Archive for March, 2018

30
Mar
18

Review: ‘Shadows of War: Roger Fenton’s Photographs of the Crimea, 1855’ at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London

Exhibition dates: 9th November 2018 – 28th April 2019

PLEASE NOTE: I GOT THIS COMPLETELY WRONG – THE EXHIBITION STARTS 9 NOVEMBER 2018!

 

This portrait (below) shows Captain Alexander Leslie-Melville (1831-57), known as Lord Balgonie. He was the eldest son of the 8th Earl of Leven, a Scottish peer. Lord Balgonie served in the Grenadier Guards during the war, and died only a couple of years after returning to Britain. At the time, his death was attributed to the hardships of the war. Fenton has photographed him standing in front of a sheet, which serves as a make-shift studio and he looks unkempt and shaken, as if he has recently stepped off the battlefield. In recent years, this photograph has been described as the first photographic portrait of shell-shock. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Lord Balgonie' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Lord Balgonie
1855
Albumen print
17.7 x 11.7 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500273

 

 

The Crimean photographs of Roger Fenton represent the beginning of war photography. These staged photographs, documented for the edification of a viewing public back home in England and for the purpose of making money for the photographer, set the trend for the genre for the next 80 years. Staging photographs of war, and altering reality to suit the commercial, political or moral aspirations of photographer or institution, continues to this day.

For most of the images, “research for the exhibition has revealed that Fenton’s portraits and topographical views were principally intended as source material for the artist Thomas J Barker, who had been commissioned by Agnews to produce an oil painting of the senior officers of the allied forces. Barker used over 50 of Fenton’s images to create the monumental work The Allied Generals with the officers of their respective staffs before Sebastopol (private collection).” Fenton was fulfilling his commission and earning a living by taking photographs for a painter. But Fenton’s photographs are most successful when he has a personal connection to the subject matter, whether it be portrait or landscape. In other words, when he is not constructing or documenting as representation, but attempting to capture the spirit of person/place.

In portraiture, this personal connection can be seen in the photographs, Lord Balgonie (1855, above), Fitzroy James Henry Somerset, Baron Raglan (1788-1855) (4 Jun 1855, below), Omar Pacha (1806-1871) (1855, below) and General James Bucknall Estcourt (1802-1855) (1855, below), a man deep in thought or, perhaps, melancholy. These are psychological portraits that attempt to get under the skin of the sitter, not mere representations for use as a template for painting.

The portraits of Baron Raglan and Omar Pacha are taken in the same location, probably at the same sitting. In the portrait of Baron Raglan, this man (soon to die) is relatively small in proportion to the overall framing of the photograph, his dark shadow falling on the wall behind, his hat and white plume pulled forward and out of focus in the image, incredibly large in comparison with the size of the body. In three-quarter profile he gazes out of the image, while the right and top of the image falls into soft, velvet darkness. By comparison, the portrait of Omar Pacha presents to us a much more self possessed and confident man. Fenton has moved the camera closer to his subject. No shadow falls on the wall behind and the light frames the head of the sitter perfectly. His bearing is upright but relaxed; his hands gently rest in his lap; and his gaze stares directly out of the image but not directly into the camera lens as though her is in deep thought somewhere beyond the photographer’s left shoulder. Both are magnificent portraits.

With regard to his landscapes of the Crimea the same feelings can be observed. One is the representational urge, the other the artistic. The first problem is the barrenness of the landscape and what to do with the inevitable horizon line. When photographing people in the landscape Fenton makes use of low depth of field either pulling the figures towards the front of the image (Sir John Miller Adye (1819-1900) 1855, and General Scarlett and Colonel Low Apr 1855, below) or the mid-distance (such as Captain and Mrs Duberly Apr 1855 and Colonel Doherty and the Officers of the 13th Light Dragoons 1855, below) whilst allowing the horizon line to float in the distance, either placed through the figures or floating above them. This low depth of field allows the horizon line to soften and the solid space around the figures to become ambiguous and fluid. It also allows the light in this vast expanse of country to do its duty, to illuminate the isolation of these figures “in the field.” A similar technique was used by Edward S. Curtis when photographing the Native American Indians against the vastness of country – low depth of field, letting the light and composition do the work as subject is located – or vanishes – into the landscape.

For the shear complexity of their visualisation, Fenton’s photographs of Balaklava are among my favourites. The placement of camera, the line of composition (ship masts, hills, horizon line, stacking of cannonball), the flattening of perspective (The Ordnance Wharf at Balaklava Mar 1855, below) and the tonality of the images are exemplary.

Taken a mere 15 years after the birth year of practical photography, Fenton’s “subtle and poetic interpretations” still resonate today. That he captured such acclaimed images using a heavy land camera, the photographs taken sometimes under fire, the glass plates prepared and developed in a ‘travelling darkroom’ – his horse drawn photographic van – make Fenton’s achievement all the more remarkable. The shadow of war that he captured, the presence of the men, women and landscapes of that time and place, are made alive to us today.

Note this

There is the date a photograph is made, and the date it is viewed. There is something about the different way a photograph exists in time, different from the date a poem is written and the date it is read, different from the date a painting is finished and the date it is viewed.

And then

Photographs remind us
of people, passing
They distill an essence
which
in turn
Instills in us
memory of time, place, spirit

 

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

This is the first exhibition to focus exclusively on Roger Fenton’s pioneering photographs of the Crimean War, taken in 1855. Fenton was already an accomplished and respected photographer when he was sent by the publishers Agnew’s to photograph a war that pitched Britain, France and Turkey as allies against Russia. Arriving several months after the major battles were fought in 1854, Fenton focused on creating moving portraits of the troops, as well as capturing the stark, empty battlefields on which so many lost their lives.

Published in contemporary newspaper reports, Fenton’s photographs showed the impact of war to the general public for the first time. Through his often subtle and poetic interpretations Fenton created the genre of war photography, showing his extraordinary genius in capturing the futility of war.

 

 

Half a league,
half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

.
Lord Tennyson. The Charge of the Light Brigade

 

 

John Gilbert. 'The Queen Inspecting wounded Coldstream Guards in the Hall of Buckingham Palace, 22 February 1855' 1856

 

John Gilbert
The Queen Inspecting wounded Coldstream Guards in the Hall of Buckingham Palace, 22 February 1855
1856
Watercolour
138.0 x 214.5 x 13.0 cm
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 451958

 

 

This painting depicts the second meeting with Guardsmen which took place at Buckingham Palace. The first meeting had been with the Grenadier Guards on 20 February 1855. The artist John Gilbert prepared a sketch of the event for the newspaper the Illustrated London News, published on 10 March 1855. He went on to create this painting using photographs of the soldiers for accuracy. Prince Albert supplied photographs of himself and the royal children. Gilbert was also given permission by the Queen to visit the Marble Hall in Buckingham Palace to recreate the scene. The scale of the watercolour caused a sensation when it was exhibited in 1856. Probably acquired by the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Queen Victoria and Prince Albert' 1854

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert
1854
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'A Zouave' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
A Zouave [Self-portrait as a Zouave]
1855
Salted paper print
18.2 x 14.1 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500562

 

 

The title of this work gives no indication that this is a self-portrait. Fenton has dressed himself in the uniform of a Zouave, a type of Algerian soldier who fought with the French army during the Crimean War. The Zouaves were admired both for their bravery and for their colourful dress. In 1855, when this photograph was exhibited for the first time, Fenton was Britain’s leading photographer but only a handful of fellow artists would have known that this was Fenton and not a Zouave soldier from the war. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Sir John Miller Adye (1819-1900)' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Sir John Miller Adye (1819-1900)
1855
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

 

 

The exhibition

Roger Fenton (1819-69) was the first photographer to document a war for public consumption. From March 1855, Fenton spent four months photographing the people and the terrain affected by the Crimean War, fought between the allied nations of Britain, France and the Ottoman Empire against Russia.

Fenton’s time in the Crimea was relatively short given the war lasted over two years (October 1853 – March 1856) but his photographs captured, for the first time, the chaos and disorder of a war zone, and showed the Victorian public portraits of soldiers in the field, directly affected by battle. Although Fenton was fulfilling a commercial commission, he allowed himself to respond emotionally in his work and this is perhaps why his photographs continue to represent the Crimean War more effectively than any other visual record of the conflict.

This exhibition presents Fenton’s work within the wider context of the war, alongside other contemporary artists, photographers and writers also in the Crimea at that time. We begin with two sections which, through Fenton’s portraits, introduce some of the key individuals and events that occurred prior to Fenton’s arrival in the Crimea.

Subsequently we examine Fenton’s work in more detail, before considering the significant role played by the royal family in focusing the attention of the British public on the impact of war and the returning wounded veterans.

 

The Crimean War, 1853-6

The Crimean War, also known as the Russian War, pitched the allied nations of Britain, France, the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Sardinia against the Russian Empire. At its simplest, the war was fought to prevent Russia gaining territorial control of various regions in eastern Europe, then under Ottoman control, and of routes into British India. These regions included the Black Sea, the Mediterranean, the Caucasus region and the Danubian provinces of modern-day Romania. Other more complex reasons included disputes over the control of religious sites and the protection of Christians in the Middle East, as well as concern over the declining influence of the Ottoman Empire and the growth of nationalism in various regions.

War with Russia had been publicly discussed for several years before Russian incursions into Romania, then under Ottoman control, led to a declaration of war from Constantinople in October 1853. Britain and France, fearing the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the growth of Russian power, followed with their support for the Ottomans by declaring war on Russia at the end of March 1854.

The conflict began in Europe and could have ended there in July 1854 when Russia began to withdraw but the European allies decided to confront Russia directly by besieging the Russian port of Sevastopol, an important naval base on the Crimean peninsula. The allies landed in the Crimea on 14 September 1854 and made their way towards Sevastopol, encountering the Russians in several major battles en route including Alma (20 September), Balaklava (25 October) and Inkerman (5 November). On 9 September 1855, after numerous other battles and skirmishes, Sevastopol fell to the allies.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Fitzroy James Henry Somerset, Baron Raglan (1788-1855)' 4 Jun 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Fitzroy James Henry Somerset, Baron Raglan (1788-1855)
4 Jun 1855
Albumen print
18.3 x 14.5 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500229

 

 

Lord Raglan (1788-1855) was a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars. He lost his right arm during the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, whilst he was an aide to the Duke of Wellington. Despite having never commanded in the field, he was named as the expedition Commander-in-Chief in early 1854 when war seemed inevitable. He was to become the focus of heavy public criticism over the apparent poor organisation and logistics during the campaign. This criticism contributed to his declining health, and he died in the Crimea on 28 June 1855. He was succeeded as Commander-in-Chief by General James Simpson. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Lieutenant-General Burgoyne and his aide-de-camp Lieutenant Stopford' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Lieutenant-General Burgoyne and his aide-de-camp Lieutenant Stopford
1855
Salted paper print | 21.9 x 17.6 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500553

 

 

John Burgoyne (1782-1871) was a key member of the senior command during the war. After the Battle of Alma on 20 September 1854, Burgoyne proposed that the army march south of Sevastopol and besiege the city, rather than attacking the city from the north. This decision ultimately committed the allies to a siege of almost a year. Burgoyne returned to Britain in the winter of 1854-5 before Fenton arrived in the Crimea. As Fenton sought to photograph all the senior commanders from the war, he arranged this session in his London studio sometime after he returned to Britain in mid-July 1855. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'General Scarlett and Colonel Low' Apr 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
General Scarlett and Colonel Low
Apr 1855
Albumen print
19.5 x 16.0 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500250

 

 

Sir James York Scarlett (1799-1871), here seated on a horse, played a key role in the Battle of Balaklava on 25 October 1854. The Charge of the Heavy Brigade, under Scarlett’s command, was a highly successful attack on the Russian army which has become overshadowed by the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade which occurred later during the same battle. Alexander Low (1817-1904) held the rank of Captain in the 4th Light Dragoons at the time of this photograph. He was a highly skilled cavalryman and served with distinction during the Charge of the Light Brigade. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Officers of the 8th Hussars' Apr 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Officers of the 8th Hussars
Apr 1855
Albumen print
16.7 x 16.3 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500355

 

 

Fenton made a number of group portraits of men from the five Light Cavalry regiments that charged on 25 October. News of the action had caught the public imagination, and the names of the regiments became well-known. Fenton would probably have seen photographs of men who may have fought in the battle as having greater commercial potential. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

The Battle of Inkerman 5 November 1854

After Balaklava, the allied armies continued to besiege Sevastopol. The Russian army occupied a strong position between the city and the allies, and on 5 November 1854 they attempted to end the siege. The Battle of Inkerman saw fierce fighting hampered by thick fog, resulting in poor communication between the troops. Casualties were disproportionately high. The battle was a victory for the allies but it also committed the troops to a long winter in the Crimea.

Most of the injured soldiers were shipped to Scutari hospitals, near Constantinople. As the Inkerman wounded arrived, so too did Florence Nightingale and her nurses. During October, reports in The Times sent by William Howard Russell had described the poor care for the wounded and the lack of nurses. This led Sidney Herbert, Secretary of State for War, to ask Nightingale to lead a nursing party to Scutari. They arrived on 4 November 1854.

From Scutari, Nightingale made three visits to the Crimea, the first in May 1855 when she caught a serious illness that was to affect her for the rest of her life. By this time, Nightingale was already well-known to the British public and had been depicted in the press as the ‘Lady with the Lamp’. She returned to Britain in July 1856 and devoted much of the rest of her life to hospital and healthcare reform.

Inkerman

Roger Fenton produced this panoramic view of the Inkerman Valley, the scene of a fierce battle on 5 November 1854 that pitched the British and French allies against the Russian army. The battle took place in thick fog, resulting in troops becoming cut off from their commanders and a high number of casualties. Although the battle was an allied success, its impact was such that it extended the war by months, condemning the troops to the harsh winter of 1854–5 in the Crimea. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'The Ruins of Inkerman' May 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
The Ruins of Inkerman
May 1855
20.2 x 25.8 cm (image)
Albumen print
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'The Quarries and Aqueduct in the Valley of Inkerman' May 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)

May 1855
18.5 x 25.4 cm (image)
Albumen print
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Hardships in the Crimea' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Hardships in the Crimea
1855
Albumen print
17.6 x 16.2 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500388

 

Fenton took a number of staged photographs of camp life, including this group of the 4th Dragoon Guards. Generally, the titles of his portraits are the name of the sitter or regiment photographed, but this is one of a small number which have been given a more emotive title. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

 

Haunting images that brought the stark reality of war into public consciousness for the first time have gone on display in a new exhibition Shadows of War: Roger Fenton’s Photographs of the Crimea, 1855 at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London. Roger Fenton (1819-1869) was the first photographer to document conflict in such a substantial way at a time when the medium of photography was still in its infancy and there was no expectation of what ‘war photography’ should be.

Drawn entirely from the Royal Collection, the exhibition explores the impact and legacy of Fenton’s Crimean work, which is shown in Scotland for the first time since 1856. It also tells the story of the historically close relationship between the Royal Family and those who have served their country in battle, with contributions to the exhibition’s multimedia guide by Prince Harry, photojournalist Sir Don McCullin and exhibition curator Sophie Gordon.

One of the leading photographers of the 19th century, Roger Fenton was commissioned by the art dealer and publisher Thomas Agnew & Sons to photograph the officers and other people of interest during the Crimean conflict. On 20 February 1855 Fenton set sail for the Crimea on board HMS Hecla, accompanied by 36 chests of cameras, glass plates, chemicals, a stove and other pieces of equipment, and a wine merchant’s van converted into a travelling darkroom and accommodation for the photographer and his two assistants.

Research for the exhibition has revealed that Fenton’s portraits and topographical views were principally intended as source material for the artist Thomas J Barker, who had been commissioned by Agnews to produce an oil painting of the senior officers of the allied forces. Barker used over 50 of Fenton’s images to create the monumental work The Allied Generals with the officers of their respective staffs before Sebastopol (private collection). The painting reproduces some of Fenton’s portraits directly, including those of the Scottish General Sir Colin Campbell and The Times reporter William Howard Russell, as well as his photographs of camp life, such as 8th Hussars Cooking Hut.

Other figures within the painting, such as Barker’s depiction of Florence Nightingale, are clearly inspired by Fenton’s photographs. Although Nightingale was in the Crimea in 1855, she was a reluctant sitter for the camera and appears not to have been photographed by Fenton. Instead Barker’s portrait of her on horseback seems to be inspired by Fenton’s photograph Mr and Mrs Duberly.

In the 19th century there was a thriving market for prints of popular paintings. An engraving of Barker’s work was published in 1859 with a key to help the public identify the figures. The reproduction of the painting in newspapers and exhibitions of Fenton’s photographs raised awareness of the conditions endured by soldiers at a time when the wounded began to arrive home.

The concern and admiration for the veterans displayed by Queen Victoria and members of the royal family helped to highlight the plight of those returning from war. The Queen met groups of soldiers, visited military hospitals and inspected troops of veterans at Buckingham Palace. One such occasion was recorded by John Gilbert in The Queen inspecting wounded Coldstream Guardsmen in the Hall of Buckingham Palace, 22 February 1855. This large watercolour, which has hung at Sandringham House since it was acquired by Queen Victoria’s eldest son, the future King Edward VII, is exhibited for the first time.

Queen Victoria was the first British monarch to meet and support wounded soldiers in public. Today Prince Harry’s work with veterans promotes a wider understanding and respect for those who serve their country. On the exhibition’s multimedia guide His Royal Highness speaks about a number of Fenton’s images and how they helped change attitudes towards those affected by their experiences on the battlefield.

Speaking about Fenton’s image Lord Balgonie, the first visual record of someone suffering from ‘shell shock’ Prince Harry says in the multimedia guide: ‘There has always been a fascination about people returning from war, what they’ve been through and what they’ve seen. The psychological impact of being on the battlefield is something that servicemen and women have had to deal with, but have often found it hard to talk about. As a result of photographers like Roger Fenton and those who have followed him, the public have gained a better appreciation of these experiences and consequently, over the years this fascination has turned to appreciation and respect.’

Press release from The Queen’s Gallery

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Photographic Van' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Photographic Van
1855
Albumen print
17.4 x 15.9 cm
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500439

 

 

Fenton’s ‘travelling darkroom’ was the only space he had in which to prepare his glass plates before they were exposed in the camera, and afterwards, to develop the negative image. Beyond a few test prints, however, Fenton would not have done any significant printing of photographs in the Crimea. All the negatives were transported back to Britain and printed there. This photograph was probably taken shortly before Fenton went into the ‘Valley of the Shadow of Death’. He later wrote in a letter, perhaps half-jokingly, that he feared the van being destroyed by enemy fire in the valley so he felt he should preserve its memory in a photograph. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Fenton’s Crimean Commission: 8 March – June 1855

Fenton was commissioned to go to the Crimean War by the Manchester-based publishers Thomas Agnew & Sons. Agnew’s was one of the leading publishers, print sellers and dealers at the time, and the firm saw the war as an opportunity to sell new images to a public hungry for information. The war coincided with an increased number of public art exhibitions as the middle classes in particular had more time and money to spend on leisure activities.

At the same time, Agnew’s also commissioned the British historical painter Thomas Barker (1815-82) to produce a large oil painting depicting the expected allied victory at Sevastopol. Fenton’s photographs were to be used as source material by Barker. This enabled the artist to claim absolute truthfulness and accuracy in his portraits.

Barker incorporated versions of at least 50 of Fenton’s photographs into his painting. Some photographs have been copied almost exactly; others have been reversed or combined with other images, with elements from some photographs appearing alongside people from other works. The painting was completed in 1856 and the associated engraving was published by Agnew’s in 1859. A key was also produced, identifying each individual in the work, in which Fenton’s role was explicitly acknowledged.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Valley of the Shadow of Death' 23 Apr 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Valley of the Shadow of Death
23 Apr 1855
Albumen print
25.7 x 35.0 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500514

 

 

Perhaps Fenton’s most well-known photograph, ‘The Valley of the Shadow of Death’, is not in fact the location of the charge of the Light Brigade. When Fenton reached the ravine seen in this photograph, he found himself the target of enemy fire. Even so, Fenton managed to make at least two distinct views: the version seen here, and another in which far fewer cannon balls lie on the ground, indicating that he re-arranged one of the scenes. This photograph, which has become one of Fenton’s most famous compositions, demonstrates the power of the camera at war. The scene is still and almost barren, but the power of the imagination draws the viewer into the landscape and the title, with its reference to Psalm 23, suggests that we walk between the realms of life and sudden death. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

James Robertson (1813-88) 'Valley of the Shadow of Death' 1855-1856

 

James Robertson (1813-88)
Valley of the Shadow of Death
1855-1856
Salted paper print
22.3 x 29.2 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500723

 

 

Neither Robertson’s photograph nor Simpson’s lithograph show the same location as Fenton’s image, despite all three works having the same title. The full phrase from Psalm 23 from which the title comes is ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil’. It is reported that the British soldiers gave the ravine its name. The emotive pull of Fenton’s composition is all the more apparent when compared with Robertson’s photograph and Simpson’s lithograph, although the round shot in Simpson’s work links it visually to Fenton’s photograph.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Omar Pacha (1806-1871)' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Omar Pacha (1806-1871)
1855
Salted paper print
17.6 x 14.2 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500341

 

 

Omar Pacha (1806-71) was the commander of the Ottoman army at the beginning of the war, when the Russian incursions into the Balkan regions began. He was later to win a significant victory against the Russians at the Battle of Evpatoria on 17 February 1855 in the Crimea. Omar Pasha was photographed several times by Fenton, both seated and on horseback. A number of commanding officers were photographed in this way. It was probably to give the artist Thomas Barker a variety of poses which could be incorporated into his painting. Omar Pasha does appear on a horse in the final painting, but his head is a copy of this seated portrait. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Colonel Brownrigg and the two Russian boys Alma and Inkerman' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Colonel Brownrigg and the two Russian boys Alma and Inkerman
1855
Salted paper print
16.8 x 15.5 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500375

 

 

This portrait shows Colonel Brownrigg of the Grenadier Guards, with two Russian boys who were apparently taken prisoner by the British. In a letter from 29 April 1855 to his wife, Fenton described what happened, ‘Tell Annie [Fenton’s daughter] there are two Russian boys here who both would like to come to England which will she have Alma or Inkermann, such are their new names. One is an orphen [sic] the other has or had his parents in the town. They went out nutting last autumn & were taken, cried sadly but now would cry to go back’. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Cooking house, 8th Hussars' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Cooking house, 8th Hussars
1855
Albumen print
15.3 x 19.6 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500384

 

 

This beautifully composed group was incorporated almost entirely into Barker’s painting, although the woman standing at the back of the group was omitted. It is easily identifiable on the left-hand side of the painting. Fenton made a handful of photographs which try to capture the camp life of the ordinary soldier. The 8th Hussars were one of the regiments involved in the Charge of the Light Brigade and this association would give the photograph greater interest to the Victorian public. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Maréchal Pélissier, Duke of Malakoff (1794-1864)' Jun 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Maréchal Pélissier, Duke of Malakoff (1794-1864)
Jun 1855
Albumen print
17.9 x 15.5 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500327

 

 

Fenton made several portraits of General Pélissier (1794-1864), on horseback and seated. Barker probably used this particular photograph to paint the general, who as the French Commander-in-Chief at the time of the final assault on Sevastopol in Summer 1855, features prominently in his painting. Pélissier had taken command of the French army on 16 May 1855, replacing General François Canrobert. He brought with him the energy and determination required to bring the siege of Sevastopol to a conclusion. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Captain and Mrs Duberly' Apr 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Captain and Mrs Duberly
Apr 1855
Albumen print
15.2 x 16.0 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500314

 

 

Frances Isabella Duberly (1829-1902), known as Fanny, accompanied her husband Captain Henry Duberly (1822-91), Paymaster of the 8th Hussars, to the war against the orders of Lord Raglan. She kept a journal of her experience, which included witnessing the Battle of Balaklava. She was also one of the first civilians to enter Sevastopol after it fell to the allies. Mrs Duberly attempted to dedicate the published version of her journal to Queen Victoria, titled Journal Kept During the Russian War, but this was refused. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Wounded Zouave and Vivandiere' 5 May 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Wounded Zouave and Vivandiere
5 May 1855
Salted paper print
17.4 x 15.8 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500401

 

 

The vivandières, also known as cantinières, were attached to French regiments to supply the troops with food and drink beyond the standard rations. In a letter to his wife, Fenton described how he photographed this group on 5 May, ‘In the afternoon a Cantiniere was brought up I made first a picture of her by herself & then a group in which she is giving assistance to a wounded soldier. It was great fun the soldiers enjoyed it so much & entered so completely into the spirit of the thing’. This group was incorporated into Barker’s painting, although the composition was reversed. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Vivandière' 5 May 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Vivandière
5 May 1855
Albumen print
17.4 x 13.1 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500338

 

 

This striking portrait was taken at the same time as the earlier group photograph with the ‘wounded soldier’. The vivandières usually dressed in a feminised version of the uniform of the regiment to which they were attached. There were women attached to the British regiments, known as sutlers, who helped with food, drink and domestic duties. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Colonel Doherty and the Officers of the 13th Light Dragoons' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Colonel Doherty and the Officers of the 13th Light Dragoons
1855
Salted paper print
14.6 x 19.0 cm
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500354

 

 

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Doherty (d. 1866) was the commanding officer of the 13th Light Dragoons on the day of the Battle of Balaklava. His regiment was part of the Light Brigade, and his men participated in the famous charge. However, due to illness, Doherty did not join the battle. Doherty’s replacement that day, Captain John Oldham, was killed in the battle. Fenton probably photographed this group in anticipation of the interest in regiments who formed the Charge of the Light Brigade. Some of the men included in the group were amongst the chargers. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Ismael Pacha receiving his chibouque' 27 Apr 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Ismael Pacha receiving his chibouque
27 Apr 1855
Albumen print
17.2 x 16.1 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500427

 

 

Ismael Pacha (1813-65), also known as György Kmety, fought against the Russians in the 1848 Hungarian Revolution. After its failure and the harsh Russian reprisals, he joined the Ottoman army. Fenton took a series of photographs of Ismael Pacha receiving a pipe from his servants. Both Ismael Pacha and his Nubian servant, seen to the right of this photograph, appear in Barker’s painting The Allied Generals. Presumably acquired by Queen Victoria.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Ismael Pacha receiving his chibouque' 27 Apr 1855 (detail)

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Ismael Pacha receiving his chibouque (detail)
27 Apr 1855
Albumen print
17.2 x 16.1 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500427

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'View from Cathcart's Hill' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
View from Cathcart’s Hill
1855
Albumen print
24.1 x 33.7 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500534

 

 

This photograph shows the British camps as seen from Cathcart’s Hill, the main British cemetery in the Crimea. The cemetery took its name from the grave of Sir George Cathcart, a senior military officer who was killed during the Battle of Inkerman. The hill was also used as an observation point as from it commanders could view the progress of the Siege of Sevastopol. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'General James Bucknall Estcourt (1802-1855)' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
General James Bucknall Estcourt (1802-1855)
1855
Albumen print
20.5 x 15.2 cm
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500239

 

 

General Estcourt was a chief staff officer during the difficult first winter in the Crimea. He was among those most strongly criticised by the public and the press for the suffering of the army, although he was defended by his close friend Lord Raglan. He died of cholera in the Crimea in June 1855. The photograph is hard to interpret. It can be seen as someone taking a break from military concerns but it could also be a portrait of illness and exhaustion. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Sir William Howard Russell (1820-1907)' Jun 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Sir William Howard Russell (1820-1907)
Jun 1855
Albumen print
18.1 x 15.3 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500306

 

 

William Howard Russell was a reporter for The Times who rose to fame during the Crimean War for his vivid descriptions of major battles and the conditions faced by British troops. The Crimean War was the first conflict where advances in technology allowed newspapers to quickly print reports from their correspondents in the field. These reports attracted great public interest and influenced both official and public attitudes to the war. Russell’s emotive account of the Charge of the Light Brigade, published in The Times on 13 November 1854, inspired the poem of the same name by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Sir Colin Campbell' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Sir Colin Campbell
1855
Albumen print
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

 

 

Balaklava – the British base

When the British and French armies moved south to besiege Sevastopol, they had to choose a location in which to base themselves. The armies needed to be able to receive both men and supplies without hindrance for what might be many months. The French based themselves at Kamiesch, whilst the British chose Balaklava. The army took over the town, setting up its own infrastructure including a Post Office and constructing a military railway to transport the supplies as close as possible to the front lines.

When Fenton arrived in the Crimea on 8 March 1855, he disembarked at Balaklava. He took his first photographs on 15 March and spent the next two weeks exploring the port. He described the place in a letter as ‘one great pigsty’, noting the chaos and confusion which he managed to convey in his photographs.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Railway sheds and workshops at Balaklava' 15 Mar 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Railway sheds and workshops at Balaklava
15 Mar 1855
Albumen print
20.9 x 26.1 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500463

 

 

This photograph clearly shows the scale of activity in Balaklava. There are ships in the harbour, and supplies (probably flour bags) are piled high on the water’s edge. In the foreground in ‘Railway Yard’ the new military railway is being constructed. It was paid for by Samuel Morton Peto (1809-89) who had also provided Fenton’s passage to the Crimea. Construction of the railway began in February 1855 and part of the line was in use within weeks, probably around the same time that Fenton arrived at Balaklava. The railway was dismantled in 1856 after the end of the war. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Guards Hill Church Parade Balaklava in the distance' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Guards Hill Church Parade Balaklava in the distance
1855
Salted paper print
26.1 x 35.3 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500530

 

 

Towards the end of March, Fenton made a number of views from ‘Guards Hill’ looking down towards the harbour of Balaklava. The ‘church parade’ referred to in the title is the parade of Scots Fusilier Guards seen to the right of the image. Although the group is indistinct, the bearskin hats of the Guards can be clearly distinguished. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Cossack Bay Balaklava' Mar 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Cossack Bay Balaklava
Mar 1855
Albumen print
26.8 x 35.6 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500498

 

 

Despite the title, Cossack Bay is only slightly visible in the middle distance of this photograph. The main view with the ships, including one bearing the number ’69’, centres around Cattle Pier. The ship with the transport number 69 is the Albatross, which at the time of this photograph had recently arrived from Constantinople after a four-day journey bringing Mary Seacole (1805-81). Mrs Seacole set up a store and ‘hotel’ for British servicemen, supplying food, drink and medical supplies. In 1857 Mrs Seacole published an autobiographical account of her life and experiences in the Crimea, titled Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'The Ordnance Wharf at Balaklava' Mar 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
The Ordnance Wharf at Balaklava
Mar 1855
Albumen print
20.5 x 25.2 cm (image)
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 RCIN 2500461

 

 

The Ordnance Wharf was the place where military supplies arrived – the British army’s Board of Ordnance was responsible for supplying weapons and ammunition, which can be clearly seen in the foreground of this photograph. The round shot is stacked awaiting transportation on the railway to reach the army camps besieging Sevastopol. The performance of the Board of Ordnance came under heavy criticism during the Crimean War, particularly during the 1854-5 winter. As a result, after a 400 year existence, the Board was abolished and its responsibilities were transferred to the War Office. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69) 'Balaklava from the Russian Church, Upper Harbour, and Church of Kadikoi in the distance' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)
Balaklava from the Russian Church, Upper Harbour, and Church of Kadikoi in the distance
1855
Albumen print
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

 

 

After the war

Fenton left the Crimea on 22 June 1855, so missed the fall of Sevastopol. He arrived back in Britain on 11 July. Queen Victoria saw a selection of his work in August, whilst she was at Osborne House, and Fenton visited France in early September to show his photographs to the Emperor.

Fenton also began preparations for the display of his work at numerous venues across Britain. Hundreds of prints would have been required for the 26 venues identified so far, including Edinburgh, Glasgow, Exeter, Cardiff, Belfast and Dublin. Fenton also managed to photograph some of the significant individuals he had been unable to capture in the Crimea, in order to complete his commission for Agnew’s.

The photographs were extraordinarily popular with the public. One publication stated that two million visitors had seen the photographs by the end of March 1856. It is unlikely that this translated into financial success for Fenton, however. At the end of 1856 Agnew’s sold the negatives and remaining prints to a rival print seller, who continued to sell the work at a much lower price. Fenton continued his association with the royal family, travelling to Balmoral in September 1856 where he photographed the royal children.

 

Felice Beato (1832-1909) 'The Docks after the Explosion' 1856

 

Felice Beato (1832-1909)
The Docks after the Explosion
1856
Salted paper print
23.7 x 28.7 cm (image)
RCIN 2500683

 

 

James Robertson’s business partner and brother-in-law, Felice Beato, returned to Sevastopol in March or April 1856 to make a further set of photographs. By then the docks had been destroyed. Viewed together, these photographs provide a record of the changing landscape of the city in the aftermath of the war. From the collection of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

 

Fenton’s photographic process

Fenton made his photographs by printing from glass negatives, using a process called the wet collodion process. The negatives were then shipped back to Britain where they were used to make prints in two different ways – the salted paper print and the albumen print.

The wet collodion process used a prepared piece of glass which, in the darkroom, would be coated with collodion and then made light-sensitive with further chemicals. Before the plate could dry, it would be placed in the camera and exposed. Then the plate would be returned to the darkroom and developed, rinsed, fixed, washed, dried and varnished. It was then ready for printing.

The salted paper print used paper which had been prepared by coating it in a salted solution. After drying, it would be made light-sensitive in the darkroom and then placed in a frame in contact with the glass negative to be exposed to sunlight. Once the image had appeared satisfactorily on the paper, the print would be processed, washed, fixed and toned.

 

 

The Queen’s Gallery
Buckingham Palace,
London, SW1A 1AA

Opening hours:
Open daily 10.00 – 17.30

Closures:
13 November – 7 December
24 December last admission 14.45, closes at 16.00
25 – 26 December

Royal Collection Trust website

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22
Mar
18

Exhibition: ‘Into the Woods: Trees in Photography’ at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Exhibition dates: 18th November 2017 – 22nd April 2018

 

Gustave Le Gray. 'In the Forest of Fontainbleau (Bas-Bréau)' 1852

 

Gustave Le Gray
In the Forest of Fontainbleau (Bas-Bréau)
1852
Gold-toned albumen print from waxed paper negative
Chauncey Hare Townshend Bequest 1868

 

 

Gustave Le Gray trained as a painter in the 1840s but took up photography soon after. He followed the Barbizon School painters to the French forest of Fontainebleau, where he made enchanting photographic studies. Combining technical knowledge with artistic flair, Le Gray rapidly became one of the most renowned photographers of his day.

 

 

I grew up on a farm for the first thirteen years of my life. I played in the fields and forests of England, and wandered the cart paths with my brother. I saw him for the first time in thirty years last August, after the passing of my father. We went back and walked those very same paths where we grew up and looked at the magnificent trees planted along the edge of the fields. After all that had happened, it was an emotional and healing journey for both of us…

The innocence of being a child growing up on the land returned, the innocence of something that is never really forgotten. I still am a country boy at heart; I still love the land and the trees. I always will.

It’s a pity then, that this seems to be just a “filler” exhibition from the V&A. No press release, two sentences on the website (see below) and no information about the images such as details of process etc… I had to dig into the collection to find the information you read here, including the text descriptions beneath the images. For such a magical and mythical subject that has fascinated human beings since the beginning of time, you might have expected a more in depth investigation.

As an addendum I have included my favourite tree images. You will have your own. The last image in particular has that element of threat and wonder that makes the forest such a rich, fluid and evocative space.

Marcus

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

 

Trees have long been a source of inspiration for artists. This display explores the diverse representation of trees in photography – as botanical subjects and poetic symbols, in the context of the natural and human worlds.

 

 

Royal Engineers. 'Cutting on the 49th Parallel, on the Right Bank of the Mooyie River Looking West' about 1860

 

Royal Engineers
Cutting on the 49th Parallel, on the Right Bank of the Mooyie River Looking West
about 1860
Albumen print from wet collodion-on-glass negative
Photographed by a Royal Engineers photographer on a U.S.-Canada Border Survey
Received from the Foreign Office 1863

 

 

In 1856 the War Department appointed the South Kensington Museum photographer Charles Thurston Thompson to teach photography to the Royal Engineers. On one expedition these soldier-photographers documented the border between the USA and Canada. From the crest of the Rockies westwards along the 49th Parallel to the coast, they painstakingly recorded everything that crossed their path, producing ‘one of the earliest significant bodies of photographs made in the Pacific Northwest’.

 

Samuel Bourne. 'Poplar Avenue, Srinuggur, Kashmir, from the end' 1864

 

Samuel Bourne
Poplar Avenue, Srinuggur, Kashmir, from the end
1864
Albumen print from wet collodion negative

 

 

In 1863 Samuel Bourne (1834-1912) arrived in India. He had left his job as a Nottingham bank clerk in order to develop his new career as a photographer. Bourne undertook three treks to Kashmir and the western Himalayas in 1863, 1864 and 1866, during which he photographed his surroundings extensively.

He began his second trip to India, during which this photograph was taken, in March 1864. It was to be a nine-month expedition through the Kashmir region. Throughout his travels Bourne wrote about his first impressions of the places he visited and these writings were published in the British Journal of Photography. Of his first impressions of the poplar avenues at Srinagar he noted: “The next day was devoted to an ascent of the Takht Hill and a stroll among the poplar avenues, of which, as I before stated, there are several about Srinugger. One of them is known as the “poplar avenue,” and is a mile long and quite straight. This is a fine walk and is almost perfect-hardly a tree is wanting, and the effect on looking down it is very striking. It is carpeted with grassy turf and a level grassy plain stretches on each side of it; at right angles to this are the three or four smaller avenues extending to the river, a walk down which when the grapes are ripe is by no means an enjoyable exercise, if one be a good climber. Running up, and entwining themselves among the poplars to a height of ninety or a hundred feet, are numbers of vines, whose tempting clusters hanging at this elevation only mock the wistful, watery eyes cast up to them.” Bourne, S, Narrative of a Photographic Trip to Kashmir (Cashmere) and the Adjacent Districts, The British Journal of Photography, 23 January 1867, p.38

Towards the end of the 1860s, Bourne established a partnership with fellow photographer and Englishman Charles Shepherd (fl.1858-1878) and in the space of a few years Bourne & Shepherd became the pre-eminent photographic firm in India. By the end of 1870 they had three branches, in Simla, Calcutta and Bombay.

Samuel Bourne’s ability to combine technical skill and artistic vision has led to him being recognised today as one of the most outstanding photographers working in India in the nineteenth century.

 

Alfred Stieglitz. 'Poplars, Lake George' 1932

 

Alfred Stieglitz
Poplars, Lake George
1932
Gelatin silver print
© Alfred Stieglitz, Gift of the Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation

 

 

Lake George was the family estate where Stieglitz spent his summers, often with his wife, the painter Georgia O’Keefe. However, he took this photograph when O’Keefe was away in New Mexico. The loneliness of separation led Stieglitz to contemplate his own mortality, a theme reflected in this representation of poplars. Perhaps he identified with the trees’ dwindling vitality, as he photographed them repeatedly that summer, almost as one might check one’s pulse.

 

Ansel Adams. 'Aspens, Northern New Mexico' 1958

 

Ansel Adams
Aspens, Northern New Mexico
1958
Gelatin silver print
Given by Virginia and Ansel Adams

 

 

Ansel Adams is well-known for his portrayal of the mountain ranges, deserts, rivers and skies of the western United States. Adams was a passionate lover of the vast American wilderness and an active conservationist. He commented, “my approach to photography is based on my belief in the vigour and values of the world of nature – in the aspects of grandeur and of the minutiae all about us.” Having trained as a pianist before turning to photography in 1927, Adams often discussed his process of composition in musical terms.

 

Gerhard Stromberg. 'Coppice (King's Wood)' 1994

 

Gerhard Stromberg
Coppice (King’s Wood)
1994
C-type print
© Gerhard Stromberg

 

 

Gerhard Stromberg is one of the foremost contemporary photographers working with the subject of the British landscape. His images demonstrate how constructed this landscape can be. The subtle, large format prints (5 x 6 ft approx.) allow the viewer to contemplate details that reveal the photographers’ intimacy and familiarity with the subject. This piece is one of the most representative of his works.

A c-type print, such as Ektachrome, is a colour print in which the print material has at least three emulsion layers of light sensitive silver salts. Each layer is sensitised to a different primary colour – either red, blue or green – and so records different information about the colour make-up of the image. During printing, chemicals are added which form dyes of the appropriate colour in the emulsion layers. It is the most common type of colour photograph.

 

Mark Edwards. 'Rotting Apples' 2004

 

Mark Edwards
Rotting Apples
2004
From the series What Has Been Gathered Will Disperse
C-type print
Purchased through the Cecil Beaton Royalties Fund
© Mark Edwards

 

 

This image of apples lying rotten on a peacock blue carpet was taken in a family garden on a Norfolk nature reserve. The owners use pieces of old carpet, often donated by a neighbouring Buddhist retreat, as weed control. The decorative juxtaposition of the natural with the man-made moved Mark Edwards to record the carpet as it became integrated into the fabric of the garden. The photograph hints at ideas of contemplation and the passage of time.

 

Tokihiro Sato. 'Hakkoda #2' 2009

 

Tokihiro Sato
Hakkoda #2
2009
Gelatin silver print
Purchased with the support of the Photographs Acquisition Group
© Tokihiro Sato, Courtesy Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects

 

 

This photograph embodies Sato’s ephemeral imagination. It was made in the primeval Hakkoda forest, in northern Honshu on the main island of Japan. The image reveals a long fascination with the sculptural form of the Japanese Beech tree. Sato has said that to him ‘these trees suggest the ancient continental origins of the Japanese people while representing masculine strength and feminine sensitivity’. To make the picture, he exposed large-format film, during which he moved in front of the camera with a mirror reflecting the sun’s rays. The power of the sun momentarily ‘blinds’ the camera, creating an area that registers on film as an intense flare of light. Although we know that Sato is standing somewhere in the scene, we struggle to locate precisely where. While his traces are like pinpoint coordinates on a map, all we can do is estimate his continually moving location and follow the possible connecting trails. In this way, his photographs can be seen as enigmatic sculptural or physical performances. Knowing how Sato makes his images, we recognise there is not a multiplicity of presences indicated by the lights, but instead a multiplicity of one presence: the artist’s. His omnipresence might be a hint of some kind of divinity: the ever-present force of an invisible creator. Or it may simply be a record of the movement of one human force. However it is interpreted, human or divine, the light is a kind of mark that asserts both transcendence and specificity: “I was here,” even if, as in life, it is only momentarily.

 

Tal Shochat. 'Rimon (Pomegranate)' 2011

 

Tal Shochat
Rimon (Pomegranate)
2011
C-type print
© Tal Shochat

 

 

Shochat applies the conventions of studio portraiture to photographing trees. The first stage in her meticulous process is to identify the perfect specimen of a particular type of tree. When the fruit is at the height of maturity, she cleans the dust off the branches, leaves and fruit. Finally, Shochat photographs the tree, artificially lit and isolated against a black cloth background. The photographs present a view of nature that would never actually exist in a natural environment. The work highlights the tensions in photography between reality and artifice.

 

Awoiska van der Molen. '#274-5' 2011

 

Awoiska van der Molen
#274-5
2011
From the series Sequester
Oil based pigment ink on Japanese Gampi paper, presented in a handmade linen box
Purchased with the support of the Photographs Acquisition Group
© Awoiska van der Molen

 

 

Awoiska van der Molen (b.1972, Groningen, Netherlands) is a Dutch photographer based in Amsterdam. She studied architecture and photography at the Academy of Fine Arts Minerva in Groningen. In 2003 she graduated from the St. Joost Academy of Art and Design in the Netherlands with an MFA in Photographic Studies. Her work is borne out of an immersion in nature and is concerned with the untamed landscape and the sense of solitude that can be experienced in isolated locations. She works with analogue technology and explains that her pictures should be ‘understood as a metaphysical quest, a journey to the essence of being.’

For the project Sequester, van der Molen walked alone in the Canary Islands, seeking to ‘gain access to the stoic nature of the landscape’, as she describes it. She made long exposure black-and-white pictures of the dramatic volcanic terrain and dense forests at dawn and dusk. The exposures could be as long as thirty minutes and result in photographs of great intensity and ambiguity.

Van der Molen’s photographs go beyond the long tradition of black and white landscape photography, exemplified by photographers in the V&A collection such as Gustave Le Gray, Samuel Bourne, Ansel Adams, and Edward Weston. Rather than emulating the visual approaches of past masters, she seeks to portray the inner condition that uninhabited natural spaces engender.

Her interest in psychological states in relation to landscape can be aligned with that of numerous contemporary practitioners, including Chrystel Lebas and Nicholas Hughes, whose landscape photographs are also created using long exposures and convey a similar atmosphere of primeval power and solitude.

The collotype process is a screenless photomechanical process that allows high-quality prints from continuous-tone photographic negatives. Collotypes are comprised of many layers of ink and have a velvety matte appearance; the process has the power to produce the depth and detail of these works faithfully. Other examples of collotypes in the collection largely date from the 19th century and include works by Eadweard Muybridge and Julia Margaret Cameron. Once a widespread process, today, there are only two professional collotype studios remaining, both of which are in Kyoto.

In 2014, van der Molen received the Japanese Hariban Award, which gave her the opportunity to collaborate with the master printmakers of the Benrido Collotype Atelier in Kyoto to produce this set of 8 collotypes from the Sequester project.

 

Addendum

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916) 'Yosemite Valley from the "Best General View"' 1866

 

Carleton Watkins (U.S.A., 1829-1916)
Yosemite Valley from the “Best General View”
1866
From the album Photographs of the Yosemite Valley
Albumen print
Lent by Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries

 

 

Carleton Watkins had the ability to photograph a subject from the viewpoint that allowed the most information to be revealed about its contents. In this image, he captured what he considered the best features of Yosemite Valley: Bridalveil Falls, Cathedral Rock, Half Dome, and El Capitan. By positioning the camera so that the base of the slender tree appears to grow from the bottom edge of the picture, Watkins composed the photograph so that the canyon rim and the open space beyond it seem to intersect. Although he sacrificed the top of the tree, he was able to place the miniaturised Yosemite Falls at the visual centre of the picture. To alleviate the monotony of an empty sky, he added the clouds from a second negative. This image was taken while Watkins was working for the California Geological Survey. His two thousand pounds of equipment for the expedition, which included enough glass for over a hundred negatives, required a train of six mules. (Text from the J. Paul Getty Museum website)

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Das Bäumchen [Sapling]' 1928

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Das Bäumchen [The little tree]
1928
Galerie Berinson, Berlin
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Dancing Trees' 1922

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Dancing Trees
1922
Photograph, palladium print
Gift of Alfred Stieglitz
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Ansel Adams. 'Edward Weston, Carmel Highlands, California' 1945

 

Ansel Adams
Edward Weston, Carmel Highlands, California
1945
Gelatin silver print

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975) 'Child on Forest Road' 1958, printed 1973

 

Wynn Bullock (American, 1902-1975)
Child on Forest Road
1958
Gelatin silver print
© Bullock Family Photography LLC. All rights reserved

 

 

Victoria and Albert Museum
Cromwell Road
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SW7 2RL
T: +44 (0)20 7942 2000

Opening hours:
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Friday 10.00 – 21.30

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16
Mar
18

Exhibition: ‘Quicksilver Brilliance: Adolf de Meyer Photographs’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Exhibition dates: 4th December 2017 – 18th March 2018

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Water Lilies' c. 1906, printed 1912

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Water Lilies
c. 1906, printed 1912
Platinum print
26.1 x 35.2 cm (10 1/4 x 13 7/8 in.)
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933

 

 

The critic Charles H. Caffin described this photograph by de Meyer as “a veritable dream of loveliness.” It is one of several floral still life de Meyer made in London around 1906-9, when he was in close contact with Alvin Langdon Coburn, a fellow photographer and member of the Linked Ring. Both men were inspired by the Belgian writer Maurice Maeterlinck’s 1906 book The Intelligence of Flowers, a mystical musing on the vitality of plant life. De Meyer exhibited several of his flower studies, including this platinum print, at Stieglitz’s influential Photo-Secession galleries in New York in 1909. The image also appeared as a photogravure in an issue of Stieglitz’s art and photography journal Camera Work.

 

 

While the “facts of Baron Adolf de Meyer’s early life have been obscured by contradictory accounts from various sources (including himself); he was born in Paris or Germany, spent his childhood in both France and Germany, and entered the international photographic community in 1894-1895,” by circa 1897-1900 he had assumed the title of “Baron.”

“In editions dating from 1898 until 1913, Whitaker’s Peerage stated that de Meyer’s title had been granted in 1897 by Frederick Augustus III of Saxony, though another source states “the photographer inherited it from his grandfather in the 1890s”. Some sources state that no evidence of this nobiliary creation, however, has been found.” (Wikipedia) He then married Donna Olga Caracciolo in 1899, “reputedly the illegitimate daughter of the British king Edward VII, who enjoyed a privileged position within the fashionable international set surrounding the monarch.” The marriage was one of convenience, since he was homosexual and she was bisexual or lesbian, but it was based on a perfect understanding and companionship between two people. As de Meyer observed in an unpublished biography, “Marriage based too much on love and unrestrained passion has rarely a chance to be lasting, whilst perfect understanding and companionship, on the contrary, generally make the most durable union.”

Meyer “gained recognition as a leading figure of Pictorialism and a member of the photographic society known as the Linked Ring Brotherhood in London. Alfred Stieglitz exhibited de Meyer’s work in his Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession and published his images as photogravures in his influential journal Camera Work.” In the early 20th century, he was famed for his photographic portraits and was the preeminent fashion photographer of the day; he was also the first official fashion photographer for the American magazine Vogue, appointed to that position in 1913-14 until 1921. In 1922 de Meyer accepted an offer to become the Harper’s Bazaar chief photographer in Paris, spending the next 16 years there until he was forced out, his romantic style out of fashion with the modernist taste of the day.

I state these facts only to illustrate the idea that here was a “gay” of dubious lineage (reportedly born in Paris and educated in Dresden, Adolphus Meyer was the son of a German Jewish father and Scottish mother) who rose to associate with and photograph the upper echelons of society. He made it, and he made it good. His photographs of the well to do, film stars and fashion models are undoubtedly beautiful and his control of light magnificent, but they seem to me to be, well… constructed confections. His photographs of the elite and the fashion that they wore possess an ethereal beauty, de Meyer’s shimmering control of light adding to the photographs sense of enacted fantasy played out in the form of timeless classical elegance.

But there is that lingering doubt that these photographs were both his job and his entré (along with the connections and money of his wife) into high society. Look, for example, at the self-portrait of de Meyer in this posting. In the 1900 self-portrait in India when he was 32 and on his honeymoon, we see a coiffed, almost androgynous man who in his pose is as stiff as a board – his body contorted in the strangest way, the right hand gripping the arm of the cane chair, the left splayed and braced, ramrod straight against the seat and the feet crossed in the most unnatural manner. No matter the beautiful light and attractive setting, this is the image that this man wants to portray to the world, this is a man who thinks he has arrived. It is an affectation. And in the portrait of the aristocrat and patron of the avant-garde, Count Etienne de Beaumont (c. 1923, below), this is how he sees himself, as part of that elite. Because in the end, he was. But there is little feeling to any of his portrait work: style, surface, light, form and “the look” reign supreme. Only when he is so overwhelmed by stardust, such as in the brilliant photographs of Josephine Baker and her scintillating personality, does the mask of affection drop away.

Of more interest to me are his early photographs of Japan where you feel he has some personal investment in the work. The “tactile elegance of his early work” was influenced by “Japanese aesthetics, as well as the influence of the painter James McNeill Whistler, a key figure of the Aesthetic movement.” The photograph View Through the Window of a Garden, Japan (1900, below) is an absolute cracker, as are the Japanese influenced Water Lilies (c. 1906, below) and The Shadows on the Wall (Chrysanthemums) (1906, below). In her review of the exhibition on the Collector Daily website, Loring Knoblauch states, “While De Meyer’s scenes from Japan, his travel photos of his wife Olga at the Acropolis and in St. Moritz, and his experiments with autochromes in the early 1900s are also included in this eclectic sampler, these rarities aren’t particularly compelling or noteworthy, aside from their supporting role in filling out a broader picture of the artist and his life.” Aren’t particularly compelling! I beg to differ.

I don’t know how people look at photographs and interpret them so differently to how I see them. Perhaps I just feel the music, I see these photographs as if I were taking them, as a personal investment in their previsualisation. While I get very little from de Meyer’s fashion photographs I get a whole lot of pleasure and delight from his transcendent earlier work. I most certainly feel their energy. You only have to look at the reflection of the water lilies. Need I say more.

Marcus

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

 

A member of the “international set” in fin-de-siècle Europe, Baron Adolf de Meyer (1868-1946) was also a pioneering photographer, known for creating works that transformed reality into a beautiful fantasy. Quicksilver Brilliance will be the first museum exhibition devoted to the artist in more than 20 years and the first ever at The Met. Some 40 works, drawn entirely from The Met collection, will demonstrate the impressive breadth of his career.

The exhibition will include dazzling portraits of well-known figures of his time: the American socialite Rita de Acosta Lydig; art patron and designer Count Étienne de Beaumont; aristocrat and society hostess Lady Ottoline Morrell; and celebrated entertainer Josephine Baker, among others. A highlight of the presentation will be an exceptional book – one of only seven known copies – documenting Nijinsky’s scandalous 1912 ballet L’Après-midi d’un faune. This rare album represents de Meyer’s great success in capturing the movement and choreography of dance, a breakthrough in the history of photography. Also on view will be the artist’s early snapshots made in Japan, experiments with colour processes, and inventive fashion photographs.

  • 13 platinum prints, 1900, 1906, 1907, 1912, 1917
  • 2 photogravures, 1908, 1912
  • 2 carbon prints, 1900, 1925-1926
  • 1 autochrome in lightbox (facsimile), 1908
  • 4 gelatin silver prints, 1912, 1923, 1925, 1928
  • 1 set of 9 gelatin silver prints (framed together), 1890s-1910
  • 1 trichrome carbro print, 1929
  • 6 collotypes, 1914 (with full collotype book showing 1 image in nearby vitrine, 1914)
  • 4 magazine spreads (in bound volumes of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, 1913, 1919, 1927, in vitrine)

 

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) '[Nude Models Posing for a Painting Class]' 1890s

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
[Nude Models Posing for a Painting Class]
1890s
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Lunn Gallery, 1980

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) '[Adolf de Meyer Photographing Olga in a Garden]' 1890s

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
[Adolf de Meyer Photographing Olga in a Garden]
1890s
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Lunn Gallery, 1980

 

 

Like many Pictorialist photographers, de Meyer became interested in the camera through collecting and making snapshots of family and close friends. Olga de Meyer (née Caracciolo) was his companion and muse until her death in 1931. Rumoured to be the illegitimate daughter of the British king Edward VII, she enjoyed a privileged position within the fashionable international set surrounding the monarch. De Meyer made numerous portraits of Olga throughout their famously chic and eccentric life together (in 1916 the couple changed their names to Gayne and Mharah on the advice of an astrologer).

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) '[Self-Portrait in India]' 1900

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
[Self-Portrait in India]
1900
Platinum print
14.8 x 19.8 cm. (5 13/16 x 7 13/16 in.)
Gift of Isaac Lagnado, 1995

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) '[Self-Portrait in India]' (detail) 1900

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
[Self-Portrait in India] (detail)
1900
Platinum print
14.8 x 19.8 cm. (5 13/16 x 7 13/16 in.)
Gift of Isaac Lagnado, 1995

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) '[Amida Buddah, Japan]' 1900

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
[Amida Buddah, Japan]
1900
Platinum print
19.2 x 14.3 cm. (7 9/16 x 5 5/8 in.)
Purchase, Mrs. Jackson Burke Gift, 1981

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Ueno Tōshō-gū, Tokyo, Japan' 1900

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Ueno Tōshō-gū, Tokyo, Japan
1900
Platinum print
14.5 x 19.8 cm. (5 11/16 x 7 13/16 in.)
Purchase, Mrs. Jackson Burke Gift, 1981

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Olga de Meyer, Japan' 1900

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Olga de Meyer, Japan
1900
Platinum print
19.3 x 15.1 cm. (7 5/8 x 5 15/16 in.)
Purchase, Mrs. Jackson Burke Gift, 1981

 

 

Framed by the gridded panels of a sliding screen door, Olga de Meyer pauses from her reading to look languidly at the camera. De Meyer made this affectionate photograph of his new wife while on their honeymoon to Japan. The composition suggests his interest in Japanese aesthetics, as well as the influence of the painter James McNeill Whistler, a key figure of the Aesthetic movement. In its rebellion against Victorian morals, the movement sought inspiration from outside the European tradition. De Meyer’s travels in Japan – as well as China, Ceylon, India, North Africa, Turkey, and Spain – nourished Orientalist fictions, and gave rise to the subjects and compositions of many of his photographs.

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) '[View Through the Window of a Garden, Japan]' 1900

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
[View Through the Window of a Garden, Japan]
1900
Platinum print
13.8 x 20.3 cm. (5 7/16 x 8 in.)
Purchase, Mrs. Jackson Burke Gift, 1981

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'The Shadows on the Wall (Chrysanthemums)' 1906

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
The Shadows on the Wall (Chrysanthemums)
1906
Platinum print
34.7 x 26.7 cm (13 11/16 x 10 1/2 in.)
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933

 

 

Focusing his camera not on a still life per se, but on its evanescent trace, de Meyer creates a composition that approaches abstraction. He later applied a similar handling of light and shadow to enhance the drama of his fashion photographs. Here, the shadow of a vase of flowers cast onto the wall has the effect of a Japanese lacquered screen.

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'The Silver Cap' c. 1909, printed 1912

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
The Silver Cap
c. 1909, printed 1912
Gelatin silver print
45.7 x 27.6 cm. (18 x 10 7/8 in.)
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933

 

 

Born in Paris, Baron Adolf de Meyer settled in London in 1896. With his wife, Donna Olga Caraciollo, he joined the elegant set surrounding the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, Olga’s godfather. They entertained lavishly, including concerts and small fancy-dress balls, which gave de Meyer a chance to devise marvellous costumes for Olga. Likely inspired by the de Meyers’ involvement with the Ballets Russes and time spent at their villa on the Bosporus, this dress features Ottoman elements such as the full skirt and decorative trimmings yet conforms to the Western fitted waistline – a fine example of the 1910s fashion trend of exoticism.

 

 

A member of the “international set” in fin-de-siècle Europe, Baron Adolf de Meyer (1868-1946) was also a pioneering art, portrait, and fashion photographer, known for creating images that transformed reality into a beautiful fantasy. The “quicksilver brilliance” that characterised de Meyer’s art led fellow photographer Cecil Beaton to dub him the “Debussy of the Camera.” Opening December 4 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art,

Quicksilver Brilliance: Adolf de Meyer Photographs will be the first museum exhibition devoted to the artist in more than 20 years and the first ever at The Met. Some 40 works, drawn entirely from The Met collection, will reveal the impressive breadth of his career.

The exhibition will include dazzling portraits of well-known figures of his time: the American socialite Rita de Acosta Lydig; art patron and designer Count Étienne de Beaumont; aristocrat and society hostess Lady Ottoline Morrell; and celebrated entertainer Josephine Baker, among others. A highlight of the presentation will be an exceptional book – one of only seven known copies – documenting Nijinsky’s scandalous 1912 ballet L’Après-Midi d’un Faune. This rare album represents de Meyer’s great success in capturing the choreography of dance, a breakthrough in the history of photography. Also on view will be the artist’s early snapshots made in Japan, experiments with colour processes, and inventive fashion photographs.

Born in Paris and educated in Germany, de Meyer was of obscure aristocratic German-Jewish and Scottish ancestry. He and his wife, Olga Caracciolo, goddaughter of Edward VII, were at the center of London’s café society.

After starting in photography as an amateur, de Meyer gained recognition as a leading figure of Pictorialism and a member of the photographic society known as the Linked Ring Brotherhood in London. Alfred Stieglitz exhibited de Meyer’s work in his Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession and published his images as photogravures in his influential journal Camera Work. At the outbreak of World War I, de Meyer settled in the United States and applied his distinctive pictorial style to fashion imagery, helping to define the genre during the interwar period.

The exhibition was organized by Beth Saunders, Assistant Curator in The Met’s Department of Photographs.

Press release from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Tamara Karsavina' c. 1908

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Tamara Karsavina
c. 1908
Autochrome
9 x 11.9 cm (3.5 x 4.6 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Harriette and Noel Levine Gift, 2005

 

 

De Meyer enthusiastically embraced the autochrome process at its inception in 1907, writing to Stieglitz the following year that his work in black and white no longer satisfied him. An ardent admirer of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, de Meyer created this image of Tamara Karasavina (1885-1978), a leading dancer and partner to Nijinksy, during one of the company’s visits to England. The photographer chose a background of bellflowers and arranged a brocaded shawl to enhance the exotic elegance of the dancer.

The autochrome, which retains in its minuscule prisms the particular luminosity of a misty English day in summer, was thought to represent the Marchioness of Ripon in her garden at Coombe, Surrey. An early patron of de Meyer, Lady Ripon was also a staunch supporter of Diaghilev, bringing the Ballets Russes to London in 1911. She frequently entertained Karasavina and Nijinsky at Coombe, where they danced for Alexandra, the queen consort, and de Meyer dedicated to her his album documenting Nijinsky’s production of L’Après-midi d’un faune. A companion image to this autochrome is in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) '[Lady Ottoline Morrell]' c. 1912

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
[Lady Ottoline Morrell]
c. 1912
Platinum print
23.5 x 17.4 cm (9 1/4 x 6 7/8 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Harriette and Noel Levine Gift, 2005

 

 

Adolph de Meyer’s portrait of Lady Ottoline Morrell, eccentric hostess to Bloomsbury, is a stunning summation of the character of this aristocratic lady who aspired to live “on the same plane as poetry and as music.” Rebelling against the narrow values of her class, Lady Ottoline Cavendish Bentinck (1873-1938) married Philip Morrell, a lawyer and liberal Member of Parliament, and surrounded herself in London and on their estate at Garsington with a large circle of friends, including Bertrand Russell, W. B. Yeats, D. H. Lawrence, T. S. Eliot, Katherine Mansfield, Lytton Strachey, Virginia Woolf, Aldous Huxley, and E. M. Forster. Tall, wearing fantastic, scented, vaguely Elizabethan clothes, Lady Ottoline made an unforgettable impression. With her dyed red hair, patrician nose, and jutting jaw, she could look, according to Lord David Cecil, at one and the same moment beautiful and grotesque. Henry James saw her as “some gorgeous heraldic creature – a Gryphon perhaps or a Dragon Volant.”

De Meyer made several portraits of Lady Ottoline. None went as far as this one in conjuring up the sitter’s flamboyant persona, capturing, through dramatic lighting and Pre-Raphaelite design, her untamed, baroque quality. “Her long, pale face, that she carried lifted up, somewhat in the Rossetti fashion, seemed almost drugged, as if a strange mass of thoughts coiled in the darkness within her.” D. H. Lawrence’s inspired description of the character based on Lady Ottoline in “Women in Love” finds a vivid counterpart in the photographer’s art.

 

Baron Adolf De Meyer (American, born France, 1868-1946) 'The Cup' c. 1910

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
The Cup
c. 1910
Gum bichromate print

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Olga de Meyer' c. 1912

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Olga de Meyer
c. 1912
Platinum print
22.4 x 16.4 cm (8 13/16 x 6 7/16 in.)
Gift of Paul F. Walter, 2009

 

 

Renowned for her beauty and style, de Meyer’s spouse was, in a sense, his first fashion model. Here, dramatic backlighting emphasises her sinuous form, enshrouded in shimmering fabric and fur. Her gaze conveys a haughty bemusement that elevates the tableau from costume play to regal sophistication.

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) '[Dance Study]' c. 1912

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
[Dance Study]
c. 1912
Platinum print
32.7 x 43.5 cm (12 7/8 x 17 1/8 in.)
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933

 

 

De Meyer photographed the dancer Nijinsky and other members of Diaghilev’s troupe when “L’Après-midi d’un Faun” was presented in Paris in 1912. It has been suggested that this photograph, the only nude by de Meyer, has some connection to the Russian ballet, but if so, it remains mysterious. It has been suggested that this photograph, the only nude by de Meyer, has some connection to the Ballets Russes, but the nature of that link remains mysterious. The image vibrates with an uneasy erotic tension, a product of the figure’s exposed torso, startled body language, and disguised identity.

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Le Prelude à l'Après-Midi d'un Faune' 1914

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Le Prelude à l’Après-Midi d’un Faune
1914
Collotypes
Album: 15 1/4 x 11 5/8
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

 

In 1912 de Meyer made a remarkable series of photographs related to the Ballets Russes production L’après-midi d’un faune (Afternoon of a Faun). The avant-garde dance was choreographed by famed Russian performer Vaslav Nijinsky, set to a score by Claude Debussy, and inspired by a poem by Symbolist writer Stéphane Mallarmé. It follows a young faun distracted from his flute-playing by bathing nymphs who seduce and taunt him, leaving behind a scarf with which he allays his desire. When the ballet premiered in Paris on May 29, 1912, the overtly sexual climactic scene and unconventional choreography scandalised audiences. Nijinsky based the angular movements and frieze-like staging on Greek vase paintings, but Ballets Russes founder Sergei Diaghilev also likened them to Cubism.

Thirty of de Meyer’s photographs of the ballet were published as collotypes (photomechanical ink prints) in a 1914 edition of one thousand luxurious handcrafted books. Only seven copies are known today. Using alternately complex and fragmentary compositions, de Meyer’s images generate a rhythm of gesture and form. The thin Japanese papers offer a tactile echo of the diaphanous costumes (designed by artist Léon Bakst), and the heavily manipulated negatives enshroud the angular figures in a dreamlike haze. An object of desire, the book itself embodies the spirit of Nijinsky’s ballet.

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Nijinsky [Plate from Le Prelude à l'Après-Midi d'un Faune]' 1912

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Nijinsky [Plate from Le Prelude à l’Après-Midi d’un Faune]
1912

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Nijinsky [Plate from Le Prelude à l'Après-Midi d'un Faune]' 1914

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Nijinsky [Plate from Le Prelude à l’Après-Midi d’un Faune]
1914

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) '[Image from "Prelude à l'Après-Midi d'un faune"]' 1914

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
[Image from “Prelude à l’Après-Midi d’un faune”]
1914
Platinum print
4 3/16 × 7 1/16 in. (10.6 × 17.9 cm)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Mrs. Walter Annenberg and The Annenberg Foundation Gift, 2005

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Rita de Acosta Lydig' 1917

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Rita de Acosta Lydig
1917
Platinum print
41.5 x 30.9 cm. (16 5/16 x 12 3/16 in.)
Gift of Mercedes de Acosta, 1952

 

 

De Meyer’s portrait of the socialite, art patron, “shoe queen,” and suffragette Rita de Acosta Lydig is striking in its simplicity of tone and contour. The image, which appeared in Vogue in 1917, resonates with the classical elegance epitomised in the paintings of society portraitists John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, who also depicted this so-called alabaster lady.

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Portrait of the Marchesa Casati' 1912

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Portrait of the Marchesa Casati
1912
Plate from Camera Work No. XL August 1912

 

 

Luisa, Marchesa Casati Stampa di Soncino (23 January 1881 – 1 June 1957), also known as Luisa Casati, was an Italian heiress, muse, and patroness of the arts in early 20th-century Europe. …

A celebrity, the Marchesa was famed for eccentricities that dominated and delighted European society for nearly three decades. The beautiful and extravagant hostess to the Ballets Russes was something of a legend among her contemporaries. She astonished society by parading with a pair of leashed cheetahs and wearing live snakes as jewellery. (Wikipedia)

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Study for Vogue [Jan 1-1918, Betty Lee, Vogue, page 41]' 1918-21

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Study for Vogue [Jan 1-1918, Betty Lee, Vogue, page 41]
1918-21
Gelatin silver print

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Dolores' 1921

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Dolores
1921
Gelatin silver print

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Etienne de Beaumont [Count Etienne de Beaumont (French, 1883-1956)]' c. 1923

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Etienne de Beaumont [Count Etienne de Beaumont (French, 1883-1956)]
c. 1923
Gelatin silver print
23.7 x 18.6 cm (9 5/16 x 7 5/16 in.)
Gift of Paul F. Walter, 2009

 

 

An aristocrat and patron of the avant-garde, Count Etienne de Beaumont cuts a dashing figure here, posed in one of the grand salons of his hôtel (grand townhouse) in Paris’s rue Masseran. The count hosted a series of legendary masquerade balls at his residence during the interwar period, attended by avant-garde artists such as Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, and Man Ray. De Meyer described these parties, which he and Olga often attended, as “fêtes of unsurpassed magnificence” in a 1923 article for Harper’s Bazaar.

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Portrait of Josephine Baker' 1925

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Portrait of Josephine Baker
1925

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California) 'Josephine Baker' 1925-26

 

Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)
Josephine Baker
1925-26
Direct carbon print
45.2 x 29.5 cm (17 13/16 x 11 5/8 in.)
Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987

 

 

The Saint Louis, Missouri-born Josephine Baker arrived in Paris in 1925 and quickly made a sensation as part of the all-black Revue Nègre, a musical entertainment that capitalised on the French craze for American Jazz. Famously donning a banana skirt for her danse sauvage, Baker crafted performances that astutely deployed the stereotypes white Europeans associated with blackness, recouping them as instruments of her own empowerment and success. Baker shines amid the glittering backdrop and soft focus of de Meyer’s photograph, creating an iconic image of stardom.

 

Gertrude Käsebier. 'Baron Adolf de Meyer' 1903

 

Gertrude Käsebier
Baron Adolf de Meyer
1903
Platinum print
13 3/8 x 10″ (34 x 25.5 cm)
Museum of Modern Art, Gift of Miss Mina Turner

 

Gertrude Käsebier. 'Baron Adolf de Meyer (Leaning Against Tree)' 1903

 

Gertrude Käsebier
Baron Adolph de Meyer (Leaning Against Tree)
1903
Platinum photograph
8.5 x 6.5 in.

 

Sarah Choate Sears (American, 1858-1935) 'A Mexican [Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)]' 1905

 

Sarah Choate Sears (American, 1858-1935)
A Mexican [Adolf de Meyer (American (born France), Paris 1868-1946 Los Angeles, California)]
1905
Platinum print
24.2 x 18.7 cm. (9 1/2 x 7 3/8 in.)
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933

 

 

With his brow arched beneath a tilted hat and hand elegantly grasping a stark white scarf, de Meyer dons a mysterious alter ego. Like de Meyer, Sears was involved with the two major groups devoted to art photography: the Photo-Secession and the Linked Ring Brotherhood. The two artists may have met through a mutual friend, the photographer F. Holland Day, who included their work in his exhibition “New School of American Photography,” on view in London in 1900 and Paris the following year. The title for this portrait follows a Photo-Secession tradition of withholding the sitter’s name when exhibiting publicly.

Sarah Choate Sears (1858-1935) was an American art collector, art patron, cultural entrepreneur, artist and photographer. …

About 1890 she began exploring photography, and soon she was participating in local salons. She joined the Boston Camera Club in 1892, and her beautiful portraits and still lifes attracted the attention of fellow Boston photographer F. Holland Day. Soon her work was gaining international attention. …

In 1899 she was given a one-woman show at the Boston Camera Club, and in 1900 she had several prints in Frances Benjamin Johnson’s famous exhibition in Paris. … In 1907, two of her photographs were published in Camera Work, but by that time she had lost much of her interest in photography. (Wikipedia)

 

 

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09
Mar
18

Review: ‘Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco’ at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 17th November 2017 – 12th March 2018

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'I’m going through changes' 2016

 

Del Kathryn Barton
I’m going through changes
2016
Synthetic polymer paint and fibre-tipped pen on canvas
200.0 x 180.0 cm
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

 

Hocus pocus, mumbo jumbo

Meaningless talk or activity / a form of words used by a person performing conjuring tricks.
Language or ritual causing or intended to cause confusion or bewilderment.

 

I have never been convinced by the work Del Kathryn Barton and this medium-sized exhibition at NGV Australia does absolutely nothing to change my mind.

Replete with the artist’s usual cacophony of tits, vulva and penises, the works mine various forms: sculpture, drawing, painting, film and collage; have multiple influences: Louise Bourgeois, Max Ernst, Barbara Kruger to name a few; and investigate numerous concepts such as the fluidity of gender, the link between human and animal forms, women’s genitalia and the blooming of flowers, the ornate decoration of species, “the strength of women, the visceral power of female sexuality and … Barton’s multiple interests in feminism, nature and the maternal figure.” Too much she cried!

Barton has a certain facility in the drawing of line, but this is too often overwhelmed by her inability to let negative space speak for itself. Every work is filled to the brim with vacuous detail, then overlaid with multicoloured polka dots in both collages and paintings (see the detail of her work in the face of cosmic odds, 2016 below), as though this device will tie all the works together. Her signature paintings of women have surface presence, are “just so meticulously attractive”, but absolutely lack what Barton is seeking – “so inexplicably intimate, so beyond, so seemingly effortless that there can be no defence. In these moments there is an opening-up within the body, the mind, within all the senses …” I felt nothing of that when looking at these works – no connection to an inner self or ‘the vast ocean of the collective-consciousness’.

Barton’s inability to engage the viewer in an intimate dialogue of body and mind can be seen in both text and graphic.

“today my body is feeling love
you fell into my flesh…… and we are fresh…… again
the unflesh are so clean somehow….. and their stirrings inform our smallness….. so that we are still small”

You fell into my flesh and we are fresh again. Please.

Then you look at the line work in volcanic woman (2016, below) as “these women erupt upward, as molten liquid bodies of agency. They display their genitals as though it is from their vaginas that the Earth’s energy spills forth,” and note the caricaturesque drawings lack any sense of intimacy or sensuality despite the subject matter. I think about Barton’s hero Louise Bourgeois and her work “10 AM IS WHEN YOU COME TO ME” (2006, below). Both works are displayed in a grid and produced in the same colour but the difference could not be more stark: Bourgeois’ use of negative space, the quiet sensitivity, eroticism and the superb intimacy of the work is the antithesis of Barton’s sexual megalomania. So often in art, less is more but Barton never seems to understand the adage.

To use Christopher Allen’s turn of phrase about the NGV Triennial, Barton’s works are “frenetically busy, but inherently insipid,” despite the overabundance / reliance on the display of sexual organs and excretions. While the artist desperately wants the viewer to be drawn into an intimate embrace with the supposed psychological and spiritual meanings of the work, the lack of emotional, sensual or erotic sensation negates any feeling towards it. Barton’s meaninglessness talk using confusing iconographies lays a surface trap for the viewer, taken in by decoration and sexual abundance. But if you look beyond the psychedelic aesthetic and decorative surfaces it’s just a conjuring trick, ritual representation as pseudo-spiritual experience.

Marcus

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

 

The NGV presents a major solo exhibition of one of Australia’s most popular artists, Del Kathryn Barton. Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco reveals the artist’s imaginative and deeply sensuous world, where ornately decorated species – both human and animal – are rendered in seductive line and colour. Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco is a survey of new and recent work by the two times Archibald Portrait Prize winner that reveals the breadth of Barton’s practice. Featuring comprehensive displays of recent paintings and drawings for which she is arguably best known, the exhibition also includes collage, sculpture, textiles and film, all drawn together by the artist’s exuberant and psychedelic aesthetic.

 

 

“The creatures are so gorgeous. They’re just so meticulously attractive, I’m never repulsed. Without the darkness Barton seems to think is there, what is left? Passive psychedelia? I believe Barton feels intensely, but a second-hand trip, like a dream told to a friend, is never as emotional as the teller thinks it is.”

.
Victoria Perrin1

 

“I had a weak-at-the-knees, tingle-all-over moment when I saw Louise Bourgeois’ work for the first time about fifteen years ago in Los Angeles. Yes I am a CRAZY fan. And, yes, it’s true I lay under her big spider in Tokyo and cried…

These are the releases I hope for in our vast world of art. Encounters when the artwork is somehow so inexplicably intimate, so beyond, so seemingly effortless that there can be no defence. In these moments there is an opening-up within the body, the mind, within all the senses … an experience of recognition, relief and awe that informs one’s deeper creative makeup.”

.
Del Kathryn Barton

 

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation views of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring the inside another land series (2017, detail)
Photos: © Tom Ross

 

 

In this series of seventy-five montages that combine digital collage with hand painted details, Barton creates post-human visions in which women’s bodies are both human and plant. The Dadaists used collage to access the Freudian domain of the unconscious mind, and the great Dada artist Hannah Höch was a key proponent of photomontage in her exploration of the role of women in a changing world. Like the Surrealists, Barton uses collage as a method to critique the illusion of a defined and orderly world, in favour of absurdity. The visual delirium of these works induces a kind of hallucinatory experience in which new creatures seem possible.

It is widely understood that flowers symbolise female sexuality: their physical resemblance to women’s genitalia is coupled with an associative significance in their blooming, which invokes the creation of new life in birth. The history of floral representation strongly binds femininity and flowers, from the Greek nymph Chloris and her Roman counterpart Flora, who oversaw spring and flowers, to Sigmund Freud who was very clear on the matter: ‘Blossoms and flowers represent the female genitals, or more particularly, virginity. Do not forget that the blossoms are really the genitals of the plants’. (Wall text)

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'inside another land' 2017 (detail)

Del Kathryn Barton. 'inside another land' 2017 (detail)

Del Kathryn Barton. 'inside another land' 2017 (detail)

Del Kathryn Barton. 'inside another land' 2017 (detail)

Del Kathryn Barton. 'inside another land' 2017 (detail)

Del Kathryn Barton. 'inside another land' 2017 (detail)

 

Del Kathryn Barton
inside another land (details)
2017
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'you’re not a bit ashamed' 2017

 

Del Kathryn Barton
you’re not a bit ashamed
2017
Synthetic polymer paint and ink on paper
152.0 x 194.0 cm (image and sheet)
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'to speak of anger, I will take care' 2017

 

Del Kathryn Barton
to speak of anger, I will take care
2017
Synthetic polymer paint and ink on paper
152.0 x 194.0 cm (image and sheet)
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation views of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring the work briefly turned into dreams (2016)
Photos: © Tom Ross

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'briefly turned into dreams' 2016 (detail)

 

Del Kathryn Barton
briefly turned into dreams (detail)
2016
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Del Kathryn Barton
come home to me
2014-2017
Gouache and ink on hot pressed paper
Collection of the artist. Courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery and A3

 

 

The flexibility of language is revealed in come home to me. Barton loves language but at the same time questions its ability to communicate. The floating words are a strategy for awakening us to the various, infinite and slippery meaning of words. Like poetry, Barton’s fiercely non-didactic texts are open to diverse understandings. There is no wrong or right interpretation of these texts. Without dictating the associations these words create in each of our minds, Barton evokes sensual delights and pleasures of the flesh. (Wall text)

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring a detail from the work come home to me (2014-2017)
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and National Gallery of Victoria

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'mud monster' 2014 (detail)

Del Kathryn Barton. 'mud monster' 2014 (detail)

 

Del Kathryn Barton
mud monster (details)
2014
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation views of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring the I am flesh again series (2008)
Photos: © Tom Ross

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring a detail from the I am flesh again series (2008)
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and National Gallery of Victoria

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'I am flesh again' 2008 (detail)

 

Del Kathryn Barton
I am flesh again (detail)
2008
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation views of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring the photogravure work the stars eat your body (2009) and the bronze up in this (2012) top; and the bronze i can grow you more, drunk on its own nectar (2017) bottom

 

 

Two-time Archibald prize-winner Del Kathryn Barton is being celebrated in the largest ever exhibition of her work to date at NGV Australia. Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco features 150 new and recent works by Barton, including her famed kaleidoscopic portraits, a never-before-seen large-scale sculpture in homage to her mother and Barton’s short film RED, starring Australian actress and Academy Award-winner Cate Blanchett.

‘With a practice spanning art, fashion and film, Barton’s psychedelic images reveal her personal responses to the human experience. She is one of Australia’s most popular artists, renowned for her highly intricate and distinctive hybrid forms, that break down boundaries between humans and nature’, said Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV.

This show is deeply personal for Barton with the debut of her new sculpture, at the foot of your love, which has been created in response to her mother’s terminal illness. Completed in 2017 and comprised of printed silk and Huon pine, the sculpture is reflective of Barton’s reoccurring themes of motherhood and nature. Featuring a wooden conch shell and an enormous silk ‘handkerchief’, the work is symbolic of Barton’s grief for her own mother.

Comprised of five panels and over 10 metres in length, sing blood-wings sing is Barton’s newest and largest painting to date. The painting features a female-focused reimagining of the 1963 Peter, Paul and Mary coming-of-age song, Puff the Magic Dragon. Barton often listens to the folk tune whilst working in her studio as a symbolic reminder to maintain her childlike curiosity through her artistic practice. Barton’s interpretation of the song and its meaning is depicted by four breasted, rainbow coloured dragons. In her signature style, she blurs human, mythological and animal representations in art, encouraging her audience to see how imagination and desire can test traditional forms.

The exhibition also features Barton’s acclaimed film RED, where Cate Blanchett plays a mother re-enacting the redback spider’s deadly mating ritual, alongside actor Alex Russell, Sydney Dance Company’s Charmene Yap and Barton’s own daughter Arella. In RED Barton conveys the strength of women, the visceral power of female sexuality and encapsulates Barton’s multiple interests in feminism, nature and the maternal figure.

Born in Sydney in 1972, Barton graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales, Sydney, in 1993. She won her first Archibald prize in 2008 for her self-portrait with her two children and then again in 2013 for her portrait of Australian actor Hugo Weaving.

Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco is one of five solo exhibitions by leading Australian artists for NGV Australia’s 2017-18 summer program. The exhibition is on display at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia at Federation Square, Melbourne from 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018.

Press release from the NGV

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

sing blood-wings sing (2017)

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation views of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018.
Photos: © Tom Ross

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'the highway is a disco' 2015

 

Del Kathryn Barton
the highway is a disco
2015
Synthetic polymer paint and fibre-tipped pen on canvas
Private collection, Austria
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'I want to love you' 2016

 

Del Kathryn Barton
I want to love you
2016
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation views of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring the work at the foot of your love (2017)
Photos: © Tom Ross

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring the work at the foot of your love (2017)
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

at the foot of your love  (2017) was made by Barton as she prepared for her mother’s death. The fabric represents a handkerchief for the tears of all children who mourn their mother’s departure. The wooden conch shell is envisaged by the artist as a boat on which to sail into the darkness of eternity and ‘the vast ocean of the collective-consciousness’. It celebrates home and place, since the Huon Pine tree, from which the work is made, is a precious and endangered timber of Australia, subject to decay. (Wall text)

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'of pink planets' 2014

 

Del Kathryn Barton
of pink planets
2014
Collection of Boris Tosic, Sydney
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

 

In this work a creature with the head of a wallaby and the tail of a snake looks as though it might suckle from one of the woman’s five breasts. The breast is a dual organ, both of pleasure and sustenance, and multiple breasts suggest abundant life energy. Symbolically, the multi-breasted woman recalls the mythological icon Artemis of Ephesus, goddess of the wilderness, the hunt, wild animals and fertility. In some interpretations of the iconography, the nodes on Artemis’s chest are said to be the testes of bulls sacrificed to her. This fluidity of gender, human and animal forms is a strong current in Barton’s art. (Wall text)

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'openly song' 2014

 

Del Kathryn Barton
openly song
2014
Private collection, Melbourne
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'or fall again' 2014

 

Del Kathryn Barton
or fall again
2014
Collection of Leonard Warson, Melbourne
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

 

The tangled and lush floral decoration of Barton’s paintings recreates the millefleur (1000 flowers) technique of late Middle Ages to early Renaissance tapestries, distinguished by a lack of uniform pattern. The medieval period is sometimes perceived as a time of pagan superstition when the mysteries of nature and humanity were still full of wonder and darkness, and the unknown and unexplained were revered. Barton’s works evoke this period and direct viewers to a mysteriously interconnected world where spirit, psyche, natural cycles and the body are interconnected in intimate, unknowable relationships. (Wall text)

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring a detail from the work or fall again (2014)
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and National Gallery of Victoria

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring a detail from the work in the face of cosmic odds (2016)
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and National Gallery of Victoria

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'See ya mumma' 2016

 

Del Kathryn Barton
See ya mumma
2016
Synthetic polymer paint and fibre-tipped pen on canvas
140.0 x 160.0 cm
Collection of Brooke Horne, Sydney
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'is the energy' 2014

 

Del Kathryn Barton
is the energy
2014
Private collection, Melbourne
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'girl as sorcerery figure' 2005

 

Del Kathryn Barton
girl as sorcerery figure
2005
Collection of Jane Badler, Melbourne
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Del Kathryn Barton
girl #8 (installation view)
2004
Fibre-tipped pen, gouache, watercolour and synthetic polymer paint on canvas
Art Gallery of New South Wales
© Del Kathryn Barton
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and National Gallery of Victoria

 

Louise Bourgeois. '10 AM IS WHEN YOU COME TO ME' 2006  Louise Bourgeois. '10 AM IS WHEN YOU COME TO ME' 2006 Louise Bourgeois. '10 AM IS WHEN YOU COME TO ME' 2006

 

Louise Bourgeois
“10 AM IS WHEN YOU COME TO ME” (details)
2006
Etching, ink, watercolour, pencil and gouache on paper

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring the volcanic women series 2016-
Photo: © Tom Ross

 

 

‘I, too, overflow; my desires have invented new desires, my body knows unheard-of songs. Time and again I, too, have felt so full of luminous torrents that I could burst.’

HÉLÈNE CIXOUS, THE LAUGH OF THE MEDUSA (1975)

 

In this new series of works, entitled volcanic women, Barton coaxes and melts women into and out of the Earth’s larval core. Bodies flow from the ground, emerging as hot red lines of ink. These women erupt upward, as molten liquid bodies of agency. They display their genitals as though it is from their vaginas that the Earth’s energy spills forth. Barton here celebrates the abundance and generative necessity of women’s desire and sexual vigour. The suppression of women’s sexuality by a culture of fear is melted away in these volcanic works. (Wall text)

 

Del Kathryn Barton. 'volcanic woman' 2016

 

Del Kathryn Barton
volcanic woman
2016
From the volcanic women series 2016-
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

Installation view of 'Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco' at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

 

Installation view of Del Kathryn Barton: The Highway is a Disco at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, 17 November 2017 – 12 March 2018 featuring a detail from the volcanic woman series (2016)
Photo: © Dr Marcus Bunyan and National Gallery of Victoria

 

 

 

“The film is split into sections titled MOTHER, FATHER, LIFE, DEATH and DAUGHTER. When it comes time for the father to feature, he is accompanied by a shot of a car revving. When the spider arrives (in a wonderful dance performed by Charmene Yap), she moves in an incredibly enthralling manner, but she’s writhing on a muscle car. The performance of gender isn’t twisted, it moves straight past the iconic and into the parodic. But it’s not supposed to be a parody of the deadly spider that eats its mate, it’s dead serious. Barton has no intimation of the taboo and genuinely titillating danger that Bourgeois could reproduce in spades. Then it hits me, everything in Barton’s world is conventionally beautiful, yet we’re supposed to find it shocking. I don’t see women reflected in her vision of “hyper-women”, I see great beauties, I see movie stars and high-fashion models.”

Victoria Perrin1

 

Del Kathryn Barton. Still from 'RED' 2016

Del Kathryn Barton. Still from 'RED' 2016

Del Kathryn Barton. Still from 'RED' 2016

Del Kathryn Barton. Still from 'RED' 2016

 

Del Kathryn Barton
Stills from RED
2016
Collection of the artist
© Del Kathryn Barton

 

 

‘Mother of otherness Eat me’

SYLVIA PLATH, POEMS FOR A BIRTHDAY (1960)

 

Sylvia Plath’s words open Barton’s first short film, RED. The human maternal figure at the heart of this work (played by Cate Blanchett) is interchangeable with a red-back spider. Alongside Blanchett, Barton’s daughter, Arella Plater, and actor Alex Russell portray the nuclear family, and Sydney Dance Company’s Charmene Yap is the arching, writhing spider. The film explores women’s desire and maternal experience. In the realm of recent art history, the mother-spider recalls American sculptor Louise Bourgeois’s massive, looming arachnids. Bourgeois is one of Barton’s greatest influences and represented spiders in a renowned series begun in 1994 and continued until the end of her life in 2010. Like Plath and Bourgeois before her, in this work Barton has rendered the overwhelming complexities and contradictions of motherhood. (Wall text)

 

 

The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia

Federation Square
Corner of Russell and 
Flinders Streets, Melbourne

Opening hours:
10am – 5pm
Closed Mondays

National Gallery of Victoria website

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04
Mar
18

Exhibition: ‘Richard Prince: Untitled (cowboy)’ at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Exhibition dates: 3rd December 2017 – 25th March 2018

 

Richard Prince. 'Untitled (cowboy)' 2015

 

Richard Prince
Untitled (cowboy)
2015
Dye coupler print
59 3/4 × 90 in.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, anonymous gift
© 2017 Richard Prince, photo courtesy of the artist

 

 

Appropriation as a form of self aggrandizement.

Discuss.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the Los Angeles County 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.

 

Richard Prince. 'Untitled (cowboy)' 2016

 

Richard Prince
Untitled (cowboy)
2016
Dye coupler print
59 1/2 × 89 3/4 in.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, anonymous gift
© 2017 Richard Prince, photo courtesy of the artist

 

Richard Prince. 'Untitled (cowboy)' 2016

 

Richard Prince
Untitled (cowboy)
2016
Dye coupler print
59 1/2 × 89 3/4 in.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, anonymous gift
© 2017 Richard Prince, photo courtesy of the artist

 

Richard Prince. 'Untitled (cowboy)' 2016

 

Richard Prince
Untitled (cowboy)
2016
Dye coupler print
59 1/2 × 89 3/4 in.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, anonymous gift
© 2017 Richard Prince, photo courtesy of the artist

 

Richard Prince. 'Untitled (cowboy)' 2016

 

Richard Prince
Untitled (cowboy)
2016
Dye coupler print
59 1/2 × 89 3/4 in.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, anonymous gift
© 2017 Richard Prince, photo courtesy of the artist

 

Richard Prince. 'Untitled (cowboy)' 2016

 

Richard Prince
Untitled (cowboy)
2016
Dye coupler print
59 1/2 × 89 3/4 in.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, anonymous gift
© 2017 Richard Prince, photo courtesy of the artist

 

 

Richard Prince: Untitled (cowboy) presents two photographic series from the 2010s that are being publicly exhibited for the first time at LACMA. Continuing the artist’s career-long engagement with the motif of the cowboy, Untitled (cowboy), recently acquired by LACMA, and Untitled (original cowboy) achieve the grandeur of 19th-century history painting while also deconstructing the iconography of the American West. Once again challenging the conventional meanings and limits of the photographic medium, Prince reignites debates he sparked some 40 years ago.

In the mid-1970s, Prince was an aspiring painter working in Time Inc.’s tear sheet department, clipping texts for magazine writers. After he removed the articles, he was left with advertisements: glossy pictures of commodities, models, and other objects of desire. Between 1980 and 1992, Prince paid particular attention to the motif of the cowboy, as depicted in a series of advertisements for Marlboro cigarettes. Prince began to rephotograph the advertisements, cropping and enlarging them to make limited-edition prints as artworks of his own. Prince’s re-photography had an explosive effect on the art world, provoking lawsuits and setting auction records. With this controversial practice, he redefined what it means to “take” a photograph.

For his 2015-16 Untitled (cowboy) photographs, Prince revisited copies of TIME from the 1980s and 1990s using contemporary technology. In contrast to this studio-based manipulation, for the 2013 series Untitled (original cowboy) Prince went to Utah, seeking out quintessential viewpoints established by legions of photographers – tourists and artists alike – who preceded him. Extending his interrogation of this particular American protagonist into the era of Instagram, Prince demonstrates that the stakes around originality, appropriation, and truth in advertising are as high as ever.

Press release from LACMA

 

Richard Prince. 'Untitled (cowboy)' 2016

 

Richard Prince
Untitled (cowboy)
2016
Dye coupler print
59 1/2 × 89 3/4 in.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, anonymous gift
© 2017 Richard Prince, photo courtesy of the artist

 

Richard Prince. 'Untitled (cowboy)' 2016

 

Richard Prince
Untitled (cowboy)
2016
Dye coupler print
59 1/2 × 89 3/4 in.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, anonymous gift
© 2017 Richard Prince, photo courtesy of the artist

 

Richard Prince. 'Untitled (cowboy)' 2016

 

Richard Prince
Untitled (cowboy)
2016
Dye coupler print
59 1/2 × 89 3/4 in.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, anonymous gift
© 2017 Richard Prince, photo courtesy of the artist

 

Richard Prince. 'Untitled (cowboy)' 2016

 

Richard Prince
Untitled (cowboy)
2016
Dye coupler print
59 3/4 × 55 1/4 in.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, anonymous gift
© 2017 Richard Prince, photo courtesy of the artist

 

Richard Prince. 'Untitled (cowboy)' 2016

 

Richard Prince
Untitled (cowboy)
2016
Dye coupler print
82 × 60 in.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, anonymous gift
© 2017 Richard Prince, photo courtesy of the artist

 

Richard Prince. 'Untitled (cowboy)' 2016

 

Richard Prince
Untitled (cowboy)
2016
Dye coupler print
79 1/2 × 60 in.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, anonymous gift
© 2017 Richard Prince, photo courtesy of the artist

 

 

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
5905 Wilshire Boulevard (at Fairfax Avenue)
Los Angeles, CA, 90036
T: 323 857 6000

Opening hours:
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday: 11am – 5 pm
Friday: 11am – 8pm
Saturday, Sunday: 10am – 7pm
Closed Wednesday

LACMA website

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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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