. The Pictorialists used various processing methods and materials, some of which were closer to printmaking and painting, and they avoided regular photographic materials. The craft of making photographs was important, which was in line with an interest in and revival of older techniques as industrialism gained momentum during the Jugend period.

Professional photographers engaged in portrait photography and took on other commissions for their customers. Among the most prominent Pictorialists, many had second jobs. The tension between, or the different preconditions for photographers who embraced a more artistic form of expression and those who were forced to earn a living from selling their photographs is relevant to this day. There were many conflicts between members of Fotografiska Föreningen (the Photographers’ Association) – which to begin with only accepted amateurs – and the industry association Svenska Fotografers Förbund (the Association of Professional Photographers). At the same time, there are many examples of contacts and collaborations between different types of photographers around the turn of the last century.

Terminology was often translated from German and English, and in older literature you often find processes described in Swedish as gummitryck (gum print), pigmenttryck (pigment print) or oljetryck (oil print). However, the process is not strictly “printing”; the images were developed on light-sensitive paper. Instead of using the most common type of photographic paper with light-sensitive coating of silver salts in gelatine or albumin, the Pictorialists worked with other light-sensitive solutions. The image was often contact printed under a negative, which resulted in a picture with the same dimensions as the negative. The Pictorialists’ images are characterised by soft focus and often a grainy, print-like texture in hues that go from earthy browns to strong reds and blues.

 

Carbon print

A pigment, potassium bichromate and gelatine emulsion on thin paper is subjected to natural light in contact with a negative. The image is formed with the help of pigment in the desired colour. After exposure, the image is transferred to a new paper. This is the original. The image stands out in clear relief and is reversed, which can be corrected by repeating the transfer process onto a new paper. The tone is often dark brown or black, but it varies depending on the type of pigment used. Factory-made paper by Bühler and Höchheimer were sensitised in alcohol. This process is called carbon print, especially when it features black pigment. It was in use between 1864 until the end of the 1930s.

 

John Hertzberg (Swedish, 1871-1935) 'No title' 1903

 

John Hertzberg (Swedish, 1871-1935)
No title
1903
Gum Bichromate Print

 

 

Gum Bichromate print

The gum bichromate process was invented in 1894. It is achieved by applying a solution of pigment, potassium bicharbonate and gum arabic to paper. The components are mixed in water and brushed on. When the coat has dried, it is light-sensitive, and the areas under the negative that are not exposed to light is stabilised. The rest is rinsed off in water. The colour range is very limited. The motif is often built up through multiple coats, erasures and applications of colour. The images are generally monochrome, reminiscent of charcoal or pastels. It is necessary to use a coarse-grained or uneven paper for the emulsion to adhere, which enhances the graphic qualities of the image. Custom-made paper for this method was marketed by Höchheimer, Bühler and Fresson.

 

Ture Sellman (Swedish, 1888-1969) 'Landskap' (Landscape) c. 1913

 

Ture Sellman (Swedish, 1888-1969)
Landskap (Landscape)
c. 1913
Pigment print mounted on board
27.5 × 21.4​cm

 

 

Oil print

An emulsion consisting of potassium bichromate and gelatine is applied to paper and exposed to light. It results in an almost invisible gelatine image in relief. The gelatine absorbs and repels greasy pigments, which can be fixed by means of a rubber roller or brush. This method gives a grainy image that resembles art prints and drawings.

 

Olof Sager-Nelson (Swedish, 1868–1896) 'Flickhuvud II' (A Girl's Head II) 1902

 

Olof Sager-Nelson (Swedish, 1868–1896)
Flickhuvud II (A Girl’s Head II)
1902
Oil on canvas
41 cm (16.1 in) x 33 cm (12.9 in)
Nationalmuseum (Stockholm)

 

Ebba-Lisa Roberg (Swedish, 1904-1993) 'No title' 1927

 

Ebba-Lisa Roberg (Swedish, 1904-1993)
No title
1927
Bromoil print

 

 

Bromoil print

Colour pigments on a silver, potassium bichromate and gelatine emulsion on paper. A silver bromide image on paper is sensitized by means of potassium bichromate with an addition of copper sulphate and potassium bromide, then fixer is added. The image is soaked in water, and a gelatine relief is produced, which can be coloured multiple times by brushing or rolling on greasy ink. The tone is determined by the pigments in the ink. A variation is achieved when the wet, tinted gelatine relief is pressed against a paper and the ink is transferred. The image is reversed with a matt finish and pressure marks from the original print. This method was used between 1907 and the 1940s.

 

Uno Falkengren (Swedish, 1889-1964) 'Nöd'. Arranged dance group with Anna Behle in the middle, Stockholm 1917

 

Uno Falkengren (Swedish, 1889-1964)
Nöd. Arranged dance group with Anna Behle in the middle, Stockholm
1917
Sepia platinum type mounted on paper
23.7 x 24.2cm

 

 

Platinum print

A paper is given a coat of a potassium chloropatinate and iron oxalate. It is then exposed to daylight through a negative. The image is developed as potassium oxalate dissolves the iron salts and transform the platinum salts to metallic platinum embedded in the paper fibres. This process offers few opportunities for manual manipulation. Platinum prints are characterised by a smooth, neutral greyscale. Platinum was relatively inexpensive before the First World War, and prepared papers were readily available. Today, platinum is used in combination with palladium. The method was used as far back as in 1873.

 

Photogravure

Colour pigment on paper. A paper base coated in potassium bichromates in gelatine are exposed to UV light in contact with a transparent positive. The gelatine coating is thereby stabilised and is then transferred face down to a copper plate. When ink is applied to the plate, it adheres to the etched areas after which the image is printed on paper in a printing press. Photogravures have a clearly defined depression from the edges of the plate, and each print is an original. Shadows are similar to charcoal pigment and highlights match the colour of the paper. This method is classified as a photomechanical print and is not in fact a true photograph. It has been used since the 1880s.

 

Nils Kreuger (Swedish, 1838-1930) 'Vårafton' (Spring evening) 1896

 

Nils Kreuger (Swedish, 1838-1930)
Vårafton (Spring evening)
1896
Oil on mahogany panel
48.5cm (19 inches) x 60.1cm (23.6 inches)
Nationalmuseum (Stockholm)

 

 

Nils Edvard Kreuger

Nils Edvard Kreuger (11 October 1858 – 11 May 1930) was a Swedish painter. He specialised in landscapes and rural scenes.

In 1874, he began his studies at the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts, but was forced to discontinue them due to illness. In 1878, he was able to resume studying at the private painting school of Edvard Perséus. He then went to Paris, in 1881, and studied with Jean-Paul Laurens at the Académie Colarossi. Much of his time was spent painting en plein air in Grez-sur-Loing. As his style progressed, he showed a preference for painting at dawn or dusk, in haze or rain. His first exhibition at the Salon came in 1882.

After 1885, he was a supporter of the “Opponenterna [sv]”, a group that was opposed to the outmoded teaching methods at the Royal Academy. He was also active in creating the Konstnärsförbundet [sv] (Artists’ Union). At this time, he abandoned painting en plein air in favour of Romantic nationalism. In 1886, he married Bertha Elisabeth von Essen (1857-1932), the daughter of an army officer, and settled in Bourg-la-Reine.

In 1887, he returned to Sweden, looking for a quiet place to paint, and chose Varberg, where he worked with Richard Bergh and Karl Nordstrom to establish what came to be known as the Varbergsskolan [sv]; a term coined by Prince Eugen, himself an amateur artist. It was a reaction to the prevailing realistic style of landscape painting and may have been inspired by Bergh’s attraction to the works of Paul Gauguin. He was also influenced by Van Gogh, whose paintings were exhibited in Copenhagen in 1893.

In 1896, he moved to Stockholm, but visited Öland in the summers, where he painted cows and horses. After 1900, his palette lightened and he began adding dots to his work. He also did illustrations, designed furniture and produced some humorous paintings called the “historiska baksidor” (historic backs), showing famous rulers from behind. Between 1904 and 1905, he executed some large wall paintings at the Engelbrektsskolan [sv]. In his final years, he had problems with his eyesight, but was able to continue painting.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Gösta Hübinette (Swedish, 1897-1980) 'Forntida' (Ancient) 1928

 

Gösta Hübinette (Swedish, 1897-1980)
Forntida (Ancient)
1928
Gelatine Silver Print

 

 

Gelatine silver print

The most common form of black and white photography in the 20th century. A photo paper with a coating of light-sensitive silver halogens in gelatine are exposed and developed. There are many varieties of this process with different texture and glossiness, dynamic range and contrast. The result depends on the types of paper, developer and additive tones that are used.

 

Bibliography

Håkan Petersson, “Photographic materials”, Another Story. Photography from the Moderna Museet Collection, ed. Anna Tellgren, Stockholm: Moderna Museet and Göttingen: Steidl, 2011, pp. lxi-lxiii.

Pär Rittsel and Rolf Söderberg, “Konstnärstidens metoder”, Den svenska fotografins historia 1840–1940, Stockholm: Bonnier Fakta Bokförlag AB, 1983, p. 240-241.

Lena Johannesson, Den massproducerade bilden. Ur bildindustrialismens historia, Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell Förlag AB, 1978.

Impressionist Camera. Pictorial Photography in Europe, 1889-1918, ed. Philip Prodger, London/New York: Merrell Publishers Limited, 2006, pp. 322-324.

Text from the Moderna Museet website

 

Henry B. Goodwin (Swedish born Germany, 1878-1931) 'Carin' 1920

 

Henry B. Goodwin (Swedish born Germany, 1878-1931)
Carin
1920
Reproduction photo: Prallan Allsten/Moderna Museet

 

 

Henry B. Goodwin (Swedish born Germany, 1878-1931)

Henry B. Goodwin, born in Munich as Henry Buergel, was the most successful representative of Pictorialism. He arrived in Sweden in 1905 in order to teach German at Uppsala University. Some ten years later, in 1914, he moved to Stockholm where he opened a studio, Kamerabilder, which was popular with painters and artists.

His many superb portraits were achieved with small means: the subject is captured against a dark, neutral backdrop. His soft, smoky Stockholm cityscapes have been collected in a series of special editions, and Goodwin’s keen interest in gardening was expressed through meticulously arranged close-ups of plants.

Goodwin enjoyed a large, international network and launched the term bildmässig (pictorial) photography as an alternative to artistic photography. It was a term that came to be used frequently in the photographic debate.

Text from the Moderna Museet website

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British, 1815-1879) 'The Mountain Nymph, Sweet Liberty' 1866

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British, 1815-1879)
The Mountain Nymph, Sweet Liberty
1866

 

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British, 1815-1879)

A small pioneering group of photographers in Victorian England were the first to experiment with, and who attempted to formulate, an aesthetic around artistic photography. Julia Margaret Cameron was part of this group. She left behind a wonderful collection of intimate portraits of members of her family and large circle of friends. She was an amateur, predominantly active during the 1860s and 1870s.

Cameron specialised in expressive soft-focus photographs of staged motifs borrowed from mythology, the Bible or English literature, as in her rendering of Alfred Tennyson’s famous poem “Maud” from 1855.

Cameron’s photographs evoke the Pre-Raphaelites with their penchant for the Middle Ages and Renaissance painting. She was a precursor of the photographers that a few decades later formed part of the pictorial movement.

Text from the Moderna Museet website

 

Helmer Bäckström (Swedish, 1891-1964) 'Segel till tork' (Drying sails) 1923

 

Helmer Bäckström (Swedish, 1891-1964)
Segel till tork (Drying sails)
1923

 

 

Helmer Bäckström (Swedish, 1891-1964)

Helmer Bäckström was an important member of Fotografiska Föreningen (the Photographic Association). The association, which was formed in 1888, organised meetings where photography was discussed. A library of books on photography was accumulated, but most important were the photo competitions. Bäckström was a researcher, collector, historian and photographer. In 1948, he was appointed professor of photography at the Royal Institute of Technology. Throughout his career, he wrote about early photography and technical innovations in a series of articles entitled “Samlingar till kamerans och fotografins svenska historia” (Collections of the Swedish History of Cameras and Photography). They were published in the association’s journal, “Nordisk Tidskrift för Fotografi”.

Bäckström was also a Pictorialist; studies of flora and fauna were his favourite motifs. His large collection of photographs was acquired by the Swedish state in 1965. It has been part of the Moderna Museet collection since 1971.

Text from the Moderna Museet website

 

Anna Boberg (Swedish, 1864-1935) 'Stilla afton. Studie från Nordlandet' (A Quiet Evening. Study from North Norway) Nd

 

Anna Boberg (Swedish, 1864-1935)
Stilla afton. Studie från Nordlandet (A Quiet Evening. Study from North Norway)
Nd
40.5 x 70.5cm
Nationalmuseum (Stockholm)

 

 

Anna Boberg (Swedish, 1864-1935)

Anna Scholander’s family was part of the Stockholm elite. She was well educated and moved with ease in the salons of Paris and other cities. In Paris she met Ferdinand Boberg, who was to become one of Sweden’s leading architects. They were married in 1888. The couple dedicated their lives to work and travel.

Anna Boberg was highly versatile. She designed textiles, glass and Jugend pottery – one example is the elegant peacock vase from around 1897 for Rörstrand. In 1901, she made a life-changing trip to northern Norway where she fell in love with the rocky landscape around Lofoten, which seemed to rise out of the sea. It woke in her an irresistible urge to paint.

Anna Boberg returned to this location over a period of thirty years. Contrary to her life as a society lady, she embarked on strenuous expeditions on foot and by sea, and she made oil sketches of what she saw which she later used as inspiration in her studio.

Text from the Moderna Museet website

 

Ferdinand Flodin (Swedish, 1863-1935) 'Portrait of a young lady' 1922

 

Ferdinand Flodin (Swedish, 1863-1935)
Portrait of a young lady
1922

 

 

Ferdinand Flodin (Swedish, 1863-1935)

One of the foremost portrait photographers of the period was Ferdinand Flodin. During his long career he tried all the different processes that were typical of Pictorialism, and he became a highly skilled photographer. As a young man, he travelled to the United States, and for a number of years he worked in Worcester near Boston. After his return in 1889, he opened a studio in Stockholm where he received celebrities associated with the theatre, art, politics and science.

Besides portraits, his large body of work includes a number of beautiful cityscapes in different colour tones. Flodin continued to travel; he was interested in the international scene and he knew a great deal about early photography. He went on to build a collection of historical photographs, later acquired by Helmer Bäckström. Flodin was active in Svenska Fotografers Förbund (the Swedish Association of Professional Photographers) for many years, and he regularly wrote about technical and financial matters in the association’s journal.

Text from the Moderna Museet website

 

Gösta Hübinette (Swedish, 1897-1980) 'Japanskt' c. 1925

 

Gösta Hübinette (Swedish, 1897-1980)
Japanskt
c. 1925

 

 

Gösta Hübinette (Swedish, 1897-1980)

With their more independent position and experimental approach, amateur photographers were fundamental to the development of the pictorial movement in Sweden and internationally. Gösta Hübinette was interested in art from an early age, but on his family’s advice he studied business administration, and he worked at the carpet business, Myrstedts Matthörna, until he retired. He practiced several disciplines, including painting, but he was most successful as a photographer. Hübinette was part of the circle around Henry B. Goodwin, and in the 1920s he often took part in exhibitions and the important photo competitions.

Hübinette’s photographs are testament to his proficiency in painting, drawing and printmaking. With delicate works such as “Japanskt” (c. 1925) he is also one of the Swedish photographers for whom Japanese woodcuts served as inspiration.

Text from the Moderna Museet website

 

Ture Sellman (Swedish, 1888-1969) 'No title' c. 1915

 

Ture Sellman (Swedish, 1888-1969)
No title
c. 1915

 

 

Ture Sellman (Swedish, 1888-1969)

As an architect, Ture Sellman had his own approach to photography. He was well acquainted with the compositional and technical aspects and was therefore an important figure who also gave lectures. He later became an astute critic. Sellman was among the most vociferous advocates of photography as an artistic medium. His early Bromoil prints are some of the most graphic examples of Swedish Pictorialism.

After having experimented with different artisan processes, Sellman did a complete U-turn in 1920 and became a supporter of the straight photography expression, but his interest in tonality and composition are still visible in his soft-focus photographs from the 1920s.

Sellman designed some seventy buildings, and many of his photographs are testament to his eye for architecture.

Text from the Moderna Museet website

 

Nicola Perscheid (German, 1864-1930) 'No title' c. 1920

 

Nicola Perscheid (German, 1864-1930)
No title
c. 1920

 

 

Nicola Perscheid (German, 1864-1930)

Nicola Perscheid was one of the international figures that came to have a major influence on Pictorialism in Sweden. In the autumn of 1913, he arrived in Stockholm in order to conduct what we would today call a workshop. It was enormously popular. His fame had reached Sweden partly via his former pupil, Henry B. Goodwin.

Perscheid was against retouching, which meant he spend a great deal of time on preparations. Among his portraits are many full-length and half-length photographs of distinguished men and nameless women. Especially his expansive, pared down photographs of women with their soft lines and ornamental jewellery and flowers evoke the pictorial language of symbolism, but also older painting practices.

The Perscheid lens was launched in 1920. This soft-focus lens became especially popular in Europe and Japan.

Text from the Moderna Museet website

 

Uno Falkengren (Swedish, 1889-1964) 'Nöd'. Arranged dance group with Anna Behle in the middle, Stockholm 1917

 

Uno Falkengren (Swedish, 1889-1964)
Nöd. Arranged dance group with Anna Behle in the middle, Stockholm
1917
Sepia platinum type mounted on paper
23.7 x 24.2cm

 

 

Uno Falkengren (Swedish, 1889-1964)

Uno Falkengren belonged to the inner circle around Henry B. Goodwin. Goodwin was also instrumental in allowing Falkengren to study under the distinguished German photographer Nicola Perscheid in Berlin. It was a formative period during which Falkengren developed a minimalistic, elegant style. Among his works are a number of interesting portraits of famous dancers in expressive scenes and groups.

In 1916, he was appointed head of the Nordiska Kompaniet studio. He then worked at his own studio for a few years until he moved to Berlin in 1924. Only a year later, he returned to Stockholm and gave up photography completely. On account of his homosexuality, Falkengren lived an itinerant, partly secret, life. There are elements of queer culture within Pictorialism, as practitioners were often attracted to alternative settings or artists’ communities.

Text from the Moderna Museet website

 

Anna Behle (Swedish, 1876-1966)

Anna Charlotta Behle (Stockholm, August 9, 1876 – Gothenburg, October 2, 1966) was a Swedish dancer and dance teacher. Considered a pioneer of modern dance in Sweden, she first became interested in the art after watching Isadora Duncan perform. She was born to unwed parents, and was adopted, along with her brother August, by the Granbäck family, who ensured that she had a full education. After initial studies in singing with Eugène Crosti and Emile Wartel in Paris, she studied dance with Duncan and with Emile Jacques-Dalcroze; later she would open her own school in Stockholm.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

John Hertzberg (Swedish, 1871-1935) 'No title' 1903

 

John Hertzberg (Swedish, 1871-1935)
No title
1903
Gum Bichromate Print

 

 

John Hertzberg (1871-1935)

John Hertzberg was a technically accomplished photographer. He developed colour photography in Sweden. He was educated in Vienna and was later offered to teach at the Royal Institute of Technology where he was later senior lecturer in photography. He was thereby a key figure in photographic circles.

When Nils Strindberg’s rolls of film were discovered on Kvitøya in the Svalbard archipelago thirty years after S. A. Andrée’s failed balloon Arctic Expedition in 1897, Hertzberg was given the prestigious task of developing the exposed films. He was also editor of the journal “Nordisk Tidskrift för Fotografi” for many years and chairman of Fotografiska Föreningen.

He experimented with different techniques and groups of motifs in a style typical of the time. These include pictures of Stockholm from the water as well as compositions of clouds and shadows.

Text from the Moderna Museet website

 

Eugène Jansson (Swedish, 1862-1915) 'Hornsgatan nattetid' (Hornsgatan at night) 1902

 

Eugène Jansson (Swedish, 1862-1915)
Hornsgatan nattetid (Hornsgatan at night)
1902
Oil on canvas
152cm (59.8 in) x 182cm (71.6 in)
National Museum (Stockholm)

 

 

Eugène Jansson (Swedish, 1862-1915)

Eugène Jansson became a member of the Konstnärsförbundet association of artists in 1886. Inspired by periods spent in France, they painted plein air, impressionist landscapes. Jansson was influenced by these movements from early on. However, he soon progressed to depicting moods rather than the concrete objects he observed.

Many know him from his blue, early evening panoramas of south Stockholm, where he moved in the mid-1890s. In “Hornsgatan nattetid” (1902), everything seems to merge into a blue vision where houses, gas lights and sky form a synthesis.

When Eugène Jansson embarked on a new phase a few years into the 20th century, his motifs were athletic, sun-lit, bathing men. Many found these paintings offensive. Eugène Jansson was a homosexual man at a time when sexual activity between men was against the law.

Text from the Moderna Museet website

 

Gustaf Fjæstad (Swedish, 1868-1948) 'Vinterafton vid en älv' (Winter evening by a river) 1907

 

Gustaf Fjæstad (Swedish, 1868-1948)
Vinterafton vid en älv (Winter evening by a river)
1907
Oil on canvas
150cm (59 in) x 185cm (72.8 in)
Nationalmuseum (Stockholm)

 

 

Gustaf Fjæstad (Swedish, 1868-1948)

After having attended art school in Stockholm, Gustaf Fjæstad settled by Lake Racken in Värmland where he founded an artists’ colony. The collective had no common programme, but they supported each other and exhibited their work together. There was also an idea of not distinguishing art from craft.

Fjæstad was not only a painter, he also designed furniture and textiles. “Vinterafton vid en älv” (Winter Evening at the River Bank, 1907) is testament to Fjæstad’s interest in Japanese woodcuts. The painting communicates a strong sense of nature and existential intensity. The surface is accentuated by fields of colour and a Jugend-inspired linear pattern. The motif is a seemingly random section of the river. The trees are cropped at the top of the canvas but touch the water where the eddies evoke the growth rings of the wood.

Text from the Moderna Museet website

 

Henry B. Goodwin (Swedish born Germany, 1878-1931) 'Lady Barclay' 1921

 

Henry B. Goodwin (Swedish born Germany, 1878-1931)
Lady Barclay
1921

 

 

Lady Sarita Enriqueta Barclay (British, 1891-1985)

The portraits that Henry B. Goodwin took of Lady Barclay between 1920 and 1922 show a fashion-conscious society woman. Sarita Barclay moved to Stockholm just after the end of the First World War with her husband, Sir Colville Barclay, and their three children. Her husband was Minister to Sweden, a high-ranking British diplomat.

During the five years that Lady Barclay lived in Stockholm she hosted various events, including a dinner in conjunction with an exhibition of French art at the Liljevalchs art gallery at the initiative of Prince Eugen in 1923. Sarita was the daughter of the British sculptor Herbert Ward.

After the death of her first husband, she married Robert Vansittart, a diplomat who spoke out against Nazism before and during the Second World War.

Text from the Moderna Museet website

 

 

Moderna Museet, Stockholm

Moderna Museet is ten minutes away from Kungsträdgården, and twenty minutes from T-Centralen or Gamla Stan. Walk past Grand Hotel and Nationalmuseum on Blasieholmen, opposite the Royal Palace. After crossing the bridge to Skeppsholmen, continue up the hill. The entrance to Moderna Museet and Arkitekturmuseet is on the left-hand side.

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 11 – 18
Monday closed

Moderna Museet website

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31
Oct
21

Exhibition: ‘Ellsworth Kelly: Postcards’ at the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York

Exhibition dates: 10th July – 28th November, 2021

Curated by Ian Berry in collaboration with the Ellsworth Kelly Studio, and with Jessica Eisenthal, Independent Curator

 

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015) 'Gauloise Blue with Red Curve' 1954

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015)
Gauloise Blue with Red Curve
1954
Collection of Ellsworth Kelly Studio and Jack Shear
© Ellsworth Kelly Foundation

 

 

An intimate change of pace now.

I love these playful interventions which “catch something that’s a flash, a mysterious thing, the beginning of something, a primal thing.”

Starting with the solid base of a printed postcard Kelly constructs and abstracts his collages on their surface, using shifting positions, using his vision rather than his mind. He intuitively feels what is needed, what essence is required to compliment or complicate the existing scene.

As Dr. Jessica Eisenthal insightfully observes, “The collages involve a fundamental interplay between concealment and exposure, with every card containing both a secret and its revelation, a construction and a deconstruction.”

And then there is the simplicity and beauty of his interventions. The clear seeing and feeling expressed in a few pieces of cut or torn paper, promising “a compilation of experiences, a journal of travel, creative play, and relationships.” The thickness and irregularity of the white line over Statue of Liberty (1957); the emptiness and ambiguity of the blue in Moon Over Manhattan (1964); the abstraction of a black “diamond” over Cincinnati Riverfront Stadium (1980) baseball park; and the textural beauty of three disparate bodies of water in St. Martin – Baie Rouge (2005).

Reminding me of the felt immediacy of Gerhard Richter’s overpainted photographs, Kelly’s postcards speak to the heart rather than the head. Their intimate, jewel-like size draw the viewer in to imbibe of the transformative scene, to drink in an unbounded space of creative freedom those glances that we sometimes catch – in the light of revelation – of our life dis/continuous. The fabric and structure of existence itself.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery for allowing me to publish the art works in the posting. Please click on the art work for a larger version of the image.

 

 

In all his postcards, Kelly’s drive to upset perception, to create moments of uncertainty and “mystery,” is apparent. As he explained in 1991:

“As we move, looking at hundreds of different things, we see many different kinds of shapes. Roofs, walls, ceilings are all rectangles, but we don’t see them that way. In reality they’re very elusive forms. The way the view through the rungs of a chair changes when you move even the slightest bit – I want to capture some of that mystery in my work. In my paintings I’m not inventing; my ideas come from constantly investigating how things look.47

While his goal was to achieve visual ambiguity, Kelly began with images of visual certainty, from the postcard images themselves to the photographic reproductions from which he cut or tore his fragments, for example, those of celebrities, advertisements, or homoeroticism.

.
Tricia Y. Paik. “Sights of His Life,” in Berry, Ian and Eisenthal, Jessica (eds.,). Elsworth Kelly: Postcards. Delmonico Books, 2021, pp. 318-319.

 

 

Over the course of more than 50 years, renowned American artist Ellsworth Kelly made approximately 400 postcard collages, some of which served as exploratory musings and others as studies for larger works in other mediums. They range from his first monochrome in 1949 through his last postcard collages of crashing ocean waves, in 2005.

Together, these works show an unbounded space of creative freedom and provide an important insight into the way Kelly saw, experienced and translated the world in his art. Many postcards illustrate specific places where he lived or visited, introducing biography and illuminating details that make these pieces unique among his broader artistic production. Ellsworth Kelly: Postcards is the most extensive publication of Kelly’s lifelong practice of collaged postcards.

Ellsworth Kelly (1923-2015) was born in Newburgh, New York. In 1948 he moved to France, where he came into contact with a wide range of classical and modern art. He returned to New York in 1954 and two years later had his first exhibition at the Betty Parsons Gallery. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, organised his first retrospective in 1973. Subsequent exhibitions have been held at museums around the world, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, Tate in London, Haus der Kunst in Munich and the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

 

 

Jack Shear (American) 'Ellsworth Kelly's Studio' 1994

 

Jack Shear (American)
Ellsworth Kelly’s Studio
1994
Photo: Courtesy Ellsworth Kelly Studio

 

Installation view of the title wall of exhibition 'Ellsworth Kelly: Postcards' at the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Skidmore College

 

Installation view of the title wall of the exhibition Ellsworth Kelly: Postcards at the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Skidmore College

 

Installation view of Gallery A of the exhibition 'Ellsworth Kelly: Postcards' at the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Skidmore College

 

Installation view of Gallery A of the exhibition Ellsworth Kelly: Postcards at the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Skidmore College

 

Installation view of Gallery B of the exhibition 'Ellsworth Kelly: Postcards' at the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Skidmore College

 

Installation view of Gallery B of the exhibition Ellsworth Kelly: Postcards at the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Skidmore College

 

 

American painter Ellsworth Kelly (1923-2015) is one of the most important artists of the twentieth century. His abstract paintings, sculptures, and prints are masterworks in the exploration of line, form, and colour. In a lesser-known part of his practice, Kelly made collaged postcards, some of which served as exploratory musings and others as preparation for larger works in other media. From 1949 to 2005, Kelly made just over 400 postcard works. They show a playful, unbounded space of creative freedom for the artist and provide an important insight into the way Kelly saw, experienced, and translated the world in his art.

Ellsworth Kelly: Postcards will present a comprehensive survey of Kelly’s postcard collages, with 150 works on view. Many postcards reveal specific places where Kelly lived or visited, such as Paris, where Kelly lived in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and where he often returned, or other areas in New York City – My New Studio (1970), is a picture postcard of downtown Old Chatham, New York, with a stapled arrow pointing to the second-floor windows of his new studio building.

This kind of overt biography and revealing details make the postcard collages unique among Kelly’s works. Flashes of the artist’s playfulness show through, which is less visible in his formally rigorous paintings and sculpture.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a full-colour catalogue featuring newly commissioned writings and never-before published images.

Text from the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery website

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015) 'EK as Velázquez' 1988 

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015)
EK as Velázquez
1988

 

 

Foreword to catalogue

Widely regarded as one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century, Ellsworth Kelly (1923-2015) is known for paintings, sculptures, drawings, and prints that are masterworks in line, form, and color. Having played a pivotal role in the development of postwar abstract art, Kelly’s inventive approach to abstraction draws on found composition and observation of the physical world. In a rarely seen aspect of his practice, Kelly made approximately four hundred postcard collages over the course of six decades. Some were exploratory musings, while others served as studies for larger works in other media or a means to revisit important concepts from years prior. Ellsworth Kelly: Postcards is the first survey of Kelly’s postcard collages, starting with his first monochrome painted on a postcard in 1949 and ending with his final collages of crashing ocean waves made in 2005. Resisting clear taxonomies of abstraction and representation, these works show an unbounded space of creative freedom and provide important insight into the way Kelly saw, experienced, and translated the world in his art.

Many postcards illustrate specific places where the artist lived or visited, introducing biography and context that make these works unique among his broader artistic production. During his lifetime, most of these works were held privately by the artist, only occasionally making their way into institutional collections. Many were sent to friends and colleagues as personal correspondences, though many more were kept in his studio. Revealing an unrestrained curiosity and the breadth of his practice, Kelly’s postcard collages are as humorous and intimate as they are formal and discerning.

Kelly began his studies at Pratt Institute in New York from 1941 to 1942, then continued at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston from 1946 to 1948. While on his tour of duty in Europe during World War II he visited Paris for the first time. He returned with funds from the GI Bill in 1948 and stayed until 1954. Those years in France were formative; this was when Kelly first painted and collaged on picture postcards, which, at the time, he mostly sent to artist and friend Ralph Coburn. In 1954, Kelly moved from Paris to New York, where he rented a studio in Coenties Slip in downtown Manhattan, as part of a community of artists that included Robert Indiana, Agnes Martin, James Rosenquist, and Jack Youngerman. The influence of that fertile time can be seen in several New York postcards of the 1950s.

Throughout the literature on Kelly’s oeuvre, scholars have consistently noted the cyclical process of his art making, his tendency to revisit ideas from years, even decades, earlier. In keeping, the production of the postcard collages was rhythmic and episodic, punctuated by other artistic and life activities. One can trace the years of prolific and less prolific output to align with important life events, including new bodies of work, retrospectives, and studio moves. For instance, Kelly made a great number of cards in 1970, the year he moved to Spencertown, New York, and in 1974 while traveling in Europe following his 1973 Museum of Modern Art retrospective.

Mapping the postcard collage production onto a timeline of Kelly’s life and work also reveals that the postcards were not a part of his general studio practice, but rather constituted a kind of freedom from the studio. In this sense, they comprise a compilation of experiences, a journal of travel, creative play, and relationships. The decade of the 1970s includes a significant number of cards made in St. Martin in the Caribbean, where he would travel to stay with artist Jasper Johns, who had a home on the island. The mid-1980s – particularly around the time he met photographer Jack Shear, who would become his life partner – was another prolific period for Kelly’s postcard collages. This intensity of collage production waned in the 1990s, in part due to the decline in print quality of mass-produced picture postcards, which Kelly did not appreciate.

The postcard collages use a wide variety of found materials, including pieces of vinyl records, newspaper clippings, ticket stubs, wine labels, and even sections of his own prints. For example, in 1964, Kelly used torn proofs from his own lithographs in a series of postcard collages with Paris monuments, as studies for sculptures. This source material is discussed in a new essay for this book by Dr. Tricia Y. Paik. Her essay reviews Kelly’s biography and outlines key features of his iconic work that can be found in specific examples of the postcard collages. Dr. Lynda Klich surveys the advent of the picture postcard itself and points to the use of postcards by modernist artists of the early twentieth century – from Art Nouveau and Futurism, to Surrealism and Dada. Dr. Jessica Eisenthal focuses on the mostly hidden, double-sided aspect of the postcard collages. She reveals that Kelly not only used the backs of the cards for personal notes but also to continue compositions and create even more experimental and, at times, teasing imagery. The book begins with the artist’s own words from a brochure that accompanied the exhibition Kelly organized from MoMA’s collection in 1990, Artist’s Choice: Ellsworth Kelly, Fragmentation and the Single Form. In this essay, Kelly discusses breaking up the visual world into fragments and provides key insights into his ways of seeing and presenting his art.

The vast majority of the postcard collages in the plates section of this book have never before been reproduced. Over the course of this project, new works were discovered in the artist’s archive, and others came to light from personal collections. May this project be the start of more discovery and continued scholarship on this distinctive and revealing body of work.

Ian Berry (curator)

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015) 'Columbus Circle' 1957

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015)
Columbus Circle
1957
Postcard collage
5 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches
Collection of Ellsworth Kelly Studio and Jack Shear
© Ellsworth Kelly Foundation

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Ellsworth Kelly: Postcards' at the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Skidmore College

 

Installation view of the exhibition Ellsworth Kelly: Postcards at the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Skidmore College showing at left, Columbus Circle 1957 (above); and at second left, Four Greens, Upper Manhattan Bay, 1957 (below)

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015) 'Four Greens, Upper Manhattan Bay' 1957

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015)
Four Greens, Upper Manhattan Bay
1957
Postcard collage
Collection of Ellsworth Kelly Studio and Jack Shear
© Ellsworth Kelly Foundation

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015) 'Coenties Slip' 1957

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015)
Coenties Slip
1957
Postcard collage
Collection of Ellsworth Kelly Studio and Jack Shear
© Ellsworth Kelly Foundation

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015) 'Statue of Liberty' 1957

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015)
Statue of Liberty
1957
Postcard collage
5 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches
Collection of Ellsworth Kelly Studio and Jack Shear
© Ellsworth Kelly Foundation

 

 

Kelly’s Strategies through Postcard Analogies

 

“During the day, we see so much at one time. I want to catch something that’s a flash, a mysterious thing, the beginning of something, a primal thing.”

~ Ellsworth Kelly, 2008

 

Aided with the clarity of five decades of hindsight, this exhibition and catalogue afford us the opportunity to observe the breadth of Kelly’s postcard experimentation, the myriad ways he explored strategies, ideas, and shapes to which he returned time and time again. It can be argued that these postcard objects, more than his other works on paper, allow us the closest entrée into what caught his eye, what he pondered, and what he altered, giving us glimpses into his intuitive and transformative vision. These postcard collages allow us to revisit some of “the sights of his lifetime,” how he found what looked “right” to him at different moments during more than half a century. Indeed, his manipulated postcards tangibly analogize how the artist investigated vision. In 1973, at the time of his mid-career retrospective at MoMA, Kelly admitted to his intriguing relationship with the real world; despite his important reliance on empirical observation, he confessed, “I’ve always felt competitive with reality.”34 Postcards – unchanging templates of predetermined realities – offered him controlled environments with which he could actively compete through his pasted papers.

To create his abstractions drawn from the real world, Kelly relied on various artistic impulses that he learned to follow and trust. He explained in 1992:

“I automatically distance the idea of what I’m looking at. I play with what I see, forget what it is, which color it is, perceive the changes through my shifting positions. I don’t look at it with a thinking mind but with the possibilities of my vision.”35

.
Kelly enacted this strategy of distancing through collage, both “placing” and “ellipsis” as previously described by Motherwell. In doing so, he was able to “compete” with reality by obscuring and fragmenting the view. In 1973, the artist explained, “I’ve always been interested in fragmentation, through apertures, doors and windows. When you look through them, that fragmented view changes as you move, and you get a series of different pictures.”36 Through fragmentation, he was able to isolate his forms to arrive at singular shapes. Collage also allowed Kelly to deploy another key artistic goal that further distanced his art from his original sources – to reiterate flatness through the flat piece of collage itself, to push out space, to “flatten”37 the experience of vision. Kelly’s act of collage, his intrusion into the scene, also results in a shaped obstruction, an “ellipsis” of the original postcard view, diminishing our ability to discern and recognize the entire scene and thus achieving the ambiguity he desired, “an open, incomplete situation.”38

Now considering Kelly’s postcard output holistically, there is no observable consistency in how these objects relate to his finished body of work. Sometimes his postcard explorations correlate with what he was exploring in paintings and sculptures at the time, while sometimes there is minimal connection. Although most do not serve as actual studies per se for a completed work, a small number of these postcards, in fact, do. Other times his postcard collages are retrospective, returning to shapes and ideas already produced in work finished years prior – such as La dune du Pyla III, 1983 (p. 183); Blue Yellow (Saint-Michel, Paris), 1985 (p. 267); Seascape, 1985 (p. 274); and Blue Red Rocker / St. Martin, 1986 (p. 275).39 While some postcards appear deliberate and “worked,” some can be understood as quickly collaged “sketches.” During the period of his postcard output from 1949 to 2005, there are specific years when Kelly regularly manipulated the postcard – 1957, 1964, 1974, 1977-78, and 1984-85; in particular, 1974, 1977, and 1984-85 proved to be periods of great experimentation, with as many as seventy-six documented postcards from 1984, the most in any given year.40 In some years there is no documented evidence of any activity; however, perhaps in the future, postcards that Kelly might have made and sent out during the mid to late 1960s (from which only one extant card remains) or other years could resurface. One consistent fact is how much delight Kelly took with the postcard, whether as communication mailed to those within his circle, or as private visual dialogue saved for himself.

Tricia Y. Paik. “Sights of His Life,” in Berry, Ian and Eisenthal, Jessica (eds.,). Elsworth Kelly: Postcards. Delmonico Books, 2021, pp. 316-318.

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015) 'Study for Green and White Sculpture for les Invalides' 1964

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015)
Study for Green and White Sculpture for les Invalides
1964
Postcard collage
Collection of Ellsworth Kelly Studio and Jack Shear
© Ellsworth Kelly Foundation

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015) 'Study for Blue and White Sculpture for Les Tuileries' 1964

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015)
Study for Blue and White Sculpture for Les Tuileries
1964
Postcard collage
3 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches
Collection of Ellsworth Kelly Studio and Jack Shear
© Ellsworth Kelly Foundation

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015) 'Study for Yellow and White Sculpture for la Tour Eiffel' 1964

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015)
Study for Yellow and White Sculpture for la Tour Eiffel
1964
Postcard collage
Collection of Ellsworth Kelly Studio and Jack Shear
© Ellsworth Kelly Foundation

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015) 'Moon Over Manhattan' 1964

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015)
Moon Over Manhattan
1964
Postcard collage
3 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches
Private collection
© Ellsworth Kelly Foundation

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015) 'Nose / Sailboat' 1974

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015)
Nose / Sailboat
1974
5 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches
Collection of Ellsworth Kelly Studio and Jack Shear
© Ellsworth Kelly Foundation

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015) 'Horizontal Nude or St. Martin Landscape' 1974

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015)
Horizontal Nude or St. Martin Landscape
1974
4 x 5 7/8 inches
Collection of Ellsworth Kelly Studio and Jack Shear
© Ellsworth Kelly Foundation

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015) 'Marilyn Monroe / Shadows' 1974

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015)
Marilyn Monroe / Shadows
1974
Collection of Ellsworth Kelly Studio and Jack Shear
© Ellsworth Kelly Foundation

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015) 'Study for Dark Gray and White Rectangle I' 1977

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015)
Study for Dark Gray and White Rectangle I
1977
4 x 6 inches
Collection of Ellsworth Kelly Studio and Jack Shear
© Ellsworth Kelly Foundation

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015) 'Volcano' 1977

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015)
Volcano
1977
Collection of Ellsworth Kelly Studio and Jack Shear
© Ellsworth Kelly Foundation

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015) 'Amsterdam' 1979

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015)
Amsterdam
1979
4 x 5 7/8 inches
Collection of Ellsworth Kelly Studio and Jack Shear
© Ellsworth Kelly Foundation

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015) 'Cincinnati Riverfront Stadium' 1980

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015)
Cincinnati Riverfront Stadium
1980
3 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches
Collection of Ellsworth Kelly Studio and Jack Shear
© Ellsworth Kelly Foundation

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015) 'Study for Blue White' 1980

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015)
Study for Blue White
1980
Collection of Ellsworth Kelly Studio and Jack Shear
© Ellsworth Kelly Foundation

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015) 'The Young Spartans' 1984

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015)
The Young Spartans
1984
4 1/8 x 5 7/8 inches
Collection of Ellsworth Kelly Studio and Jack Shear
© Ellsworth Kelly Foundation

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015) 'Giant Artichoke' 1984

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015)
Giant Artichoke
1984
3 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches
Collection of Ellsworth Kelly Studio and Jack Shear
© Ellsworth Kelly Foundation

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015) 'Sagrada Familia I' 1985

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015)
Sagrada Familia I
1985
Collection of Ellsworth Kelly Studio and Jack Shear
© Ellsworth Kelly Foundation

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015) 'St. Martin – Baie Rouge' 2005

 

Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015)
St. Martin – Baie Rouge
2005
4 5/8 x 6 3/4 inches
Collection of Ellsworth Kelly Studio and Jack Shear
© Ellsworth Kelly Foundation

 

Pages from the catalogue for the exhibition 'Elsworth Kelly: Postcards'

 

Pages from the catalogue for the exhibition 'Elsworth Kelly: Postcards'

 

Pages from the catalogue for the exhibition 'Elsworth Kelly: Postcards'

 

Pages from the catalogue for the exhibition 'Elsworth Kelly: Postcards'

 

Pages from the catalogue by Berry, Ian and Eisenthal, Jessica (eds.,). Elsworth Kelly: Postcards. Delmonico Books, 2021

 

 

Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College
815 North Broadway
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
Phone: 518-580-8080

Opening hours:
Thursday 12.00 – 9.00pm
Friday 12.00 – 5.00pm
Saturday 12.00 – 5.00pm
Sunday 12.00 – 5.00pm
Closed major holidays

Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery website

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24
Oct
21

Photographs: Marcus Bunyan. ‘Resonance’ 2021

October 2021

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

Resonance noun: the power to bring images, feelings, etc. into the mind of the person reading or listening; the images, etc. produced in this way…

 

 

A body of work for 2021. Very proud of this sequence…

Taken in heavy overcast conditions with slight rain after a thunderstorm had passed through on my Mamiya RZ67 medium format film camera, at Eagle’s Nest, Bunurong Marine and Coastal Park, Victoria, Australia.

A period of intense seeing and previsualisation.

No cropping, all full frame photographs. The colours are as the camera saw them.

See the layout of the series on my website.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

48 images
© Marcus Bunyan

 

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

Photographs are available from this series for purchase. As a guide, a digital colour 16″ x 20″ print costs $1,000 plus tracked and insured shipping. For more information please see the Store web page.

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'Resonance' 2021

 

 

Marcus Bunyan website

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17
Oct
21

Exhibition: ‘James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective’ at the Serpentine North Gallery, London

Exhibition dates: 19th May – 24th October 2021

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Portrait of James Barnor in front of some of his photographs, Accra' 1957

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Portrait of James Barnor in front of some of his photographs, Accra
1957
Courtesy Autograph

 

 

It’s late, but it’s better late than never

After a life of giving – putting his photographs out into the world, generous of his energy and spirit – this ‘Ever Young’ artist is, finally, getting the recognition that he so richly deserves.

In the tradition of Black African photographers such as Malick Sidibé, Seydou Keïta and Sanlé Sory, Barnor’s photographs present people of all ages and all walks of life – whether in Accra, Ghana or in the suburbs of London, England – through direct and honest studio portraits or in more candid documents of the communities that surrounded him. Barnor’s work “is the intimate documentation of African and Afro-diasporic lives across time and space. Whether taking family snapshots, commissioned portraits or commercial assignments, Barnor approaches the photographic process as a collaborative venture, a conversation with the sitter, and these images are a testament to a lifetime of encounters.”

In all of Barnor’s work their is a sensitivity to subject matter. Noticeably, in the work from the 1960s onwards there is a freeing up of the picture plane, a playfulness and freshness in these images, which capture the spirit which is naturally embedded within African culture. I look at his photographs and they make me smile. For example, the glorious presence of the women in Family members at the occasion of the engagement of James’ cousin (late 1970s, below) or the radiant women with the Christmas tree on top of the television in At Ataa Quarcoopome, family members at the occasion of the engagement of James cousin (c. 1970-71, below). People at ease in front of the camera, with no overt acting up, no pretension. His Afro-modernist colour photographs of people in Accra in the 1970s are magnificent for their refined use of limited colour palettes and the relaxed ease of the subjects. As the press release states, “These images are drawn from a long lifetime of capturing people and places with the camera, a lifetime in which Barnor acts as witness, maker, interpreter and storyteller.” As he says, the story is the picture.

But what pushes Barnor’s photographs further than other Black African photographers is that he ventured to another, foreign land to photograph Afro-diasporic lives across time and space. Imagine arriving in London in 1959 where you couldn’t get work as a Black photographer, and all the racism that this statement entails, to then continue to photograph for Drum magazine the vibrant and growing Afro diasporic community. In the ‘Swinging Sixties’ where ‘Black was Beautiful’, Barnor’s photographs were “affirming the place of black bodies in public and encouraging the active mixing of multinational cultural markers… Bridging between the world of Africa and Europe gave Barnor a unique perspective, and the best of his photographs simmer with cross-cultural style and verve.”1 This can be seen particularly in his personal images from parties, weddings, and family outings and in his cover work for Drum, where his models are in public – happy, proud and free. It is wonderful for me to see pictures such as A group of friends photographed during Mr. And Mrs Sackey’s wedding, London (c. 1966, below) for its depiction of a world where skin colour does not matter, should never matter. For too long has this world been ruled by hatred and division.

Barnor’s photographs plant the seed of equality and happiness as a way of transmitting this knowledge to others. “He is a living archive, a link between the birth of photography in West Africa and the development of the discipline for the modern era.”2 It is his passion and feeling for the practice of photography, the stories that it tells and his engagement with the spirit of the people that he encounters – as a conversation between equals – that intuitively ground his work in the history of photography and the history of Black culture and makes them forever young. As the article on the L’Officiel website by Kleaver Cruz observes, “… it is his calling to connect with his subjects, to create space for them to be free, and to capture their essence for the record, for the sake of our existence as Black and African peoples, and for what has become an important archive of the lives he has interacted with over the course of his own long and rich life.”

Lives across time and space, across this life and the next.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Footnotes

  1. Loring Knoblauch. “James Barnor, The Roadmaker,” on the Collector Daily website, June 18, 2021 [Online] Cited 17/10/2021
  2. Kleaver Cruz. “Legends Deserve Flowers: The Legacy of James Barnor,” on the L’Officiel website 19th May 2021 [Online] Cited 10th July 2021.
  3. Ibid.,

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

 

 

“I came across a magazine with an inscription that said: “A civilisation flourishes when men plant trees under which they themselves will never sit.” But to me it’s not only plants – putting something in somebody’s life, a young person’s life, is the same as planting a tree that you will not cut and sell during your lifetime. That has helped me a lot in my work. Sometimes the more you give, the more you get.”

.
James Barnor

 

“I wish the recognition that I’m getting now had come to me when I was about 65. And I wish when I was 60, 65, 70, my work was regarded as ‘iconic,’ or whatever people call it now. Then I would have had the chance to approach people for assignments and I would not have been taken for granted. And I’d have been able to buy the type of equipment I needed or wanted, and sold pictures at places that understood my work. It’s late, but it’s better late than never.”

.
James Barnor

 

“It took me a long time to understand the art of photography. There is a big difference between doing art and doing photography. I have come to realise that, when you get an education, as soon as you see a picture, you already know this should be here, that should be there. You form the story before you take the pictures: you take two or three, and you are on the way.”

.
James Barnor, ‘Frieze Magazine’, May 2021

 

“You can google all the technical stuff. It’s the ideas that you have that’re important. The community development, the self-involvement. Go and learn and be knowledgeable and take the camera. The story is the picture.”

.
James Barnor

 

 

James Barnor (born 1929) 'Mr. Blavo and friends at a Youth Development Club party, Scout Headquarters, Accra' 1953

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Mr. Blavo and friends at a Youth Development Club party, Scout Headquarters, Accra
1953
© James Barnor/Autograph ABP, London

 

 

As a young person, Barnor was active in Youth Development Clubs and other social activities organised for young people in Accra. In this image, he captured some new and old friends during a camping-style party hosted at the Boy Scout Headquarters in the capital city. At the centre of the group is someone Barnor was less familiar with, but remembered as a classmate and one of the first trained health workers in the country; on her left is E. Quarshie Blavo, a prominent Scout and youth leader who was “always coming up with ideas to get the youth united and to learn and do things and give service;” to her right is another friend of Barnor’s, Mr. Kitson-Mills who worked as a Tax Controller. Barnor was also part of developing the youth hostel system in Ghana, which offered affordable options for young Ghanaians who wanted to travel and get better acquainted with all their home country had to offer.

Extract from Kleaver Cruz. “Legends Deserve Flowers: The Legacy of James Barnor,” on the L’Officiel website 19th May 2021 [Online] Cited 10th July 2021.

 

James Barnor (born 1929) 'Eva, London' 1960s, printed 2010

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Eva, London
1960s, printed 2010
© James Barnor/Autograph ABP, London

 

 

A celebration of the great Ghanaian photographer, who established his Ever Young studio in Accra in the early 1950s, and documented London during the swinging 60s as a photojournalist for Drum magazine. Capturing the mood of Ghana as it transitioned to independence in the 1950s, Barnor’s work remains an important reference for painters, photographers and film-makers.

The Serpentine presents a major survey of British-Ghanaian photographer James Barnor, whose career spans six decades, two continents and numerous photographic genres through his work with studio portraiture, photojournalism, editorial commissions and wider social commentary.

Born in 1929 in Ghana, James Barnor established his famous Ever Young studio in Accra in the early 1950s, capturing a nation on the cusp of independence in an ambiance animated by conversation and highlife music. In 1959 he arrived in London, furthering his studies and continuing assignments for influential South African magazine Drum which reflected the spirit of the era and the experiences of London’s burgeoning African diaspora. He returned to Ghana in the early 1970s to establish the country’s first colour processing lab while continuing his work as a portrait photographer and embedding himself in the music scene. He returned to London in 1994.

Central to Barnor’s work is the intimate documentation of African and Afro-diasporic lives across time and space. Whether taking family snapshots, commissioned portraits or commercial assignments, Barnor approaches the photographic process as a collaborative venture, a conversation with the sitter, and these images are a testament to a lifetime of encounters. Barnor’s desire to bring communities with him along his journey extends to his lifelong passion for education, not just as a means of furthering his own skills but also as a way of transmitting his knowledge to others. The recent digitisation of his archive of 32,000 images has enabled him to adopt the daily practice of revisiting his pictures with fresh eyes and memories to share his extraordinary life and work with a new generation.

Organised in broadly chronological order, James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective moves between the two countries, and includes portraits taken at his first studio, Ever Young; images taken in and around the independence movement in Ghana; Barnor’s era-defining work for South African anti-apartheid / Black lifestyle publication Drum and extensive photography of life in 1960s London; plus work from his time managing the first colour-processing laboratory in 1970s Ghana.

Text from the Serpentine North Gallery website

 

 

 

James Barnor at Serpentine 2021

 

'James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective' (Installation view, 19 May - 24 October 2021, Serpentine)

 

James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective (Installation view, 19 May – 24 October 2021, Serpentine) showing at centre, Beatrice with trademark figurine, Ever Young Studio, Accra (c. 1953, below), and at left The Pastor (Oscar Lamptey), Mamprobi, Accra (1955, below)
Photo: Zoe Maxwell

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Beatrice with trademark figurine, Ever Young Studio, Accra' c. 1953

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Beatrice with trademark figurine, Ever Young Studio, Accra
c. 1953
Courtesy of Autograph

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'The Pastor (Oscar Lamptey), Mamprobi, Accra' 1955

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
The Pastor (Oscar Lamptey), Mamprobi, Accra
1955
Courtesy of Autograph

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Roy Ankrah and an unknown boxer in a remote area of Ghana' 1952

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Roy Ankrah and an unknown boxer in a remote area of Ghana
1952
James Barnor/Courtesy Autograph ABP

 

 

John Theophilus Oti Ankrah (25 December 1925 – 28 May 1995), better known as Roy Ankrah, was a Ghanaian featherweight contender during the 1950s. He was given the nicknames “The Black Flash” and “Mr. Perpetual Motion” because of his fast hands and crafty footwork. Ankrah held the Commonwealth featherweight title from 1951 to 1952 and had his biggest fight against then-reigning NBA, NYSAC, and The Ring bantamweight world champion in a non-title fight as both fighters weighed above the 118lbs limit of bantamweight.

 

'James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective' (Installation view, 19 May - 24 October 2021, Serpentine)

 

James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective (Installation view, 19 May – 24 October 2021, Serpentine) showing at right Drum Cover Girl Erlin Ibreck, London (1966, below)
Photo: Zoe Maxwell

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Drum Cover Girl Erlin Ibreck, London' 1966, printed 2010

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Drum Cover Girl Erlin Ibreck, London
1966, printed 2010
© James Barnor courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) ''Drum' magazine cover with Constance Mulondo, East Africa edition' August 1967

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
‘Drum’ magazine cover with Constance Mulondo, East Africa edition
August 1967

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Marie Hallowi, 'Drum' covergirl, Kent' 1966

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Marie Hallowi, ‘Drum’ covergirl, Kent
1966

 

'James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective' (Installation view, 19 May - 24 October 2021, Serpentine)

 

James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective (Installation views, 19 May – 24 October 2021, Serpentine), the bottom image showing Barnor cover photographs for the magazine Drum
Photo: Zoe Maxwell

 

 

“There weren’t magazines or newspapers showing Black models – Drum started it,” he said. “Any time I saw a Drum cover in London, side by side with international magazines, I felt really satisfied. I knew I was recording something. I knew I had to take care of my negatives.” ~ James Barnor

 

'James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective' (Installation view, 19 May - 24 October 2021, Serpentine)

'James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective' (Installation view, 19 May - 24 October 2021, Serpentine)

 

James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective (Installation view, 19 May – 24 October 2021, Serpentine) showing at third right Mohammed Ali preparing for his fight against Brian London, London (1966, below)
Photo: Zoe Maxwell

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Mohammed Ali preparing for his fight against Brian London, London' 1966

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Mohammed Ali preparing for his fight against Brian London, London
1966

 

 

At 24 years old, Muhammad Ali, then the heavyweight champion of the world, was scheduled to defend his title against Brian London in the UK’s capital in 1966. Barnor was commissioned by Drum to capture Ali during his preparation for the big fight. “I didn’t talk to him at all. I should have asked him to do this or that for me. I’m sure that he would have done anything I asked him to do – ‘turn this way’ or ‘you do that,’ he would have done it. But he was so fascinating,” Barnor says of photographing the young star. Consistent with his intuitive spirit, Barnor chose to focus on the icon’s back rather than his face. “Nobody would have thought of photographing somebody’s back,” he recalls. Barnor shot this image with a Mamiya he had acquired from trading the camera he came to London with following the completion of his studies at Medway College of Art in Kent.

Extract from Kleaver Cruz. “Legends Deserve Flowers: The Legacy of James Barnor,” on the L’Officiel website 19th May 2021 [Online] Cited 10th July 2021.

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Self Portrait with Nkrumah, Roy Ankrah and his Wife, Rebecca, Accra' Nd

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Self Portrait with Nkrumah, Roy Ankrah and his Wife, Rebecca, Accra
Nd
Courtesy Autograph, London

 

 

James Barnor’s career as a studio portraitist, photojournalist and Black lifestyle photographer spans six decades, recording major social and political changes in Accra and London. His pioneering, resolutely modern work has influenced generations of photographers in Africa and around the world. James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective, focuses on the period 1950-1980, selected from more than 32,000available images.

Central to Barnor’s work is the intimate documentation of African and Afro-diasporic lives across time and space. Whether making family snapshots, commissioned portraits or commercial assignments, Barnor approaches the photographic process as a collaborative venture, a conversation with the sitter, and his images are a testament to a lifetime of encounters.

Organised in broadly chronological order, James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective moves between the two countries, and includes portraits taken at his first studio, Ever Young; images taken in and around the independence movement in Ghana; Barnor’s era-defining work for South African anti-apartheid / Black lifestyle publication Drum and extensive photography of life in 1960s London; plus work from his time managing the first colour-processing laboratory in 1970s Ghana. His life-long passion for music is visible through portraits of musicians and performers.

“James Barnor’s work reminds us how thrillingly expansive life is; his photographs offer the possibility of connection and exchange across continents and through time. These images are drawn from a long lifetime of capturing people and places with the camera, a lifetime in which Barnor acts as witness, maker, interpreter and storyteller. We are immensely proud to be able to present this show atSerpentine this summer. We are so grateful to James Barnor for his vision, his unfailing energy and for sharing his memories so generously.”

Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director, and Bettina Korek, Chief Executive, Serpentine

This exhibition is part of Serpentine’s commitment to programming pioneering artists achieving wider recognition later in their careers, including exhibitions in recent years by Rose Wylie (2017), Luchita Hurtado and Faith Ringgold (both 2019).

 

About James Barnor

Born in 1929 in Accra, Ghana, Barnor came from a family of photographers. He initially trained under a photographic apprenticeship with his cousin J. P. D. Dodoo, before establishing Ever Young, his first studio, in the early 1950s. Barnor likened Ever Young to a community centre, and it was there that he captured a nation on the cusp of independence in an environment of lively conversation and music. During this time, he also undertook assignments for the Daily Graphic newspaper, documenting key events and figures in the lead-up to Ghana’s independence in 1957, which established him as the first photojournalist in the country. Enticed by a friend’s promise that ‘London was the place for him’, Barnor left Accra in 1959 and spent the next decade furthering his studies, continuing assignments for Drum, and photographing his ever-growing circle of family and friends. He returned to Accra a decade later to establish the first colour-processing laboratory in Ghana. Barnor settled permanently in the UK in 1994 and lives in West London.

On the occasion of the exhibition Serpentine is publishing a catalogue, Accra/London –A Retrospective, with Koenig Books, which is co-produced with MASI Lugano and Detroit Institute of Arts. Richly illustrated and designed by Mark El-khatib, it includes contributions by head of the photographic collection at the Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac in Paris, Christine Barthe; architect Sir David Adjaye OBE; artist David Hartt; curator Alicia Knock, and a personal recollection from former Drum magazine model, Erlin Ibreck, who worked with Barnor on numerous shoots during the 1960s in London. The catalogue also includes a conversation between Barnor and Serpentine Artistic Director Hans Ulrich Obrist.

Press release from the Serpentine North Gallery website

 

James Barnor (born 1929) 'Revolution in the public transport ticketing system, Accra' c. 1950s

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Revolution in the public transport ticketing system, Accra
c. 1950s
Courtesy Autograph, London

 

 

On March 6, 1957, the nation known today as Ghana gained its independence from British colonial rule, marking a growing tide of independence movements across the continent. In the capital city of Accra, where Barnor grew up, many waves of change occurred, including an upgraded bus system. Recalling today, Barnor describes the busyness of the capital city and how the municipal bus system transported people throughout the metropolitan area and its suburbs, as well as the enhancement of its technology, evidence of which we see in the suited conductor issuing paper tickets detailing the price and distance which each passenger was travelling. Barnor also notes elements of interaction between different classes, which is apparent in the dress and accessories of the woman on the far right in contrast to the other passengers. In regard to the people looking directly into the lens, Barnor recalls the excitement and curiosity when he showed up with a camera; after all, Barnor was the nation’s first newspaper photographer and, when people saw him, many understood that their image could potentially appear in the next day’s publication. “Oh yes… somebody with a camera coming, you know, people would ask, ‘What are you shooting for?’ By all means, everybody looks at you,” he says.

Extract from Kleaver Cruz. “Legends Deserve Flowers: The Legacy of James Barnor,” on the L’Officiel website 19th May 2021 [Online] Cited 10th July 2021.

 

James Barnor (born 1929) 'Naa Jacobson as Ballroom Queen, Ever Queen Studio, Accra' 1955

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Naa Jacobson as Ballroom Queen, Ever Queen Studio, Accra
1955

 

 

There are so many stories here;
I have a special relationship with many of my models.
This is my comfort zone because I am inspired:
distracted and also attracted by so many details!
These are some of the people I enjoyed photographing most,
But there are so many more stories to tell.

~ James Barnor

 

James Barnor (born 1929) 'Four Nurses (graduates of Korle Bu Teaching Hospital), Ever Young Studio, Accra' c. 1957

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Four Nurses (graduates of Korle Bu Teaching Hospital), Ever Young Studio, Accra
c. 1957
Courtesy Autograph

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Nigerian Superman. Old Polo Ground, Mantse Agbona Park, Accra' 1958

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Nigerian Superman. Old Polo Ground, Mantse Agbona Park, Accra
1958
© James Barnor courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'A car accident outside Accra Brewery' Nd

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
A car accident outside Accra Brewery
Nd
© James Barnor courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929). 'Untitled, Studio X23, Accra' 1975

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Untitled, Studio X23, Accra
1975
© James Barnor courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Family members at the occasion of the engagement of James' cousin. Amanomo, Accra' Late 1970s

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Family members at the occasion of the engagement of James’ cousin, Amanomo, Accra
Late 1970s
© James Barnor courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Ghanaian traditional hairstyle at Studio X23, Accra' c. 1970s

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Ghanaian traditional hairstyle at Studio X23, Accra
c. 1970s, modern print
Inkjet print
© James Barnor, courtesy galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

 

In 1973 Barnor converted a small storeroom given to him by his cousin Albert M. Quarcoopome into a darkroom before expanding into a building. This became his second studio Studio X23 (1973-1994) where alongside a multifaceted commission practice he continued working as a portrait photographer for twenty years.

 

Ever Young Studio, Jamestown, Accra

 

Ever Young Studio, Jamestown, Accra
Credit: James Barnor

 

 

Barnor’s studio was like a “community center,” he remembers, and he made “people feel at home,” by talking to and getting to know them. “Young men would come by to have a chat and have their photograph taken,” he said. “Most people had confidence in me already. Everybody knew me in Ghana as a successful photographer – they knew they would be satisfied.”

Barnor says he believes the photographs he took during this time showed a different, stylish view of his home country – one that belied assumptions. “When I had my studio in Ghana people thought we (Ghanaians) didn’t dress up,” he said. “But all my sitters, my friends, were fashion conscious – women would often request full-length photos with shoes, a handbag and their accessories.”

Emma Firth. “From Accra to London, how photographer James Barnor captured decades of style,” on the CNN style website 20th June 2020 [Online] Cited 10/07/2021

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'AGIP with Graphic Designer' 1974

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
AGIP with Graphic Designer
1974

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Print in progress, Studio X23. Accra' 1972

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Print in progress, Studio X23, Accra
1972
© James Barnor courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Kids dressed in identical suits. Accra' 1970s

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Kids dressed in identical suits, Accra
1970s
© James Barnor courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Ever Young studio. Accra' 1954

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Ever Young studio, Accra
1954
© James Barnor courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'J Peter Dodoo Jnr., Yoga student of "Mr Strong", Ever Young Studio, Accra' c. 1955

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
J Peter Dodoo Jnr., Yoga student of “Mr Strong”, Ever Young Studio, Accra
c. 1955, modern print
Inkjet print
© James Barnor, courtesy galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

 

Accra in the 1950s was a decade marked by the significant transformation of nation building and the rise of cosmopolitanism. Photography served as an important medium for sitters to articulate their own self-actualisation. Barnor described his first studio Ever Young (1953-1959), in the Jamestown district of the city, as a community centre filled with music and conversation, a drop-in space that embodied precisely this spirit of reinvention through the frame.

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Evelyn Abbew, Ever Young Studio, Accra' 1954

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Evelyn Abbew, Ever Young Studio, Accra
1954
© James Barnor/Autograph ABP, London

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Emma Christiana Bruce Annan, Drum Party, Chorkor Beach, Accra' 1954-56

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Emma Christiana Bruce Annan, Drum Party, Chorkor Beach, Accra
1954-56
Courtesy Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

 

Introduction

Throughout his career, British-Ghanaian photographer James Barnor has captured images of societies in transition and transformation. Moving between Accra and London to cultivate a practice that encompasses the genres of studio portraiture, photojournalism and social documentary photography, Barnor witnessed and recorded major social and political changes during a career that spans over six decades and two continents. This exhibition, the largest survey of his work to date, is drawn from his extensive archive and focuses on the decades 1950-80.

Born in 1929 in Accra, Ghana, Barnor came from a family of photographers. He initially trained under a photographic apprenticeship with his cousin J. P. D. Dodoo, before establishing Ever Young, his first studio, in the early 1950s. Barnor likened Ever Young to a community centre, and it was there that he captured a nation on the cusp of independence in an environment of lively conversation and music. During this time, he also undertook assignments for the Daily Graphic newspaper, owned by the Mirror Group, documenting key events and figures in the lead-up to Ghana’s independence in 1957, which established him as the first photojournalist in the country. Enticed by a friend’s promise that ‘London was the place for him’, Barnor arrived in London in December 1959 and spent the next decade furthering his studies, continuing assignments for the influential South African magazine Drum, and photographing his ever-growing circle of family and friends. He returned to Accra a decade later to establish the first colour-processing laboratory in Ghana. Barnor settled permanently in the UK in 1994 and now lives in West London.

Central to Barnor’s work is the intimate documentation of African and Afro-diasporic lives across time and space. Whether taking family snapshots, commissioned portraits or commercial assignments, Barnor approaches the photographic process as a collaborative venture, a conversation with the sitter, and these images are a testament to a lifetime of encounters. Barnor’s desire to bring communities with him along his journey extends to his lifelong passion for education, not just as a means of furthering his own skills but also as a way of transmitting his knowledge to others. The recent digitisation of his archive of 32,000 images has enabled him to adopt the daily practice of revisiting his pictures with fresh eyes and memories to share his extraordinary life and work with a new generation.

 

Ever Young Studio

Barnor first developed his photographic skills while serving an apprenticeship under his cousin J. P. D. Dodoo before going out on his own to establish Ever Young Studio in the early 1950s. Initially a modest, outdoor set-up with a darkroom in his aunt’s vacant room, the studio later moved to the Jamestown district of Accra in 953. Ever Young was a hive of activity, a drop-in space for people of all ages and all walks of life: ‘My studio was at a spot where everything happened in Accra, where young and old people met from various backgrounds, free to talk about everything and anything.’

Barnor took the name Ever Young from the story of Iduna’s Grove that he learned in school as a child. In the myth ‘Iduna, the beautiful young goddess of the Norsemen, lived in a pretty grove called Ever Young. She had a golden casket full of the most beautiful apples. A hero might come, tired and weary to Iduna’s Grove, feeling that he was growing old. Then Iduna would give him an apple and as soon as he had eaten it he would feel fresh and young again. It is not surprising that Iduna’s Grove was never lonely. As soon as the last rosy fruit had been given away, the casket was filled again by an invisible hand.’

The ethos of the name Ever Young can be felt in Barnor’s youthful energy and commitment to inspiring younger generations. The name also refers to his photographic training and process: ‘The essence of my studio profession is retouching, that’s the training I had, even though I wasn’t perfect. I thought that if someone came in, I’d make them look younger. So, if I open a studio, what should I call it? Ever Young.’

 

Accra Life

Barnor’s early work depicting life in and around Accra in the 1950s resisted the formal quality and rigid structure associated with large-format studio portraiture, becoming progressively more candid as he documented the communities around him using a small camera.

‘For me it was like living in two worlds: there was the careful handling of a sitter in my “studio” with a big camera on a heavy tripod, and then running around town chasing news and sports! … If I needed a picture, or a new story, I would rush to the Makola market, where people behave most like themselves. I enjoyed this more than studio photography. I would use a small camera. It was good for finding stories.’

Barnor became great friends with Drum magazine’s energetic proprietor, Jim Bailey. Drum was an influential South African politics and lifestyle magazine that also served as an anti-apartheid platform. When visiting Ghana, Bailey would host impromptu, often legendary, parties for the Drum community. One gathering was organised by Barnor at his studio, with another taking place on the beach, where he recounts that ‘people were swimming under the moon’.

 

Independence

In 1957, Ghana became the first West African country to gain independence from British colonial rule when Dr Kwame Nkrumah was elected its Prime Minister. Nkrumah’s political trajectory compounded by ‘philosophical consciencism’, an ideology for decolonisation to enable social revolution, saw him organising extensively with scholars and activists such as George Padmore and W.E.B Du Bois, who all resided in the country. Barnor was there to capture it all.

After gaining attention after one of his photographs was published in the Telegraph, Barnor was commissioned by UK-based Black Star Picture Agency and Drum magazine to photograph this time of significant historic transformation for a new nation, and the subsequent celebrations that drew people from all over the world.

‘I was the first newspaper photographer in Ghana, and I’m proud of that. Newspaper photography changed people’s lives and it changed journalism in Ghana. I was part of this moment.’

 

London

‘My friend and mentor, A. Q. A. Archampong, who had been my class teacher, had decided to go to England to study. We always kept in touch. Before he left, I said to him: “If the place is alright, write to me.” So, in his first letter to me, he wrote: “London is the place for you”.’

In 1959, two years after Ghana’s independence, Barnor arrived in London. After initially lodging in Peckham, he was introduced to Dennis Kemp by the Ghanaian Embassy, a lecturer in visual education working for the Kodak Lecture Service, who was researching Africa in preparation for a trip to document the forthcoming Nigerian independence celebrations. Kemp shared Barnor’s passion for photography and the two toured schools around the country where Kemp gave lectures using his archive of images on subjects that interested him, such as his travels, climbing and pot-holing, in order to demonstrate Kodak products as visual teaching aids. Barnor also joined Kemp on his trip to Nigeria in October 1960, and lodged at his flat in Holborn, eventually receiving a grant from the Ghana Cocoa Marketing Board to support his training. Barnor and Kemp would often host coffee evenings with friends discussing approaches to photography and shared interests in African cultures and philosophies.

 

Drum

‘When I saw Drum with my photos on the cover, alongside other magazines at the newsstands, I felt like I was in heaven.’

In London, Barnor continued assignments for Drum. He captured the experiences of a vibrant and growing Afro diasporic community for the magazine, playing a key role in placing models of African descent, such as Erlin Ibreck and Marie Hallowi, on the cover. Through his work for Drum, Barnor combined studio portraiture and street photography, capturing a singular vision of a diasporic ‘Swinging Sixties’ in London. Whether picturing Hallowi gazing seductively from a convertible car, or Mike Eghan joyously floating down the steps at Piccadilly Circus, these pictorial narratives articulate the Afro-diasporic reclaiming of space and agency in self-expression.

‘You couldn’t get work in the 1960s as a Black photographer. It wouldn’t happen that a Black photographer would instruct white sitters […] If you worked for a studio in London, you worked behind the scenes in the darkroom doing odd jobs. Drum though, where I did freelance work, was different. They let me photograph the cover girls, Muhammad Ali, Mike Eghan (the BBC presenter). Drum was my home in London, my office, I got everything done there.’

 

UK 1960s

In 1960, Barnor moved to Kent, where he learned about colour photography at the Colour Processing Laboratories (CPL) in Edenbridge, the UK’s leading lab at the time. With Kemp’s encouragement he enrolled in a three-year course at Medway College of Art in Rochester. At Medway, he learned the technical aspects of colour photography, while continuing to work during the holidays at CPL. After graduating he was employed as a technician at the college before he was hired as a photographer in the design section of Centre for Educational Television Overseas (CETO).

During this period Barnor became close to Kemp’s family, who lived in Southwick, West Sussex, spending his free time rock climbing with Kemp and going on weekly outings with the Tunbridge Wells Overseas Club, a community group that fostered friendships between people who had recently settled in West Kent. Barnor was offered full-time employment as a colour printer by CPL in 1968.

 

Colour in Ghana

Driven by a desire to share the experience and kills he acquired while working with colour photography in the UK, Barnor returned to Ghana in 1970 as a trained manager for Sick-Hagemayer, a subdivision of the photographic equipment and materials manufacturer Agfa-Gevaert, to establish the first colour-processing laboratory in the country, where he worked until 1973 before establishing his own studio. Prior to the introduction of colour film-processing labs in West Africa in the 1970s, photographers had to improvise or send films for processing abroad. With a local colour processing lab in Accra, under Barnor’s leadership, came a greater demand and wider access to colour photography. People wanted their photographs to depict the range of vibrant life and Ghanaian fashion around them. Barnor excelled in this regard, using his knowledge of colour and singular aesthetic to capture popular dress and create a new style of portraiture.

‘Colour really changed people’s ideas about photography. Kente is Ghanaian woven fabric with many different colours, and people wanted their photographs taken after church or in town wearing this cloth, so the news spread quickly.’

 

Accra Life and Studio X23

[Barnor] established his second studio, Studio X23 in 1973. Barnor initially converted a small storeroom given to him by his cousin Albert M. Quarcoopome into a darkroom before expanding into other parts of the building. Although he returned to Ghana with little intention of continuing a studio practice, it nevertheless found him again and for the next twenty years Barnor continued his practice as a portrait photographer.

 

Commissions

Alongside his studio practice Barnor regularly took on commercial commissions, many of which were passed on to him by his friend the graphic designer Emmanuel Odartey Lamptey. Barnor shot images for clients including a promotional calendar for the Italian oil company AGIP, and publicity shots and record sleeve images for musicians like E. K. Nyame. ‘I was close to the music fraternity too. I knew E.T. Mensah, who played the trumpet and the sax and spearheaded high-life music before all the others. I knew all the musicians. I was taking their pictures.’

 

Music

While continuing to run Studio X23 and working at the United States Information Service throughout the 1970s and 80s Barnor’s attention became increasingly focussed on pursuing his passion for music through the management of children’s troupe Ebaahi Gbiko (All Will Be Well One Day), later renamed Fee Hi (All is Well). The group rehearsed in the yard of the studio every day with the understanding that they had to attend school. He felt that practising together after school kept the group out of trouble and focused on their education: ‘I don’t play drums, write music or sing, but I took them in like my own children.’ The troupe became an important part of Barnor’s life, and he accompanied them on a tour of Italy in 1983 as part of an anti-apartheid campaign focusing on the living conditions of South African children for which they had been officially nominated.

As a result of the early 1980s global economic recession, by the middle of the decade Ghana’s economy collapsed, leading to a debt crisis that spread across the African continent. This made conditions difficult for Barnor to continue his photographic practice, the troupe disbanded and in 1994 he returned to the UK. Barnor enrolled in business-management classes in the evening and secured a rehearsal space with the hope of reforming the troupe and bringing them to London but was unable to arrange work permits and relinquished the idea. Today, former members of Fee Hi are, as Barnor notes: ‘All over the diaspora. They have since joined other groups, and I feel very pleased. The memory of them will never leave me.’

Text from the Serpentine North Gallery

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Drum cover girl Erlin Ibreck at Trafalgar Square, London' 1966

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Drum cover girl Erlin Ibreck at Trafalgar Square, London
1966, modern print
C-Type Print
© James Barnor, courtesy galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

 

Throughout the 1960s James Barnor shot six covers for Drum, a leading lifestyle, culture and politics magazine on the African continent that also served as anti-apartheid platform. By combining studio portraiture and street photography, Barnor’s lens captured the experiences of a vibrant and growing Afro diasporic community in London, playing a key role in placing models of African descent such as Erlin Ibreck on the cover of Drum. Here he captured the experiences of another growing and vibrant ‘Swinging Sixties’ as articulated by the Afro diasporic community in their self-expression thus reclaiming of space and agency.

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Model playing drums: Constance Mulondo, 'Drum' cover, at London University Weekend with the band The Millionaires, London' 1967

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Model playing drums: Constance Mulondo, Drum cover, at London University Weekend with the band The Millionaires, London
1967
© James Barnor, courtesy galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Mike Eghan at Piccadilly Circus, London' 1967

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Mike Eghan at Piccadilly Circus, London
1967
© James Barnor/Autograph ABP, London

 

 

As part of his work with Drum, Barnor captured the BBC’s first Black broadcaster, Mike Eghan, on the steps of the famous Eros statue in Piccadilly Circus, central London. Another photo shows street-scouted cover girl, 19-year-old Erlin Ibreck – whom he met waiting for a bus – feeding pigeons in Trafalgar Square.

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Coffee night at Theobald's Road, London' 1960

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Coffee night at Theobald’s Road, London
1960
James Barnor/Courtesy Autograph ABP

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Pearly King, Petticoat Lane Market, London' 1960s

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Pearly King, Petticoat Lane Market, London
1960s
Courtesy Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Early morning in Covent Garden market in 1960s London' 1960s

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Early morning in Covent Garden market in 1960s London
1960s
Courtesy Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Drum cover girl Rosemarie Thompson, London' 1967

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Drum cover girl Rosemarie Thompson, London
1967
Courtesy of Autograph

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Wedding guests, London' 1960s

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Wedding guests, London
1960s
Courtesy of Autograph

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'A group of friends photographed during Mr. And Mrs Sackey's wedding, London' c. 1966

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
A group of friends photographed during Mr. And Mrs Sackey’s wedding, London
c. 1966
Courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'At Ataa Quarcoopome, family members at the occasion of the engagement of James cousin, Amanomo, Accra' c. 1970-71

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
At Ataa Quarcoopome, family members at the occasion of the engagement of James cousin, Amanomo, Accra
c. 1970-71
Courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) Wedding Portrait, Nii Ayi, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Accra 1970-1980

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Wedding Portrait, Nii Ayi, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Accra
1970-1980
Courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'E. K. Nyame, the legendary Ghanaian musician, photographed for a record cover, Accra' c. 1975

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
E. K. Nyame, the legendary Ghanaian musician, photographed for a record cover, Accra
c. 1975
Courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Sister holding Brother, Accra' 1979

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Sister holding Brother, Accra
1979
Courtesy Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) ''Drum' cover model Marie Hallowi at Charing Cross Station, London' 1966

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Drum cover model Marie Hallowi at Charing Cross Station, London

1966
Courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Members of the Tunbridge Wells Overseas Club, Relaxing after a Hot Summer Sunday Walk, Kent' c. 1968

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Members of the Tunbridge Wells Overseas Club, Relaxing after a Hot Summer Sunday Walk, Kent
c. 1968
Courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Two friends dressed for a church celebration with James' car, Accra' 1970

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Two friends dressed for a church celebration with James’ car, Accra
1970

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'James Barnor at the studio Agfa-Gevaert in Mortsel, Belgium' 1969

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
James Barnor at the studio Agfa-Gevaert in Mortsel, Belgium
1969
© James Barnor Courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Mavis and Mary Barnor with an Agfa advertising ball' 1970

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Mavis and Mary Barnor with an Agfa advertising ball
1970
© James Barnor/Autograph ABP, London

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Miss Sophia Salomon, Kokomlemle, Accra' c. 1972

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Miss Sophia Salomon, Kokomlemle, Accra
c. 1972
Courtesy of Autograph

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Salah Day, Kokomlemle, Accra' 1973

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Salah Day, Kokomlemle, Accra
1973
© James Barnor/Autograph ABP, London

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'A shop assistant at the Sick-Hagemeyer store. Accra' 1971

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
A shop assistant at the Sick-Hagemeyer store. Accra
1971
© James Barnor courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'A store assistant on Station Road, Accra' 1971

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
A store assistant on Station Road, Accra
1971
© James Barnor courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'AGIP calendar model' 1974

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
AGIP calendar model
1974
October Gallery, London

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Model posing for Agip 1 Calendar, Accra' c. 1974-1975

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Model posing for Agip 1 Calendar, Accra
c. 1974-1975
© James Barnor Courtesy of Galerie Clémentine de la Féronnière

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929) 'Fee Hii Cultural troupe' c. 1983-1984

 

James Barnor (Ghanian, b. 1929)
Fee Hii Cultural troupe
c. 1983-1984

 

'James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective' book cover

 

James Barnor: Accra/London – A Retrospective book cover

 

 

Serpentine Gallery
Kensington Gardens
London W2 3XA
Phone: 020 7402 6075

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10
Oct
21

Exhibition: ‘Mario Giacomelli: Figure | Ground’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 29th June – 10th October 2021

 

Mario Giacomelli. 'Puglia' 1958

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925 – 2000)
Apulia (Puglia)
1958
Gelatin silver print
28.2 × 39.2cm (11 1/8 × 15 7/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

The realist illusionist

When I look at the work of Mario Giacomelli, his photographs remind me why I love the practice of photography.

They discombobulate and disorientate me; they challenge me to see the world in a different way; they reveal new things over time the more one looks at them… and they act as momento mori for both human and land. His conceptual photographs, for that is what they are, are refreshed time and time again – through their impressions, through their graphic nature, and their lack of grounding in a fixed reality.

Whether it be the abstract photographs from the series Death Will Come and It Will Have Your Eyes, the shimmering figures from the series Scanno (are they really one negative!), the groundlessness of the figures in Young Priests, the abstract figuration of The Good Earth, or the spatial levitation of Metamorphosis of the Land / Awareness of Nature, the viewer is forced to reassess their relationship with the physical object (the photograph) and its representation and interpretation of our passage on this earth. As has been said of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, “The ways that stories are linked by geography, themes, or contrasts creates interesting effects and constantly forces the reader to evaluate the connections.”

Giacomelli’s photographs are active in this way: they act on the perceptions of the viewer in order to challenge what we understand of the interaction between human beings (he continued to photograph in his hometown of Senigallia for almost 50 years), and the interaction between human beings and the land (where his photographs “function as commentary on the capacity of both natural occurrences and human interventions to change the character of the land.”) As with many artists, the concerns that were present when he started photography – his subject matter informed by the people and places closest to him – remained with him for the rest of his life. Except he turned personal stories into universal narratives.

All of Giacomelli’s sequences (he conceived many of his series as sequences) required periods of sustained observation, where the artist embedded himself with and in his subject matter. Only in this way could the artist understand the spirit of the land and its people, his people. He had an innate ability to describe people and the land in a specific time and place… which, on reflection, seem to be timeless, like a fairy-tale or a lament. Places and people steeped in the past but in the photographs hovering on the edge of his nowhere.

The text for the series Metamorphosis of the Land in this posting perfectly sums up how much time Giacomelli took over a series, how conceptual his series were, and the artistic techniques he used to manipulate reality:

The photographs gathered under the title Metamorphosis of the Land were created over roughly two decades in the countryside surrounding Senigallia. Without a horizon line to anchor them, they are disorienting, requiring the viewer to rely on a lone house or tree as a focal point. Perspectival ambiguity abounds: Did Giacomelli take the photographs from an elevated or lowered vantage point? Did he hold the camera parallel or perpendicular to the land? Is this confusion a result of the inherent “verticality” of the hilly Marche region, or did Giacomelli rely on darkroom manipulation (such as printing on diagonally tilted sheets of photo paper) to create right-angled configurations of shapes that should otherwise recede in the distance, following the tenets of one-point perspective?

These ambiguities are further intensified by Giacomelli’s intention for this body of work to address issues of ecological neglect and loss. Deeply attuned to the rural geography and agricultural practices of the Marche, he was wary of the consequences that accompanied the shift from centuries-old systems of subdivided fields and crop rotation to modern methods of mechanisation and fertilisation that overtax the land by keeping it in constant use. The series is one of lament.

.
In his later series of transformation tales Giacomelli once again disrupts the flow of temporal reality. As he reflects on the death of his mother, his own mortality and the changing nature of the landscape, his photographs “mark a noticeable shift from Giacomelli’s earlier position of critiquing the slow degradation of the land to one that sets the stage for a more metaphysical contemplation of the interconnectivity of space, time, and being.” Of course, this contemplation had always been there since the beginnings of his photography where, “metaphysically speaking, understanding time means understanding the shared world that man encounters and with which man interacts.”

Through art techniques (double exposures, variable perspectives, slow shutter speeds, moving his camera during exposure, abrupt cropping, slight overexposure to reverse tonal values, the development of the negative, painting or scratching of areas on the negative to introduce elements of the absurd or surreal, use of high-contrast paper and darkroom manipulations) and conceptual structures (inspired by poems to create parallel narratives, repurposing “an image made for one series in another series, reinforcing the sense of fluidity that connects all of his work”), Giacomelli seeks to confront the inevitability of his own mortality and thus his return to earth. As he observes, “Of course [photography] cannot create, nor express all we want to express. But it can be a witness of our passage on earth…”

In Giacomelli’s unique interpretation of figure | ground lies his elevation into the “pantheon” of photographic stars. A self-taught artist, he was not encumbered or impeded by traditional photographic practice but described his own visual photographic language, instantly recognisable as his (once seen, never forgotten) signature. A stamp on the verso of each print in the series Awareness of Nature describes the series as “the work of man and my intervention (the signs, the material, the randomness, etc.) recorded as a document before being lost in the relative folds of time.”

In my humble opinion there is no fear, only elation, that Giacomelli’s essential work will ever be lost to the folds of time.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

Born into poverty and largely self-taught, Mario Giacomelli became one of Italy’s leading photographers. After purchasing his first camera in 1953, he began creating humanistic portrayals of people in their natural environments and dramatic abstractions of the landscapes. He continued to photograph in his hometown of Senigallia, on the Adriatic coast of Italy, for almost fifty years. Rendered in high-contrast black and white, his photographs are often gritty and raw, but always intensely personal.

This exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Daniel Greenberg (1941-2021) and is made possible through gifts made by him and Susan Steinhauser.

 

 

In nova fert animus mutatas dicere formas / corpora;
(I intend to speak of forms changed into new entities;)

.
Ovid. Metamorphoses, Book I, lines 1–2

 

Be ahead of all parting, as if it had already happened,
like winter, which even now is passing.
For beneath the winter is a winter so endless
that to survive it at all is a triumph of the heart.

Be forever dead in Eurydice, and climb back singing.
Climb praising as you return to connection.
Here among the disappearing, in the realm of the transient,
be a ringing glass that shatters as it rings.

Be. And know as well the need to not be:
let that ground of all that changes
bring you to completion now.

To all that has run its course, and to the vast unsayable
numbers of beings abounding in Nature,
add yourself gladly, and cancel the cost.

.
Rainer Maria Rilke. Sonnets to Orpheus II, 13

 

“Of course [photography] cannot create, nor express all we want to express. But it can be a witness of our passage on earth, like a notebook…
… For me each photo represents a moment, like breathing. Who can say the breath before is more important than the one after? They are continuous and follow each other until everything stops. How many times did we breathe tonight? Could you say one breath is more beautiful than the rest? But their sum makes up an existence.”

.
Mario Giacomelli, 1987

 

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Still Life with Figs' (Natura morta con fichi) 1960

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Still Life with Figs (Natura morta con fichi)
1960
Gelatin silver print
28.2 × 33.7cm (11 1/8 × 13 1/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Known for his gritty, black-and-white images, Mario Giacomelli is recognised as one of the foremost Italian photographers of the 20th century. Drawn from the Getty Museum’s deep holdings, the exhibition Mario Giacomelli: Figure | Ground features 91 photographs that showcase the raw expressiveness of the artist’s style, which echoed many of the concerns of postwar Neorealist film and Existentialist literature.

The exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Daniel Greenberg (1941-2021) and was made possible through generous gifts from him and his wife, Susan Steinhauser. As photography collectors for more than two decades and founding members of the Getty Museum Photographs Council, Greenberg and Steinhauser have been generous donors to the Getty. All of the photographs in this exhibition were donated by Greenberg and Steinhauser or purchased in part with funds they provided.

“After the Museum’s yearlong closure, we are particularly pleased to be able to reopen the Center for Photographs at the Getty Center with two important exhibitions that highlight the Museum’s extensive collections,” says Timothy Potts, Maria Hummer-Tuttle and Robert Tuttle Director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “We are especially pleased to honour the extraordinary contributions of Dan Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser, whose gifts of works by Giacomelli are the basis of the first monographic exhibition of the artist in a U.S. museum in 35 years. The exhibition and its catalogue are testament both to their passion as collectors and their generosity as benefactors to the Getty Museum over many years.”

 

Mario Giacomelli: Figure | Ground

Born into poverty, Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000) lived his entire life in Senigallia, a town on the Adriatic coast in Italy’s Marche region. He lost his father at an early age and took up poetry and painting before apprenticing as a printmaker, which became his livelihood. After purchasing his first camera in 1953, Giacomelli quickly gained recognition for his unique approach to photographing people, landscapes, and people in the landscape. Although photography was initially relegated to Sundays, when his printshop was closed, and to his immediate surroundings in the Marche, he became one of Italy’s most prominent practitioners.

Giacomelli’s use of flash, grainy film, and high-contrast paper resulted in bold, geometric compositions with deep blacks and glowing whites. He most frequently focused his camera on the people, landscapes, and seascapes of the Marche. He often spent several years exploring a photographic idea, expanding and reinterpreting it, or repurposing an image made for one series for inclusion in another. By applying titles derived from poetry, he transformed familiar subjects into meditations on the themes of time, memory, and existence.

Among Giacomelli’s earliest photographs are portraits of family and friends. His first, sustained body of work was Hospice, which he began in 1954 and later titled Death Will Come and It Will Have Your Eyes, after a poem by the writer Cesare Pavese. Depicting residents of the home for the elderly in Senigallia and made with flash, the images are characterised by their unflinching scrutiny of individuals living out their last days. Additional early series on view include Scanno (1957-59) and Young Priests (1961-63), both of which further demonstrate Giacomelli’s ability to describe people in a specific time and place. In both series, figures clothed in black are set against stark white backgrounds. While there is an underlying sense of furtiveness or foreboding in the Scanno images, the Young Priests series, which Giacomelli later titled I Have No Hands That Caress My Face, is uncharacteristically light-hearted. Another series, The Good Earth, follows a farming family going about daily life, planting and harvesting crops and tending to livestock in the countryside surrounding Senigallia; the intermingling of generations suggests the cyclical nature of existence.

Landscapes feature prominently in Giacomelli’s engagement with photography from the beginning. The exhibition features several early works dating from the 1950s, as well as signature series, such as Metamorphosis of the Land (1958-80) and Awareness of Nature (1976-80). Both series portray fields and small farms in the Marche region, many of which he revisited as seasons changed and crops were rotated. Giacomelli wanted to show how modernised cultivation practices were overtaxing the land and changing the landscape. He often photographed from a low or an elevated vantage point – including from a plane – to eliminate the horizon and create disorienting patchworks of geometric shapes or pulsating configurations of plowed furrows.

In his later years, Giacomelli created several series that intersperse landscapes with figure studies. He often merged the two genres in double exposures or by experimenting with slow shutter speeds and moving his camera during exposure to blur the lines between figure and ground. Several of these series were inspired by poems, both as composed by himself or by others. Giacomelli reflects on the interconnectedness of space, time, and being, in these works, which have a metaphysical quality. I Would Like to Tell This Memory is one of his last bodies of work. Incorporating various props, such as a mannequin, a stuffed dog, and stuffed birds, the images in the series suggest that the artist is reflecting on the inevitability of his own mortality.

“It is exciting to present this collection of Mario Giacomelli photographs assembled by Dan Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser over a period of almost twenty years,” says Virginia Heckert, curator of photographs at the Museum and curator of both exhibitions. “Not only does the exhibition introduce a new audience to Giacomelli’s work, but it does so through the eyes of the collectors, who were drawn to his expressive portrayals of people and the land.”

Press release from the J. Paul Getty Museum

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Infinite' about 1986-1988

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Infinite
about 1986-1988
Gelatin silver print
29.5 × 38.8cm (11 5/8 × 15 1/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Mario Giacomelli: Figure / Ground

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000) is widely regarded as one of the foremost Italian photographers of the twentieth century. Born into poverty, he lived his entire life in Senigallia, a town on the Adriatic coast in Italy’s Marche region. After losing his father at age nine and completing elementary school at eleven, he apprenticed as a typesetter and printer, while also teaching himself to paint and write poetry. With money given to him by a resident of the ospizio (hospice) where his mother worked, he opened a printshop, a business that ensured lifelong financial stability. His engagement with photography began shortly thereafter, occurring primarily on Sundays, when the shop was closed.

After purchasing his first camera in 1953, Giacomelli quickly gained recognition for the raw expressiveness of his images, which echoed many of the concerns of postwar Neorealist film and Existentialist literature, with their interests in the conditions of everyday life and in ordinary people as thinking, feeling individuals. His preference for grainy film and high-contrast paper resulted in bold, geometric compositions with deep blacks and glowing whites. Most frequently focusing his camera on the people, landscapes, and seascapes of the Marche, Giacomelli often spent several years exploring a photographic idea, expanding and reinterpreting it, or repurposing an image made for one series for inclusion in another. By applying titles derived from poetry, he transformed familiar subjects into meditations on the themes of time, memory, and existence.

 

Forming Giacomelli

As a young man, Giacomelli served briefly in the Italian army during World War II. His photographic practice shows the influence of two approaches prevalent in postwar European photography: humanism, which is often associated with photojournalism; and artistic expression as a means of exploring the inner psyche, which derived from the theory of Subjective photography advanced by Otto Steinert (German, 1915-1978). In Italy, these approaches found their respective counterparts in the camera clubs La Gondola (The Gondola), established in Venice in 1948, and La Bussola (The Compass), begun in Milan in 1947. Giacomelli, who was self-taught as a photographer, exchanged ideas with and learned from members of both clubs. He was also a cofounder of Misa, a local chapter of La Bussola named after Senigallia’s principal river.

Senigallia’s people and places were recurring motifs in Giacomelli’s work. In addition to revealing his interest in the different communities of his hometown, these photographs of a Romani family and of children frolicking on the beach demonstrate his ability to combine humanist and expressive impulses. Giacomelli understood that graininess, movement, and high contrast could do more than simply provide a veneer of abstraction; they also heighten the emotive power of images.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Figure (The Nude), No. 271' 1958; printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Figure (The Nude), No. 271
1958; printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
40.2 × 30.1cm (15 13/16 × 11 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Figure (My Mother), No. 130' 1956; printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Figure (My Mother), No. 130
1956; printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
40.1 × 30.1cm (15 13/16 × 11 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Early work (1956-60)

In 1955 Giacomelli acquired the secondhand Kobell camera with a Voigtländer lens that he would employ for the rest of his career. He later described it as something that had been “cobbled up,” held together with tape and always losing parts. Made by the Milanese manufacturers Boniforti & Ballerio, the camera used 120 roll film to produce 6 x 9 cm negatives and accommodated interchangeable lenses and a synchronised flash. For Giacomelli, it was not a device to record reality but a means of personal expression. His early association with members of local and national camera clubs and his experimentation with natural and artificial lighting, multiple exposures, and other in-camera and darkroom techniques soon led to the refinement of a unique visual language.

Among Giacomelli’s earliest photographs are portraits of family and friends; the image of his mother holding a spade is one of his most notable. He also staged still lifes and figure studies in his home and garden; the nudes shown here depict the photographer and his wife, Anna. Relatively conventional in composition, these works give a sense of Giacomelli learning his craft, while also indicating the extent to which his subject matter was informed by the people and places closest to him.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Hospice / Death Will Come and It Will Have Your Eyes' c. 1954-57

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Hospice / Death Will Come and It Will Have Your Eyes (Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi)
c. 1954-57
Gelatin silver print
29.2 × 38.9cm (11 1/2 × 15 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Death Will Come and It Will Have Your Eyes, No. 97' (Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi, No. 97) negative 1966; print 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Death Will Come and It Will Have Your Eyes, No. 97 (Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi, No. 97)
Negative 1966; print 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.3cm (11 7/8 × 15 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Death Will Come and It Will Have Your Eyes, No. 95' (Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi, No. 95) negative 1966; print 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Death Will Come and It Will Have Your Eyes, No. 95 (Verrà la morte e avrà i tuoi occhi, No. 95)
Negative 1966; print 1981
Gelatin silver print
40.2 × 30.1cm (15 13/16 × 11 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Hospice | Death Will Come and It Will Have Your Eyes (1954-83)

The first body of work that Giacomelli exhibited as a series was Hospice. It depicts residents of the home for the elderly in Senigallia where his mother was a laundress and which he visited for several years before he began photographing there. Made with flash, the resulting images are characterised by their unflinching scrutiny of individuals living out their last days. He later referred to these as his truest and most direct photographs because they reflected his own fear of growing old.

Giacomelli continued this series for almost three decades, renaming it Death Will Come and It Will Have Your Eyes in 1966 after the first few lines of a poem by the writer Cesare Pavese (Italian, 1908-1950). For a portfolio published in 1981 he heightened the unsettling qualities of mental and physical decline and isolation by tightly cropping his negatives and printing on paper that was curled rather than flat.

“Death will come and will have your eyes – this death that accompanies us from morning till evening, unsleeping.”

~ Translated by Geoffrey Brock, 2002

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Lourdes' 1957

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Lourdes
1957
Gelatin silver print
23.3 × 37.6cm (8 3/4 × 14 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Lourdes' 1957

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Lourdes
1957
Gelatin silver print
26.7 × 38.1cm (10 1/2 × 15 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Lourdes (1957 and 1966)

In contrast to Hospice / Death Will Come and It Will Have Your Eyes, the series Lourdes depicts people living with illness, injury, or disability who are in search of miraculous healing. Giacomelli received a commission to photograph at this Catholic pilgrimage site in southern France in 1957.

Tremendously pained by what he saw, he shot just a few rolls of film, returned the fee that had been advanced, and did not show anyone the images for some time. He travelled to Lourdes again in 1966, with his wife and second child. This time he, too, was in search of a cure, for their son, who had lost the ability to speak following an accident.

Lourdes is the only series that Giacomelli created outside Italy, although a group of photographs made in Ethiopia (1974) and another in India (1976) have been attributed to him. Giacomelli purchased cameras and film for two individuals who were planning travel to these countries, and both of them drew on previous discussions with him when they photographed at their respective locations. Giacomelli later made prints from the negatives and signed his name to several of them, acknowledging the collaboration.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Puglia' negative 1958, printed 1970

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Apulia (Puglia)
Negative 1958, printed 1970
Gelatin silver print
28.6 × 40cm (11 1/4 × 15 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Puglia' negative 1958, printed 1960

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Apulia (Puglia)
Negative 1958, printed 1960
Gelatin silver print
28.7 × 23.5cm (11 5/16 × 9 1/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Apulia (Puglia) (1958)

Giacomelli operated his printshop, Tipografia Marchigiana, in the centre of Senigallia. The successful establishment became a gathering place for photographers, artists, and critics, and provided the address stamped on the verso of all his photographs. In its early years, the business occupied the majority of Giacomelli’s time, leaving only Sundays for photography excursions. While he most often explored his hometown, its beaches, and the surrounding countryside in the Marche region, he occasionally traveled farther afield.

For this series, made in Apulia, Italy’s most southeastern province (the “heel of the boot”), a journey of about 330 miles was required. There he focused his attention on the interaction of multiple generations of townspeople gathering leisurely against the simple, whitewashed architecture typical of hillside towns such as Rodi Garganico, Peschici, Vico del Gargano, and Monte Sant’Angelo. These images provide insight into Giacomelli’s ability to engage his subjects, while also underscoring a fundamental humanistic impulse in his work.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Scanno' negative 1957-59, printed later

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Scanno
negative 1957-59, printed later
Gelatin silver print
29.8 × 39.6cm (11 3/4 × 15 9/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Scanno' negative 1957-59, printed 1980s

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Scanno
negative 1957-59, printed 1980s
Gelatin silver print
26.8 × 34cm (10 9/16 × 13 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Scanno, No. 52' 1957-59; printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Scanno, No. 52
1957-59; printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.2cm (11 7/8 × 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Scanno, No. 57' 1957-59; printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Scanno, No. 57
1957-59; printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.2cm (11 7/8 × 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Scanno' 1957-59

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Scanno
1957-59
Gelatin silver print
37.9 × 28.4cm (14 15/16 × 11 3/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Scanno (1957-59)

Following his sustained observation of hospice residents in Senigallia, the photographs that Giacomelli made during trips to Scanno in 1957 and 1959 further demonstrate his ability to describe people in a specific time and place. In this town located in the Apennine Mountains of central Italy, about 270 miles south of Senigallia, Giacomelli encountered men and women going about their daily chores or gathering in the square, draped in dark garments or cloaks, their heads covered with hats or scarves. Even when congregating, subjects seem to be isolated or lost in thought. Whether in sharp focus or blurred by movement, the occasional individual who looks directly into his camera suggests a sense of mystery or furtiveness. Giacomelli used a slow shutter speed and shallow depth of field to photograph these stark, black-clad figures against whitewashed architectural settings, introducing indistinct passages that amplify the fairy-tale mood of a town that appears to be irretrievably steeped in the past.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Young Priests' (Pretini) Negative 1961-1963

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Young Priests (Pretini)
Negative 1961-1963
Gelatin silver print
29 × 38.6cm (11 7/16 × 15 3/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Young Priests, No. 70'

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Young Priests, No. 70 (Pretini, No. 70)
Negative 1961-1963; print 1981
Gelatin silver print
40.3 × 30.1cm (15 7/8 × 11 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Young Priests, No. 72'

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Young Priests, No. 72 (Pretini, No. 72)
Negative 1961-1963; print 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.2cm (11 7/8 × 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Young Priests, No. 71'

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Young Priests, No. 71 (Pretini, No. 71)
Negative 1961-1963; print 1981
Gelatin silver print
40.3 × 30.1cm (15 7/8 × 11 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Young Priests, No. 74'

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Young Priests, No. 74 (Pretini, No. 74)
Negative 1961-1963; print 1981
Gelatin silver print
40.3 × 30.1cm (15 7/8 × 11 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Young PriestsI Have No Hands That Caress My Face (1961-63)

Among Giacomelli’s most memorable images are those of pretini (young priests) in the seminary of Senigallia, whom he captured playing in the snow or relaxing in the courtyard. Once again juxtaposing the distinctive shapes of black-clad figures (this time, seminarians in cassocks) against a white ground (snow-covered or sun-drenched settings), these photographs suggest a more lighthearted mood than is evident in other series. Although appearing to have been choreographed, they are the result of the priests’ unbridled joviality as they run, throw snowballs, or play ring-around-the-rosy, and of Giacomelli’s foresight to let the scenes unfold as he recorded them from the building’s rooftop.

After Giacomelli had won the trust of the seminarians, his interaction with them was brought to an abrupt end when he provided the young men with cigars for photographs he intended to submit to a competition on the theme of smoking. The rector denied him further access. Giacomelli later applied the title I Have No Hands That Caress My Face to this series, from the first two lines of a poem by Father David Maria Turoldo (Italian, 1916-1992) about young men who seek solitary religious life. This title lends poignancy to the moments of exuberance and camaraderie that accompanied study for such a calling.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Landscape: Flames on the Field' (Paesaggio, fiamme sul campo) 1954; printed 1980

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Landscape: Flames on the Field (Paesaggio, fiamme sul campo)
1954; printed 1980
Gelatin silver print
28.6 × 39cm (11 1/4 × 15 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Early landscapes (1954-60)

Italy’s Marche region is characterised by rolling hills, small farms, and frazioni (hamlets), all of which were among the first motifs that Giacomelli photographed. As with his portraits and figure studies from this period, the compositions of his early landscapes were fairly conventional, with foreground, middle-ground, and background elements organised around a clearly discernible horizon line. As he refined his technique, however, Giacomelli often positioned himself at the top of a hill pointing his camera downward or at the base aiming it upward, thereby eliminating the horizon and creating a disorienting patchwork of geometric shapes. His development of the negative, use of high-contrast paper, and manipulations in the darkroom further enhanced the distinctively graphic qualities of his images. It was not uncommon for him to scratch forms into his negatives to add dramatic counterpoints.

Over the years, Giacomelli returned to certain sites multiple times, documenting them during different seasons and crop rotations. He would later incorporate photographs made for one purpose into a series that had other ambitions, most notably to function as commentary on the capacity of both natural occurrences and human interventions to change the character of the land.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Good Earth' (La Buona Terra) 1964-66; printed 1970s

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Good Earth (La Buona Terra)
1964-66
Gelatin silver print
14.3 × 38.9cm (5 5/8 × 15 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Good Earth' (La Buona Terra) 1964-66; printed before 1980

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Good Earth (La Buona Terra)
1964-66; printed before 1980
Gelatin silver print
30.3 × 40.3cm (11 15/16 × 15 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Good Earth' (La Buona Terra) 1964-66; printed early 1970s

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Good Earth (La Buona Terra)
1964-66; printed early 1970s
Gelatin silver print
28.9 × 38.9cm (11 3/8 × 15 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Good Earth' 1964-66; printed 1970s

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Good Earth (La Buona Terra)
1964-66; printed 1970s
Gelatin silver print
28.6 × 39.4cm (11 1/4 × 15 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Good Earth, No. 146' (La Buona Terra, No. 146) 1964-65; printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Good Earth, No. 146 (La Buona Terra, No. 146)
1964-65; printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30 × 40.2cm (11 13/16 × 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Good Earth, No. 208' (La Buona Terra, No. 208) 1964-65; printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Good Earth, No. 208 (La Buona Terra, No. 208)
1964-65; printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30 × 40.2cm (11 13/16 × 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Good Earth, No. 219' (La Buona Terra, No. 219) 1964-65; printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Good Earth, No. 219 (La Buona Terra, No. 219)
1964-65; printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30 × 40.2cm (11 13/16 × 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

The Good Earth (1964-66)

For this series, Giacomelli followed a farming family off and on over several years as they went about their daily lives in the countryside surrounding Senigallia, planting and harvesting crops and tending livestock. Once he had gained their trust, he began to make photographs that underscored the cyclical nature of their existence, including both the intermingling of multiple generations and the interweaving of daily chores and responsibilities with moments of leisure and renewal. The Good Earth tells a story of resilience, self-sufficiency, and continuity. The last of these is symbolised by the recurring motif of towering haystacks that serve as the backdrop for work, play, and the celebration of a young couple’s wedding.

Periodically Giacomelli asked the family, with whom he maintained a friendship beyond this project, to use their tractor to plough patterns in fields that lay fallow. The resulting images, which form the basis of his series Awareness of Nature, address the issue of humankind’s interventions in the landscape. Examples are on display in the final gallery of the exhibition.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Metamorphosis of the Land' (Metamorfosi della terra) 1976

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Metamorphosis of the Land (Metamorfosi della terra)
1976
Gelatin silver print
29.2 × 39.4cm  (11 1/2 x 15 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Metamorphosis of the Land, No. 2' (Metamorfosi della terra, No. 2) 1971; printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Metamorphosis of the Land, No. 2 (Metamorfosi della terra, No. 2)
1971, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
29.5 × 39.1cm  (11 5/8 x 15 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Metamorphosis of the Land, No. 10' (Metamorfosi della terra, No. 10) 1974, printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Metamorphosis of the Land, No. 10 (Metamorfosi della terra, No. 10)
1974, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.2cm  (11 7/8 x 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Metamorphosis of the Land, No. 19' (Metamorfosi della terra, No. 19) Before 1966, printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Metamorphosis of the Land, No. 19 (Metamorfosi della terra, No. 19)
Before 1966, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.2cm  (11 7/8 x 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Metamorphosis of the Land, No. 283' (Metamorfosi della terra, No. 283) Before 1968, printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Metamorphosis of the Land, No. 283 (Metamorfosi della terra, No. 283)
Before 1968, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.2cm  (11 7/8 x 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Metamorphosis of the Land' (Metamorfosi della terra) 1958; printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Metamorphosis of the Land (Metamorfosi della terra)
1958; printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
40.2cm × 30.2cm  (15 13/16 x 11 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Metamorphosis of the Land, No. 5' (Metamorfosi della terra, No. 5) 1971, printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Metamorphosis of the Land, No. 5 (Metamorfosi della terra, No. 5)
1971, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
40.2cm × 30.1cm  (15 13/16 x 11 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Metamorphosis of the Land (1958-60)

The photographs gathered under the title Metamorphosis of the Land were created over roughly two decades in the countryside surrounding Senigallia. Without a horizon line to anchor them, they are disorienting, requiring the viewer to rely on a lone house or tree as a focal point. Perspectival ambiguity abounds: Did Giacomelli take the photographs from an elevated or lowered vantage point? Did he hold the camera parallel or perpendicular to the land? Is this confusion a result of the inherent “verticality” of the hilly Marche region, or did Giacomelli rely on darkroom manipulation (such as printing on diagonally tilted sheets of photo paper) to create right-angled configurations of shapes that should otherwise recede in the distance, following the tenets of one-point perspective?

These ambiguities are further intensified by Giacomelli’s intention for this body of work to address issues of ecological neglect and loss. Deeply attuned to the rural geography and agricultural practices of the Marche, he was wary of the consequences that accompanied the shift from centuries-old systems of subdivided fields and crop rotation to modern methods of mechanisation and fertilisation that overtax the land by keeping it in constant use. The series is one of lament.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Awareness of Nature' (Presa di coscienza sulla natura) 1976

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Awareness of Nature (Presa di coscienza sulla natura)
1976
Gelatin silver print
29.7 × 39.5cm  (11 11/16 x 15 9/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Awareness of Nature, No. 3' (Presa di coscienza sulla natura, No. 3) 1970-74, printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Awareness of Nature, No. 3 (Presa di coscienza sulla natura, No. 3)
1970-74, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.2cm  (11 7/8 x 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Awareness of Nature, No. 38' (Presa di coscienza sulla natura, No. 38) 1970, printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Awareness of Nature, No. 38 (Presa di coscienza sulla natura, No. 38)
1970, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.3cm  (11 7/8 x 15 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Awareness of Nature, No. 171' (Presa di coscienza sulla natura, No. 171) 1980, printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Awareness of Nature, No. 171 (Presa di coscienza sulla natura, No. 171)
1980, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.3cm  (11 7/8 x 15 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Awareness of Nature, No. 471' (Presa di coscienza sulla natura, No. 471) 1980, printed 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Awareness of Nature, No. 471 (Presa di coscienza sulla natura, No. 471)
1980, printed 1981
Gelatin silver print
40.2 x 30.1cm  (15 13/16 x 11 7/8  in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Awareness of Nature (1976-80)

The photographs in this series are among Giacomelli’s most iconic, notable for their gritty, graphic abstraction, which he achieved with an aerial perspective and by using expired film to exaggerate the contrast between black and white. Finding a poetic reciprocity in portraying land that was undergoing “sad devastation” with film that was “dead,” Giacomelli perceived these images as a means of resuscitating his beloved Marche countryside and endowing it with a different kind of beauty. The ploughed fields pulsate with a rhythmic intensity that is absent from previous pictures, in part because he asked that some of these furrows be cut into the land (by the farming family he featured in The Good Earth). A stamp on the verso of each print describes the series further as “the work of man and my intervention (the signs, the material, the randomness, etc.) recorded as a document before being lost in the relative folds of time.” The images resonate conceptually with the Land Art, or Earth Art, movement of the late 1960s and 1970s, in which artists used the landscape to create site-specific sculptures and art forms. As was his custom, Giacomelli incorporated photographs from earlier series, which may have been made from a neighbouring hilltop or did not include his interventions.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'My Marche' (Le mie Marche) 1975-80

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
My Marche (Le mie Marche)
1975-80
Gelatin silver print
25.1 × 37.7cm  (9 7/8 x 14 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'My Marche' (Le mie Marche) 1970s-80s

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
My Marche (Le mie Marche)
1970s-80s
Gelatin silver print
19.7 × 28.1cm  (7 3/4 x 11 1/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'My Marche' (Le mie Marche) 1970s-90s

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
My Marche (Le mie Marche)
1970s-90s
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.3cm  (11 7/8 x 15 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Late work (1980s)

Giacomelli conceived many of his series as sequences that tell the stories of individuals in a particular time and place. He interspersed portraits with landscapes, but he also merged these genres in double exposures or by experimenting with slow shutter speeds and moving his camera during exposure to blur the lines between figure and ground. And once again, he often repurposed an image made for one series in another series, reinforcing the sense of fluidity that connects all of his work. Several of these sequences were inspired by poems, not in an attempt to illustrate them, but to create parallel narratives.

Although the photographs in this section derive from several different series, they share a sense of setting the location or mood. Most easily categorised as landscapes, they mark a noticeable shift from Giacomelli’s earlier position of critiquing the slow degradation of the land to one that sets the stage for a more metaphysical contemplation of the interconnectivity of space, time, and being. The majority were made in the 1980s, when Giacomelli was reflecting on the loss of his mother (who died in 1986), his growing international reputation as a photographer, and his own mortality.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Sea of My Stories' (Il mare dei miei racconti) 1984, printed 1990

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Sea of My Stories (Il mare dei miei racconti)
1984, printed 1990
Gelatin silver print
30.3 × 40.3cm  (11 15/16 x 15 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Sea of My Stories' (Il mare dei miei racconti) 1983-87

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Sea of My Stories (Il mare dei miei racconti)
1983-87
Gelatin silver print
27.6 × 34.9cm  (10 7/8 x 13 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

The Sea of My Stories (1983-87)

Giacomelli noted that the sea referred to in the title of this series was that of his childhood, the Adriatic, but in fact it was the sea of his entire lifetime. He made his first photographs along Senigallia’s shore after purchasing a camera in 1953. Some thirty years later, curiosity about how an aerial perspective might transform people’s appearance led him to hire a friend who owned an airplane to fly him above the region’s beaches. The resulting compositions create abstract patterns from the shapes and shadows of bathers, deck chairs, umbrellas, and boats against the sand.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'I Would Like to Tell This Memory' (Questo ricordo lo vorrei raccontare) 2000

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
I Would Like to Tell This Memory (Questo ricordo lo vorrei raccontare)
2000
Gelatin silver print
22.1 × 29.5cm  (8 11/16 x 11 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'I Would Like to Tell This Memory' (Questo ricordo lo vorrei raccontare) 2000

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
I Would Like to Tell This Memory (Questo ricordo lo vorrei raccontare)
2000
Gelatin silver print
22.4 × 30.2cm  (8 13/16 x 11 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

I Would Like To Tell This Memory (2000)

The poetic title of this series reflects the increasingly pensive mood of Giacomelli’s late work. We occasionally glimpse the photographer himself as he engages with an odd assortment of props, including stuffed dogs and birds, a mannequin and mask. His abrupt cropping, slight overexposure to reverse tonal values, and painting or scratching of areas on the negative introduce elements of the absurd or surreal as means to confront the inevitability of his own mortality. The series, one of his last, is a meditation on melancholy, loss, and the passage of time.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Theater of Snow' (Il teatro della neve) 1981-84

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Theater of Snow (Il teatro della neve)
1981-84
Gelatin silver print
24.2 × 31.2cm  (9 1/2 x 12 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Theater of Snow' (Il teatro della neve) 1981-84

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Theater of Snow (Il teatro della neve)
1981-84
Gelatin silver print
28.9 × 38.4cm  (11 3/8 x 15 1/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Reflecting on Giacomelli

Giacomelli died in November 2000 after a long illness. He had continued working on several photographic series until his final days, with the poignantly titled I Would Like to Tell This Memory attesting to his deeply introspective temperament. From his unpromising beginnings as an impoverished, poorly educated boy, Giacomelli redirected the course of his life, maintaining a successful printing business that provided financial security and dedicating himself to the arts as a means of self-expression. Though he was self-taught in poetry, painting, and photography, it was with this last medium that he created a sense of continuity and fluidity throughout his life. He gained international acclaim as one of Italy’s most prominent photographers despite having made the majority of his photographs in his hometown of Senigallia and the neighbouring Marche region.

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Stories of the Land' (Storie di terra) Negative 1955; print 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Stories of the Land (Storie di terra)
Negative 1955; print 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.2cm (11 7/8 × 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Stories of the Land' (Storie di terra) Negative 1956; print 1981

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Stories of the Land (Storie di terra)
Negative 1956; print 1981
Gelatin silver print
30.1 × 40.2cm (11 7/8 × 15 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Collecting Giacomelli

Between 2016 and 2020, Los Angeles-based collectors Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser donated 109 photographs by Mario Giacomelli to the J. Paul Getty Museum. Their collection covers broad swaths of Giacomelli’s oeuvre, from some of his earliest images to those made in the final years of his life. Drawn from their donations, this exhibition is conceived not as a comprehensive retrospective but as an opportunity to consider the collectors’ vision in assembling these holdings over a period of twenty years, teasing out what they perceived to be key concerns of Giacomelli’s practice: people (la gente) and the landscape (paesaggio), as well as people in the landscape – the “figure/ground” relationship of the exhibition’s subtitle.

The Getty Museum also acknowledges the Mario Giacomelli Archive, based in Senigallia, Sassoferrato, and Latina, Italy, for assistance in confirming titles and dates. Throughout his career, Giacomelli returned to individual images, rethinking and reworking them for subsequent series, often complicating the task of assigning definitive titles or dates. Thanks as well to Stephan Brigidi of the Bristol Workshops in Photography for providing information about the artist’s 1981 portfolios, La gente and Paesaggio. The portfolio prints are interspersed throughout the four galleries of the exhibition, presented in shallower frames with a slightly wider face.

Text from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'The Painter Mauro Marinelli' Negative 1960; print probably 1966

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
The Painter Mauro Marinelli
Negative 1960; print probably 1966
Gelatin silver print
36.2 × 24cm (14 1/4 × 9 7/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased in part with funds provided by Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

 

Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000) had a poet’s eye for the startlingly abstract order man can impose on nature and a poet’s understanding of the great disorder that is the human condition.

Giacomelli became an apprentice in typography when he was 13. As a young man, he worked as a typographer, painting on weekends and writing poetry. Inspired by the wartime movies of filmmakers like Fellini, Giacomelli taught himself still photography. He found his art in the generally impoverished countryside around Senigallia, a small town on the shores of the Adriatic Sea, where he lived all his life and whose farmlands and people were the subjects of his spare, often darkly expressionist work.

In 1954, Giacomelli began to photograph the home for the elderly where his mother had worked, completing the series in 1983. Empathetic but grittily unsentimental, the pictures show many women seemingly marooned in the sea of old age. In 1985-87, Mr. Giacomelli revisited the subject for his series Ninna Nanna, which means lullaby. This time, the deeply lined, gaunt faces of the aged are a bleak counterpoint to the bold lines and patterns found in the fields and on the sides of houses.

Giacomelli’s overhead views of mystifyingly abstract, horizonless landscapes, which he took from the time he snapped his first pictures, in late 1952, through the 1990’s, place him in the company of photographers like William Garnett and Minor White. Giacomelli’s 1970s images of geometric patterns in the fields of his hometown, Senigallia, bear striking parallels to Aaron Siskind’s contemporaneous photographs of wall abstractions.

Adapted from the artist’s New York Times obituary

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Children at the sea' (Bambini al mare) 1959

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Children at the sea (Bambini al mare)
1959
Ferrotyped gelatin silver print
24.2 x 39.4cm (9 1/2 x 15 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000) 'Landscape: Tobacco' 1955-56, printed 1980

 

Mario Giacomelli (Italian, 1925-2000)
Landscape: Tobacco
1955-56, printed 1980
35.9 x 26.7cm (14 1/8 x 10 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
Reproduced courtesy Mario Giacomelli Archive
© Rita and Simone Giacomelli

 

'Mario Giacomelli: Figure | Ground' book cover

 

Mario Giacomelli: Figure | Ground book cover

 

 

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

Opening hours:
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The J. Paul Getty Museum website

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07
Oct
21

Exhibition: ‘Ernst A. Heiniger – Good Morning, World!’ at Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur, Zürich

Exhibition dates: 5th June – 10th October 2021

Curators: Teresa Gruber and Katharina Rippstein

 

 

Ernst A. Heiniger (Swiss, 1909-1993) '"Bjesprisorni", Sleeping boy in Leningrad' 1932

 

Ernst A. Heiniger (Swiss, 1909-1993)
“Bjesprisorni”, Sleeping boy in Leningrad
1932
© Fotostiftung Schweiz

 

 

An end of week posting before the exhibition closes.

Ernst A. Heiniger seems to have been a man of much learning and creativity … a polymath.

He belonged to the avant-garde of the Swiss “New Photography” movement in the 1930s; he was a retoucher by trade who taught himself the art of photography. He created one of the first photobooks in Switzerland; he created innovative designs combining photography and graphic design, photo | graphic design, “an entirely novel concept at the time.” He made posters. He started shooting short black and white promotional and documentary films. He taught himself the wide format of Cinemascope and Technicolor film – “previously untested creative tools for Heiniger” – and was hired by Walt Disney to shoot his “edutainment” films all over the world. He was commissioned to produce a 360 degree film for Expo 64 in Lausanne and produced the oldest panorama shots in Switzerland (see video below), and then went on to develop his own 360 degree recording and projection technology in 1965, which was ready for use under the name “Swissorama” at the beginning of the 1980s (see images and film below).

What an artist, what creativity, intelligence and drive. Was there nothing this man couldn’t do!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

Ernst A. Heiniger (Swiss, 1909-1993) 'Bahnhofplatz, Zurich' 1933

 

Ernst A. Heiniger (Swiss, 1909-1993)
Bahnhofplatz, Zurich
1933
© Fotostiftung Schweiz

 

Ernst A. Heiniger (Swiss, 1909-1993) 'Jumping over a crevasse, Bernese Oberland' 1933

 

Ernst A. Heiniger (Swiss, 1909-1993)
Jumping over a crevasse, Bernese Oberland
1933
© Fotostiftung Schweiz

 

Ernst A. Heiniger (Swiss, 1909-1993) 'Grey and Brown, Puszta (Hungary)' 1936

 

Ernst A. Heiniger (Swiss, 1909-1993)
Grey and Brown, Puszta (Hungary)
1936
© Fotostiftung Schweiz

 

Ernst A. Heiniger (Swiss, 1909-1993) 'White wine star' 1939

 

Ernst A. Heiniger (Swiss, 1909-1993)
White wine star
1939
© Fotostiftung Schweiz

 

Ernst A. Heiniger (Swiss, 1909-1993) 'Rope team on the Bianco ridge, Grisons' 1941

 

Ernst A. Heiniger (Swiss, 1909-1993)
Rope team on the Bianco ridge, Grisons
1941
© Fotostiftung Schweiz

 

Ernst A. Heiniger (Swiss, 1909-1993) 'Fitting' 1942

 

Ernst A. Heiniger (Swiss, 1909-1993)
Fitting
1942
© Fotostiftung Schweiz

 

Ernst A. Heiniger (Swiss, 1909-1993) 'Water drop' 1943

 

Ernst A. Heiniger (Swiss, 1909-1993)
Water drop
1943
© Fotostiftung Schweiz

 

 

Ernst A. Heiniger (1909-1993) belonged to the avant-garde of the Swiss “New Photography” movement in the 1930s. A photo retoucher by trade, he taught himself the art of photography autodidactically. He quickly developed a keen sense for contemporary and modern aesthetics and soon became one of the first photographers to be admitted to the Swiss Werkbund (SWB). After this initial spark to his career, Heiniger constantly took on new challenges and continued to do pioneering work. In 1936 he created Puszta-Pferde (“Horses in Hungary”), one of the first modern photobooks in Switzerland. He worked with well-known graphic artists such as Heiri Steiner, Herbert Matter and Josef Müller-Brockmann and created innovative designs by combining photography and graphic design, an entirely novel concept at the time. In the 1950s, Heiniger travelled the world as a documentary filmmaker for Walt Disney – two of his short films were awarded an Oscar. He later created Switzerland’s first 360 degree film for Expo 64 in Lausanne.

Even though Ernst A. Heiniger’s visual worlds were admired by a broad public in his day, his name is still largely absent from the canon of Swiss photographic history. In 1986, he left Switzerland determined never to return and lived in Los Angeles until his death in 1993. Since then, the Fotostiftung Schweiz has sought to return his photographic estate to Switzerland – which it finally accomplished in 2014. The exploration and processing of his archive provide the basis for the first comprehensive retrospective of this creative visual designer. The exhibition Ernst A. Heiniger – Good Morning, World! shows object and nature photographs, photobooks, posters, films, making-of pictures and documentaries that situate his work within the history of photography. His 360 degree film Rund um Rad und Schiene (“Magic of the Rails”) – the SBB’s attraction at Expo 64 in Lausanne – has been recreated as an all-around projection. Ernst A. Heiniger’s diverse photographic and cinematic oeuvre was always at the cutting edge of technology and oscillates between cool perfection and sensual closeness to nature.

 

New Photography and the Swiss Werkbund

In 1929, at the age of twenty, Ernst A. Heiniger set up his own business as a positive retoucher. In the same year, the exhibition Film und Foto (FiFo) by the German Werkbund took place at the School of Applied Arts in Zurich. The title of the exhibition was to be emblematic of Heiniger’s further career, as the two camera-based media, film and photography, defined his entire artistic output. At the time, the international touring exhibition was considered a manifesto for a modern visual aesthetic. The terms “Neues Sehen” (New Vision) and “Neue