Archive for December, 2014

31
Dec
14

Exhibition: ‘Robert Frank in America’ at the Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University Part 1

Exhibition dates: 10th September 2014 – 5th January 2015

Curator: Peter Galassi

 

 

The lunatic sublime of America

This is the first part of a bumper two-part posting.

Robert Frank (born November 9, 1924) is one of the most important photographic artists of the twentieth century. He was born in Switzerland but he emigrated to American in 1947. He soon gained a job as a fashion photographer for Harper’s Bazaar. He honed his craft as a photographer in England where he took formal, classical images of British life during a trip to Europe and South America in 1947.

He became friends with Edward Steichen and Walker Evans, and it was Evans who supported him in his Guggenheim Fellowship application in 1955 which enabled him “to travel across the United States and photograph all strata of its society. Cities he visited included Detroit and Dearborn, Michigan; Savannah, Georgia; Miami Beach and St. Petersburg, Florida; New Orleans, Louisiana;Houston, Texas; Los Angeles, California; Reno, Nevada; Salt Lake City, Utah; Butte, Montana; and Chicago, Illinois. He took his family along with him for part of his series of road trips over the next two years, during which time he took 28,000 shots. 83 of these were selected by him for publication in The Americans.”1

In The Americans, Frank documents, “the tensions between the optimism of the 1950s and the realities of class and racial differences. The irony that Frank found in the gloss of American culture and wealth over this tension gave his photographs a clear contrast to those of most contemporary American photojournalists, as did his use of unusual focus, low lighting and cropping that deviated from accepted photographic techniques.2

Originally published as Les Américains in 1958 by Robert Delpire in Paris, and finally in 1959 in the United States by Grove Press, reaction in America was initially hostile. They American critics did not like Frank’s shoot from the hip style of photography, nor the mirror that was being held up to their society, especially by a Jewish foreigner. Over time The Americans came to be seen as a seminal work of American photography and social history. Like many artists, Frank only took photographs for a relatively short period of time, before moving on to become a filmmaker.

One cannot forget the era in which Frank took these photographs – that of McCarthyism and “the Second Red Scare, lasting roughly from 1950 to 1956 and characterized by heightened political repression against communists, as well as a campaign spreading fear of their influence on American institutions and of espionage by Soviet agents.”3 Americans were suspicious of foreigners, especially ones with cameras, and this was still the era of racial segregation pre the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

With regard to the structure of the photographs, their origin is based in classicism. This was Frank’s training. It was his skill as an artist, his intuitive and prescient vision of America – how he saw America like no one else before him had – that enabled him to ramp up the intensity, shoot from weird angles, low lighting, cropping, depth of field, unusual focus – and focus on the iconography of America as never seen before: jukeboxes, American flags, cars, highways, death, racial segregation – that was so revolutionary. But he could not have done that without his formal training. You only have to look at the comparison between the photographs of Robert Frank and Walker Evans. Formal and elegant in Evans Church Organ and Pews (1936) and Downtown street, New Orleans (December 1935) with lines vertical and clean… and then Frank, with hardly a straight line or neat angle to be seen. But the one does inform the other, otherwise Frank’s photographs would just become snapshots, vernacular photographs with very little meaning. Which they are not.

This is one of the most powerful, lyrical, humanist photo essays of a country that has ever been taken. Critic Sean O’Hagan, writing in The Guardian in 2014, said The Americans “changed the nature of photography, what it could say and how it could say it. [ . . . ] it remains perhaps the most influential photography book of the 20th century.”4 As an artist, Frank became the great connector for he is the critical link in the chain that stretches from Lewis Hine through Walker Evans… and on to Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand and Joel Meyerowitz.

As an artist you marvel at his intuition and inspiration, to look at the world as no one else had done before, to push the boundaries of medium and message. To photograph people, alone and in groups; politics; religion; race; automobiles and the road; and the media and thrust them into the white, bright, happy world of 1950s consumerist America saying: this is what this country is really like, this is my “impression” of you in all your fleeting madness, “America as an often bleak and lonely place.” You only have to look at the “eye” in U.S. 91, leaving Blackfoot, Idaho (1956, below) or look at the photograph of the grave by the side of the road to know that you are in Blue Velvet territory (David Lynch, director 1986, the title is taken from The Clovers’ 1955 song of the same name). I am not sure yet how one world pierces the other but believe me they surely do.

Marcus

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

 

 

“It was the vision that emanated from the book that lead not only me, but my whole generation of photographers out into the American landscape, in a sense, the lunatic sublime of America.”

.
Joel Meyerowitz

 

“Like a boxer trains for a fight, a photographer by walking the streets, and watching and taking pictures, and coming home and going out the next day, the same thing again, taking pictures. It doesn’t matter how many he takes, or if he takes any at all, it gets you prepared to know what you should take pictures of, or what is the right thing to do and when.”

.
Robert Frank

 

 

Walker Evans. 'Main St., Ossining, New York' 1932

 

Walker Evans
Main St., Ossining, New York
1932
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'Detroit' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Detroit
1955
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Raymond B. Gary

 

 

“In 1955 and 1956, Swiss-born photographer Robert Frank (b. 1924) traveled throughout the United States on a Guggenheim Fellowship, photographing ordinary people in their everyday lives. His book The Americans – 83 photographs, mostly from those travels, published in 1959 – repudiated the bland good cheer of the magazines with an image of the country that was starkly at odds with the official optimism of postwar prosperity. The book became a landmark of photographic history; but Frank soon turned to filmmaking, and the rest of his early photographic career was largely forgotten. An important group of unknown or unfamiliar photographs in the Cantor Arts Center’s collection provides the core of the exhibition Robert Frank in America, which sheds new light on the making of The Americans and presents, for the first time, Frank’s American photographs from the 1950s as a coherent body of work.

“We are delighted that the Cantor’s collection has provided the basis for a fresh look at one of the great achievements of 20-century photography,” said Connie Wolf, John and Jill Freidenrich Director of the Cantor Arts Center. “We are also deeply grateful to Robert Frank, who has generously contributed to the project.”

The exhibition Robert Frank in America, on view September 10, 2014 through January 5, 2015, features 130 photographs drawn primarily from the Cantor’s collection as well as from other public and private collections and from Frank himself. Peter Galassi, former chief curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, is the exhibition’s guest curator and author of the accompanying publication.

 

The Exhibition’s Development from the Cantor’s Collection

In the summer of 2012, Wolf invited Galassi to offer his thoughts on one of the museum’s hidden treasures: more than 150 photographs by Robert Frank given to the Cantor in the mid-1980s by Stanford alumnus Bowen H. McCoy and his colleague Raymond B. Gary. This remarkable collection spans the full range of Frank’s photographic career before he turned to filmmaking in the early 1960s. It is especially rich in Frank’s American work of the 1950s, including scores of photographs that are unknown or unfamiliar even to scholars. Wolf and Galassi saw an opportunity to share this work with Stanford students, faculty, scholars at large and the general public.

Research began at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, where more than two decades ago the artist established the archive of his photographic career prior to 1970. Studying more than 1,000 contact sheets enabled Galassi to determine the locations and dates of dozens of previously unidentified photographs in the Cantor collection. He then selected works for the exhibition so as to identify Frank’s major themes and artistic strategies. The compelling sequence of The Americans poetically weaves diverse images into a seamless whole, but Robert Frank in America groups related pictures to explore the pictorial strategies that Frank developed as he worked, and also to highlight important subjects – people, alone and in groups; politics; religion; race; automobiles and the road; and the media.

Frank repeatedly photographed isolated figures so that they seemed trapped by pictorial forces, for example. This powerful metaphor for Frank’s vision of lonely individuals imprisoned by social circumstances is announced in the first picture, The Americans, where the flag obliterates a spectator’s face (Parade – Hoboken, New Jersey, 1955). In Robert Frank in America, that photograph is juxtaposed with another that uses the identical pictorial scheme but a different subject; the interior of a bar (New York City, 1955).

“Although The Americans is famous – partly because it is famous – Robert Frank’s American work of the 1950s has never been considered as a whole,” said Galassi. “The full range of the work shows just how Frank turned the vocabulary of magazine photojournalism on its head and used it to speak in a personal, poetic voice.”

Inviting Galassi to organize the exhibition was part of the museum’s renewed commitment to collecting, studying and presenting photography, Wolf says. The Cantor has been adding to its already strong holdings, presenting innovative exhibitions of work by distinguished artists and providing a valuable opportunity for Stanford students and faculty to work directly with photographs. Leland Stanford’s commission more than a century ago for Eadweard Muybridge’s pioneering work on animal locomotion serves as a foundation for the museum’s extensive collection today.

 

Exhibition catalogue

The major catalogue accompanying this exhibition is published by the Cantor Arts Center in association with international publisher Steidl, with whom Frank has worked closely on most of his books. All 130 photographs in the exhibition are reproduced as full-page tritone plates. Galassi’s extensive essay traces the evolution of Frank’s work from his arrival in the United States in 1947 until he abandoned his first photographic career in the early 1960s. The text provides a thorough outline of the photographic context in which Frank at first sought success as a magazine photojournalist as well as a detailed analysis of the methods and strategies that lie behind The Americans. The essay features 24 illustrations, including an unprecedented map of Frank’s 1955-56 Guggenheim travels, which locates the sites of nearly all of the photographs in The Americans and in Robert Frank in America. The 200-page book, with a foreword by Connie Wolf, is designed by Katy Homans, New York.

 

Robert Frank

Robert Frank was born in 1924 in Zürich, Switzerland. The conclusion of World War II ended his vulnerability (his father was a German-born Jew) and enabled him to escape what he regarded as a narrow, antiquated culture. Soon after reaching New York in March 1947, he was hired by Harper’s Bazaar, but his distaste for photographing fashion led him to quit after six months. Over the next five or six years, in Europe and the United States, Frank aimed to establish himself as a freelance photojournalist, with limited success. A Guggenheim Fellowship, awarded in March 1955 and renewed a year later, freed him to pursue his work independently, and he soon began to travel in hopes of making a book. Les Américains was published by Robert Delpire in Paris in 1958 and, as The Americans, by Grove Press in New York in 1959. The latter included an introduction by Jack Kerouac, author of On the Road.

Film and video have formed a central aspect of Frank’s work since 1959, when he collaborated with Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and Alfred Leslie on Pull My Daisy. In 1972, however, he resumed making photographs, often using Polaroid positive-negative materials and incorporating text and multiple images. That same year he published the first of several editions of The Lines of My Hand, a book that surveyed his career in all mediums and initiated reconsiderations of his early photographic career. The first full-scale retrospective of his photographs was organized at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in 1986. In 1990, a major gift by Frank established the Robert Frank Collection at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, which has since presented two major exhibitions, each accompanied by an important book: Robert Frank: Moving Out (1994) and Looking In: Robert Frank’s “The Americans” (2009).”

Press release from the Cantor Arts Center

 

Robert Frank. 'Beaufort, South Carolina' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Beaufort, South Carolina
1955
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Raymond B. Gary

 

 

Guggenheim proposal summary

“To photograph freely throughout the United States, using the miniature camera exclusively. The making of a broad, voluminous picture record of things American, past and present. This project is essentially the visual study of a civilization and will include caption notes; but it is only partly documentary in nature: one of its aims is more artistic than the word documentary implies.”

 

The full statement

“I am applying for a Fellowship with a very simple intention: I wish to continue, develop and widen the kind of work I already do, and have been doing for some ten years, and apply it to the American nation in general. I am submitting work that will be seen to be documentation - most broadly speaking. Work of this kind is, I believe, to be found carrying its own visual impact without much work explanation. The project I have in mind is one that will shape itself as it proceeds, and is essentially elastic. The material is there: the practice will be in the photographer’s hand, the vision in his mind. One says this with some embarrassment but one cannot do less than claim vision if one is to ask for consideration.

“The photographing of America” is a large order - read at all literally, the phrase would be an absurdity. What I have in mind, then, is observation and record of what one naturalized American finds to see in the United States that signifies the kind of civilization born here and spreading elsewhere. Incidentally, it is fair to assume that when an observant American travels abroad his eye will see freshly; and that the reverse may be true when a European eye looks at the United States. I speak of the things that are there, anywhere and everywhere - easily found, not easily selected and interpreted. A small catalog comes to the mind’s eye: a town at night, a parking lot, a supermarket, a highway, the man who owns three cars and the man who owns none, the farmer and his children, a new house and a warped clapboard house, the dictation of taste, the dream of grandeur, advertising, neon lights, the faces of the leaders and the faces of the followers, gas tanks and postoffices and backyards.

The uses of my project would be sociological, historical and aesthetic. My total production will be voluminous, as is usually the case when the photographer works with miniature film. I intend to classify and annotate my work on the spot, as I proceed. Ultimately the file I shall make should be deposited in a collection such as the one in the Library of Congress. A more immediate use I have in mind is both book and magazine publication.”

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924) 'En route from New York to Washington, Club Car' 1954

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
En route from New York to Washington, Club Car
1954
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Raymond B. Gary

 

Robert Frank. 'Florida' 1958

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Florida
1958
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Raymond B. Gary

 

 

“I am grateful to the Guggenheim Foundation for their confidence and the provisions they made for me to work freely in my medium over a protracted period. When I applied for the Guggenheim Fellowship, I wrote: “To produce an authentic contemporary document, the visual impact should be such as will nullify explanation.”

With these photographs, I have attempted to show a cross-section of the American population. My effort was to express it simply and without confusion. The view is personal and, therefore, various facets of American life and society have been ignored. The photographs were taken during 1955 and 1956; for the most part in large cities such as Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and in many other places during my Journey across the country. My book, containing these photographs, will be published in Paris by Robert Delpire, 1958.

I have been frequently accused of deliberately twisting subject matter to my point of view. Above all, I know that life for a photographer cannot be a matter of indifference. Opinion often consists of a kind of criticism. But criticism can come out of love. It is important to see what is invisible to others – perhaps the look of hope or the look of sadness. Also, it is always the instantaneous reaction to oneself that produces a photograph.

My photographs are not planned or composed in advance and I do not anticipate that the on-looker will share my viewpoint. However, I feel that if my photograph leaves an image on his mind – something has been accomplished.

It is a different state of affairs for me to be working on assignment for a magazine. It suggests to me the feeling of a hack writer or a commercial illustrator. Since I sense that my ideas, my mind and my eye are not creating the picture but that the editors’ minds and eyes will finally determine which of my pictures will be reproduced to suit the magazines’ purposes.

I have a genuine distrust and “mefiance” toward all group activities. Mass production of uninspired photojournalism and photography without thought becomes anonymous merchandise. The air becomes infected with the “smell” of photography. If the photographer wants to be an artist, his thoughts cannot be developed overnight at the corner drugstore.

I am not a pessimist, but looking at a contemporary picture magazine makes it difficult for me to speak about the advancement of photography, since photography today is accepted without question, and is also presumed to be understood by all – even children. I feel that only the integrity of the individual photographer can raise its level.

The work of two contemporary photographers, Bill Brandt of England and the American, Walker Evans, have influenced me. When I first looked at Walker Evans’ photographs, I thought of something Malraux wrote: “To transform destiny into awareness.” One is embarrassed to want so much for oneself. But, how else are you going to justify your failure and your effort?”

Robert Frank, U.S. Camera Annual, p. 115, 1958

 

Robert Frank. 'Lusk, Wyoming' 1956

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Lusk, Wyoming
1956
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Raymond B. Gary

 

Robert Frank. 'Main Street - Savannah, Georgia' 1955

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
Main Street – Savannah, Georgia
1955
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Raymond B. Gary

 

Walker Evans. 'Downtown street, New Orleans' December 1935

 

Walker Evans
Downtown street, New Orleans
December 1935
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank. 'New York City' 1949

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
New York City
1949
Gelatin silver print
Lent by Peter Steil

 

 

 

Robert Frank. 'New York City' early 1950s

 

Robert Frank (U.S.A., b. Switzerland 1924)
New York City
early 1950s
Gelatin silver print
Cantor Arts Center Collection, Gift of Bowen H. McCoy

 

 

Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University
328 Lomita Drive at Museum Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5060
T: 650-723-4177

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Sunday 11 am – 5 pm
Thursday 11 am – 8 pm
Closed Monday and Tuesday

Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University website

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30
Dec
14

Exhibition: ‘Horst: Photographer of Style’ at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Exhibition dates: 6th September 2014 – 4th January 2015

Curator: Susanna Brown, Curator of Photographs at the V&A

 

 

Steichen, Penn, Avedon, Newman – and then there is Horst, master of them all. Style, elegance, lighting, framing, colour but above all panache – the guts and talent to push it just that little bit further.

Marcus

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

 

 

“Fashion is an expression of the times. Elegance is something else again.”

.
Horst, 1984

 

 

Installation image of 'Horst - Photographer of Style' at the V&A

Installation image of 'Horst - Photographer of Style' at the V&A

Installation image of 'Horst - Photographer of Style' at the V&A

Installation image of 'Horst - Photographer of Style' at the V&A

Installation image of 'Horst - Photographer of Style' at the V&A

Installation image of 'Horst - Photographer of Style' at the V&A

 

Installation images of Horst – Photographer of Style at the V&A
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

“This autumn, the V&A will present the definitive retrospective exhibition of the work of master photographer Horst P. Horst (1906-1999) – one of the leading photographers of the 20th century. In his illustrious 60-year career, German-born Horst worked predominantly in Paris and New York and creatively traversed the worlds of photography, art, fashion, design, theatre and high society.

Horst: Photographer of Style will display 250 photographs, alongside haute couture garments, magazines, film footage and ephemera. The exhibition explores Horst’s collaborations and friendships with leading couturiers such as Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli in Paris; stars including Marlene Dietrich and Noël Coward; and artists and designers such as Salvador Dalí and Jean-Michel Frank. Highlights of the exhibition include photographs recently donated to the V&A by Gert Elfering, art collector and owner of the Horst Estate, previously unpublished vintage prints, and more than 90 Vogue covers by Horst.

The exhibition will also reveal lesser-known aspects of Horst’s work: nude studies, travel photographs from the Middle East and patterns created from natural forms. The creative process behind some of his most famous photographs, such as the Mainbocher Corset, will be revealed through the inclusion of original contact sheets, sketches and cameras. The many sources that influenced Horst – from ancient Classical art to Bauhaus ideals of modern design and Surrealism in 1930s Paris – will be explored.

Martin Roth, Director of the V&A said: “Horst was one of the greatest photographers of fashion and society and produced some of the most famous and evocative images of the 20th century. This exhibition will shine a light on all aspects of his long and distinguished career. Horst’s legacy and influence, which has been seen in work by artists, designers and performers including Herb Ritts, Robert Mapplethorpe, Bruce Weber and Madonna, continues today.” 

Horst’s career straddled the opulence of pre-war Parisian haute couture and the rise of ready-to-wear in post-war New York and his style developed from lavish studio set-ups to a more austere approach in the latter half of the 20th century. The exhibition will begin in the 1930s with Horst’s move to Paris and his early experiments in the Vogue studio. Among his first models and muses were Lisa Fonssagrives, Helen Bennett and Lyla Zelensky. Vintage black and white photographs from the archive of Paris Vogue will be displayed alongside garments in shades of black, white, silver and gold by Parisian couturiers such as Chanel, Lanvin, Molyneux and Vionnet.

The exhibition will then focus on Horst’s Surreal-inspired studies and collaborations with Salvador Dalí and Elsa Schiaparelli. Fashion photographs will be shown with trompe l’oeil portraits and haunting still lifes. Horst excelled at portraiture and in the 1930s he captured some of Hollywood’s brightest stars: Rita Hayworth, Bette Davis, Vivien Leigh, Noël Coward, Ginger Rogers, Marlene Dietrich and Joan Crawford, to name a few.

Horst travelled widely throughout the 1940s and 1950s to Israel, Iran, Syria, Italy and Morocco. An escape from the world of fashion and city environs, his little-known travel photographs reveal a fascination for ancient cultures, landscapes and architecture. On display will be works taken in Iran such as the Persepolis Bull, Horst’s powerful image of a vast sculpture head amidst the ruins of a once magnificent palace, and images documenting the annual migration of the nomadic Qashqai clan.

Detailed studies of natural forms such as flowers, minerals, shells and butterfly wings from the project Patterns From Nature, will be shown alongside a series of kaleidoscopic collages made by arranging photographs in simple repeat; his intention was that these dynamic patterns could be used as designs for textiles, wallpaper, carpets, plastics and glass.

Horst was admired for his dramatic lighting and became one of the first photographers to perfect the new colour techniques of the 1930s. A short film of him at work in the Vogue studios during the 1940s will be shown with an introduction to his peers including Lee Miller, Cecil Beaton and Irving Penn. The advent of colour enabled a fresh approach and Horst went on to create more than 90 Vogue covers and countless pages in vivid colour. A selection of 25 large colour photographs, newly printed from the original transparencies from the Condé Nast Archive, will demonstrate Horst’s exceptional skill as a colourist. These prints feature Horst’s favourite models from the 1940s and 50s, such as Carmen Dell’Orefice, Muriel Maxwell and Dorian Leigh, and will be shown together with preparatory sketches, which have never previously been exhibited.

In the early 1950s, Horst created a series of male nudes for an exhibition in Paris for which the models were carefully posed and dramatically lit to accentuate their musculature. The series evokes the classical sculpture that Horst so admired throughout his career. During the 1960s and 1970s, Horst photographed some of the world’s most beautiful and luxurious homes for House and Garden and Vogue under the editorship of his friend Diana Vreeland. A three-sided projection and interactive screens will present these colourful studies. Among the most memorable are the Art Deco apartment of Karl Lagerfeld, the three lavish dwellings of Yves Saint Laurent and the Roman palazzo of artist Cy Twombly.

In the latter years of Horst’s life, his early aesthetic experienced a renaissance. The period also witnessed a flurry of new books, exhibitions, and television documentaries celebrating his work. Horst produced new, lavish prints in platinum-palladium for museums and the collector’s market, selecting emblematic works from every decade of his career, which will be showcased as the finale to the exhibition.”

Press release from the V&A

 

Behind the scenes at American Vogue, 1946 from Victoria and Albert Museum

 

Showing clips from the publication house’s cutting room floor, as well as editors at work, this never-before-seen footage shot from late 1946 to early 1947 gives a fascinating insight into the history of fashion publishing. This film is comprised of outtakes from the documentary Fashion Means Business. Dorian Leigh models the latest American designs in the Condé Nast studio for Horst and his assistant Vassilov, overseen by Vogue editors Muriel Maxwell and Priscilla Peck. The photographs are selected with editor Jessica Daves and art director Alexander Liberman, and the page layout finalised with Marcel Guillaume and Liberman.

With permission from HBO Archives/The March of Time. Provided by Condé Nast Archive

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Chanel, Vogue France' 1935

 

Horst P. Horst
Chanel, Vogue France
1935
© Condé Nast/Horst Estate

A fore-runner of the timeless look of Chanel, here in brown and white check rayon with collar, cuffs and lapels in white piquè that matches the buttoned top.

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Hat and coat-dress by Bergdorf Goodman, modelled by Estrella Boissevain' 1938

 

Horst P. Horst
Hat and coat-dress by Bergdorf Goodman, modelled by Estrella Boissevain
1938
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Corset by Detolle for Mainbocher' 1939

 

Horst P. Horst
Corset by Detolle for Mainbocher
1939
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P.Horst. 'Lisa with Turban, New York' 1940

 

Horst P.Horst
Lisa with Turban, New York
1940
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Gertrude Stein at Balmain Fashion Show' 1946

 

Horst P. Horst
Gertrude Stein at Balmain Fashion Show
1946
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Birthday Gloves, New York' 1947

 

Horst P. Horst
Birthday Gloves, New York
1947
© Condé Nast/Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Lillian Marcuson in Dior's belted two-piece suit in black rustic wool, called 'Milieu du Siècle'' 1949

 

Horst P. Horst
Lillian Marcuson in Dior’s belted two-piece suit in black rustic wool, called ‘Milieu du Siècle’
1949
© Condé Nast/Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Nina de Voe' 1951

 

Horst P. Horst
Nina de Voe
1951
© Condé Nast/Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Lillian Marcuson, New York' 1950

 

Horst P. Horst
Lillian Marcuson, New York
1950
© Condé Nast/Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Outfit by Tina Leser' Vogue, April 1950

 

Horst P. Horst
Outfit by Tina Leser
Vogue, April 1950
© Condé Nast/Horst Estate

 

Horst P.Horst. 'Bombay Bathing Fashion' 1950

 

Horst P.Horst
Bombay Bathing Fashion
1950
© Condé Nast/Horst Estate

Model (unidentified) and Dorian Leigh (r) in bathing suit and sleeveless shirt cover-up by Carolyn Schnurer 1951 Vogue

 

Haute Couture

When Horst joined Vogue in 1931, Paris was still the world’s undisputed centre of high fashion. Photography had begun to eclipse graphic illustration in fashion magazines and the publisher Condé Montrose Nast devoted large sums to improving the quality of image reproduction. He insisted that Vogue photographers work with a large format camera, which produced richly detailed negatives measuring ten by eight inches.

The creation of a Horst photograph was a collaborative process, involving the talents of the photographer and model, the art director, fashion editor, studio assistants and set technicians. The modelling profession was still in its infancy in the 1930s and many of those who posed under the hot studio lights were stylish friends of the magazine’s staff, often actresses or aristocrats.

By the mid 1930s, Horst had superseded his mentor George Hoyningen-Huene as Paris Vogue‘s primary photographer. His images frequently appeared in the French, British and American editions of the magazine. Many of the photographs on display in the exhibition are vintage prints from the company’s archive.

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Dress by Hattie Carnegie' 1939

 

Horst P. Horst
Dress by Hattie Carnegie
1939
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Dress by Hattie Carnegie' 1939

 

Horst P. Horst
Dress by Hattie Carnegie
1939
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Muriel Maxwell, American Vogue' 1939

 

Horst P. Horst
Muriel Maxwell, American Vogue
1939
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Summer Fashions, American Vogue cover' 1941

 

Horst P. Horst
Summer Fashions, American Vogue cover
1941
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Dinner suit and headdress by Schiaparelli' 1947

 

Horst P. Horst
Dinner suit and headdress by Schiaparelli
1947
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Millicent Rogers in a Charles James gown and a gold necklace of her own design' Vogue, February 1, 1949

 

Horst P. Horst
Millicent Rogers in a Charles James gown and a gold necklace of her own design
Vogue,
February 1, 1949
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst in Colour from Victoria and Albert Museum

 

This film reveals the process of creating new colour prints for the exhibition Horst: Photographer of Style. Horst was quick to master new colour processes, introduced in the late 1930s, and he created hundreds of vibrant fashion photographs for Vogue.

The V&A team worked closely with specialists at the Condé Nast Archive and expert printer Ken Allen to select and print from Horst’s early transparencies, which date from the 1930s to the 1950s. The film includes insights into Horst’s dynamic approach from model Carmen Dell’Orefice and Vogue’s International Editor at Large, Hamish Bowles.​

 

Fashion in Colour

The 1930s ushered in huge technical advancements in colour photography. Horst adapted quickly to a new visual vocabulary, creating some of Vogue’s most dazzling colour images. In 1935 he photographed the Russian Princess Nadejda Sherbatow in a red velveteen jacket for the first of his many Vogue cover pictures.

The occupation of Paris transformed the world of fashion. The majority of French ateliers closed and many couturiers and buyers left the country. Remaining businesses struggled with extreme shortages of cloth and other supplies. The scarcity of French fashions in America, however, enabled American designers to come into their own.

Horst’s colour photographs are rarely exhibited because few vintage prints exist. Colour capture took place on a transparency which could be reproduced on the magazine page without the need to create a photographic print. The size of the new prints displayed in this room of the exhibition echoes the large scale of a group of Horst images printed in 1938 at the Condé Nast press.

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Marlene Dietrich, New York' 1942

 

Horst P. Horst
Marlene Dietrich, New York
1942
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Gloria Vanderbilt age 17 wearing a dress by Howard Greer, New York' 1941

 

Horst P. Horst
Gloria Vanderbilt age 17 wearing a dress by Howard Greer, New York
1941
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

At 17, in Beverly Hills wearing a tabletop dress by Howard Greer. Tabletop dresses looked good from the waist up when stars were photographed sitting in restaurants and nightclub

 

Stage and Screen

Horst’s portraits spanned a wide cross-section of subjects, from artists and writers to presidents and royalty. In the 1930s, he became aware of a new focus for his work. As he later noted in his book Salute to the Thirties (1971), glamorous Hollywood movie stars were imperceptibly assuming the place left vacant by Europe’s vanishing royal families. With the approach of the Second World War, the escapism offered by theatre and cinema gained in popularity. Horst began to photograph these new, classless celebrities, both in costume and as themselves.

The first well-known star Horst photographed was the English performer Gertrude Lawrence, then appearing in Ronald Jeans’ play Can the Leopard…? at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket. Horst’s first portrait of a Hollywood actress, Bette Davis, appeared in Vogue‘s sister magazine Vanity Fair in 1932.

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Round the Clock, New York' 1987

 

Horst P. Horst
Round the Clock, New York
1987
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Platinum

The 1980s witnessed a flurry of new books, exhibitions and television documentaries about Horst. He produced new prints for museums and the collector’s market, selecting emblematic works from every decade of his career to be reprinted in platinum-palladium, sometimes with new titles. This was a complex and expensive technique, employing metals more expensive than gold. Failing eyesight finally forced him to stop working in 1992.

Horst’s platinum-palladium prints are treasured for their nuanced tones, surface quality and permanence. His style had experienced a renaissance in 1978 when Francine Crescent, French Vogue‘s editor in chief, had invited him to photograph the Paris collections. Horst’s work for her echoed his atmospheric, spot-lit studies of the 1930s. His use of the platinum process for creating new and reproducing early works ensured his mastery of light, mood and composition would be enjoyed by a new audience.

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Male Nude #3' 1952, printed 1980s

 

 

Horst P. Horst
Male Nude #3
1952, printed 1980s
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Still Life' Nd

 

Horst P. Horst
Still Life
Nd
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Male Nude' 1952

 

Horst P. Horst
Male Nude
1952
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Male Nudes

In the early 1950s Horst produced a set of distinctive photographs unlike much of his previous output. These male figure studies were exhibited for the first time in Paris in 1953 and reprinted using the platinum-palladium process in the 1980s. The studies exemplify Horst’s sense of form. All emphasis is on the idealised human body, expressive light and shadow. Monumental and anonymous nudes resemble classical sculptures. As Mehemed Agha (1929-78), art director of American Vogue, commented:

“Horst takes the inert clay of human flesh and models it into the decorative shapes of his own devising. Every gesture of his models is planned, every line controlled and coordinated to the whole of the picture. Some gestures look natural and careless, because carefully rehearsed; the others, like Voltaire’s god, were invented by the artist because they did not exist.”

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Salvador Dali's costumes for Leonid Massine's ballet 'Bacchanale'' 1939

 

Horst P. Horst
Salvador Dali’s costumes for Leonid Massine’s ballet Bacchanale
1939
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Lisa Fonssagrives hands, New York' 1941

 

Horst P. Horst
Lisa Fonssagrives hands, New York
1941
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Odalisque I' 1943

 

Horst P. Horst
Odalisque I
1943
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P.Horst. 'Bunny Hartley' Vogue, 1938

 

Horst P.Horst
Bunny Hartley
Vogue,
1938
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Lisa Fonssagrives "I Love You"' 1937

 

Horst P. Horst
Lisa Fonssagrives “I Love You”
1937
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Surrealism

The Surrealist art movement explored unique ways of interpreting the world, turning to dreams and the unconscious for inspiration. During the 1930s Surrealism escaped its radical avant-garde roots and transformed design, fashion, advertising, theatre and film. Horst’s photographs of this period feature mysterious, whimsical and surreal elements combined with his classical aesthetic. He created trompe l’oeil still lifes, photographed the surreal-infused dress designs of his friend Elsa Schiaparelli and collaborated with the artist Salvador Dalí. He shared with the Surrealists a fascination with the representation of the female body, often fragmenting and eroticising the human form in his images.

His most celebrated photograph of the era is Mainbocher Corset (1939). Decades after the photograph was made, Main Bocher himself expressed his admiration for Horst’s virtuosity, writing,

“Your photographs are sheer genius and delight my soul … each one is perfect by itself.”

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Patterns from Nature Photographic Collage' 1945

 

Horst P. Horst
Patterns from Nature Photographic Collage
1945
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Patterns from Nature

Horst’s second book, Patterns from Nature (1946), and the photographs from which it originated, are a surprising diversion from the high glamour of his fashion and celebrity photographs. These close-up, black and white images of plants, shells and minerals were taken in New York’s Botanical Gardens, in the forests of New England, in Mexico, and along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

This personal project was partly inspired by photographs of plants by Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932). Horst was struck by “their revelation of the similarity of vegetable forms to art forms like wrought iron and Gothic architecture.” Horst’s interest was also linked to the technical purity of ‘photographic seeing’, a philosophy associated with the New Objectivity movement of the 1920s and ’30s. Practitioners took natural forms out of their contexts and examined them with such close attention that they became unfamiliar and revelatory.

 

Horst P. Horst. 'View of ruins at the palace of Persepolis, Persia' 1949

 

Horst P. Horst
View of ruins at the palace of Persepolis, Persia
1949
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Travel

In the summer of 1949, Horst journeyed to the Middle East with his partner Valentine Lawford, then political counsellor at the British Embassy in Tehran. They travelled by road from Beirut to Persepolis, where Horst was able to photograph parts of the ancient Persian city that had only recently been uncovered. Afterwards, Horst visited the newly established State of Israel on a photographic assignment for Vogue.

The trip left a strong impression on Horst and he returned in the spring of 1950. He spent a week with Lawford at the relatively remote south-eastern shore of the Caspian Sea, before documenting the annual migration of the Qashqa’i clan. Horst and Lawford were invited by Malik Mansur Khan Qashqa’i to spend ten days with his tribe as they travelled by camel and horse, in search of vegetation for their flocks.

 

Horst P. Horst. 'Yves Saint Laurent poses in the apartment's grand salon for a November 1971 'Vogue' photo spread' 1971

 

Horst P. Horst
Yves Saint Laurent poses in the apartment’s grand salon for a November 1971 ‘Vogue’ photo spread
1971
© Conde Nast / Horst Estate

 

Living in Style

In 1947 Horst acquired five acres of land in Oyster Bay Cove, Long Island, part of the estate once owned by the designer Louis Comfort Tiffany. On the land he described as ‘everything I had ever dreamed of’, Horst built a unique house and landscaped garden. British diplomat Valentine Lawford visited for the first time in 1947, with Noël Coward, Christopher Isherwood, and Greta Garbo. It was the beginning of a relationship with Horst that would last until Lawford’s death in 1991.

They welcomed many friends and visitors to Long Island, including the dynamic editor Diana Vreeland. She left Harper’s Bazaar for Vogue in 1962 and soon put the couple to work on Vogue‘s ‘Fashions in Living’ pages. The homes and tastes of everyone from Jackie Onassis to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Andy Warhol and Karl Lagerfeld featured in their articles. Horst’s creative chemistry with Vreeland brought him a new lease of life.

 

Roy Stevens. 'Horst directing fashion shoot with Lisa Fonssagrives' 15 May 1941

 

Roy Stevens
Horst directing fashion shoot with Lisa Fonssagrives
15 May 1941
© Time & Life Pictures / Getty Images

 

In the Studio

During the 1940s Horst worked primarily in the Condé Nast studio on the 19th floor of the Graybar Building, an Art Deco skyscraper on Manhattan’s Lexington Avenue. The busy studio was well equipped with a variety of lights and props and Horst worked closely with talented art director Alexander Liberman. Like Horst, he had found refuge in the artistic circles of Paris and New York, and enjoyed a long career with Condé Nast.

By 1946 dressing the American woman had become one of the country’s largest industries, grossing over six billion dollars a year. The staff of Vogue expanded accordingly. In 1951 Horst found a studio of his own, the former penthouse apartment of artist Pavel Tchelitchew, with high ceilings and a spectacular view over the river. Horst developed a new approach to photography in response to the abundance of daylight and for a time his famous atmospheric shadows disappeared.

 

 

Victoria and Albert Museum
Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL

Opening hours:
The V&A is open daily from 10.00 to 17.45 and until 22.00 on Fridays

Victoria and Albert Museum website, Horst web page

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29
Dec
14

Exhibition: ‘A Subtle Beauty: Platinum Photographs from the Collection’ at the National Gallery of Art, Washington

Exhibition dates: 5th October 2014 – 4th January 2015

Curator: Andrea Nelson, assistant curator, department of photographs, National Gallery of Art

 

I am too sick at the moment to really say anything constructive about platinum prints except one word: wow. You only have to look at the tonality and the sensuality of the prints to understand their appeal. Driftwood, Maine, 1928 by Paul Strand is my favourite in this posting.

Marcus

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

 

 

Alfred Stieglitz. 'The Last Joke - Bellagio' 1887

 

Alfred Stieglitz
The Last Joke – Bellagio
1887
Platinum print
Sheet (trimmed to image): 11.7 x 14.7 cm (4 5/8 x 5 13/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred Stieglitz Collection

 

Laura Gilpin. 'Ghost Rock, Colorado Springs' 1919

 

Laura Gilpin
Ghost Rock, Colorado Springs
1919
Platinum print
24.2 x 19.1 cm (9 1/2 x 7 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, The Marvin Breckinridge Patterson Fund

 

Renowned for her landscape photographs of the American Southwest, Gilpin was mentored by Gertrude Käsebier and trained at the Clarence H. White School of Photography in New York. This luminous photograph exemplifies Gilpin’s skill in producing expressive works with a wide spectrum of tonal values.

 

Frederick H. Evans. '
York Minster, North Transept: "In Sure and Certain Hope",' 1902

 

Frederick H. Evans
York Minster, North Transept: “In Sure and Certain Hope”
1902
Platinum print
27.46 x 19.69 cm (10 13/16 x 7 3/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Carolyn Brody Fund and Pepita Milmore Memorial

 

Evans was known as the master of the unmanipulated platinum print. For him, a perfect photograph was one that “gives its beholder the same order of joy that the original would.” In this work, light, more than architecture, is his subject. As light fills the space of York Minster Cathedral it dissolves the weight of the massive stone, creating a reverential, timeless mood. Evans also took great care in the presentation of his photographs, often embellishing his mounts with hand-ruled borders and watercolor washes. (NGA)

Evans was described by Alfred Stieglitz as ‘the greatest exponent of architectural photography’. Evans aimed to create a mood with his photography; he recommended that the amateur ‘try for a record of emotion rather than a piece of topography’. He would spend weeks in a cathedral before exposing any film, exploring different camera angles for effects of light and means of emotional expression. He always tried to keep the camera as far as possible from the subject and to fill the frame with the image completely, and he used a small aperture and very long exposure for maximum definition. Equally important to the effect of his photographs were his printing methods; he rejected the fashion for painterly effects achieved by smudging, blowing or brushing over the surface of the gum paper print. His doctrine of pure photography, ‘plain prints from plain negatives’, prohibited retouching. (Text from MoMA)

 

Karl Struss. 'Columbia University, Night' 1910

 

Karl Struss
Columbia University, Night
1910
Gum dichromate over platinum print processed with mercury
24 x 19.4 cm (9 7/16 x 7 5/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation through Robert and Joyce Menschel

 

Alfred Stieglitz. 'From the Back-Window - 291' 1915

 

Alfred Stieglitz
From the Back-Window – 291
1915
Platinum print
24.1 x 19.1 cm (9 1/2 x 7 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred Stieglitz Collection

 

Influenced by Peter Henry Emerson’s understanding of photography as an independent art form, Stieglitz became the driving force behind the development of art photography at the turn of the century. He founded the Photo-Secession group in 1902 with the aim to “advance photography as applied to pictorial expression.” This view of the buildings in New York behind Stieglitz’s famed Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession at 291 Fifth Avenue is an exceptional example of a platinum print with rich, neutral gray and black tones. The diffuse glow of the lights is enhanced by Stieglitz’s choice of a smooth printing paper with a subtle surface sheen. (NGA)

Around 1915, Stieglitz began photographing the view out of the window of his gallery, a practice he continued through two relocations of his business. In this photograph made from the window of Stieglitz’s first gallery (known as “291” for its address on Fifth Avenue), the legacy of Pictorialism hovers in the rich, evocative atmosphere he coaxes from the nighttime scene, even as the play of angular forms declares the modernist impulse for the exposure. (Text from Metropolitan Museum of Art)

 

Paul Strand. 'Driftwood, Maine' 1928

 

Paul Strand
Driftwood, Maine
1928
Platinum print
24.3 x 19.2 cm (9 9/16 x 7 9/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Southwestern Bell Corporation Paul Strand Collection

 

Strand was a committed advocate of the platinum process and made platinum photographs well into the 1920s and early 1930s. Driftwood, Maine is printed on Japine paper, a photographic paper with a chemically altered surface, which resembles parchment. First introduced by William Willis’ Platinotype Company in 1906, Japine platinum paper provided deep blacks and a lustrous surface sheen that Strand found ideal for his modernist abstractions.

 

 

“Rare platinum photographs that played a pivotal role in establishing photography as a fine art will be presented at the National Gallery of Art. On view in the West Building from October 5, 2014 through January 4, 2015, A Subtle Beauty: Platinum Photographs from the Collection will include two dozen works from the Gallery’s renowned collection of photographs. Presented in conjunction with a symposium organized by the National Gallery of Art and sponsored by the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, this exhibition features compelling prints by Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946), Edward Steichen (1879-1973), Gertrude Käsebier (1852-1934), and other prominent pictorialist photographers.

“Photographers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were captivated by the lush appearance and rich atmospheric effects they were able to create through the platinum print process,” said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. “With their extraordinary tonal range – capable of capturing the deepest blacks, warmest sepias, and creamiest of whites – platinum prints quickly became the preferred process of the era.”

Exhibition highlights

Featuring 24 outstanding photographs from the 1880s to the 1920s, this exhibition reveals the artistic qualities and subtle nuances of the platinum process. Major artists such as Peter Henry Emerson (1856-1936), Frederick H. Evans (18531943), Alvin Langdon Coburn (1882-1966), and Clarence H. White (1871-1925), revered platinum prints for their permanence, delicate image quality, and surface textures that could range from a velvety matte to a lustrous sheen.

Focused on the aesthetic and technical aspects of platinum photographs, highlights include Stieglitz’s From the Back-Window – 291 (1915), an exceptional print with neutral gray and black tones capturing the diffuse glow of lights in the buildings behind the artist’s galleries at 291 Fifth Avenue; Evans’ superb York Minster, North Transept: “In Sure and Certain Hope” (1902), an affective work whose subject is light more than architecture; and Steichen’s evocative Rodin (1907),  combining platinum with gum dichromate to create a painterly, multilayered portrait.”

Press release from the National Gallery of Art website

 

Clarence H. White. 'Mrs. White - In the Studio' 1907

 

Clarence H. White
Mrs. White – In the Studio
1907
Palladium print, printed later
24.4 x 19.3 cm (9 5/8 x 7 5/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation through Robert and Joyce Menschel and R. K. Mellon Family Foundation

 

Alvin Langdon Coburn. 'Clarence H. White' c. 1905

 

Alvin Langdon Coburn
Clarence H. White
c. 1905
Platinum print
24.2 x 19.4 cm (9 1/2 x 7 5/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund

 

Coburn presents fellow photographer Clarence H. White holding a tube of platinum paper in much the same manner as a painter would hold a palette. Because the paper support contributed greatly to the overall appearance of the platinum print, photographers experimented with a range of handmade and mass-produced papers that varied in texture and color.

 

Clarence H. White. 'George Borup' 1909

 

Clarence H. White
George Borup
1909
Platinum print
25 x 20 cm (9 13/16 x 7 7/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund

 

A self-taught photographer from Ohio, White became an important leader of the pictorialist movement. A member of the Photo-Secession, he exhibited widely and later founded the Clarence H. White School of Photography in New York in 1914, a school that helped define and establish pictorialist ideals. White took this portrait of geologist and explorer George Borup the year he returned from an expedition to the North Pole.

 

Frederick H. Evans. 'Aubrey Beardsley' 1894

 

Frederick H. Evans
Aubrey Beardsley
1894
Platinum print
13 x 90.2 cm (5 1/8 x 35 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Paul Mellon Fund

 

A major figure in British Pictorialism and a driving force of its influential society The Linked Ring, Frederick Evans is best known for his moving interpretations of medieval cathedrals rendered with unmatched subtlety in platinum prints. Until 1898, Evans owned a bookshop in London where, according to George Bernard Shaw, he was the ideal bookseller, chatting his customers into buying what he thought was right for them. In 1889, Evans befriended the seventeen-year-old Aubrey Beardsley, a clerk in an insurance company who, too poor to make purchases, browsed in the bookshop during lunch hours. Eventually, Evans recommended Beardsley to the publisher John M. Dent as the illustrator for a new edition of Thomas Malory’s “Le Morte d’Arthur.” It was to be Beardsley’s first commission and the beginning of his meteoric rise to fame.

Evans probably made this portrait of Beardsley (1872-1898) in 1894, at the time the young artist was achieving notoriety for his scandalous illustrations of Oscar Wilde’s “Salomé” and “The Yellow Book,” two publications that captured the irreverent, decadent mood of the European fin de siècle. A lanky, stooped youth who suffered from tuberculosis and would die of the disease at the age of twenty-five, Beardsley, conscious of his awkward physique, cultivated the image of the dandy. Evans is reported to have spent hours studying Beardsley, wondering how best to approach his subject, when the artist, growing tired, finally relaxed into more natural poses. In the platinum print, Evans captured the inward-looking artist lost in the contemplation of his imaginary world, his beaked profile cupped in the long fingers of his sensitive hands. (Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art)

 

Gertrude Käsebier. 'Alfred Stieglitz' 1902

 

Gertrude Käsebier
Alfred Stieglitz
1902
Platinum print
30.5 x 21.2 cm (12 x 8 3/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, R. K. Mellon Family Foundation, Diana and Mallory Walker Fund, and Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation through Robert and Joyce Menschel

 

Featured in the 1903 inaugural issue of Alfred Stieglitz’s seminal journal Camera Work, Gertrude Käsebier was hailed by him as “the leading portrait photographer in the country.” To manipulate the tones of this print, Käsebier masked sections of the negative and then used a brush to selectively apply the developing solution to the printing paper. The final result resembles a beautifully hand-worked watercolor.

 

Heinrich Kühn. 'Walther Kühn' 1911

 

Heinrich Kühn
Walther Kühn
1911
Gum dichromate over platinum print
29.7 x 23.7 cm (11 11/16 x 9 5/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation through Robert and Joyce Menschel

 

A photographer, writer, and scientist, Heinrich Kühn was a central figure in the international development of pictorialist photography. Known for his intimate portraits, scenes of rural life, and still-life photographs, he was actively involved in groups – both in Great Britain and Austria – that espoused an alternative to a purely technical view of photography.

 

Edward Steichen. 'Rodin' 1907

 

Edward Steichen
Rodin
1907
Gum dichromate over platinum print
37.94 x 26.67 cm (14 15/16 x 10 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund

 

Steichen positioned Auguste Rodin in a contemplative pose reminiscent of the sculptor’s most recognized work, The Thinker. By adding gum dichromate (a mixture of light-sensitive salts, pigment and a gum arabic binder) over a platinum print, Steichen enhanced the soft- focus appearance and tonality of his portrait.

Steichen was an important link between European and American artistic circles during the first decade of the twentieth century. A member of the Photo-Secession, Steichen encouraged the group’s founder, Alfred Stieglitz, to open a gallery in New York to promote the club’s work. The Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession (later known as “291” from its address at 291 Fifth Avenue) opened in 1905. Soon, the gallery’s scope extended beyond photography to include other currents in modern art, such as the exhibition of Rodin’s watercolors and drawings that Steichen organized in 1908.

 

Alfred Stieglitz. 'Hodge Kirnon' 1917

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Hodge Kirnon
1917
Satista print
Alfred Stieglitz Collection

 

One of the least well known and most beautiful of Stieglitz’s portraits, this photograph depicts Hodge Kirnon, a man Stieglitz saw in passing every day. When preparing to close his historic gallery “291” in 1917 as a result of World War I, Stieglitz assessed his work and life and saw that Kirnon – who operated the elevator that transported the gallery’s visitors, its critics, and its provocative modern art – had been a true fellow passenger on the momentous trip.

Satista prints refer to a print that is a composed of a mixture of silver and platinum. This is a very old process, invented by William Willis published in Senstive Photographic Paper and Process of Making. The process was intended to be more economical then platinum printing, but being able to produce results that looked like pure platinum prints and being as permanent.

 

Edith R. Wilson. 'Portrait of a Family' 1922

 

Edith R. Wilson (American, 1864-1924)
Portrait of a Family
1922
Palladium print
R.K. Mellon Family Foundation

 

With the onset of World War I, platinum metal was needed for military purposes, raising its price and severely limiting its use in commercial applications. This led to the advancement of new photographic products that relied on the more readily available and less expensive precious metals of silver and palladium. Wilson made this portrait on palladium paper during a summer course offered by the Clarence H. White School of Photography. Intended to replicate the look of platinum prints, palladium papers came in various surface textures and tonal values; however, they were never fully embraced by photographers, who questioned both their quality and permanence.

 

Harry C. Rubincam. 'The Circus' 1905

 

Harry C. Rubincam (American, 1871-1940)
The Circus
1905
Platinum print
The Sarah and William L Walton Fund

 

After years of working for insurance and wholesale grocery companies in New York City, Rubincam moved to Denver, Colorado, where he learned photography from a retired professional. His participation in several exhibitions brought his work to the attention of Alfred Stieglitz, who invited Rubincam in 1903 to be a member of the Photo-Secession, an elite group of photographers whose aim was to advance photography as a fine art. This photograph of a circus performance is unusual among art photographs from this time for its spontaneity.

 

 

National Gallery of Art
National Mall between 3rd and 7th Streets
Constitution Avenue NW, Washington

Opening hours:
Monday – Saturday 1000 am – 5.00 pm
Sunday 11.00 am – 6.00 pm

National Gallery of Art website

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27
Dec
14

Exhibition: ‘photobooks. Spain 1905-1977’ at the Museo Nacional Centro de Art Renia Sofia, Madrid

Exhibition dates: 27th May 2014 – 5th January 2015

Artists: Francesc Català-Roca, Colita (Isabel Steva Hernández), Joan Colom, Salvador Costa, Ramón Masats, Xavier Miserachs, Francisco Ontañón, José Ortiz Echagüe Puertas, Leopoldo Pomés, Alfonso Sánchez Portela

Curatorship: Horacio Fernández

 

 

This is one of those eclectic exhibitions that this site likes to promote. What a fascinating subject, something that I knew nothing about. The posting is especially for my colleague Professor Martinez Alfredo-Exposito, Head of the School of Languages and Linguistics at The University of Melbourne.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the Museo Nacional Centro de Art Renia Sofia for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'photobooks. Spain 1905-1977' at the Museo Nacional Centro de Art Renia Sofia

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'photobooks. Spain 1905-1977' at the Museo Nacional Centro de Art Renia Sofia

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'photobooks. Spain 1905-1977' at the Museo Nacional Centro de Art Renia Sofia

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'photobooks. Spain 1905-1977' at the Museo Nacional Centro de Art Renia Sofia

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition photobooks. Spain 1905-1977 at the Museo Nacional Centro de Art Renia Sofia

 

Álvaro Bartolomé, Joaquín del Palacio. Momentos. Madrid: edición del autor, 1944

 

Álvaro Bartolomé, Joaquín del Palacio
Momentos
Madrid: edición del autor
1944

 

Enrique Palazuelo. S/T. Nuevas escenas matritenses, ca. 1957 / copia póstuma, 2013. Copia de exposición

 

Enrique Palazuelo
Sans Titre. Nuevas escenas matritenses
c. 1957 / copia póstuma, 2013
Copia de exposición

 

Francesc Català-Roca. 'Llegada a Barcelona' (Arriving at Barcelona) 1950 (circa) / Posthumous print, 2003

 

Francesc Català-Roca (Valls, Tarragona, Spain, 1922 – Barcelona, Spain, 1998)
Llegada a Barcelona (Arriving at Barcelona)
1950 (circa) / Posthumous print, 2003
Selenium-toned gelatin silver print on paper
34.8 x 47.5 cm

 

Francesc Català-Roca. 'La Vía Layetana entre las calles Junqueras y Condal' 1950 / copia póstuma, 2003

 

Francesc Català-Roca (Valls, Tarragona, Spain, 1922 – Barcelona, Spain, 1998)
La Vía Layetana entre las calles Junqueras y Condal
1950 / copia póstuma, 2003
Selenium-toned gelatin silver print on paper
36.9 x 45.3 cm

 

Francesc Català-Roca. 'La Vía Layetana, Barcelona' (The Via Layetana, Barcelona), 1950

 

Francesc Català-Roca (Valls, Tarragona, Spain, 1922 – Barcelona, Spain, 1998)
La Vía Layetana, Barcelona (The Via Layetana, Barcelona)
1950 (circa) / Posthumous print, 2003
Selenium-toned gelatin silver print on paper

 

Francesc Català-Roca. 'Monumento a Colón' (Columbus Monument) 1949 / Posthumous print, 2003

 

Francesc Català-Roca (Valls, Tarragona, Spain, 1922 – Barcelona, Spain, 1998)
Monumento a Colón (Columbus Monument)
1949 / Posthumous print, 2003
Selenium-toned gelatin silver print on paper
With frame: 114 x 88 cm

 

Francesc Català-Roca. 'Calle Muntaner' (Muntaner Street) 1950 (circa) / Posthumous print, 2003

 

Francesc Català-Roca (Valls, Tarragona, Spain, 1922 – Barcelona, Spain, 1998)
Calle Muntaner (Muntaner Street)
1950 (circa) / Posthumous print, 2003
Selenium-toned gelatin silver print on paper
47.5 x 32.8 cm

 

Francesc Català-Roca. 'Las Ramblas con lluvia' (The Ramblas in the Rain) 1950 (circa) / Posthumous print, 2003

 

Francesc Català-Roca (Valls, Tarragona, Spain, 1922 – Barcelona, Spain, 1998)
Las Ramblas con lluvia (The Ramblas in the Rain)
1950 (circa) / Posthumous print, 2003
Selenium-toned gelatin silver print on paper
47.7 x 37.5 cm

 

Francesc Català-Roca. 'Vestíbulo de la tienda, Barcelona' (Shop Vestibule, Barcelona) 1950 (circa) / Posthumous print, 2003

 

Francesc Català-Roca (Valls, Tarragona, Spain, 1922 – Barcelona, Spain, 1998)
Vestíbulo de la tienda, Barcelona (Shop Vestibule, Barcelona)
1950 (circa) / Posthumous print, 2003

 

Francesc Català-Roca. 'El hombre del saco' (The Bogeyman) 1950 (circa) / Posthumous print, 2003

 

Francesc Català-Roca (Valls, Tarragona, Spain, 1922 – Barcelona, Spain, 1998)
El hombre del saco (The Bogeyman)
1950 (circa) / Posthumous print, 2003
Selenium-toned gelatin silver print on paper
47.8 x 35.7 cm

 

 

“The Exhibition photobooks. Spain 1905-1977 presents a journey through the history of the photobook in Spain, setting off at the beginning of the 20th century and ending in the mid seventies, via a selection from the Museo Reina Sofía Collection, contextualised and accompanied by an assortment of complementary material.

For a long time the aesthetic consideration of photography has been limited to individual images that are able to work in a similar way to paintings or etchings, a blueprint developed by historians and museum curators alike to assemble a canon of ‘masterpieces’ for studios or exhibitions. Yet this model is not the only one, and many photographers cannot synthesise their work in a single image, devising it instead in a series. Both models give rise to two coherent histories of photography: one comprised of photos to hang on walls, with a limited number of copies and on sale at art galleries; the other in book form, possibly with a reissue, available in bookstores. By and large, photographers prefer the last option: “pictures on walls and photos in books” (Cartier-Bresson).

A photobook is a publication made up of photographs ordered as a set of images, with plots and complex meanings, and the medium used by some of the most pre-eminent photographers to produce their greatest work; a tried-and-tested model to present, communicate and read photos. Photobooks are becoming more widely recognised as the best medium for presenting series of photographs.

As far as Spain is concerned, the history of photo books is determined by the avatars of its own national history, for instance the Civil War and the transition to democracy, the focus of some of the finest work produced. In addition to propaganda, changes to the image and social role of peasants and, above all, women, are also prominent issues that are explored. The relationship between literature and photography is another characteristic of Spanish photobooks, which also include works in closer proximity to the international history of the format, such as publications on urban matters.

The study of photobooks is leading to a reinterpretation of the history of photography in diverse countries, as well as in Spain. Along with well-known photographers (the likes of José Ortiz Echagüe, Alfonso, Francesc Català-Roca, Ramón Masats, Xavier Miserachs, Francisco Ontañón and Colita), the exhibition features a considerable number of practically unknown frontline artists who in their day actually published first-rate photography collections, as is the case with photographers like Antonio Cánovas, the collective work of Misiones Pedagógicas (Teaching Missions), José Compte, Enrique Palazuelo, Luis Acosta Moro and Salvador Costa.

Curated by Horacio Fernández, the exhibition photobooks. Spain 1905-1977 is in collaboration with Acción Cultural Española (AC/E) to present part of the line of investigation and acquisition carried out by the Museo Reina Sofía concerning photobooks. The exhibition, which coincides with the PHE2014 festival, is concluded with the publication of a catalogue raisonné, jointly published by the Museo Reina Sofía, AC/E and RM.”

Text from the Museo Reina Sofía website

 

Enrique Palazuelo (fotografías) y Camilo José Cela (texto). Nuevas escenas matritenses. Madrid, Alfaguara, 1965-66

 

Enrique Palazuelo (fotografías) y Camilo José Cela (texto)
Nuevas escenas matritenses
Madrid, Alfaguara
1965-66

 

Colita (fotografías) y Maria Aurèlia Capmany (texto). Antifémina. Madrid, Editorial Nacional, 1977

 

Colita (fotografías) y Maria Aurèlia Capmany (texto)
Antifémina
Madrid, Editorial Nacional
1977

 

Colita (Isabel Steva Hernández). 'Novios gitanos. Barcelona' (Gypsy Couple. Barcelona) 1962 / Later print, 2011

 

Colita (Isabel Steva Hernández)
Novios gitanos. Barcelona (Gypsy Couple. Barcelona)
1962 / Later print, 2011
Gold-toned chlorobromide print on paper
17.9 x 18 cm

 

Joan Colom. 'Raval' 1958 (circa) / Vintage print

 

Joan Colom
Raval
1958 (circa) / Vintage print
Gelatin silver print on paper
23.5 x 11 cm

 

Joan Colom published his series on Barcelona’s Chinatown in the magazine AFAL (1962) with an autobiography: “Age: 40. Profession: Accountant. Hobbies: Apart from photography, obviously, none.” Of his method, Colom said: “I have decided to only work with subjects that I have predetermined.” Oriol Maspons adds the technical details: “Everything was taken using a Leica M2, shot from the hip without framing or focusing. A real photographer’s work. More than a year on the same subject.” The series had been exhibited with some success (and controversy) at the Sala Aixelá in Barcelona the previous year, under the title El carrer (The Street). In 1964 it was finally published by Lumen in one of the finest photo-books in their Palabra e Imagen collection, “Izas, rabizas y colipoterras”, designed by Oscar Tusquets and Cristian Cirici. Camilo José Cela contributed a text based around Colom’s (surreptitious but captionless) photos that was full of broad, cruel humour, pitilessly mocking the women, photographed by Colom and judged by Cela. Somewhat ahead of her time, one of the women actually sued the photographer, the only result of which was the photo-book’s withdrawal from bookshops, and Colom’s retirement from photography for years. From the 1980s onwards public obscurity became public recognition, which has continued to grow.

Horacio Fernández

 

Joan Colom. 'No Title' 1958 / Vintage print

 

Joan Colom (Barcelona, Spain, 1921)
No Title
1958 / Vintage print
From the series El carrer (The Street)
Gelatin silver print on paper
27 x 21 cm

 

Joan Colom (Barcelona, Spain, 1921) 'No Title' 1958

 

Joan Colom (Barcelona, Spain, 1921)
No Title
1958 / Vintage print
From the series El carrer (The Street)
Gelatin silver print on paper
23.2 x 16.2 cm

 

Joan Colom (Barcelona, Spain, 1921) 'No Title' 1958

 

Joan Colom (Barcelona, Spain, 1921)
No Title
1958 / Vintage print
From the series El carrer (The Street)
Gelatin silver print on paper
23.2 x 16.2 cm

 

 

photobooks. Spain 1905-1977 is a history of Spanish photography through a selection of its best photobooks, many of them little known. The exhibition, organized by the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía and Acción Cultural Española (AC/E), is the result of a line of acquisitions and research undertaken by the Museum’s Department of Collections with the collaboration of Horacio Fernández, curator of the exhibition.

This exhibition offers a new perspective on Spanish photography during its most important period through the work of photographers like Luis Acosta Moro, AlfonsoJalón Ángel, Antonio Cánovas, Robert Capa, Francesc Català-Roca, Colita, Joan Colom, José Compte, Salvador Costa, Ramón Masats, Xavier Miserachs, Misiones Pedagógicas, Fernando Nuño, Francisco Ontañón, José Ortiz Echagüe, Joaquín del Palacio, Enrique Palazuelo and Leopoldo Pomés.

photobooks. Spain 1905-1977 shows works published in Spain between 1905 and 1977 – in different styles, in limited or mass editions, printed using refined techniques or on inexpensive paper, for all audiences or for minorities. They are about people, things, behaviors, and ideas. photobooks were few and far between at the start of the twentieth century, increased in number during the war, and reached their height of development in the sixties. They subsequently grew scarce, only to make a triumphal comeback in the new century, represented in the Museum’s Library in the show Books that are Photos, Photos that are Books. Together they make up a specialized collection that is unique in its kind and embodies the Museo Reina Sofia’s commitment to all aspects of photographic images.

The works on display, most of which are little known, provide a fresh insight into Spanish photography. photobooks probes the broad and suggestive relationships between photography, publishing, design and literature, popular art and culture, history and politics, and public and private life. In the pages of these works is a plural history of the profound transformation of Spanish society. Thanks to the collective work of photographers, publishers, designers and writers, the themes presented in photobooks include the image of woman, seen from perspectives as different as the submission to patriarchal culture in the works of Cánovas and Compte and the militant feminism of Colita. Another major topic is the representation of the Spanish Civil War from both sides, with books like Madrid, which deals with the victims of the bombings during the siege of the capital, contrasting with Jalón Ángel’s portraits of soldiers on the side of the uprising. The war is followed by the sadness and harshness of the dictatorship, shown in photobooks by Joaquín del Palacio and Alfonso.

The relationship between photography and literature emerges throughout the exhibition, starting with the book by Cánovas mentioned above. From the period of the Civil War, special attention is merited by the photobooks of Antonio Machado, Miguel Hernández and Arturo Barea. In the sixties, the Lumen publishing house brought out the Palabra e Imagen (Word and Image) collection, designed by Oscar Tusquets, with extraordinary contributions by writers like Aldecoa, Cela, Delibes, Vargas Llosa and Caballero Bonald, and photographers like Masats, Maspons, Miserachs and Colita. One outstanding work in this section is Nuevas escenas matritenses (New Scenes of Madrid), with photos by Enrique Palazuelo.

Urban culture is also present in the photobooks of Alfonso, Català- Roca, Miserachs and Ontañón. Mention should be made too of the books on the end of the dictatorship by Nuño and the Diorama and Foto FAD teams, which show the gradual disappearance of the old identifying features of Spanish society under the influence of tourism and the global economy.

Apart from displaying some photographs autonomously, the show also features systems that allow visitors to view the plural content of each work exhibited, since it is in the work as a whole, as a coherent sequence of images, that the true entity of the photobook resides.

 

The first Spanish photobooks

“What a history painter would have painted I photographed,” wrote Antonio Cánovas of ¡Quién supiera escribir!… (If Only I Knew How to Write!…), his adaptation of a poem by Ramón de Campoamor about women’s dependence in a patriarchal world. Using actors and sets, Cánovas recreated a group of tableaux vivants or living pictures subtitled like films, which were as novel as photobooks in 1905. The photographic poem came out in two editions: one in postcards, which was a great commercial success; and a limited edition printed using the technique of the finest twentieth-century photobooks, photogravure.

José Ortiz Echagüe’s photobook Spanische Köpfe, later published as España, tipos y trajes (Spain: Types and Costumes), is the first instalment of an extensive photographic project to document folk culture by seeking out tradition. His aim was to preserve ways of life that were dying out; to show situations from the past: “In wandering through the little villages, I talk to the people, select models one by one, start the difficult task of dressing them in the typical garb.” The result was photographs that were chiefly aesthetic, close to the paintings of Sorolla or Zuloaga, but also political, as they visualized concepts (people, race, collective identity…) used by different ideologies.

With the Misiones Pedagógicas (Educational Missions), the Second Republic set out to bring urban life closer to the rural world through culture. The ‘missionaries’ were university students who took the theater, music, art, and the cinema to villages. Some of them, such as José Val del Omar and Guillermo Fernández, photographed the audiences, capturing shots that are devoid of local character. Instead of seeking references to the past, they hint at a better future represented by the people’s curious gazes: the photographs chosen for the photobook Patronato de Misiones Pedagógicas (Educational Missions Trust) are intended to disseminate democratic values and confidence in progress.

 

José Ortiz Echagüe Puertas. 'Sermón en la aldea' (Village Sermon) 1903

 

José Ortiz Echagüe Puertas (Guadalajara, Spain, 1886 – Madrid, Spain, 1980)
Sermón en la aldea (Village Sermon)
1903
Carbondir on laid paper
40.5 x 38.7 cm

 

One of José Ortiz Echagüe’s objectives is to achieve “the strange feeling of travelling to a different time.” He comes very close in one of his earliest photographs, Sermón en la aldea (Village Sermon), taken at the parish church of Viguera, a village in La Rioja, using a Photosphere 9 x 12 camera. With artistic photographs, what really matters is the quality of the copies, which in this case are numerous and have varying dates. Ortiz Echagüe made them himself in a laboratory using a personal variant on the technique known as direct carbon, developed under the name of “Carbondir”: a fine pigment print method which is complicated, slow and absolutely artisanal, that results in velvety blacks and clouds of pointillist faded half-colours. The specifics of the carbon direct method mean that Ortiz Echagüe’s prints approach the quality of chalcography, one of the aspirations of less imaginative artistic photography. However, these prints get further from photography the closer they get to engravings. As early as 1923 a review was criticising the disappearance of “what there originally may have been of photography” in his prints, and the artist’s excesses as he “scraped, eliminated, rubbed, smudged, lightened and darkened it.”

Horacio Fernández

 

José Ortiz Echagüe. 'Puertas Lagarteranas' (Women of Lagartera) 1920-1923 (circa)

 

José Ortiz Echagüe Puertas (Guadalajara, Spain, 1886 – Madrid, Spain, 1980)
Puertas Lagarteranas (Women of Lagartera)
1920-1923 (circa)
Carbondir on laid paper
49.8 x 33.1 cm

 

In 1929 José Ortiz Echagüe’s first photo-book came out in Berlin, Spanische Köpfe (Spanish Heads), published in Madrid in 1930 as Tipos y Trajes de España (Characters and Costumes of Spain), a title which, by 1971, would reach twelve editions. The photos needed to be set up, as the author wrote in 1925: “As I walk around the little villages, I talk to the people, I choose the models and then, one by one, I start the job of dressing them in traditional costumes. Having overcome the models’ objections to dressing up in their ancestors’ clothes, I get them together in a setting that I have chosen beforehand, which might be a typical square, the little church or a nearby hillside, from which one can see the village with its majestic castle which is included to create a wonderful backdrop. The sun has just come out, or is about to go down: its rays light the characters perfectly.” Ortiz Echagüe’s references are paintings by Ignacio Zuloaga and Joaquín Sorolla, particularly the Visión de España (Vision of Spain) series from New York’s Hispanic Society of America. Sorolla’s aim was to observe “without symbolisms or literature, the psychology of every region.” Ortiz Echagüe, on the other hand, is content to “perpetuate in graphic documents unalterable by time’s passage, all that Spanish attire has been and continues to be.” Lagartera, a village in the province of Toledo famous for its crafts, was one of his favourite places for photography, particularly with its unusual festival clothing, which the philosopher José Ortega y Gasset does not believe to be native. In the prologue to Tipos y trajes, he writes: “Lagartera attire is common to almost all Europe: with slight differences, it can be found across the whole of the central and Northern part of the continent.”

Horacio Fernández

 

José Ortiz Echagüe Puertas (Guadalajara, Spain, 1886 - Madrid, Spain, 1980) 'Lagarteranas en misa' (Women of Lagartera at Mass) 1920-1923 (circa)

 

José Ortiz Echagüe Puertas (Guadalajara, Spain, 1886 – Madrid, Spain, 1980)
Lagarteranas en misa (Women of Lagartera at Mass)
1920-1923 (circa)
Carbondir on laid paper
46.9 x 33.4 cm

 

 

Both sides of the Spanish Civil War

The Spanish Civil War was photogenic. Dozens of photographers engaged in documenting it. Media all over the world published images of the war, which were used by the both sides to convey their own virtues and the atrocities committed by their opponents.

The collective photobook Madrid is a visual account of the consequences of a siege: destruction, homeless people, the exodus of refugees. The effects of the bombings on the civilian population are captured in montages and photographs by Luis Lladó, Robert Capa, Hans Namuth, Chim, and Margaret Michaelis, among others. The faces of the child victims should be stressed – some appalling forensic photographs that were widely used in Republican propaganda and have been mentioned by Arturo Barea, Virginia Woolf, and Susan Sontag, among other writers.

A type of cultural propaganda characteristic of the Republican side was the publication of books combining words and pictures. Several came out during the war, among them Madrid baluarte de nuestra guerra de independencia (Madrid Bulwark of Our War of Independence), with texts by Antonio Machado; Miguel Hernández’s book of poems Viento del pueblo (Winds of the People); and Arturo Barea’s collection of stories titled Valor y miedo (Courage and Fear). All three feature photographs whose authorship is not credited, though we now know that they were taken by photographers such as Walter Reuter or designers such as Mauricio Amster.

The cult of personality was a salient feature of the Nationalist side’s propaganda. In 1939 the rebel military were presented as serious and efficient technicians in Jalón Ángel’s Forjadores de imperio (Empire Builders), a triumphal parade by no means epically portrayed and much less generous with the defeated. This collection of portraits of the men who had won a war was published in a luxury version designed to hang in public offices and in a popular version in postcard form for mass distribution.

The conservative values of the new fascist regime were conveyed in photographs. In Mujeres de la Falange (Women of the Falange, a collection of photographs by José Compte published in luxury magazines and as humble postcards) woman as mother, subordinate to man and an outsider to society and employment, was a compulsory role model, the only exception being that dictated by war itself, which required her to perform “heavy work with feminine grace for when the men return…”

 

The postwar years

The hardship of the postwar years is conveyed in a few photobooks that managed to slip past the censors. Literature with photos continued to be published in books such as Momentos (Moments), whose poems would be less sad without the ruins, deserted villages, and bare trees found in the photographs of Joaquín del Palacio (Kindel). Rincones del Viejo Madrid (Corners of Old Madrid), a collection of night shots by Alfonso, is an expressionist photobook printed in the opaque tones of the finest photogravure work. Alfonso portrays the capital as yet another victim – a frozen and sinister backdrop as dead as its missing inhabitants.

The book of poems titled Les fenêtres (The Windows) features many closed windows that also resemble abstract paintings in Leopoldo Pomés’s photos, which bring to mind a confined, stifling place. But in spite of everything, life carries on, as shown by the photos in Barcelona, the city of Francesc Català-Roca, who believed that “what words describe photography places on view”: images found in the street, as alive as the people in the photos, in a pleasant urban photobook.

 

Xavier Miserachs (Barcelona, Spain, 1937 - Badalona, Barcelona, Spain, 1998) 'No Title' 1964 (circa)

 

Xavier Miserachs (Barcelona, Spain, 1937 – Badalona, Barcelona, Spain, 1998)
No Title
1964 (circa) / Vintage print
From the series Costa Brava Show
Gelatin silver print on paper
21.4 x 30.3 cm

 

Costa Brava Show (1966) is a photo-book by the photographer Xavier Miserachs, also the author of Barcelona. Blanc i negre (1964), another urban photo-book that travels paths opened up by William Klein. Miserachs claims that in Costa Brava Show “the incorporation of Pop Art elements is obvious, because this is an aesthetic movement that absolutely fascinated me.” And it is true that the subject matter really could not be more perfect for Pop Art: firstly, there is what Manuel Vázquez Montalbán describes as “the paradise of leisure”, secondly “the party (that) is the most baroque display of that leisure time” and finally a “peculiar eroticism”, noted by Josep Pla, who wrote introduction and claims that the photographs are “the best ever taken of what is known as the Costa Brava.” Basically, this is mass tourism as experienced and presented by Miserachs with excellent humour in 155 colour and black and white photographs, covering all the clichés and presaging the globalisation awaiting us all.

Horacio Fernández

 

Xavier Miserachs (Barcelona, Spain, 1937 - Badalona, Barcelona, Spain, 1998) 'No Title' 1965 (circa)

 

Xavier Miserachs (Barcelona, Spain, 1937 – Badalona, Barcelona, Spain, 1998)
No Title
1965 (circa) / Vintage print
From the series Costa Brava Show
Gelatin silver print on paper

 

Xavier Miserachs (Barcelona, Spain, 1937 - Badalona, Barcelona, Spain, 1998) 'No Title' 1964 (circa)

 

Xavier Miserachs (Barcelona, Spain, 1937 – Badalona, Barcelona, Spain, 1998)
No Title
1964 (circa) / Vintage print
From the series Costa Brava Show
Gelatin silver print on paper
17.9 x 21.4 cm

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 - Madrid, Spain, 2008) 'La actual M-30 (Madrid)' (The M-30 Ring Road Today [Madrid]) 1963 (May) / Posthumous print, 2013

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 – Madrid, Spain, 2008)
La actual M-30 (Madrid) (The M-30 Ring Road Today [Madrid])
1963 (May) / Posthumous print, 2013
From the series Vivir en Madrid (Living in Madrid)
Selenium-toned chlorobromide print on fiber-based paper
24.7 x 37.1 cm

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 - Madrid, Spain, 2008) 'Sans Titre (Madrid)' (No Title [Madrid]) 1963 (May) / Posthumous print, 2013

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 – Madrid, Spain, 2008)
Sans Titre (Madrid) (No Title [Madrid])
1963 (May) / Posthumous print, 2013
Selenium-toned chlorobromide print on fiber-based paper
25.6 x 38.4 cm

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 - Madrid, Spain, 2008) 'Sans Titre (Madrid)' (No Title [Madrid]) 1964-65 / Posthumous print, 2013

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 – Madrid, Spain, 2008)
Sans Titre (Madrid) (No Title [Madrid])
1964-65 / Posthumous print, 2013
From the series Vivir en Madrid (Living in Madrid)
Selenium-toned chlorobromide print on fiber-based paper
25.4 x 38.2 cm

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 - Madrid, Spain, 2008) 'Sans Titre (Madrid)' (No Title [Madrid]) 1964-65 / Posthumous print, 2013

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 – Madrid, Spain, 2008)
Sans Titre (Madrid) (No Title [Madrid])
1964-65 / Posthumous print, 2013
From the series Vivir en Madrid (Living in Madrid)
Selenium-toned chlorobromide print on fiber-based paper
25.7 x 38.4 cm

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 - Madrid, Spain, 2008) 'Sans Titre (Madrid)' (No Title [Madrid]) 1964 / Posthumous print, 2013

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 – Madrid, Spain, 2008)
Sans Titre (Madrid) (No Title [Madrid])
1964 / Posthumous print, 2013
From the series Vivir en Madrid (Living in Madrid)
Selenium-toned chlorobromide print on fiber-based paper
25.6 x 38.5 cm

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 - Madrid, Spain, 2008) '600 en Casa de Campo con familia (Madrid)' (Outing to Casa de Campo in the 600, with Family [Madrid]) 1963 (May) / Posthumous print, 2013

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 – Madrid, Spain, 2008)
600 en Casa de Campo con familia (Madrid) (Outing to Casa de Campo in the 600, with Family [Madrid])
1964-65 / Posthumous print, 2013
From the series Vivir en Madrid (Living in Madrid)
Selenium-toned chlorobromide print on fiber-based paper
25.5 x 37.7 cm

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 - Madrid, Spain, 2008) 'Parque Sindical (Madrid)' (Parque Sindical Sports Area [Madrid]) 1964 / Posthumous print, 2013

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 – Madrid, Spain, 2008)
Parque Sindical (Madrid) (Parque Sindical Sports Area [Madrid])
1964 / Posthumous print, 2013
From the series Vivir en Madrid (Living in Madrid)
Selenium-toned chlorobromide print on fiber-based paper
25.5 x 38.1 cm

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 - Madrid, Spain, 2008) 'Entierro (Madrid)' (Burial [Madrid]) 1967 / Posthumous print, 2013

 

Francisco Ontañón (Barcelona, Spain, 1930 – Madrid, Spain, 2008)
Entierro (Madrid) (Burial [Madrid])
1967 / Posthumous print, 2013
From the series Vivir en Madrid (Living in Madrid)
Selenium-toned chlorobromide print on fiber-based paper
25.5 x 38.1 cm

 

 

The 60’s: the golden decade of Spanish photography

Palabra e Imagen (Word and Image) was the creation of publisher Esther Tusquets and designer Oscar Tusquets. It was advertised by the Lumen publishing house as “a collection that is different from everything that has been done so far.” Its books “are not art books, they are not photography books, they are not literary works,” but “a new concept.” They all have a theme “and the writers, the photographer and those who plan and produce the book work on it as a team.” The aim was to present “an idea” using different means: “not just words but also the photography, the composition, the type of lettering, and the color of the paper can be used to express it.”

Palabra e Imagen was Spain’s main contribution to the history of photobooks. For fifteen years it was a laboratory for experimenting with different ways of publishing a collective work produced by writers, designers, photographers, and editors that attached equal importance to visual and textual readings – word and image.

The photographs are by Jaime Buesa, F. Català-Roca, Colita, Joan Colom, Julio Cortázar, Dick Frisell, Antonio Gálvez, Paolo Gasparini, Sergio Larrain, César Malet, Ramón Masats, Oriol Maspons, Xavier Miserachs, Francisco Ontañón, and Julio Ubiña. Prominent among the graphic designers, in addition to the collection’s creator Oscar Tusquets, are Mariona Aguirre, José Bonet, Lluís Clotet, Toni Miserachs, and Enric Satué. Finally, the authors of the texts include writers such as Rafael Alberti, Ignacio Aldecoa, Carlos Barral, Juan Benet, José María Caballero Bonald, Alejo Carpentier, Cavafis, Camilo José Cela, Julio Cortázar, Miguel Delibes, Federico García Lorca, Alfonso Grosso, Ana María Matute, Pablo Neruda, Octavio Paz, Julián Ríos, and Mario Vargas Llosa.

Important photo-essays were published in the sixties, such as Los Sanfermines (The San Fermín Festivities) by Ramón Masats and Barcelona blanc i negre (Barcelona Black and White) by Xavier Miserachs, both of them masters of documentary photography. The first book was hailed as “the most personal photographic work that has been produced in Spain.” It is a “story told in pictures” that shows the expressive possibilities of the photobook and to what extent “a still photograph is not sufficient for a photographer who pursues a narration.” The second is a stroll through the streets of Barcelona in search of its inhabitants, and is more interested in life than in history. It is a “book to look at” that attempts a difficult combination of the subjective humanist photography of the previous decade and the new international urban photography based on the model established by William Klein, a “highly original way of hinting at cities” without succumbing to commonplaces or picturesqueness.

Also by Miserachs is Costa Brava Show, a photobook based on the mass phenomenon of tourism and featuring black-and-white photos on subjects such as young people enjoying themselves, sexual liberation, and the consequences of economic progress: chaotic town planning, corruption, and loss of authenticity. An equally critical intention underlies the photobook Vivir en Madrid (Living in Madrid), which is documentary in content and experimental in form – both the text and the pictures. Francisco Ontañón’s distant, stark photographs are kind to the common folk and critical of the privileged classes, but always humorous.

Nuevas escenas matritenses (New Scenes of Madrid) is a collection of 63 urban tales written by Camilo José Cela based on street photographs by Enrique Palazuelo that show an “incredible Madrid, where time stood still, oblivious and forgotten.” Published in several formats (from low to high culture: popular weekly and literary review; in normal and bibliophile editions), it tells stories invented from documentary photographs – a literary procedure that has been dubbed the ‘Celian picture-story.’ The photos make possible “hearing with new ears, seeing with different eyes what we believed to have been seen and heard forever.”

Luis Acosta Moro believed that the book of the future would be “a poem of short words and great pictures” of the kind embodied by his photobook Cabeza de muñeca (Doll’s Head), a symbolic work that alludes, among other themes, to the Civil War and the image of women. The publisher regarded it as a new type of book, a “film-novel-artistic essay.” The main subject is the model featured in all the pictures, sometimes dancing (or wrestling) with the photobook’s absolute author, who was responsible for everything: photographs, design, and text.

 

The 70’s: the last auteur photobooks

Los últimos días de Franco (The Last Days of Franco) is a photobook that is unique in both form and content: the funeral rites of the dictator. Live history is fleeting and the propaganda chiefs needed an official history capable of preserving “the living warmth of memories.” To achieve this, Fernando Nuño photographed videos. The result was a photobook consisting of television images that were second-hand but equally or more documentary than the original reports. “As they have been reproduced from video, [the photos] have the quality of a living document,” explains the book, a visual account that is completed with a second volume titled Los primeros días del Rey (The First Days of the King).

The second half of the seventies witnessed the transition to democracy, a highly politicized period in Spain. Two photobooks, Pintadas del referendum (Graffiti on the Referendum) and Pintades Pintadas (Graffiti), compile the propaganda of the day, in this case in the form of street graffiti – a subject also dealt with in French and Portuguese publications. The aim is to preserve the graffiti “as a necessary testament to and document of the vicissitudes of a people in pursuit of their future.” The authors are two short-lived groups of photographers, Equipo Diorama of Madrid and the Barcelona based Foto Fad.

The photobook Punk is pioneering in its portrayal of an international popular culture phenomenon. In Salvador Costa’s photographs taken from “close up and above the subject,” the scene is less important than the audience featured in the shots of ultramodern people, clothing, and rituals captured by the photographer, who was lucky enough to find a publisher capable of discovering more than just another short-lived fad in his photos.

Photographer Colita and writer Maria Aurèlia Capmany, collaborators on the Vindicación feminista magazine, are the authors of Antifémina (Antifemale), a photobook that set out to portray a type of woman “no one wants to look at” but who “is genuine and real, who is not twenty years old, who is not pretty.” To achieve this, Colita selected photos from her archives on themes such as old age, marriage, work, religion, prostitution, the body, marginalization, advertising, fashion, and the practice of making flirtatious remarks at women. Antifémina is a visual and political essay, a manifesto in favor of women but against ‘femininity,’ which is always “related to the passive role of women.”

 

CATALOGUE

A catalogue on this exhibition has been published by the Museo Reina Sofía, Acción Cultural Española (AC/E) and RM. This books includes a text written by the curator and Javier Ortiz-Echagüe, photographies of all the artworks shown and complete and individual information about each photobook by different specialized authors (Horacio Fernández, Javier Ortiz-Echagüe, Concha Calvo, Rocío Robles, Mafalda Rodríguez, Angélica Soleiman and Laura Terré).”

Press release from the Museo Nacional Centro de Art Renia Sofia website

 

VV.AA. Madrid. Barcelona, Industries Graphiques Seix i Barral, 1937

 

VV.AA.
Madrid
Barcelona, Industries Graphiques Seix i Barral
1937

 

Ramón Masats Tartera. 'Neutral corner' / Esquina neutral 1962 / copia de época

 

Ramón Masats Tartera
Neutral corner / Esquina neutral
1962 / copia de época

 

Mario Vargas Llosa, Xavier Miserachs. 'Los cachorros' Barcelona: Lumen, colección Palabra e Imagen 1967

 

Mario Vargas Llosa, Xavier Miserachs
Los cachorros
Barcelona: Lumen, colección Palabra e Imagen
1967

 

Salvador Costa i Valls. 'Sans Titre' (from the series 'Punk') 1977

 

Salvador Costa i Valls
Sans Titre (from the series Punk)
1977

 

Salvador Costa i Valls. 'Punk' Barcelona: Producciones Editoriales, colección Especial Star Book 1977

 

Salvador Costa i Valls
Punk
Barcelona: Producciones Editoriales, colección Especial Star Book
1977

 

 

Museo Nacional Centro de Art Renia Sofia
Calle Santa Isabel, 52
28012 Madrid

Opening hours:
Monday 10.00 am – 9.00 pm
Tuesday Closed, including holidays
Wednesday – Saturday 10.00 am – 9.00 pm
Sunday 10.00 am – 7.00 pm

Museo Nacional Centro de Art Renia Sofia website

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26
Dec
14

Exhibition: ‘Paul Strand: Master of Modern Photography’ at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Exhibition dates: 21st October 2014 – 4th January 2015

 

Seeing clearly

What can you say about one of the greatest photographers in the history of the medium, a man with a social conscience, a man who’s fame “rests on his extraordinary artistic talent as well as his belief in the transformative power of the medium in which he chose to work.”

From a personal perspective, in my first year at university learning the history of the medium in the early 1990s, the image White Fence, Port Kent, New York (1916, below) was proposed as the first truly modernist photograph. I remember seeing this image for the first time, placing myself in that time (the First World War) and trying to understand what a shock that photograph must have been to the world of Pictorialism. Even now, the strength of that white picket fence is electrifying in its frontality and geometric solidity. In this image, “Strand deliberately destroyed perspective to build a powerful composition from tonal planes and rhythmic pattern.”1 A year earlier Strand had produced what is one of my favourite photographs of all time, a modernist image – Wall Street, New York (1915, below), with the dark maw of industry ready to swallow the rushing workers framed in streaming sunlight. We cannot underestimate the impact that Strand’s revolutionary photographs had on the history of photography.

You only have to look at the images. Look at the tonality and intense stare in Young Boy, Gondeville, Charente, France (1951, below), so haunting and beautiful. Observe the ensemble of figures so tightly choreographed in The Family, Luzzara (The Lusettis) (1953, below) or the darkness and weight of the cheese in Parmesan, Luzzara (1953, below) – an image I had never seen before – as it presses into the upturned hand. Magnificent. What seems so difficult to others and what is difficult in reality, is expressed simply and eloquently by Strand, whether it be portraits of tribal elders, market squares or oil refineries. That is the mark of a master craftsman, when the difficult appears simple and insightful at one and the same time. I vividly recall seeing a folio from The garden series (1957-67, printed in the year of his death 1976) – still lifes of his garden in Orgeval, outside Paris – at the National Gallery of Victoria and being awestruck by their tonality, their beauty, quietness and lyricism. No ego here… just a reflection of life on earth and “the beauty of myriad textures.” Several of these photographs are at the bottom of the posting.

An aphorism that I was taught when first starting out as a photographer was that Strand said it took ten years to become a photographer. Ten years of study to understand your equipment, your medium and what you are trying to say yourself as an artist – and to get rid of ego in the work, to let the work just speak for itself. Whether he actually said this I am not sure, but from my experience I would say that it is about right. Strand starting studying photography at the Ethical Culture School in 1907 under the tutelage of documentary photographer Lewis Hine and his first important images were produced in 1915. The timeline is there. For Strand, “the camera was a machine – a modern machine,” says curator of the exhibition Peter Barberie. “He was preoccupied with the question of how modern art – whether it’s photography or not – could contain all of the humanity that you see in the western artistic traditions.” A big ask but a great artist to do it.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the Philadelphia 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.

 

 

“Who can say what amalgam of memory, dreams, study, pain and discipline brought Paul Strand to photograph Mr. Bennett and to record him so perfectly? The picture is almost as unaccountable as the fact of Mr. Bennett, we are left with our little cosmologies and the certainty that we will never fully know. But we continue to speculate, as with all great art, because the picture is clearer than life and this is consoling.”

.
Robert Adams, Why People Photograph

 

“Treating the human condition in the modern urban context, Strand’s photographs are a subversive alternative to the studio portrait of glamour and power. A new kind of portrait akin to a social terrain, they are, as Sanford Schwartz put it, “cityscapes that have faces for subjects.””

.
Department of Photographs, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

“The portrait of a person is one of the most difficult things to do, because in order to do it it means that you must almost bring the presence of that person photographed to other people in such a way that they don’t have to know that person personally in any way, but they are still confronted with a human being that they won’t forget. The images of that person that they will never forget. That’s a portrait.”

.
Paul Strand

 

 

Paul Strand. 'Wall Street, New York' 1915 (negative); 1915 (print)

 

Paul Strand
Wall Street, New York
1915 (negative); 1915 (print)
Platinum print
9 3/4 × 12 11/16 inches (24.8 × 32.2 cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Paul Strand Retrospective Collection, 1915-1975
Gift of the estate of Paul Strand, 1980
© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand’s 1915 photograph of Wall Street workers passing in front of the monolithic Morgan Trust Company can be seen as the quintessential representation of the uneasy relationship between early twentieth-century Americans and their new cities. Here the people are seen not as individuals but as abstract silhouettes trailing long shadows down the chasms of commerce. The intuitive empathy that Strand demonstrates for these workers of New York’s financial district would be evident throughout the wide and varied career of this seminal American photographer and filmmaker, who increasingly became involved with the hardships of working people around the world. In this and his other early photographs of New York, Strand helped set a trend toward pure photography of subject and away from the pictorialist” imitation of painting.Wall Street is one of only two known vintage platinum prints of this image and one of the treasures of some five hundred photographs in the Museum’s Paul Strand Retrospective Collection. Martha Chahroudi, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 230.

 

Paul Strand. 'White Fence, Port Kent, New York' 1916 (negative); 1945 (print)

 

Paul Strand
White Fence, Port Kent, New York
1916 (negative); 1945 (print)
Gelatin silver print
9 5/8 × 12 13/16 inches (24.5 × 32.5 cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Paul Strand Retrospective Collection, 1915-1975
Gift of the estate of Paul Strand, 1980
© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation

 

 

Manhatta (1921) | Paul Strand – Charles Sheeler

 

Paul Strand. 'Church, Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico' 1931

 

Paul Strand
Church, Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico
1931 (negative); 1931 (print)
Platinum print
5 7/8 x 4 5/8 inches (15 x 11.7 cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Paul Strand Collection, purchased with funds contributed by Barbara B. and Theodore R. Aronson, 2013
© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand. 'Women of Santa Ana, Lake Pátzcuaro, Mexico' 1933

 

Paul Strand
Women of Santa Ana, Lake Pátzcuaro, Mexico
1933
Platinum print
4 11/16 × 5 7/8 inches (11.9 × 14.9 cm)
Philadelphia Museum Of Art
The Paul Strand Collection, purchased with Museum funds, 2010
© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation

 

 

Redes / The Wave (1936)

 

Paul Strand. 'Mr. Bennett, East Jamaica, Vermont' 1944

 

Paul Strand
Mr. Bennett, East Jamaica, Vermont
1944
From Portfolio Three. 1944
Gelatin silver print
7 1/4 × 9 3/16 inches (18.4 × 23.3 cm)
Philadelphia Museum Of Art
The Paul Strand Collection, purchased with Museum funds, 2010
© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand. "Never Despair" 1963-64

 

Paul Strand
“Never Despair”
1963-64
Gelatin silver print
7 5/8 × 9 5/8 inches (19.4 × 24.4 cm)
Philadelphia Museum Of Art
Gift of Lynne and Harold Honickman
© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand. 'Chief and Elders, Nayagnia, Ghana' 1963-64

 

Paul Strand
Chief and Elders, Nayagnia, Ghana
1963-64
Philadelphia Museum Of Art
The Paul Strand Retrospective Collection, 1915-1975
Gift of the estate of Paul Strand
© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation

 

 

“The Philadelphia Museum of Art is presenting the first major retrospective in nearly fifty years to be devoted to Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976), one of the greatest photographers in the history of the medium. It explores the remarkable evolution of Strand’s work spanning six decades, from the breakthrough moment when he brought his art to the brink of abstraction to his broader vision of the place of photography in the modern world. This exhibition examines every aspect of Strand’s work, from his early efforts to establish photography as a major independent art form and his embrace of filmmaking as a powerful medium capable of broad public impact to his masterful extended portraits of people and places that would often take compelling shape in the form of printed books. Paul Strand: Master of Modern Photography celebrates the recent acquisition of more than 3,000 prints from the Paul Strand Archive, which has made the Philadelphia Museum of Art the world’s largest and most comprehensive repository of Strand’s work.

Timothy Rub, the George D. Widener Director, stated: “Strand’s achievement was remarkable. The distinctive place he holds in the history of modern photography rests on his extraordinary artistic talent as well as his belief in the transformative power of the medium in which he chose to work. From his early experiments with street photography in New York to his sensitive portrayal of daily life in New England, Italy, and Ghana, Strand came to believe that the most enduring function of photography and his work as an artist was to reveal the essential nature of the human experience in a changing world. He was also a master craftsman, a rare and exacting maker of pictures. We are delighted to be able to present in this exhibition a selection of works drawn almost exclusively from the Museum’s collection, and to share these with audiences in the United States and abroad. Paul Strand: Master of Modern Photography will introduce a new generation of visitors to a great modern artist.”

Paul Strand’s career spanned a period of revolutionary change both in the arts and in the wider world. Always motivated by a strong sense of social purpose, he came to believe that depicting the human struggle, both economic and political, was central to his responsibility as an artist. The exhibition begins with his rapid mastery of the prevailing Pictorialist style of the 1910s, reflected in serene landscapes such as The River Neckar, Germany (1911). On view also are his innovative photographs of 1915-17 in which he explored new subject matter in the urban landscape of New York and innovative aesthetic ideas in works such as Abstraction, Porch Shadows, Twin Lakes, Connecticut (1916). These new directions in Strand’s photography demonstrated his growing interest both in contemporary painting – especially Cubism and the work of the American artists championed by Alfred Stieglitz – and in discovering for photography a unique means of expressing modernity. Strand’s work of this period includes candid, disarming portraits of people observed on the street – the first of their type – such as Blind Woman, New York (1916), and Wall Street, New York (1915), an arrangement of tiny figures passing before the enormous darkened windows of the Morgan Trust Company Building, which illustrates Strand’s fascination with the pace of life and changing scale of the modern city.

During the 1920s – a period often called “the Machine Age” – Strand became transfixed by the camera’s capacity to record mesmerizing mechanical detail. At this time his ideas about the nature of portraiture began to expand significantly. These new and varied concerns can be seen in the sensuous beauty of close-up images of his wife, Rebecca Salsbury Strand, to cool, probing studies of his new motion picture camera, such as Akeley Camera with Butterfly Nut, New York (1922-23). His ideas about portraiture also extended to his growing preoccupation with photographic series devoted to places beyond New York, such as the southwest and Maine, where he would make seemingly ordinary subjects appear strikingly new. The exhibition looks at Strand’s widening engagement with his fellow artists of the Stieglitz circle, placing his works alongside a group of paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe, Marsden Hartley, Arthur Dove, and John Marin, as well as photographs by Stieglitz, who played an important role in launching Strand’s career. These juxtapositions reveal the rich interaction between Strand and his friends and peers during this time.

Over the next several decades Strand traveled widely, seeking always to establish a broader role for photography. The exhibition conveys his growing interest in the medium’s unique ability to record the passage of time and the specific qualities of place, as seen in Elizabethtown, New Mexico (1930), one of many photographs he made of abandoned buildings. It shows Strand returning to a core motif – the portraiture of anonymous subjects – during the time when he lived in Mexico, from 1932 to 1934. This period abroad had a profound influence on him, deepening his engagement with the politics of the left. Many of the works he created at this time, whether depicting individuals, groups of people, or even religious icons, show in their exceptional compositions a deep empathy. This can also be seen in his series devoted to Canada’s Gaspé Peninsula from the same decade.

By the 1940s, books would become Strand’s preferred form of presentation for his work, reflecting a synthesis of his aims both as a photographer and filmmaker, and offering him the opportunity to create multifaceted portraits of modern life. In his photographs of New England, Strand drew upon cultural history, conveying a sense of past and present in order to suggest an ongoing struggle for democracy and individual freedom. Images of public buildings, such as Town Hall, New Hampshire (1946), and portraits of people he met, including Mr. Bennett, East Jamaica, Vermont (1943), were reproduced in Time in New England. This book was published in 1950, the year Strand moved to France in response to a growing anti-Communist sentiment in the U.S., and reflected his political consciousness. Strand described New England as “a battleground where intolerance and tolerance faced each other over religious minorities, over trials for witchcraft, over the abolitionists … It was this concept of New England that led me to try to find … images of nature and architecture and faces of people that were either part of or related in feeling to its great tradition.”

The exhibition also highlights his project in Luzzara, Italy (1953), where he focused his attention on the everyday realities of a northern village recovering from the miseries of war and fascism. This series is centered on images of townspeople, as seen in The Family, Luzzara (The Lusettis) (1953), and fulfills his long-held ambition to create a major work of art about a single community. Strand’s photographs of Luzzara were published in Un Paese: Portrait of an Italian Village (1955).

In 1963, Strand was invited to Ghana at the invitation of Kwame Nkrumah, its first president following the end of British rule. Fascinated by Ghana’s democracy during these years, Strand was excited to photograph a place undergoing rapid political change and modernization. He saw modernity in the efforts of a newly independent nation to chart its future unfolding simultaneously alongside traditional aspects of Ghanaian culture. Portraiture was central to the project, as seen in Anna Attinga Frafra, Accra, Ghana (1964), in which a young schoolgirl balances books on her head. The project led to the publication of Ghana: An African Portrait (1976).

In Strand’s later years, he would increasingly turn his attention close to his home in Orgeval, outside Paris, often addressing the countless discoveries he could make within his own garden. There he produced a remarkable series of still lifes. These were at times reflective of earlier work, but also forward-looking in their exceptional compositions that depict the beauty of myriad textures, free-flowing movement, and evoke a quiet lyricism.

In addition to Strand’s still photography, the exhibition features three of his most significant films. Manhatta (1921), his first film and an important collaboration with painter and photographer Charles Sheeler, will be shown in full. This brief non-narrative “scenic” is considered the first American avant-garde film. It portrays the vibrant energy of New York City, juxtaposing the human drama on the street with abstracted bird’s-eye perspectives taken from high buildings and scenes of the ferry and harbor, all punctuated by poetry from Walt Whitman. Two of the films are seen in excerpts. Redes (1936), Strand’s second film, reflects the artist’s growing social awareness during his time in Mexico. Released as The Wave in the U.S., the film is a fictional account of a fishing village struggling to overcome the exploitation of a corrupt boss. Native Land (1942) is Strand’s most ambitious film. Co-directed with Leo Hurwitz and narrated by Paul Robeson, it was created after his return to New York when Strand became a founder of Frontier Films and oversaw the production of leftist documentaries. Ahead of its time in its blending of fictional scenes and documentary footage, Native Land focuses on union-busting in the 1930s from Pennsylvania to the Deep South. When its release coincided with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, it was criticized as out-of-step with the nation, leading Strand to return exclusively to still photography.

Paul Strand: Master of Modern Photography is curated by Peter Barberie, the Brodsky Curator of Photographs, Alfred Stieglitz Center at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, with the assistance of Amanda N. Bock, Project Assistant Curator of Photographs. Barberie said, “Whether he was printing in platinum, palladium, gelatin-silver, making films, or preparing books, Strand was ultimately more than a photographer. He was a great modern artist whose eloquent voice addressed the widest possible audience, and this voice continues to resonate today.

 

Paul Strand. 'Young Boy, Gondeville, Charente, France' 1951 (negative); mid- to late 1960s (print)

 

Paul Strand
Young Boy, Gondeville, Charente, France
1951 (negative); mid- to late 1960s (print)
Gelatin silver print
7 5/8 × 9 5/8 inches (19.4 × 24.4 cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Paul Strand Collection, purchased with funds contributed by Tom Callan and Martin McNamara, 2012
© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand. 'The Family, Luzzara (The Lusettis)' 1953 (negative); mid- to late 1960s (print)

 

Paul Strand
The Family, Luzzara (The Lusettis)
1953 (negative); mid- to late 1960s (print)
Gelatin silver print
11 7/16 x 14 9/16 inches (29 x 37 cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Paul Strand Collection, purchased with funds contributed by Mr. and Mrs. Robert A. Hauslohner, 1972
© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand. 'Anna Attinga Frafra, Accra, Ghana' 1964

 

Paul Strand
Anna Attinga Frafra, Accra, Ghana
1964 (negative); 1964 (print)
Gelatin silver print
7 5/8 × 9 5/8 inches (19.4 × 24.4 cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Paul Strand Collection, purchased with The Henry McIlhenny Fund and other Museum funds, 2012
© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand. 'Market, Accra, Ghana' 1963-64

 

Paul Strand
Market, Accra, Ghana
1963-64
Philadelphia Museum Of Art
The Paul Strand Collection
Partial and promised gift of Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest
© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand. 'Market Day, Luzzara' 1953

 

Paul Strand
Market Day, Luzzara
1953
Gelatin silver print
4 5/8 × 5 7/8 in. (11.7 x 15 cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Paul Strand Collection, purchased with funds contributed by Zoë and Dean Pappas
© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand. 'Oil Refinery, Tema, Ghana' 1963-64

 

Paul Strand
Oil Refinery, Tema, Ghana
1963-64
Philadelphia Museum Of Art
The Paul Strand Collection, purchased with funds contributed by Lynne and Harold Honickman
© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand. 'Place to meet, Luzzara' 1953

 

Paul Strand
Place to meet, Luzzara
1953
Gelatin silver print
4 5/8 × 5 7/8 in. (11.8 x 15 cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Paul Strand Collection, purchased with funds contributed by Zoë and Dean Pappas
© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand. 'Parmesan, Luzzara
' 1953

 

 

Paul Strand
Parmesan, Luzzara
1953
Gelatin silver print
4 5/8 × 5 7/8 in. (11.8 x 15 cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Paul Strand Collection, purchased with funds contributed by Andrea M. Baldeck, MD, and William M. Hollis Jr.,
© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand. 'The Farm, Luzzara' 1953

 

Paul Strand
The Farm, Luzzara

1953
Gelatin silver print
4 11/16 × 5 7/8 in. (11.9 × 15 cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Paul Strand Collection, purchased with funds contributed by Barbara B. and Theodore R. Aronson
© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand. 'Worker at the Co-op, Luzzara
' 1953

 

Paul Strand
Worker at the Co-op, Luzzara
1953
Gelatin silver print
4 5/8 × 5 7/8 in. (11.8 × 14.9 cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Paul Strand Retrospective Collection, 1915 - 1975
Gift of the estate of Paul Strand
© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand. 'The Couple, Luzzara' 
1953

 

Paul Strand
The Couple, Luzzara
1953
Gelatin silver print
4 5/8 × 5 7/8 in. (11.8 × 14.9 cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Paul Strand Collection, purchased with funds contributed by Ralph Citino and Lawrence Taylor
© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation

 

 

About Paul Strand

Born in New York City, Strand first studied with the social documentary photographer Lewis Hine at New York’s Ethical Culture School from 1907-09, and subsequently became close to the pioneering photographer Alfred Stieglitz. Strand fused these powerful influences and explored the modernist possibilities of the camera more fully than any other photographer before 1920. In the 1920s, Strand tested the camera’s potential to exceed human vision, making intimate, detailed portraits, and recording the nuances of machine and natural forms. He also created portraits, landscapes, and architectural studies on various travels to the Southwest, Canada, and Mexico. The groups of pictures of these regions, in tandem with his documentary work as a filmmaker in the 1930s, convinced Strand that the medium’s great purpose lay in creating broad and richly detailed photographic records of specific places and communities. For the rest of his career he pursued such projects in New England, France, Italy, the Hebrides, Morocco, Romania, Ghana, and other locales, producing numerous celebrated books. Together, these later series form one of the great photographic statements about modern experience. The last major retrospective dedicated to Strand was organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1971.

 

The Paul Strand Collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

In 2010, the Philadelphia Museum of Art began to acquire the core collection of photographs by Paul Strand. Through the generosity of philanthropists Lynne and Harold Honickman, Marjorie and Jeffrey Honickman, and H.F. “Gerry” and Marguerite Lenfest, the Museum received as partial and promised gifts from The Paul Strand Archive at the Aperture Foundation, as well as master prints from Strand’s negatives by the artist Richard Benson.

The Paul Strand Collection permits the study of Strand’s career with prints from the majority of his negatives, including variants and croppings of individual images. Together with other photographs already owned by the Museum, the acquisition makes the Philadelphia Museum of Art the world’s most comprehensive repository for the study of his work.

 

Catalogue

The exhibition will be accompanied by a substantial scholarly catalogue, co-published by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Yale University press in collaboration with MAPFRE. The accompanying publication is supported by Lynne and Harold Honickman and The Andrew W. Mellon Fund for Scholarly Publications at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.”

Press release from the Philadelphia Museum of Art

 

Paul Strand. 'Blind Woman, New York' 1916 (negative); 1945 (print)

 

Paul Strand
Blind Woman, New York
1916 (negative); 1945 (print)
Gelatin silver print
12 3/4 × 9 3/4 inches (32.4 × 24.8 cm)
The Paul Strand Collection, partial and promised gift of Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest, 2009
© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand. 'Abstraction, Bowls, Twin Lakes, Connecticut' 1916

 

Paul Strand
Abstraction, Bowls, Twin Lakes, Connecticut
1916
Gelatin silver print
13 1/16 × 9 5/8 inches (33.1 × 24.4 cm)
The Paul Strand Retrospective Collection, 1915-1975
Gift of the estate of Paul Strand, 1980
© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand. 'Abstraction, Porch Shadows' 1916

 

Paul Strand
Abstraction, Porch Shadows, Twin Lakes, Connecticut
1916 (negative); 1950s (print)
Gelatin silver print
12 15/16 × 8 15/16 inches (32.9 × 22.7 cm)
The Paul Strand Retrospective Collection, 1915-1975
Gift of the estate of Paul Strand, 1980

© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand. 'Elizabethtown, New Mexico' 1930

 

Paul Strand
Elizabethtown, New Mexico
1930 (negative); 1930 (print)
Platinum print
9 5/8 x 7 5/8 inches (24.4 x 19.4 cm)
The Paul Strand Collection, partial and promised gift of Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest, 2009
© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand. 'Farmworker, Luzzara, Italy' 1953

 

Paul Strand
Farmworker, Luzzara, Italy
1953 (negative); early to mid- 1980s (print)
Gelatin silver print
5 7/8 x 4 5/8 inches (14.9 x 11.8 cm)
The Paul Strand Collection, partial and promised gift of Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest, 2009

© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand. 'Asenah Wara, Leader of the Women’s Party, Wa, Ghana' 1964

 

Paul Strand
Asenah Wara, Leader of the Women’s Party, Wa, Ghana
1964
Gelatin silver print
12 1/8 x 9 7/8 inches (30.8 x 25.1 cm)
The Paul Strand Retrospective Collection, 1915-1975
Gift of the estate of Paul Strand, 1980

© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand. 'Mary Hammond, Winneba, Ghana' 1963

 

Paul Strand
Mary Hammond, Winneba, Ghana
1963 (negative); 1964 (print)
9 1/4 × 7 1/4 inches (23.5 × 18.4 cm)
The Paul Strand Collection, purchased with the Henry P. McIlhenny Fund in memory of Frances P. McIlhenny, 2012

© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand. 'Cobweb in Rain, Georgetown, Maine' 1927

 

Paul Strand
Cobweb in Rain, Georgetown, Maine
1927 (negative); 1927 (print)
Gelatin silver print
9 11/16 x 7 13/16 inches (24.6 x 19.8 cm),
Philadelphia Museum of Art, 125th Anniversary Acquisition
The Paul Strand Collection, The Lynne and Harold Honickman Gift of the Julien Levy Collection, 2001
© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand. 'Church, Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico' 1931

 

Paul Strand
Church, Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico
1931 (negative); 1931 (print)
Platinum print
5 7/8 x 4 5/8 inches (15 x 11.7 cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Paul Strand Collection, purchased with funds contributed by Barbara B. and Theodore R. Aronson, 2013
© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand. 'Toward the Sugar House, Vermont' 1944

 

Paul Strand
Toward the Sugar House, Vermont
1944 (negative); 1944 (print)
Gelatin silver print
9 5/8 × 7 5/8 inches (24.4 × 19.4 cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Paul Strand Collection, purchased with funds contributed by Barbara B. and Theodore R. Aronson, 2010
© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand. 'Jungle, Ashanti Region, Ghana' 1964

 

Paul Strand
Jungle, Ashanti Region, Ghana
1964
Gelatin silver print
9 5/8 × 7 11/16 inches (24.4 × 19.6 cm)
The Paul Strand Collection, purchased with the Henry P. McIlhenny Fund in memory of Frances P. McIlhenny, 2012

© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand. 'Woman and Boy, Tenancingo, Mexico' 1933

 

Paul Strand
Woman and Boy, Tenancingo, Mexico
1933 (negative); c. 1940-1945 (print)
5 7/8 × 4 5/8 inches (15 × 11.8 cm)
The Paul Strand Collection, partial and promised gift of Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest, 2009
© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand. 'Rebecca, New York' 1921

 

Paul Strand 
Rebecca, New York
1921 (negative); 1921 (print)
Platinum print
9 1/2 x 7 5/8 inches (24.1 x 19.4 cm)
The Paul Strand Collection, partial and promised gift of Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest, 2009
© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand. 'Mr. Bolster, Weston, Vermont' 1943

 

Paul Strand
Mr. Bolster, Weston, Vermont
1943 (negative); 1943 (print)
Gelatin silver print
5 7/8 × 4 5/8 inches (14.9 × 11.7 cm)
The Paul Strand Collection, partial and promised gift of Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest, 2009
© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand. 'Fern, Georgetown, Maine' 1928

 

Paul Strand
Fern, Georgetown, Maine
1928 (negative); 1940s (print)
Platinum print
9 5/8 x 7 5/8 inches (24.4 x 19.4 cm)
The Paul Strand Collection, purchased with funds contributed by Barbara B. and Theodore R. Aronson, 2014
© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand. 'Town Hall, New Hampshire' 1946

 

Paul Strand
Town Hall, New Hampshire
1946
Gelatin silver print
9 5/8 × 7 5/8 inches (24.4 × 19.4 cm)
The Paul Strand Collection, gift of Lynne and Harold Honickman, 2013
© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation

 

 Paul Strand. 'Cobbler, Luzzara' 1953

 

Paul Strand
Cobbler, Luzzara
1953 (negative); 1953 (print)
Gelatin silver print
5 7/8 × 4 5/8 inches (15 × 11.8 cm)
The Paul Strand Collection, gift of Marjorie and Jeffrey Honickman, 2012
© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand. 'Young Man, Luzzaro (Ivo Lusetti)' 1953

 

Paul Strand
Young Man, Luzzaro (Ivo Lusetti)
1953
Gelatin silver print
5 7/8 × 4 5/8 in. (15 × 11.8 cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Paul Strand Retrospective Collection, 1915 -1975
Gift of the estate of Paul Strand
© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand. 'Virgin, San Felipe, Oaxaca, Mexico' 1933

 

Paul Strand
Virgin, San Felipe, Oaxaca, Mexico
1933
Platinum print
9 5/8 × 7 5/8 inches (24.4 × 19.3 cm)
The Paul Strand Collection, partial and promised gift of Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest, 2009
© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand. 'Bachelor Buttons, Orgeval' early 1960s

 

Paul Strand
Bachelor Buttons, Orgeval
early 1960s
9 5/8 × 7 5/8 inches (24.4 × 19.4 cm)
The Paul Strand Retrospective Collection, 1915-1975
Gift of the estate of Paul Strand, 1980
© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand. 'Cabbages and Pinks' 1957-58

 

Paul Strand
Cabbages and Pinks, Orgeval
1957-58
Gelatin silver print
9 5/8 × 7 5/8 inches (24.4 × 19.4 cm)
The Paul Strand Collection, partial and promised gift of Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest, 2009
© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand. 'Hoar Frosted Vines, Orgeval' 1969

 

Paul Strand
Hoar Frosted Vines, Orgeval
1969 (negative); 1969 or early 1970s (print)
Gelatin silver print
7 13/16 × 7 13/16 inches (19.8 × 19.8 cm)
The Paul Strand Collection, partial and promised gift of Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest, 2009
© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation

 

 

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

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday: 10am – 5pm

Philadelphia Museum of Art website

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24
Dec
14

Exhibition: ‘Dayanita Singh: Go Away Closer’ at the MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt

Exhibition dates: 27th September 2014 – 4th January 2015

 

This exhibition looks fantastic. I really love the sensitivity and melancholy of the individual images, I just wish I could see the whole exhibition up close in order to comprehend the scientific, surreal dreamscape narratives. In the top two installation photographs there is reference to Ed Ruscha’s folder books but in the large installation photographs (the wooden panels) I see more a cinematic archive form rather than a book form. Film strips as a puzzle (with echoes of Robert Heinecken) that can be read vertically, horizontally and in the round. What most interests Singh about photography is its dissemination in unusual and interesting ways. For her, the book and the choreography of the photographs within it (the sequencing) is the work.

There are so many excellent exhibitions finishing before 4th January 2015 I hope I get them all, including a huge two part posting on Robert Frank, a posting on Paul Strand and Nicholas Nixon’s The Brown Sisters. Keep your fingers crossed I have time…

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“The art world would like to have one image, the art world would like to have three images, I would like to have a hundred images, maybe five hundred images – so books are really essential to enable me to do all that.”

.
Dayanita Singh

 

 

Dayanita Singh. Image from 'File Room' 2013

Dayanita Singh. Image from 'File Room' 2013

Dayanita Singh. Image from 'File Room' 2013

Dayanita Singh. Image from 'File Room' 2013

Dayanita Singh. Image from 'File Room' 2013

Dayanita Singh. Image from 'File Room' 2013

 

Dayanita Singh
Images from File Room
2013
Courtesy of the artist and Frith Street Gallery, London
© Dayanita Singh
“With more than seven hundred photographs, the internationally renowned photographer Dayanita Singh is providing in-depth insights into the past thirty years of her artistic work.

 

 

Her exhibition Go Away Closer is a museum in a museum: in installations she calls “museum structures”, Singh arranges her photographs and presents them in structures she had developed as her form. These archives structures stand in the exhibition like open oversize books. Each of the expansive, multiply convertible wooden structures holds between 70 and 140 black-and-white photographs – series of works edited and arranged in sequences by the artist, but theoretically capable of being rearranged and supplemented in any number of ways. The photos unite to form fictional narratives full of allusions and enigmas. The artist has given the various structures such titles as Museum of Little Ladies, Museum of Embraces, Museum of Machines or Museum of Chance. She quite deliberately chooses not to label or date the individual photographs.

Dayanita Singh, who refers to herself as a “book artist”, made a name for herself above all with her carefully designed artist’s books, which she has always thought of as portable museums. The “museum structures” have their origins in these books. This special exhibition form lends the images a quality of seemingly never-ending process. With the ‘museum structures’, Singh moreover broadens our conception of photography and how to approach it by introducing sculptural and architectonic aspects.

Singh’s photographs, which she processes with superb craftsmanship and great technical precision, are characterized by a balance between empathy and distance. In her pictures, with their underlying melancholy mood, she finds simple translations for complex states of mind. In the photographic essays, countless images of her past merge with perceptions of the present, as in a dreamlike state. European music, literature and movie history are as much a part of the artist’s work as the people, structures and places of her surroundings in New Delhi.

The exhibition is further enhanced by Singh’s latest video work, Mona and Myself, which she produced for the German pavilion at the 2013 Venice Biennale. Singh describes the striking video portrait as her first “moving still”. “This film demonstrates the true concern of my work: it’s like a dream, like the brief moment between sleeping and waking,” the artist explains.

Singh first met the film’s protagonist, the eunuch Mona Ahmed, in 1989; since that time the two have been close friends. Talking about the work, the artist says: “Mona tells what it’s like when you belong neither here nor there, are neither male nor female, neither an eunuch nor someone like me.”

 

Publication

On the occasion of the exhibition at the MMK 3, Dayanita Singh created a new artist’s book entitled Museum of Chance, published by Steidl Verlag, Göttingen. The 88 photographs featured on the inside of the clothbound book also each appear as front and back cover illustrations, so that there are 88 different versions of the publication. The book Museum of Chance is in English, costs 48 EUR and is available at the MMK shop. The exhibition was organized in cooperation with the Hayward Gallery in London.”

Text from the Museum für Moderne Kunst website

 

 

Dayanita Singh – Slide Lecture : Chandigarh Lalit Kala Akademi : Amrita Sher-Gil National Art Week

 

Installation view of Dayanita Singh's 'Go Closer Away' 2014

Installation view of Dayanita Singh's 'Go Closer Away' 2014

Installation view of Dayanita Singh's 'Go Closer Away' 2014

Installation view of Dayanita Singh's 'Go Closer Away' 2014 (detail)

Installation view of Dayanita Singh's 'Go Closer Away' 2014

Installation view of Dayanita Singh's 'Go Closer Away' 2014

Installation view of Dayanita Singh's 'Go Closer Away' 2014

Installation view of Dayanita Singh's 'Go Closer Away' 2014

 

Installation views of Dayanita Singh’s Go Closer Away 2014 at MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt
Photo: Axel Schneider
Courtesy the artist © MMK Frankfurt

 

Dayanita Singh. Image from 'Museum of Chance' 2013

Dayanita Singh. Image from 'Museum of Chance' 2013

Dayanita Singh. Image from 'Museum of Chance' 2013

Dayanita Singh. Image from 'Museum of Chance' 2013

Dayanita Singh. Image from 'Museum of Chance' 2013

Dayanita Singh. Image from 'Museum of Chance' 2013

Dayanita Singh. Image from 'Museum of Chance' 2013

Dayanita Singh. Image from 'Museum of Chance' 2013

 

Dayanita Singh
Images from Museum of Chance
2013
Courtesy of the artist and Frith Street Gallery London
© Dayanita Singh

 

 

MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst

Domstraße 10
60311
Frankfurt am Main
Phone: +49 69  21230447

Opening hours:
Closed Mondays
Tuesday – Sunday: 10 am – 6 pm
Wednesday: 10 am – 8 pm

MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst
 website

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22
Dec
14

Exhibition: ‘Irving Penn, Resonance’ at the Palazzo Grassi, Venice

Exhibition dates: 13th April – 31st December 2014

Curated by Pierre Apraxine and Matthieu Humery

 

 

Irving Penn’s platinum photographs fetch tens of thousands of dollars at auction. I could think of better things to spend my money on…

I have never been a fan – of his cigarette butts, fruit dishes, vanitas as well as animal skulls and ethnographic photos. There are just too clinically cold and dead for me. Other people may love them, but for work that supposedly investigates the ephemerality and brevity of human existence Penn tightens his essentially reductive approach until the conceptual (and formal) noose strangles the subject.

Irving Penn’s Worlds in a Small Room (where he set up baffles and stood “mudpeople” and other tribespeople), his masks, and his platinum prints of cigarette butts are his claim to fame. They were champoined by the US East Coast and commercial interests. They are not terrible, but I don’t believe they are deserving of their fame – well, they are terrible in a way because they are just sort of mildly pathetic really. The work was deliberately made to attract the limelight too, at least in the vibe I get from them.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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

 

 

Irving Penn: The Enduring Power of Formal Simplicity

“Irving Penn was one of the most significant and prolific photographers of the 20th century whose signature blend of classical elegance, cool minimalism and monumentality still command our attention… Penn’s visual innovations, compositional originality and intensity, his diversity and range, his meticulous perfectionism and his technical precision and insistence on clean spare elegant compositions are his trademarks… A remarkable sixty-year career was filled with amazing commissioned images which could not have been sustained without a relentless sense of precision and unyielding attention to details as well as a restless sense of curiosity… Penn’s approach from the beginning was essentially reductive – he described it as a ‘tightening process – the plastic search.’  He preferred the simple studio backdrop in order to concentrate on preserving the ‘sanctity of the document’… Penn’s legacy is his prodigious insatiable breadth of work blurring the worlds of commerce and fine art. He was constantly questioning the meaning of time, of life and its fragility.

.
Diana Edkins April 2014

 

 

Irving Penn. 'Lion (Front View)' Prague 1986

 

Irving Penn
Lion (Front View)
Prague, 1986
Copyright © by The Irving Penn Foundation

 

Irving Penn. 'Poppy: Showgirl' London, 1968

 

Irving Penn
Poppy: Showgirl
London, 1968
Copyright © by Condé Nast Publications, Inc.

 

Irving Penn. 'Cuzco Children' 1948

 

Irving Penn
Cuzco Children
1948
Copyright © by Condé Nast Publications, Inc.

 

 

“The exhibition Irving Penn, Resonance, curated by Pierre Apraxine and Matthieu Humery, brings together on the second floor of Palazzo Grassi 130 photographs, taken between the end of the 1940s and the mid-1980s. The exhibition is a collection of 90 platinum prints, 30 gelatin silver prints, 4 colorful dye transfer prints and 17 internegatives, which will be shown to the public for the first time.

It tackles the themes dear to Irving Penn and which, beyond their apparent diversity, all capture every facet of ephemerality. This is true of the selection of photographs from the series small trades, taken in France, England and the United States in the 1950s. It is also the case for the portraits taken between the 1950s and the 1970s of celebrities from the world of art, cinema, and literature. Exhibited alongside ethnographic photographs of the people of Dahomey and of tribesmen from New Guinea and Morocco, they strongly underline the brevity of human existence, whether affluent or resourceless, famous or unknown.

The exhibition path, which encourages dialogue and connections between works that differ in subject matter and period of time, gives prominence to still life photography from the late 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s: they are composed of cigarette ends, fruit dishes, vanitas as well as animal skulls photographed at the Narodni National Museum in Prague in 1986 for the series Cranium Architecture.

This broad overview of Irving Penn’s work puts relatively unknown images side-by-side with the most iconic ones, thereby revealing the particular ability to synthesize that characterizes this photographer: in his work, modernity is not necessarily in opposition with the past and the way he exerts control over every step of the process, from the studio to the printing (to which he dedicates a lot of attention and unprecedented care), enables one to come nearer to the truth of things and people, through a constant questioning of the meaning of time, of life and of its fragility.

 

Irving Penn

Irving Penn was born in 1917 in Plainfield, New Jersey. In 1934 he enrolled at the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art where he studied design with Alexey Brodovitch. In 1938 he began a career in New York as a graphic artist – then, after a year painting in Mexico, he returned to New York City and began work at Vogue magazine where Alexander Liberman was art director.

Liberman encouraged Penn to take his first color photograph, a still life which became the October 1, 1943 cover of Vogue, beginning a fruitful collaboration with the magazine that lasted until his death in 2009. In addition to his editorial and fashion work for Vogue, Penn also worked for other magazines and for numerous commercial clients in America and abroad.

He published many books of his photographs including: Moments Preserved (1960); Worlds in a Small Room (1974); Inventive Paris Clothes (1977); Flowers (1980); Passage (1991); Irving Penn Regards The Work of Issey Miyake (1999); Still Life (2001); Dancer (2001); Earthly Bodies (2002); A Notebook At Random (2004); Dahomey (2004); Irving Penn: Platinum Prints (2005); Small Trades (2009); and two books of drawings and paintings.

Penn’s photographs are in the collections of major museums in America and abroad, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Moderna Museet in Stockholm, The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which honored him with a retrospective exhibition in 1984. This exhibition was circulated to museums in twelve countries. Irving Penn made a donation, in 1997, to the Art Institute of Chicago of prints and archival material. In November of that year, the Art Institute mounted a retrospective that also toured to 5 museums around the world beginning at The State Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia.”

Press release from the Palazzo Grassi website

 

Irving Penn. 'Black and White Vogue Cover (Jean Patchett)' New York, 1950

 

Irving Penn
Black and White Vogue Cover (Jean Patchett)
New York, 1950
Copyright © by Condé Nast Publications, Inc.

 

Irving Penn. 'Truman Capote (1 of 2)' New York, 1965

 

Irving Penn
Truman Capote (1 of 2)
New York, 1965
Copyright © by Condé Nast Publications, Inc.

 

Irving Penn. 'Deep-Sea Diver (C)' New York, 1951

 

Irving Penn
Deep-Sea Diver (C)
New York, 1951
Copyright © by Condé Nast Publications, Inc.

 

 

Palazzo Grassi
Dorsoduro, 2 
30123
Venezia
, Italy

Opening hours:

Palazzo Grassi website

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Études’ 1994

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

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