Archive for December, 2013

31
Dec
13

Exhibition: ‘Julia Margaret Cameron’ at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Exhibition dates: 9th August 2013 – 5th January 2014

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (English, 1815-1879) 'King Lear and his Three Daughters' 1872

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (English, 1815-1879)
King Lear and his Three Daughters
1872
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Bequest of Maurice B. Sendak, 2013
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

The three Liddell sisters – Lorina, Elizabeth, and Alice – posed with the photographer’s husband playing the tragically deceived King Lear in one of Cameron’s few Shakespearean compositions. Goneril and Regan whisper false flattery in the ageing king’s ear while the truly devoted but disinherited Cordelia – here unadorned and dressed in white – stands before him, an embodiment of disillusioned innocence.

 

 

The first posting of a new year, and finally I get to do a posting on one of the greatest photographers of all time. Nobody has ever taken portraits like JMC before or since. What a unique vision, different from everyone else: “directed light, soft focus, and long exposures that allowed the sitters’ slight movement to register in her pictures, instilling them with a sense of breath and life.”

The portrait of Sir John Herschel (April 1867, below) is one of the most famous portraits in the history of photography. What a magnificent achievement, to capture the spirit of this human being on a glass plate… “Our Julia” as a friend of mine lovingly calls her. It’s funny how everyone takes her to their heart.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (English, 1815-1879) 'Sappho' 1865

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (English, 1815-1879)
Sappho
1865
Albumen silver print from glass negative
The Rubel Collection, Purchase, Jennifer and Joseph Duke and Anonymous Gifts, 1997
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Mary Hillier, a beautiful young house servant at Dimbola, Cameron’s home in Freshwater, was often pressed into photographic service, frequently in the role of the Virgin Mary. She managed to assume her various guises in a remarkably unselfconscious way, projecting both gentleness and strength of character. Hillier is also the model for Cameron’s Sappho, a profile portrait in the Florentine Quattrocento style, perhaps inspired by the chromolithographic reproductions of Italian paintings distributed by the Arundel Society, of which Cameron was a member. The image has great presence, so much so that Cameron decided to print it even though she broke the negative. Precisely what the picture has to do with the Greek poet of Lesbos is unclear, especially since Cameron inscribed another print of the same image Adriana. The titles of two close variants reveal that, by looking left instead of right, Hillier was apparently transformed from Sappho into Dora or, when photographed from one step further back, Clio. Although Cameron often set out to portray a certain ideal, she also titled pictures after the fact, sometimes because the image seemed to embody the character of a certain literary or biblical figure, but sometimes, one suspects, quite simply because there was more of a market for images of the Virgin, Sappho, or Christabel than for portraits of the photographer’s niece or a parlour maid from the Isle of Wight.

 

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

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (English, 1815-1879)
The Mountain Nymph Sweet Liberty
1866
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1941
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

In Cameron’s The Mountain Nymph Sweet Liberty, Miss Keene, an arresting model about whom we know nothing but her last name, stares directly at the camera (and, by extension, at the viewer), her hair loose and her eyes open wide. Filling the frame, she seems to step out of the picture. The photograph takes its title from John Milton’s poem L’Allegro, a celebration of life’s pleasures:

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

Cameron sent the photograph to her friend, the renowned scientist Sir John Herschel, who wrote back, “That head of the ‘Mountain Nymph Sweet liberty’ (a little farouche & égarée [timid and distraught] by the way, as if first let loose & half afraid that it was too good to last) is really a most astonishing piece of high relief. She is absolutely alive and thrusting out her head from the paper into the air. This is your own special style.” Herschel seized upon the photograph’s most striking quality, its startling sense of presence and of psychological connection with the viewer.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (English, 1815-1879) 'Zoe, Maid of Athens' 1866

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (English, 1815-1879)
Zoe, Maid of Athens
1866
Albumen silver print from glass negative
The Rubel Collection, Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, and Muriel Kallis Newman Gifts, 1997
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (1997.382.38)

 

 

Here Cameron photographed May Prinsep, her sister’s adopted daughter. By allowing Prinsep’s slight movement and by intentionally softening the focus, Cameron instilled a sense of breath and soul in this living apparition, for the true subject of her photograph was a poetic evocation of love and longing. “Maid of Athens, ere we part, / Give, oh, give me back my heart!” begin the verses composed by Lord Byron as he departed Greece in 1810. In the poem that inspired Cameron, Byron swore “By those tresses unconfined, / Wooed by each Aegean wind; / By those lids whose jetty fringe / Kiss thy soft cheeks’ blooming tinge; / By those wild eyes like the roe, / Zoë mou sas agapo [My life, I love you].”

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (English, 1815-1879) 'Christabel' 1866

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (English, 1815-1879)
Christabel
1866
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1941
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (41.21.26)

 

 

“Yea, she doth smile, and she doth weep,
Like a youthful hermitess,
Beauteous in a wilderness.”

.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

 

Coleridge’s unfinished poem “Christabel” (1816) tells the story of a young woman debased by sorcery. A dark poem, full of rolling fog and lesbian innuendo, “Christabel” was the kind of tale that appealed to the Victorian palate – a soup of sexual transgression and moral repair. Cameron rarely made portraits of women; rather, when she photographed them, they appeared as representations of some biblical, mythological, or literary figure. Cameron’s niece, May Prinsep, who would later marry Hallam Tennyson, son of the poet laureate, appears here as the ethereal Christabel before her corruption. Cameron’s long exposure time and distinct soft-focus technique lend the work its idealising gravitas even while, paradoxically, intensifying the realistic presence of the individual before the lens. For all her “high art” aspirations, Cameron was always quick to note that her images were “from life.”

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (English, 1815-1879) '[Kate Keown]' 1866

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (English, 1815-1879)
[Kate Keown]
1866
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Jennifer and Joseph Duke Gift, 2005
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2005.100.265)

 

 

In spring and summer 1866, having purchased a new, larger camera capable of making twelve-by-fifteen-inch negatives, Cameron produced a series of twelve “life-sized heads,” including this angelic study of tender sorrow somewhat in the style of Botticelli. Throughout her work, poetic truth was valued above photographic truthfulness. She conveyed a sense of life and breath and of honest emotion through careful lighting, her models’ slight movement during long exposures, a shallow depth of field, and softness of focus. “My first successes in my out-of-focus pictures were a fluke,” Cameron wrote. “That is to say, that when focusing and coming to something which, to my eye, was very beautiful, I stopped there instead of screwing on the lens to the more definite focus which all other photographers insist on.” In so doing, she gave the feeling of both flesh and spirit without, in Rejlander’s words, “an exaggerated idea of the bark of the skin.”

 

10._Mrs.-Herbert-Duckworth-WEB

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British (born India), Calcutta 1815 – 1879 Kalutara, Ceylon)
Mrs. Herbert Duckworth
1867
Albumen silver print from glass negative
32.8 x 23.7 cm (12 15/16 x 9 5/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Alfred Stieglitz Society Gifts, 2005

 

 

This portrait of Julia Jackson, which is usually trimmed to an oval, suggests an antique cameo carved in deep relief. Its success lies partly in its subject’s actual beauty and partly in the way the photographer modelled it to suggest Christian and classical ideals of purity, strength, and grace. The photograph was made the year Julia married Herbert Duckworth. Three years later she was a widow and the mother of three children.

Her second marriage, in 1878, to the great Victorian intellectual Sir Leslie Stephen, produced the painter Vanessa Bell and the writer Virginia Woolf. In her novel To the Lighthouse (1927), Virginia portrayed her mother as the searching, sensitive Mrs. Ramsay, ever suspended in thought. “She bore about with her, she could not help knowing it, the torch of her beauty; she carried it erect into any room that she entered.”

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (English, 1815-1879) 'Alice Liddell / Pomona' 1872

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (English, 1815-1879)
Alice Liddell / Pomona
1872
Albumen silver print from glass negative
David Hunter McAlpin Fund, 1963
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (63.545)

 

 

Alice Liddell (1852-1934) – who, as a child, was Lewis Carroll’s muse and frequent photographic model – posed for Cameron a dozen times in August and September 1872. Against a dense background of foliage and bedecked with flowers, the twenty-year-old Liddell was photographed by Cameron as the embodiment of fruitful abundance, Pomona, Roman goddess of gardens and fruit trees.

 

 

One of the greatest portraitists in the history of photography, Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879) blended an unorthodox technique, a deeply spiritual sensibility, and a Pre-Raphaelite-inflected aesthetic to create a gallery of vivid portraits and a mirror of the Victorian soul. Julia Margaret Cameron, on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art beginning August 19, 2013, is the first New York City museum exhibition devoted to Cameron’s work in nearly a generation and the first ever at the Met. The showing of 35 works is drawn entirely from the Metropolitan’s rich collection, including major works from the Rubel Collection acquired in 1997 and the Gilman Collection acquired in 2005. The exhibition is made possible by The Hite Foundation, in memory of Sybil Hite.

When she received her first camera in December 1863 as a Christmas gift from her daughter and son-in-law, Cameron was 48, a mother of six, and a deeply religious, well-read, somewhat eccentric friend of many notable Victorian artists, poets, and thinkers. “From the first moment I handled my lens with a tender ardour,” she wrote, “and it has become to me as a living thing, with voice and memory and creative vigour.” Condemned by some contemporaries for sloppy craftsmanship, she purposely avoided the perfect resolution and minute detail that glass negatives permitted, opting instead for carefully directed light, soft focus, and long exposures that allowed the sitters’ slight movement to register in her pictures, instilling them with a sense of breath and life.

The exhibition features masterpieces from each of her three major bodies of work: portraits of men “great thro’ genius” including the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, scientist Sir John Herschel, and philosopher Thomas Carlyle; women “great thro’ love” including relatives, neighbours, and household staff, often titled as literary, historical, or biblical subjects; and staged groupings such as her illustrations for Tennyson’s Idylls of the King, her Annunciation in the style of Perugino, or her depiction of King Lear and his daughters. Julia Margaret Cameron is organised by Malcolm Daniel, Senior Curator in the Department of Photographs at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.”

Press release from The Metropolitan Museum of Art website

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (English, 1815-1879) 'Philip Stanhope Worsley' 1866

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (English, 1815-1879)
Philip Stanhope Worsley
1866
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

On February 21, 1866, Cameron wrote to Henry Cole, director of the South Kensington Museum, “I have been for 8 weeks nursing poor Philip Worsley on his dying bed… The heart of man cannot conceive a sight more pitiful than the outward evidence of the breaking up of his whole being.” An Oxford-educated poet who translated the Odyssey and part of the Iliad into Spenserian verse, Worsley died of tuberculosis at the age of thirty the following May. Cameron’s portrait, made the year of his death, vividly conveys the intensity of Worsley’s intellectual life and something of its tragedy. To her subject’s hypnotic gravity she added intimations of sacrifice, engulfing the dying poet in dramatic darkness.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (English, 1815-1879) 'Alfred, Lord Tennyson' July 4, 1866

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (English, 1815-1879)
Alfred, Lord Tennyson
July 4, 1866
Albumen silver print from glass negative
The Rubel Collection, Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace, Michael and Jane Wilson, and Harry Kahn Gifts, 1997
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (1997.382.36)

 

 

When Cameron’s husband retired in 1848 from the Calcutta Council of Education and the Supreme Council of India, they moved to England, settling first in Tunbridge Wells, near Charles’s old friend the poet Henry Taylor, and later in Putney Heath, near the poet laureate Alfred, Lord Tennyson and his wife. For Cameron, these men were not merely friends and neighbours, but also intellectual, spiritual, and artistic advisors. In 1860, while her husband was in Ceylon checking on the family coffee plantations, Cameron visited the Tennysons’ new home at Freshwater on the Isle of Wight and promptly purchased two cottages next door, which she joined together as the new family home. Cameron’s friendship and determination knew no bounds – indeed, her kindness could be overbearing at times. It took three years of pleading before Cameron convinced Tennyson (who jokingly referred to her models as “victims”) to sit for his portrait.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (English, 1815-1879) 'Sir John Herschel' April 1867

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (English, 1815-1879)
Sir John Herschel
April 1867
Albumen silver print from glass negative
The Rubel Collection, Promised Gift of William Rubel
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

No commercial portrait photographer of the period would have portrayed Herschel as Cameron did here, devoid of classical columns, weighty tomes, scientific attributes, and academic poses – the standard vehicles for conveying the high stature and classical learning that one’s sitter possessed (or pretended to possess). To Cameron, Herschel was more than a renowned scientist; he was “as a Teacher and High Priest,” an “illustrious and revered as well as beloved friend” whom she had known for thirty years. Naturally, her image of him would not be a stiff, formal effigy. Instead, she had him wash and tousle his hair to catch the light, draped him in black, brought her camera close to his face, and photographed him emerging from the darkness like a vision of an Old Testament prophet.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British (born India), Calcutta 1815 - 1879 Kalutara, Ceylon) 'A Study' 1865-66

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British (born India), Calcutta 1815 – 1879 Kalutara, Ceylon)
A Study
1865-66
Albumen silver print from glass negative
34.4 x 26.4 cm. (13 9/16 x 10 3/8 in.)
Bequest of James David Nelson, in memory of Samuel J. Wagstaff Jr., 1990

 

 

This image, also titled After Perugino / The Annunciation, is one of more than 130 religiously themed images inspired by Cameron’s deep Christian devotion and her artistic admiration of Italian painting of the early Renaissance. Such photographs adhere to traditional iconography only in the broadest sense. Here, for example, Cameron follows the precedent of paintings of the Annunciation in which the angel Gabriel presents a lily – symbol of purity – to the Virgin Mary. More important, however, Cameron’s sincerity of sentiment imbues her work with an aura of devotion and claims for it a place equal to sacred art of the past.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (English, 1815-1879) 'The Parting of Lancelot and Guinevere' 1874

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (English, 1815-1879)
The Parting of Lancelot and Guinevere
1874
Albumen silver print from glass negative
David Hunter McAlpin Fund, 1952
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (52.524.3.10)

 

 

In 1874 Tennyson asked Cameron to make photographic illustrations for a new edition of his Idylls of the Kings, a recasting of the Arthurian legends. Responding that both knew that “it is immortality to me to be bound up with you,” Cameron willingly accepted the assignment. Costuming family and friends, she made some 245 exposures to arrive at the handful she wanted for the book. Ultimately – and predictably – she was unhappy with the way her photographs looked reduced in scale and translated into wood engravings, and she chose to issue a deluxe edition, at her own risk, that included a dozen full size photographic prints in each of two volumes.

 

 

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30
Dec
13

Review: ‘Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change’ at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 9th November 2013 – 19th January 2014

 

Claudia Terstappen. 'After the fire (Northern Territory, Australia)' 2002

 

Claudia Terstappen (Australian, born Germany 1959)
After the fire (Northern Territory, Australia)
2002
From the series Our ancestors 1990-
29 cm x 29cm

 

 

“For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfil themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree…

A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.

So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.”

.
Herman Hesse. Bäume: Betrachtungen und Gedichte (Trees: Reflections and Poems) 1984

 

 

This is the last review of 2013 and what a cracker of an exhibition to finish the year. Without doubt this is the best pure photography exhibition I have seen this year in Melbourne. The exhibition is stimulating and enervating, the image making of the highest order in its aesthetic beauty and visual complexity. The artist explores intangible spaces which define our physical and spiritual relationship with the un/known world.

Briefly stated the bulk of the exhibition features small, square, tonally rich black and white medium format landscape images of unspoiled places from around the world taken between the mid-1980s and the early 2000s, images that possess a sense of the sublime and suggest a link to indigenous cultures. These images are hung in rows, sometimes double row grids, that flesh out the narrative that Terstappen seeks to establish. It is a beautiful, enlightening hang and whoever sequenced the work and hung the show should be congratulated for they understood the artist’s narrative and the tonal range of the printing.

In an excellent review in The Age newspaper (Wednesday December 18th 2013) the writer Robert Nelson suggests that these vistas depict something holy to an earlier or parallel civilisation. He observes that Terstappen’s images go beyond the mere picturesque because the artist applies a persistent inquiry to image making no matter where she is in the world, for “she always looks for properties that the environment shares with counterparts elsewhere.” He goes on to state that the photographs have three systematic demands that the artist places on her interpretation of the landscape: 1/ that they express something elemental (earth, air, water, fire); 2/ the scene has to sustain a dark print with a visual weight that is almost contrary to the nature of photography; and 3/ the picture must reconcile the expansive and the intimate. In her world, everything must have presence, no matter how far away, and press up against the picture plane; everything must have a certain density, a thickness of being which is not about light but about the darkness of light.
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“All photographs depend on light; but Terstappen’s sensibility errs to descriptions of the density of things, not their reception or reflection of sunshine or even moonlight. Her scenery is gravid with banks engorged by roots, the bulk of outcrops or the intricate tangle of overlapping forest, which is also what seems to activate the water within the air to express it heaviness… A part of the impetus behind Terstappen’s project is pictorial: how to make the most rigorous sense of multiplicity, to frame big things so that they harmonise with little things, so that everything has an equivalent weight, including the air. The corollary of this consistent investigation is a poetic respect for the natural subject matter…”

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Through images of visual and conceptual beauty and complexity, Terstappen imparts a strange kind of temporality to the work. The artist layers shapes within the photographs and, befitting her training as a sculptor, pushes and pulls at the image plane like a malleable piece of clay, sometimes blocking vision at the surface of the print, sometimes allowing access to a partially accessible (psychological) interiority. For example, look at the last three images before the press release below: Cabbage trees (Queensland, Australia)Curtain fig tree (Queensland, Australia) and Alligator nest (Queensland, Australia) (all 2002). In Cabbage trees the artist creates a visual pattern, like a fabric pattern, that holds the viewer at the surface of the image while still allowing glimpses of what lies beyond; in Curtain fig tree it is as if a curtain has literally descended blocking any access to the interior; while in Alligator nest there is a beautiful, open density to the work that invites contemplation and meditation upon the scene.

In Terstappen’s work, there is always a sense of space moving back, moving from the bottom up or top down and a conscious use of a restricted tonality (no bright whites or blackest blacks). The artist blocks movement, opens it up or swirls it around. Sometimes earth becomes sky as steam turns to cloud, or rock becomes water as the two meld at the base of a waterfall. In this multiplicity, each element is given equal weight within certain atmospheres and an equilibrium is formed, to live at the heart of these images. Each complex, thoughtful image becomes a living and breathing entity.

In Terstappen’s work there is no fixed image and no single purpose, a single meaning, or one singular existence that the images propose. They transcend claims about the world arising from, for example, natural or scientific attitudes or theories of the ontological nature of the world. As the artist visualises, records the feeling of the facts, such complex and balanced images let the mind of the viewer wander in the landscape. In their fecundity the viewer is enveloped in that situation of not knowing. There is the feeling of the landscape, a sensitivity to being “lost” in the landscape, in the shadow of ‘Other’, enhanced through the modality of the printing. Dreamworld vs analytical/descriptive, there is the enigma of the landscape and its spiritual places. Yes, the sublime, but more an invocation, a plea to the gods for understanding. This phenomenological prayer allows the artist to envelop herself and the viewer in the profundity – the great depth, intensity and emotion – of the landscape. To be ‘present’ in the the untrammelled places of the world as (divine) experience.

The only doubt I have about the exhibition is the ex post facto interpretation of the archive as picturing places that are threatened by social and ecological change. As the catalogue text states, “These pictures now form part of an archive of historically significant places that are threatened by social and ecological change. This archive of spiritual sites has, over time, become an environmental archive, reminding us that photography not only has the power to bring places to life, but also to bear witness to the forces that threaten life.” If they are only now forming part of an environmental archive, what memory of sacred place did they initially respond to?

While Terstappen’s work has always focused on a physical encounter with space and an imaging of places that have deep or hidden meanings and mythical / symbolic significance, when I look at this work I do not get a strong sense of these places being under threat. Only through written (not visual) language is this environmental threat enunciated. While archives are always fluid and will always gather new meaning (look at Atget’s “documents for artists”, images that are now acknowledged as some of the most artistic and influential in the whole canon of photography), we must also acknowledge that nothing in this world remains the same, that everything changes all the time, for better or worse. The landscapes that Terstappen photographs are no more “natural” then as they are now, due to the effects of bushfires, human cultivation, erosion, habitation, hunting, farming and natural disaster. Humans cannot appeal to some vision of a world, some garden of Eden, that exists pre humanity. Who is to stay that these places in the world are disappearing or appearing? By the very act of photographing these places, Terstappen labels them, names them as inconsolable places that should never change. This is not the mysterious way of the world. I prefer to look at these places and acknowledge that this is how they looked through the eyes of this artist at this point in time. They have full presence before me, in all their mystery and majesty.

Is this textual analysis necessary for the work to succeed? I do not believe it is, in fact I believe it lessens the inherent quality of these images. Use these images to help people understand what human beings are doing to the planet by all means, but please do not try to retrofit concepts of destruction onto the work.

This minor quibble aside, I say to you that this is the most sophisticated reading of the landscape that I have seen in a long time – not just in Australia but from around the world. This is such a joy of an exhibition to see that you leave feeling engaged and uplifted. Being in the gallery on your own is a privilege that is hard to describe: to see (and feel!) landscape photography of the highest order and by an Australian artist as well. If you grant anything for your New Year’s wish you could do no better than to visit this magnificent exhibition and drink of its atmospheres.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Many thankx to the Monash Gallery of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. All installation photographs © Marcus Bunyan and the Monash Gallery of Art. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Claudia Terstappen. 'Bushfire III (Northern Territory, Australia)' 2002

 

Claudia Terstappen (Australian, born Germany 1959)
Bushfire III (Northern Territory, Australia)
2002
From the series Our ancestors 1990-
29 cm x 29cm

 

Claudia Terstappen. 'Sickness country II (Northern Territory, Australia)' 2002

 

Claudia Terstappen (Australian, born Germany 1959)
Sickness country II (Northern Territory, Australia)
2002
From the series Our ancestors 1990-
29 cm x 29cm

 

Claudia Terstappen. 'Cabbage trees (Queensland, Australia)' 2002

 

Claudia Terstappen (Australian, born Germany 1959)
Cabbage trees (Queensland, Australia)
2002
From the series Our ancestors 1990-
29 cm x 29cm

 

Claudia Terstappen. 'Curtain fig tree (Queensland, Australia)' 2002

 

Claudia Terstappen (Australian, born Germany 1959)
Curtain fig tree (Queensland, Australia)
2002
From the series Our ancestors 1990-
29 cm x 29cm

 

Claudia Terstappen. 'Alligator nest (Queensland, Australia)' 2002

 

Claudia Terstappen (Australian, born Germany 1959)
Alligator nest (Queensland, Australia)
2002
From the series Lost world 2002-
21 cm x 21cm

 

 

Over the last thirty years Claudia Terstappen has taken photographs of places throughout the world that have spiritual resonance or associations. The basis of this exhibition is a selection of these landscapes, presented as gelatin silver prints printed by the artist between the 1980s – early 2000s.

The landscapes in this exhibition document places that have spiritual associations or significance for indigenous people, to make sense of their relationship to the land. But I now realise that the archive has taken on another set of meanings or intention. Today, these pictures form part of a vast archive of landscapes and places undergoing significant change. This archive of spiritual places has become an environmental archive.

Terstappen was born in Germany, and her landscapes are in many ways informed by her heritage. Like Australia, Germany has a particular tradition of landscape, where places of nature carry important associations for cultural understanding and a sense of belonging. Terstappen is herself part of a long tradition of German artists to explore this relationship.

Terstappen studied at the Düsseldorfer Kunstakademie, the training ground for many of Germany’s most important contemporary artists. Having been taught by the famous photographer Bernd Becher and then the architect and sculptor Erich Reusch, Terstappen has since exhibited widely throughout Europe, North America and Australia.

Text from the Monash Gallery of Art website

 

Claudia Terstappen originally trained a a sculptor but for over three decades she has worked in the medium of photography. In some respects, her art practice has been developed between these two artistic disciplines. She retains a strong interest in the sculptural sensation of a physical encounter in space, but she uses the two-dimensional medium of photography to document and reiterate these experiences.

Terstappen’s interest in the interplay between depth and surface is also evident in the subjects that she explores. She often photographs places that have deep or hidden meanings. This includes sites of pilgrimage, shrines of worship and landscapes invested with mythic significance. These associations are not always apparent, and often subsist as a type of secret knowledge, but they can be given tangible form through processes of story-telling and ceremonial action. Terstappen engages with these locations in order to give them a tangible photographic form, elaborating a sense of symbolic power or sublime drama across the surface of her images.

This exhibition features 75 photographs depicting places that have been invested with spiritual resonances or mythical associations, from Iceland and southern Europe to the Americas and Australia. The starting point for this exhibition is a selection of gelatin silver prints that were hand-printed by the artist between the mid-1980s and the early 2000s. These pictures now form part of an archive of historically significant places that are threatened by social and ecological change. This archive of spiritual sites has, over time, become an environmental archive; reminding us that photography not only has the power to bring places to life, but also to bear witness to the forces that threaten life.

Text from the exhibition pamphlet

 

Claudia Terstappen. 'Turtle Dreaming, Australia (Northern Territory)' 2002

 

Claudia Terstappen (Australian, born Germany 1959)
Turtle Dreaming, Australia (Northern Territory)
2002
from the series Vanishing landscapes 1987-
Gelatin silver print
120 x 120cm
Courtesy of the artist

 

Claudia Terstappen. 'Namandi spirit [Queensland, Australia]' 2002

 

Claudia Terstappen (Australian, born Germany 1959)
Namandi spirit (Queensland, Australia)
2002
from the series Our ancestors 1990-
Gelatin silver print
29 x 29cm
Courtesy  of the artist

 

Claudia Terstappen. 'Cabbage trees [Queensland, Australia]' 2002

 

Claudia Terstappen (Australian, born Germany 1959)
Cabbage trees (Queensland, Australia)
2002
from the series Our ancestors 1990-
Gelatin silver print
29 x 29cm
Courtesy  of the artist

 

Claudia Terstappen. 'Full moon [France]' 1997

 

Claudia Terstappen (Australian, born Germany 1959)
Full moon (France)
1997
from the series I believe in miracles 1997-
Gelatin silver print
80 x 80cm
Courtesy  of the artist

 

Claudia Terstappen. 'Mountain [Brazil]' 1991

 

Claudia Terstappen (Australian, born Germany 1959)
Mountain (Brazil)
1991
from the series Sacred mountains 1989-
Gelatin silver print
37 x 37cm
Courtesy  of the artist

 

Claudia Terstappen. 'Mountain [Las Palmas, Spain]' 1992

 

Claudia Terstappen (Australian, born Germany 1959)
Mountain (Las Palmas, Spain)
1992
from the series Sacred mountains 1989-
Gelatin silver print
49 x 49cm
Courtesy  of the artist

 

Claudia Terstappen. 'Zion Park [USA]' 1996

 

Claudia Terstappen (Australian, born Germany 1959)
Zion Park (USA)
1996
from the series Sacred land of the Navajo Indians 1990-
Gelatin silver print
37 x 37cm
Courtesy  of the artist

 

 

In the shadow of change features almost 100 of Claudia Terstappen’s magnificent landscape photographs. Terstappen is a German-born photographer who studied at the famous Dusseldorf art academy and is now Professor of Photography at Monash University in Melbourne.

For over three decades, Terstappen has been photographing landscapes the world over. Brazil, Colombia, Canada, Japan, USA, Iceland and Spain have been destinations for the artist, who has travelled the world looking for landscapes which have particular spiritual or mythical meanings. This search brought Terstappen to Australia in 2002; the artist now lives in Melbourne as a permanent resident.

Terstappen’s vast archive of landscape photographs has taken on significant environmental associations. As debates about the politics and impact of land use and climate change continue, Terstappen’s landscapes – from intimately scaled views of forests and riverbeds to grand views of mountains and glaciers – present a truly beautiful account of landscape photography and its contemporary significance.

As Terstappen states: ‘There is a moral dimension to looking at and photographing landscape today. Landscape photography has tremendous currency. Many of the landscapes in my photographs will have either completely disappeared or drastically changed by now. I firmly believe we need to re-establish our relationship with nature and landscape and photography can help us to achieve this.’

MGA Director and curator of the exhibition Shaune Lakin states: ‘MGA is very proud to have developed this exhibition with Claudia, which will be accompanied by a beautifully illustrated book. We have timed the exhibition to coincide with the 30-year anniversary of one of the defining moments in Australian photography, when landscape photographs actually brought about significant social and political change. It is now 30 years since Peter Dombrovskis’s now-iconic photographs of the Gordon River helped prevent construction of the Franklin Dam in Tasmania, which to this day remains one of the world’s great wilderness areas.

‘With the election of a new government and promises of a new environmental agenda, it seems a perfect time for us to reconsider the power of landscape photography and the status of environmentalism in Australia today.’

Press release from the Monash Gallery of Art website

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change' at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Bob Browns opening speech at artist Claudia Terstappen’s exhibition In the shadow of change at the Monash Gallery of Art (MGA) in Melbourne. Recorded on Saturday 9 November 2013.

 

 

Monash Gallery of Art
860 Ferntree Gully Road, Wheelers Hill
Victoria 3150 Australia
Phone: + 61 3 8544 0500

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday 10am – 5pm
Saturday – Sunday 12pm – 5pm
Mon/public holidays closed

Monash Gallery of Art website

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28
Dec
13

Exhibition: ‘At the Window: The Photographer’s View’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 1st October 1, 2013 – 5th January 2014

 

Robert Frank. 'Trolley - New Orleans' 1955

 

Robert Frank (Swiss, 1924-2019)
Trolley – New Orleans
1955
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.9 x 34cm (9 x 13 3/8 in.)
Trish and Jan de Bont

 

 

Another fascinating exhibition from the J. Paul Getty Museum that features classic photographs and some that I have never seen before. In my opinion, the two most famous photographs of windows have to be Minor White’s rhapsodic Windowsill Daydreaming, Rochester (1958, below) and Paul Strand’s Wall Street (1915, below, originally known as Pedestrians raked by morning light in a canyon of commerce) which, strangely, is not included in the exhibition. I can’t understand this omission as this is the seminal image of windows in the history of photography.

Marcus

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

 

Paul Strand. 'Wall Street' 1915

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Wall Street
1915

 

 

In this photo, taken by morning light 1915, the recently built J.P. Morgan Co. building appears sinister and foreboding and dwarfs (perhaps consumes even) the humanity of suited men and women, their long shadows dragging behind them, walked alongside its facade.

Paul Strand studied under Lewis Hine and Alfred Steiglitz. Although he set up in New York as a portrait photographer, Strand often visited Stieglitz’s gallery to see the new European painting which it exhibited. In 1914-15, under the influence of this new form of art, Strand turned from soft-focus pictoralism towards abstraction. It was in this spirit that the above photo was taken, originally named, “Pedestrians raked by morning light in a canyon of commerce”. Strand did not intended to show Wall Street in a bad light, he admitted. However, as the Great Depression happened (criticism was squarely towards Wall Street back then as it is today) and Strand turned more communist, he later spoke of “sinister windows” and “blind shapes” inherent in the above picture.

The photo, now simply titled “Wall Street”, was one of six Paul Strand pictures Stieglitz published in Camera Work. In three of the six pictures, humanity strides out from abstract ideas, and each figure was a study in itself – an irregular item complimented by modular formats that surround it. Another set of eleven Strand photos were published in the magazine’s final issue in 1917, and those pictures, overwhelmingly endorsed by Stieglitz as ‘brutally direct’ made Strand’s reputation.

Alex Selwyn-Holmes. “Wall Street by Paul Strand,” on the Iconic Photos blog, December 2010 [Online] Cited 12/01/2021

 

Arthur Rothstein (American, 1915-1985) 'Girl at Gee's Bend' 1937

 

Arthur Rothstein (American, 1915-1985)
Girl at Gee’s Bend
1937
Silver gelatin print
Image: 40 x 49.7cm (15 3/4 x 19 9/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Edmund Collein (German, 1906-1992) '[Four Women Looking Through Window]' about 1928

 

Edmund Collein (German, 1906-1992)
[Four Women Looking Through Window]
about 1928
Gelatin silver print
Image: 8.2 x 11.1cm (3 1/4 x 4 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Ursula Kirsten-Collein, Berlin

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Wall Street Windows' about 1929

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Wall Street Windows
about 1929
Gelatin silver print
Image: 29.8 x 19.2cm (11 3/4 x 7 9/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800-1877) '[The Milliner's Window]' before January 1844

 

William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800-1877)
[The Milliner’s Window]
before January 1844
Salted paper print from a Calotype negative
Image: 14.3 x 19.5cm (5 5/8 x 7 11/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976) 'Barn Window and Ice, East Jamaica, Vermont' 1943

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Barn Window and Ice, East Jamaica, Vermont
1943
Gelatin silver print
Image (trimmed to mount): 19.4 x 24.3cm (7 5/8 x 9 9/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Aperture Foundation

 

Brett Weston (American, 1911-1993) 'Rain Drops' 1953

 

Brett Weston (American, 1911-1993)
Rain Drops
1953
Gelatin silver print
Image: 20.2 x 25cm (7 15/16 x 9 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Christian K. Keesee
© The Brett Weston Archive

 

Sebastião Salgado (Brazilian, born 1944) 'Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam' Negative 1995; print 2009

 

Sebastião Salgado (Brazilian, b. 1944)
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Negative 1995; print 2009
Gelatin silver print
Image: 34.3 x 51.4cm (13 1/2 x 20 1/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Sebastião Salgado

 

 

In many respects, the window was where photography began. As early as 1826, the sill of an upstairs window in the home of the French inventor Joseph Nicéphore Niépce served as a platform for his photographic experiments. His View from the Window at Le Gras is today considered to be the first photograph. Since then, the window motif in photographs has functioned formally as a framing device and conceptually as a tool for artistic expression. It is also tied metaphorically to the camera itself which is, at its most rudimentary, a “room” (the word camera means “chamber”) and its lens a “window” through which images are projected and fixed. The photographs in At the Window: A Photographer’s View, on view October 1, 2013 – January 5, 2014 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, explore varying aspects of the window as frame or mirror – formally or metaphorically – for photographic vision.

“The Getty Museum’s extensive collection allows us to explore themes and subjects within the history of photography that highlight not only the most famous masters and iconic images they produced, but also less obvious subjects, methods and practitioners of the medium whose contributions have not yet been fully acknowledged. At the Window is one such an exhibition, and holds in store many surprises, even for those who know the field well,” explains Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “The exhibition also allows us to celebrate a substantial body of work that was recently added to the collection with funds provided by the Museum’s Photographs Council, whose mission it is to help us support the growth of the collection, and a number of highly important loans from private collections.”

 

Shop Windows and Architecture

Featured in the exhibition is an exceedingly rare early photograph, William Henry Fox Talbot’s The Milliner’s Window (before January 1844) which depicts not an actual window but a carefully constructed one: shelves were placed outdoors and propped in front of black cloth, while various ladies’ hats were arranged to simulate the look of a shop display. Throughout the history of photography, actual shop fronts have been a popular subject and reflections in their windows a source for unexpected juxtapositions. This motif is well represented in the exhibition with photographs by William Eggleston, Eugène Atget, and Walker Evans.

Photographers have also taken an interest in the distinctive formal arrangements made possible by the architectural facades found in a cityscape. André Kertész’s Rue Vavin, Paris (1925), a view from his apartment window, is one of the first photographs he took upon arriving in Paris from Budapest. Photographers like Alfred Stieglitz carefully framed their views of urban exteriors, using the window as a unifying device within the composition.

 

The Window as Social Documentary

While windows provide an opportunity to observe life beyond a single room, the camera’s lens opens a window to the world at large. Arthur Rothstein believed in photography’s ability to enact social change – his Girl at Gee’s Bend (1937) features a young girl framed in the window of her log-and-earth home in Alabama, highlighting the schism between magazine images and the actual lives of most Americans at the time. Similarly, Robert Frank’s Trolley – New Orleans (1955) frames racial segregation through windows in a trolley, while Sebastião Salgado’s Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (negative 1995; print 2009) uses the barely separated windows of a housing structure to evoke the cramped quarters and dire economic situation of its inhabitants.

 

The Window as a Conceptual Tool

Artists have used the window in other novel ways, whether to create an enigmatic mood or suggest a suspenseful scene. In Gregory Crewdson’s Untitled (2002) from the series Twilight, the image of a woman standing in a room and turned toward a window creates a suspended, unsettling moment of anticipation that is never resolved. In her Stranger series (2000), Shizuka Yokomizo actively engages subjects by sending letters to randomly selected apartment residents, asking them to stand in front of a window at a particular date and time in order to be photographed. Uta Barth’s diptych …and of time (2000), where the path of a window’s light and shadow is followed across the wall of the artist’s living room, illustrates something the artist phrased as “ambient vision.”

“The window has been a recurrent and powerful theme for photographers from the beginning of the medium,” explains Karen Hellman, assistant curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum and curator of the exhibition. “In a collection such as the Getty’s that is particularly rich in work by important photographers from the beginnings of the medium to the present day, the motif provides a unique way to travel through the history of photography.”

 

The Window in Photographs (Getty Publications, $24.95, hardcover) investigates the recurrence of windows both as a figurative and literal theme throughout the history of photography. From the very vocabulary we use to describe cameras and photographic processes to the subjects of world-renowned photographers, windows have long held powerful sway over artists working in the medium. When documented on film, windows call into question issues of representation, the malleability of perception, and the viewer’s experience of the photograph itself, and the window’s evocative power is often rooted in the interplay between positive and negative, darkness and light, and inside and out.

Yet despite the ubiquity of windows in photography, this subject has been rarely addressed head on in a single exhibition or publication. From the birth of the Daguerreotype to the development of digital imagery, this volume presents a full account of the motif of the window as a symbol of photographic vision. Its eighty featured colour plates, all drawn from the Getty Museum’s permanent collection, are arranged thematically rather than chronologically, allowing the window’s many uses in photography to be highlighted and explored stylistically. Including images from all-star contributors such as Uta Barth, Gregory Crewdson, William Eggleston, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, and Minor White, The Window in Photographs is a remarkable examination of a theme that has inspired photographers for over a century. This book is published to coincide with the exhibition At the Window: The Photographer’s View at the J. Paul Getty Museum from October 1, 2013 to January 5, 2014.

Press release from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

 

Minor White. 'Windowsill daydreaming' 1958

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Windowsill Daydreaming, Rochester
Negative July 1958; print 1960
Gelatin silver print, selenium toned
Image: 28.6 x 22.2cm (11 1/4 x 8 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles,
Purchased in part with funds provided by the Greenberg Foundation
© Trustees of Princeton University, Minor White Archive

 

Charles Swedlund (American, born 1935) 'Buffalo, NY' about 1970

 

Charles Swedlund (American, born 1935)
Buffalo, NY
about 1970
Gelatin silver print
Image: 18.7 x 15.9cm (7 3/8 x 6 1/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Purchased in part with funds provided by an anonymous donor in memory of James N. Wood
© Charles Swedlund

 

Walker Evans. 'Penny Picture Display, Savannah' 1936

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Penny Picture Display, Savannah / Photographer’s Window Display, Birmingham, Alabama / Studio Portraits, Birmingham, Alabama
1936
Gelatin silver print
Image: 25.6 x 19.9cm (10 1/16 x 7 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Petit Bacchus, 61, rue St. Louis en l'Ile' (The Little Bacchus Café, rue St. Louis en l'Ile) 1901-1902

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Petit Bacchus, 61, rue St. Louis en l’Ile (The Little Bacchus Café, rue St. Louis en l’Ile)
1901-1902
Albumen silver print
Image: 22.1 x 17.8cm (8 11/16 x 7 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) '[From My Window at the Shelton, North]' 1931

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
[From My Window at the Shelton, North]
1931
Gelatin silver print
Image (trimmed to mount): 24.3 x 19.1cm (9 9/16 x 7 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

 

Yuki Onodera (Japanese, born 1962) 'Look Out the Window, No. 18' 2000

 

Yuki Onodera (Japanese, b. 1962)
Look Out the Window, No. 18
2000
Gelatin silver print
Image: 59 x 49.2cm (23 1/4 x 19 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Yuki Onodera

 

Shizuka Yokomizo (Japanese, born 1966) 'Stranger (15)' 1998-2000

 

Shizuka Yokomizo (Japanese, b. 1966)
Stranger (15)
1998-2000
Chromogenic print
Mount: 124.5 x 104.9cm (49 x 41 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles,
Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Shizuka Yokomizo

 

Alex Prager (American, born 1979) 'Megan' 2007

 

Alex Prager (American, b. 1979)
Megan
2007
Chromogenic print
Framed: 125.7 x 62.9cm (49 1/2 x 24 3/4 in.)
Michael and Jane Wilson

 

Gregory Crewdson (American, born 1962) 'Untitled' from the series 'Twilight' 2002

 

Gregory Crewdson (American, born 1962)
Untitled from the series Twilight
2002
Chromogenic print
Image: 122 x 152cm (48 1/16 x 59 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Gift of Trish and Jan de Bont
© Gregory Crewdson

 

Uta Barth (German, born 1958) 'Untitled (...and of time. #4)' 2000

 

Uta Barth (German, born 1958)
Untitled (…and of time. #4)
2000
Chromogenic print
Image: 88.9 x 114.3cm (35 x 45 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© 2000 Uta Barth

 

 

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

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

The J. Paul Getty Museum website

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26
Dec
13

Exhibition: ‘Abelardo Morell: The Universe Next Door’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 1st October 1, 2013 – 5th January 2014

 

Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Paper Bag' 1992

 

Abelardo Morell (American b. Cuba, 1948)
Paper Bag
1992
Inkjet print
Image: 57.2 x 45.7cm (22 1/2 x 18 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

 

 

The J. Paul Getty Museum puts on some amazing exhibitions, and this is no exception. For me the strength of this artist lies in his black and white work. I am not so enamoured with the camera obscura, unexpected juxtapositions of objects or tent-camera images. They seem prosaic and lack the magic of the black and white work.

The artist’s distinctive take on domestic interiors and family life is beguiling. Damp footprints on a bathroom floor with the most glorious light; the dark maw of a open paper bag; toy blocks ascending skywards; jumble of letters on a monolithic refrigerator door; the shadow of a house made into a house (amazing!); and the portents of darkness to come as Brady looks at his shadow. You cannot forget these images, they impinge on your consciousness. As for the colour images, they seem insignificant, superfluous when compared with these resonances.

Marcus

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

 

 

Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Curiouser and Curiouser' 1998

 

Abelardo Morell (American b. Cuba, 1948)
Curiouser and Curiouser
1998
Inkjet print
Image: 57.2 x 45.7cm (22 1/2 x 18 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

 

Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Lisa and Brady Behind Glass' 1986

 

Abelardo Morell (American b. Cuba, 1948)
Lisa and Brady Behind Glass
1986
Inkjet print
Image: 57.2 x 45.7cm (22 1/2 x 18 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

 

Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Toy Blocks' 1987

 

Abelardo Morell (American b. Cuba, 1948)
Toy Blocks
1987
Inkjet print
Image: 57.2 x 45.7cm (22 1/2 x 18 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

 

Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Refrigerator' 1987

 

Abelardo Morell (American b. Cuba, 1948)
Refrigerator
1987
Inkjet print
Image: 57.2 x 45.7cm (22 1/2 x 18 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

 

Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Footprints' 1987

 

Abelardo Morell (American b. Cuba, 1948)
Footprints
1987
Inkjet print
Image: 57.2 x 45.7 cm (22 1/2 x 18 in.)
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, purchased with funds from the Friends of Photography
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

 

Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Laura and Brady in the Shadow of Our House' 1994

 

Abelardo Morell (American b. Cuba, 1948)
Laura and Brady in the Shadow of Our House
1994
Gelatin silver print
Image: 45.7 x 57.2cm (18 x 22 1/2 in.)
The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of Abelardo Morell
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

 

Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) 'Book of Revolving Stars' 1994

 

Abelardo Morell (American b. Cuba, 1948)
Book of Revolving Stars
1994
Inkjet print
Image: 45.7 x 57.2cm (18 x 22 1/2 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

 

Abelardo Morell. 'Light Bulb' 1991

 

Abelardo Morell (American b. Cuba, 1948)
Light Bulb
1991
Gelatin silver print
Image: 45.7 x 57.2cm (18 x 22 1/2 in.)
The Art Institute of Chicago, Comer Foundation Fund, 1994.40
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

 

Abelardo Morell. 'Camera Obscura: Houses Across the Street in Our Bedroom, Quincy, MA' 1991

 

Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Camera Obscura: Houses Across the Street in Our Bedroom, Quincy, MA
1991
Gelatin silver print
Image: 79.2 x 103.2 cm (31 3/16 x 40 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, promised gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

 

Abelardo Morell. 'Two Forks Under Water' 1993

 

Abelardo Morell (American b. Cuba, 1948)
Two Forks Under Water
1993
Inkjet print
Image: 57.2 x 45.7cm (22 1/2 x 18 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

 

Abelardo Morell. 'Book with Wavy Pages' 2001

 

Abelardo Morell (American b. Cuba, 1948)
Book with Wavy Pages
2001
Gelatin silver print
Image: 57.2 x 45.7cm (22 1/2 x 18 in.)
Lent by the artist, courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

 

Abelardo Morell. 'Motion Study of Falling Pitchers' 2004

 

Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Motion Study of Falling Pitchers
2004
Gelatin silver print
Image: 57.2 x 45.7cm (22 1/2 x 18 in.)
The Art Institute of Chicago, promised gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

 

Abelardo Morell. 'Brady Looking at his Shadow' 1991

 

Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948)
Brady Looking at his Shadow
1991
Inkjet print
Image: 57.2 x 45.7cm (22 1/2 x 18 in.)
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, purchased with funds from Bert and Cathy Clark
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

 

 

Over the past 25 years, Abelardo Morell (American, born Cuba, 1948) has become internationally renowned for photographs that push the boundaries of the medium while exploring visual surprise and wonder. Throughout his career, he has looked at things with a fresh vision and investigated simple optics in myriad forms. Abelardo Morell: The Universe Next Door, on view October 1, 2013 – January 5, 2014 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, traces the artist’s innovative work as he has continued to mine the essential strangeness and complexity of photography. The exhibition was organised by The Art Institute of Chicago, in association with the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta.

“Abelardo Morell is one of this country’s great contemporary photographers whose very distinctive achievement is celebrated in this first major survey of his work,” explains Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “The exhibition also celebrates the growth of the holdings of Morell at three major museums, which have recently been augmented through the generosity of Dan Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser, who have promised significant groups of works by the artist to each institution’s permanent collection.”

Morell came to the United States as a teenager. He attended Bowdoin College in Maine, and later completed an MFA in photography at Yale University. In 1986 he began creating large-format pictures around his home, examining common household objects with childlike curiosity. As a professor at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, he experimented with optics in his teaching and initiated a series of images in which he turned entire rooms into camera obscuras, capturing the outside world as projected onto interior surfaces. These visual experiments and endless exploration of the medium are at the heart of the work on view in the exhibition.

 

From a Child’s Perspective

The earliest photographs in the exhibition date from the mid-1980s, when the birth of his son, Brady, led Morell to a radical shift in his work. Looking inward at his own family life, Morell found novel subject matter in domestic interiors. He set aside his hand-held camera in favor of a large-format view camera that necessitated a more deliberate style and elicited a wealth of tactile detail from his subjects. Of this shift, Morell writes: “I started making photographs as if I were a child myself. This strategy got me to look at things around me more closely, more slowly, and from vantage points I hadn’t considered before.” This technique can be seen in Refrigerator (negative, 1987; print, 2012), where Morell portrays a common refrigerator as a giant monolith with jumbled letters on it, evoking the preverbal vision of a child. This concept recurs in Toy Blocks (negative, 1987; print, 2012), where toy blocks photographed from a steep perspective on the floor are made to seem like a mysterious Tower of Babel, as they might to a small child.

 

Camera Obscura Experiments

The basis for all photography, the principle of the camera obscura (Latin for “dark chamber”) has been known since antiquity. In 1991, Morell began transforming entire rooms into cameras by covering the windows and inserting a small hole. He used a second camera to photograph the superimposition of the outside world as projected onto various interiors. Morell started by making black-and-white pictures in his own home before traveling before traveling in search of other compelling subjects for his uncanny, disorienting images. Morell made a pilgrimage to photograph Lacock Abbey, the country house of William Henry Fox Talbot (British, 1800-1877), one of the inventors of photography. Talbot’s era was an ideal model for the camera obscura work, as the general interest in a variety of intersecting subject matter at that time mirrored Morell’s own interest in uniting science, art, philosophy, and religion.

In 2005, Morell turned to creating camera obscura works in colour, eventually incorporating technical refinements that made his photographs less raw and immediate and more explicitly constructed. In View of the Brooklyn Bridge in the Bedroom (2009), bold red sheets serve as a reminder of the bed as a site of intimacy, contrasting with the public space of the Brooklyn Bridge. This strange juxtaposition also evokes a dreamlike state, as the outdoor image floats just above the bed.

 

Tent Camera Images

In 2010, following the example of 19th century photographers such as Carleton Watkins (American, 1829-1916) and William Henry Jackson (American, 1843-1942), Morell set out to capture the grandeur of the American wilderness. At Big Bend National Park in Texas, he began experimenting with a portable tent camera featuring a periscope lens on top, which projected the scene outside onto the ground. Morell found it appealing that what was overlooked because it was underfoot – something so common and shared – formed the backdrop for these images. In Tent Camera Image on Ground: El Capitan from Cathedral Beach, Yosemite National Park, California (2012), Morell followed Carleton Watkins’s path into Yosemite, where he used the tent camera to create a landscape that is no longer fresh and pristine, but set against such modern visual disruptions as bike tracks in the dirt.

 

Additional Experiments

Also on view in the exhibition are additional visual experiments employed by Morell, including a simulation of Eadweard Muybridge’s early use of stop-motion using a water pitcher and wine glass, as well as optical curiosities like dappled sunlight under trees, which Morell said results from hundreds of “tiny cameras” that form in the minute spaces between leaves. While in residence at two museums – the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in 1998, and the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven in 2008 – Morell created photographs that involve unexpected juxtapositions that explore how the presentation of art affects its meaning. By moving sculptures and paintings in close proximity to one another, he created what he called “an impossible conversation” between works of art. In Nadelman / Hopper (negative, 2008; print, 2012), he positioned a bust by Elie Nadelman (American, 1882-1946) in front of a painting by Edward Hopper (American, 1882-1967) for a composition in the vein of Surrealist painter Giorgio de Chirico (Italian, 1888-1978).

“Morell is driven by his unflagging intellectual curiosity and his love of the medium of photography,” said Paul Martineau, associate curator of photographs and curator of the exhibition at the Getty Museum. “His work is grounded in the past, but it also contains an unexpected twist that causes us to reexamine what we think we know. I am delighted to be able to share this unique collection of photographs with our visitors.”

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Abelardo Morell: The Universe Next Door is on view October 1, 2013 – January 5, 2014 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center. The exhibition was on view at the the Art Institute of Chicago from June 1 – September 2, 2013, and will be on view at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta from February 22 – May 18, 2014. The exhibition is curated by Paul Martineau, associate curator in the Department of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Elizabeth Siegel, associate curator of photography at the Art Institute of Chicago, and Brett Abbott, curator of photography at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, where it travels after the Getty. Funding for the exhibition catalogue was provided by the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Generous in-kind support for the exhibition was provided by Tru Vue Inc. and Gemini Moulding Incc.

Press release from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

 

Abelardo Morell. 'Nadelman/Hopper, Yale University Art Gallery' 2008

 

Abelardo Morell (American b. Cuba, 1948)
Nadelman/Hopper, Yale University Art Gallery
2008
Inkjet print
Image: 61 x 76.2cm (24 x 30 in.)
Courtesy of Bonni Benrubi Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

 

Abelardo Morell. 'Tent-Camera Image On Ground: Rooftop View Of The Brooklyn Bridge' 2010

 

Abelardo Morell (American b. Cuba, 1948)
Tent-Camera Image On Ground: Rooftop View Of The Brooklyn Bridge
2010
Inkjet print
Image: 76.2 x 101.6cm (30 x 40 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

 

Abelardo Morell. 'Tent-Camera Image on Ground: View of the Golden Gate Bridge from Battery Yates' 2012

 

Abelardo Morell (American b. Cuba, 1948)
Tent-Camera Image on Ground: View of the Golden Gate Bridge from Battery Yates
2012
Inkjet print
Image: 57.2 x 76.2cm (22 1/2 x 30 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

 

Abelardo Morell. 'Tent-Camera Image on Ground: View of the Grand Canyon from Trailview Overlook' 2012

 

Abelardo Morell (American b. Cuba, 1948)
Tent-Camera Image on Ground: View of the Grand Canyon from Trailview Overlook
2012
Inkjet print
Image: 57.2 x 76.2cm (22 1/2 x 30 in.)
Courtesy of Bonni Benrubi Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

 

Abelardo Morell. 'Tent-Camera Image on Ground: View of the Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View' 2012

 

Abelardo Morell (American b. Cuba, 1948)
Tent-Camera Image on Ground: View of the Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View
2012
Inkjet print
Image: 57.2 x 76.2cm (22 1/2 x 30 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

 

Abelardo Morell. 'Upright Camera Obscura Image of the Piazzeta San Marco Looking Southeast in Office' 2007

 

Abelardo Morell (American b. Cuba, 1948)
Upright Camera Obscura Image of the Piazzeta San Marco Looking Southeast in Office
2007
Inkjet print
Image: 61 x 76.2cm (24 x 30 in.)
The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of the artist in memory of David Feingold, 2013.1
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

 

Abelardo Morell. 'Camera Obscura: View of the Brooklyn Bridge in Bedroom' 2009

 

Abelardo Morell (American b. Cuba, 1948)
Camera Obscura: View of the Brooklyn Bridge in Bedroom
2009
Inkjet print
Image: 79 x 101.6cm (31 1/8 x 40 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Purchased with funds provided by Richard and Alison Crowell, Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser and anonymous donors in honour of James N. Wood
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

 

Abelardo Morell. 'Camera Obscura Image of Santa Maria della Salute in Palazzo Bedroom, Venice, Italy' 2006

 

Abelardo Morell (American b. Cuba, 1948)
Camera Obscura Image of Santa Maria della Salute in Palazzo Bedroom, Venice, Italy
2006
Inkjet print
Image: 101.6 x 76.2cm (40 x 30 in.)
Lent by the artist, courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
© Abelardo Morell, courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York

 

 

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

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday 10am – 5.30pm
Saturday 10 am – 9pm
Sunday 1am – 9pm
Monday closed

The J. Paul Getty Museum website

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24
Dec
13

Exhibition: ‘A Democracy of Images: Photographs from the Smithsonian American Art Museum’ at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC

Exhibition dates: 28th June 2013 – 5th January 2014
1st floor West, American Art Museum (8th and F Streets, N.W.)

Browse the exhibition and related works on the exhibition website

 

 

Unidentified artist. '[Bird in Basin with Thread Spool and Patterned Cloth]' c. 1855

 

Unidentified artist
[Bird in Basin with Thread Spool and Patterned Cloth]
c. 1855
Daguerreotype
Plate: 2 3/4 x 3 1/4 in. (6.9 x 8.2cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase from the Charles Isaacs Collection made possible in part by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment

 

 

The next two weeks sees a lot of exhibitions finish their run on the 5th January 2014.

Here is a bumper posting which contains one of my favourite photographs of all time: Danny Lyon’s Crossing the Ohio River, Louisville (1966, below). From a distance, this looks to be a very interesting exhibition on a large topic, delineated for the viewer into four main sections. The task of the curator cannot have been easy, picking 113 images to represent a “democracy” of images out of a collection of over 7,000 images. Of course there can never be a true “democracy” of images as some will always be more valued within our culture than others. There is a meritocracy in this exhibition which features images by masters of the medium but this is balanced by the inclusion of images by anonymous photographers, little known photographers and vernacular and street photography.

What is most impressive is the specially developed website which includes many images from the different sections of the exhibition. These images are of good quality and, along with relevant text, help the viewer place the images in context. Related content is also suggested from the full photographic collection at The Smithsonian which has been placed online with good image quality. This is a far cry from many exhibitions at state galleries in Australia where there are hardly any dedicated exhibition websites. Most of the photographic collection from these galleries is not available online and if it has been scanned, the image quality is generally poor. How many times have I searched a state gallery or library collection and come up with the answer: “Image not available” ?

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Many thankx to the Smithsonian American Art Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs and text in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“More often, though, the moments, places, people and views that have been collected here feel offhand and stumbled upon, telling a fragmentary, incomplete tale. Sometimes it’s literally a glance, as in “Girl Holding Popsicle,” a 1972 image by Mark Cohen, who rarely even looked through his viewfinder. Other times, it’s more like a long stare, as in William Christenberry’s 1979 “China Grove Church – Hale County, Alabama,” a locale that the Washington-based artist and Alabama native returned to again and again. These 113 pictures are, at the same time, quietly telling, revealing bits of America in oblique, prismatic ways.”

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Part of Michael O’Sullivan’s review of the exhibition in The Washington Post.

 

 

American Characters

Photographers have captured the texture of everyday life since the medium’s arrival in the United States in 1839. Photographic portraits have made both the iconic and the commonplace serve as stand-ins for all of us, forging a shared language of political and social understanding. In charting the passing parade of history – the faces of the anonymous and the famous; evolving stories of immigration, disenfranchisement, and assimilation; as well as emblematic objects and celebrated landmarks lodged within our collective memory – photographs reveal the complexities of America.

 

Larry Sultan. 'Portrait of My Father with Newspaper' 1988

 

Larry Sultan (American, 1946-2009)
Portrait of My Father with Newspaper
1988
Chromogenic print
Image: 28 5/8 x 34 5/8 in. (72.7 x 87.9cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Nan Tucker McEvoy
© 1988, Larry Sultan

 

 

In Portrait of My Father with Newspaper, Irving Sultan reads the Los Angeles Times as light pours in behind him. This carefully composed portrait reveals the artist’s father almost entirely through reflections and shadows. Thin newsprint shields his body from the camera, while only a vague profile of his face is discernible on the right half of the spread. Prompted by the discovery of a box of home movies, Larry Sultan embarked on an eight-year enquiry into his parents’ lives. He stayed in their home for weeks at a time, interviewing them about their marriage and photographing their domestic activities.

 

Eugene Richards. 'First Communion (Dorchester, Mass.)' 1976

 

Eugene Richards (American, b. 1944)
First Communion (Dorchester, Mass.)
1976
Gelatin silver print
Image: 8 x 12 in. (20.3 x 30.5cm)
Sheet: 11 x 14 in. (27.9 x 35.6cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Transfer from the National Endowment for the Arts
© 1974, Eugene Richards

 

Mark Cohen. 'Girl Holding Popsicle' 1972, printed 1983

 

Mark Cohen (American, b. 1943)
Girl Holding Popsicle
1972, printed 1983
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 14 x 17 in. (35.5 x 43.2cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Dene and Mel Garbow
© 1972, Mark Cohen

 

 

In Girl Holding Popsicle a young girl twists shyly as she poses before a graffiti-inscribed brick wall. Mark Cohen took this photograph spontaneously as he passed through a back alley. Cohen does not hesitate to get assertively close to the strangers he meets in his hometown of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Many of his photographs are made without looking through a viewfinder, and so remain a mystery even to Cohen until they are developed.

 

Unidentified artist. '[Gold Nugget]' c. 1860s

 

Unidentified artist
[Gold Nugget]
c. 1860s
Albumen silver print
Image: 2 1/8 x 3 5/8 in. (5.4 x 9.2cm)
Sheet: 2 3/8 x 3 7/8 in. (6.1 x 9.8cm) irregular
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Charles Isaacs and Carol Nigro

 

Mathew B. Brady. 'Reviewing Stand in Front of the Executive Mansion, Washington, D.C., May, 1865' 1865, printed early 1880s

 

Mathew B. Brady (American, 1823-1896)
Reviewing Stand in Front of the Executive Mansion, Washington, D.C., May, 1865
1865, printed early 1880s
Albumen silver print
Sheet and image: 6 1/2 x 9 in. (16.5 x 22.9cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase through the Julia D. Strong Endowment

 

Kevin Bubriski. 'World Trade Center Series, New York City' 2001

 

Kevin Bubriski (American, b. 1954)
World Trade Center Series, New York City
2001
Gelatin silver print
Image: 18 x 18 in. (45.7 x 45.7cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of the Consolidated Natural Gas Company Foundation
© 2001, Kevin Bubriski

 

 

In the weeks and months following the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001, Kevin Bubriski photographed people who gathered at Ground Zero. Frozen in awe, struck with disbelief, and overcome with loss, people stood before the destroyed building site to confront the horrible tragedy. More than ten years later, Bubriski’s photographs preserve the emotional impact of this infamous day through images of those who witnessed its aftermath first-hand.

 

Deborah Luster. '01-26 Location. 1800 Leonidas Street (Carrollton) Date(s). July 14, 2009 7:55 a.m. Name(s). Brian Christopher Smith (22) Notes. Face up with multiple gunshot wounds' 2008-2012

 

Deborah Luster (American, b. 1951)
01-26 Location. 1800 Leonidas Street (Carrollton) Date(s). July 14, 2009 7:55 a.m. Name(s). Brian Christopher Smith (22) Notes. Face up with multiple gunshot wounds
2008-2012
Gelatin silver print
55 x 55 in. (139.7 x 139.7cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment
© 2010, Deborah Luster

 

 

This photograph, from a series that documents contemporary and historical homicide sites in New Orleans, presents Deborah Luster’s interpretation of the last view of the crime victim lying face up on the ground. The title is the entry from the New Orleans Police blotter, but the photograph is Luster’s meditation on looking, seeing, and the power of images to haunt our imagination.

 

Unidentified artist. '[Two Workmen Polishing a Stove]' c. 1865

 

Unidentified artist
[Two Workmen Polishing a Stove]
c. 1865
Albumen silver print
Sheet and image: 14 1/8 x 11 in. (35.9 x 28cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase from the Charles Isaacs Collection made possible in part by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment

 

Anthony Barboza. '"Marvelous" Marvin Hagler, boxer' 1981

 

Anthony Barboza (American, b. 1944)
“Marvelous” Marvin Hagler, boxer
1981
Gelatin silver print
Image: 13 7/8 x 13 7/8 in. (35.2 x 35.2cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Kenneth B. Pearl
© 1981, Anthony Barboza

 

Edward S. Curtis. 'Girl and Jar - San Ildefonso' 1905

 

Edward S. Curtis (American, 1868-1952)
Girl and Jar – San Ildefonso
1905
Photogravure
Sight 16 5/8 x 12 1/4 in. (12.3 x 31.1cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Transfer from the United States Marshal Service of the U.S. Department of Justice

 

 

Between 1900 and 1930, Edward S. Curtis traveled across the continent photographing more than seventy Native American tribes. The photographs, compiled into twenty volumes, presented daily activities, customs, and religions of a people he called “a vanishing race.” Curtis hoped to preserve the legacy of Native peoples in lasting images. To this end, Curtis often costumed his subjects and set up scenes, mixing tribal artefacts and traditions to match his romantic vision of the people he studied. In this intimate portrait, a young Tewa woman named Povi-Tamu (“Flower Morning”) balances a large jug with help from a hidden fiber ring. She is from the San Ildefonso Pueblo of New Mexico, which is famed for its rich tradition of fine pottery. Curtis associated the serpentine design of the vessel with the serpent cult, which he noted was central to Tewa life.

 

Oliver H. Willard. 'Portrait of a Young Woman' c. 1857

 

Oliver H. Willard (American, active 1850s-70s, died 1875)
Portrait of a Young Woman
c. 1857
Salted paper print
8 7/8 x 6 3/4 in. (22.5 x 17.1cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase through the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, 1999.29.1

 

 

Spiritual Frontier

The earliest photographs made in America describe an awesome land blessed with such an abundance of natural beauty that it seemed heaven sent. Images of waterfalls, mountains, and vast open spaces conveyed the beauty, the grandeur, the sublimity, and dynamics of a great spiritual endeavour. In the nineteenth century photographers pictured wilderness landscapes that symbolised American greatness. More recently, photographers have described a landscape no less romantic, but now recalibrated to account for the interaction of nature and culture.

 

Eadweard Muybridge. 'Valley of the Yosemite from Union Point' 1872

 

Eadweard Muybridge (English, 1830-1904)
Valley of the Yosemite from Union Point
1872
Albumen silver print
Sheet: 17 x 21 1/2 in. (43.2 x 54.6cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Charles T. Isaacs

 

 

Eadweard Muybridge went to great lengths to photograph the best possible views of the West. He chopped down trees if they obstructed his camera, and ventured to “points where his packers refused to follow him.” Muybridge was determined to produce the most comprehensive photographs ever made of Yosemite and the surrounding region. His views were sold widely in both large-format prints and stereograph cards, which are viewed through a device that creates the illusion of three-dimensional space. This allowed Muybridge to transport his audience, if just for a moment, to a faraway place caught on film.

 

Robert Frank. 'Butte, Montana' 1956, printed 1973

 

Robert Frank (Swiss, 1924-2019)
Butte, Montana
1956, printed 1973
Gelatin silver print
Image: 8 3/4 x 13 in. (22.2 x 33cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase

 

Robert Adams. 'New Housing, Longmont, Colorado' 1973

 

Robert Adams (American, b. 1937)
New Housing, Longmont, Colorado
1973
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 6 x 7 5/8 in. (15.1 x 19.3cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Transfer from the National Endowment for the Arts
© 1973, Robert Adams

 

 

As both a photographer and writer, Robert Adams is committed to describing the western American landscape as both awe-inspiring and scarred by man. In New Housing, Longmont Colorado, Adams contrasted the vast space of the distant landscape view with a foreground image of the wall of a newly constructed suburban tract house. Adams invites a consideration of the balance between myth and reality and the land as home as well as scenic backdrop.

 

Charles L. Weed. 'Mirror Lake and Reflections, Yosemite Valley, Mariposa County, California' 1865

 

Charles L. Weed (American, 1824-1903)
Mirror Lake and Reflections, Yosemite Valley, Mariposa County, California
1865
Albumen silver print
Sheet and image: 15 1/2 x 20 1/4 in. (39.4 x 51.4cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Charles T. Isaacs

 

 

Like Carleton Watkins, his better-known competitor, Charles Weed recognised the pictorial dividend to be gained by showing Yosemite’s glorious geological features in duplicate, using the valley’s lakes as reflecting ponds. Weed first traveled to what was then known as “Yo-Semite,” in 1859, but with a relatively small camera; he returned in 1865 with a larger model capable of using what were called mammoth plates. Like Watkins, he sold his prints to buyers eager to own a photograph of majestic natural beauty.

 

Ansel Adams. 'Monolith: The Face of Half Dome, Yosemite Valley' 1926-1927, printed 1927

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Monolith: The Face of Half Dome, Yosemite Valley
1926-1927, printed 1927
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 11 7/8 x 9 7/8 in. (30.2 x 25.1cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase
© 2013 The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

 

 

At just over 4,700 feet above the valley, Half Dome is the most iconic rock formation in Yosemite National Park. Adams squeezed the monolith into the frame to emphasise the majesty of its scale and the drama of its cliff. As it thrusts out of the brilliant white snow, Half Dome stands as a symbol of the unspoiled western landscape. Ansel Adams made his first trip to the Sierra Nevada mountain range when he was fourteen years old, and he returned every year until the end of his life, often for month-long stretches. Throughout his career Adams traveled widely – from Hawaii to Maine – to photograph the most picturesque vistas in America. After his death in 1984, a section of the Sierra Nevada was named the Ansel Adams Wilderness in his honor.

 

John Pfahl. 'Goodyear #5, Niagara Falls, New York' 1989

 

John Pfahl (American, 1939-2020)
Goodyear #5, Niagara Falls, New York
1989
Chromogenic print
Sheet: 20 x 24 in. (50.8 x 61.0cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of the Consolidated Natural Gas Company Foundation, 1991.27.3, © 1989, John Pfahl

 

 

John Pfahl’s photographs embody the conflict between progress and preservation. Throughout the 1980s he focused on oil refineries and power plants. He chose the sites strategically based on their location in picturesque landscapes, where he observed a “transcendental” connection between industry and nature. In Goodyear #5 a nuclear power plant occupies the horizon. The setting sun provides a romantic colour palette as light filters through clouds of billowing steam. The landscape is reduced to an abstract composition that celebrates colour and texture. Pfahl’s intention with this series, titled Smoke, was to “make photographs whose very ambiguity provokes thought.” This photograph complicates popular notions of power plants by revealing an uncommonly beautiful view of a controversial structure.

 

 

A Democracy of Images: Photographs from the Smithsonian American Art Museum celebrates the numerous ways in which photography, from early daguerreotypes to contemporary digital works, has captured the American experience. The photographs presented here are selected from the approximately 7,000 images collected since the museum’s photography program began thirty years ago, in 1983. Ranging from daguerreotype to digital, they depict the American experience and are loosely grouped around four ideas: American Characters, Spiritual Frontier, America Inhabited, and Imagination at Work.

The exhibition’s title is inspired by American poet Walt Whitman’s belief that photography provided America with a new, democratic art form that matched the spirit of the young country and his belief that photography was a quintessentially American activity, rooted in everyday people and ordinary things and presented in a straightforward way. Known as the “poet of democracy,” Whitman wrote after visiting a daguerreotype studio in 1846: “You will see more life there – more variety, more human nature, more artistic beauty… than in any spot we know.” At the time of Whitman’s death, in 1892, George Eastman had just introduced mass market photography when he put an affordable box camera into the hands of thousands of Americans. The ability to capture an instant of lasting importance and fundamental truth mesmerised Americans then and continues to inspire photographers working today. Marking the thirtieth anniversary of the establishment of the museum’s pioneering photography collection, the exhibition examines photography’s evolution in the United States from a documentary medium to a full-fledged artistic genre and showcases the numerous ways in which it has distilled our evolving idea of “America.”

The exhibition features 113 photographs selected from the museum’s permanent collection, including works by Edward S. Curtis, Timothy H. O’SullivanBerenice AbbottDiane ArbusRoy DeCaravaWalker Evans,Irving PennTrevor Paglen, among others, as well as vernacular works by unknown artists. A number of recent acquisitions are featured, including works by Ellen CareyMitch EpsteinMuriel HasbunAlfredo Jaar, Annie Leibovitz, Deborah Luster, and Sally Mann. Landscapes, portraits, documentary-style works from the New York Photo League and images from surveying expeditions sent westward after the Civil War are among the images on display, and explore how photographs have been used to record and catalogue, to impart knowledge, to project social commentary, and as instruments of self-expression.

Photography’s arrival in the United States in 1840 allowed ordinary people to make and own images in a way that had not been previously possible. Photographers immediately became engaged with the life of the emerging nation, the activity of new urban centers, and the possibilities of unprecedented access to the vast western frontier. From the nineteenth to the twentieth century, photography not only captured the country’s changing cultural and physical landscape, but also developed its own language and layers of meaning.

A Democracy of Images: Photographs from the Smithsonian American Art Museum is organised around four major themes that defined American photography. “American Characters” examines the ways in which photographs of individuals, places, and objects become a catalogue of our collective memory and have contributed to the ever-evolving idea of the American character. “Spiritual Frontier” investigates early ideas of a vast, inexhaustible wilderness that symbolised American greatness. “America Inhabited” traces the nation’s rapid industrialisation and urbanisation through images of speed, change, progress, immigration, and contemporary rural, urban, and suburban landscapes. “Imagination at Work” demonstrates how photography’s role of spontaneous witness gradually gave way to contrived arrangement and artistic invention. The exhibition is organised by Merry Foresta, guest curator and independent consultant for the arts. She was the museum’s curator of photography from 1983 to 1999.

Connecting online

A complementary website designed for viewing on tablets includes photographs on view in the exhibition, an expanded selection of works from the museum’s collection and a timeline of American photography. It is available through tablet stations in the exhibition galleries, online, and on mobile devices.”

Press release from the Smithsonian American Art Museum website

 

 

America Inhabited

Photography’s early presence in America coincided with the rise of an industrial economy, the growth of major urban population centers, and the fulfilling of what some saw as the Manifest Destiny of spanning the continent from sea to sea. Images of progress and industry, as well as of city and suburbs, quickly added themselves to photography’s catalogue of places and people. Some of these images reflect idealistically, and at times nostalgically, on the beauty and humanity of our own backyards. Others stand as social documents that can be seen as critical and ironic, inviting outrage as well as compassion about the way we now live our lives.

 

Helen Levitt. 'New York' c. 1942, printed later

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009)
New York
c. 1942, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Image: 7 1/8 x 10 1/2 in. (18.1 x 26.6cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase
© 1981, Helen Levitt

 

 

Caught before they run off into the streets, three masked youngsters pause on their front stoop. Expressive postures and mysterious disguises give this trio a theatrical quality. Helen Levitt, who found poetry in the uninhibited gestures of children, used a right-angle viewfinder to capture boys and girls roaming freely and playing with found objects. Working in New York City during the years surrounding World War II, her photographs show the drama of life that unfolded on the sidewalks of poor and working-class neighbourhoods.

 

Louis Faurer. 'Broadway, New York, N.Y.' 1949-1950, printed 1980-1981

 

Louis Faurer (American, 1916-2001)
Broadway, New York, N.Y.
1949-1950, printed 1980-1981
Gelatin silver print
Image: 8 3/8 x 12 9/16 in. (21.3 x 32cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of David L. Davies and John D. Weeden and museum purchase
© Estate of Louis Faurer

 

Danny Lyon. 'Crossing the Ohio River, Louisville' 1966, printed 1985

 

Danny Lyon (American, b. 1942)
Crossing the Ohio River, Louisville
1966, printed 1985
Gelatin silver print
Image: 8 3/4 x 12 7/8 in. (22.2 x 32.7cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase made possible by Mrs. Marshall Langhorne
Photo courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery

 

William Eggleston. 'Tricycle (Memphis)' about 1975, printed 1980

 

William Eggleston (American, b. 1939)
Tricycle (Memphis)
about 1975, printed 1980
Dye transfer print
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Amy Loeserman Klein

 

 

An ordinary tricycle is made monumental in this playful colour photograph. Taken from below, it suggests a child’s perspective – elevating this rusty tricycle to a symbol of innocence and freedom. The quiet Memphis suburb in the background typifies the safe neighbourhoods where children could spend hours playing after school. This print was made with the expensive and exacting dye imbibition process, which was typically used for fashion and advertising at the time. Eggleston began experimenting with colour photography in the mid-1960s. Inspired by trips to a commercial photography lab, he developed an approach that imitates the random, imperfect style of amateur snapshots to describe his immediate surroundings combined with a keen interest in the effects of colour.

 

Tina Barney. 'Marina's Room' 1987

 

Tina Barney (American, b. 1945)
Marina’s Room
1987
Chromogenic print
Sheet: 48 x 60 in. (121.9 x 52.3cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase
© 1987, Tina Barney, Courtesy Janet Borden, Inc.

 

Aaron Siskind. 'Untitled' 1937, printed later

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991)
Untitled
1937, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 10 x 14 in. (25.4 x 35.5cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Tennyson and Fern Schad, courtesy of Light Gallery
© 1940, Aaron Siskind

 

 

In this untitled photograph Aaron Siskind focused on the regular grid of boarded-up windows on a derelict tenement building. Once portals into intimate domestic spaces, the windows represent loss in a community plagued by poverty, unemployment, and racial discrimination. Building upon the traditions of social documentary photographers before him, Siskind used his camera to raise public awareness of Harlem’s struggle, even as he created a modernist work of art.

 

Walker Evans. 'Kitchen Wall, Alabama Farmstead' 1936, printed 1974

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Kitchen Wall, Alabama Farmstead
1936, printed 1974
Gelatin silver print
Sheet and image: 9 3/8 x 12 in. (23.9 x 30.5cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Lee and Maria Friedlander

 

 

During the summer of 1936, Walker Evans joined writer James Agee in rural Alabama to work on a magazine assignment on cotton farming. Evans and Agee met with three tenant farm families and documented every detail of their experiences. The result, which the magazine declined to publish, was released as the book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men in 1941. It contains some of the most iconic and contentious photographs to document the Great Depression. Kitchen Wall, Alabama Farmstead reads like a modern novel. Every crack in the wood, every speck of paint tells part of the story. Evans drew special attention to the scarcity of cooking tools at the family’s disposal. These everyday utensils illustrate a metaphor for the struggle to meet basic needs.

 

Judy Fiskin. 'Long Beach Pike (broken fence)', from the 'Long Beach, California Documentary Survey Project' 1980

 

Judy Fiskin (American, b. 1945)
Long Beach Pike (broken fence), from the Long Beach, California Documentary Survey Project
1980
Gelatin silver print
Image: 2 1/2 x 2 1/2 in. (6.2 x 6.2cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Transfer from the National Endowment for the Arts
© 1980, Judy Fiskin

 

 

For this series, sponsored by the National Endowment of the Art’s Long Beach Documentary Survey Project, Judy Fiskin focused on the Long Beach Pike, an amusement park that was demolished soon after she made the photographs. By printing in high contrast and restricting the scale of her prints, Fiskin reduced form to its bare essentials. Devoid of superfluous detail, these photographs appear more like conjured images than documents of reality. Judy Fiskin systematically catalogues the world of architecture and design in order to study variations of historical styles. Her series carefully investigate esoteric subjects such as military base architecture, “dingbat” style houses in southern California, and the art of flower arranging.

 

Berenice Abbott. 'Brooklyn Bridge, Water and Dock Streets, Brooklyn' 1936

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
Brooklyn Bridge, Water and Dock Streets, Brooklyn
1936
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 18 x 14 3/8 in. (45.7 x 36.6cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Transfer from the Evander Childs High School, Bronx, New York through the General Services Administration

 

 

Berenice Abbott returned home in 1929 after nearly eight years abroad and found herself fascinated by the rapid growth of New York City. She saw the city as bristling with new buildings and structures which seemed to her as solid and as permanent as a mountain range. Aiming to capture “the past jostling the present,” Abbott spent the next five years on a project she called Changing New York. In Brooklyn Bridge, Water and Dock Streets, Brooklyn, Abbott presented a century of history in a single image. The Brooklyn Bridge, once a marvel of modern engineering, seems dark and heavy compared with the skeletal structure beneath it. The construction site at center suggests the never-ending cycle of death and regeneration. And the Manhattan skyline, veiled and weightless, hangs just out of reach, its shape accommodating the ambitious spirit of American modernism.

 

Robert Disraeli. 'Cold Day on Cherry Street' 1932

 

Robert Disraeli (American, 1905-1987)
Cold Day on Cherry Street
1932
Gelatin silver print
Image and sheet: 14 x 11 in. (35.5 x 28cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase made possible by Mr. and Mrs. G. Howland Chase, Mrs. James S. Harlan (Adeline M. Noble Collection), Lucie Louise Fery, Berthe Girardet, and Mrs. George M. McClellan
© 1932, Robert Disraeli

 

 

Imagination at Work

Nineteenth-century French commentator Alexis de Tocqueville observed that in America, nothing is ever quite what it seems. Yet the idea that “seeing is believing” is deeply ingrained in the American character. By yoking together style and subject under the guise of the real, today’s photographers borrow from photography’s rich past while embracing the conceptual framework of contemporary art. They read reality as something on the surface of a picture or, more complexly, as something located in the mind of its beholder.

 

Sonya Noskowiak. 'Calla Lily' c. 1930s

 

Sonya Noskowiak (American, born Germany 1900-1975)
Calla Lily
c. 1930s
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 7 3/8 x 9 3/4 in. (18.8 x 24.7cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase made possible through Deaccession Funds

 

Ray K. Metzker. 'Composites: Philadelphia (Car and Street Lamp)' 1966

 

Ray K. Metzker (American, 1931-2014)
Composites: Philadelphia (Car and Street Lamp)
1966
Gelatin silver prints
Image: 25 3/8 x 17 3/4 in. (64.5 x 45cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase
© 1966, Ray K. Metzker

 

 

Ray Metzker’s Composites series, begun in 1964, connected in a dramatic fashion his interests in contrasts of light and shadow, his strong sense of design, and his earlier explorations of the multiple image. Metzker studied at Chicago’s Institute of Design, where a rigorously formal, problem-solving approach to photography was taught. For this series he assembled grids of individual photographs to create complex image-fields. When viewed from a distance, this work reads as an abstract, rhythmic pattern of light and dark. On closer inspection, however, many crisply descriptive images are revealed. The Composites function somewhat like short filmstrips. The mystery of these brief narratives is exaggerated by the repetitive design and provides a unique opportunity, in Metzker’s words, “to deal with complexity of succession and simultaneity, of collected and related moments.”

 

Irving Penn. 'Mud Glove - New York' 1975, printed 1976

 

Irving Penn (American, 1917-2009)
Mud Glove – New York
1975, printed 1976
Platinum-palladium print
Sheet and image: 29 3/4 x 22 1/4 in. (75.5 x 56.5cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of the artist

 

 

Irving Penn was one of the most important and influential photographers of the twentieth century. In a career that spanned almost seventy years, Penn worked across multiple genres, from celebrity portraits to fashion, from still lives to images of native cultures in remote places of the world. Throughout his career Penn also worked on a series of photographs of discarded objects: things that had been lost, neglected, or misused. Printed in platinum, these detailed photographs of objects such as a lost glove found in the gutter, are Penn’s photographic memento mori, offering beauty compromised by age or disuse.

 

Edward Weston. 'Pepper no. 30' 1930

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Pepper no. 30
1930
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 9 1/2 x 7 1/2 in. (24.3 x 19.2cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase

 

Imogen Cunningham. 'Auragia' 1953, printed c. 1960s

 

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976)
Auragia
1953, printed c. 1960s
Gelatin silver print
Sheet and image: 11 1/8 x 8 3/4 in. (28.3 x 22.2cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Charles Isaacs and Carol Nigro

 

Ellen Carey. 'Dings and Shadows' 2012

 

Ellen Carey (American, b. 1952)
Dings and Shadows
2012
Chromogenic print
Sheet and image: 40 x 30 in. (101.6 x 76.2cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Linda Cheverton Wick and Walter Wick
© 2012, Ellen Carey

 

 

Ellen Carey created the series she calls Dings and Shadows by exposing photosensitive paper to light projected through primary and complementary colour filters. The artist first folds and crushes paper; then after exposing the paper to light from a colour enlarger, flattens it out again for processing. In doing so, Carey dissects the process of developing film, and evokes the hand-crafted nature of early photographic techniques.

 

 

Some images from the Timeline on the website

1843

Daguerreotypists Albert S. Southworth and Josiah Johnson Hawes begin a partnership, establishing Southworth & Hawes as the most highly regarded portrait studio in Boston, Mass. The studio caters to the city’s elite, and is visited by Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Oliver Wendell Holmes, among many other influential people of the time.

 

Albert Sands Southworth and Josiah Johnson Hawes. 'A Bride and Her Bridesmaids' 1851

 

Albert Sands Southworth (American, 1811-1894) and Josiah Johnson Hawes (American, 1808-1901)
A Bride and Her Bridesmaids
1851
Daguerreotype
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase made possible by Walter Beck

 

 

1853

The New York Daily Tribune estimates that in the United States, three million daguerreotypes are being produced annually.

 

Unidentified artist. 'Mother and Son' c. 1855

 

Unidentified artist
Mother and Son
c. 1855
Daguerreotype with applied colour
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase from the Charles Isaacs Collection made possible in part by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment

 

 

1857

Julian Vannerson and Samuel Cohner make the first systematic photographs of Native American delegations to visit Washington, D.C. They photograph ninety delegates representing thirteen tribes who conduct treaty and other negotiations with government officials.

 

Julian Vannerson. 'Shining Metal' 1858

 

Julian Vannerson (American, 1827-1875)
Shining Metal
1858
Salted paper print
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase from the Charles Isaacs Collection made possible in part by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment

 

 

1861

American Civil War begins with shots fired on Fort Sumter by Confederate troops. Portrait photographer Mathew Brady is given permission by President Abraham Lincoln to photograph the First Battle of Bull Run, but comes so close to the battle that he narrowly avoids capture. Using paid assistants Alexander Gardner, Timothy O’Sullivan, George N. Barnard, and others, Brady’s studio makes thousands of photos of the sites, material, and people of the war. Civilian free-lance photographer Egbert Guy Fowx sells numerous negatives to Brady’s studio, which publishes and copyrights many of them. Many other images are credited to Fowx, including this group of Union officers.

 

Egbert Guy Fowx. 'New York 7th Regiment Officers' c. 1863

 

Egbert Guy Fowx (American, 1821-1889)
New York 7th Regiment Officers
c. 1863
Salted paper print
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase from the Charles Isaacs Collection made possible in part by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment

 

 

1867

Eadweard Muybridge begins trip to photograph in Yosemite Valley. He publishes his photographs under the name “Helios,” which is also the name of his San Francisco studio. An exhibition of more than 300 photographic portraits of Native American delegates to Washington, D.C., opens in the Smithsonian Castle. Clarence R. King begins direction of the U.S. Geological Expedition of the Fortieth Parallel, appointing Timothy O’Sullivan as the official photographer. Photographer Carleton Watkins joins the survey in 1871.

.

Timothy H. O'Sullivan. 'Tufa Domes, Pyramid Lake, Nevada' 1867

 

Timothy H. O’Sullivan  (American, born Ireland, 1840-1882)
Tufa Domes, Pyramid Lake, Nevada
1867
Albumen silver print
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase from the Charles Isaacs Collection made possible in part by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment

 

 

1869

Andrew J. Russell’s album, The Great West Illustrated in a Series of Photographic Views across the Continent; Taken along the Line of the Union Pacific Railroad from Omaha, Nebraska, Volume I, is published. George M. Wheeler begins direction of the United States Geological Surveys West of the 100th Meridian for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Wheeler makes fourteen trips to the West over the next eight years. Photographer Timothy O’Sullivan accompanies him in 1871, 1873, and 1874.

 

Andrew Joseph Russell. 'Sphinx of the Valley' 1869

 

Andrew Joseph Russell (American, 1829-1902)
Sphinx of the Valley
1869
Albumen silver print
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Museum purchase from the Charles Isaacs Collection made possible in part by the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment

 

 

1967

The Friends of Photography is founded in Carmel, California, by Ansel Adams, Beaumont and Nancy Newhall, Brett Weston, and others, with the aim of promoting creative photography and supporting its practitioners. It remains in existence until 2001.

 

Brett Weston. 'Untitled (Snow Covered Mountains)' 1973

 

Brett Weston (American, 1911-1993)
Untitled (Snow Covered Mountains)
1973
Gelatin silver print
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Transfer from the National Endowment for the Arts
© 1973, Brett Weston

 

 

1975

New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape opens at the International Museum of Photography in Rochester, N.Y. It includes photographs by Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Joe Deal, Frank Gohlke, Nicholas Nixon, John Schott, Stephen Shore, and Henry Wessel Jr.

 

Frank Gohlke. 'Grain Elevator, Dumas, Texas, 1973' 1973, printed 1994

 

Frank Gohlke (American, b. 1942)
Grain Elevator, Dumas, Texas, 1973
1973, printed 1994
Gelatin silver print
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment
© 1973, Frank Gohlke

 

 

Smithsonian American Art Museum
8th and F Streets, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20004

Opening hours:
11.30am – 7.00pm daily

Smithsonian American Art Museum website

A Democracy of Images website

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21
Dec
13

New work: ‘upside, down’ 2013 by Dr Marcus Bunyan

December 2013

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled
2013
From the series upside, down 2013
Digital photograph

 

 

Finally, I got my act together for a new series of my own work titled upside, down (2013). The series is now online on my website or you can click on the thumbnails below to go the full image. There are 30 images in the series formed as a sequence. Below is a selection of images from the series. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

People have asked me what this series is about. It’s about the suspension of belief; it’s about taking an enormous, heavy war machine and floating it in mid air and the impossibility of this; it’s about looking at this structure of destruction as a constructivist object, looking at the mass of this object; it is about the disintegration of this object (for these are poor quality scans that when enlarged will fall apart) – about raising the object up and letting it fall into the world. It is against war.

People have said to me the images look strange, that they look better the right way up. I’m glad that they are inverted for the world is a very strange place, where we make huge machines just to kill ourselves. I’m glad they look strange, I’m glad they make you feel uncomfortable. They are meant that way.

The sculptor Fredrick White has observed that the work is also about the beauty of the object, emphasising its form by inverting the mass of the ship, and also the weight, compression and displacement of space – almost like a time slippage/fracture, a time portal to another world. This is very perceptive because the work is about all of these things. I love layering the work so it reveals different things!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Photographs are available from this series for purchase. As a guide, a digital colour 16″ x 20″ costs $1000 plus tracked and insured shipping. For more information please see my store web page.

 

 

“The initial feeling of the series was of a curtain rising – and that strongly draws us into the drama. But the whole series is very witty, very touching and appeals very strongly to the senses. There is an inevitability about the human condition here that is very sobering. In the end the strongest of your gestures are almost ignored by the viewer who becomes aware of this atmosphere.”

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Text from my mentor ISL

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013
Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013
Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013
Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013
Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013
Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013
Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013
Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013 Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013

 

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled
2013
From the series upside, down 2013
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled
2013
From the series upside, down 2013
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled
2013
From the series upside, down 2013
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled
2013
From the series upside, down 2013
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled
2013
From the series upside, down 2013
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled
2013
From the series upside, down 2013
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled
2013
From the series upside, down 2013
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled
2013
From the series upside, down 2013
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled
2013
From the series upside, down 2013
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled
2013
From the series upside, down 2013
Digital photograph

 

Marcus Bunyan. 'Untitled' from the series 'upside, down' 2013

 

Marcus Bunyan (Australian, b. 1958)
Untitled
2013
From the series upside, down 2013
Digital photograph

 

 

Marcus Bunyan website

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19
Dec
13

Videos: William Klein

December 2013

 

 

William Klein: In Pictures from Tate Modern

 

 

The Many Lives of William Klein (2012)

 

 

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17
Dec
13

Exhibition: ‘Color! American Photography Transformed’ at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

Exhibition dates: 5th October 2013 – 5th January, 2014

 

Alex Prager (b.1979) 'Crowd #1 (Stan Douglas)' 2010

 

Alex Prager (American, b. 1979)
Crowd #1 (Stan Douglas)
2010
Dye coupler print
© Alex Prager, courtesy of the artist and Yancey Richardson Gallery

 

 

A very big subject to cover in one exhibition.

Marcus

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

 

Jack Delano (1914-1997) 'Chopping cotton on rented land near White Plains, Greene County, Georgia, 1941' 1941

 

Jack Delano (American, 1914-1997)
Chopping cotton on rented land near White Plains, Greene County, Georgia, 1941
1941
Inkjet print, 2013
Courtesy the Library of Congress

 

Laura Gilpin (1891-1979) 'Still Life with Peaches' 1912

 

Laura Gilpin (American, 1891-1979)
Still Life with Peaches
1912
Lumière Autochrome
© 1979 Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

Jan Groover (1943-2012) 'Untitled' 1978

 

Jan Groover (American, 1943-2012)
Untitled
1978
Dye coupler print
© 1978 Jan Groover
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled (Woman with two daughters)' c. 1850s

 

Unknown photographer 
Untitled (Woman with two daughters)
c. 1850s
Salted paper print with applied color
Amon Carter Museum of American Art

 

Gregory Crewdson (b. 1962) 'Untitled (Dylan on the Floor)' from the 'Twilight Series' 1998-2002

 

Gregory Crewdson (American, b. 1962)
Untitled (Dylan on the Floor) from the Twilight Series
1998-2002
Dye coupler print
© Gregory Crewdson, Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

 

 

On October 5, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art opens Color! American Photography Transformed, a compelling examination of how colour has changed the very nature of photography, transforming it into today’s dominant artistic medium. Color! includes more than 70 exceptional photographs by as many photographers and is on view through January 5, 2014.

“Colour is so integral to photography today that it is difficult to remember how new it is or realise how much it has changed the medium,” says John Rohrbach, senior curator of photographs.

The exhibition covers the full history of photography, from 1839, when Frenchman Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre (1787-1851) introduced his daguerreotype process, to the present. From the start, disappointed that photographs could only be made in black and white, photographers and scientists alike sought with great energy to achieve colour. Color! begins with a rare direct-colour photograph made in 1851 by Levi L. Hill (1816-1865), but explains how Hill could neither capture a full range of colour nor replicate his achievement. It then shows finely rendered hand-coloured photographs to share how photographers initially compensated for the lack of colour.

When producing colour photographs became commercially feasible in 1907 in the form of the glass-plate Autochrome, leading artists like Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) were initially overjoyed, according to Rohrbach. Color! offers exquisite examples of their work even as it explains their ultimate rejection of the process because it was too difficult to display and especially because they felt it mirrored human sight too closely to be truly creative.

“Although many commercial photographers embraced colour photography over succeeding decades, artists continued to puzzle over the medium,” Rohrbach explains. Color! reveals that many artists from Richard Avedon (1923-2004) to Henry Holmes Smith (1909-1986) tried their hand at making colour photographs through the middle decades of the 20th century, and it shows the wide range of approaches they took to colour. It also shares the background debates among artists and photography critics over how to employ colour and even whether colour photographs could have the emotional force of their black-and-white counterparts.

Only in 1976, when curator John Szarkowski at the Museum of Modern Art in New York heralded the young Memphis photographer William Eggleston’s (b. 1939) snapshot-like colour photographs as the solution to artful colour, did fine art colour photography gain full acceptance.

“Eggleston revealed how colour can simultaneously describe objects and stand apart from those objects as pure hue,” Rohrbach says. “In so doing, he successfully challenged the longstanding conception of photography as a medium that found its calling on close description.”

Color! illustrates through landmark works by Jan Groover (1943-2012), Joel Meyerowitz (b. 1938) and others the blossoming of artists’ use of colour photography that followed in the wake of Szarkowski’s celebration of Eggleston. It also reveals artists’ gradual absorption of the notion that colour could be used flexibly to critique cultural mores and to shape stories. In this new colour world, recording the look of things was important, but it was less important than conveying a message about life. In this important shift, led by artists as diverse as Andres Serrano (b. 1950) and Laurie Simmons (b. 1949), the exhibition explains, photography aligned itself far more closely with painting.

Color! shows how the rise of digital technologies furthered this transformation, as photographers such as Gregory Crewdson (b. 1962), Richard Misrach (b. 1949) and Alex Prager (b. 1979) have explicitly embraced the hues, scale, and even subjects of painting and cinema.

“Photography still gains its power and wide popularity today from its ability to closely reflect the world,” explains Rohrbach, “but Color! reveals how contemporary artists have been using reality not as an end unto itself, but as a jumping off point for exploring the emotional and cultural power of colour, even blurring of line between record and fiction to make their points. These practices, founded on colour, have transformed photography into the dominant art form of today even as they have opened new questions about the very nature of the medium.”

The exhibition will include an interactive photography timeline enabling visitors to contribute to the visual dialogue by sharing their own colour images. The photographs will be displayed along the timeline and on digital screens in the museum during the exhibition to illustrate how quantity, format and colour quality have evolved over time.

“By telling the full story of colour photography’s evolution, the exhibition innovatively uncovers the fundamental change that colour has brought to how photographers think about their medium,” says Andrew J. Walker, museum director. “The story is fascinating and the works are equally captivating. Photography fans and art enthusiasts in general will revel in the opportunity to see works by this country’s great photographers.

Press release from the Amon Carter Museum of American Art website

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Patrick Nagatani (b. 1945) and Andree Tracey (b.1948) 'Alamogordo Blues' 1986

 

Patrick Nagatani (American, b. 1945)
Andree Tracey (American, b. 1948)
Alamogordo Blues
1986
Dye diffusion print
© Patrick Nagatani and Andree Tracey
Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona

 

Laurie Simmons (b. 1949) 'Woman/Red Couch/Newspaper' 1978

 

Laurie Simmons (American, b. 1949)
Woman/Red Couch/Newspaper
1978
Silver dye-bleach print
© Laurie Simmons
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Ralph M. Parsons Fund

 

Sandy Skoglund (b. 1946) 'Revenge of the Goldfish, 1980' 1980

 

Sandy Skoglund (American, b. 1946)
Revenge of the Goldfish, 1980
1980
Silver dye-bleach print
© 1981 Sandy Skoglund
St. Louis Art Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Fielding Lewis Holmes

 

Mark Cohen (b. 1943) 'Boy in Yellow Shirt Smoking' 1977

 

Mark Cohen (American, b. 1943)
Boy in Yellow Shirt Smoking
1977
Dye coupler print
© Mark Cohen
Courtesy the artist and ROSEGALLERY

 

John F. Collins (1888?-1988) 'Tire' 1938

 

John F. Collins (American, 1888?-1988)
Tire
1938
Silver dye-bleach print
Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery

 

Richard Misrach (b.1949) 'Paradise Valley (Arizona), 3.22.95, 7:05 P.M.' 1995

 

Richard Misrach (American, b.1949)
Paradise Valley (Arizona), 3.22.95, 7:05 P.M.
1995
Dye coupler print
© Richard Misrach, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, Marc Selwyn Fine Art, Los Angeles and Pace/MacGill Gallery, NY

 

Henry Holmes Smith (1909-1986) 'Tricolor Collage on Black' 1946

 

Henry Holmes Smith (American, 1909-1986)
Tricolor Collage on Black
1946
Dye imbibition print over gelatin silver print
© Smith Family Trust
Indiana University Art Museum, Henry Holmes Smith Archive

 

Mitch Epstein (b. 1952) 'Flag' 2000

 

Mitch Epstein (American, b. 1952)
Flag
2000
Dye coupler print
© Black River Productions
Private collection

 

Trevor Paglen (b. 1974) 'The Fence (Lake Kickapoo, Texas)' 2010

 

Trevor Paglen (American, b. 1974)
The Fence (Lake Kickapoo, Texas)
2010
Dye coupler print, 2011
© Trevor Paglen
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

Joaquin Trujillo (b. 1976) 'Jacky' 2003

 

Joaquin Trujillo (American, b. 1976)
Jacky
2003
From the series Los Niños
Inkjet print, 2011
© Joaquin Trujillo 2013
Amon Carter Museum of American art, purchase with funds provided by the Stieglitz Circle of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art

 

James N. Doolittle (1889-1954) 'Ann Harding' c. 1932

 

James N. Doolittle (American, 1889-1954)
Ann Harding
c. 1932
Tricolor carbro print
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO

 

 

Amon Carter Museum
3501 Camp Bowie Boulevard
Fort Worth, TX 76107-2695

Opening hours:
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday:
 10am – 5pm
Thursday: 10am – 8pm
Sunday: 12am – 5pm
Closed Mondays and major holidays.

Amon Carter Museum of American Art website

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17
Dec
13

Season’s Greetings from Art Blart 2013

December 2013

 

Season's Greetings from Art Blart 2013

 

 

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14
Dec
13

Exhibition: ‘Masculine / Masculine: The Nude Man in Art from 1800 to the present day’ at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris

Exhibition dates: 24th September 2013 – 2nd January 2014

 

Camille Félix Bellanger. 'Abel' 1874-75

 

Camille Félix Bellanger (French, 1853-1953)
Abel
1874-75
Oil on canvas
110.5cm (43.5 in) x 215.4cm (84.8 in)
© Musée d’Orsay

 

 

The von Gloeden is stunning and some of the paintings are glorious: the muscularity / blood red colour in Falguière by Lutteurs d’Alexandre (1875, below); the beauty of Ángel Zárraga’s Votive Offering (Saint Sebastian) (1912, below); the sheer nakedness and earthiness of the Freud; and the colour, form and (homo)eroticism of The Bath by Paul Cadmus (1951, below), with their pert buttocks and hands washing suggestively.

But there is nothing too outrageous here. Heaven forbid!

After all, this is the male nude as curatorial commodity.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Musée d’Orsay for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

*PLEASE NOTE THIS POSTING CONTAINS ART PHOTOGRAPHS OF MALE NUDITY – IF YOU DO NOT LIKE PLEASE DO NOT LOOK, FAIR WARNING HAS BEEN GIVEN*

 

 

“The high brow peep show is divided thematically into depictions of religion, mythology, athleticism, homosexuality, and shifting notions of manliness. Wandering the Musee’s grand halls you will see rippling Greco-Roman Apollonian gods, Egon Schiele’s finely rendered, debauched self portraits and David LaChapelle’s 90s macho-kitsch celebs. Edward Munch’s hazy, pastel bathers mingle with Lucian Freud’s grossly erotic fleshy animals and reverent depictions of Christ and Saint Sebastian, showing the many ways to interpret a body sans outerwear.”

.
Priscilla Frank. “‘Masculine/Masculine’ Explores Male Nude Throughout Art History And We Couldn’t Be Happier (NSFW),” on the Huffpost Arts and Culture website, 26/09/2013 updated 07/12/2017 [Online] Cited 02/01/2021

 

 

Jean Delville (1867-1953) 'École de Platon' (School of Plato) 1898

 

Jean Delville (Belgium, 1867-1953)
École de Platon (School of Plato)
1898
Oil on canvas
H. 260; W. 605cm
© RMN (Musée d’Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

 

 

In the late 19th century, Belgium was one of the great centres of European symbolism. Jean Delville’s paintings and writings expressed the most esoteric side of the movement. In the mid-1880s, Delville’s discovery of the symbolist milieu in Paris and the friendships he made there led him to break with the naturalism inherited from his academic training. Thus his friendship with the Sâr Péladan and his regular attendance at the Salon of the Rose+Croix, testified to his belief in an intellectual art which focused on evocation more than description.

School of Plato, a decoration intended for the Sorbonne but never installed there, is a striking work in many respects. Its monumental size and its ambitious message – an interpretation of classical philosophy seen through the prism of the symbolist ideal – set it apart. The manifesto makes no secret of its references, from Raphael to Puvis de Chavannes, but envelops them in the strange charm of a deliberately unreal colour range. The ambiguity emanating from this fin de siècle Mannerism knowingly blurs the borderline between purity and sensuality.

 

Jules Elie Delaunay. 'Ixion Thrown Into the Flames' 1876

 

Jules-Élie Delaunay (French, 1828-1891)
Ixion Thrown Into the Flames
1876
© RMN-Grand Palais / Gérard Blot

 

Eadweard Muybridge. 'Motion Study (Men wrestling)' 1887

 

Eadweard Muybridge (British, 1830-1904)
Motion Study (Men wrestling)
1887
Plate 332 from Animal Locomotion
Collotype plate 1872-1885
© Musée d’Orsay, dist. RMN / Alexis Brandt

 

Kehinde Wiley. 'Death of Abel Study' 2008

 

Kehinde Wiley (American, b. 1977)
Death of Abel Study
2008
© Kehinde Wiley, Courtesy Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA & Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris

 

Paul Cézanne. 'Baigneurs' (Bathers) 1890

 

Paul Cézanne (French, 1839-1906)
Baigneurs (Bathers)
1890
Oil on canvas
60.0 (h) x 82.0 (w) cm
Musée d’Orsay, Paris, Gift of Baroness Eva Gebhard-Gourgaud 1965
© RMN (Musée d’Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

 

 

In this work the arrangement of the bathers is brilliantly orchestrated – a complex grouping of foregrounded figures is contrapuntally arranged against another group occupying the middle ground. There is a strong classical echo to the triangular, pedimental architecture of these four foregrounded figures, anchoring the work compositionally. The effect is to create an architecturally interlocking circle of figures surrounding a group of bathers in the water or sitting on the banks. The corporeal presence of the foregrounded figures and the luminosity of their skin tones are echoed in the volumetric forms of the cumulus clouds that loom in the background. We see Cézanne’s technical confidence in the way the terrain has been flattened and the treescape simplified. He uses trees here not for their anecdotal fidelity, but to anchor the composition at key points.

There is an undeniable sense of ritual in this work. Some commentators interpret the scene as baptismal – Cézanne became a devout catholic in 1890 – with the figure at left pouring water over the head of a partially submerged bather to his right. But it is also clear here that Cézanne mixes the sacred with the profane. There is a celebratory, Arcadian purity which finds its mirror in the compositional structure as a whole, whether it be the way in which light reflects off the facets of the bodies or in which it is refracted off the looming cloud masses. A paganistic, sensual exuberance informs the way in which the figures circle the bathers in the water, which Henri Matisse’s famous The dance 1910 will later recall. (Matisse was a great admirer of Cézanne’s work and owned a number of his paintings.) And it is probably no coincidence that the ‘attendant’ holds a luminous, vulva-shaped towel at the very centre of the composition. Grammatically, the title Baigneurs does not preclude the possibility that some of the participants may be female – the seated figure who is, significantly, adjacent to the towel, appears to be clearly female, for example. Bathers, then, is redolent with meaning. This is a powerfully multivalent work, and along with the later The large bathers paintings of 1894-1905 and 1900–05, is considered to be one of Cézanne’s great masterpieces.

Mark Henshaw

Text from the National Gallery of Canberra website [Online] Cited 02/01/2021

 

Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973) 'Les adolescents' (Teenagers) 1906

 

Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973)
Les adolescents (Teenagers)
1906
Oil on canvas
157 x 117cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (musée de l’Orangerie) / Hervé Lewandowski © Succession Picasso 2015

 

 

This red/pink monochrome that characterises The Adolescents first appeared after Picasso’s visit to Gosol with his partner Fernande. The earth in this village in the Catalan Pyrenees was done in an unusual ochre colour that Picasso included in his “Rose Period” (1904-1906). Two nude figures, outlined and modelled on a monochrome background, give the image a sculptural and classical character. The poses are hieratic: the young man crosses his arms above his head, while the young woman, or androgynous adolescent, balances a pitcher on her head in a timeless pose. Jean Cassou highlighted the Mediterranean character of this brief phase in Picasso’s art, and its relationship with the art of Maillol (1861-1944). Undulating lines can be made out below the legs of the two figures. This in fact is the sketch from another composition intended to be in horizontal format, but which the artist chose to erase. Paul Guillaume bought this beautiful painting in 1930. It came from the art dealer Ambroise Vollard (1866-1939). The “pink classicism” of this painting seems to anticipate the period after 1906 of the “return to order”, which characterised Picasso’s work in the 1920s, and which corresponds with other paintings in the Orangerie like the large Bathers of the 1920s.

Provenance: Ambroise Vollard, Paris; Paul Guillaume (1930); Domenica Walter

Text from the Musée de l’Orangerie website [Online] Cited 08/01/2021

 

Auguste Rodin. 'The Age of Bronze' 1875-76

 

Auguste Rodin (French, 1840-1917)
The Age of Bronze
1875-76
Bronze
H. 180.5cm ; W. 68.5cm ; D. 54.5cm

 

 

Made in Brussels, this figure, one of Rodin’s most famous works, attests to the sculptor’s masterly skill and his attention to living nature that informs the pose and the modelling.A young Belgian soldier, Auguste Ney,was the model for this statue devoid of any element that would shed light on the subject’s identity. The untitled work was exhibited at the Cercle Artistique, Brussels, in 1877, then, entitled The Age of Bronze, at the Salon in Paris, where it caused a scandal.

Also known as The Awakening Man or The Vanquished One, the statue recalls one of the early ages of mankind. There was originally a spear in the left hand, as is shown in a photograph by Gaudenzio Marconi, but Rodin decided to suppress the weapon so as to free the arm of any attribute and infuse the gesture with a new liberality.

Accused of having used a life cast of his sitter, when the statue was shown in Paris, Rodin had to prove that the quality of his sculpture’s modelling came from a thorough study of profiles, not from a life cast. His critics eventually recognised that the sculptor was innocent of any trickery. The scandal, however, did draw attention to Rodin and earned him the commission for The Gates of Hell in 1880.

Text from the Musée Rodin website [Online] Cited 08/01/2020

 

 

While it has been quite natural for the female nude to be regularly exhibited, the male nude has not been accorded the same treatment. It is highly significant that until the show at the Leopold Museum in Vienna in the autumn of 2012, no exhibition had opted to take a fresh approach, over a long historical perspective, to the representation of the male nude. However, male nudity was for a long time, from the 17th to 19th centuries, the basis of traditional Academic art training and a key element in Western creative art. Therefore when presenting the exhibition Masculine / Masculine, the Musée d’Orsay, drawing on the wealth of its own collections (with several hitherto unknown sculptures) and on other French public collections, aims to take an interpretive, playful, sociological and philosophical approach to exploring all aspects and meanings of the male nude in art. Given that the 19th century took its inspiration from 18th century classical art, and that this influence still resonates today, the Musée d’Orsay is extending its traditional historical range in order to draw a continuous arc of creation through two centuries down to the present day. The exhibition will include the whole range of techniques: painting, sculpture, graphic arts and, of course, photography, which will have an equal place in the exhibition.

To convey the specifically masculine nature of the body, the exhibition, in preference to a dull chronological presentation, takes the visitor on a journey through a succession of thematic focuses, including the aesthetic canons inherited from Antiquity, their reinterpretation in the Neo-Classical, Symbolist and contemporary eras where the hero is increasingly glorified, the Realist fascination for truthful representation of the body, nudity as the body’s natural state, the suffering of the body and the expression of pain, and finally its eroticisation. The aim is to establish a genuine dialogue between different eras in order to reveal how certain artists have been prompted to reinterpret earlier works. In the mid 18th century, Winckelmann examined the legacy of the divine proporzioni of the body inherited from Antiquity, which, in spite of radical challenges, still apply today having mysteriously come down through the history of art as the accepted definition of beauty. From Jacques-Louis David to George Platt-Lynes, LaChapelle and Pierre et Gilles, and including Gustave Moreau, a whole series of connections is revealed, based around issues of power, censorship, modesty, the boundaries of public expectation and changes in social mores.

Winckelmann’s glorification of Greek beauty reveals an implicit carnal desire, relating to men as well as women, which certainly comes down through two centuries from the “Barbus” group and from David’s studio, to David Hockney and the film director James Bidgood. This sensibility also permeates the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries as it questions its own identity, as we see in the extraordinary painting École de Platon [School of Plato], inexplicably purchased by the French state in 1912 from the Belgian artist Delville. Similarly, the exhibition will reveal other visual and intellectual relationships through the works of artists as renowned as Georges de La Tour, Pierre Puget, Abilgaard, Paul Flandrin, Bouguereau, Hodler, Schiele, Munch, Picasso, Bacon, Mapplethorpe, Freud and Mueck, while lining up some surprises like the Mexican Angel Zarraga’s Saint Sébastien (Saint Sebastian), De Chirico’s Les Bains mystérieux (Mysterious Baths) and the erotica of Americans Charles Demuth and Paul Cadmus.

This autumn therefore, the Musée d’Orsay will invite the visitor to an exhibition that challenges the continuity of a theme that has always interested artists, through unexpected yet productive confrontations between the various revivals of the nude man in art.”

Press release from the Musée d’Orsay website

 

Jacques Louis David (1748-1825) 'Academy Drawing of a Man, said to be Patroclu' 1778

 

Jacques Louis David (French, 1748-1825)
Academy Drawing of a Man, said to be Patroclu
1778
Oil on canvas
H. 122; W. 170cm
Cherbourg, musée Thomas-Henry
© Cherbourg, musée Thomas-Henry

 

 

Masculine / Masculine

Why had there never been an exhibition dedicated to the male nude until Nackte Männer at the Leopold Museum in Vienna last year? In order to answer this question, the exhibition sets out to compare works of different eras and techniques, around great themes that have shaped the image of the male body for over two centuries.

We must distinguish above all between nudity and the nude: a body simply without clothes, that causes embarrassment with its lack of modesty, is different from the radiant vision of a body restructured and idealised by the artist. Although this distinction can be qualified, it highlights the positive, uninhibited approach to the nude in western art since the Classical Period.

Today, the nude essentially brings to mind a female body, the legacy of a 19th century that established it as an absolute and as the accepted object of male desire. Prior to this, however, the female body was regarded less favourably than its more structured, more muscular male counterpart. Since the Renaissance, the male nude had been accorded more importance: the man as a universal being became a synonym for Mankind, and his body was established as the ideal human form, as was already the case in Greco-Roman art. Examples of this interpretation abound in the Judeo-Christian cultural heritage: Adam existed before Eve, who was no more than his copy and the origin of sin. Most artists being male, they found an “ideal me” in the male nude, a magnified, narcissistic reflection of themselves. And yet, until the middle of the 20th century, the sexual organ was the source of a certain embarrassment, whether shrunken or well hidden beneath strategically placed drapery, thong or scabbard.

 

Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Desmarais (1756-1813) 'Le Berger Pâris' (The Shepherd, Paris) 1787

 

Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Desmarais (French, 1756-1813)
Le Berger Pâris (The Shepherd, Paris)
1787
Oil on canvas
H. 177 ; L. 118cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa
© Photo: MBAC

 

 

The Classic Ideal

From the 17th century, training of the highest standard was organised for the most privileged artists. In sculpture and in history painting, the ultimate aim of this teaching was to master the representation of the male nude: this was central to the creative process, as the preparatory studies had to capture the articulation of the body as closely as possible, whether clothed or not, in the finished composition.

In France, pupils studied at the Académie Royale then at the Académie des Beaux-Arts, working from drawings, engravings, sculptures “in the round” and life models. Right up until the late 20th century, these models were exclusively male, for reasons of social morality, but also because the man was considered to have the archetypal human form. In order to be noble and worthy of artistic representation, and to appeal to all, this could not be the body of an ordinary man: the distinctive features of the model had to be tempered in order to elevate the subject.

Above all, the artists of Antiquity and of the Renaissance were considered to have established an ideal synthesis of the human body without being distracted by individual characteristics. For Winckelmann, the German 18th century aesthete, the ideal beauty of Greek statues could only be embodied by the male nude. But although it inspired numerous artists, the “noble simplicity and quiet grandeur” of Winckelmann’s gods was undermined by other interpretations of Classical art: the torment of Laocoon, a work from late Antiquity, can be seen in the work of the Danish painter Abildgaard, while David advocated a much more Roman masculinity. Even when challenged, reinterpreted and renewed by the 20th century avant-garde, the Classical male nude and its rich legacy remains an object of fascination right up to the inter-war years and up to the present day.

.

George Hoyningen-Huene (1900-1968) 'Horst P. Horst, Photographie' 1932

 

George Hoyningen-Huene (American, born Russia 1900-1968)
Horst P. Horst, Photographie
1932
Tirage argentique
H. 19 x L. 22.7cm
Hambourg, FC Gundlach
© Droits réservés

 

 

The Heroic Nude

The concept and the word “hero” itself come from ancient Greece: whether a demigod or simply a mortal transcending his human condition to become an exemplum virtutis, he embodies an ideal. The admiration for Classical art and culture explains the ubiquity of the hero in Academic painting, particularly in subjects given to candidates of the Prix de Rome: great history painting thrived on the exploits of supermen in the most perfect bodies.

This connection between anatomy and heroic virtue, conveying noble and universal values, goes back to the Neo-Platonic concept linking beauty and goodness. The hero’s nudity has been so self-evident that the “heroic nude” has become the subject of a recurrent debate about the representation of great men, past or present, no matter how incongruous the result may appear.

Heroism is not a state, rather a means by which the strength of character of an exceptional being man is revealed: although Hercules’ strength is inseparable from his exploits, it was David’s cunning that overcame the powerful Goliath. In both cases they are endowed with a warrior’s strength, which was particularly valued by a 19th century thirsting for virility and patriotic assertion: more than ever, this was the ideal to be attained. We had to wait for the 20th century crisis of masculinity before we could see the renewal of the status of the increasingly contemporary hero, and the diversification of his physical characteristics. However, whether a star or a designer like Yves Saint-Laurent, or even the young men on the streets of Harlem painted by the American Kehinde Wiley, the evocative power of nudity remains.

 

Pierre et Gilles (born respectively in 1950 and 1953) 'Vive la France' 2006

 

Pierre et Gilles (Pierre Commoy, b. 1950 and Gilles Blanchard, b. 1953)
Vive la France
2006
(models: Serge, Moussa and Robert)
Painted photograph, unique piece
H. 125 x W. 101cm
© Pierre et Gilles

 

 

The Gods of the Stadium

The 20th century witnessed the start of a new way of looking at the human body where the focus was on medical aspects and hygiene, and this had a considerable impact on the concept of the artistic nude. Numerous physical education movements and gymnasia appeared. People were captivated by the figure of the “sportsman” and, as in the work of the painter Eugene Jansson, came to admire and covet the virile power of his body in action. This concept is realised in culturalism, the narcissistic admiration of a body that has become an object to be fashioned like an artwork in its own right. Modern man with his athletic morphology has become a new potential ideal: he embodies a beauty that invites comparison with Greco-Roman art.

Linked with the affirmation of national identity, the athlete has come to personify the brute force of the nation and an ability to defend the country in times of war. During the 1930s in the United States, the image of the athlete evolved in a distinctive way, highlighting the ordinary man as a mixture of physical strength and bravery. Totalitarian regimes, however, perverted the cult of the athlete in order to promote their own ideology: Germany linked it in a demiurgic way with the made-up concept of the “Aryan” race, while Mussolini’s government erected marble idols on the Stadio dei Marmi.

 

Jean-Bernard Duseigneur (1808-1866) 'Orlando Furioso' 1867

 

Jean-Bernard Duseigneur (French, 1808-1866)
Orlando Furioso
1867
Cast in bronze
H. 130; W. 146; D. 90cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
© Musée du Louvre, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Thierry Ollivier

 

 

It’s tough being a Hero

As he moves outside the established order, the mythological hero risks the anger of the gods and the jealousy of men. Although his passions, his moral shortcomings and occasionally his frailties stem from his human condition, he is happy to possess the perfect form of the gods: thus the artist and the spectator find expression of a perfect self. The great dramatic destinies thus give character to the compositions, and enable them to interpret a whole range of emotions from determination to despair, from hostility to eternal rest.

Although it is a platitude to say that feelings are expressed most accurately in the face – from the theorised and institutional drawings of Charles Le Brun to the “tête d’expression” competition at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts – one must not underestimate the key role of the body and the anatomy as vehicles for expressing emotion: certain formal choices even led to generally accepted conventions.

Mythology and the Homeric epic abound with stories of the ill-fated destinies and destructive passions of heroes, whose nudity is justified by its origins in ancient Greece: Joseph-Désiré Court displays the broken body of the ill-fated Hippolytus, a premonition of the transposition in the ancient world of Mort pour la patrie [Dying for The Fatherland] of Lecomte du Nouÿ.

 

Nude Veritas

The Realist aesthetic, which came to the fore in western art during the 19th century, had a dramatic effect on the representation of male nudity. The human body, represented as nature intended, was no longer seen from the decorous distance that characterised the idealised image of the nude, a goal to be achieved through Academic drawing exercises. In this context, where revealing the body was an affront to modesty – in the male-dominated society of the 19th century, the unclothed male appeared even more obscene and shocking than the unclothed female – the male nude gradually became less common as female figures proliferated.

This reversal did not mean, however, that naked men disappeared altogether: scientific study of the male nude, aided by new techniques such as the decomposition of movement through a series of photographs taken in rapid succession – chronophotography – brought advances in the study of anatomy and transformed the teaching of art students. From then on, it was less a case, for the most avant-garde artists, of striving to reproduce a canon of beauty inherited from the past, than of representing a body that retained the harmony of the model’s true characteristics.

The evocative power of the nude inspired artists like the Austrian Schiele to produce nude self portraits that revealed the existential torments of the artist. Invested at times with a Christ-like dimension, these depictions, moving beyond realism into introspection, continued to be produced right up to the 21st century, especially in photography.

 

William Bouguereau (1825-1905) 'Equality before Death' 1848

 

William Bouguereau (French, 1825-1905)
Equality before Death
1848
Oil on Canvas
H. 141; W. 269cm
Paris, Musée d’Orsay
© Musée d’Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt

 

 

Without compromise

The fascination for reality established in artistic circles in the mid 19th century prompted a thorough renewal of religious painting. Although resorting to the classical idealisation of the body seemed to be consistent with religious dogma, artists like Bonnat breathed fresh life into the genre by depicting the harsh truth of the physical condition of biblical figures.

This principle was already at work in Egalité devant la mort [Equality before Death], by Bouguereau, who, in his early work, in the final days of Romanticism, exploited the power of the image of an ordinary corpse. Rodin, far from enhancing the appearance of the novelist that he was invited to celebrate, sought to render Balzac’s corpulent physique with implacable accuracy, without diminishing his grandeur in any way.

The question is thus raised of art’s relationship to reality, a question Ron Mueck tackles in his work. And the strange effect brought about by a change of scale gives an intensity to the dead body of his father that echoes the dead figure in Bouguereau’s painting.

 

Frédéric Bazille (1841-1870) 'Fisherman with a Net' 1868

 

Frédéric Bazille (French, 1841-1870)
Fisherman with a Net
1868
Oil on canvas
H. 134; W. 83cm
Zurich, Rau Foundation for the Third World
© Lylho / Leemage

 

Hippolyte Flandrin (1809-1864) 'Nude Youth Sitting by the Sea, Study' 1836

 

Hippolyte Flandrin (French, 1809-1864)
Nude Youth Sitting by the Sea, Study
1836
Oil on canvas
H. 98; W. 124cm
Paris, Musée du Louvre
© Musée du Louvre, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Angèle Dequier

 

Gloeden,_Wilhem_von_(1856-1931)-Cain-WEB

 

Wilhelm von Gloeden (German, 1856-1931)
Cain, Taormine, Sicile
1911
© Westlicht, Musée de la Photographie, Vienna

 

 

In Nature

Including the naked body in a landscape was not a new challenge for 19th century artists. In many aspects, this was recurrent in large-scale history painting, and a demanding artistic exercise by which a painter’s technical mastery was judged. It was about making the relationship between the naked body and its setting as accurate as possible in terms of proportion, depth and light. Although Bazille’s Pêcheur à l’épervier [Fisherman with a Net] is one of the most successful attempts – in a contemporary context – at depicting a naked man in an atmospheric light that the Impressionists later took for their own, he nevertheless observed the principles of academic construction.

Masculine nudity in nature took another meaning as society was transformed through technical advances and urbanisation. Man was now seeking a communion with nature, that could reconcile him with the excesses and the sense of dislocation created by the modern world, while still conforming to the theories of good health advocating physical exercise and fresh air.

 

In pain

In allowing themselves to deviate from the classical norms, artists opened up new possibilities for a more expressive representation of a body in the throes of torment or pain. The decline of the Academic nude and of classical restraint explains this predilection for ordeals: Ixion’s for example, condemned by Zeus to be bound to an eternally spinning wheel of fire.

The writhing body can also express torment of a more psychological nature. The pain experienced by the male body naturally relates to the issues of power between men and women in contemporary society: the naked body can be demeaning and, in certain circumstances, likely to call into question virility and male domination. In this respect, Louise Bourgeois’ choice of a male figure for her Arch of Hysteria was not a random one.

The martyr can, nevertheless, inspire compositions other than the tortured body: the death of Abel, killed by his brother Cain in the Book of Genesis, seems, on the contrary, to have inspired the pose of a totally relaxed body at the point of death. This abandon, however, conveyed a certain ambivalence that artists were determined to exploit: the body, often magnified and in state of morbid ecstasy, was in fact there for the spectator to relish. In these cases, suffering was merely a device to justify fetishising the body once again. In contrast with this seductive treatment, photographers engaged in experiments to divide the body into individual parts, in an aesthetic or even playful approach.

 

François-Xavier Fabre (1766-1837) 'The Dying Saint Sebastian' 1789

 

François-Xavier Fabre (French, 1766-1837)
The Dying Saint Sebastian
1789
Oil on canvas
H. 196; W. 147cm
Montpellier, Musée Fabre de Montpellier Agglomération
© Musée Fabre de Montpellier Agglomération – cliché Frédéric Jaulmes

 

Ángel_Zárraga-Votive_Offering_(Saint_Sebastian)-1912-WEB

 

Ángel Zárraga (Mexican, 1886-1946)
Votive Offering (Saint Sebastian)
1912
Oil on canvas
© Museo Nacional de Arte, Mexico

 

 

The Glorious body

Judeo-Christian culture has undeniably influenced the representation of the naked man since the beginning of modern art. However, the Catholic concept of the body has been at variance with nudity since Paleochristian times: the body is merely the corporeal envelope from which the soul is freed on death. Influenced by theologians advocating the union of the sensory and the spiritual, nudity gradually became accepted for important figures such as Christ and Saint Sebastian. Their martyred bodies, transcended by suffering endured through faith, paradoxically allowed the human soul to come close to God.

For the Catholic church, the vulnerability of Christ’s body, subjected to suffering and bearing the stigmata, is evidence of his humanity, while his divinity is revealed in his inspired expression and his idealised body, a legacy of the underlying classical models. The figure of Saint Sebastian is especially complex: this popular saint, the epitome of the martyr who survives his first ordeal, embodies the victory of life over death. This life force is no doubt related to his youthful beauty and his naked body, both of which made their appearance in the 17th century. This being the case, his representation gradually moves away from Catholic dogma, and acquires an unprecedented freedom and life of its own: his sensuality is more and more obvious, whereas his suffering is at times impossible to detect. In this quest for sensual pleasure, and until the 20th century, the only taboo was to reveal the penis.

 

Paul Cadmus (1904-1999) 'The Bath' 1951

 

Paul Cadmus (American, 1904-1999)
The Bath
1951
Tempera on card
H. 36.4; W. 41.4cm
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art
Anonymous gift
© Whitney Museum of American Art, NY – Art
© Jon F. Anderson, Estate of Paul Cadmus / ADAGP, Paris 2013

 

Douche.-1932.-(Boris-Ignatovitch)-WEB

 

Boris Ignatovitch (Russian, 1899-1976)
Douche (Shower)
1932
Silver gelatin photograph

 

 

In Shower, a group of young athletes enjoys a therapeutic water massage; in the foreground is the back of a young man, whose stately figure takes up almost the entire frame. The masterful light and airiness of the image have a stunning aesthetic effect, illuminating the drops of water that are sprinkled across the spine and muscles of his tanned back. Aleksandr Deineka (1899-1969) was so captivated by the powerful composition of Shower that he recreated the scene in his painting After the Battle (1937-1942, below).

Text from the Nailya Alexander Gallery website [Online] Cited 10/01/2021

 

Aleksandr Deyneka (Russian, 1899-1969) 'After the Battle' 1937-1942

 

Aleksandr Deyneka (Russian, 1899-1969)
After the Battle
1937-1942
Oil on canvas
Kursk State Art Gallery

 

 

This painting was inspired by a photograph by legendary Soviet photographer Boris Ignatovich that he had presented to Deyneka (above). The artist thought the composition with an athlete in the foreground was perfection itself. However, he had difficulty transferring it to the canvas, and the painting took five years to complete. Deyneka finished it at the height of World War II, which is why the athletes in the title had turned into soldiers.

Anonymous text from the Russia Beyond website December 2019 [Online] Cited 10/01/2021

 

“This male homoeroticism maintains close ties with the revolutionary project to destroy the family and traditional marriage and the construction of new types of social relations based on collective values ​​above all, with the idea that the bonds of friendship and camaraderie between men (homosociality, “male bonding”) are equally or more important than heterosexual bonding. It is mainly in the period from the Revolution to the 1930s the values ​​of friendship and camaraderie seem particularly highlighted the detriment of the bonds of love, very devalued as “petty-bourgeois”, but even more later, with the Stalinist project of “restoration” of the family, it can be assumed that the emotional and romantic in the heterosexual couple have never been a pervasive and rewarding cultural representation of magnitude of that which may be known in the West. [11] The researcher Lilya Kaganovsky, analysing the Soviet visual culture (especially cult films of the 1930s and 1940s), speaks of “heterosexual panic” in response to the concept of “homosexual panic” coined by Eve K. Segdwick: according Kaganovsky, Soviet cultural works largely reflects the idea that the relations of friendship, especially homosocial, particularly between men, is a moral value than heterosexual relationships. [12] In such a cosmology, heterosexual relationships could be perceived from within oneself and risk jeopardising the homosocial relationships of camaraderie and friendship, and the same social and national cohesion, thought to be based on collective values that conflicts with the value of exclusivity in the couple, “cozy comforts of home” [13].”

Mona. “Représenter le corps socialiste : l’exemple du peintre A. Deïneka (1899-1969),” on the Genre, politique et sexualités website, 16th April 2012 (translation by Google translate)

 

 

The Temptation of the male

An acknowledged desire for the male body, and the liberalisation of social conventions gave rise to some daring works from the mid 20th century onwards. In the United States, in spite of its puritan outlook since the Second World War, Paul Cadmus did not balk at depicting a pick up scene between men in a most unlikely Finistère. While the physical attraction of the body remained confined for a long time to the secrecy of private interiors, it was increasingly evident in public, in exclusively masculine social situations like communal showers or in the guise of a reconstructed Platonic Antiquity.

Eroticism is even presented quite crudely by Cocteau, whose influence on the young Warhol is undeniable. Beauty and seduction part company when the ideal transmitted by references to the past takes root in idiosyncratic practices and contemporary culture, as Hockney has expressed so accurately in his painting.

 

Anne-Louis Girodet (1767-1824) 'The Sleep of Endymion' 1791

 

Anne-Louis Girodet-Trioson (French, 1767-1824)
The Sleep of Endymion
1791
Oil on canvas
H. 90; W. 117.5cm
Montargis, Musée Girodet
© Cliché J. Faujour/musée Girodet, Montargis

 

Pierre et Gilles (born respectively in 1950 and 1953) 'Mercury' 2001

 

Pierre et Gilles (French, Pierre Commoy b. 1950 and Gilles Blanchard b. 1953)
Mercury
2001
© Pierre et Gilles

 

 

The Object of desire

For many years, the male body in art had been the subject of “objectification”. The unrestrained admiration for the perfection of the Greco-Roman nudes, a purely intellectual reconstruction of a body that had become the canon of beauty, meant that no interpretation of the nude was considered improper, even Winckelmann’s, with its powerful erotic charge.

Although Academic circles naturally encouraged the nude in great history paintings, certain subjects retained elements of sensuality and ambiguity. At the turn of the 19th century, discussion of the characteristics of the two sexes and their respective boundaries aroused interest in the bisexual amours of Jupiter and Apollo, while the formula of the young hero dying in the arms of his male lover was met with particular interest.

Girodet’s Endymion is depicted as an ephebe, his body caressed sensuously by the rays of the moon goddess, inspiring numerous homoerotic interpretations. With the Symbolists, as with Gustave Moreau, the difference between the sexes results in the downfall of a vulnerable man overcome by an inexorable and destructive force that is seen as feminine. However, at the other extreme, and in a less dramatic way, Hodler depicts the awakening of adolescent love between a self-obsessed young man and a girl who is captivated by his charm.

The sensuality and acknowledged eroticisation considered to be appropriate to the female body during the 19th century struck a serious blow against the traditional virility of the male nude: this blow was not fatal however, as the male nude was still very visible in the 20th century. Sexual liberation expressed, loud and clear, a feeling of voluptuousness and, often with few reservations, endowed the male body with a sexual charge. The model was usually identified, an assertive sign as a statement of the individuality: with Pierre and Gilles, where mythology and the contemporary portrait become one.

Text from the Musée d’Orsay website

 

Antonin Mercié. 'David' 1872

 

Antonin Mercié (French, 1845-1916)
David
1872
Bronze
© Musée d’Orsay, Paris

 

David LaChapelle. 'Eminem - About to Blow' 1999

 

David LaChapelle (American, b. 1963)
Eminem – About to Blow
1999
Chromogenic Print

 

Giorgio de Chirico (1883-1966) 'Les bains mystérieux' (Mysterious Baths) c. 1934-36

 

Giorgio de Chirico (Italian, 1883-1966)
Les bains mystérieux (Mysterious Baths)
c. 1934-36
Tempera on card
39 x 31cm
© Musei Civici Fiorentini – Raccolta Alberto Della Ragione

 

Egon Schiele. 'Self-Portrait, Kneeling' 1910

 

Egon Schiele (Austrian, 1890-1918)
Self-Portrait, Kneeling
1910
© Leopold Museum / Manfred Thumberger

 

Henri-Camille-Danger.-Fléau!,-1901. Paris, musée d'Orsay-WEB

 

Henri Camille Danger (French, 1857-1937)
Fléau! (Scourge!)
1901
© Musée d’Orsay, Paris

 

Koloman Moser. 'Le Printemps' (Spring) c. 1900

 

Koloman Moser (Austrian, 1868-1918)
Le Printemps (Spring)
c. 1900

 

Antoine Bourdelle (1861-1929) 'Grand Guerrier avec Jambe' 1893-1902

 

Antoine Bourdelle (French, 1861-1929)
Grand Guerrier avec Jambe
1893-1902
Bronze

 

George Platt Lynes. 'Le Somnambule (The Sleepwalker)' 1935

 

George Platt Lynes (American, 1907-1955)
Le Somnambule (The Sleepwalker)
1935
Gelatin silver print
© Christoph Irrgang, Hamburg

 

Lutteurs d'Alexandre. 'Falguière' 1875

 

Lutteurs d’Alexandre (French, 1851-1900)
Falguière
1875
Oil on canvas
H. 240; W. 191cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d’Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

 

 

From the 1870s, Alexandre Falguière worked simultaneously as a painter and sculptor. Wrestlers, which was his first large painting, caught the critics’ eye and won him a second-class medal at the Salon in 1875. The theme of modern wrestling, fashionable in the Romantic period, had enjoyed a revival in the 1850s. After the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, the figure of the wrestler took on another meaning: his courage was held up as an example to develop the young citizens’ fighting spirit.

Critics were divided between those who scorned “the painting of a sculptor” and the larger group of those who recognised that Falguière had the talent of a true painter. The discussion also focused on the painting’s realism. Some commentators, who preferred the antique, slated the triviality of the theme, seeing nothing more than banal fairground wrestlers. Defenders of realism, on the other hand, enthused over the modernity of the subject and the lack of idealisation.

From 1876, Falguière nonetheless forsook modern subjects in his painting and turned to historical, mythological, literary or religious themes. If Castagnary is to be believed, the painting “was no more than a response to a dare by a painter faintly infatuated with himself and his talent.” Falguière perhaps produced The Wrestlers to prove that he was also a painter.

Text from the Musée d’Orsay website [Online] Cited 06/01/2021

 

Lucian Freud. 'Naked Man on Bed' 1989

 

Lucian Freud (British, 1922-2011)
Naked Man on Bed
1989
Oil on canvas

 

Lucian Freud. 'David and Eli' 2004

 

Lucian Freud (British, 1922-2011)
David and Eli
2004
Oil on canvas

 

 

Masculin / Masculin – La video on YouTube

 

 

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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, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr 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.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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