12
May
10

Exhibition: ‘The Platinum Process: Photographs from the Nineteenth to the Twenty-First Century’ at Philadelphia Museum of Art

Exhibition dates: 27th February – 23rd May 2010

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943) 'Kelmscott Manor: Attics' 1896

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943)
Kelmscott Manor: Attics
1896
Platinum print
Image and sheet: 6 1/16 × 7 7/8 inches (15.4 × 20cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Gift of the artist, 1932

 

 

Attics often serve as metaphors for the space where memories reside. Here Frederick Evans captures the warm glow, the simple, rough-hewn timbers, and the striking geometry of the attic at Kelmscott Manor, the beloved summer retreat of designer William Morris (British, 1834-1896).

Morris, the leader of the Arts and Crafts movement – which valued Britain’s craft tradition and rejected its industrial revolution – drew inspiration from the architecture and workmanship of Kelmscott, designed and constructed in the 1500s. In 1896 Morris invited Evans to photograph the home, which he felt embodied the memory of Britain’s aesthetic past.

Text from the Philadelphia Museum of Art website

 

 

Platinum prints always have such luminosity. A Sea of Steps by Fredrick H. Evans (1903, below) is a knockout. I remember some beautiful platinum prints many years ago (1989) up in Sydney at the Museum of Contemporary Art in the touring exhibition Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Moment that were an absolute knockout as well. Pity he didn’t print them himself but they were still superlative!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to Shen Shellenberger and the Philadelphia Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the last five images in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943) 'Kelmscott Manor' 1896

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943)
Kelmscott Manor
1896
Platinum print
Image and sheet: 7 3/8 × 4 1/4 inches (18.7 × 10.8cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Purchased with funds contributed by Dorothy Norman and with the Director’s Discretionary Fund, 1968

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943) 'Angers: Prefecture, Sculptured Arches of 11th-12th Century' c. 1906-1907

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943)
Angers: Prefecture, Sculptured Arches of 11th-12th Century
c. 1906-1907
Platinum print
Image and sheet: 9 11/16 × 7 7/8 inches (24.6 × 20 cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Purchased with funds contributed by Dorothy Norman and with the Director’s Discretionary Fund, 1968

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943) 'Southwell Cathedral, Chapter House Capital' 1898

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943)
Southwell Cathedral, Chapter House Capital
1898
Platinum print
Philadelphia Museum of Art

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943) 'View across the nave to the transept at York Minster' 1901

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943)
View across the nave to the transept at York Minster
1901
Platinum print
Philadelphia Museum of Art

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943) 'Durham Cathedral: West End Nave' 1912

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943)
Durham Cathedral: West End Nave
1912
Platinum print
Image and sheet: 9 1/2 × 4 13/16 inches (24.1 × 12.3cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Purchased with funds contributed by Dorothy Norman, 1973

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943) 'Ancient crypt cellars in Provins' 1910

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943)
Ancient crypt cellars in Provins
1910
Platinum print
Philadelphia Museum of Art

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943) 'Westminster Abbey: North Transept: East Side' 1911

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943)
Westminster Abbey: North Transept: East Side
1911
Platinum print
Image and sheet: 9 7/16 × 6 inches (23.9 × 15.3cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Purchased with the Lola Downin Peck Fund, 1969

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943) 'Westminster Abbey: Staircase in Confessor's Chapel' 1911

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943)
Westminster Abbey: Staircase in Confessor’s Chapel
1911
Platinum print
Image and sheet: 9 1/2 × 6 1/8 inches (24.2 × 15.6cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Purchased with the Lola Downin Peck Fund, 1969

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943) 'Westminster Abbey: From the South Transept' 1911

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943)
Westminster Abbey: From the South Transept
1911
Platinum print
Image and sheet: 9 1/2 × 7 7/16 inches (24.2 × 18.9cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Purchased with the Lola Downin Peck Fund, 1969

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943) 'Westminster Abbey: East Ambulatory' 1911

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943)
Westminster Abbey: East Ambulatory
1911
Platinum print
Image and sheet: 9 5/16 × 6 11/16 inches (23.7 × 17cm)
Purchased with the Lola Downin Peck Fund, 1969

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943) 'Westminster Abbey: 12th-Century Mosaic Floor at the Sanctuary' 1911

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943)
Westminster Abbey: 12th-Century Mosaic Floor at the Sanctuary
1911
Platinum print
Image and sheet: 7 5/16 × 8 7/8 inches (18.6 × 22.6 cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Purchased with the Lola Downin Peck Fund, 1969

 

 

Although Evans indicated that this mosaic floor was created in the twelfth century, the surface surrounding the High Altar of Westminster Abbey was in fact laid in 1268. King Henry III (1207-1272) commissioned the mosaic from Roman craftsmen who specialised in the opus sectile, or “cut work” technique, commonly called “Cosmati” after a well-known Italian family of mosaic artists. Materials used here include blue, red, and turquoise glass as well as yellow limestone, purple porphyry, green serpentine, and onyx. Evans’s unusual composition privileges the floor, drawing attention to the intricate and abstract design of squares, rectangles, and roundels.

Text from the Philadelphia Museum of Art website

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943) 'Westminster Abbey: East End, North Ambulatory' 1911

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943)
Westminster Abbey: East End, North Ambulatory
1911
Platinum print
Image and sheet: 9 3/8 × 7 1/2 inches (23.8 × 19.1cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Purchased with the Lola Downin Peck Fund, 1969

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943) 'Westminster Abbey: Apse from Choir' 1911

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943)
Westminster Abbey: Apse from Choir
1911
Platinum print
Image and sheet: 9 7/16 × 7 1/2 inches (23.9 × 19.1cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Purchased with the Lola Downin Peck Fund, 1969

 

 

Country Life magazine commissioned Evans to photograph the interior of London’s Westminster Abbey in 1911, while the church was closed to worshipers in preparation for the coronation of King George V (1865-1936) and Queen Mary (1867-1953). Although the construction and removal of temporary facilities relating to the coronation regularly disrupted Evans’s work, the more than fifty photographs in the resulting portfolio reveal only the timeless beauty and grandeur of the Gothic structure that has hosted thirty-eight royal coronations since the year 1066.

Text from the Philadelphia Museum of Art website

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943) 'Westminster Abbey: Henry VII Chapel, Detail of Henry VII Tomb' 1911

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943)
Westminster Abbey: Henry VII Chapel, Detail of Henry VII Tomb
1911
Platinum print
Image and sheet: 8 1/16 × 7 3/16 inches (20.4 × 18.2cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Purchased with the Lola Downin Peck Fund, 1969

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943) 'Westminster Abbey: Tomb of Edward III, Mary and William' 1911

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943)
Westminster Abbey: Tomb of Edward III, Mary and William
1911
Platinum print
Image and sheet: 8 11/16 × 6 5/8 inches (22.1 × 16.9cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Purchased with the Lola Downin Peck Fund, 1969

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943) 'York Minster - In Sure and Certain Hope' 1903

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943)
York Minster – In Sure and Certain Hope
1903
Platinum print
Philadelphia Museum of Art

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943) 'A Sea of Steps - Stairs to Chapter House - Wells Cathedral' 1903

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943)
A Sea of Steps – Stairs to Chapter House – Wells Cathedral
1903
Platinum print
Philadelphia Museum of Art

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943) 'Wells Cathedral: North Transept' c. 1903

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943)
Wells Cathedral: North Transept
c. 1903
Platinum print
Image and sheet: 7 1/4 × 5 7/16 inches (18.4 × 13.8cm)
Purchased with funds contributed by Dorothy Norman, 1973

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943) 'Ely Cathedral: Octagon into Nave Aisle' c. 1899

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943)
Ely Cathedral: Octagon into Nave Aisle
c. 1899
Platinum print
Image and sheet: 7 15/16 × 6 1/8 inches (20.2 × 15.6cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Purchased with funds contributed by Dorothy Norman, 1973

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943) 'Fr: Sec: Spine of Echinus x. 40' c. 1887

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943)
Fr: Sec: Spine of Echinus x. 40
c. 1887
Platinum print
Image and sheet: 4 3/4 × 4 5/8 inches (12 × 11.8cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Purchased with funds contributed by Dorothy Norman, 1973

 

 

Unlike many beginning photographers of the nineteenth century who experimented with straightforward portrait or landscape compositions, Evans’s earliest trials with photography involved minute organic matter and required the use of a microscope. His complicated “photo-microgram” process allowed him to capture the intricate structures of objects including a water beetle’s eye, tiny sea shells, and this section of a sea urchin’s spine. Although classified as scientific rather than artistic imagery by the Photographic Society of Great Britain, this photo-microgram demonstrates Evans’s ability to delineate the magnificence of organic patterns and presage his photographs that depict the structural beauty of cathedrals.

Text from the Philadelphia Museum of Art website

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943) 'Berberis: Plant Study' c. 1908

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943)
Berberis: Plant Study
c. 1908
Platinum print
Image and sheet: 9 3/8 × 7 1/16 inches (23.8 × 17.9cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Purchased with funds contributed by Dorothy Norman and with the Director’s Discretionary Fund, 1968

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943) 'Redlands Woods' c. 1908

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943)
Redlands Woods
c. 1908
Platinum print
Image and sheet: 6 × 4 3/16 inches (15.3 × 10.6cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Purchased with funds contributed by Dorothy Norman and with the Director’s Discretionary Fund, 1968

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943) 'An English Glacier: Near Summit of Scafell' c. 1905

 

Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943)
An English Glacier: Near Summit of Scafell
c. 1905
Platinum print
Image and sheet: 9 3/4 × 6 1/2 inches (24.8 × 16.5 cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Purchased with funds contributed by Dorothy Norman and with the Director’s Discretionary Fund, 1968

 

 

Exhibition Highlights the Exceptional Beauty of the Platinum Process in Photography

A cornerstone of photographic practice during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the platinum print is revered by photographers and viewers alike as one of the most beautiful forms of photography, with subtle and lustrous shades that range from the deepest blacks to the most delicate whites. The Philadelphia Museum of Art will present an exhibition of more than 50 works from the late 19th century to the present, showcasing outstanding prints largely drawn from the Museum’s collection of photographs. The Platinum Process: Photographs from the Nineteenth to the Twenty-First Century, on view February 27 – May 23 in the Julien Levy Gallery at the Museum’s Perelman Building, will include images by early masters of the process including Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943) and Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946), as well as works by skilled contemporary practitioners such as Lois Conner (American, born 1951) and Andrea Modica (American, born 1960), who continue to engage in this historic and painstaking process in an era noted for electronic imaging.

“The exhibition offers an opportunity to share this exceptionally beautiful form of photography with our visitors, some of whom may be seeing it for the first time,” Curator of Photographs Peter Barberie said, adding “the Museum is fortunate to have a particularly strong and varied collection of work by some of the truly great practitioners of this process.”

Unlike standard silver printing, in which particles are suspended in gelatin, platinum is brushed directly onto the paper, allowing artists to create a matte image with an exceptionally wide tonal range. Introduced in 1873, the process was enthusiastically embraced by the group of photographers known as the Pictorialists, who believed that fine art photography should emulate the aesthetic values of painting. The group included Evans, whose beautifully rendered images of Britain’s Westminster Abbey, York Minster Abbey and Ely Cathedral are included in the exhibition, and Stieglitz (American, 1876-1946), who is represented in the show by a portrait of his wife, the artist Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986), as well as a landscape that foreshadows his Equivalents series.

While encompassing works spanning many dates and styles, The Platinum Process highlights one of the Museum’s treasures, the 1915 masterpiece “Wall Street” by Paul Strand (1890-1976, see above), whose work was at the forefront of the modernist aesthetic developing in New York during the early 20th century. Strand used the subtlety of the platinum print in this work to emphasise abstract patterns in the long shadows cast by figures that walk before a succession of monumental windows.

Reserves of platinum were appropriated for military use during World War I, and its high cost led manufacturers to cease production of commercial platinum paper by the 1930s. As photographers became more engaged in social concerns, documentation and realism, the process fell into disuse. It was not until the early 1960s when Irving Penn, then a successful photographer for Vogue magazine, began to experiment with the long-forgotten technique and took the first steps toward its revival. A meticulous craftsman, Penn was delighted by the luminous prints and lavish tonal range he could achieve using platinum and began to make new photographs with this process in the 1970s. Penn and many of the other contemporary artists on view including Thomas Shillea and Jennette Williams followed Strand’s example, using platinum not for idealised pictures, but to capture nuances of modern experience.

Press release from The Philadelphia Museum of Art website [Online] Cited 25/07/2019

 

Robert S. Redfield (American, 1849-1923) 'Heloise Redfield at Mount Washington' 1889

 

Robert S. Redfield (American, 1849-1923)
Heloise Redfield at Mount Washington
1889
Platinum print
Image and sheet: 6 5/16 × 8 1/4 inches (16 × 21cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Gift of Alfred G. Redfield, 1985

 

F. Holland Day (American, 1864-1933) 'Untitled' 1905

 

F. Holland Day (American, 1864-1933)
Untitled
1905
Platinum prints mounted to paper
Image and sheet (overall): 10 1/16 × 7 1/2 inches (25.6 × 19.1cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
From the Collection of Dorothy Norman, 1970

 

Katharine Steward Stanbery (American, 1870-1928) 'Untitled (Two Girls Playing Jacks)' 1907

 

Katharine Steward Stanbery (American, 1870-1928)
Untitled (Two Girls Playing Jacks)
1907
Platinum print
Image and sheet: 8 15/16 x 4 11/16 inches (22.7 x 11.9cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
125th Anniversary Acquisition. Purchased with the Lola Downin Peck Fund, the Alice Newton Osborn Fund, and with funds contributed by The Judith Rothschild Foundation, 2002

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976) 'City Hall Park, New York' 1915

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
City Hall Park, New York

1915
Platinum print
Sheet: 13 7/8 x 7 3/4 inches (35.2 x 19.7cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Gift of the artist, 1972

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976) 'Washington Heights, New York' 1915

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Washington Heights, New York
1915 (negative); 1915 (print)
Platinum print
Image and sheet: 9 3/8 x 11 7/8 inches (23.8 x 30.2cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Paul Strand Retrospective Collection, 1915-1975, gift of the estate of Paul Strand, 1980

 

Paul Strand. 'Wall Street, New York' 1915

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Wall Street
1915 (negative); 1915 (print)
Photograph taken in New York, New York, United States
Platinum print
Image: 9 3/4 × 12 11/16 inches (24.8 × 32.2cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Paul Strand Retrospective Collection, 1915-1975, gift of the estate of Paul Strand, 1980

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976) 'Man in a Derby, New York' 1916

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Man in a Derby, New York
1916
Platinum print
Image: 12 13/16 x 9 15/16 inches (32.5 x 25.2cm)
Mat: 22 11/16 x 19 7/16 inches (57.6 x 49.4cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Paul Strand Retrospective Collection, 1915-1975, gift of the estate of Paul Strand, 1980

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976) 'The Italian, New York' 1916

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
The Italian, New York
1916 (negative); 1916 (print)
Platinum print
Image and sheet: 13 × 9 5/16 inches (33 × 23.7cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Paul Strand Retrospective Collection, 1915-1975, gift of the estate of Paul Strand, 1980

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976) 'Rebecca, New York' 1922 (negative); 1922 (print)

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Rebecca, New York
1922 (negative); 1922 (print)
Palladium print
Image: 9 3/4 x 7 13/16 inches (24.8 x 19.8cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Paul Strand Collection, purchased with funds contributed by Mr. and Mrs. Robert A. Hauslohner (by exchange), 1985

 

Alvin Langdon Coburn (British, born United States, 1882-1966) 'George Seeley' c. 1902-1903

 

Alvin Langdon Coburn (British, born United States, 1882-1966)
George Seeley
c. 1902-1903
Platinum print
Image and sheet: 11 x 8 9/16 inches (27.9 x 21.7cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Purchased with the Lola Downin Peck Fund, the Alice Newton Osborn Fund, and with funds contributed by The Judith Rothschild Foundation in honour of the 125th Anniversary of the Museum, 2002

 

Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934) 'The Two Families' c. 1910

 

Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934)
The Two Families
c. 1910
Platinum print
Image and sheet: 5 3/8 × 11 5/16 inches (13.6 × 28.8cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Gift of William Innes Homer, 1986

 

 

Käsebier’s family members and close friends served as her earliest photographic subjects, and familial themes remained paramount in the images she produced throughout her career. This photograph of Käsebier’s two daughters and their families, taken in Woburn, Massachusetts, is a dynamic portrait of a multigenerational gathering. Curiously, Käsebier manipulated this print to emphasise the act of photography. In the original scene, the young boy and seated woman at right look downward at a wire-mesh food cover resting on a plate. These objects have been removed from this print, replaced by the considerably more fascinating camera.

Text from the Philadelphia Museum of Art website

 

Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934) 'Mrs. F. H. Evans' c. 1900

 

Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934)
Mrs. F. H. Evans
c. 1900
Platinum print
Image and sheet: 7 1/2 × 5 1/4 inches (19.1 × 13.4 cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Purchased with funds contributed by Dorothy Norman, 1973

 

 

In 1889, at the age of thirty-seven, Käsebier enrolled at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute to study portrait painting. Although the art school did not teach photography, Käsebier began using a camera at home to document her growing children, eventually favoring photography over other mediums. She established a commercial portrait studio in New York City in 1897, working to “bring out in each photograph the essential personality that is variously called temperament, soul, humanity.” This portrait features Ada Emily Longhurst, wife of photographer Frederick H. Evans, whom Käsebier befriended while on a trip to England in 1901.

Text from the Philadelphia Museum of Art website

 

 

Philadelphia Museum of Art
26th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia, PA 19130

Opening hours:
Thursday – Monday 10am – 5pm
Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays

The Philadelphia Museum of Art website

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1 Response to “Exhibition: ‘The Platinum Process: Photographs from the Nineteenth to the Twenty-First Century’ at Philadelphia Museum of Art”


  1. September 19, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    great blog. thank you for this all: 🙂 max


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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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