Archive for February, 2019

24
Feb
19

Review: ‘Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design’ at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 20th November 2018 – 24th March 2019

Curators: Dean Keep and Jeromie Maver

 

 

Clement Meadmore (Australian, 1929-2005) 'Reclining chair' 1953

 

Clement Meadmore (Australian, 1929-2005)
Reclining chair
1953
Steel, cotton cord, rubber
Private collection

 

 

I have always loved the ordered forms, the elegiac simplicity of Clement Meadmore’s designs. Therefore, I very much looked forward to seeing this exhibition. Unfortunately, the installation left me feeling a little alienated both towards the objects themselves but more importantly, the artist and designer.

Simply put, the installation of the works was too clinical and cold, the designs either raised on white boxes or enclosed in metal frames… or both. If their presentation was to engender the idea that this was “art” – the art of mid-century design – by placing them in a “white cube”, isolating them from their functional context (in modernist homes, cafés and restaurants), then I was not buying what the exhibition was selling. The metal frames reminded me of the frame that surrounds some of Francis Bacon’s painting series, Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1946-mid-1960s), making this viewer want to scream at the museum control evidenced here.

The use of black and white walls didn’t help. In a jazz age (Meadmore was the most ardent admirer of jazz music) of music, colour and movement, and when Meadmore painted one of the interiors of his café in bold primary colours, the use of such bland colours seemed puzzling. Both I and my esteemed friend Joyce Evans, who knew Meadmore in New York and often went to the jazz clubs with him there, felt that the exhibition failed to capture the spirit of the artist, his wonderful personality – or the spirit of the age. The closest that the exhibition comes to that spirit, that sense of joie de vivre after the privations of the Second World War, are not works by Meadmore at all, but paintings that appeared on the wall of the Legend Expresso and Milk Bar interior c. 1956 by Leonard French titled The Legend of Sinbad the Sailor (1956, below). Here is a cacophony of sound, colour and movement redolent of the era.

Other things rankle. The importance of his contribution to the changing nature of the Melbourne art scene, and the Australian art scene in general, cannot be underestimated. Joyce Evans said to me that, as director of Gallery A, Meadmore’s influence on the direction of contemporary art in Melbourne was incredible, his influence in this sphere much more important than any of the designs he ever made. Other than a brief paragraph of wall text (below), there is little investigation into this aspect of Meadmore’s career in Australia. This is not the thrust of this exhibition as shown by its title, but to ignore his curatorial influence on contemporary art in Melbourne is, I believe, a mistake.

Further, while his groundbreaking designs are now presented as “art” – the hypothesis for the exhibition – at the time Meadmore’s sculpture was his art, his passion; his furniture and lighting was his business. What he did to pay the bills. Two facts are pertinent here: the fact that Meadmore did move to New York in 1963 to achieve international prominence as a sculptor, and the fact that after he moved to America he never made another chair. It says a lot about where his passion really lay.

Looking beyond all of these comments, it was absolutely fantastic to see the ordered forms, the simple functionality and elegant design of Meadmore’s objects, with his use of basic, everyday materials such as steel rod and cord to make his now iconic designs. Two things stood out for me. The ingenious sculptural steel base that enables the Calyx lamps to rest in two positions; and the most beautiful and sophisticated design and construction of the structure under a coffee table. The exhibition is worth visiting just to see these two design elements alone. But the work that most captures the spirit of the man better than anything else in this exhibition, and not the “art” on a pedestal, is that of a small welded steel and brass sculpture called The Trumpeter from 1957 (below). This is the man, the artist, in all his effervescence and gregariousness. It’s a pity the exhibition didn’t capture this spirit.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Ian Potter 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.

 

 

“Space should reveal itself to the wandering eye. Furniture should enhance a feeling of space by its non-obstructing presence.”

.
Clement Meadmore

 

 

GALLERY 1

Installation view of the exhibition 'Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design' at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design' at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design' at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design' at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of Gallery 1 of the exhibition Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

 

Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design is the first major survey to focus on the industrial design practice of one of Australia’s most internationally successful artists. Curated by Dean Keep and Jeromie Maver, the exhibition charts the evolution of Clement Meadmore’s design aesthetic in the 1950s and early 60s, before he shifted his focus to sculpture, and highlights the role Meadmore played alongside Australia’s most innovative and progressive designers of the mid-century period.

The exhibition sheds light on a time when mid-century tastemakers sought to shape post-war Melbourne into a thriving and cosmopolitan city that, through the intersection of art, design and architecture, embodied the ideals and principles of the modernist aesthetic. Meadmore’s first furniture design, a steel rod and corded dining chair created in 1951, became an instant hit, catching the attention of the highly influential modernist architect Robin Boyd and receiving the Good Design Award from the Society of Interior Designers of Australia (SIDA). The chair would later form part of the iconic thirteen-piece series known as the Meadmore Originals.

For just over a decade, Meadmore produced a small range of innovative furniture and lighting designs, popular with architects, artists and designers of the period. The ground-breaking modern homes designed by architects such as Robin Boyd, Neil Clerehan and Peter McIntyre were not complete without Meadmore furniture or lighting, often placed alongside pieces by Frances Burke, Grant Featherston, Fred Lowen and Douglas Snelling. Meadmore’s furniture and designs were regularly featured in journals such as Australian Home Beautiful and Architecture and Arts, and sold at Marion Hall Best’s showrooms in Sydney and Frances Burke’s New Design store in Melbourne.

In 1955, prior to the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, Meadmore was commissioned by Ion Nicolades to design the interiors of the Legend Espresso and Milk Bar and the Teahouse, both in Melbourne. Drawing upon international modernism and a new-found passion for Italian culture, the Legend Espresso and Milk Bar is arguably one of Meadmore’s greatest achievements and became a touchstone for many young creatives in 1950s Melbourne.

In the latter part of the 1950s, Meadmore’s attention increasingly shifted to his sculptural practice and the gallery scene, whilst maintaining his industrial design practice. He would also play a pivotal role in establishing and managing Max Hutchinson’s Gallery A. Known as the Little Bauhaus, the gallery championed non-figurative art and industrial design, with Meadmore responsible for designing the gallery’s line of contract furniture.

The result of 10 years research, Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design presents many pieces for the first time, alongside newly discovered Meadmore designs. The exhibition also presents a rare opportunity to see original furniture and lighting designed by Meadmore for the modernist interiors of the Legend Espresso and Milk Bar and the Teahouse. The iconic designs in this exhibition – including chairs, tables, light fixtures, and graphics – are enlivened by archival images and documents, alongside interviews with the artist’s family and colleagues connected to the Melbourne art, jazz and design scenes of the 1950s. Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design showcases Meadmore’s rich design practice and shines a light on the important cultural shifts that shaped mid-century Melbourne.

Text from the Ian Potter Museum of Art website [Online] Cited 10/02/2019

 

Clement Meadmore (Australian, 1929-2005) 'Glass top coffee table' 1952

 

Clement Meadmore (Australian, 1929-2005)
Glass top coffee table
1952
Steel, glass, rubber
Harris/Atkins Collection

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design' at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Clement Meadmore (Australian, 1929-2005) 'Corded armchair' 1952

 

Clement Meadmore (Australian, 1929-2005)
Corded armchair
1952
Steel, cotton cord, hardwood, rubber
Private collection

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design' at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design' at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of Gallery 1 of the exhibition Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

GALLERY 2

Installation view of the exhibition 'Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design' at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design' at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design' at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Clement Meadmore (Australian, 1929-2005) 'Three-legged plywood chair' 1955

 

Clement Meadmore (Australian, 1929-2005)
Three-legged plywood chair
1955
Painted steel, plywood, rubber
Harris/Atkins Collection

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design' at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

On the wall at rear is Erica McGilchrist (1926-2014) Frigidity from the series Moods 1954 and Clement Meadmore’s custom made frame. Pen and ink on paper; steel rod and hardwood (frame) Heide Museum of Modern Art, gift of Erica McGilchrist

Installation view of the exhibition 'Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design' at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of Gallery 2 the exhibition Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

 

Calyx Lighting

The Calyx lighting range takes design cues from Meadmore’s interest in international modernism, and represents an important shift in his practice. A distinctive feature of the Calyx range is the ingenious sculptural steel base, that enables the lamp to rest in two positions.

Using low-cost materials, readily available from local suppliers, the lamps required no welding and were designed to be easily manufactured and assembled in the workshop. Aluminium shades were hand-painted in a range of matt enamel colours, then baked in a beehive kiln in the backyard of Meadmore’s Burwood Road shop. All components were cut to size by Meadmore for quick assembly: the shade was easily fixed to the metal bracket using two metal pins and tap washers, then with the addition of a length of electrical flex, the finished product was ready or sale. The Calyx range was featured at the Anderson’s Furniture stand (also designed by Meadmore) at the Homes Exhibition in 1954.

Wall text

 

Clement Meadmore Calyx lighting design detail

Clement Meadmore Calyx lighting design detail

Clement Meadmore (Australian, 1929-2005) 'Calyx desk lamp' 1954

 

Clement Meadmore (Australian, 1929-2005)
Calyx desk lamp
1954
Steel, enamel paint on aluminium
Private collection

 

Clement Meadmore (Australian, 1929-2005) 'Calyx pendant lamp' 1954

 

Clement Meadmore (Australian, 1929-2005)
Calyx pendant lamp
1954
Steel, enamel paint on aluminium, steel
Harris/Atkins Collection

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design' at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design' at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of Gallery 2 the exhibition Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

 

The work of Clement Meadmore (1929-2005), one of Australia’s most innovative and progressive designers from the mid-century period, will be on display at the Ian Potter Museum of Art from 20 November. This will be the first major survey of the influential industrial design work Meadmore undertook in Australia, before he moved to New York in 1963 and achieved international prominence as a sculptor.

The exhibition focuses on the crossover of art, design and architecture, featuring Meadmore’s iconic designs including chairs, tables and light fixtures. Rare archival images and documents, and interviews with the artist’s family and colleagues connected to the Melbourne art, jazz and design scenes of the 1950s will be on display alongside sculptures and structures.

Curated by Dean Keep and Jeromie Maver, the exhibition shines a light on Meadmore’s rich design practice and the important cultural shifts that shaped mid-century Melbourne. The display charts the evolution of the artist’s design aesthetic in the 1950s and early 1960s, cementing the role he played with the Australian design scene of this time.

Curator Dean Keep said, “The exhibition is an important retrospective showing a snapshot of time when mid-century tastemakers sought to turn Melbourne into a thriving and cosmopolitan city.”

It was in 1951 that Meadmore designed his first piece of furniture; a steel rod and corded dining chair which would form part of the iconic thirteen-piece series known as Meadmore Originals. This chair design became an instant hit, catching the attention of the highly influential modernist architect Robin Boyd.

For the next ten years, Meadmore produced a range of innovative furniture and lighting designs, popular with architects, artists and designers of the period. The ground-breaking modern homes designed by architects such as Robin Boyd, Neil Clerehan and Peter McIntyre were not complete without Meadmore furniture.

In the mid-1950s, Meadmore was commissioned to design the interiors of the Legend Espresso and Milk Bar in Melbourne, opening for the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. Before shifting towards sculpture in the late 1950s, Meadmore’s designs were regularly featured in popular lifestyle magazines and sold in designer department stores in Sydney and Melbourne.

Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design is on at Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne from 20 November 2018 to 3 March 2019.

This project has been assisted by a State Library Victoria Creative Fellowship.

Press release from the Ian Potter Museum of Art

 

 

GALLERY 3

Installation view of the exhibition 'Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design' at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design' at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design' at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design' at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design' at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Clement Meadmore (Australian, 1929-2005)
Model for a six-hundered foot skyscraper
1978
Wood, gesso and paint
Collection of Rosalind Meadmore

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design' at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design' at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

 

Michael Hirst

The three tables presented here pose interesting questions about the business and design arrangements between Clement Meadmore and Michael Hirst, and ambiguous boundaries between authorship and attribution in some of the Hirst manufactured furniture.

The two tiled occasional tables, traditionally attributed to Hirst, were both made by Clement Meadmore and were presented by he designer as gifts to the Dallwitz family in Adelaide. Meadmore considered the tables as prototypes for a new design, sharing with the Dallwitz family his process of making them: first, the glass tiles were laid out to form a pattern, then affixed to adhesive paper and turned upside down. A square structure could then be built around them to hold the wet plaster or cement until it had set hard.

The Dining Table (c. 1959) manufactured by Hirst, was originally owned by the Rippin family, friends of both Hirst and Meadmore. Ailsa Rippin maintained throughout her life that the table was designed by Meadmore, an assertion supported by the aesthetic and structural similarities it shares with a coffee table Meadmore designed for Violet Dulieu and with one of his earliest welded sculptures (c. 1954).

Wall text

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design' at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of Gallery 3 the exhibition Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

GALLERY 4

Installation view of the exhibition 'Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design' at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

At left: Clement Meadmore. Door handle (from Thomas’ music store) c. 1959 welded steel Collection of Ken Neale
At right: Clement Meadmore. Untitled c. 1962 welded steel Private collection, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design' at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design' at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design' at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design' at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Clement Meadmore (Australian, 1929-2005)
The Trumpeter
1957
Welded steel, brass
Private collection, Canberra

 

Installation views of Gallery 4 the exhibition Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

GALLERY 5

Installation view of the exhibition 'Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design' at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design' at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Photograph at rear is of the Teahouse interior c. 1958

Installation view of the exhibition 'Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design' at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Artefacts relating to the Legend Expresso and Milk Bar including building application (1955), menu book and cups and saucers

Installation view of the exhibition 'Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design' at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design' at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Photograph at rear is of the Legend Expresso and Milk Bar interior c. 1956, 239 Bourke Street, Melbourne Victoria, with Leonard French’s painting The Legend of Sinbad the Sailor
(1956, below) on the wall behind the counter. Courtesy of I. A. Nicolades and L. French. Credit: Leonard Janiszewski and Effy Alexakis. In Their Own Image: Greek-Australians; and chair for Legend Expresso and Milk Bar c. 1956, steel, brass, Collection of Mr John and Ms Dora Dallwitz

 

 

Café culture: the Legend and the Tea House

A time of great cultural shifts, the 1950s saw Melbourne evolve into a multi-cultural city enriched by the contributions of post-war migrants. The introduction of European café culture at this time had an enduring influence on the character of the city, as did the preparations for the 1956 Olympic Games, which prompted a major program of rebuilding and revitalisation, providing Clement Meadmore with the opportunity to create two of the most imaginative and original interiors in Melbourne.

Ion Nicolades was one of many business owners to remodel their premises in anticipation of the number of visitors soon to descend upon the city. Owner of the Anglo-American Café, a Melbourne institution which had operated on the same site since 1904, Nicolades approached Meadmore with the idea of transforming his business into a contemporary café, renamed the Legend Expresso and Milk Bar. Located in the heart of the city on Bourke Street, the space was divided by an internal wall, with the café to the left, and milk bar to the right – and ideal mix that would capitalise on its proximity to nearby offices and cinemas.

Noted on the plans as the ‘superintending architect’, Meadmore designed every aspect of the Legend, from structural elements through to interior design. From the stools, tables and steel rod chairs, through to the black metal pendant lights. Meadmore crafted an interior that embodied a playful mix of European modernism and contemporary styling. The refurbished Legend quickly became a hub for the young art and design crowd.

Nicolades soon commissioned Meadmore for a second project, the Tea House (also known as the T House). In contrast to the Italophile interiors of the Legend, this project blended British culture and Asian aesthetics with motifs from the botanical world. Meadmore’s subtle inclusion of visual metaphors can be seen in the shape of the chair backs, which reference tea leaves, and in the shape of his lighting: an allusion to the hats worn by plantation workers who picked the tea [see last installation photograph below]. Meadmore’s passion for geometry informed both the design and spatial arrangement of the interior and furnishings, creating a striking display of ordered forms. The rows of simple steel rod tables and chairs, enveloped by curtained walls that draw the eye deep into the room, demonstrate his ability to minimise visual weight and create a sense of light and space.

Wal text

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design' at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design' at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Leonard French (Australian, 1928-2017)
The Legend of Sinbad the Sailor
1956
Duco and enamel on board
La Trobe University Art Collection
Donated under the Australian Government Cultural Gifts Program by Mr Ion Nicolades 1999

 

 

Gallery A

Gallery A was an art gallery in Melbourne’s Flinders Lane, established in 1959 by Max Hutchinson and Clement Meadmore, who took the role of gallery director. The inaugural exhibition included work b the Italian abstract expressionist Franco Meneguzzo (Italian, b. 1924), who Meadmore had met in Milan six years earlier, alongside a group of Australia abstract painters, such as Meadmore’s housemate Peter Upward (Australian, 1932-1983). In a climate of conservatism within the Australian art scene, Gallery A was unapologetically progressive, showcasing non-figurative and abstract art alongside design. An exhibition featuring the work of Ludwig Hirschfield-Mack (1893-1965, German 1893-1939, arrived Australia 1940) in 1961 helped earn Gallery A the title of ‘Little Bauhaus’. In keeping with the Bauhaus principle of bridging the gap between art and industry, Gallery A’s activities extended beyond the exhibition of art and design to the production of a range of furniture, designed by Meadmore and manufactured by Hutchison’s company Adroit Manufacturing. Described as ‘contract furniture’, these designs were intended for commercial projects and were advertised in the gallery’s brochures.

Wall text

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design' at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

Installation views of Gallery 5 the exhibition Clement Meadmore: The art of mid-century design at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne

 

 

The Ian Potter Museum of Art
The University of Melbourne,
Swanston Street (between Elgin and Faraday Streets)
Parkville, Melbourne, Victoria
Phone: +61 3 8344 5148

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Friday 10 am – 5 pm
Saturday and Sunday 12 – 5 pm

The Ian Potter Museum of Art website

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16
Feb
19

Exhibition: ‘Ansel Adams in Our Time’ at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Exhibition dates: 13th December 2018 – 24th February 2019

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'The Golden Gate Before the Bridge, San Francisco' 1932

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
The Golden Gate Before the Bridge, San Francisco
1932
Gelatin silver print
49.5 x 69.9 cm (19 1/2 x 27 1/2 in.)
Gift of Saundra B. Lane
The Lane Collection
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

Ansel Adams is a wonderful classical, (clinical?), formal photographer… but a photographer of people, Native Indians, Indian dances and the urban landscape, he ain’t. Simply put, he’s not much good at these subjects. In this posting, best stick with what he’s really good at – beautifully balanced art and environmental activist photographs. Oh, the light and form! Images that teeter towards the sublime held in check by F64, perspective and objectivity.

Interesting to have the historical work to riff off, and “contemporary artists whose modern-day concerns centred on the environment, land rights, and the use and misuse of natural resources point directly to Adams’ legacy” … but as with so many exhibitions that try to place an artist within a historical and contemporary context, their work is not necessary. In fact, it probably diminishes the utopian vision of one of the world’s best known photographers.

Marcus

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

 

Ansel Adams in Our Time traces the iconic visual legacy of Ansel Adams (1902-1984), presenting some of his most celebrated prints, from a symphonic view of snow-dusted peaks in The Tetons and Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming (1942) to an aerial shot of a knotted roadway in Freeway Interchange, Los Angeles (1967). The exhibition looks both backward and forward in time: his black-and-white photographs are displayed alongside prints by several of the 19th-century government survey photographers who greatly influenced Adams, as well as work by contemporary artists whose modern-day concerns centred on the environment, land rights, and the use and misuse of natural resources point directly to Adams’ legacy.

While crafting his own modernist vision, Adams was inspired by precursors in government survey and expedition photography such as Carleton Watkins (1829-1916), Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904), Timothy O’Sullivan (1840-1882) and Frank Jay Haynes (1853-1921), who worked with large bulky cameras and glass-plate negatives and set off into the wilderness carrying their equipment on mules. In some cases, Adams replicated their exact views of the Yosemite Valley, Canyon de Chelly, and Yellowstone, producing images that would become emblematic of the country’s national parks. In Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park (about 1937), the granite crags of the Yosemite Valley are wreathed in clouds after a sudden storm. Executed with unrivalled sensitivity and rigorous exactitude, the artist’s photographs popularised the notion that the American West was a pristine, and largely uninhabited, wilderness.

Ansel Adams in Our Time also brings Adams forward in time, juxtaposing his work with that of contemporary artists such as Mark Klett (born 1962), Trevor Paglen (born 1974), Catherine Opie (born 1961), Abelardo Morell (born 1948), Victoria Sambunaris (born 1964), and Binh Danh (born 1977). The more than 20 present-day photographers in the exhibition have not only been drawn to some of the same locations, but also engaged with many of the themes central to Adams’ legacy: desert and wilderness spaces, Native Americans and the Southwest, and broader issues affecting the environment: logging, mining, drought and fire, booms and busts, development, and urban sprawl.

Adams’ stunning images were last on view at the MFA in a major exhibition in 2005; this new, even larger presentation places his work in the context of the 21st century, with all that implies about the role photography has played – and continues to play – in our changing perceptions of the land. The Adams photographs in the exhibition are drawn from the Lane Collection, one of the largest and most significant gifts in MFA history.

Text from the MFA website

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Lone Pine Peak, Sierra Nevada, California' 1948

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Lone Pine Peak, Sierra Nevada, California
1948
Gelatin silver print
38.8 x 49.1 cm (15 1/4 x 19 5/16 in.)
Gift of Saundra B. Lane
The Lane Collection
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Marion Lake, Kings River Canyon, California' c. 1925

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Marion Lake, Kings River Canyon, California (from Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras)
c. 1925; print date: 1927
Gelatin silver print
14.6 x 19.8 cm (5 3/4 x 7 13/16 in.)
Gift of Saundra B. Lane
The Lane Collection
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Early Morning, Merced River Canyon, Yosemite National Park' c. 1950

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Early Morning, Merced River Canyon, Yosemite National Park
c. 1950
Gelatin silver print
Image/Sheet: 39.4 x 49.7 cm (15 1/2 x 19 9/16 in.)
Gift of Saundra B. Lane
The Lane Collection
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado' 1941

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
1941
Gelatin silver print
Image/Sheet: 19.1 x 23.8 cm (7 1/2 x 9 3/8 in.)
Gift of Saundra B. Lane
The Lane Collection
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Thunderstorm, Ghost Ranch, Chama River Valley, Northern New Mexico' 1937

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Thunderstorm, Ghost Ranch, Chama River Valley, Northern New Mexico
1937; print date: about 1948
Gelatin silver print
16.6 x 22.9 cm (6 9/16 x 9 in.)
Gift of Saundra B. Lane
The Lane Collection
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park' c. 1937

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park
c. 1937
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Saundra B. Lane
The Lane Collection
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Freeway Interchange, Los Angeles' 1967

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Freeway Interchange, Los Angeles
1967
Gelatin silver print
37.2 x 34.8 cm (14 5/8 x 13 11/16 in.)
Gift of Saundra B. Lane
The Lane Collection
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Self‑Portrait, Monument Valley, Utah' 1958

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
SelfPortrait, Monument Valley, Utah
1958
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Saundra B. Lane
The Lane Collection
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

 

 

Ansel Adams (1902-1984) is the rare artist whose works have helped to define a genre. Over the last half-century, his black-and-white photographs have become, for many viewers, visual embodiments of the sites he captured: Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks, the Sierra Nevada, the American Southwest and more. These images constitute an iconic visual legacy – one that continues to inspire and provoke. Organised by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), Ansel Adams in Our Time offers a new perspective on one of the best-known and most beloved American photographers by placing him into a dual conversation with his predecessors and contemporary artists. While crafting his own modernist vision, Adams followed in the footsteps of 19th-century forerunners in government survey and expedition photography such as Carleton Watkins, Eadweard Muybridge, Timothy O’Sullivan and Frank Jay Haynes. Today, photographers including Mark Klett, Trevor Paglen, Catherine Opie, Abelardo Morell, Victoria Sambunaris and Binh Danh are engaging anew with the sites and subjects that occupied Adams, as well as broader environmental issues such as drought and fire, mining and energy, economic booms and busts, protected places and urban sprawl. Approximately half of the nearly 200 works in the exhibition are photographs by Adams, drawn from the Lane Collection – one of the largest and most significant gifts in the MFA’s history, which made the Museum one of the major holders of the artist’s work. The photographs by 19th-century and contemporary artists are on loan from public institutions, galleries and private collectors. Ansel Adams in Our Time is on view in the Ann and Graham Gund Gallery from December 13, 2018 through February 24, 2019. Visitors are encouraged to use #AnselAdamsInOurTime to share their exhibition experiences on social media, as well as submit Adams-inspired landscape photos on Instagram for a chance to win an MFA membership, Ansel Adams publication and a private curatorial tour. Ansel Adams in Our Time is presented with proud recognition of The Wilderness Society and the League of Conservation Voters, made possible by Scott Nathan and Laura DeBonis. Sponsored by Northern Trust. Additional support from the Robert and Jane Burke Fund for Exhibitions, and Peter and Catherine Creighton. With gratitude to the Phillip Leonian and Edith Rosenbaum Leonian Charitable Trust for its generous support of Photography at the MFA.

“Ansel Adams is a larger-than-life figure in the field of photography, and the generous gift of more than 450 of his prints from the Lane Collection has inspired me to revisit his work. With this exhibition, I hope to open up new conversations around this seminal artist, by looking both backward and forward in time,” said Karen Haas, Lane Curator of Photographs. “I invite our visitors to explore the role that photography has historically played in our changing perceptions of the American West, as well as to consider Adams’ legacy of environmental activism – one that still speaks to us today.”

 

Exhibition overview

Capturing the View

Organised both thematically and chronologically into eight sections, the exhibition begins where Adams’ own photographic life began. Perhaps no place had a more lasting influence on him than Yosemite National Park, in his native California. Adams first visited Yosemite at age 14, bringing along a Kodak Box Brownie camera given to him by his father, and returned almost every year for the rest of his life. It was not only where he honed his skills, but also where he came to recognise the power of photographs to express emotion and meaning. Showcasing its spectacular granite peaks, lakes, rivers and waterfalls, Adams’ photographs of Yosemite have become virtually synonymous with the park itself. Adams, however, was not the first to take a camera into the mountains of California. He acknowledged his debt to the earliest photographers to arrive in the Yosemite Valley, including Carleton Watkins, who in the 1860s began to record scenic views with a cumbersome large-format camera and fragile glass plate negatives processed in the field. Watkins’ 19th-century photographs helped to introduce Americans “back east” to the nation’s dramatic western landscapes, while Adams’ 20th-century images made famous the notion of their “untouched wilderness.” Today, photographers such as Mark Klett are grappling with these legacies. Klett and his longtime collaborator Byron Wolfe have studied canonical views of Yosemite Valley by Adams and Watkins, using the latest technology to produce composite panoramas that document changes made to the landscape over more than a century, as well as the ever-growing presence of human activity.

 

Marketing the View

As a member of the Sierra Club, which he joined in 1919 at age 17, Adams regularly embarked on the environmental organisation’s annual, month-long “High Trips” to the Sierra Nevada mountains. He produced albums of photographs from these treks, inviting club members to select and order prints. This precocious ingenuity ultimately led to the Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras (1927) – one of the earliest experiments in custom printing, sequencing and distributing fine photographs. Sixteen of the 18 prints from the portfolio, including the iconic Monolith – The Face of Half Dome, are on view in the second gallery of the exhibition, which connects Adams’ innovations in marketing his views of the western U.S. to those of his predecessors. In the 19th century, an entire industry of mass-marketing and distributing images of “the frontier” emerged, catering to a burgeoning tourist trade. In addition to engravings and halftones published in books, magazines and newspapers, photographs such as Valley of the Yosemite from Union Point, No. 33 (1872) by Eadweard Muybridge were circulated through stereo cards, which allowed armchair travellers to experience remote places in three dimensions when viewed through a stereoscope. Today, photography remains closely linked with scenic vistas of the American West. Creating works in extended series or grids, artists including Matthew Brandt, Sharon Harper and Mark Rudewel seem to be responding to the earlier tradition of mass-marketing western views, using photography as a medium to call attention to the passage of time and the changing nature of landscapes.

 

San Francisco – Becoming a Modernist

The third section of the exhibition focuses on Adams’ hometown of San Francisco, which has long captured photographers’ imaginations with its rolling hills and dramatic orientation toward the water. The city’s transformation over more than a century – including changes made to the urban landscape following the devastating earthquake and fire in 1906 and the rise of skyscrapers in the later 20th century – can be observed in the juxtaposition of panoramas by Eadweard Muybridge and Mark Klett, taken from the same spot 113 years apart. Adams’ images of San Francisco from the 1920s and 1930s trace his development into a modernist photographer, as he experimented with a large-format camera to produce maximum depth of field and extremely sharp-focused images. During the Great Depression, Adams also took on a wider range of subjects, including the challenging reality of urban life in his hometown. He photographed the demolition of abandoned buildings, toppled cemetery headstones, political signs and the patina of a city struggling during difficult times. One sign of hope for the future at the time was the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge, which began in 1933. Adams’ The Golden Gate before the Bridge (1932), taken near his family home five years before the bridge’s opening in 1937, is displayed alongside four contemporary prints from the Golden Gate Bridge project (Private Collection, Cambridge) by Richard Misrach, taken from his own porch in Berkeley Hills. Placing his large-format camera in exactly the same position on each occasion, Misrach recorded hundreds of views of the distant span, at different times of the day and in every season. The series, photographed over three years from 1997 to 2000, was reissued in 2012 to mark the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate’s landmark opening. The vast expanses of sky in Misrach’s works echo the focus on the massive cumulus cloud in the earlier photograph by Adams, who was fascinated with changing weather and landscapes with seemingly infinite space.

 

Adams in the American Southwest

Adams produced some of his most memorable images – among them, Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico (1941; print date: 1965-75) – during his frequent travels to the American Southwest. He was intrigued by the region’s distinctive landscape, brilliant sunlight and sudden dramatic storms, as well as its rich mix of cultures. Shortly after his first trip to New Mexico in 1927, Adams collaborated with author Mary Hunter Austin on the illustrated book Taos Pueblo (1930, Harvard Art Museums), for which he contributed 12 photographs that reflect his interest in Taos Pueblo’s architecture and activities. Adams shared Austin’s concern that the artistic and religious traditions of the Pueblo peoples were under threat from the increasing numbers of people traveling through or settling in the region. In contrast to the indigenous peoples of Yosemite, who had been forced out of their native lands many years earlier, Pueblo peoples were still living in their ancestral villages. On his return visits to the American Southwest, Adams often photographed the native communities, their dwellings and their ancient ruins. He also photographed Indian dances, which had become popular among tourists who came by train and automobile to be entertained and to buy pottery, jewellery and other souvenirs. Adams’ images of dancers, which emphasise their costumes, postures and expressions, therefore have a complex legacy, as he was one of the onlookers – though he carefully cropped out any evidence of the gathered crowds. Today, indigenous artists including Diné photographer Will Wilson, are creating work that responds to and confronts past depictions of Native Americans by white artists who travelled west to “document” the people who were viewed as a “vanishing race” in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

 

Picturing the National Parks

The largest section of the exhibition examines the critical role that photography has played in the history of the national parks. In the 19th century, dramatic views captured by Carleton Watkins and other photographers ultimately helped convince government officials to take action to protect Yosemite and Yellowstone from private development. Adams, too, was aware of the power of the image to sway opinions on land preservation. In 1941 Harold Ickes, Secretary of the Interior, hired Adams to make a series of mural-sized photographs of the national parks for the capital’s new Interior Building. Although his government funding was cut short by America’s entry into World War II and the murals were never realised, Adams felt so strongly about the value of the project that he sought financial assistance on his own. He secured Guggenheim Foundation grants in 1946 and 1948, which allowed him to travel to national parks from Alaska to Texas, Hawaii to Maine. Marked by a potent combination of art and environmental activism, the photographs he made spread his belief in the transformative power of the parks to a wide audience. Many contemporary artists working in the national parks acknowledge, as Adams did, the work of the photographers who came before them. But the complicated legacies of these protected lands have led some – including Catherine Opie, Arno Rafael Minkkinen, Binh Danh and Abelardo Morell – to take more personal and political approaches to the work they are making in these spaces.

 

The Other Side of the Mountains

Adams made his reputation mainly through spectacular images of “unspoiled” nature. Less well known are the photographs he produced of the more forbidding, arid landscapes in California’s Death Valley and Owens Valley, just southeast of Yosemite. Here, on the other side of the Sierra Nevada, Adams’ work took a dramatic detour. Fellow photographer Edward Weston introduced Adams to Death Valley, where he captured images of sand dunes, salt flats and sandstones canyons. Owens Valley, located to the west, was once verdant farmland, but was suffering by the 1940s, its water siphoned off to supply the growing city of Los Angeles. In 1943, Adams also traveled to nearby Manzanar, where he photographed Japanese Americans forcibly relocated to internment camps shortly after the U.S. entered World War II. Trevor Paglen, Stephen Tourlentes and David Benjamin Sherry are among the contemporary photographers who continue to find compelling subjects in these remote landscapes. Some are drawn to them as “blank slates” upon which to leave their mark, while others explore the raw beauty of the desolate terrain and the many, sometimes unsettling ways it used today – including as a site for maximum-security prisons and clandestine military projects.

 

The Changing Landscape

Adams’ photographs are appreciated for their imagery and formal qualities, but they also carry a message of advocacy. The last two sections of the exhibition examine the continually changing landscapes of the sites once captured by Adams. In his own time, the photographer was well aware of the environmental concerns facing California and the nation – thanks, in part, to his involvement with the Sierra Club and Wilderness Society. As his career progressed, Adams began to move away from symphonic and pristine wilderness landscapes in favour of images that showed a more nuanced vision. He photographed urban sprawl, freeways, graffiti, oil drilling, ghost towns, rural cemeteries and mining towns, as well as quieter, less romantic views of nature, such as the aftermath of forest fires – subjects that resonate in new ways today. For contemporary photographers working in the American West, the spirit of advocacy takes on an ever-increasing urgency, as they confront a terrain continually altered by human activity and global warming. Works by artists including Laura McPhee, Victoria Sambunaris, Mitch Epstein, Meghann Riepenhoff, Bryan Schutmaat and Lucas Foglia bear witness to these changes, countering notions that natural resources are somehow limitless and not in need of attention and protection.

Press release from the MFA

 

Carelton E. Watkins. 'The Yosemite Falls' 1861

 

Carleton E. Watkins (American, 1829-1916)
Printed by Taber & Co. (American, active in 1850-1860)
The Yosemite Falls
1861, printed 1880-1890
Albumen print
Image/Sheet: 39.8 x 51.2 cm (15 11/16 x 20 3/16 in.)
A. Shuman Collection – Abraham Shuman Fund

 

Catherine Opie (American, born in 1961) 'Untitled #1 (Yosemite Valley)' 2015

 

Catherine Opie (American, born in 1961)
Untitled #1 (Yosemite Valley)
2015
Pigment print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul
© Catherine Opie

 

Carleton E. Watkins (American, 1829-1916) 'Mount Starr King and Glacier Point, Yosemite, No. 69' 1865-66

 

Carleton E. Watkins (American, 1829-1916)
Mount Starr King and Glacier Point, Yosemite, No. 69
1865-66
Mammoth albumen print from wet collodion negative
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Ernest Wadsworth Longfellow Fund
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Eadweard J. Muybridge (American, 1830-1904) 'Valley of the Yosemite from Union Point, No. 33' 1872

 

Eadweard J. Muybridge (American, 1830-1904)
Valley of the Yosemite from Union Point, No. 33
1872
Albumen print
Image/Sheet: 42.5 x 54.2 cm (16 3/4 x 21 5/16 in.)
Gift of Charles T. and Alma A. Isaacs
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Frank Jay Haynes (American, 1853-1921) 'Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and Falls' c. 1887

 

Frank Jay Haynes (American, 1853-1921)
Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and Falls
c. 1887
Albumen print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Sophie M. Friedman Fund
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'The Tetons and Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming' 1942

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
The Tetons and Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
1942
Gelatin silver print
47.1 x 61.2 cm (18 9/16 x 24 1/8 in.)
Gift of Saundra B. Lane
The Lane Collection
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

 

Abelardo Morell (American (born in Cuba, 1948)) 'Tent‑Camera Image on Ground: View of Mount Moran and the Snake River from Oxbow Bend, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming' 2011

 

Abelardo Morell (American (born in Cuba, 1948))
TentCamera Image on Ground: View of Mount Moran and the Snake River from Oxbow Bend, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
2011
Inkjet print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Adam Clark Vroman. 'Four of Hearts (Bashful)' c. 1894

 

Adam Clark Vroman (American, 1856-1916)
Publisher Lazarus and Melzer (American)
Four of Hearts (Bashful)
c. 1894
Playing card with halftone print
8.9 x 6.4 cm (3 1/2 x 2 1/2 in.)
Gift of Lewis A. Shepard
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

John K. Hillers (American (born in Germany), 1843-1925) 'Big Navajo' c. 1879-80

 

John K. Hillers (American (born in Germany), 1843-1925)
Big Navajo
c. 1879-80
Albumen print
22.9 x 19.1 cm (9 x 7 1/2 in.)
Gift of Jessie H. Wilkinson – Jessie H. Wilkinson Fund
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

John K. Hillers. 'Heaipu, Navaho Woman' c. 1879

 

John K. Hillers (American (born in Germany), 1843-1925)
Heaipu, Navaho Woman
c. 1879
Albumen print
Gift of Jessie H. Wilkinson – Jessie H. Wilkinson Fund
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Will Wilson (Diné (Navajo), born in 1969) 'How the West is One' 2014

 

Will Wilson (Diné (Navajo), born in 1969)
How the West is One
2014
Inkjet print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Will Wilson

 

Trevor Paglen (American, born in 1974) 'Untitled (Reaper Drone)' 2015

 

Trevor Paglen (American, born in 1974)
Untitled (Reaper Drone)
2015
Pigment print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Monolith - The Face of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park' 1927

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Monolith – The Face of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park
1927; print date: 1950-60
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Saundra B. Lane
The Lane Collection
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

 

Bryan Schutmaat (American, born in 1983) 'Cemetery, Tonopah, NV' 2012

 

Bryan Schutmaat (American, born in 1983)
Cemetery, Tonopah, NV
2012
Archival inkjet print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico' 1941

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico
1941; print date: 1965-75
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Saundra B. Lane
The Lane Collection
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico' 1941 (detail)

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico (detail)
1941; print date: 1965-75
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Saundra B. Lane
The Lane Collection
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Pine Forest in Snow, Yosemite National Park' c. 1932

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Pine Forest in Snow, Yosemite National Park
c. 1932
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Saundra B. Lane
The Lane Collection
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

 

Laura McPhee (American, born in 1958) 'Midsummer (Lupine and Fireweed)' 2008

 

Laura McPhee (American, born in 1958)
Midsummer (Lupine and Fireweed)
2008
Archival pigment print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Laura McPhee

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Grass and Burned Stump, Sierra Nevada, California' 1935

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Grass and Burned Stump, Sierra Nevada, California
1935
Gelatin silver print
The Lane Collection
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Cemetery Statue and Oil Derricks, Long Beach, California' 1939

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Cemetery Statue and Oil Derricks, Long Beach, California
1939
Gelatin silver print
The Lane Collection
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

 

Mitch Epstein (American, born in 1952) 'Altamont Pass Wind Farm, California' 2007

 

Mitch Epstein (American, born in 1952)
Altamont Pass Wind Farm, California
2007
Chromogenic print
Reproduced with permission
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

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09
Feb
19

Exhibition: ‘Roman Vishniac Rediscovered’ at The Photographers’ Gallery and Jewish Museum London

Exhibition dates: 26th October 2018 – 24th February 2019

Curators: Maya Benton in collaboration with The Photographers’ Gallery curator, Anna Dannemann and Jewish Museum London curator, Morgan Wadsworth-Boyle.

Presented simultaneously at The Photographers’ Gallery and Jewish Museum London, Roman Vishniac Rediscovered is the first UK retrospective of Russian born American photographer, Roman Vishniac (1897-1990).

 

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'Interior of the Anhalter Bahnhof railway terminus near Potsdamer Platz, Berlin' 1929-early 1930s

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Interior of the Anhalter Bahnhof railway terminus near Potsdamer Platz, Berlin
1929-early 1930s
Courtesy International Center of Photography
On display at The Photographers’ Gallery
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

 

Wondrous, glorious images

Apart from the title, Roman Vishniac “Rediscovered” – photographically, I never thought he went away? – this is a magnificent exhibition of Vishniac’s complete works.

Since the press release states, “Roman Vishniac Rediscovered offers a timely reappraisal of Vishniac’s vast photographic output and legacy and brings together – for the first time – his complete works including recently discovered vintage prints, rare and ‘lost’ film footage from his pre-war period, contact sheets, personal correspondence, original magazine publications, newly created exhibition prints as well as his acclaimed photomicroscopy…” perhaps the exhibition should have been titled: Roman Vishniac Reappraised or Roman Vishniac: Complete Works. Each makes more sense than the title the curators chose.

Vishniac’s work is powerful and eloquent, a formal, classical, and yet poetic representation of the time and space of the photographs taking. Modernist yet romantic, monumental, sociological yet playful, his work imbibes of the music of people and place, portraying the rituals of an old society about to be swept away by the maelstrom of war. They are a joy to behold.

Here is happiness and sadness, urban poverty, isolation (as in figures from each other, figures isolated within their world, and within the pictorial frame – see the people walking in every direction in Isaac Street, Kazimierz, Cracow 1935-38, below), and nostalgia (for what has been lost). Here is life… and death.

Here is a handsome man, Ernst Kaufmann, born in Krefeld, Germany, in 1911. Arrested in June 1941 and killed in August of that year in the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. Killed at barely 30 years old. As Vishniac recalls of his portrait of the seven year old David Eckstein, ‘I watched this little boy for almost an hour, and in this moment I saw the whole sadness of the world.’ Never forget what human beings are capable of, lest history repeat itself, and all our hard fought freedoms are destroyed.

Despite the hubbub and movement of the people, towns and marketplaces, for me it is the sensitivity of a quiet moment, beautifully observed, that gets me every time. That hand (Exhausted. A Carrier of Heavy Loads, Warsaw c. 1935-38, below), resting on the chest of an exhausted porter, seen in all its clarity and in humanity is transcendent. That intense feeling of an extended, (in)decisive moment, if ever there was one.

In my humble opinion, Vishniac is one of the greatest 20th century social documentary photographers to have ever lived.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

 

Interview with curator Maya Benton

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'German family walking between taxicabs in front of the Ufa-Palast movie theater, Berlin' late 1920s-early 1930s

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
German family walking between taxicabs in front of the Ufa-Palast movie theater, Berlin
late 1920s-early 1930s
Courtesy International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'Woman washing windows above Mandtler & Neumann Speditionen (Mandtler & Neumann Forwarding Agents), Ferdinandstrasse, Leopoldstadt, Vienna' 1930s

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Woman washing windows above Mandtler & Neumann Speditionen (Mandtler & Neumann Forwarding Agents), Ferdinandstrasse, Leopoldstadt, Vienna
1930s
Courtesy International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'Jewish school children, Mukacevo' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Jewish school children, Mukacevo
c. 1935-38
Courtesy International Center of Photography
On display at Jewish Museum London
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

 

From 1935 to 1938, Vishniac made numerous trips to the city of Mukacevo, a major center of religious learning among Jews from Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and the Carpathian region. Mukacevo was widely known for its famous rabbis and yeshivot (religious schools). This image of Jewish schoolchildren appears in cropped form on the cover of Vishniac’s first posthumous publication, To Give Them Light; the recently digitised negative reveals that it represents only one-fifth of the full frame. Vishniac often directed printers or publishers to crop his images to focus on religiously observant Jewish men or boys, identifiable by their dress, an editorial decision that sometimes detracted from the composition by subverting aesthetic considerations to emphasise religious and observant life. The negative reveals Vishniac’s instinctive compositional acumen: a bustling and vibrant street scene, with a boy’s beaming, slightly out-of-focus face in the foreground and numerous hands pushing into and out of the frame, communicating the vitality and liveliness of the students.

Text from the International Center of Photography website

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'Man purchasing herring, wrapped in newspaper, for a Sabbath meal, Mukacevo' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Man purchasing herring, wrapped in newspaper, for a Sabbath meal, Mukacevo
c. 1935-38
International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'Fish is the Favored Food for the Kosher Table' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Fish is the Favored Food for the Kosher Table
c. 1935-38
Gelatin silver print
Image (paper): 11 1/2 x 9 3/16 in. (29.2 x 23.3 cm)
Collection Philip Allen
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

 

“This image of a boy bending over a vat of herring communicates the excitement of the marketplace and the sheer abundance of herring. The unparalleled quality of the print transmits every detail, from the wet cobblestones and circular motion of the swimming fish to the rapid, eager movement of hands reaching in to grab the herring. Rather than focusing on religious life, these early prints demonstrate the vitality and frantic charm of a town rushing to prepare for the Sabbath.”

.
Maya Benton, ICP Adjunct Curator

 

These rare vintage prints are part of a collection of sixteen recently discovered prints that comprised Vishniac’s first exhibition abroad, and were displayed in the New York office of the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) in 1938. Vishniac developed these early prints in his apartment in Berlin, and they are rare early examples of his virtuosic skill as a master printmaker. He gifted all sixteen prints to an employee of the New York office of the JDC who had helped him to organise his first exhibit; these prints are on loan from his son.

The image of a boy bending over a vat of herring communicates the excitement of the marketplace and the sheer abundance of herring. The unparalleled quality of the print transmits every detail, from the wet cobblestones and circular motion of the swimming fish to the rapid, eager movement of hands reaching in to grab the herring. Rather than focusing on religious life, these early prints demonstrate the vitality and frantic charm of a town rushing to prepare for the Sabbath.

Text from the International Center of Photography website

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'Young Jewish boys suspicious of strangers, Mukachevo' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Young Jewish boys suspicious of strangers, Mukachevo
c. 1935-38
International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'Three women, Mukacevo' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Three women, Mukacevo
c. 1935-38
International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) The notice on the wall reads "Come Celebrate Chanukah." c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
The notice on the wall reads “Come Celebrate Chanukah”
c. 1935-38
International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'Jewish street vendors, Warsaw, Poland' 1938

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Jewish street vendors, Warsaw, Poland
1938
International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'Children playing outdoors and watching a game' c. 1935-37

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Children playing outdoors and watching a game
c. 1935-37
International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac. 'Children playing on a street lined with swastika flags' mid-1930s

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Children playing on a street lined with swastika flags
mid-1930s
International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac. 'Nat Gutman's Wife, Warsaw' 1938

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Nat Gutman’s Wife, Warsaw
1938
International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

 

Nat Gutman, the porter, Warsaw 1935-1938 from A Vanished World, 1983 is the photograph of her husband. After working as a bank cashier for six years, Nat Gutman was dismissed because he was a Jew. He became a porter. The loads usually weighed forty-five to ninety pounds. This was the kind of work that bank cashier Gutman, a man with a bad hernia, was reduced to in order to support his wife and son. The family were exterminated.

 

Roman Vishniac. 'A street of Kazimierz, Cracow' 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
A street of Kazimierz, Cracow
1935-38
International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac. 'Isaac Street, Kazimierz, Krakow' 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Isaac Street, Kazimierz, Krakow
1935-38
International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac. 'Isaac Street, Kazimierz, Cracow' 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Isaac Street, Kazimierz, Cracow
1935-38
International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'Window washer balancing on a ladder, Berlin' mid-1930s

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Window washer balancing on a ladder, Berlin
mid-1930s
Courtesy International Center of Photography
On display at The Photographers’ Gallery
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'Exhausted. A Carrier of Heavy Loads, Warsaw' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Exhausted. A Carrier of Heavy Loads, Warsaw
c. 1935-38
Gelatin silver print
7 1/2 x 10 in. (19.1 x 25.4 cm)
International Center of Photography
Gift of Mara Vishniac Kohn, 2013
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

 

“This unpublished image of a porter at rest in his wagon demonstrates Vishniac’s modern aesthetic and the influence of the avant-garde on his work. The diagonal slope of the central figure, stretched out along a sloping plane, fills the entire frame. The intuitive amalgamation of patterns and textures, one of Vishniac’s greatest talents, is evident throughout the image: the light reflected on the ornamented belt buckle; the double-patterned cable knit of his shrunken wool vest, which barely conceals a plaid shirt; and the round shapes of a wheel and bucket that divide the angular line formed by the central figure. It is a triumph of textures, angles, and lines, yet the worn sign with the name Nuta Hersz and his porter license number reminds us that the subject of the photograph is the victim of anti-Semitic boycotts and the limited job opportunities (only vendors and porters) permitted to Jews in Poland at that time.”

.
Maya Benton, ICP Adjunct Curator

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'Villagers in the Carpathian Mountains' c. 1935–38

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Villagers in the Carpathian Mountains
c. 1935-38
International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

 

“Vishniac traveled to remote Jewish villages in rural Carpathian Ruthenia throughout the late 1930s, and in many cases was the only photographer to ever document these communities, which had been isolated for hundreds of years, yet maintained an enduring connection to Jewish observance, customs, and traditions.

Every detail of this image makes it a nearly perfect photograph: the sense of movement and the figures’ varied gestures and vibrant expressions; the carefully balanced horizontal bands of shadow and striped fabric; the detail of a woman peering out of a window while a glass pane on the facing structure points in the direction of an impossibly angled triangular building that vertically divides the frame in half; and the collective sense of surprise at encountering the photographer. Like much of Vishniac’s unpublished work, this composition recalls Henri Cartier-Bresson’s description of the decisive moment (a precise organisation of forms that give a time and place its ideal expression) and places Vishniac on par with the great photographers of the 20th century.”

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Maya Benton, ICP Adjunct Curator

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) '[David Eckstein, seven years old, and classmates in cheder (Jewish elementary school), Brod]' c. 1938

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
[David Eckstein, seven years old, and classmates in cheder (Jewish elementary school), Brod]
c. 1938
International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

 

“The boy in this photograph has been identified as David Eckstein, a Holocaust survivor currently living in a commune in the American Southwest. Born in 1930 in the small town of Brod, Eckstein was seven years old when Vishniac took several photographs of him, his classmates, and his teacher just before the onslaught of World War II. Vishniac later recalled, ‘I watched this little boy for almost an hour, and in this moment I saw the whole sadness of the world.’ This portrait was later selected as the cover of Vishniac’s first publication, Polish Jews: A Pictorial Record (1947), and reprinted on the cover of I. B. Singer’s National Book Award-winning collection of stories, A Day of Pleasure: Stories of a Boy Growing Up in Warsaw (1969).”

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Maya Benton, ICP Adjunct Curator

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) '[Grandmother and grandchildren in basement dwelling, Krochmaina Street, Warsaw]' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
[Grandmother and grandchildren in basement dwelling, Krochmaina Street, Warsaw]
c. 1935-38
International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

 

“Vishniac documented urban poverty in Warsaw, often focusing on the dark, cold basement dwellings of families where hungry Jewish children lived in crowded conditions. Vishniac photographed this woman taking care of her grandchildren while their parents searched for work in one of 26 basement compartments, each inhabited by a large family. In June 1941, the National Jewish Monthly published this image with the caption ‘Polish Jewry, once the bulwark of world Jewry, is done for as a community. Even if Hitler were to lose power tomorrow, their institutions and organizations are hopelessly smashed, could not be rebuilt in generations. But individuals remain, starved and persecuted. This picture shows an old grandmother and her grandchildren. What is going to become of them, and of the millions of other innocent victims of Fascist violence and terror?'”

.
Maya Benton, ICP Adjunct Curator

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'Sara, sitting in bed in a basement dwelling, with stencilled flowers above her head, Warsaw' c. 1935-37

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Sara, sitting in bed in a basement dwelling, with stencilled flowers above her head, Warsaw
c. 1935-37
Courtesy International Center of Photography
On display at The Photographers’ Gallery
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

 

Vishniac documented the basement dwellings of Warsaw using the scant natural light that trickled through a few narrow, high windows, necessitating that he shoot during the day, when adults were often out looking for work or peddling their wares and children were sometimes the only inhabitants indoors. This photograph of Sara, one of Vishniac’s most iconic images, was reproduced on charity tins, or tzedakah boxes, and circulated throughout France by Jewish social service organisations, including the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC) in the late 1930s.

Text from the International Center of Photography website

 

 

An extraordinarily versatile and innovative photographer, Vishniac is best known for having created one of the most widely recognised and reproduced photographic records of Jewish life in Eastern Europe between the two World Wars. Featuring many of his most iconic works, this comprehensive exhibition further introduces recently discovered and lesser-known chapters of his photographic career from the early 1920s to the late 1970s. The cross-venue exhibition presents radically diverse bodies of work and positions Vishniac as one of the most important social documentary photographers of the 20th century whose work also sits within a broader tradition of 1930s modernist photography.

Born in Pavlovsk, Russia in 1897 to a Jewish family Roman Vishniac was raised in Moscow. On his seventh birthday, he was given a camera and a microscope which began a lifelong fascination with photography and science. He began to conduct early scientific experiments attaching the camera to the microscope and as a teenager became an avid amateur photographer and student of biology, chemistry and zoology. In 1920, following the Bolshevik Revolution, he immigrated to Berlin where he joined some of the city’s many flourishing camera clubs. Inspired by the cosmopolitanism and rich cultural experimentation in Berlin at this time, Vishniac used his camera to document his surroundings. This early body of work reflects the influence of European modernism with his framing and compositions favouring sharp angles and dramatic use of light and shade to inform his subject matter.

Vishniac’s development as a photographer coincided with the enormous political changes occurring in Germany, which he steadfastly captured in his images. They represent an unsettling visual foreboding of the growing signs of oppression, the loss of rights for Jews, the rise of Nazism in Germany, the insidious propaganda – swastika flags and military parades, which were taking over both the streets and daily life. German Jews routinely had their businesses boycotted, were banned from many public places and expelled from Aryanised schools. They were also prevented from pursuing professions in law, medicine, teaching, and photography, among many other indignities and curtailments of civil liberties. Vishniac recorded this painful new reality through uncompromising images showing Jewish soup kitchens, schools and hospitals, immigration offices and Zionist agrarian training camps, his photos tracking the speed with which the city changed from an open, intellectual society to one where militarism and fascism were closing in.

Social and political documentation quickly became a focal point of his work and drew the attention of organisations wanting to raise awareness and gain support for the Jewish population. In 1935, Vishniac was commissioned by the world’s largest Jewish relief organisation, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), to photograph impoverished Jewish communities in Eastern Europe. These images were intended to support relief efforts and were used in fundraising campaigns for an American donor audience. When the war broke out only a few years later, his photos served increasingly urgent refugee efforts, before finally, at the end of the war and the genocide enacted by Nazi Germany, Vishniac’s images became the most comprehensive photographic record by a single photographer of a vanished world.

Vishniac left Europe in 1940 and arrived in New York with his family on New Year’s Day, 1941. He continued to record the impact of World War II throughout the 1940s and 50s in particular focusing on the arrival of Jewish refugees and Holocaust survivors in the US, but also looking at other immigrant communities including Chinese Americans. In 1947, he returned to Europe to document refugees and relief efforts in Jewish Displaced Persons camps and also to witness the ruins of his former hometown, Berlin. He also continued his biological studies and supplemented his income by teaching and writing.

In New York, Vishniac established himself as a freelance photographer and built a successful portrait studio on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. At the same time he dedicated himself to scientific research, resuming his interest in Photomicroscopy. This particular application of photography became the primary focus of his work during the last 45 years of his life. By the mid-1950s, he was regarded as a pioneer in the field, developing increasingly sophisticated techniques for photographing and filming microscopic life forms. Vishniac was appointed Professor of Biology and Art at several universities and his groundbreaking images and scientific research were published in hundreds of magazines and books.

Although he was mainly embedded in the scientific community, Vishniac was a keen observer and scholar of art, culture, and history and would have been aware of developments in photography going on around him and the work of his contemporaries. In 1955, famed photographer and museum curator Edward Steichen featured several of Vishniac’s photographs in the influential book and travelling exhibition The Family of Man shown at the Museum of Modern Art. Steichen later describes the importance of Vishniac’s work. “[He]… gives a last minute look at the human beings he photographed just before the fury of Nazi brutality exterminated them. The resulting photographs are among photography’s finest documents of a time and place.”

Roman Vishniac Rediscovered offers a timely reappraisal of Vishniac’s vast photographic output and legacy and brings together – for the first time – his complete works including recently discovered vintage prints, rare and ‘lost’ film footage from his pre-war period, contact sheets, personal correspondence, original magazine publications, newly created exhibition prints as well as his acclaimed photomicroscopy.

Drawn from the Roman Vishniac Archive at the International Center of Photography, New York and curated by Maya Benton in collaboration with The Photographers’ Gallery curator, Anna Dannemann and Jewish Museum London curator, Morgan Wadsworth-Boyle, each venue will provide additional contextual material to illuminate the works on display and bring the artist, his works and significance to the attention of UK audiences. Roman Vishniac Rediscovered is organised by the International Center of Photography.

Press release from The Photographers’ Gallery

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'Inside the Jewish quarter, Bratislava' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Inside the Jewish quarter, Bratislava
c. 1935-38
Courtesy International Center of Photography
On display at Jewish Museum London
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac. 'Children at Play, Bratislava' c. 1935-38

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Children at Play, Bratislava
c. 1935-38
Courtesy International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'Vishniac's daughter Mara posing in front of an election poster for Hindenburg and Hitler' 1933

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Vishniac’s daughter Mara posing in front of an election poster for Hindenburg and Hitler that reads “The Marshal and the Corporal: Fight with Us for Peace and Equal Rights,” Wilmersdorf, Berlin
1933
Courtesy International Center of Photography
On display at Jewish Museum London
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

 

Vishniac’s daughter Mara, age seven, was photographed standing in front of this 1933 poster celebrating Hitler’s recent appointment as German chancellor. The poster advertises a plebiscite to permit withdrawal from the League of Nations and Geneva Disarmament Conference, which restricted Germany’s ability to develop a military. Other posters include the slogans “Mothers, fight for your children!,” “The coming generation accuses you!,” and “In 8 months… 2,250,000 countrymen able to put food on the table. Bolshevism destroyed. Sectionalism overcome. A kingdom and order of cleanliness built… Those are the achievements of Hitler’s rule…”

Text from the International Center of Photography website

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'Benedictine nun reading, probably France' 1930s

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Benedictine nun reading, probably France
1930s, printed 2012
Photo digital inkjet print
12 x 11 3/8 in. (30.5 x 29 cm)
International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'Ernst Kaufmann, center, and unidentified Zionist youth' 1938-39

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Ernst Kaufmann, center, and unidentified Zionist youth, wearing clogs while learning construction techniques in a quarry, Werkdorp Nieuwesluis, Wieringermeer, The Netherlands
1938-39
Courtesy International Center of Photography
On display at Jewish Museum London
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

 

Ernst Kaufmann was born in Krefeld, Germany, in 1911. He was arrested in June 1941 and killed in August of that year in the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria.

This photograph is strikingly similar in subject and composition to a bronze relief plaque made in 1935 by Dutch artist Hildo Krop (1884-1970) for the monument on the Afsluitdijk, a dam that was completed in 1933 in the north of the Netherlands. The relief depicts three stoneworkers below the text “A nation that lives builds for the future.” Dutch modernist architect Willem Dudok (1884-1974) designed the Afsluitdijk and in 1935 Krop’s plaque was added. The dam was a triumph of Dutch engineering and a source of national pride. Residents of the Werkdorp probably took Vishniac to the Afsluitdijk; the well-known relief undoubtedly inspired him to stage this shot, an ideal composition for his heroic image of Jewish pioneers in the Werkdorp, and an unusual conflation of Dutch nationalist and Zionist visual sensibilities.

Text from the International Center of Photography website

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'Beach dwellers in the afternoon, Nice, France' c. 1939

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Beach dwellers in the afternoon, Nice, France
c. 1939
Courtesy International Center of Photography
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'Boys exercising in the gymnasium of the Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn' 1949

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Boys exercising in the gymnasium of the Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn
1949
Courtesy International Center of Photography
On display at The Photographers’ Gallery
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

 

The Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst, known as the “J,” was established in 1927 to serve the growing population of first-generation American Jews migrating to South Brooklyn. The J’s mission, to “ennoble Jewish youth” by building and fostering a sense of Jewish community, was accomplished through the promotion of arts and recreation for all ages. American Jewish major league baseball legend Sandy Koufax, a regular at the J, had started his sports career there as a basketball player.

In a dramatic departure from his iconic photographs of impoverished children in prewar eastern Europe, here Vishniac focused on the strong, healthy young American children. The children’s vitality is reinforced by the diagonal lines and geometric angles of the ropes, contributing to a forceful and innovative composition reflective of Vishniac’s previously unknown American work from the 1940s.

Text from the International Center of Photography website

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990) 'Customers waiting in line at a butcher's counter during wartime rationing, Washington Market, New York' 1941-44

 

Roman Vishniac (1897-1990)
Customers waiting in line at a butcher’s counter during wartime rationing, Washington Market, New York
1941-44
Courtesy International Center of Photography
On display at The Photographers’ Gallery
© Mara Vishniac Kohn

 

 

New York’s Washington Market, famed for its exceptional variety and quantity of food, was established in the eighteenth century. Vishniac documented the mostly female customers waiting for service during a period of wartime restrictions and food rationing. Through careful framing – customers stand against bare counters and voided display cases – he captured disenchanted expressions that can be read as a projection of Vishniac’s own experience as a new immigrant in America, as well as a record of comparative privation in the former plenty of Washington Market. As such, they anticipate the isolation and indifference shown in The Americans by Robert Frank, another Jewish immigrant from war-torn Europe.

Text from the International Center of Photography website

 

 

The Photographers’ Gallery
16-18 Ramillies Street
London
W1F 7LW

Opening hours:
Monday – Saturday: 10.00 – 18.00
Thursday: 10.00 – 20.00 during exhibitions
Sunday: 11.00 – 18.00

 

The Jewish Museum
Raymond Burton House, 129-131 Albert Street,
London NW1 7NB
Phone: +44 (0)20 7284 7384

Opening hours:
Daily 10am – 5pm (Friday 10am – 2pm)

 

The Photographers’ Gallery website

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02
Feb
19

Exhibition: ‘Daughters Of The Sun: Christian Waller & Klytie Pate’ at Bendigo Art Gallery, Australia

Exhibition dates: 10th November 2018 – 10th February 2019

Curator: Emma Busowsky Cox

 

 

Christian Waller (1894-1954) 'The daughter of the sun' 1932

 

Christian Waller (Australian, 1894-1954)
The daughter of the sun
1932
Paper lithograph, printed in black ink, from one zinc plate
21.4 x 15.8 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1983

 

 

I travelled up to Bendigo to see this small gem of an exhibition with a friend of mine… and the trip was so very worthwhile.

Being a ceramic tragic (especially in my love of vases), I was in seventh heaven observing and admiring the sublime work of Klytie Pate – the precision of incised and pierced motifs, the clean, classic forms and the gorgeous, colourful glazes. Absolutely brilliant work.

But the revelation of the exhibition was the work of Christian Waller. Oh My God – literally, religion as “an idiosyncratic fusion of orthodox and alternative spiritual philosophies: Christianity, Theosophy, the Golden Dawn and the International Peace Mission Movement,” portrayed through a personal language of symbols in Waller’s art, used “to express her pantheistic sense of the spiritual and encourage spiritual contemplation…”

To the list of spiritual philosophies you can add the Tarot, Egyptology, and mythology – Arthurian and Irish. The list of influences includes the British Arts and Crafts Movement, the Pre-Raphaelites, and Art Deco. And the list of personal symbols includes the sun, the moon, stars and flowers.

These are mighty works, particularly the impressive linocuts. They had such a depth of form and feeling, the blackness of the ink seeming to draw you into the physical and spiritual structure of the works. The highlight was a darkened room at the centre of the exhibition in which was presented all seven linocuts from Waller’s book The Great Breath: A book of seven designs (1932, below).

Swear to my god (that is, an energy that I believe permeates every atom, tree, animal and pore of the earth and the cosmos), I had a spiritual revelation while contemplating this work. Some might say that the designs are “of their time”, the sentiments expressed romantic and trite. To that I have one word to say: bullshit.

Great art, great design, and great feeling (for/of spirit) never, ever, leaves the creator or the creation.

“The Spirit of Light… Who descended into the depths of Chaos.”
“The Lords of the Flame… Who brought down to Earth the Divine Fire of Heaven.”

Australia has so many hidden gems in their artists. Thank you, thank you Bendigo Art Gallery for showing me two of them. Simply magical.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to Bendigo Art Gallery for allowing me to publish the text and photographs in the posting. Please click on the art work for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Christian Waller (1894-1954) 'Destiny' 1916

 

Christian Waller (Australian, 1894-1954)
Destiny
1916
Oil on canvas
51.0 × 61.1 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated from the Estate of Ouida Marston, 2011

 

 

Destiny, 1916, a painting completed by Christian shortly after leaving the school, indicates that the influence of Hall’s teaching extended beyond her student years. She adroitly renders the flesh in paint, yet adds her personal style. Florence modelled for this work and assumes the character of a sorceress watching over a mystical concoction. Through the use of dark, muted tones, Christian suggests a macabre, mystical narrative: the woman dressed in a medieval cloak is depicted bent over a bubbling cauldron, while the naked humans are trapped in the bubbles.15 This work demonstrates that by 1916 she possessed high-level artistic skills and the capacity to develop original compositions informed by her literary and mystical interests.

Extract from Woman of the Sun: Christian Waller by Dr Grace Blakeley-Carroll

 

Christian Waller (1894-1954) The conspirators c. 1920

 

Christian Waller (Australian, 1894-1954)
The conspirators
c. 1920
Drawing in pen and black ink
Image 12.9 h x 25.9 w cm
Sheet 12.9 h x 25.9 w cm
National Gallery of Australia

 

 

The phase of Christian’s practice immediately after she had left the National Gallery School, including the period when she and Napier were developing their home at Fairy Hills, saw her employ dynamic line and decorative expression to create original drawings (mainly in pen and ink) and book illustrations that increasingly reflected her engagement with mysticism and spiritual symbols, such as The Conspirators, c. 1920 (above), one of her finest pen-and-ink drawings. Her intricate line work evokes a sinister scene, one that bears little resemblance to the world in which she lived, suggesting instead a narrative from a medieval story. Her strong graphic abilities and striking use of symbolism were repeatedly singled out in reviews of the Victorian Artists’ Society exhibitions in which she participated from 1913 through to the 1920s.27

Extract from Woman of the Sun: Christian Waller by Dr Grace Blakeley-Carroll

 

Photographer unknown. 'Napier and Christian Waller' 1922

 

Photographer unknown
Napier and Christian Waller
1922
Gelatin silver photograph
Courtesy the Trustees of the Waller Estate, Melbourne

 

 

Christian Waller, in a 1948 interview about her stained glass for the Woman’s Magazine, stated that there were ‘two words printed on my consciousness’, these being ‘work and God’.1 As she implies, Christian created artworks that unified her aesthetic interests with the spiritual values she held so profoundly – her art was inspired by her spiritual thinking. And her evolving artistic and spiritual values were expressed through the array of expressive decorative media harnessed by her, including drawing, illustration, printmaking, painting and stained glass.

Christian was driven by her aim to communicate spiritual values through art, articulating this towards the end of her life in the newspaper interview from which the earlier quotation was obtained: ‘My life is to get the message through, and I am trying to make religion real’.2 Her spirituality was an idiosyncratic fusion of orthodox and alternative spiritual philosophies: Christianity, Theosophy, the Golden Dawn and the International Peace Mission Movement. To express her pantheistic sense of the spiritual and encourage spiritual contemplation, she developed a personal language of symbols, these being predominantly the sun, the moon, stars and flowers. Her engagement with the values associated with the British Arts and Crafts Movement, specifically the privileging of the handmade work of art and its social function, was central to the overall spiritual significance of her work. Christian’s artworks were generally accompanied by – or explicitly responded to – written narratives, with the harmony of word, image and message central to her creative process.

Extract from Woman of the Sun: Christian Waller by Dr Grace Blakeley-Carroll

 

Christian Waller (1894-1954) 'Ethlinn' c. 1921

 

Christian Waller (Australian, 1894-1954)
Ethlinn
c. 1921
Pen and ink on paper
31.0 × 14.2 cm (image and sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of John McPhee, 2008
© Courtesy of the artist’s estate

 

 

This exhibition tells the story of Christian Waller, celebrated Australian printmaker of the Art Deco era, and her niece, the pioneering ceramic artist, Klytie Pate.

Christian Waller, born in Castlemaine in Central Victoria in 1894, had a deep personal interest in spiritualism, symbolism and the mystical philosophies of the modern theosophical movement. Her print work is characterised by a complex symbolism, combining ancient classical and literary subjects alongside occult motifs in a dynamic style owing much to the bold geometry of Art Deco and the handmade ethos of the Arts and Crafts movement. In 1954, aged 59, Waller died a virtual recluse in the Fairy Hills home she shared with her artist husband, Napier Waller. At this time, she had also established a reputation as one of Australia’s leading stained glass artists, having produced some 65 windows for churches in Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales.

Christian Waller’s niece, Klytie Pate, came to live with the Wallers as a young teenager. As Pate’s maternal figure from a formative age, Christian Waller was an influential force in Pate’s life, directing her notable artistic talent into formal studies and guiding her early career. Klytie Pate mastered her chosen craft of ceramic art, forging innovations in design and glazing to become one of Australia’s foremost studio potters of the 20th century. Her aunt’s influence, in design and in subject, continued in Pate’s work for the whole of her long and successful career.

Daughters of the Sun: Christian Waller & Klytie Pate explores the intertwining lives and work of these artists, bringing together works from Bendigo Art Gallery’s own collection, as well as the Klytie Pate Treasury at Beleura, Napier Waller House, the National Gallery of Victoria, the National Gallery of Australia and other lenders. A major publication will accompany the exhibition, with essays by the exhibition curator, Emma Busowsky Cox, and art historian Dr Grace Blakeley-Carroll.

Text from the Bendigo Art Gallery website

 

Christian Waller. 'Morgan Le Fay' c. 1925

 

Christian Waller (Australian, 1894-1954)
Morgan Le Fay [Morgan the fairy]
c. 1925
Oil on wood panel
Collection of Dennis O’Hoy, AM

 

Christian Waller (1894-1954) 'Morgan Le Fay' c. 1927

 

Christian Waller (Australian, 1894-1954)
Morgan Le Fay  [Morgan the fairy]
c. 1927
Linocut on paper, printed in colour, hand coloured
Sheet: 27.5 x 18.9 cm
Collection: Art Gallery of Ballarat
Purchased, 1976

 

 

Daughters of the Sun: Christian Waller & Klytie Pate tells a story with its origins in Central Victoria. Christian Waller was born in Castlemaine in 1894, and received some of her early artistic tuition in Bendigo. A child prodigy, Waller first exhibited her work at Bendigo Art Gallery in 1909 with a classically themed painting called A Petition. She was just fourteen years old.

Christian Waller’s notable artistic talent saw the family move to Melbourne so she could attend the National Gallery School. Establishing a reputation in book illustration, printmaking and stained glass (both design and execution), Waller’s interests in the occult, ancient mythology, literature and theosophy are brought together in dazzling, original works. With her husband, the artist Napier Waller, she established a superb Arts and Crafts style home in an area of Melbourne’s Ivanhoe, fittingly called Fairy Hills.

In around 1925, following difficult family circumstances, Christian Waller’s young niece, Klytie Pate, came to live with the Wallers under their guardianship. As Pate’s maternal figure from a formative age, Christian Waller was an influential force in Pate’s life, directing her notable artistic talent into formal studies and guiding her early career. Klytie Pate mastered her chosen craft of ceramic art, forging innovations in design and glazing to become one of Australia’s foremost studio potters of the twentieth century. Her aunt’s influence, in design and in subjects, can be seen throughout Pate’s oeuvre – a career that spanned more than sixty years.

Karen Quinlan, Director of Bendigo Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

 

Installation views of the exhibition Daughters of the Sun showing the work Christian Waller with Baldur, Undine and Siren at Fairy Hills by Napier Waller, 1932

 

Napier Waller (Australian, 1893-1972) 'Christian Waller with Baldur, Undine and Siren at Fairy Hills' 1932

 

Napier Waller (Australian, 1893-1972)
Christian Waller with Baldur, Undine and Siren at Fairy Hills
1932
Oil and tempera on canvas mounted on composition board
121.5 x 205.5 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1984

 

Napier Waller (Australian, 1893-1972) 'Christian Waller with Baldur, Undine and Siren at Fairy Hills' 1932 (detail)

 

Napier Waller (Australian, 1893-1972)
Christian Waller with Baldur, Undine and Siren at Fairy Hills (detail)
1932
Oil and tempera on canvas mounted on composition board
121.5 x 205.5 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1984

 

Christian Waller (Australian, 1894-1954) 'Ex Libris: Klytie' c. 1932

 

Christian Waller (Australian, 1894-1954)
Ex Libris: Klytie
c. 1932
Linocut
13.6 x 7.8 cm
Irreg. (block) 15.4 x 9.5 cm irreg. (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Presented through The Art Foundation of Victoria by Ms Klytie Pate, Member, 1999

 

Christian Waller (1894-1954) 'Untitled (Thomas and the Persian)' 1932

 

Christian Waller (Australian, 1894-1954)
Untitled (Thomas and the Persian)
1932
Paper lithograph, printed in black ink, from one zinc plate
22.8 x 17.4 cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1979

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

 

Installation views of the exhibition Daughters of the Sun showing the 7 linocuts from the The Great Breath: A book of seven designs by Christian Waller, 1932

 

Christian Waller (Australian, 1894-1954) 'The Lords of Venus' from 'The Great Breath: A book of seven designs' 1932

 

Christian Waller (Australian, 1894-1954)
The Lords of Venus from The Great Breath: A book of seven designs
1932
Linocut 31.8 x 13.5 cm (block)
35.3 x 16.6 cm irreg. (sheet)
Bendigo Art Gallery
R.H.S. Abbott Bequest Fund, 1990

 

Christian Waller (Australian, 1894-1954) 'The Magician of the Beautiful' from 'The Great Breath: A book of seven designs' 1932

 

Christian Waller (Australian, 1894-1954)
The Magician of the Beautiful from The Great Breath: A book of seven designs
1932
Linocut 31.8 x 13.5 cm (block)
35.3 x 16.6 cm irreg. (sheet)
Bendigo Art Gallery
R.H.S. Abbott Bequest Fund, 1990

 

Christian Waller (Australian, 1894-1954) 'The Spirit of Light' from 'The Great Breath: A book of seven designs' 1932

 

Christian Waller (Australian, 1894-1954)
The Spirit of Light from The Great Breath: A book of seven designs
1932
Linocut 31.8 x 13.5 cm (block)
35.3 x 16.6 cm irreg. (sheet)
Bendigo Art Gallery
R.H.S. Abbott Bequest Fund, 1990

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition Daughters of the Sun showing the work The robe of glory by Christian Waller, 1937

 

Christian Waller (1894-1954) 'The robe of glory' 1937

 

Christian Waller (Australian, 1894-1954)
The robe of glory
1937
Oil on canvas
172.0 x 267.0 cm
Collection of the Greater Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust

 

Christian Waller (1894-1954) 'The robe of glory' 1937 (detail)

 

Christian Waller (Australian, 1894-1954)
The robe of glory (detail)
1937
Oil on canvas
172.0 x 267.0 cm
Collection of the Greater Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust

 

Christian Waller (1894-1954) 'Untitled (Angus Og and Caer Ormaith)' c. 1930s

 

Christian Waller (Australian, 1894-1954)
Untitled (Angus Og and Caer Ormaith)
c. 1930s
Stained glass, lead
32 cm diameter
The Hilda Johns Collection on loan from Peter Johns

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

 

Installation views of the exhibition Daughters of the Sun showing the work East of the Sun and West of the Moon by Christian Waller, c. 1940

 

Christian Waller (1894-1954) 'East of the Sun and West of the Moon' c. 1940

 

Christian Waller (Australian, 1894-1954)
East of the Sun and West of the Moon
c. 1940
Stained glass window
Beleura House & Garden

 

 

One of Christian’s most impressive windows is also one of her only known secular windows, the baptistery-sized window East of the Sun and West of the Moon. It was made for her friend Tallis, whom she and her husband had met while travelling to London on the boat Otranto in 1929; the then teenager recorded his impressions of the ‘terribly imaginative and emotional’ Christian in his diary, which she illustrated.50 The window is located alongside a collection of Christian’s art and that of her niece at Beleura House & Garden in Mornington, Victoria. The use of pattern, symbols and sinuous line in East of the Sun and West of the Moon owes a stylistic debt to Danish illustrator Kay Nielsen, specifically his work in East of the Sun and West of the Moon: Tales from the North (1914), from which Christian derived the name for the window.51

Extract from Woman of the Sun: Christian Waller by Dr Grace Blakeley-Carroll

 

Jack Cato (1889-1971) 'Untitled (Christian Waller)' 1930s

 

Jack Cato (1889-1971)
Untitled (Christian Waller)
1930s
Gelatin silver photograph
24.3 × 18.8 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented through The Art Foundation of Victoria by Ms Klytie Pate, Member, 1999

 

Photographer unknown. 'Untitled (Klytie Pate and cat)' c. 1930

 

Photographer unknown
Untitled (Klytie Pate and cat)
c. 1930
Gelatin silver photograph
Klytie Pate Archive, Shaw Research Library, National Gallery of Victoria

 

Klytie Pate (1912-2010) Studies for the linocut 'Limpang Tung' 1932

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Studies for the linocut Limpang Tung
1932
Pencil
19.9 × 27.0 cm irreg. (image)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Presented through The Art Foundation of Victoria by the artist, Member, 1999
© Courtesy of the artist

 

Photographer unknown. 'Untitled (Klytie Pate [centre] at Melbourne Technical College)' early 1930s

 

Photographer unknown
Untitled (Klytie Pate [centre] at Melbourne Technical College)
early 1930s
Gelatin silver photograph courtesy Dr Will Twycross

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010) 'Scarab beetle plate' c 1932

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Scarab beetle plate
c 1932
Earthenware
22.0 cm (diameter)
Beleura House & Garden

 

Christian Waller (1894-1954) 'The sun, plaque' 1932

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
The sun, plaque
1932
Earth pigments on plaster, glass, wire
38.5 x 22.8 x 2.6 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1984
© Courtesy of the artist

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010) 'Youth and girl' c. 1936 (detail)

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Youth and girl (detail)
c. 1936
Brush and ink over pencil
11.9 x 21.0 cm irreg. (image and comp.) 18.5 x 29.3 irreg. (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1981

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010) 'Youth and girl' c. 1936

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Youth and girl
c. 1936
Brush and ink over pencil
11.9 x 21.0 cm irreg. (image and comp.) 18.5 x 29.3 irreg. (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1981

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010) 'Youth and girl, plaque' 1932-1936

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Youth and girl, plaque
1932-1936
Plaster
31.9 x 55.7 x 2.4 cm irreg.
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased from the artist, 1984

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition Daughters of the Sun showing the ceramics of Klytie Pate

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Spirit of the trees (back)
Terracota
Collection John McPhee

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Fauna (right)
1937
wood engraving
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection at Beleura, Mornington

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition Daughters of the Sun showing the ceramics of Klytie Pate

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Vase
1936
Incised and glazed earthenware
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection at Beleura, Mornington

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Vase
1936
Incised and glazed earthenware
The Trustees of the Waller Estate, Melbourne

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Vase
1936
Incised and glazed earthenware
The Trustees of the Waller Estate, Melbourne

 

Klytie Pate (1912-2010) 'Vase' 1936

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Vase
1936
Earthenware
The Trustees of the Waller Estate, Melbourne

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

 

Installation views of the exhibition Daughters of the Sun showing the ceramics of Klytie Pate

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Bottle-brush, vase
c. 1939
Earthenware
24.6 × 19.4 cm diameter
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with the assistance of the Crafts Board of the Australia Council, 1980
© Courtesy of the artist

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Milky Way vase
c. 1956
Earthenware
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mrs Anne Howett Molan, 1984

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Antelope vase
Nd
Earthenware
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection at Beleura, Mornington

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Ceramic vase
1988
Earthenware
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection at Beleura, Mornington

 

'Bottle-brush, vase' c. 1939

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Bottle-brush, vase
c. 1939
Earthenware
24.6 × 19.4 cm diameter
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with the assistance of the Crafts Board of the Australia Council, 1980
© Courtesy of the artist

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010) 'Milky way vase' c. 1956

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Milky way, vase
c. 1956
Earthenware
32.4 × 22.5 cm diameter
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mrs Anne Howett Molan, 1984
© Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Pate’s work from the late 1930s through to the 1940s indicates a maturing of her personal style and approach. Covered jar of 1939 embodies her deference both to the ginger jar form and the monochrome glaze, elements taken from the Chinese tradition and to which she would continuously return. The ginger jar, with its large globular body, provided the ideal vehicle to showcase her spectacular glazing technique and skilful decorative incising. Pate took a highly experimental approach to glazing, one adopted in the lean years of the Depression, when materials were scarce. (She was known to grind up mosaic tiles from Napier’s commissions to use in her glazes, and on a later occasion, employed sand pocketed during a trip to the Grand Canyon, to glittering effect.) However, the serene sea blue so favoured by Pate, known as ‘Klytie blue’, became a hallmark of her work.49 Pate acquired glazes from a range of sources, including England, with her recipes closely guarded secrets.50 Applied with a spray gun, their successes were garnered through trial and error and a bit of luck in the final firing, after which the kiln was not opened for three days. About the process, she said: ‘The suspense is awful’.51

Both the natural and spiritual worlds provided Pate with a wellspring of imagery and readily translated into designs for the ceramic form. Bottle-brush vase of c. 1939, to which the artist wrote a poetic ode for a competition, takes its motif from the plant Banksia serrata, and is a stunning conceptualisation of subject and form.52 The motif of her namesake and symbol of modern Spiritualism, the sunflower, repeatedly appears, as does the Tudor rose; it is also seen dotted throughout Christian’s work and that of Vienna Secession artist Michael Powolny, to whom Christian is arguably indebted. The Ouija board used as a plinth, and celestially themed works such as Milky Way vase, c. 1956, show that the formative influence of her spiritualist aunt continued as a tangible presence.53

Animals, often her adored cats, commonly appear in both incised frieze-like filigree decorations and in sculptural form. Material collected and kept by Pate indicates her admiration for the animal works of the late nineteenth-century Italian sculptor, Rembrandt Bugatti, as well as Sumerian animal sculpture from Ur.54 Dragons, gryphons and more earthly, but no less bizarre, sea creatures are favoured motifs for both non-functional and functional ceramic forms. Theatre and music are also recurring themes: Pate fondly recalls Christian taking her to piano recitals at Melbourne Town Hall in the 1930s.55 The pianist Roy Shepherd became a close friend and urged Pate to design pots for particular records. Mahler, Monteverdi, Chopin and Debussy were amongst her favourite composers.56

Pate remained true to the earthenware tradition, despite the proliferation of stoneware in the 1950s, which was ushered in by the ready availability of higher temperature kilns and a shift towards the utilitarian simplicity espoused by influential British studio potter Bernard Leach. In the first of many subsequent trips abroad, Pate took extended leave in 1951, travelling to Britain with Bill aboard the Otranto. It was the same elegant passenger ship that Christian and Napier had taken to the UK twenty one years earlier, a trip during which they had made the acquaintance of the young composer, John (Jack) Tallis. The trip was the foundation of a lifelong friendship between Tallis and the Wallers.57 Tallis later became a significant supporter of Pate’s work and also the final owner of Beleura, the splendid mansion on the Mornington Peninsula, built in 1863 by Scottish immigrant James Butchart. Tallis bequeathed Beleura to the people of Victoria in 1996 as a memorial to his late father, Sir George Tallis, the well-known theatre entrepreneur and head of J.C. Williamson Ltd. Several works by Christian Waller adorn Beleura, which now operates as a house museum, including the wonderful stained glass window, East of the Sun and West of the Moon, in what was Tallis’s bedroom. The Klytie Pate ceramics that Tallis collected over the years became the nucleus of the largest collection of her work in any museum. Anthony Knight, Director of Beleura and one of the trustees of the Tallis Foundation, has considerably expanded Beleura’s collection of Pate’s work. In 2015, Dr Will Twycross, whose parents had been lifelong friends of the Pates, donated significant pieces from their collection to Beleura. The Twycross family also contributed to the construction of the Klytie Pate Treasury to ensure the ongoing display, preservation and enjoyment of her work.

Extract from Daughter of the Sun: Klytie Pate by Emma Busowsky Cox

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

 

Installation views of the exhibition Daughters of the Sun showing the ceramics of Klytie Pate

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Lidded jar (Tragedy and Comedy)
c. 1943
Earthenware
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection, Beleura, Mornington

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Display plate
Nd
Earthenware with wax resist glaze
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection, Beleura, Mornington

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Incised ginger jar
Nd
Earthenware
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection, Beleura, Mornington

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Incised urn-shaped vase with carved seahorse lugs (flying fish motif)
Nd
Earthenware
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection, Beleura, Mornington

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010) 'Incised urn-shaped vase with carved seahorse lugs (flying fish motif)' Date unknown

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Incised urn-shaped vase with carved seahorse lugs (flying fish motif)
Date unknown
Earthenware with biscuit glaze
36.5 x 25.5 cm
Beleura House & Garden

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

 

Installation views of the exhibition Daughters of the Sun showing the ceramics of Klytie Pate

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Vase (ovoid shape with rimmed neck) (left)
Nd
Earthenware
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection, Beleura, Mornington

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Sunflower plate (front)
Nd
Earthenware
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection, Beleura, Mornington

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Lidded jar (sunflower buds) (middle)
Nd
Earthenware
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection, Beleura, Mornington

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Covered jar (right)
c. 1943
Earthenware
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010) 'Covered jar' c. 1943

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Covered jar
c. 1943
Earthenware
23.2 × 24.2 cm diameter (overall)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1977
© Courtesy of the artist

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010) 'Covered jar' c. 1943 (detail)

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Covered jar (detail)
c. 1943
Earthenware
23.2 × 24.2 cm diameter (overall)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1977
© Courtesy of the artist

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010) 'Lidded jar' (sunflower buds) Date unknown

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Lidded jar (sunflower buds)
Date unknown
Glazed earthenware, incised
Beleura House & Garden

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010) 'Lidded jar' (sunflower buds) Date unknown (detail)

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Lidded jar (sunflower buds) (detail)
Date unknown
Glazed earthenware, incised
Beleura House & Garden

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition Daughters of the Sun showing the ceramics of Klytie Pate

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Covered jar
1971
Earthenware
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Mrs Anne Howett Molan through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program, 2009

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Ginger jar
1981
Earthenware
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection at Beleura, Mornington

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Zodiac plates (from a suite)
Nd
Earthenware
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection at Beleura, Mornington

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Ginger jar (music)
Nd
Earthenware
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection at Beleura, Mornington

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Lidded bottle
1981
Earthenware
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection at Beleura, Mornington

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Urn
Nd
Earthenware
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection at Beleura, Mornington

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

 

Installation views of the exhibition Daughters of the Sun showing the ceramics of Klytie Pate

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Ginger jar
1977
Terracota
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection at Beleura, Mornington

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Ginger jar
Nd (late 1970s)
Terracota
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection at Beleura, Mornington

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Bowl
Nd (late 1970s)
Terracota
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection at Beleura, Mornington

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Candleholder (central cross design)
Nd (late 1970s)
Terracota
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection at Beleura, Mornington

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Candleholder (filigree design)
1979
Terracota
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection at Beleura, Mornington

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010) 'Ginger jar' Date unknown

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Ginger jar
Date unknown
Terracotta, turquoise glaze
Beleura House & Garden

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010) 'Large pierced ginger jar (woven waterlily motif)' 1950

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Large pierced ginger jar (woven waterlily motif)
1950
Glazed earthenware
51 x 28 cm
Beleura House & Garden

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

 

Installation views of the exhibition Daughters of the Sun showing the ceramics of Klytie Pate

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Magnificent cat (left)
1980
Earthenware

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Candlestick holder (filigree pheasant motif) (right)
1979
Earthenware
Bendigo Art Gallery
Purchased with a gift from the Bendigo Rotary Club and the assistance of the Crafts Board of the Australia Council, 1982

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010) 'Magnificent cat' 1980

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Magnificent cat
1980
Earthenware
Beleura House & Garden

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010) 'Magnificent cat' 1980 (detail)

 

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Magnificent cat (detail)
1980
Earthenware
Beleura House & Garden

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition Daughters of the Sun showing the ceramics of Klytie Pate

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Vase (Mask of Venus)
Vase (Apollo)
1991
Earthenware
On loan courtesy of the Klytie Pate Collection, Beleura, Mornington

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'Daughters of the Sun' at Bendigo Art Gallery

 

Installation view of the exhibition Daughters of the Sun showing the ceramics of Klytie Pate

Klytie Pate (Australian, 1912-2010)
Covered jar
1999
Earthenware
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

 

 

Bendigo Art Gallery
42 View Street Bendigo
Victoria Australia 3550
Phone: 03 5434 6088

Opening hours:
Open daily including public holidays (closed Christmas Day), 10am – 5pm

Bendigo Art Gallery website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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