Archive for the 'documentary photography' Category

17
Jan
21

Exhibition: ‘The Experimental Self: Edvard Munch’s Photography’ at the National Nordic Museum, Seattle

Exhibition dates: 29th October 2020 – 31st January 2021

Curator: Dr Patricia Berman

 

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Self-Portrait in Åsgårdstrand' 1904

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Self-Portrait in Åsgårdstrand
1904
Silver gelatin contact print

 

 

The camera is located so close to Munch that his looming head is out of focus. Reversing photographic norms, the background is in sharp focus, revealing a chest that had been given to the artist by his on-and-off-girlfriend Tulla Larsen, and a lithograph tacked to the wallpaper above it – a bitterly satirical commentary on their relationship.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Caricature: The Assault' 1903

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Caricature: The Assault
1903
Lithograph printed in black on medium heavy cream paper
Sheet: 237 x 487mm
Image: 180 x 415mm

 

 

Munch says to a woman friend – “What do you think of me?”
She says, “I think you are the Christ”

.
Peter Watkins (director) Edvard Munch (film) 1974

 

 

The semi-transparent self

What a fascinating study of an artist in motion – physically and spiritually.

Through his informal, experimental photographs, Munch explores issues of identity and self-representation, friendship, work and location. In his photographs, he “assumes a range of personalities, from the vulnerable patient at the clinic to the vital, naked artist on the beach”, many of which undermine “the function of a camera as a straight-forward documentary tool.”

“Faulty” focus, distorted perspectives and eccentric camera angles combine with low and selective depth of field allow Munch to create a body of self-images in which “the artist himself appears in some pictures as a shadow or a smear rather than a physical presence.” There is a subtle mystery to much of the artist’s photographic work, a sense of loneliness and isolation trading off visions of heroic creatures; mirror images questioning the stability of him/self playing off the vitalism of male body culture; and variations of melancholy opposing a better life which lay in nature and good health, stages in the theatre of life.

His ghost-like, semi-transparent self/image appears as if seen in a far off dream – flickering images in light – out of space and time / asynchronous with the effects of time and motion.

What strong, e-motionless photographs of self these are. Here is observation but not self pity. Here is Munch investigating, probing, the mirror stage of “the formation of the Ego via the process of identification, the Ego being the result of identifying with one’s own specular image.”1 (Lacan). Munch explores the tension between the subject and the image, between the whole and fragmented body as revealed in psychoanalytic experience, seeking access to representations of the unified self, in order to understand the human condition, of becoming. Who am I? How am I represented to myself, and to others?

The attempt to locate a fixed subject proves ever elusive. “”The mirror stage is a drama… which manufactures for the subject, caught up in the lure of spatial identification, the succession of phantasies that extends from a fragmented body-image to a form of its totality.” (Écrits 4). With its link to a belief in spiritualism (popular in his day), Munch speculates that if we had different eyes we would be able to see our external astral casing, our different shapes. The exhibition text notes, “It is easy to read his layered, flickering images in light of such speculation.” Indeed it is. But the spectres that haunt Munch’s photographs are as much grounded in the reality of the everyday struggle to live a life on earth as they are in the spirit world. The are of the order of something, something that haunts and perturbs the mind, a questioning as to the nature of the self: am I a good person, am I worthy of a good life, where does the path lead me. I have been there, I am still there, I know his joy and pain.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. The specular image refers to the reflection of one’s own body in the mirror, the image of oneself which is simultaneously oneself and other – the “little other”.

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

 

Internationally celebrated for his paintings, prints, and watercolours, Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (1863-1944) also took photographs. This exhibition of his photographs, prints, and films emphasises the artist’s experimentalism, examining his exploration of the camera as an expressive medium. By probing and exploiting the dynamics of “faulty” practice, such as distortion, blurred motion, eccentric camera angles, and other photographic “mistakes,” Munch photographed himself and his immediate environment in ways that rendered them poetic. In both still images and in his few forays with a hand-held moving-picture camera, Munch not only archived images, but invented them.

On loan from the Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway, the 46 copy prints in the exhibition and the continuous screening of the DVD containing Munch’s films are accompanied by a small selection of prints from private collections, as well as contextualising panels and others that examine Munch’s photographic exploration. Similar to the ways in which the artist invented techniques and approaches to painting and graphic art, Munch’s informal photography both honoured the material before his lens and transmuted it into uncommon motifs.

 

” …these photographic images of the artist rise to the level of what Munch called “selfscrutinies”: emotional but hard-edged, and pierced with a dread of modern life that has outlived the Modernist era.” ~ New York Times

” …an unfinished playfulness with technical manipulation and subject matter that is not as readily seen in Munch’s more well-known work” ~ Hyperallergic

 

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Nurse at the Clinic, Copenhagen' 1908-09

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Nurse at the Clinic, Copenhagen
1908-09
Scan from negative

 

 

One of the nurses at Daniel Jacobson’s clinic in Copenhagen posed in a fontal manner that mirrors representations of women throughout Munch’s work. The slight movement of the camera blurs the figure and her surroundings, undermining the function of a camera as a straight-forward documentary tool.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Nurse at the Clinic, Copenhagen' 1908-09

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Nurse at the Clinic, Copenhagen
1908-09
Silver gelatin contact print

 

 

After a successful run at New York’s Scandinavia House that received great reviews from New York Times and others, the photography of Edvard Munch is currently on display at the National Nordic Museum in Seattle now through January 31, 2021. Curated by distinguished Munch scholar, Dr. Patricia Berman of Wellesley College, The Experimental Self: Edvard Munch’s Photography presents works from the rich collection of Oslo’s Munch Museum and shares new research on one of the most significant artists of his day.

“After displaying the journalistic photography of Jacob Riis this spring and discussing a picture’s power to change lives, it is wonderful to host another celebrated Nordic artist whose photography reflects the artistic potential found in the camera of the late 19th and early 20th century,” said Executive Director / CEO Eric Nelson.

Internationally celebrated for his paintings, prints, and watercolours, Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (1863-1944) experimented with both still photography and early motion picture cameras. The Experimental Self: Edvard Munch’s Photography displays his photographs and films in a way that emphasises the artist’s exploration of the camera as an expressive medium. By probing and exploiting the dynamics of “faulty” practice, such as distortion, blurred motion, eccentric camera angles, and other photographic “mistakes,” Munch photographed himself and his immediate environment in ways that rendered them poetic.

“In many ways, these works reveal an unknown Munch,” said Leslie Anne Anderson, Director of Collections, Exhibitions, and Programs at the National Nordic Museum. “The photographs were never displayed during the artist’s lifetime, and this exhibition invites visitors to peer into the keyhole of Munch’s private life.”

Press release from the National Nordic Museum

 

Ragnvald Vaering. 'Munch in his Winter Studio in Ekely on his seventy fifth birthday' 1938

 

Ragnvald Vaering
Munch in his Winter Studio in Ekely on his seventy fifth birthday
1938
Silver gelatin contact print

 

 

Introduction: The Experimental Self

Edvard Munch was among the first artists in history to take “selfies.” Like his paintings, prints and writings, his amateur photographs are often about self-representation. Munch assumes a range of personalities, from the vulnerable patient at the clinic to the vital, naked artist on the beach. Sometimes he staged himself and people around him almost theatrically. Munch pursued his informal photography as an experimental medium, just like his paintings and prints. The artist himself was more than often the experimental subject. This exhibition, containing around 60 photographs and movie fragments in dialogue with graphic works, highlights the connection between Munch’s amateur photography and his more recognised work as an artist.

Munch took up photography in 1902, months before he and his lover Tulla Larsen ended a multi-year relationship with a pistol shot that mutilated one of his fingers. This event, and an accelerating career, triggered a period of increasing emotional turmoil that culminated in a rest cure in the private Copenhagen clinic of Dr. Daniel Jacobson in 1908-09. After a pause of almost two decades, Munch picked up the camera again in 1927. This second period of activity lasted into the mid-1930s and was bracketed by triumphant retrospective exhibitions in Berlin and Oslo but also by a haemorrhage in his right eye, temporarily impairing his vision. This was also the time that Munch tried his hand at home movies.

Unlike his prints and paintings, however, Munch did not exhibit his tiny, copy-printed photographs. Yet he wrote in 1930, “I have an old camera with which I have taken countless pictures of myself, often with amazing results … Some day when I am old, and I have nothing better to do than write my autobiography, all my self-portraits will see the light of day again.”

 

The Amateur Photographer

Munch’s photographs are often out of focus, and the artist himself appears in some pictures as a shadow or a smear rather than a physical presence. As an amateur photographer, he seems to have exploited the expressive potential in photographic “mistakes” such as “faulty” focus, distorted perspectives and eccentric camera angles. By including the platforms on which he stabilised his small, hand-held camera, he created out-of-focus, undefined areas cutting across the foreground. What may have begun as accidents, eventually became a habitual element in his work.

In many of his self-portrait photographs, Munch moved during the camera’s exposure time, transforming his own body into a ghost-like figure. In the photographs from his studio, Munch and his work seem to exist out of space and time with one another. He often experimented with such effects: “Had we different, stronger eyes,” wrote Munch, “we would be able, like X-rays … to see our external astral casing – and we would have different shapes.” It is easy to read his layered, flickering images in light of such speculation. On the other hand, Munch also regarded his self-images with humour. Writing to his relative Ludvig Ravensberg in June 1904, he confessed: “When I saw my body photographed in profile, I decided, after consulting with my vanity, to dedicate more time to throwing stones, throwing the javelin, and swimming.”

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Self-Portrait on a Valise in the Studio, Berlin' 1902

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Self-Portrait on a Valise in the Studio, Berlin
1902
Collodion contact print

 

 

Munch took up photography in 1902, the same year that this picture was taken. There are three preserved versions of the motif, with subtle variations. Munch sent two of the images to his aunt Karen in Norway with the description: “Here are two photographs taken with a little camera I procured. You can see that I have just shaved off my moustache.”

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Self-Portrait on a Valise in the Studio, Berlin' 1902

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Self-Portrait on a Valise in the Studio, Berlin
1902
Collodion contact print

 

 

The artist stages himself amidst his paintings (see below) in the studio he rented in Berlin at the time. The valise doubles as furniture and a symbol of Munch’s restless nature – he was often on the move.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Evening on Karl Johan' 1892

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Evening on Karl Johan
1892
Oil on canvas
84.5cm (33.2 in) x 121cm (47.6 in)
KODE, Rasmus Beyers samlinger
Public domain

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'The Back Yard at 30B Pilestredet, Kristiania' 1902(?)

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
The Back Yard at 30B Pilestredet, Kristiania
1902(?)
Silver gelatin contact print

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Nude Self-Portrait, Åsgårdstrand' 1903

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Nude Self-Portrait, Åsgårdstrand
1903
Collodion contact print

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'The Courtyard at 30B Pilestredet, Kristiania' 1902(?)

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
The Courtyard at 30B Pilestredet, Kristiania
1902(?)
Silver gelatin contact print

 

 

This is assumed to be one of Munch’s earliest photographs, taken in one of his childhood homes. An inscription on the back reads “Outhouse window. 30-40 years old. Photograph of Pilestredet 30. A swan on the wall.” The swan that Munch refers to is actually a stain on the wall by the door. Can you see it? In moving the camera during the exposure, Munch erased the communal outhouse of his childhood and transformed it into a kind of dream image. This effect was later explored in avant-garde photography.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Karen Bjølstad and Inger Munch on the steps of 2 & 4 Olaf Ryes Plass, Kristiania' 1902(?)

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Karen Bjølstad and Inger Munch on the steps of 2 & 4 Olaf Ryes Plass, Kristiania
1902(?)
Silver gelatin contact print

 

 

Munch has photographed his aunt Karen and his sister Inger on the steps of one of his childhood homes in Oslo. The camera is stabilised on a flat surface that dominates the foreground of the image. This is the case in several of Munch’s photographs, perhaps to mark the camera’s position, create a sense of distance and frame the subjects. What likely began as the accident of an amateur eventually became an aesthetic choice.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Nude Self-Portrait, Åsgårdstrand' 1904(?)

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Nude Self-Portrait, Åsgårdstrand
1904(?)
Collodion contact print

 

 

In the summer of 1904, Munch organised an informal “health vacation” for several of his friends in Åsgårdstrand by the Oslo fjord. Munch had owned a small fisherman’s cabin there since 1898. In that period, he worked on the painting Bathing Young Men. Munch described to his relative and close associate Ludvig Ravensberg “a huge canvas … ready to be populated by the strong men wandering among the waters. Here we train our muscles by swimming, boxing, and throwing rocks.”

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Ludvig Ravensberg in Åsgårdstrand' 1904

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Ludvig Ravensberg in Åsgårdstrand
1904
Collodion contact print

 

 

Ludvig Ravensberg was Munch’s close friend and relative who helped him organise exhibitions and get other practical work done. He also assisted Munch when the artist took some of his self-portraits in Åsgårdstrand. Here Ravensberg gets to pose in front of the camera himself.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Self-Portrait in the Garden, Åsgårdstrand' 1904

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Self-Portrait in the Garden, Åsgårdstrand
1904
Collodion contact print

 

 

Was this picture taken by Munch himself or another person? The filtered light, the human shadow projected onto Munch’s body and the dynamics of his pose help set the stage for the subtle mystery.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Self-Portrait in a Room on the Continent' 1906(?)

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Self-Portrait in a Room on the Continent
1906(?)
Silver gelatin contact print

 

 

This photograph exists in two versions. One mirrors the other, probably a result of Munch flopping the negative as he developed the picture. The mirroring of motifs is something Munch often explored in his graphic work, such as the woodcuts Evening. Melancholy and Melancholy III – perhaps a dynamic he wanted to emulate in his photography. Chemical stains on the print testify to Munch’s hands-on approach to development and printing. In contrast to the products of a commercial printing house, he was not terribly concerned with a perfect print.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Self-Portrait in a Room on the Continent (mirrored)' 1906(?)

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Self-Portrait in a Room on the Continent (mirrored)
1906(?)
Silver gelatin contact print

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Evening. Melancholy I (Aften. Melankoli I)' 1896

 

Edvard Munch, Berlin (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
M.W. Lassally, Berlin (printer)
Evening. Melancholy I (Aften. Melankoli I)
1896
Woodcut
Composition: 16 1/4 x 18″ (41.2 x 45.7cm)
Sheet: 16 15/16 x 21″ (43 x 53.3cm)

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) Melancholy III (Melankoli III)' 1902

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Melancholy III (Melankoli III)
1902
Woodcut with gouache additions
Composition: 14 3/4 x 18 9/16″ (37.5 x 47.2cm)
Sheet: 20 1/2 x 25 7/8″ (52 x 65.8cm)

 

 

Variations of Melancholy

Edvard Munch made his first woodcuts and lithographs in 1896. He mastered an innovative technique in which he used the wood grain to emphasise his own lines. Using this technique, he created a number of related woodcuts on the theme of melancholy, including Evening. Melancholy I (1896), in which the brooding figure sits facing right, under an imposing crimson sky.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Edvard Munch and Ludvig Ravensberg, Åsgårdstrand' 1904

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Edvard Munch and Ludvig Ravensberg, Åsgårdstrand
1904
Collodion contact print

 

 

Munch used himself and his friends as models for his canvas Bathing Men. Here is a description by his friend Christian Gierløff: “The sun baked us all day and we let it do so. Munch worked a little on a painting of bathers, but for most of the day, we lay, overcome by the sun, in the sand by the water’s edge, between the large boulders, and we let our bodies drink in all of the sun they could. No one asked for a bathing suit.”

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'The Painting "Bathing Young Men" in the Garden, Åsgårdstrand' 1904

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
The Painting “Bathing Young Men” in the Garden, Åsgårdstrand
1904
Collodion contact print

 

 

Several photographs from the summer of 1904 picture Munch’s painting Bathing Young Men. Shadows cast by leaves at the upper left of the painting seem integral to canvas and have the effect of linking the painting to its natural surroundings. Ludvig Ravensberg stands on the extreme right, seemingly holding the painting. The out-of-focus foreground, the painted figures, and the living man holding the canvas aloft document not only the painting but, playfully, photographic representation itself.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Bathing Young Men' 1904

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Bathing Young Men
1904
Oil on canvas
Munch Museum
Public domain

 

 

Bathers were a popular subject around the turn of the last century. Sojourns at health spas were fashionable and people pursued sports, nudism and the healthful effects of the natural environment. It was seen as cleansing to bathe in the sea, while the sun constituted a rejuvenating force of life.

In this painting we see a virile, muscular, naked man emerging from the cool, turquoise sea after a swim. The picture can be read as a reflection of the period’s “vitalism” – a world view that assumed all living things to be suffused with a magical life force. This philosophy found its pictorial expression in particular in dynamic motifs of naked men and youths.

As a cultural phenomenon, vitalism was a reaction against the decadence of the period, and against industrialism, with the great cities and ways of life it brought with it. Instead of cool-headed rationalism and scientific technology, vitalism preferred to emphasise instinct and intuition – and believed the key to a better life lay in nature and good health.

Text from the National Museum website

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Exhibition at Blomqvist, Kristiania' 1902

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Exhibition at Blomqvist, Kristiania
1902
Collodion contact print

 

 

Munch took this image of his one-man exhibition at the influential art dealer Blomqvist in 1902. He also recorded himself, standing in the background, out of focus, hands in his pockets, facing directly into the camera.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Model in the Studio, Berlin' 1902

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Model in the Studio, Berlin
1902
Collodion contact print

 

 

This is among the few photographs that directly relate to Munch’s work in paint and graphic media. There are two versions of the motif, and subtle variations suggest that the photographer himself might have offered some instructions.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Nude with Long Red Hair' 1902

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Nude with Long Red Hair
1902
Oil on canvas

 

 

A Record of Healing

Munch often photographed in times and places where he struggled with his health and sought new energy. The pictures from the town of Warnemünde on Germany’s Baltic Coast show him as part of male body culture and include images of the artist naked and semi-naked on the beach. Munch also took tourist shots with his female models on the sand during the summers he spent there in 1907 and 1908.

In autumn 1908, Munch checked into a private clinic in Copenhagen managed by the physician Daniel Jacobson and his nurses. Munch was broken down by exhaustion, distress and alcoholism. The clinic became his home for over half a year. Within its walls, he painted, drew, created graphic motifs, organised exhibitions and took photographs in which he consistently appears semi-transparent. In the pictures of Munch’s room at the clinic we often get a glimpse of his paintings and prints. Sometimes he seems to have staged his body in postures that echo these paintings.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Rosa Meissner at Hotel Rohn, Warnemünde' 1907

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Rosa Meissner at Hotel Rohn, Warnemünde
1907
Silver gelatin contact print

 

 

Most of Munch’s photographs cannot be firmly associated with specific artworks. This photograph is however closely related to the motif Weeping Woman, which Munch rendered in several oil versions, a lithograph and a sculpture. While the foreground figure has remained static, the figure in the background has moved. Blurred movement is specific to photography and film, a phenomenon that Munch exploited repeatedly in his photographs. The effect of motion reproduces the appearance of spirit photographs – the spectral bodies of the departed allegedly registered on photographic plates and film. Munch expressed interest in such photographs in the 1890s. Ghosts and spectres also began to appear in cinema in the medium’s infancy.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Edvard Munch and his Housekeeper, Warnemünde' 1907

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Edvard Munch and his Housekeeper, Warnemünde
1907
Collodion contact print

 

 

In this picture, Munch has exploited the effects of movement and time. His housekeeper in Warnemünde has moved during exposure and is out of focus. Munch himself is sharply rendered in the background, and at the same time barely present. He has perched on a dark sofa long enough to be registered in detail and then moved out of the camera’s range. He now appears almost as a ghost where both the couch and the back wall are visible through his body. This effect mirrors his experimentation with layered woodblock printing in his graphic work, in which figures appear embedded in wood graining.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Edvard Munch with Model on the Beach, Warnemünde' 1907

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Edvard Munch with Model on the Beach, Warnemünde
1907
Collodion contact print

 

 

This photograph stages the beach at Warnemünde as Munch’s outdoor studio. The painter is strategically covered beside his monumental canvas Bathing Men. The naked man is one of Munch’s models holding a pose depicted in the painting.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Bathing Men' 1907-08

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Bathing Men
1907-08
Oil on canvas
206 x 227cm

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Nude Self-Portrait, Warnemünde' 1907

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Nude Self-Portrait, Warnemünde
1907
Collodion contact print

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Canal in Warnemünde' 1907

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Canal in Warnemünde
1907
Collodion contact print

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Self-Portrait with a Valise' c. 1906

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Self-Portrait with a Valise
c. 1906
Collodion contact print

 

 

Back lit and smudged with chemicals, this photograph deviates from the instructions that accompanied the popular Kodak cameras intended for amateur use. Munch’s bodily envelopment by darkness and the light that dissolves the window in the background make this a staged image of isolation and longing. It echoes the mood and composition of the woodcut Evening. Melancholy I (above).

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Edvard Munch and Rosa Meissner on the Beach, Warnemünde' 1907

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Edvard Munch and Rosa Meissner on the Beach, Warnemünde
1907
Collodion contact print

 

 

Munch posed for this photograph with Rosa Meissner, a model with whom he had worked in Berlin and later in in Warnemünde. Rosa’s sister Olga Meissner, who appears in another photograph in the same location, may have taken the image. A similar picture exists with double exposure, perhaps as a result of instructions given by Munch himself.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Edvard Munch and Rosa Meissner, Warnemünde (mirrored)' 1907

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Edvard Munch and Rosa Meissner, Warnemünde (mirrored)
1907
Collodion contact print

 

 

By flopping the negative Munch demonstrated a curiosity with the dynamics of motif. This is something he explored over many years when he translated one of his painted motifs into a graphic image – the result was always mirrored. Sometimes Munch went even further and mirrored the motif itself on the printing stone or block – just as he did with this negative.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Self-Portrait at the Clinic, Copenhagen' 1908-09

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Self-Portrait at the Clinic, Copenhagen
1908-09
Silver gelatin contact print

 

 

In the autumn of 1908 Munch suffered a psychological and physical collapse and sought treatment at the private Copenhagen clinic of Dr. Daniel Jacobson. He remained there for over half a year. Some years earlier, he had been wounded by a shot from his own pistol in a quarrel with his then lover Tulla Larsen. Munch’s voluminous writings attribute this event to the beginning of the decline for which he sought treatment. Here, the wounded hand is sharply focused in the foreground. Towards the end of his stay at the clinic, Munch painted a self-portrait which is related in posture and gesture, if not in mood, with this photograph.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Self-Portrait in the Clinic' 1909

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Self-Portrait in the Clinic
1909
Oil on canvas
KODE, Rasmus Meyers samlinger

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Edvard Munch à la Marat at the Clinic, Copenhagen' 1908-09

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Edvard Munch à la Marat at the Clinic, Copenhagen
1908-09
Silver gelatin contact print

 

 

Munch has staged himself semi-naked next to a bathtub, suggesting a reference to Jacques-Louis David’s canonical painting of the murdered French revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat. Munch made several paintings with the title The Death of Marat. The photograph can also be seen in relation to Munch’s painting On the operating table, which he made following the accident that wounded his hand. Unlike in his heroically staged nude self-portraits from Åsgårdstrand and Warnemünde, Munch appears softened and vulnerable. Whether this is a homage or satire, we can only imagine.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'The Death of Marat' 1907

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
The Death of Marat
1907
Oil on canvas

 

 

The starting point for The Death of Marat was the harrowing break-up with Tulla Larsen, who Munch was engaged to from 1898 to 1902. During a huge quarrel at his summer house at Aagaardsstrand in 1902, a revolver went off by accident, injuring Munch’s left hand. Munch laid the lame on Tulla Larsen and the engagement was broken off. The episode developed into a trauma which was to haunt Munch for many years, and which he worked on in several paintings, such as The Death of Marat I and The Death of Marat II, also called The Murderess.

The title Death of Marat refers to the murder of the French revolutionary Jean Paul Marat who, in 1793, was murdered by Charlotte Corday when he was lying in the bathtub. This was a motif many artists had treated up through the years. Marat was often presented as a hero, whilst Corday was regarded as a traitor.

Text from the Google Arts and Culture website

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Self-portrait on the Operating Table' 1902-03

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Self-portrait on the Operating Table
1902-03
Oil on canvas

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Self-Portrait with a Sculpture Draft, Kragerø' 1909-10

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Self-Portrait with a Sculpture Draft, Kragerø
1909-10
Silver gelatin contact print

 

 

Following his return to Norway in 1909, Munch tried his hand at designing a monument for the centennial of Norway’s constitution. He identified this composition as “Old Mother Norway and Her Son.” It is one of the few informal images that picture the artist at work, or posing as though in the process of making his art.

 

 

Munch’s Selfies

When Munch picked up the camera again in 1927, after a pause of over fifteen years, he often posed in and around his life’s work at his home. The small size and flexibility of the popular camera models that he had chosen – about the size of a smartphone – made it easy to hold the apparatus in one hand and take a picture. Munch’s “selfies”, sometimes playful and always self-analytical, reveal a public life lived in private. They show us the artist outside of public scrutiny, as his camera recorded both staged and spontaneous moments of his everyday life. In his many self-portraits, we might recognise our own daily practices as we turn the camera back on ourselves.

In the late spring of 1930, Munch suffered a haemorrhage in his right eye, seriously compromising his vision. In that year, he created a series of “selfies.” In one photograph of great pathos, Munch closed his eyes, transforming his camera into both mirror and eye. “The camera cannot compete with brush and palette as long as it cannot be used in Heaven or in Hell,” Munch had written. With Munch’s eye closed and his aperture open, his own camera – disclosing both humour and pain – surely came close.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Edvard Munch's Housekeeper, Ekely' 1932

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Edvard Munch’s Housekeeper, Ekely
1932
Silver Gelatin

 

 

In the years 1927-1932, during Munch’s second period of photographic activity, the artist almost exclusively took photographs of himself and his work. This is a rare exception. Munch’s housekeeper is posing in a doorway and is doubled as a reflection on the shiny table on which the artist placed the camera. In fact, the woman is tripled, as a light, located behind her, throws her shadow onto the door to her left. The shadowing and expressive use of the foreground seem to have been strategic – an electrical plug and cord, snaking around the door jamb, appear to lead to a light source behind the model.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Self-Portrait with Paintings, Ekely' 1930

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Self-Portrait with Paintings, Ekely
1930
Silver gelatin contact print

 

 

In several of Munch’s pictures, his body is transparent or ghosted as he moved his body during a time exposure. The images in the background (below), on the other hand, are rendered sharply. Perhaps the photograph tells us something about how volatile a human life is, while art endures.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Woman with a Samoyed' 1929-30

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Woman with a Samoyed
1929-30
Watercolour

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Self-Portrait with Paintings, Ekely' 1930

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Self-Portrait with Paintings, Ekely
1930
Silver gelatin contact print

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Fips on the Veranda, Ekely' 1930

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Fips on the Veranda, Ekely
1930
Silver gelatin contact print

 

 

This “self-portrait” with the artist’s dog together with his own shadow exploits the effects of architectural space and direct and reflected light. Charmingly, Fips’s head and right paw are perfectly aligned with the shadow of a wall and light thrown through its mullioned window. Munch often photographed motifs with his back to the sun, causing his shadow to fall into the frame. A similar exploration of shadows appears in his painting and prints, sometimes with foreboding or pathos, and sometimes, as seen here, with humour.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Double Exposure of "Charlotte Corday", Ekely' c. 1930

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Double Exposure of “Charlotte Corday”, Ekely
c. 1930
Silver gelatin contact print

 

 

In this photograph of the painting Charlotte Corday, Munch appears almost as a ghost. To achieve this affect, he used double exposure, taking two pictures on top of each other. Shadow figures such as this were emblematic of an absent presence, a kind of haunting, in Munch’s work. What began as a “mistake” in amateur snapshot photography became a common motif in experimental photography of the 1920s and ’30s as well as macabre effects in horror films from the same period.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Charlotte Corday' 1930

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Charlotte Corday
1930
Oil on canvas

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Self-Portrait at Ekely' 1930

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Self-Portrait at Ekely
1930
Silver gelatin contact print

 

 

This is one of several prints that carries the words: “Photo: E. Munch 1931. After the eye disease.”

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Self-Portrait at Ekely' 1930

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Self-Portrait at Ekely
1930
Silver gelatin contact print

 

 

In this image Munch is a spectral presence through which his well-lit paintings materialise. A similar union of body and material is found in the paintings and graphics, where figures become enmeshed in paint drips or wood grain patterning. Here the artist seems to stage himself as a figure in Evening. Melancholy (see above), embodying the contemplative state of mind conveyed by the title.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Still Life with Cabbage and other Vegetables' 1926-30

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Still Life with Cabbage and other Vegetables
1926-30
Oil on wooden panel

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Self-Portrait in front of "Metabolism", Ekely' 1931-32

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Self-Portrait in front of “Metabolism”, Ekely
1931-32
Silver gelatin contact print

 

 

Munch stretches his arm outward and moves slightly to render himself out-of-focus. He appears almost transparent in this self-portrait at the feet of the figures in the painting Metabolism.

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944) 'Metabolism' 1898-99

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 1863-1944)
Metabolism
1898-99
Oil on canvas

 

 

Munch’s Films

Munch’s short films can best be described as the charming experiments of an amateur. This was, however, an amateur with a long-term exploration of motion in art and photography. Electrified by cinema, Munch had even announced his intention of opening his own movie house. The short sequences he shot both mirror popular cinema, such as the films of Charlie Chaplin, and explore the industrial aesthetic of Dziga Vertov’s silent documentary Man with a Movie Camera from 1929.

Munch shot his “home movies” in the summer of 1927 using a Pathé-Baby camera that he had purchased in Paris. The portable device, which had come on the market in 1922, had helped to spark a surge of amateur home movies all over the world. The 9.5 mm projector that accommodated the film, and which Munch also owned, was likewise inexpensive and marketed for home projection. “Every decade extends the influence of cinema, enlarges its domain and multiplies its applications,” stated the Pathé promotional literature, ” …Today, in order to enter our home, it has made itself small, simple, affordable.”

Munch’s camera had a spring-loaded drive, rather than a hand-driven crank, allowing for a uniform recording speed and simplifying his act of filming. His fascination with the effects of time and motion are played out with humour and deliberation in his few forays into motion pictures. The artist peering into his own lens is a performance knowingly looking at a self that will be projected later, an actor in his large body of self-images.

 

https://player.vimeo.com/video/417156346

 

Munch’s Films
1927
3:40

 

 

Munch’s short amateur films, stitched together in this video, were shot in Dresden, Oslo and on his property Ekely. One segment, a panning shot in a park, includes a man and woman seated on a bench, echoing Munch’s 1904 painting Kissing Couples in the Park. The high-angle shot of the boys looking through a fence, as we watch them, points to the artist’s canny and humorous analysis of point of view. Munch’s fragmentary films share the experimental camerawork with the genre of “city symphony” films of the 1920s.

 

 

Munch’s cameras

Munch purchased his first camera in Berlin in February 1902. This was most likely a Kodak Bulls-Eye No. 2, a simple and hugely popular amateur’s model. Because his later prints exist in three additional formats, he probably owned or borrowed other cameras. The first Kodak hand-held film camera was marketed in 1888. Successive innovations by Kodak made picture taking increasingly simple and inexpensive, establishing a mass market of amateur photographers. Early amateur photography was marketed as “fun” and “sport.” Munch was an early and eccentric practitioner.

The photographic manuals instructed amateurs to avoid mistakes such as out-of-focus or tilted images, ghosted figures, or shadows laid across the subjects. These were the very photographic elements that Munch repeated, turning the rules of good picture taking upside down.

Munch likely made his own contact prints using an Eastman Kodak-marketed kit outfitted for home use. There are both fingerprints and chemical spills on some of the images. He occasionally double-exposed his photographs or flopped the negative to achieve mirror-image prints, demonstrating a curiosity about the printing process itself. Munch’s exploration of the means and materials of amateur photography extends his groundbreaking strategies in lithography and woodcut.

 

Kodak Bulls-Eye No. 2

 

Kodak Bulls-Eye No. 2

 

 

This popular portable model seems to have been the type that Munch had as his first camera. Because the camera used light-proof film cartridges, had a fixed focus lens, and a small window indicating the exposure number, Kodak advertised this model as “Easy Photography,” suitable for the unskilled amateur. An instruction manual from the Eastman Kodak Company was sold with each camera. It included helpful graphics to guide the aspiring amateur and warnings against “absolute failure” to follow instructions. These “failures” were the effects that Munch seemed to favour.

 

Kodak Vest-Pocket Autographic

 

Kodak Vest-Pocket Autographic

 

 

This small, lightweight camera could be folded to fit a shirt pocket. Released during the Great War, it was advertised by Kodak to be “as accurate as a watch and as simple to use.” Requiring just a small pressure on the shutter release, the modest size and flexibility of the camera was well suited to some of the intimate images taken by Munch in the 1920s and 1930s.

 

 

 

Kodak No. 3A Series III

 

Kodak No. 3A Series III

 

 

Eastman Kodak issued the No. 3A, its first postcard format camera, between 1903 and 1915. The company produced variants such as the Series III until 1943. A bellows that collapsed into a folding bed made the camera portable.

 

Kodak No. 3 Series III Folding Pocket Camera

 

Kodak No. 3 Series III Folding Pocket Camera

 

 

Munch took most of the “selfies” at Ekely using this model. First produced from 1900 to 1915, and then with variants issued though the early 1940s, it was a camera that, like the No. 3A, could be operated by direct touch or via a pneumatic release.

 

Pathé Baby Ciné Camera

 

Pathé Baby Ciné Camera

 

 

This is one of the first cinema cameras intended for home use. The lightweight apparatus had a built-in clockwork which enabled amateurs such as Munch to make hand-held films. Pathé’s projectors made it possible to view the results at home.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Portrait of Edvard Munch' Nd

 

Unknown photographer
Portrait of Edvard Munch
Nd

 

 

Edvard Munch (Norwegian, 12 December 1863 – 23 January 1944) was a Norwegian painter. His best known work, The Scream, has become one of the most iconic images of world art.

His childhood was overshadowed by illness, bereavement and the dread of inheriting a mental condition that ran in the family. Studying at the Royal School of Art and Design in Kristiania (today’s Oslo), Munch began to live a bohemian life under the influence of nihilist Hans Jæger, who urged him to paint his own emotional and psychological state (‘soul painting’). From this emerged his distinctive style.

Travel brought new influences and outlets. In Paris, he learned much from Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, especially their use of colour. In Berlin, he met Swedish dramatist August Strindberg, whom he painted, as he embarked on his major canon The Frieze of Life, depicting a series of deeply-felt themes such as love, anxiety, jealousy and betrayal, steeped in atmosphere.

The Scream was conceived in Kristiania. According to Munch, he was out walking at sunset, when he ‘heard the enormous, infinite scream of nature’. The painting’s agonised face is widely identified with the angst of the modern person. Between 1893 and 1910, he made two painted versions and two in pastels, as well as a number of prints. One of the pastels would eventually command the fourth highest nominal price paid for a painting at auction.

As his fame and wealth grew, his emotional state remained insecure. He briefly considered marriage, but could not commit himself. A breakdown in 1908 forced him to give up heavy drinking, and he was cheered by his increasing acceptance by the people of Kristiania and exposure in the city’s museums. His later years were spent working in peace and privacy. Although his works were banned in Nazi Germany, most of them survived World War II, securing him a legacy.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

 

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03
Jan
21

Exhibition: ‘Unearthed: Photography’s Roots’ at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, London

Exhibition dates: 8th December 2020 – 9th May 2021

Curator: Alexander Moore

The exhibition will include work by the following 41 artists (in alphabetical order):

Nobuyoshi Araki, Anna Atkins, Alois Auer, Cecil Beaton, Karl Blossfeldt, Adolphe Braun, Jan Brueghel the Elder, Mat Collishaw, Imogen Cunningham, Roger Fenton, Adam Fuss, Ori Gersht, Cecilia Glaisher, Joy Gregory, William Henry Fox Talbot, Sir John Herschel, Gyula Holics, Jan van Huysum, Henry Irving, Charles Jones, Sarah Jones, André Kertész, Nick Knight, Lou Landauer, Richard Learoyd, Pradip Malde, Robert Mapplethorpe, John Moffat, Sarah Moon, James Mudd, Kazumasa Ogawa, T Enami, Dr Albert G Richards, Scowen & Co., Scheltens & Abbenes, Helen Sear, Edward Steichen, Josef Sudek, Lorenzo Vitturi, Edward Weston, Walter Woodbury.

 

 

Charles Jones (British, 1866-1959) 'Broccoli Leamington' c. 1895-1910

 

Charles Jones (British, 1866-1959)
Broccoli Leamington
c. 1895-1910
© Sean Sexton
Photo copyright Dulwich Picture Gallery

 

 

A difficult thing said simply

What a wonderful selection of photographs to start the year 2021.

As Laura Cumming observes, there is a profound connection between photography and photosynthesis – both created through light, both constructed and political. For the photograph is ALWAYS the choice of the photographer, and the landscape has ALWAYS been shaped and constructed since human beings emerged on this earth. Nothing in the natural world is ever “natural” but always mediated by time, space, context, power and desire. Desire to control the direction of a river, desire for food and shelter, desire for Lebensraum or living space as a practice of settler colonialism, desire to celebrate the “natural” world, desire to procreate, desire to propagate the (genetically modified) vegetable. A desire to desire.

Photography’s symbiotic relationship with the natural world is the relationship of photography and transmutation (the action of changing or the state of being changed into another form), photography and transmogrification (the act or process of changing or being changed completely). The natural world, through an action (that of being photographed), changes its state (flux) and, further, changes its state to a completely different form (fixed in liquid fixer; fixed, saved, but fluid, in the digital pixel). Flowers and vegetables are alive then wither and die, only to remain “the same” in the freeze frame of the death-defying photograph.

Photography’s fluidity and fixity – of movement, time, space, context, representation – allows “the infinite possibility of experimentation” not, as Cumming argues, “without the interference of humanity, accident, sound or movement” but through their very agency. It is the human hand that arranges these pyramidal broccoli, the accident of light in the photogram that allows us to pierce a clump of Bory’s Spleenwort root structure. It is human imagination, the movement of the human mind, that allows the artist Charles Jones to darken the Bean Longpod cases so that these become seared in the mind’s eye, fixed in all time and space as iconic image: the “transformation of an earthy root vegetable into an abstracted object worthy of adulation.”

While the process of photographing flower and vegetable may well be due to the interference of humanity, accident, sound or movement, contemplation or decisive moment, the final outcome of the image – the representation of the natural in the physicality of the print – usually attempts to hide these processes in images that are frozen in time, images that play on the notion of memento mori and the transient nature of life. In the presence of a triple death (ie. the death of the plant or flower, the time freeze or death moment of the photograph, and our knowledge that these plants and flowers in the photograph have already died), it is the abstraction of the death reality in images of flowers, plants and vegetables that allows for a touch of the soul. These photographs “provide a glimpse into the terrain of the unseen, or what German philosopher and cultural critic Walter Benjamin coined the “optical unconsciousness”.”1 Here, photography allows us to capture the realm of the unseen and also allows us to glimpse the expansive terrain of the human imaginary. The camera reveals aspects of reality that register in our senses but never quite get processed consciously. (Is there anything “real” about Cunningham’s Two Callas 1929 other than a vibration of the energy of the cosmos?)

Still, still, still we are (unconsciously) aware of all that is embedded within a photograph for photography makes us feel, makes us remember “that which lies beyond the frame, or what photographs compel us to remember and forget, what they enable us to uncover and repress…”. Like any great work of art, when we look at a great photograph it is not what we BELIEVE that matters when we look, but how the art work makes us FEEL, how it touches the depths of our soul. These are the roots of photography, un/earthed, in the languages of image – (sub)conscious stories of the human imagination which seek to make sense of our roots in Earth.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Footnotes

1. A different nature presents itself to the movie camera than to the naked eye. Instead of being something we enter into unconsciously or vaguely, in film we enter nature analytically. While a painter lovely caresses the surfaces of nature, the cameraman chucks a piece of dynamite at it, then reassembles the pieces:

“Our taverns and our metropolitan streets, our offices and furnished rooms, our railroad stations and our factories appeared to have us locked up hopelessly. Then came the film and burst this prison-world asunder by the dynamite of the tenth of a second, so that now, in the midst of its far-clung ruins and debris, we calmly and adventurously go travelling.”

A movie camera can be mounted on a speeding locomotive, dropped down a sewer, or secreted in a valise and carried surreptitiously around a city. The camera reveals aspects of reality that register in our senses but never quite get processed consciously. Film changed how we view the least significant minutiae of reality just as surely as Freud’s Psychopathology of Everyday Life changed how we look at incidental phenomenon like slips of the tongue. In other words, film serves as an optical unconscious. Benjamin asserts the film camera “introduces us to unconscious optics as does psychoanalysis to unconscious impulses.

“Richard Prouty. “The optical unconsciousness,” on the One-Way Street website Oct 16, 2009 [Online] Cited 03/01/2021

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

 

 

“The Dulwich show amounts to a political history of photography by other means. Should it aspire to nothing more than the fictions of painting? Should it be a catalogue, a document, a celebration of the natural life? Where Glaisher records the precise difference between two varieties of fern, Jones observes the Sputnik-like eccentricity of a plucked turnip. Where Imogen Cunningham sees the perfect abstraction of a calla lily, Edward Weston anthropomorphises a pepper, so that it momentarily resembles the torso of a body-builder. …

Perhaps the desire to photograph the vegetable world brings its own peace, as well as the infinite possibility of experimentation without the interference of humanity, accident, sound or movement. But perhaps it also has something to do with the profound connection between photography and photosynthesis. The very light that gives life to a rose, before its petals drop, is the same light that preserves it in a death-defying photograph.”

.
Laura Cumming. “Unearthed: Photography’s Roots review – cauliflowers saying cheese…” on the Guardian website Sun 29 Nov 2020 [Online] Cited 23/12/2020

 

 

Anna Atkins (English, 1799-1871) 'Ceylon' c. 1850

 

Anna Atkins (English, 1799-1871)
Ceylon [examples of ferns]
c. 1850
Cyanotype

 

 

After publishing her own book of cyanotype photograms of British algae in the 1840s, Atkins collaborated with her childhood friend and fellow scholar Anna Dixon on a second book of photograms. The book, Cyanotypes of British and Foreign Ferns, was published in 1853 and now resides in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

This particular image [above] is a selection from Cyanotypes of British and Foreign Ferns. A collection of four distinct ferns, it’s simply captioned “Ceylon”. At the time these cyanotypes were being made, the island of Ceylon – modern day Sri Lanka – was under British rule. It would be nearly another century before the island declared independence from Atkins’ home country. Despite the abundant difficulties of travel in the 1850s, Atkins’s many scientific and business connections no doubt helped her obtain several foreign specimens for this book of fern cyanotypes.

Anonymous text on the 20 x 200 website [Online] Cited 24/12/2020

 

This unique camera-less photograph was part of an extensive project to document plants from Great Britain and British colonies like Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), and illustrates an early example of how important photography would become in our attempts to learn about and protect the natural world. Anna Atkins (British, 1799-1871) was a trained botanist who adopted photographic processes in order to describe, analyse, and, in a manner of speaking, preserve plant specimens from around the world. She is widely considered the first person to use photographs to illustrate a book, her British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions published in 1843. This particular photograph was produced with Anna Dixon for a later compilation: Cyanotypes of British and Foreign Flowering Plants and Ferns in 1854. With these and other projects, Atkins helped establish photography as an important tool in scientific and ecological observation. …

Atkins made all of her cyanotypes in England, often receiving specimens through imperial trade. This image, therefore, was produced over 5,000 miles away from where the plant originated

Brian Piper. “Object Lesson: Ceylon cyanotype by Anna Atkins,” on the New Orleans Museum of Art website March 23, 2020 [Online] Cited 24/12/2020.

 

Anna Atkins (English, 1799-1871) 'Plate 55 – Dictyota dichotoma, in the young state and in fruit' 1853

 

Anna Atkins (English, 1799-1871)
Plate 55 – Dictyota dichotoma, in the young state and in fruit
1853
From Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions Volume 1 (Part 1)
Cyanotype
Photo copyright Horniman Museum and Gardens

 

Cecilia Glaisher (British, 1828-1892) 'Bory's Spleenwort (Asplenium onopteris)' c. 1853-56

 

Cecilia Glaisher (British, 1828-1892)
Bory’s Spleenwort (Asplenium onopteris)
c. 1853-56
Salted paper print

 

 

Cecilia Glaisher (20 April 1828 – 28 December 1892) was an English amateur photographer, artist, illustrator and print-maker, working in the 1850s world of Victorian science and natural history. …

The British Ferns – Photographed from Nature by Mrs Glaisher was planned as an illustrated guide to identifying ferns, with the entomologist Edward Newman (1801-1876), a fern expert and publisher. Made using William Henry Fox Talbot’s photogenic drawing process during what has come to be known as the Victorian fern craze, it was to be published in a number of parts and intended to appeal to the growing number of fern collectors whose enthusiasm was fuelled by increasingly informative and magnificently illustrated fern publications. The use of photography, according to the printed handbill produced by Newman to promote the work, would allow fern specimens to be “displayed with incomparable exactness, producing absolute facsimiles of the objects, perfect in artistic effect and structural details”. A portfolio of ten prints, in mounts embossed with Newman’s publishing details, was presented by him to the Linnean Society in London in December 1855. However, perhaps due to an inability to raise sufficient subscriptions, or difficulties in producing prints in consistent quantities, the project appears to have been abandoned by 1856.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Roger Fenton. 'Fruit and Flowers' 1860

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-1869)
Fruit and Flowers
1860
Albumen print from a collodion negative
Victoria & Albert Museum

 

 

In tackling still lifes, Roger Fenton gave form to his ardent belief that no subject was off limits to photography, even one intimately linked to the history of painting and seemingly so dependent on colour. Faced with terrible weather in 1860 that curtailed his ability to photograph landscapes, Fenton drew upon the skills he had perfected earlier in the decade while photographing the collection of the British Museum and trained his lens on carefully balanced still-life arrangements. Cleverly massing and juxtaposing forms and tonal values, and brazenly taking advantage of photography’s ability to convey detail, Fenton quickly produced a series of unprecedented vivaciousness that convincingly demonstrated why photography should be counted as an art. Fruit and Flowers is among the last images this towering figure in the history of photography made before quitting photography for good at age 41.

Fruit and Flowers is an ebullient, in-your-face celebration of summer’s bounty. Shot head on and close up, the densely packed arrangement seems ready to tumble from the large, glossy 14- by nearly 17-inch albumen print made from a collodion negative. Dozens of juicy, sensuous grapes flank a tall, centred vase decorated with a tendril pattern; the vase holds pansies at its top while plums nestle at the base. At right, a few grapes dangle over the edge of a marble tabletop, falling into the viewer’s space, as does a striped, tasseled cloth at left. Star-shaped hoyas are reflected in a chased silver goblet, and two immense lilies, their stems obscured, appear to hover untethered above. The lilies are balanced compositionally by a large rose that faces the viewer, while a second rose, near the bottom, separates the grapes and a nude figurine. Ferns and lily of the valley complete the floral medley.

The prominent roses and lilies may allude to the sacred, as both are associated with the Virgin Mary, but myriad wine references, such as the grapes, the chalice decorated with grape vines, and especially the impish figurine, whose physical attributes link him to bacchanalian Roman festivals, point decidedly to the profane. At the same time, the withering rose, drooping leaves, and tired-looking plums remind the viewer that such pleasures are ephemeral.

Anonymous. “Fruit and Flowers: Roger Fenton,” on the National Gallery of Art website [Online] Cited 24/12/2020.

 

Charles Jones (British, 1866-1959) 'Bean Longpod' c. 1895-1910

 

Charles Jones (British, 1866-1959)
Bean Longpod
c. 1895-1910
© Sean Sexton
Photo copyright Dulwich Picture Gallery

 

 

In Bean Longpod (1895-1910), now on view in “Unearthed,” the titular plant cuts through the centre of the composition, leaving little room for anything else. Other works play with their subjects’ placement: Broccoli Leamington (1895-1910), for instance, finds large broccoli heads sitting atop one another in a pyramid-like formation. The overall effect of this unusual treatment, notes the Michael Hoppen Gallery, is the “transformation of an earthy root vegetable into an abstracted” object worthy of adulation. …

According to the Michael Hoppen Gallery, which hosted a 2015 exhibition on Jones, “[t]he extraordinary beauty of each Charles Jones print rests in the intensity of focus on the subject and the almost portrait-like respect with which each specimen is treated.”

 

Ogawa Kazumasa (Japanese, 1860-1929) 'Iris Kaempferi' c. 1894

 

Ogawa Kazumasa (Japanese, 1860-1929)
Iris Kaempferi
c. 1894
From Some Japanese Flowers
Chromo-collotype
Hand-coloured photograph
Photo copyright Dulwich Picture Gallery

 

Ogawa Kazumasa (Japanese, 1860-1929) 'Japanese Lilies' c. 1894

 

Ogawa Kazumasa (Japanese, 1860-1929)
Japanese Lilies
c. 1894
From Some Japanese Flowers
Chromo-collotype
Hand-coloured photograph
Photo copyright Dulwich Picture Gallery

 

 

Ogawa Kazumasa lived from the 1860s to almost the 1930s, surely one of the most fascinating 70-year stretches in Japanese history. Ogawa’s homeland “opened” to the world when he was a boy, and for the rest of his life he bore witness to the sometimes beautiful, sometimes strange, sometimes exhilarating results of a once-isolated culture assimilating seemingly everything foreign – art, technology, customs – all at once. Naturally he picked up a camera to document it all, and history now remembers him as a pioneer of his art. During the 1890s he published Some Japanese Flowers, a book containing his pictures of just that.

The following year, Ogawa’s hand-coloured photographs of Japanese flowers also appeared in the American books Japan, Described and Illustrated by the Japanese, edited by the renowned Anglo-Irish expatriate Japanese culture scholar Francis Brinkley and published in Boston, the city where Ogawa had spent a couple of years studying portrait photography and processing.

Ogawa’s varied life in Japan included working as an editor at Shashin Shinpō (写真新報), the only photography journal in the country at the time, as well as at the flower magazine Kokka (国華), which would certainly have given him the experience he needed to produce photographic specimens such as these. Though Ogawa invested a great deal in learning and employing the highest photographic technologies, they were the highest photographic technologies of the 1890s, when colour photography necessitated adding colours – of particular importance in the case of flowers – after the fact.

… Even as everything changed so rapidly all around him, as he mastered the just-as-rapidly developing tools of his craft, Ogawa nevertheless kept his eye for the natural and cultural aspects of his homeland that seemed never to have changed at all.

Colin Marshall. “Beautiful Hand-Colored Japanese Flowers Created by the Pioneering Photographer Ogawa Kazumasa (1896),” on the Open Culture website March 22nd, 2019 [Online] Cited 24/12/2020.

 

The stunning floral images … are the work of Ogawa Kazumasa, a Japanese photographer, printer, and publisher known for his pioneering work in photomechanical printing and photography in the Meiji era. Studying photography from the age of fifteen, Ogawa moved to Tokyo aged twenty to further his study and develop his English skills which he believed necessary to deepen his technical knowledge. After opening his own photography studio and working as an English interpreter for the Yokohama Police Department, Ogawa decided to travel to the United States to learn first hand the advance photographic techniques of the time. Having little money, Ogawa managed to get hired as a sailor on the USS Swatara and six months later landed in Washington. For the next two years, in Boston and Philadelphia, Ogawa studied printing techniques including the complicated collotype process with which he’d make his name on returning to Japan.

In 1884, Ogawa opened a photographic studio in Tokyo and in 1888 established a dry plate manufacturing company, and the following year, Japan’s first collotype business, the “K. Ogawa printing factory”. He also worked as an editor for various photography magazines, which he printed using the collotype printing process, and was a founding member of the Japan Photographic Society.

Anonymous. “Ogawa Kazumasa’s Hand-Coloured Photographs of Flowers (1896),” on The Public Domain Review website [Online] Cited 24/12/2020.

 

Ogawa Kazumasa (Japanese, 1860-1929) 'Chrysanthemum' c. 1894

 

Ogawa Kazumasa (Japanese, 1860-1929)
Chrysanthemum
c. 1894
From Some Japanese Flowers
Chromo-collotype
Hand-coloured photograph
Photo copyright Dulwich Picture Gallery

 

Ogawa Kazumasa (Japanese, 1860-1929) 'Morning Glory' c. 1894

 

Ogawa Kazumasa (Japanese, 1860-1929)
Morning Glory
c. 1894
From Some Japanese Flowers
Chromo-collotype
Hand-coloured photograph
Photo copyright Dulwich Picture Gallery

 

 

A central focus for the show and a truly rare opportunity for visitors will be a display of 11 works by the inventor and pioneer, Kazumasa Ogawa, whose effectively coloured photographs were created 30 years before colour film was invented. Ogawa combined printmaking and traditions in Japan to create truly original and pioneering photographs. By developing up to 16 different colour plates per image from expertly hand coloured prints he made Japan the world’s leading producer of coloured photographs, the display of which is hoped to be a revelation for many.

 

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976) 'Agave Design I' 1920s

 

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976)
Agave Design I
1920s
Gelatin silver print

 

Edward Steichen. 'Magnolia Blossoms, Voulangis, France' c. 1921

 

Edward Steichen (American, 1879-1973)
Magnolia Blossoms, Voulangis, France
c. 1921
Gelatin silver print
19.4 x 23.8cm

 

Edward Steichen (American, 1879-1973) 'Foxgloves, France' 1925

 

Edward Steichen (American, 1879-1973)
Foxgloves, France
1925
Gelatin silver print

 

Karl Blossfeldt. 'Adiantum pedatum. Maidenhair Fern' before 1926

 

Karl Blossfeldt (German, 1865-1932)
Adiantum pedatum. Maidenhair Fern
before 1926
Private Collection, Derbyshire

 

Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932) 'Impatiens Glandulifera' 1928

 

Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932)
Impatiens Glandulifera
1928
Gelatin silver print
27 x 20.5cm

 

Imogen Cunningham. 'Two Callas' 1929

 

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976)
Two Callas
1929
Gelatin silver print

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958) 'Pepper No. 30' 1930

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Pepper No. 30
1930
Gelatin silver print contact print
24.1 × 19.2cm

 

 

A year later, during a four-day period from August 2-6, 1930, Weston took at least thirty more negatives of peppers. He first tried again with plain muslin or a piece of white cardboard as the backdrop, but for these images he thought the contrast between the backdrop and the pepper was too stark. On August 3 he found a large tin funnel, and, placing it on its side, he set a pepper just inside the large open end. He wrote:

It was a bright idea, a perfect relief for the pepper and adding reflecting light to important contours. I still had the pepper which caused me a week’s work, I had decided I could go no further with it, yet something kept me from taking it to the kitchen, the end of all good peppers. I placed it in the funnel, focused with the Zeiss, and knowing just the viewpoint, recognizing a perfect light, made an exposure of six minutes, with but a few moments’ preliminary work, the real preliminary was on in hours passed. I have a great negative, – by far the best!

It is a classic, completely satisfying, – a pepper – but more than a pepper; abstract, in that it is completely outside subject matter. It has no psychological attributes, no human emotions are aroused: this new pepper takes one beyond the world we know in the conscious mind.

To be sure, much of my work has this quality… but this one, and in fact all of the new ones, take one into an inner reality, – the absolute, – with a clear understanding, a mystic revealment. This is the “significant presentation” that I mean, the presentation through one’s intuitive self, seeing “through one’s eyes, not with them”: the visionary.”

By placing the pepper in the opening of the funnel, Weston was able to light it in a way that portrays the pepper in three dimensions, rather than as a flat image. It is this light that gives the image much of its extraordinary quality.

Edward Weston (1961). Nancy Newhall (ed.,). The Day-books of Edward Weston, Volume II. NY: Horizon Press. p. 180 quote on the Wikipedia website.

 

Edward Steichen (American, 1879-1973) 'Delphiniums' 1940

 

Edward Steichen (American, 1879-1973)
Delphiniums
1940
Dye imbibition print
Digital image courtesy of the George Eastman Museum
© 2019 The Estate of Edward Steichen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Gyula Holics (Hungarian, 1919-1989) 'Peas' 1950s

 

Gyula Holics (Hungarian, 1919-1989)
Peas
1950s
Gelatin silver print
23.8 x 18.1cm

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946 - 1989) 'Tulip' 1984

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Tulip
1984
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation
Used by permission

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Orchid' 1985

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Orchid
1985
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation
Used by permission

 

 

Trace the history of photography from the 1840s to present day, as seen through depictions of nature. In Summer 2020, we present our first major photography exhibition, tracing the rich history of the medium told through depictions of nature, bringing together over 100 works by 25 leading international photographers.

This autumn, Dulwich Picture Gallery will present the first exhibition to trace the history of photography as told through depictions of nature, revealing how the subject led to key advancements in the medium, from its very beginnings in 1840 to present day. Unearthed: Photography’s Roots will be the first major photography show at Dulwich Picture Gallery, bringing together over 100 works by 35 leading international photographers, many never seen before.

Presenting just one of the many possible histories of photography, this exhibition follows the lasting legacy of the great pioneers who made some of the world’s first photographs of nature, examining key moments in the medium’s history and the influences of sociological change, artistic movements and technological developments, including Pictorialism through to Modernism, experiments with colour and contemporary photography and new technologies.

Arranged chronologically and with a focus on botany and science throughout, the exhibition will highlight the innovations of some of the medium’s key figures, including William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877), Imogen Cunningham (1883-1976) and Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989) as well as several overlooked photographers including Japanese artist, Kazumasa Ogawa (1860-1929) and the English gardener, Charles Jones (1866-1959). It will be the first show to publicly exhibit work by Jones, whose striking modernist photographs of plants remained unknown until 20 years after his death, when they were discovered in a trunk at Bermondsey Market in 1981.

Questioning the true age of photography, the exhibition will open with some of the first known Victorian images by William Henry Fox Talbot, positioning his experimentation with paper negatives as the very beginning of photography. It will also introduce a key selection of cyanotypes by one of the first women photographers, Anna Atkins (1799- 1871), who created camera-less photograms of the algae specimens found along the south coast of England. Displayed publicly for the first time, these works highlight the ground-breaking accuracy of Atkins’ approach, and the remarkably contemporary appearance of her work which has inspired many artists and designers.

The exhibition will also foreground the artists who produced unprecedented photographic art in the twentieth century without artistic intention. The medium allowed for quick documentation of nature’s infinite specimens, making it an important tool for scientists and botanists such as the German photographer and teacher Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932) who captured close-up views of plant specimens in order to study and share an understanding of nature’s ‘architecture’. A selection of Blossfeldt’s ‘study aids’ will be displayed alongside work by the proud gardener Charles Jones, who used a glass plate camera to keep a meticulously illustrated record of his finest crops. Seen together for the first time, the two artists will be examined for their pragmatic approach that set them apart from the romanticised style of their time.

A central focus for the show and a truly rare opportunity for visitors will be a display of 11 works by the inventor and pioneer, Kazumasa Ogawa, whose effectively coloured photographs were created 30 years before colour film was invented. Ogawa combined printmaking and traditions in Japan to create truly original and pioneering photographs. By developing up to 16 different colour plates per image from expertly hand coloured prints, he made Japan the world’s leading producer of coloured photographs, the display of which is hoped to be a revelation for many.

Unearthed: Photography’s Roots will aim to highlight how nature photography has remained consistently radical, inventive and influential over the past two centuries with the final rooms in the exhibition dedicated to more recent advancements in the medium. A selection of work by the renowned symbolist photographers Imogen Cunningham and Robert Mapplethorpe will highlight the coded language of nature in photography. Both artists used nature to tackle the oppression experienced in their lives by channelling the strength and the sexuality of the natural subjects they photographed. This powerful symbolism, in works such as Mapplethorpe’s Tulips (1984) and Cunningham’s Agave Design I (1920s), allowed both artists to express themselves at a time when homosexuality was criminalised and women artists fought for recognition.

The final room culminates with contemporary works that reveal the enduring influence of early forms of photography and still life, with a spotlight on the artists today who are re-shaping the definition of these mediums through digital processes. Mat Collishaw’s (b.1966) Auto-Immolation (2010) combines new technology and ancient religious ideals, whilst Richard Learoyd’s (b.1966) camera-obscura photographs present a new dimension in the traditional still life genre pioneered by the artists of the Dutch Golden Age. The Gallery’s Mausoleum will host On Reflection (2014), by renowned Israeli video artist, Ori Gersht (b.1967), displayed publicly for the first time in the UK. An homage to the work of Flemish still-life painter Jan Brueghel the Elder, this ambitious work uses modern technolgy to capture the dynamic explosion of mirrored glass reflecting meticulously detailed floral arrangements by the Old Master. Brueghel’s Still Life A Stoneware Vase of Flowers, 1607-08, will also be included in the exhibition, on loan from St John’s College, Oxford for the first time in 300 years.

Unearthed: Photography’s Roots is curated by Alexander Moore, Creative Producer at Dulwich Picture Gallery, and former Head of Exhibitions for Mario Testino. He said:

“I am thrilled to present this extensive survey of photography which celebrates botany in its various guises – from Robert Mapplethorpe’s beautifully shot tulips, to Anna Atkins’ algae specimens. There is beauty to be found in all of the works in the exhibition, which includes some new discoveries. More than anything though, this exhibition reveals nature as the gift that keeps on giving – a conduit for the development of photography, it is also a force for hope and well-being that we have come to depend on so much in recent months. I hope the energy of this timely exhibition provides visitors with a new perspective on the power of the natural world – and perhaps the encouragement to take some pictures themselves!”

The exhibition will include a number of major loans from public and private collections, many never displayed publicly before. Lenders include The Horniman Museum, the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture, Michael Hoppen Gallery and Blain Southern. A catalogue will accompany featuring essays by Alexander Moore and art historian and 17th-century still life painting specialist, Dr Fred Meijer.

Press release from the Dulwich Picture Gallery

 

Mat Collishaw (English, b. 1966) 'Auto Immolation 002' 2010 (still)

 

Mat Collishaw (English, b. 1966)
Auto Immolation 002 (still)
2010
Hard Drive, LCD Screen, Steel, Surveillance Mirror, Wood
300 x 113.5 x 52cm

 

Lorenzo Vitturi (Italian, b. 1980) 'Yellow and Red Bokkom Mix #2' 2013

 

Lorenzo Vitturi (Italian, b. 1980)
Yellow and Red Bokkom Mix #2
2013
Giclee print on Hahnemuhle bamboo paper
29.5 x 44cm
Edition of 7
© Lorenzo Vitturi
Courtesy of Flowers Gallery

 

Ori Gersht (Israeli, b. 1967) 'On Reflection' 2014

 

Ori Gersht (Israeli, b. 1967)
On Reflection
2014
© the Artist

 

 

Ori Gersht explores the binary oppositions of attraction and repulsion by capturing the moment when “destruction in the exploding mirrors becomes… the moment of creation.”

In the adjacent exhibition rooms, viewers are faced with ten enlarged video stills from the film presented as archival pigment prints. The images somewhat reverse the symbolic value of still-life paintings, or the idea that they are meant to immortalise the experience of nature. Frozen in time, images of the explosion also plays on the notion of memento mori and the transient nature of life. Thanatotic [the name chosen by Freud to represent a universal death instinct] undertones are also seen in the fine network of cracks in the mirrors, which are especially noticeable in On Reflection, Material E01 and On Reflection, Material B02 (both 2014). Gersht’s works provide a glimpse into the terrain of the unseen, or what German philosopher and cultural critic Walter Benjamin coined the “optical unconsciousness.” The outcome is a powerful reminder of the fragility of existence.

Crystal Tong. “On Reflection: Ori Gersht,” on the ArtAsiaPacific website [Online] Cited 24/12/2020.

 

Ori Gersht (Israeli, b. 1967) 'On Reflection' 2014 (detail)

 

Ori Gersht (Israeli, b. 1967)
On Reflection (detail)
2014
© the Artist

 

Ori Gersht (Israeli, b. 1967) 'On Reflection' 2014 (detail)

 

Ori Gersht (Israeli, b. 1967)
On Reflection (detail)
2014
© the Artist

 

Richard Learoyd (British, b. 1966) 'Large Poppies' 2019

 

Richard Learoyd (British, b. 1966)
Large Poppies
2019
© the Artist
Image courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery

 

 

Dulwich Picture Gallery
Gallery Road, London
SE21 7AD
Phone: 020 8693 5254

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 5pm
Closed Mondays (except Bank Holiday Mondays)

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27
Dec
20

European art research tour exhibition: ‘Alberto Giacometti’ at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague

Exhibition dates: 18th July – 1st December 2019, posted December 2020

Curators: Julia Tatiana Bailey (NGP), Catherine Grenier (Fondation Giacometti), Serena Bucalo-Mussely (Fondation Giacometti)

 

 

Installation view of the entrance to the exhibition 'Alberto Giacometti' at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague

 

Installation view of the entrance to the exhibition Alberto Giacometti at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

The last posting for this year. What an excellent way to finish off what has been an incredibly long, stressful and tragic time. I am thinking of all my readers and sending them good energies for the year ahead. I saw this exhibition during my European sojourn last September… it seems a long time ago now.

.
The revelations

The beauty, darkness and intensity of Giacometti’s paintings. Most unexpected.
The fecundity, malleability and darkness of his busts of men.

.
The highlight

The large Walking Man I (1960)

.
The disappointment

That there was only one Walking Man in the exhibition (Giacometti cast six numbered editions plus four artist proofs). I wanted to see a whole forest of them!

 

What a privilege to see this exhibition.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
All iPhone images © Marcus Bunyan. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“In my finished work I find transformed and relocated images, impressions, events that deeply affected me (often without me realising it), forms that are very close to me, even if I am often not able to name them, which makes them even more mysterious.”

.
Alberto Giacometti

 

 

The retrospective presents the works by one of the major 20th-century artists, sculptor and painter Alberto Giacometti (1901⁠-1966) for the first time in the Czech milieu.

His main theme was the human figure. He became well-known for compelling elongated figures done after World War II, but no less important are his artworks from the interwar period, when he was a key member of the Paris avant-garde. The National Gallery Prague prepares this exhibition in cooperation with the Paris-based Fondation Giacometti, which administers the estate of Annette and Alberto Giacometti. The selection of the exhibits from its collections, which is shown in the Trade Fair Palace, includes more than one hundred sculptures (including rare originals of plaster), paintings and drawings from all Giacometti’s creative periods, from the 1920s to 1960s.

 

 

Installation view of the entrance to the exhibition 'Alberto Giacometti' at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague

Installation view of the entrance to the exhibition 'Alberto Giacometti' at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague

Installation view of the entrance to the exhibition 'Alberto Giacometti' at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague

 

Installation views of the opening of the exhibition Alberto Giacometti at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

A family of artists

Installation view of the exhibition 'Alberto Giacometti' at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague

Installation view of the exhibition 'Alberto Giacometti' at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague

Installation view of the exhibition 'Alberto Giacometti' at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague

Installation view of the exhibition 'Alberto Giacometti' at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague

 

Installation views of the exhibition Alberto Giacometti at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966) 'Large Head of Mother' 1925

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966)
Large Head of Mother (installation view)
1925
Plaster
Fondation Giacometti, Paris
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966) 'Head of Father (Round II)' 1927-1930

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966)
Head of Father (Round II) (installation view)
1927-1930
Plaster
Fondation Giacometti, Paris
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

For the very first time in the Czech Republic, the National Gallery Prague presents the work of one of the most important, influential and beloved artists of the 20th century, the sculptor and painter Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966).

This extensive retrospective exhibition maps Giacometti’s artistic development across five decades. It follows its course from the artist’s early years in the Swiss town of Stampa, through his avant-garde experiments in inter-war Paris and up to its culmination in the unique manner of figural representation for which the artist is known best. His impressive elongated figures, which Giacometti created after World War II and which carry a sense of existential urgency, reflect his sense for the fragility and vulnerability of the human being.

Thanks to a joint collaboration with the Fondation Giacometti in Paris, who administers the estate of Annette and Alberto Giacometti, we are able to present over one hundred sculptures, including a series of valuable plaster statuettes, to the Czech audience. The exhibition will also feature several of Giacometti’s key paintings and drawings that testify to the breadth of his technical ability and thematic ambit,” says Julia Bailey, the exhibition’s curator from the NGP’s Collection of Modern and Contemporary Art. The exhibition at the Trade Fair Palace will feature such notable examples of Giacometti’s works as Walking Man, Standing Woman or his Women of Venice, which intrigued audiences at the famous Italian Biennale in 1956, as well as several other of his iconic works such as Spoon Woman, Woman with Chariot, Nose and valuable miniature plaster sculptures, intimate portraits of the artist’s family and friends who have been Giacometti’s favourite models all life long.

Giacometti, whom Jean-Paul Sartre described as one of the most important existential artists, refused strictly realistic representation because he perceived an insurmountable abyss between reality and art. “The originality of Giacometti’s work lies in the fact that it is situated on the very edge of this chasm. He internalised his earlier struggle with representation to such an extent that it became a motive force for his art,” explains Catherine Grenier, director of the Fondation Giacometti, President of the Giacometti Institute, and co-curator of the show.

The exhibition Alberto Giacometti, prepared by the National Gallery in collaboration with the Fondation Giacometti in Paris, will open on 18 July 2019 on the first floor of the Trade Fair Palace and run until 1 December 2019. It will be complemented by a rich accompanying programme as well as a companion volume.

Press release from the National Gallery Prague

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Alberto Giacometti' at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague

 

Installation view of the exhibition Alberto Giacometti at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966) 'Gazing Head' 1929

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966)
Gazing Head (installation view)
1929
Plaster
Fondation Giacometti, Paris
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Alberto Giacometti' at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague

 

Installation view of the exhibition Alberto Giacometti at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague showing at centre, Suspended Ball 1930-31
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966) 'Suspended Ball' 1930-31

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966)
Suspended Ball (installation view)
1930-31
Plaster, metal and string
Fondation Giacometti, Paris
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

In the magazine Le Surréalisme au service de la Révolution, Salvador Dalí presented this work as the prototype “object with a symbolic function”. The potential swinging of the ball on the crescent simultaneously suggests the softness of a caress and the violence of an incision. The erotic dimension is obvious, reinforced by the idea of movement. It is the first example of Giacometti’s “cage” works.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Alberto Giacometti' at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague

Installation view of the exhibition 'Alberto Giacometti' at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague

Installation view of the exhibition 'Alberto Giacometti' at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague

 

Installation view of the exhibition Alberto Giacometti at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague showing at left in the top photograph, Cubist figures / couples, and at right in the bottom photograph, Pocket-Tray 1930-1931
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966) 'Pocket-Tray' 1930-1931

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966)
Pocket-Tray (installation view)
1930-1931
Painted plaster
Fondation Giacometti, Paris
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966) 'Cubist Figure I' c. 1926 (left) and 'The Couple' 1926 (right)

 

Left

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966)
Cubist Figure I (installation view)
c. 1926
Plaster
Fondation Giacometti, Paris

Right

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966)
The Couple (installation view)
1926
Plaster
Fondation Giacometti, Paris
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966) 'Composition (known as Cubist I, Couple)' and 'Composition (known as Cubist II, Couple)' 1926-1927

 

Left

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966)
Composition (known as Cubist I, Couple) (installation view)
1926-1927
Plaster
Fondation Giacometti, Paris

Right

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966)
Composition (known as Cubist II, Couple) (installation view)
c. 1927
Plaster
Fondation Giacometti, Paris
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

For the first time in history the Trade Fair Palace presented to Czech visitors the work of one of the most important, most influential and also most popular 20th century artists. Alberto Giacometti was not only a sculptor, but also a painter. The exhibition offered a new interpretation of Giacometti’s work focused on the human figure. The works, which had not yet been exhibited or are not exhibited often, included iconic pieces from each period of his career. More than 170 statues, pictures and graphics were on display. The retrospective exhibition was divided into nine chronological, topical units. They mapped Giacometti’s journey through the decades, from growing up in Stampa, Switzerland, to avant-garde experiments in interwar Paris and the climax in his unique displaying of the body. It is the impressive, existential figures that he created during the Second World War and that reflect the author’s feeling for the fragility and vulnerability of a human being that made the artist most famous. The individual groups included a whole number of large photographs with Giacometti, the exhibition also contained a video in which the artist spoke of his work and an interactive studio. The cherry on top was, at the end of the exhibition, the bronze Walking Man from 1960. The statue was placed against a white background, so the dark silhouette stood out, and illuminated so that it cast several shadows. This gave rise to a multiform image of one item.

Anonymous text from the Lexxus Norton website 20th September 2019 [Online] Cited 19/12/2020

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Alberto Giacometti' at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague

Installation view of the exhibition 'Alberto Giacometti' at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague

 

Installation view of the exhibition Alberto Giacometti at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague showing at left Very Small Figurine (1937-1939), and at right Woman with Chariot (1943-1945)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Tiny sculptures

During the war, Giacometti left for Geneva and produced tiny works in a hotel room that he transformed into his studio. Those motifs in miniature were placed on pedestals integrated into the sculpture, for which he experimented with variations in form and size.

He worked from memory on figures seen from afar, in an attempt to sculpt “the distance”. The Very Small Figurine in plaster [at left in the above photograph] was made from memory of Isabel Delmer in the distance on a Parisian boulevard. It barely measures a few centimetres but it is as monumental as Woman with Chariot, the only piece Giacometti sculpted in a large dimension during the war [at right in the above photograph].

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966) 'Woman with Chariot' 1943-1945 (detail)

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966)
Woman with Chariot (installation view detail)
1943-1945
Plaster and wood
Fondation Giacometti, Paris
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966) 'Tall Woman Seated' 1958

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966)
Tall Woman Seated (installation view)
1958
Bronze
Fondation Giacometti, Paris
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966) 'Bust of Annette X' 1965 (left) and 'Bust of Annette, Venice' 1962 (right)

 

Left

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966)
Bust of Annette X (installation view)
1965
Plaster
Fondation Giacometti, Paris

Right

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966)
Bust of Annette, Venice (installation view)
1962
Plaster
Fondation Giacometti, Paris
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Annette Arm met Giacometti in Genova in 1943, and became his wife in 1949. She was to be one of Alberto’s favourite models. The representations of Annette evolved throughout the years and transformed in line with the artist’s state of mind and according to his vision of the moment. Annette’s attitude is often solemn, her eyes fixed in front of her. For Giacometti the gaze was the absolute sign of life: “When I manage to capture the expression in the eyes, everything else follows.”

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Alberto Giacometti' at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague

 

Installation view of the exhibition Alberto Giacometti at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966) 'Bust of a Man (known as New York I)' 1965

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966)
Bust of a Man (known as New York I) (installation view)
1965
Bronze
Fondation Giacometti, Paris
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966) 'Bust of a Man (known as New York II)' 1965

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966)
Bust of a Man (known as New York II) (installation view)
1965
Bronze
Fondation Giacometti, Paris
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966) 'Bust of Diego' 1962

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966)
Bust of Diego (installation view)
1962
Bronze
Fondation Giacometti, Paris
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966) 'Bust of a Man' 1956

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966)
Bust of a Man (installation view)
1956
Bronze
Fondation Giacometti, Paris
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966) 'Tall Thin Head' 1954

 

Installation view of the exhibition Alberto Giacometti at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague showing Tall Thin Head 1954
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966) 'Tall Thin Head' 1954

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966) 'Tall Thin Head' 1954

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966)
Tall Thin Head (installation views)
1954
Bronze
Fondation Giacometti, Paris

 

 

This bust of Diego gathers two very different views into a single one. Worked with the “blade of a knife”, the facial features are aligned according to a slightly askew axis, with the extreme narrowness provoking the sensation of disappearing into space. Seen in profile, the compact form defines the craggy contours of the nose, the half open mouth and the chin, all dominated by a skull stretched upwards.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Alberto Giacometti' at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague

 

Installation view of the exhibition Alberto Giacometti at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague showing some of his paintings
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Alberto Giacometti' at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague

 

Installation view of the exhibition Alberto Giacometti at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague showing at right centre, The Cage 1950-51 (bronze, Fondation Giacometti, Paris)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

The Cage, 1950-51

Between 1949 and 1951, Giacometti went back to the device of the cage invented for Suspended Ball. The legs raise to a certain height the table on which the figures are presented: two characters, arranged on a board, a spindly woman, and a male character, reduced to a bust directly placed on the floor. The cage is used to define the space and frame the scene.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Alberto Giacometti' at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague

 

Installation view of the exhibition Alberto Giacometti at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague showing at centre left, Four Women on a Base 1950 (bronze, Fondation Giacometti, Paris)
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966) 'Four Women on a Base' 1950

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966)
Four Women on a Base (installation view)
1950
Bronze
Fondation Giacometti, Paris
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Alberto Giacometti' at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague

Installation view of the exhibition 'Alberto Giacometti' at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966) 'Women of Venice' 1956 (installation view detail)

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966) 'Women of Venice' 1956 (installation view detail)

 

Installation views of the exhibition Alberto Giacometti at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague showing Women of Venice 1956 (plaster and painted plaster, Fondation Giacometti, Paris)
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Women of Venice, 1956

The Women of Venice owe their name to the Venice Biennale, where six plaster sculptures from the series were exhibited in 1956. Giacometti made nudes in clay, which were cast by his brother Diego as he proceeded. The plaster pieces were then reworked with a knife and enhanced with paint. The aspect of the women owes a lot to the use of soft clay imprinted with the marks of the artist’s fingers.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Alberto Giacometti' at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague

 

Installation view of the exhibition Alberto Giacometti at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague with The Glade 1950 in the foreground with Women of Venice 1956 in the background
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966) 'The Glade' 1950 (installation view)

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966)
The Glade (installation view)
1950
Bronze
Fondation Giacometti, Paris
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966) 'The Forest' 1950 (installation view)

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966)
The Forest (installation view)
1950
Bronze
Fondation Giacometti, Paris
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

The Forest, 1950

Giacometti said that one day he place some figures on the floor of the studio to make room on his worktable. Chance organised them in positions that he kept and then rear-arranged in two separate works, The Glade and The Forest. This sculpture reminded him of a place in the forest visited during childhood, where trees made him think of characters talking to one another, immobilised in the act of walking.

 

Making a portrait

Installation view of the exhibition 'Alberto Giacometti' at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague

Installation view of the exhibition 'Alberto Giacometti' at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague

Installation view of the exhibition 'Alberto Giacometti' at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague

 

Installation views of the exhibition Alberto Giacometti at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague showing in the bottom image at second left Isaku Yanaihara 1956-57, and at right Yanaihara in Profile 1956
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966) 'Isaku Yanaihara' 1956-57 (installation view)

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966)
Isaku Yanaihara (installation view)
1956-57
Oil on canvas
Fondation Giacometti, Paris
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Professor of Philosophy at the University of Osaka in Japan, Isaku Yanaihara met Giacometti in 1955 at an interview. Fascinated by his face, the artist made him one of his main models. The philosophy returned almost every summer between 1956 and 1961 to sit for two sculpted busts, twenty or so painted portraits and numerous drawn portraits.

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966) 'Yanaihara in Profile' 1956 (installation view)

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966)
Yanaihara in Profile (installation view)
1956
Oil on canvas
Fondation Giacometti, Paris
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Alberto Giacometti (10 October 1901 – 11 January 1966) was a Swiss sculptor, painter, draftsman and printmaker. Beginning in 1922, he lived and worked mainly in Paris but regularly visited his hometown Borgonovo to see his family and work on his art.

Giacometti was one of the most important sculptors of the 20th century. His work was particularly influenced by artistic styles such as Cubism and Surrealism. Philosophical questions about the human condition, as well as existential and phenomenological debates played a significant role in his work. Around 1935 he gave up on his Surrealistic influences in order to pursue a more deepened analysis of figurative compositions. Giacometti wrote texts for periodicals and exhibition catalogues and recorded his thoughts and memories in notebooks and diaries. His self-critical nature led to great doubts about his work and his ability to do justice to his own artistic ideas but acted as a great motivating force.

Between 1938 and 1944 Giacometti’s sculptures had a maximum height of seven centimetres (2.75 inches). Their small size reflected the actual distance between the artist’s position and his model. In this context he self-critically stated: “But wanting to create from memory what I had seen, to my terror the sculptures became smaller and smaller”. After World War II, Giacometti created his most famous sculptures: his extremely tall and slender figurines. These sculptures were subject to his individual viewing experience – between an imaginary yet real, a tangible yet inaccessible space.

In Giacometti’s whole body of work, his painting constitutes only a small part. After 1957, however, his figurative paintings were equally as present as his sculptures. His almost monochromatic paintings of his late work do not refer to any other artistic styles of modernity.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Alberto Giacometti' at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague

Installation view of the exhibition 'Alberto Giacometti' at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague

 

Installation views of the exhibition Alberto Giacometti at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague showing at left in the bottom photograph, Stele III 1958
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966) 'Stele III' 1958 (installation view detail)

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966)
Stele III (installation view detail)
1958
Plaster
Fondation Giacometti, Paris
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966) 'The Nose' 1947

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966)
The Nose (installation view)
1947
Bronze, painted metal and cotton string
Fondation Giacometti, Paris
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

This extraordinary head suspended in a void is the representation of a nightmare that deeply upset the artist following a traumatic experience in 1921. After witnessing the death of Pieter van Meurs, whom he had met while travelling, Giacometti became fascinated by the nose that appeared to be growing continually even after life had left his body. [See also the gaping mouth of the sculpture Head on a Rod 1947]

 

1921: At the beginning of the summer he travels yet again to Italy, and on the train he meets a mysterious man, an old Dutchman named Peter van Meurs, who would later contact Giacometti with an invitation to become his travel companion. Giacometti, hungry for adventure and wanting to avoid wasting time in school, which he resented, he was finally given permission by his parents, reluctantly, to embark on the adventure. He was only 19, years of age. However, as fate would have it, the adventure was cut short by the unexpected death of the old Dutchman.

 

The Death of van Meurs

The following story is told by James Lord in his excellent book: Giacometti, A Biography:

“Van Meurs was not handsome. He had thick fleshy features … If he was a homosexual there is no reason to assume he was an active or even conscious one. … The travellers set  out on September 3, 1921 … they went to the Grand Hotel ds Alpes, built on the ruins of an ancient monastery.

The following day was Sunday. Rain was falling on the mountainsides, on the forest, and on the fields around the hotel. It was cold. Van Meurs awoke unwell and in sever pain.  He suffered from kidney stones … The hotel luckily had a doctor attached to the staff. He was called, examined van Meurs, and gave him an injection to ease the pain.

Alberto remained by the bedside of the elderly Dutchman. Having brought with him a copy of Flaubert’s Bouvard et Pecuchet, he began to read the introductory essay by Guy de Maupassant. In it there is a passage which may have seemed striking to the impressionable young artist as he sat by the bed of this sick man whom he barley knew.

Speaking of Flaubert, Maupassant says:

“Those people who are altogether happy, strong and healthy: are they adequately prepared to understand, to penetrate, and to express this life we live, so tormented, so short? Are they made, the exuberant and outgoing, for the discovery of all those afflictions and all those sufferings which beset us, for the knowledge that death strikes without surcease, every day and everywhere, ferocious, blind, fatal? So it is possible, it is probable, that the first seizure of epilepsy made a deep mark of melancholy and fear upon the mind of this robust youth. It is probable that thereafter a kind of apprehension toward life remained with him, a manner somewhat more somber of considering things, a suspicion of outward events, a mistrust of apparent happiness.”

Outside the window, rain continued to fall … but [van Meurs] showed no sign of improving. On the contrary. His cheeks had become sunken, and he was barely breathing through his open mouth.

Alberto took paper and pencil and began to draw the sick man “to see him more clearly, to try to grasp and hold the sight before his eyes, to understand it, to make something permanent of the experience of the moment.” He drew the sunken cheeks, the open mouth, and the fleshy nose which even as he watched seemed bizarrely to be growing longer and longer. Then it suddenly occurred to him that van Meurs was going to die. All alone in that remote hotel, with rain pouring on the rocky mountaintops outside, Alberto was seized by blind fear.

Toward the end of the afternoon, the doctor returned  and examined the sick man again. Taking Alberto aside, he said, “Its finished. The heart’s failing. Tonight he’ll be dead.”

Nightfall came.  Hours passed.  Peter van Meurs died.

In that instant everything changed for Alberto Giacometti forever. He said so, and never ceased saying so. The subsequent testimony of his lifetime showed that it was the truth.  Till then he had had no idea, no inkling of what death was. He had never seen it. He had thought of life as possessing a force, a persistence, a permanence of its own, and of death as a fateful occurrence which might somehow enhance the solemnity, and even the value, of life. Now he had seen death. It had been present for an instant before his eyes with a power which reduced life to nothingness. He had witnessed the transition from being to non-being. Where there had formerly been a man, now there remained only refuse. What had once seemed valuable and solemn was now visibly absurd and trivial. He had seen that life is frail, uncertain, transitory.

In that instant, everything seemed as vulnerable as van Meurs. Everything was threatened in the essence of its being. From the most infinitesimal speck of matter to the great galaxies and the whole universe itself, everything was precious, perishable. Human survival above all appeared haphazard and preposterous.

James Lord then quotes Giacometti’s own words: … “For me it was an abominable trap. In a few hours van Meurs had become an object, nothing. Then death became possible at every moment for me, for everyone. It was like a warning. So much had come about by chance: the meeting, the train, the advertisement [placed by van Meurs in the newspaper]. As if everything had been prepared to make me witness this wretched end. My whole life certainly shifted in one stroke on that day. Everything became fragile for me.”

Alberto did not rest well that night. He did not dare go to sleep for fear he might never wake. He was so afraid of the dark, as if the extinction of light were the extinction of life, as if the loss of sight were the loss of everything. All night, he kept the light burning. [and every night of his life thereafter]. He shook himself repeatedly to try to stay awake. … Then suddenly it seemed to him in his half-sleep that his mouth was hanging open like the mouth of the dying man, and he started awake in terror.”

James Lord quoted in Steven D. Foster. “Homage to Giacometti Part 5: Regarding His Fear of Death,” on the Steven D. Foster – Photographs: The Departing Landscape website September 10, 2017 [Online] Cited 20/12/2020.

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966) 'Head on a Rod' 1947 (installation view)

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966)
Head on a Rod (installation view)
1947
Painted plaster and metal
Fondation Giacometti, Paris
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Standing Figures

Installation view of the exhibition 'Alberto Giacometti' at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague

Installation view of the exhibition 'Alberto Giacometti' at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague

Installation view of the exhibition 'Alberto Giacometti' at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague

Installation view of the exhibition 'Alberto Giacometti' at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague

 

Installation views of the exhibition Alberto Giacometti at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague showing in the bottom photograph, Woman Leoni 1947-1958
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966) 'Woman Leoni' 1947-1958 (installation view detail)

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966)
Woman Leoni (installation view detail)
1947-1958
Painted plaster
Fondation Giacometti, Paris
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966) 'Standing Nude on a Cubic Base' 1953 (installation view)

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966)
Standing Nude on a Cubic Base (installation view)
1953
Painted plaster
Fondation Giacometti, Paris
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Alberto Giacometti' at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague

 

Installation views of the exhibition Alberto Giacometti at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague showing Walking Man I 1960
Photos: Marcus Bunyan

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966) 'Walking Man I' 1960

 

Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966)
Walking Man I (installation view)
1960
Bronze
Fondation Giacometti, Paris
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

THE LAST ART WORK IN THE EXHIBITION

In 1959, the architect Gordon Bunshaft commissioned a monumental sculpture for the plaza of the Chase Manhattan Bank in New York. Giacometti chose three figures that sum up his work in a definitive manner: a standing woman, a head and a walking man. Unsatisfied with the result he decided to abandon the project. However, the work gave life to several sculptures that the artist had cast in bronze from 1960, including two versions of Walking Man.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Alberto Giacometti' at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague

Installation view of the exhibition 'Alberto Giacometti' at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague

 

Installation view of the exhibition Alberto Giacometti at the Trade Fair Palace, National Gallery Prague showing
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

National Gallery Prague
Trade Fair Palace
Dukelských hrdinů 47, 170 00 Prague 7

Opening hours:
Tue, Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun: 10.00 – 18.00
Wed: 10.00 – 20.00

National Gallery Prague website

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20
Dec
20

Exhibition: ‘Bruce Davidson: Brooklyn Gang’ at Cleveland Museum of Art

Exhibition dates: 25th October 2020 – 28th February 2021

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 27.9 x 35.6cm (11 x 14 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

For a few brief moments, rebels with a cause

This is one of my favourite photo essays of all time. The story Davidson tells of this male-orientated Brooklyn gang and its culture through his photographs is one of brotherhood, friendship, rivalry, love, longing, agony, depression and death at a time of utter poverty and rock ‘n roll rebellion. He produced “unflinchingly honest images of these American youths.” Now, all these years later, the photographs possess a powerful nostalgia for the era mixed with the desolation of destroyed lives and lost youth.

Davidson gets under the skin of his subjects, embeds himself firmly in their milieu. The subjects allow him to photograph their most intimate moments, seemingly free from worry or anxiety. There is an insouciance to their attitude, a knowing insouciance. In one photograph inside Helen’s Candy Store, Bob Powers stares directly and disarmingly at the camera while the girl playing with the yo-yo and the youth in the background also stare directly into the lens, forming a strong compositional triangle of the gaze. Powers said he was voted “most likely to die before I was 21 years old.” He lived with his seven siblings and alcoholic parents in a three-bedroom apartment that had a coal-powered cookstove and no hot water or central heating.

There is a dark undertone to the narrative. While there are moments of joy and happiness, you can sense the isolation and despair of these disaffected youths. Cathy O’Neal, seen in front of a cigarette machine at Coney Island, committed suicide by shotgun. Jimmie and his family were wiped out by drugs. Junior Rice became a heroin dealer. Lefty od’d in bed at 19. “He was the first in the group to die from a drug overdose… within a few years, drugs would claim the lives of many in the gang and in the neighbourhood.” In picturing their lives, the photographs gather moments (in time), enunciating how the gang members railed against the conformity and materialism of 1950s America whilst imbibing its rebellious iconography. Only occasionally does the artist pull back to show us the wider picture, the context of the action, with photographs of New York skyscrapers seen in the distance and the Statue of Liberty.

Davidson does not let his spontaneity slip. He is informed, aware, absent (but present) in all of these photographs waiting for that special moment. In the photograph above, a bird-like creature swoops down on something invisible on the ground. In informal yet tightly focused photographs – of sunbathing or walking the boardwalks of Coney Island, gang members fixing their hair, rolling up their sleeves, dead beat(s) in the back of the bus, making out in the back seat of a car, walking in the park or hooning around on the Metro – Davidson is there to capture the off-beat moments of gang existence and the members relationship to each other.

Through a superb eye, a feeling, a sensibility and connection towards the gang members desperation and isolation, universally acknowledged by the photographer himself, Davidson sets them all on the path to immortality. Do not forget, these photographs seem to be saying. For a few brief moments these people did exist, their lives were valuable, these rebels with a cause.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Cleveland 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.

 

One of Davidson’s best-known series, Brooklyn Gang was inspired by a news story he read about a teenage gang called the Jokers.

Davidson contacted the Jokers, one of Brooklyn’s roughest gangs, through their social worker. In the summer of 1959, Davidson roamed the streets of New York with these teens, loitered in stores that the Jokers called their own, and sunbathed with them on the beach at Coney Island. Eventually they allowed him to photograph even their most intimate, private moments. He responded by producing unflinchingly honest images of these American youths.

Gang membership was exclusively male, but the members’ girlfriends appear frequently in Davidson’s photographs. Some of the pictures depict the teenagers exploring lust and love and the boys struggling to define and prove their masculinity. Looking back at the series in 1998, Davidson said that he felt “the reason that body of work has survived is that it’s about emotion. That kind of mood and tension and sexual vitality, that’s what those pictures were really about.”

 

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 27.9 x 35.6 cm (11 x 14 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

The pleasures and agonies of teenage romance are captured in Bruce Davidson’s photographs of the gang’s dance parties, which were held variously in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, at a neighbourhood school, and in members’ homes. The basement wallpaper seen here – with its fairy-tale figures, including horses, queens, knights, marionettes, and jokers – suggests a domestic setting. The event could have been a farewell party for an older gang member going off to join the army, which was a common occurrence.

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 20.3 x 25.4cm (8 x 10 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Image: 16 x 23.9cm (6 5/16 x 9 7/16 in.)
Paper: 20.3 x 25.2cm (8 x 9 15/16 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

This rooftop view in Park Slope, Brooklyn, was taken from a building in the gang’s “turf,” which was a block anchored by the intersection of 17th Street and 8th Avenue. Davidson spent the summer hanging out with the gang and photographing them. Describing his process, the artist said, “I stay a long time. … I am an outsider on the inside.” Park Slope, now one of New York’s most desirable neighbourhoods, was then a poor, mostly Irish area.

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Image: 21.9 x 14.6cm (8 5/8 x 5 3/4 in.)
Paper: 25.1 x 20.2cm (9 7/8 x 7 15/16 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

Davidson contacted the Jokers, one of Brooklyn’s roughest gangs, through their social worker. In the summer of 1959, Davidson roamed the streets of New York with these teens, loitered in stores that the Jokers called their own, and sunbathed with them on the beach at Coney Island. Eventually they allowed him to photograph even their most intimate, private moments. He responded by producing unflinchingly honest images of these American youths.

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 27.9 x 35.6 cm (11 x 14 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

The pleasures and agonies of teenage romance are captured in Bruce Davidson’s photographs of the gang’s dance parties, which were held variously in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, at a neighbourhood school, and in members’ homes.

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Image: 16.1 x 24.1cm (6 5/16 x 9 1/2 in.)
Paper: 20.2 x 25.3cm (7 15/16 x 9 15/16 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

Childhood pastimes like playing yo-yo were a thing of the distant past for 15-year-old Bob Powers, a Joker seen here leaning against a fixture in Helen’s Candy Store. He had already been in and out of the court system numerous times by 1959. Powers stabbed someone when he was 12 and had been incarcerated for bringing zip guns (homemade firearms) and chains to school, where, Powers said, he was voted “most likely to die before I was 21 years old.”

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 27.9 x 35.6cm (11 x 14 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

The gang members, most of whom were 15 or 16 years old, thought tattoos made them look older and might help them get served at bars. Tattoos were also a demonstration of masculinity and a rite of passage. Bob Powers, seen here at age 15 displaying his first tattoo, recalled years later that “the first time you get a tattoo it’s scary. I was sitting back with a cigarette like it’s nothing. Meanwhile, it was killing me. … I got ‘Bobby’ with stars around it. … They said, ‘Get your name.’ … I hated it forever.”

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 61 x 50.8cm (24 x 20 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

One of the gang members – Bob Powers – suggested that Davidson follow him to a rooftop on the gang’s block. “I remember thinking,” said Davidson, “‘This kid’s going to throw me off the roof and then rob me,’ but he’s pointing down at the stickball game (an informal form of baseball played in the street) and saying, ‘Get that,’ and saying: ‘Oh, there’s the Statue of Liberty. You can see it through all these television antennas.'”

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 27.9 x 35.6 cm (11 x 14 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

The gang members were very concerned with their appearance, although they did not have much money to spend on grooming or clothes. “If you see a picture of me,” said former gang member Bob Powers, “the broken tooth, my teeth were green because I didn’t go to the dentist. We never had any money even though my father worked. … We used Vaseline petroleum jelly to make our hair stick like iron in a pompadour. We combed our hair constantly, wore sunglasses, and all thought we were Marlon Brandos.”

The Jokers’ slicked-back pompadours … and their clothing echoed the greaser style, a rebellious youth subculture that was promoted by cinematic antiheroes of the era. Role models included Marlon Brando’s portrayal of a motorcycle gang member in The Wild One (1953) and James Dean as a troubled teen in Rebel without a Cause (1955). The “bad boy” image flouted the aspirational role model of the time, the upwardly mobile white-collar worker in a business suit and short haircut.

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 27.9 x 35.6 cm (11 x 14 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

Petey, a Jokers member who looks out the second-story window here, was injured in that fight. Petey’s best friend, fellow Jokers member Bob Powers, walks by the house. Housing in the gang’s neighbourhood, the then-impoverished Park Slope, Brooklyn, was overcrowded and rundown. Powers lived with his seven siblings and alcoholic parents in a three-bedroom apartment that had a coal-powered cookstove and no hot water or central heating.

 

 

One of the most highly respected and influential American documentary photographers of the past half century, Bruce Davidson spent several months photographing the daily lives of a teenage street gang for his 1959 series Brooklyn Gang. A new exhibition in the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Mark Schwartz and Bettina Katz Photography Gallery, Bruce Davidson: Brooklyn Gang features 50 black-and-white photographs from that series, which are part of a recent anonymous gift to the museum of extensive selections from the artist’s archives. The exhibition is on view now through February 28, 2021.

Brooklyn Gang was Davidson’s first major project after joining the distinguished photo agency Magnum and was the fruit of several months spent immersing himself in the daily lives of the Jokers, one of the many teenage street gangs worrying New York City officials at the time. He recorded the teenagers’ pleasures and frustrations as they attempted to define masculinity and mimic adult behaviour. The photographs reflect the group’s camaraderie but also their alienation from societal norms. While many officials and commentators at the time saw the gangs as evidence of social deterioration resulting from poverty, others regarded them as the most visible manifestations of a socially disengaged generation of males – rebels without a cause.

“Bruce Davidson: Brooklyn Gang presents an intimate portrayal of the teens’ lives,” said William Griswold, director of the Cleveland Museum of Art. “Davidson was an outsider, but one who spent so much time with the gang that he became, as he liked to say, ‘an outsider on the inside.’ Davidson offered an independent look at the lives of these disadvantaged youths; this view of society was quite different from the age of visual and social homogenisation of the 1950s presented in mainstream magazines such as Life and Look and predicts the social turmoil of the 1960s.”

The images reflect the time Davidson spent with the teens hanging out on street corners and in the local candy store and accompanying them to the beach at Coney Island with their girlfriends. Included are several sets of variant images, affording a rare glimpse into Davidson’s working process.

“Despite a more than ten-year age difference, Davidson describes recognising his own repression in his subjects and feeling a connection to their desperation,” said Barbara Tannenbaum, the CMA’s chair of prints, drawings, and photographs and curator of photography.

Press release from the Cleveland Museum of Art

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 40.6 x 50.8cm (16 x 20 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

The museum owns several groups of images from the series taken during the same shoot at Coney Island. They provide a rare glimpse of the artist’s selection process (see 2018.688, 2018.696, 2018.697, 2018.701, 2018.706, and 2018.735). The size of these prints, and the fact that the artist printed them long after they were shot, suggest he considered all four images worthwhile. In an exhibition print, the white marks on the woman’s cheek here, made by dust on the negative, would have been covered up with ink or dye, a process known as spotting. This may be a work print, made to aid in decisions on exactly how to print this picture. It has become one of the better-known images from Brooklyn Gang.

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 20.3 x 25.4cm (8 x 10 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 27.9 x 35.6cm (11 x 14 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

In this photograph, gang member Bob Powers talks with friends in one of the many Coney Island bathhouses where people could change, shower, or swim in pools. “We’d come down on a Friday and sometimes we’d stay the whole weekend till Monday, down on the beach, me, Lefty, Junior,” Powers recalled. “The girls would stay too… We would light fires and bury all the cans of beer. I remember stealing cars and driving down there. We’d drive the car under the boardwalk and bring it right onto the bay and leave it there.”

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 50.8 x 61cm (20 x 24 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

Shown here on the Coney Island boardwalk, from left to right, are gang members Junior Rice, Bob Powers, and Lefty, who “was a pretty tough guy in the gang and then he went to jail for about a year,” according to Powers. “He came out and he just lost it. He wasn’t the same guy. Something happened and nobody knew what. … We protected him a bit, but he caught a couple of bad beatings and lost his reputation. He ate a lot of pills one night and never woke up. His mother found him dead. OD’d in bed at 19. He was the first in the group to die from a drug overdose.”

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Image: 16.1 x 24.1 cm (6 5/16 x 9 1/2 in.)
Paper: 20.2 x 25.3 cm (7 15/16 x 9 15/16 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

This print is vintage – made soon after the picture was shot – and its 8 x 10-inch size was typical of the period and preferred for making reproductions for magazines and books. As photography began gaining acceptance into the gallery and museum world in the 1980s, larger prints became the norm. The museum also owns an unusually large print of the same image, made in the 1990s or 2000s, which was created to be exhibited in galleries and museums. The two may look the same on the computer screen, but do not feel the same when viewed in real life.

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15.8 x 24.1 cm (6 1/4 x 9 1/2 in.)
Paper: 20.1 x 25.4 cm (7 15/16 x 10 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

After a day at the beach at Coney Island, the teens “would take the long bus ride back to their neighbourhood,” remembered Bruce Davidson. “As they sat in the rear of the bus, the sunlight burned through the windows, giving them an angelic glow. They would drift into their dreams and awake alert to the mean streets awaiting them.”

 

 

Bruce Davidson

Barbara Tannenbaum

Curator of Photography

A hot topic in the 1950s, gangs were avidly analysed by sociologists, the press, and artists. Gordon Parks’s photographs of a young black Harlem gang leader were published in Life magazine in 1948. The musical West Side Story, which pitted a Polish gang against a Puerto Rican one, debuted on Broadway in 1957. The following year, a seven-part series in the New York Times analysed the social, economic, and psychological causes of this juvenile delinquency.

In the summer of 1959, Bruce Davidson went to Brooklyn to meet and photograph a teenage street gang called the Jokers. Davidson’s series Brooklyn Gang provided an in-depth view into the daily activities of an Irish and Polish gang whose turf was a block in the impoverished Park Slope neighbourhood. The Jokers were teenagers who were mostly students at the neighbourhood Catholic school or dropouts. They shoplifted and fought with members of rival gangs in rumbles that involved bricks, bats, knives, and occasionally zip (homemade) guns.

At age 25, Davidson was an outsider to them. He had been raised in a Jewish family in suburban Chicago and held an MFA in photography from Yale University. His images were being published in major magazines, and he had just joined Magnum, a distinguished, artist-run photographic agency. The Jokers’ role models were the greasers, a rebellious youth subculture promoted by cinematic antiheroes such as Marlon Brando’s motorcycle gang member in The Wild One (1953) and James Dean’s troubled teen in Rebel without a Cause (1955). The gang members’ “bad boy” image, replete with Vaseline-slicked pompadours and blue-collar clothing, flouted the era’s aspirational role model of an upwardly mobile white-collar worker in a business suit and short haircut.

Davidson did not sport a pompadour, but making a living as a freelance photojournalist was itself a rebellion against the nine-to-five office world. He spent the summer with the Jokers, hanging out on street corners, in the local candy store, and on the beach at Coney Island. His images reflect their alienation and anxieties but also their camaraderie. The boys explore male bonding rituals and act out their visions of maleness and adulthood. They may roughhouse, but gang ethics dictated that they were not to hurt each other. Real violence was reserved for rival gangs and, like their criminal acts, was not shown by Davidson.

He did capture the teens’ early experiences with lust and love. The Lothario in the back seat of a car is Lefty, of whom Bob Powers, a gang member who wrote a memoir 40 years later, remarked, “We never thought he was good-looking, but all the girls loved him.” This well-known image of Lefty is joined in the exhibition by three others from that same make-out session. Together they form an almost cinematic progression. Several other groups of related images of events are also included in the exhibition. These rare glimpses into the artist’s shooting and editing processes are all drawn from the recent anonymous gift to the museum of 367 works from Davidson’s archive, selections that span his 70-year career.

Davidson was careful not to pass judgment in his Brooklyn Gang photographs. The youngsters’ hairstyles, tattoos, and underage drinking, smoking, and sex were considered ruinous behaviour at the time. The memoirs of Bob Powers and the reminiscences of other members give the Jokers’ story a dark tone. The best-known image in the series, taken in front of a cigarette machine at Coney Island, shows Artie Giammarino, who later became a transit police detective, and Cathy O’Neal, whom the boys considered “beautiful like Brigitte Bardot.” Cathy is seen here at age 13 or 14, around the time she began dating the “coolest” of the gang, Junior Rice. At 14 she got pregnant. Though they were both under the legal age, they married. They later divorced, and Junior became a heroin dealer and user; within a few years, drugs would claim the lives of many in the gang and in the neighbourhood. Years after their divorce, Cathy committed suicide by shotgun.

Davidson would always remain an outsider to the gang, but his working process allowed for intimacy and trust to grow between the gang members and the photographer. By the end of the summer, Davidson realised that he and the Jokers were all considered outsiders in the conformist, materialistic 1950s. “I could see my own repression in them, and I began to feel a connection to their desperation,” he remembered. “I began to feel their isolation and even my own.”

Cleveland Art, Fall 2020

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 61 x 50.8 cm (24 x 20 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

Although most of the gang members’ time was spent in their neighbourhood of Park Slope, Brooklyn, the Jokers sometimes took excursions. Few had access to cars, so most travel was by bus and subway. The subway fare of 15 cents – the equivalent of $1.33 today – would take them anywhere in New York City. Here a gang member and his girlfriend wait for a train on the neighbourhood subway platform. The beach at Coney Island was a favourite summer destination for the gang.

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 27.9 x 35.6 cm (11 x 14 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 20.3 x 25.4cm (8 x 10 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

“We used to hang out in [Brooklyn’s] Prospect Park all the time,” recalled Jokers member Bob Powers. “We did a lot of drinking and sleeping overnight in the park. … The cops with their bats would push us along, tell us to move. We were very defiant. If we moved, we moved ten feet. Then they had to tell us to move another ten feet. We’d kind of like move around in a circle and come back to where we originally started. The cops were mean at that time, but then we weren’t the best of kids either.”

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 13.9 x 17.6cm (5 1/2 x 6 15/16 in.)
Image: 11.4 x 16.9cm (4 1/2 x 6 5/8 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

The Jokers roughhoused and fought among themselves but were not allowed to hurt each other. Real violence was reserved for those in other gangs or occasionally for civilians. “Did we fight with chains and pipes and knives? Yeah,” gang member Bob Powers reminisced years later. “Did people get stabbed? Yeah, people got stabbed. And people got their heads cracked open with bats.”

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 20.3 x 25.4cm (8 x 10 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 27.9 x 35.6 cm (11 x 14 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

The gang member making out in the back seat of a car on the way home from Coney Island is Lefty, identifiable by his tattoo. “We always wondered why the girls liked him,” recalled Jokers member Bob Powers. “We never thought he was good-looking, but all the girls loved him. It was amazing.”

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933) 'Untitled' 1959

 

Bruce Davidson (American, b. 1933)
Untitled
1959
Gelatin silver print
Paper: 61 x 50.8 cm (24 x 20 in.)
Gift of an anonymous donor
© Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

 

 

Jimmie, an older member of the gang, watched over the younger members with his brother Johnny. In 1998, Jokers member Bob Powers recalled, “Later, the whole family, all six of them … died, wiped out, mostly from drugs. It’s amazing because at this particular time, if you see Jimmie, he’s like the ‘Fonz,’ like James Dean – handsome. He was good-looking, he had the women, and he was always working on cars.”

 

 

Cleveland Museum of Art
11150 East Boulevard
Cleveland, Ohio 44106

Opening hours:
Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays 10.00am – 5.00pm
Wednesdays, Fridays 10.00am – 9.00pm
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Cleveland Museum of Art website

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06
Dec
20

Photographs: Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992) Part 2

December 2020

 

Max Dupain (Seven Yachts in the Bay) Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Seven Yachts in the Bay)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
29 x 37cm (11.4 x 14.6 in.)

 

 

A second tranche of photographs from the Australian photographer Max Dupain. This means that Art Blart has one of the largest groups of his work online with larger images.

In this posting I have grouped the images through ships and boats; surf and beach; nudes / montage / surrealism; city and Harbour Bridge; dance and abstraction; portraits and Pictorialism – finishing with two stunning bromoil landscapes.

View Max Dupain photographs Part 1

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
All images are used under fair use conditions for the purpose of educational research. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Max Dupain. 'Hero Towing Pamir to Sydney Heads' c. 1940s

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Hero Towing Pamir to Sydney Heads
c. 1940s
Gelatin silver print
41 x 39.5cm

 

 

Pamir was a four-masted barque built for the German shipping company F. Laeisz. One of their famous Flying P-Liners, she was the last commercial sailing ship to round Cape Horn, in 1949. By 1957, she had been outmoded by modern bulk carriers and could not operate at a profit. Her shipping consortium’s inability to finance much-needed repairs or to recruit sufficient sail-trained officers caused severe technical difficulties. On 21 September 1957, she was caught in Hurricane Carrie and sank off the Azores, with only six survivors rescued after an extensive search.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

A model of Pamir, a four-masted barque

 

A model of Pamir, a four-masted barque that was one of the famous Flying P-Liner sailing ships of the German shipping company F. Laeisz

 

Max Dupain. 'Rigging Sails' Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Rigging Sails
Nd
Gelatin silver print
25.5 x 25cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Life at the Spit' Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Life at the Spit
Nd
Gelatin silver print
23.5 x 22 cm

 

Max Dupain (Aerial of Waters Edge) 1930s

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Aerial of Waters Edge)
1930s
Gelatin silver print
26 x 24cm

 

Max Dupain (Aerial View of Manly Beach) 1938

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Aerial View of Manly Beach)
1938
Gelatin silver print
23 x 31cm

 

Max Dupain (Life Guards Marching with Reel) Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Life Guards Marching with Reel)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
34.5 x 30cm

 

Max Dupain (Sunbaking by the Wall) Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Sunbaking by the Wall)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 32cm

 

Max Dupain (Surfboard, Umbrella and Crowds) Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Surfboard, Umbrella and Crowds)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
29 x 25.5cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Stiff Nor'Easter' 1940s

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Stiff Nor’Easter
1940s
Gelatin silver print
38 x 40.5cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Beach Watchers, Bondi' 1940s

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Beach Watchers, Bondi
1940s
Gelatin silver print
28.5 x 25.5cm

 

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Surf Race Start
1947
Gelatin silver print
36 x 37cm

 

Dupain. 'Picnicker Leaving the Beach' Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Picnicker Leaving the Beach
Nd
Gelatin silver print
30 x 34.5cm

 

Dupain. 'Beach Play' 1937

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Beach Play
1937
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 36cm

 

Max Dupain (Nude Figures) 1930s

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Nude Figures)
1930s
Gelatin silver print
24 x 20cm

 

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Nude in Shadow on the Sand)
1937
Gelatin silver print
35.5 x 30cm

 

Max Dupain (Nude Montage) 1930s

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Nude Montage)
1930s
Gelatin silver print
34.5 x 33 cm

 

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Standing Nude on Sand)
1930s
Gelatin silver print
39 x 33.5cm

 

Max Dupain (Nude Sunbaker) 1939

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Nude Sunbaker)
1939
Gelatin silver print
35 x 46.5cm

 

Max Dupain (Rhythmic Form) 1935

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Rhythmic Form)
1935
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Debussy Quartet in G
1937
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 23.5cm

 

Max Dupain (Solarised Nude and Rays of Light) 1935

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Solarised Nude and Rays of Light)
1935
Gelatin silver print
12.5 x 9.5cm

 

Max Dupain (Nude and Pole) 1934

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Nude and Pole)
1934
Gelatin silver print
45.5 x 36cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Little Nude' 1938

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Little Nude
1938
Gelatin silver print
41 x 31cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Spontaneous Composition' 1935

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Spontaneous Composition
1935
Gelatin silver print
38 x 41cm

 

Max Dupain (Moira in the Mirror) 1931

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Moira in the Mirror)
1931
Gelatin silver print
25.5 x 28cm

 

Max Dupain (Elizabeth Street, Melbourne) Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Elizabeth Street, Melbourne)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
40.5 x 39cm

 

Max Dupain (Angel Statue, 392 Bus and Terraces) Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Angel Statue, 392 Bus and Terraces)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
28 x 38cm

 

Max Dupain (Australian Hotel, The Rocks) Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Australian Hotel, The Rocks)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
31 x 38cm

 

Max Dupain (Hickson Road) Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Hickson Road)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
39 x 50.5cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Darling Harbour from Studio Window' 1940s

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Darling Harbour from Studio Window
1940s
Gelatin silver print
32 x 45cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Brooms for Sale' 1950

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Brooms for Sale
1950
Gelatin silver print
31.5 x 44.5cm

 

Max Dupain. 'George Street Silhouette' 1940

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
George Street Silhouette
1940
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 29.5cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Central Station, Sydney' 1939

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Central Station, Sydney
1939
Gelatin silver print
40 x 39cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Collins Street, Melbourne' 1946

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Collins Street, Melbourne
1946
Gelatin silver print
42 x 39.5cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Morning, Kings Cross Ice Wagon' Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Morning, Kings Cross Ice Wagon
Nd
Gelatin silver print
45 x 40.5cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Parking, Macquarie Street' 1930s

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Parking, Macquarie Street
1930s
Gelatin silver print
39 x 48.5cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Suburban Terraces' Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Suburban Terraces
Nd
Gelatin silver print
28 x 38cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Hobart Siesta' 1947

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Hobart Siesta
1947
Gelatin silver print
38.5 x 38cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Diver, Northbridge Baths' Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Diver, Northbridge Baths
Nd
Gelatin silver print
23 x 18.5cm

 

Max Dupain (Milson's Point) Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Milson’s Point)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 32.5cm

 

Max Dupain (Harbour Bridge at Dusk) Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Harbour Bridge at Dusk)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
31 x 28.5cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Sydney from South Pylon' 1938

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Sydney from South Pylon
1938
Gelatin silver print
38 x 50.5cm

 

Max Dupain (Harbour Bridge Closed at Night) 1946

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Harbour Bridge Closed at Night)
1946
Gelatin silver print
18 x 24cm

 

Max Dupain (Harbour Bridge with Traffic, Buses and Policeman) 1940-50s

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Harbour Bridge with Traffic, Buses and Policeman)
1940-50s
Gelatin silver print
17.5 x 24cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Observatory Hill, Looking North to the Sydney Harbour Bridge' 1940

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Observatory Hill, Looking North to the Sydney Harbour Bridge
1940
Gelatin silver print
40.5 x 40 cm

 

Max Dupain (Four Graces) Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Four Graces)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
37 x 48cm

 

Max Dupain (Four Graces) Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Four Graces)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
24 x 30.5 cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Design – Suburbia' 1933

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Design – Suburbia
1933
Gelatin silver print
29.5 x 23cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Design in Barred Light' Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Design in Barred Light
Nd
Gelatin silver print
25 x 18.5cm

 

Max Dupain (Timelapse Nude Figure) Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Timelapse Nude Figure)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
23.5 x 29.5cm

 

Max Dupain (Nude Figure and Light) 1930s

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Nude Figure and Light)
1930s
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 36cm

 

Max Dupain (Portrait and Shadows) Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Portrait and Shadows)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
50 x 40cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Domestic Poem, Douglas Stewart' Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Domestic Poem, Douglas Stewart
Nd
Gelatin silver print
27 x 26cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Jean' 1936-37

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Jean
1936-37
Gelatin silver print
37 x 31cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Tired Soldier in Queensland Train' 1943

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Tired Soldier in Queensland Train
1943
Gelatin silver print
45 x 40.5cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Hostel Breakfast' Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Hostel Breakfast
Nd
Gelatin silver print
31 x 41cm

 

Max Dupain (Three Men at Work) 1940s

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Three Men at Work)
1940s
Gelatin silver print
52 x 49cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Waiting for the Queen' 1954

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Waiting for the Queen
1954
Gelatin silver print
38.5 x 39.5cm

 

Max Dupain (Waiting for the Queen) Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Waiting for the Queen)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
24.5 x 24cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Enter The Queen' 1954

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Enter The Queen
1954
Gelatin silver print
50 x 50cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Gloucester Landscape' 1951

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Gloucester Landscape
1951
Gelatin silver print
40.5 x 50.5cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Sundown, Mona Vale Marshes' 1932

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Sundown, Mona Vale Marshes
1932
18.5 x 24cm

 

Max Dupain. 'The Flight of the Spectres' 1932

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
The Flight of the Spectres
1932
Bromoil
27.5 x 29cm

 

 

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15
Nov
20

Exhibition: ‘Photography’s Last Century: The Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Exhibition dates: 10th March – 30th November 2020

Curator: Jeff L. Rosenheim, Joyce Frank Menschel Curator in Charge of the Department of Photographs

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985) 'Underwater Swimmer, Esztergom, Hungary' 1917

 

André Kertész (Hungarian, 1894-1985)
Underwater Swimmer, Esztergom, Hungary
1917
Gelatin silver print
1 1/2 in. × 2 in. (3.8 × 5.1cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
© 2020 Estate of André Kertész/Higher Pictures

 

 

This tiny but iconic masterpiece of twentieth-century photography is the second earliest work in the exhibition, and a gem in the Tenenbaum and Lee collection. Made while André Kertész was convalescing from a gunshot wound received while serving in the Austro-Hungarian army during World War I, it prefigures by some fifteen years his renowned mirror distortions produced in Paris. Displaying both Cubist and Surrealist influences, the photograph reveals the artist’s commitment to the spontaneous yet analytic observation of fleeting commonplace occurrences – one of the essential and most idiosyncratic qualities of the medium.

 

 

It’s a mystery

There are some eclectic photographs in this posting, many of which have remained un/seen to me before.

I have never seen the above version of Kertész’s Underwater Swimmer, Esztergom, Hungary (1917), with wall, decoration and water flowing into the pool at left. The usual image crops these features out, focusing on the distortion of the body in the water, and the lengthening of the figure diagonally across the picture frame. That both images are from the same negative can be affirmed if one looks at the patterning of the water. Even as the exhibition of Kertész’s work at Jeu de Paume at the Château de Tours that I saw last year stated that their version was a contact original… this is not possible unless the image has been cropped.

Other images by Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Outerbridge Jr., Eugène Atget, Walker Evans, Pierre Dubreuil, Ilse Bing, Bill Brandt, Dora Maar, Joseph Cornell, Nan Goldin, Laurie Simmons, Robert Gober, Rachel Whiteread, Zanele Muholi have eluded my consciousness until now.

What I can say after viewing them is this.

I am forever amazed at how deep the spirit, and the medium, of photography is… if you give the photograph a chance. A friend asked me the other day whether photographs had any meaning anymore, as people glance for a nano-second at images on Instagram, and pass on. We live in a world of instant gratification was my answer to him. But the choice is yours if you take / time with a photograph, if it possesses the POSSIBILITY of a meditation from its being. If it intrigues or excites, or stimulates, makes you reflect, cry – that is when the photographs pre/essence, its embedded spirit, can make us attest to the experience of its will, its language, its desire. In our presence.

The more I learn about photography, the less I find I know. The lake (archive) is deep – full of serendipity, full of memories, stagings, concepts and realities. Full of nuances and light, crevices and dark passages. To understand photography is a life-long study. To an inquiring mind, even then, you may only – scratch the surface to reveal – a sort of epiphany, a revelation, unknown to others. Every viewing is unique, every interpretation different, every context unknowable (possible).

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

PS. When Minor White was asked, what about photography when he dies? When he is no longer there to influence it? And he simply says – photography will do what it wants to do. This is a magnificent statement, and it shows an egoless freedom on Minor White’s part. It is profound knowledge about photography, about its freedom to change.

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

 

 

This exhibition will celebrate the remarkable ascendancy of photography in the last century, and Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee’s magnificent promised gift of over sixty extraordinary photographs in honour of The Met’s 150th anniversary in 2020. The exhibition will include masterpieces by the medium’s greatest practitioners, including works by Paul Strand, Dora Maar, Man Ray, and László Moholy-Nagy; Edward Weston, Walker Evans, and Joseph Cornell; Diane Arbus, Andy Warhol, Sigmar Polke, and Cindy Sherman.

The collection is particularly notable for its breadth and depth of works by women artists, its sustained interest in the nude, and its focus on artists’ beginnings. Strand’s 1916 view from the viaduct confirms his break with the Pictorialist past and establishes the artist’s way forward as a cutting-edge modernist; Walker Evans’s shadow self-portraits from 1927 mark the first inkling of a young writer’s commitment to visual culture; and Cindy Sherman’s intimate nine-part portrait series from 1976 predates her renowned series of “film stills” and confirms her striking ambition and stunning mastery of the medium at the age of twenty-two.

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website

 

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Georgia O'Keeffe' 1918

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Georgia O’Keeffe
1918
Platinum print
9 1/2 × 7 1/2 in. (24.1 × 19.1cm)
Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

This photograph marks the beginning of the romantic relationship between Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe, which transformed each of their lives and the story of American art. The two met when Stieglitz included O’Keeffe, a then-unknown painter, in her first group show at his gallery 291 in May 1916. A year later, O’Keeffe had her first solo show at the gallery and exhibited her abstract charcoal No. 15 Special, seen in the background here. In the coming months and years, O’Keeffe collaborated with Stieglitz on some three hundred portrait studies. In its physical scope, primal sensuality, and psychological power, Stieglitz’s serial portrait of O’Keeffe has no equal in American art.

 

Paul Outerbridge Jr. (American, 1896-1958) 'Telephone' 1922

 

Paul Outerbridge Jr. (American, 1896-1958)
Telephone
1922
Platinum print
4 1/2 × 3 3/8 in. (11.4 × 8.5cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

A well-paid advertising photographer working in New York in the 1930s, Paul Outerbridge Jr. was trained as a painter and set designer. Highly influenced by Cubism, he was a devoted advocate of the platinum-print process, which he used to create nearly abstract still lifes of commonplace subjects such as cracker boxes, wine glasses, and men’s collars. With their extended mid-tones and velvety blacks, platinum papers were relatively expensive and primarily used by fine-art photographers like Paul Strand, Edward Steichen, and Alfred Stieglitz. This modernist study of a Western Electric “candlestick” telephone attests to Outerbridge’s talent for transforming banal, utilitarian objects into small, but powerful sculptures with formal rigour and startling beauty.

 

Edward Weston. 'Anita ("Pear-Shaped Nude")' 1925

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Nude
1925, printed 1930s
Gelatin silver print
8 1/2 × 7 1/2 in. (21.6 × 19cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
© Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents

 

 

Edward Weston moved from Los Angeles to Mexico City in 1923 with Tina Modotti, an Italian actress and nascent photographer. They were each influenced by, and in turn helped shape, the larger community of artists among whom they lived and worked, which included Diego Rivera, Jean Charlot, and many other members of the Mexican Renaissance. In fall 1925 Weston made a remarkable series of nudes of the art critic, journalist, and historian Anita Brenner. Depicting her body as a pear-like shape floating in a dark void, the photographs evoke the hermetic simplicity of a sculpture by Constantin Brancusi. Brenner’s form becomes elemental, female and male, embryonic, tightly furled but ready to blossom.

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Boulevard de Strasbourg' 1926

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Boulevard de Strasbourg
1926
Gelatin silver print
8 7/8 in. × 7 in. (22.5 × 17.8 cm)
Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Eugène Atget became the darling of the French Surrealists in the mid-1920s courtesy of Man Ray, his neighbour in Paris, who admired the older artist’s seemingly straight forward documentation of the city. Another American photographer, Walker Evans, also credited Atget with inspiring his earliest experiments with the camera. A talented writer, Evans penned a famous critique of his progenitor in 1930: “[Atget’s] general note is a lyrical understanding of the street, trained observation of it, special feeling for patina, eye for revealing detail, over all of which is thrown a poetry which is not ‘the poetry of the street’ or ‘the poetry of Paris,’ but the projection of Atget’s person.”

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Self-portrait, Juan-les-Pins, France, January 1927' 1927

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Self-portrait, Juan-les-Pins, France, January 1927
1927
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Shadow, Self-Portrait (Right Profile, Wearing Hat), Juan-les-Pins, France, January 1927' 1927

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Shadow, Self-Portrait (Right Profile, Wearing Hat), Juan-les-Pins, France, January 1927
1927
Film negative
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

Pierre Dubreuil (French, 1872-1944) 'The Woman Driver' 1928

 

Pierre Dubreuil (French, 1872-1944)
The Woman Driver
1928
Bromoil print
9 7/16 × 7 5/8 in. (24 × 19.3cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
© 2019 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

 

 

Like many other European and American photographers, Pierre Dubreuil was indifferent to the industrialisation of photography that followed the invention and immediate global success of the Kodak camera in the late 1880s. A wealthy member of an international community of photographers loosely known as Pictorialists, he spurned most aspects of modernism. Instead, he advocated painterly effects such as those offered by the bromoil printing process seen here. What makes this photograph exceptional, however, is the modern subject and the work’s title, The Woman Driver. Dubreuil’s wife, Josephine Vanassche, grasps the steering wheel of their open-air car and stares straight ahead, ignoring the attention of her conservative husband and his intrusive camera.

 

Florence Henri (French, born America 1893-1982) 'Windows' 1929

 

Florence Henri (French, born America 1893-1982)
Windows
1929
Gelatin silver print
14 1/2 × 10 1/4 in. (36.8 × 26cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

A peripatetic French American painter and photographer, Florence Henri studied with László Moholy-Nagy at the Bauhaus in Germany in summer 1927. Impressed by her natural talent, he wrote a glowing commentary on the artist for a small Amsterdam journal: “With Florence Henri’s photos, photographic practice enters a new phase, the scope of which would have been unimaginable before today… Reflections and spatial relationships, superposition and intersections are just some of the areas explored from a totally new perspective and viewpoint.” Despite the high regard for her paintings and photographs in the 1920s, Henri remains largely under appreciated.

 

Ilse Bing (German, 1899-1998) '[Rue de Valois, Paris]' 1932

 

Ilse Bing (German, 1899-1998)
[Rue de Valois, Paris]
1932
Gelatin silver print
11 1/8 × 8 3/4 in. (28.3 × 22.2cm)
Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
© Estate of Ilse Bing

 

 

Ilse Bing trained as an art historian in Germany and learned photography in 1928 to make illustrations for her dissertation on neoclassical architecture. In 1930 she moved to Paris, supporting herself as a freelance photographer for French and German newspapers and fashion magazines. Known in the early 1930s as the “Queen of the Leica” due to her mastery of the handheld 35 mm camera, Bing found the old cobblestone streets of Paris a rich subject to explore, often from eccentric perspectives as seen here. She moved to New York in 1941 after the German occupation of Paris and remained here until her death at age ninety-eight.

 

Bill Brandt (British, 1904-1983) 'Soho Bedroom' 1932

 

Bill Brandt (British, 1904-1983)
Soho Bedroom
1932
Gelatin silver print
8 7/16 × 7 5/16 in. (21.4 × 18.5cm)
Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Bill Brandt challenged the standard tenets of documentary practice by frequently staging scenes for the camera and recruiting family and friends as models. In this intimate study of a couple embracing, the male figure is believed to be either a friend or the artist’s younger brother; the female figure is an acquaintance, “Bird,” known for her beautiful hands. The photograph appears with a different title, Top Floor, along with sixty-three others in Brandt’s second book, A Night in London (1938). After the book’s publication, Brandt changed the work’s title to Soho Bedroom to reference London’s notorious Red Light district and add a hint of salaciousness to the kiss.

 

Dora Maar (French, 1907-1997) '[Woman and Child in Window, Barcelona]' 1932-34

 

Dora Maar (French, 1907-1997)
[Woman and Child in Window, Barcelona]
1932-34
Gelatin silver print
11 1/8 × 8 3/8 in. (28.2 × 21.2cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
© 2020 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

 

 

When Dora Maar first traveled to Barcelona in 1932 to record the effects of the global economic crisis, she was twenty-five and still finding her footing as a photographer. To sustain her practice, she opened a joint studio with the film designer Pierre Kéfer. Working out of his parents’ villa in a Parisian suburb, he and Maar produced mostly commercial photographs for fashion and advertising – projects that funded Maar’s travel to Spain. With an empathetic eye, she documents a mother and her child peering out of a makeshift shelter. Adapting an avant-garde strategy, she chose a lateral angle to monumentalise her subjects.

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958) 'Nude' 1934

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Nude
1934
Gelatin silver print
3 5/8 in. (9.2cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
© Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents

 

 

The nude as a subject for the camera would occupy Edward Weston’s attention for four decades, and it is a defining characteristic of his achievement and legacy. This physically small but forceful, closely cropped photograph is a study of the writer Charis Wilson. Although presented headless and legless, Wilson tightly crosses her arms in a bold power pose. Weston was so stunned by Wilson when they first met that he ceased writing in his diary the day after he made this photograph: “April 22 [1934], a day to always remember. I knew now what was coming; eyes don’t lie and she wore no mask… I was lost and have been ever since.” Wilson and Weston immediately moved in together and married five years later.

 

 

The exhibition Photography’s Last Century: The Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection celebrates the remarkable ascendancy of photography in the last hundred years through the magnificent promised gift to The Met of more than 60 extraordinary photographs from Museum Trustee Ann Tenenbaum and her husband, Thomas H. Lee, in honour of the Museum’s 150th anniversary in 2020. The exhibition will feature masterpieces by a wide range of the medium’s greatest practitioners, including Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Ilse Bing, Joseph Cornell, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Andreas Gursky, Helen Levitt, Dora Maar, László Moholy-Nagy, Jack Pierson, Sigmar Polke, Man Ray, Laurie Simmons, Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Cindy Sherman, Andy Warhol, Edward Weston, and Rachel Whiteread.

The exhibition is made possible by Joyce Frank Menschel and the Alfred Stieglitz Society.

Max Hollein, Director of The Met, said, “Ann Tenenbaum brilliantly assembled an outstanding and very personal collection of 20th-century photographs, and this extraordinary gift will bring a hugely important group of works to The Met’s holdings and to the public’s eye. From works by celebrated masters to lesser-known artists, this collection encourages a deeper understanding of the formative years of photography, and significantly enhances our holdings of key works by women, broadening the stories we can tell in our galleries and allowing us to celebrate a whole range of crucial artists at The Met. We are extremely grateful to Ann and Tom for their generosity in making this promised gift to The Met, especially as we celebrate the Museum’s 150th anniversary. It will be an honour to share these remarkable works with our visitors.”

“Early on, Ann recognised the camera as one of the most creative and democratic instruments of contemporary human expression,” said Jeff Rosenheim, Joyce Frank Menschel Curator in Charge of the Department of Photographs. “Her collecting journey through the last century of picture-making has been guided by her versatility and open-mindedness, and the result is a collection that is both personal and dynamic.”

The Tenenbaum Collection is particularly notable for its focus on artists’ beginnings, for a sustained interest in the nude, and for the breadth and depth of works by women artists. Paul Strand’s 1916 view from the viaduct confirms his break with the Pictorialist past and establishes the artist’s way forward as a cutting-edge modernist; Walker Evans’s shadow self-portraits from 1927 mark the first inkling of a young writer’s commitment to visual culture; and Cindy Sherman’s intimate nine-part portrait series from 1976 predates her renowned series of “film stills” and confirms her striking ambition and stunning mastery of the medium at the age of 22.

Ms. Tenenbaum commented, “Photographs are mirrors and windows not only onto the world but also into deeply personal experience. Tom and I are proud to support the Museum’s Department of Photographs and thrilled to be able to share our collection with the public.”

The exhibition will feature a diverse range of styles and photographic practices, combining small-scale and large-format works in both black and white and colour. The presentation will integrate early modernist photographs, including superb examples by avant-garde American and European artists, together with work from the postwar period, the 1960s, and the medium’s boom in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and extend up to the present moment.

Photography’s Last Century: The Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection is curated by The Met’s Jeff L. Rosenheim, Joyce Frank Menschel Curator in Charge of the Department of Photographs.

Press release from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Joseph Cornell (American, 1903-1972) 'Tamara Toumanova (Daguerreotype-Object)' October 1941

 

Joseph Cornell (American, 1903-1972)
Tamara Toumanova (Daguerreotype-Object)
October 1941
Construction with photomechanical reproduction, mirror, rhinestones or sequins, and tinted glass in artist’s frame
Dimensions: 5 1/8 × 4 3/16 in. (13 × 10.6 cm)
Frame: 9 3/4 × 8 3/4 × 1 7/8 in. (24.8 × 22.2 × 4.8 cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
© 2020 The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

 

 

Joseph Cornell is celebrated for his meticulously constructed, magical shadow boxes that teem with celestial charts, ballet stars, parrots, mirrors, and marbles. Into these tiny theaters he decanted his dreams, obsessions, and unfulfilled desires. Here, his subject is the Russian prima ballerina Tamara Toumanova. Known for her virtuosity and beauty, the dancer captivated Cornell, who met her backstage at the Metropolitan Opera and thereafter saw her as his personal Snow Queen and muse.

 

Tamara Toumanova (Georgian 2 March 1919 – 29 May 1996) was a Georgian-American prima ballerina and actress. A child of exiles in Paris after the Russian Revolution of 1917, she made her debut at the age of 10 at the children’s ballet of the Paris Opera.

She became known internationally as one of the Baby Ballerinas of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo after being discovered by her fellow émigré, balletmaster and choreographer George Balanchine. She was featured in numerous ballets in Europe. Balanchine featured her in his productions at Ballet Theatre, New York, making her the star of his performances in the United States. While most of Toumanova’s career was dedicated to ballet, she appeared as a ballet dancer in several films, beginning in 1944. She became a naturalised United States citizen in 1943 in Los Angeles, California.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Richard Avedon (American, 1923-2004) 'Noto, Sicily, September 5, 1947' September 5, 1947

 

Richard Avedon (American, 1923-2004)
Noto, Sicily, September 5, 1947
September 5, 1947
Gelatin silver print
6 × 6 in. (15.2 × 15.2 cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Richard Avedon believed this early street portrait of a young boy in Sicily was the genesis of his long fashion and portrait career. On the occasion of The Met’s groundbreaking 2002 exhibition on the artist, curators Maria Morris Hambourg and Mia Fineman described the work as “a kind of projected self-portrait” in which “a boy stands there, pushing forward to the front of the picture. … He is smiling wildly, ready to race into the future. And there, hovering behind him like a mushroom cloud, is the past in the form of a single, strange tree – a reminder of the horror that split the century into a before and after, a symbol of destruction but also of regeneration.”

 

Lee Friedlander (American, b. 1934) 'Philadelphia' 1961

 

Lee Friedlander (American, b. 1934)
Philadelphia
1961
Gelatin silver print
12 1/16 × 17 15/16 in. (30.7 × 45.5cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Philadelphia is the earliest dated photograph from a celebrated series of television sets beaming images into seemingly empty rooms that Lee Friedlander made between 1961 and 1970. The pictures provided a prophetic commentary on the new medium to which Americans had quickly become addicted. Walker Evans published a suite of Friedlander’s TV photographs in Harper’s Bazaar in 1963 and noted: “The pictures on these pages are in effect deft, witty, spanking little poems of hate… Taken out of context as they are here, that baby might be selling skin rash, the careful, good-looking woman might be categorically unselling marriage and the home and total daintiness. Here, then, from an expert-hand, is a pictorial account of what TV-screen light does to rooms and to the things in them.”

 

Edward Ruscha (American, b. 1937) 'Self-Service – Milan, New Mexico' 1962

 

Edward Ruscha (American, b. 1937)
Self-Service – Milan, New Mexico
1962
Gelatin silver print
4 11/16 × 4 11/16 in. (11.9 × 11.9cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
© Ed Ruscha

 

 

This intentionally mundane work by the Los Angeles–based painter and printmaker, Ed Ruscha, appears in Twentysix Gasoline Stations (1963), the first of sixteen landmark photographic books he published between 1963 and 1978. The volume established the artist’s reputation as a conceptual minimalist with a mastery of typography, an appreciation for seriality and documentary practice, and a deadpan sense of humour. Early on, he was influenced by the photographs of Walker Evans. “What I was after,” said Ruscha, “was no-style or a non-statement with a no-style.”

 

Nan Goldin (American, b. 1953) 'Ivy in the Boston Garden: Back' 1973

 

Nan Goldin (American, b. 1953)
Ivy in the Boston Garden: Back
1973
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 20 × 16 in. (50.8 × 40.6 cm)
Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery
© Nan Goldin

 

 

While still in college, Nan Goldin spent two years recording performers at the Other Side, a Boston drag bar that hosted beauty pageants on Monday nights. This black-and-white study of Ivy, Goldin’s friend from the bar, walking alone through the Boston Common is one of the artist’s earliest photographs. The portrait evokes the glamorous world of fashion photography and hints at its loneliness. In all of her photographs, Goldin explores the natural twinning of fantasy and reality; it is the source of their pathos and rhythmic emotional beat. A decade after this elegiac photograph, she conceived the first iteration of her 1985 breakthrough colour series, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, which was presented as an ever-changing visual diary using a slide projector and synchronised music.

 

Laurie Simmons (American, b. 1949) 'Woman/Interior' I 1976

 

Laurie Simmons (American, b. 1949)
Woman/Interior I
1976
Gelatin silver print
5 3/4 × 7 1/2 in. (14.6 × 19.1cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
© 2020 Laurie Simmons
Courtesy of the artist and Salon 94, New York

 

 

Laurie Simmons began her career in 1976 with a series of enchantingly melancholic photographs of toy dolls set up in her apartment. The accessible mix of desire and anxiety in these early photographs resonates with, and provides a useful counterpoint to, Cindy Sherman’s contemporaneous “film stills” such as Untitled Film Still #48 seen nearby. Simmons and Sherman were foundational members of one of the most vibrant and productive communities of artists to emerge in the late twentieth century. Although they did not all see themselves as feminists or even as a unified group of “women artists,” each used the camera to examine the prescribed roles of women, especially in the workplace, and in advertising, politics, literature, and film.

 

Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954) 'Untitled Film Still #48' 1979

 

Cindy Sherman (American, b. 1954)
Untitled Film Still #48
1979
Gelatin silver print
6 15/16 × 9 3/8 in. (17.6 × 23.8cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

A lone woman on an empty highway peers around the corner of a rocky outcrop. She waits and waits below the dramatic sky. Is it fear or self-reliance that challenges the unnamed traveler? Does she dread the future, the past, or just the present? So thorough and sophisticated is Cindy Sherman’s capacity for filmic detail and nuance that many viewers (encouraged by the titles) mistakenly believe that the photographs in the series are reenactments of films. Rather, they are an unsettling yet deeply satisfying synthesis of film and narrative painting, a shrewdly composed remaking not of the “real” world but of the mediated landscape.

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946 - 1989) 'Coral Sea' 1983

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Coral Sea
1983
Platinum print
23 1/8 × 19 1/2 in. (58.8 × 49.5cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

This study of a Midway-class aircraft carrier shows a massive warship not actually floating on the ocean’s surface but seemingly sunken beneath it. The rather minimal photograph is among the rarest and least representative works by Robert Mapplethorpe, who is known mostly for his uncompromising sexual portraits and saturated flower studies, as well as for his mastery of the photographic print tradition. Here, he chose platinum materials to explore the subtle beauty of the medium’s extended mid-grey tones. By rendering prints using the more tactile platinum process, Mapplethorpe hoped to transcend the medium; as he said it is “no longer a photograph first, [but] firstly a statement that happens to be a photograph.”

 

Robert Gober (American, b. 1954) 'Untitled' 1988 (detail)

 

Robert Gober (American, b. 1954)
Untitled (detail)
1988
Gelatin silver print
6 1/2 × 9 7/16 in. (16.5 × 24cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
© Robert Gober, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery

 

 

Although Robert Gober is not often thought of as a photographer, his conceptual practice has long depended on a camera. From the time of his first solo show in 1984 Gober has documented temporal projects in hundreds of photographs, and today many of his site-specific installations survive as images. His photography resists classification, seeming to split the difference between archival record and independent artwork. Here, across three frames, flimsy white dresses advance and recede into a deserted wood. Gober sewed the garments from fabric printed by the painter Christopher Wool in the course of a related collaboration. Seen together, Gober’s staged photographs record an ephemeral intervention in an unwelcoming, almost fairy-tale landscape.

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, b. 1948) 'Imperial Montreal' 1995

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, b. 1948)
Imperial Montreal
1995
Gelatin silver print
20 × 24 in. (50.8 × 61cm)
Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

A self-taught expert on the history of photography and Zen Buddhism, Hiroshi Sugimoto posed a question to himself in 1976: what would be the effect on a single sheet of film if it was exposed to all 172,800 photographic frames in a feature-length movie? To visualise the answer, he hid a large-format camera in the last row of seats at St. Marks Cinema in Manhattan’s East Village and opened the shutter when the film started; an hour and a half later, when the movie ended, he closed it. The series (now forty years in the making) of ethereal photographs of darkened rooms filled with gleaming white screens presents a perfect example of yin and yang, the classic concept of opposites in ancient Chinese philosophy.

 

Andreas Gursky (German, b. 1955) 'Prada II' 1996

 

Andreas Gursky (German, b. 1955)
Prada II
1996
Chromogenic print
65 in. × 10 ft. 4 13/16 in. (165.1 × 317cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
© Andreas Gursky / Courtesy Sprüth Magers / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

 

To produce this quasi-architectural study of a barren luxury store display, Andreas Gursky used newly available software both to artificially stretch the underlying chemical image and to digitally generate the billboard-size print. At ten feet wide, the work is a Frankensteinian glimpse of what would transform the medium of photography over the next two decades. Gursky seems to have fully understood the Pandora’s box he had opened by using digital tools to manipulate his pictures, which put into question their essential realism: “I have a weakness for paradox. For me… the photogenic allows a picture to develop a life of its own, on a two-dimensional surface, which doesn’t exactly reflect the real object.”

 

Rachel Whiteread (English, b. 1963) 'Watertower Project' 1998

 

Rachel Whiteread (English, b. 1963)
Watertower Project
1998
Screenprint with applied acrylic resin and graphite
20 in. × 15 15/16 in. (50.8 × 40.5cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
© Rachel Whiteread

 

 

How might one solidify water other than by freezing it? In New York in June 1998, a translucent 12 x 9-foot, 4½-ton sculpture created by Rachel Whiteread landed like a UFO atop a roof at the corner of West Broadway and Grand Street. The artist described the work – a resin cast of the interior of one of the city’s landmark wooden water tanks – as a “jewel in the Manhattan skyline.” This print is a poetic trace of the massive sculpture, which was commissioned by the Public Art Fund. The original work of art holds and refracts light just like the acrylic resin applied to the surface of this print.

 

Gregory Crewdson (American, b. 1962) 'Untitled' 2005

 

Gregory Crewdson (American, b. 1962)
Untitled
2005
Chromogenic print
57 × 88 in. (144.8 × 223.5cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Gregory Crewdson describes his highly scripted photographs as single-frame movies; to produce them, he engages teams of riggers, grips, lighting specialists, and actors. The story lines in most of his photographs centre on suburban anxiety, disorientation, fear, loss, and longing, but the final meaning almost always remains elusive, the narrative unfinished. In this photograph something terrible has happened, is happening, and will likely happen again. A woman in a nightgown sits in crisis on the edge of her bed with the remains of a rosebush on the sheets beside her. The journey from the garden was not an easy one, as evidenced by the trail of petals, thorns, and dirt. Even so, the protagonist cradles the plant’s roots with tender regard.

 

Catherine Opie (American, b. 1961) 'Football Landscape #8 (Crenshaw vs. Jefferson, Los Angeles, CA)' 2007

 

Catherine Opie (American, b. 1961)
Football Landscape #8 (Crenshaw vs. Jefferson, Los Angeles, CA)
2007
Chromogenic print
48 × 64 in. (121.9 × 162.6cm)
Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Collection
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

High school football is not a conventional subject for contemporary artists in any medium. Neither are freeways nor surfers, each of which are series by the artist Catherine Opie. A professor of photography at the University of California, Los Angeles, Opie spent several years traveling across the United States making close-up portraits of adolescent gladiators as well as seductive, large-scale landscape views of the game itself. Poignant studies of group behaviour and American masculinity on the cusp of adulthood, the photographs can be seen as an extension of the artist’s diverse body of work related to gender performance in the queer communities in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972) 'Vukani II (Paris)' 2014

 

Zanele Muholi (South African, b. 1972)
Vukani II (Paris)
2014
Gelatin silver print
23 1/2 in. × 13 in. (59.7 × 33cm)
Promised Gift of Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee, in celebration of the Museum’s 150th Anniversary
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

The South African photographer Zanele Muholi is a self-described visual activist and cultural archivist. In the artist’s hands, the camera is a potent tool of self-representation and self-definition for communities at risk of violence. Muholi has chosen the nearly archaic black-and-white process for most of their portraits “to create a sense of timelessness – a sense that we’ve been here before, but we’re looking at human beings who have never before had an opportunity to be seen.” Challenging the immateriality of our digital age, Muholi has restated the importance of the physical print and connected their work to that of their progenitors. In this recent self-portrait, Muholi sits on a bed, sharing a quiet moment of reflection and self-observation. The title, in the artist’s native Zulu, translates loosely as “wake up.”

 

 

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08
Nov
20

Photographs: Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992) Part 1

November 2020

 

Max Dupain. 'Sydney Harbour Crepuscule' 1937

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Sydney Harbour Crepuscule
1937
Gelatin silver print
32.5 x 47cm

 

Noun. crépuscule m (plural crépuscules) twilight, dusk (the time of the day when the sun sets)

 

 

Iv’e been saving up these images for some time. This, the first of a two-part posting, features many images that are rare online, especially in a large size.

Dupain was a master of the use of light and form (Tea Towel Trio, 1934), an early proponent of Modernist photography in Australia (Silos at Pyrmont; Silos through windscreen, both 1935), an expert in night photography (Mosman Bay at dusk, 1937) and the use of chiaroscuro (Passengers Disembarking from Ferry, 1950s; Newsstand, Nd). He was an innovator in surrealist photography (Night with her train of stars and her gift of sleep, 1936-37), photomontage (Nude Figure with Shell Transposed, 1936), and advertising photography. His nude studies evidence an experimentation towards the representation of the human body (Jean with Wire Mesh, 1938; Nude Figure behind Wire Mesh, 1930s), his portraits possess a sensitivity and feeling towards subject matter (Portrait of Boy in Sunlight, 1936), while his portrayal of Australian culture –  the body as architecture (Bondi, 1939); the myth of the surf lifesaver (Life Guards with Flag and Reel March, Nd); and the bustling metropolis (Rush Hour, Kings Cross, 1938) address the burgeoning self confidence of the Australian nation in the 1930s.

Seemingly, there was nothing that Dupain could not turn his hand too, that he could not photograph.

What strikes me most when looking at his photographs is the precision of his visual inquiry. His focus, his previsualisation, in knowing exactly what he wanted to say in that image – even while shifting genres and points of view. Like the subtle camera positioning of Atget where the angles are not what you would expect, Dupain rarely puts his camera where a mere mortal would stand to take a photograph. He looks, down (Manly, 1940s), up (crouching on his haunches to make the Life Guards and the Bondi couple seem monumental) and across – framing his compositions with diagonals, arches, and waves of people, almost like musical annotation. Everything looks simple and eloquent, elegant, but beneath the surface these are sophisticated images.

Far from being nostalgic, I look at Dupain’s body of work, and then at an individual photograph like Buses, Eddy Avenue (Nd) – and marvel at Dupain’s contemporary rendition (rending?) of time and space. Placing his camera as far to the right as he dared, Dupain captures the diagonal line of the parked buses in sunlight framed by the dark arch of the tunnel, the tram passing from left to right, the perfectly positioned clocktower and willowy flag giving a sense of movement… and then that man, that man, standing stock still at right with his shadow falling in front of him. IF he was not there, the whole focus of the image, the punctum, would be gone. It would just be a serviceable image. But he IS there and Dupain recognised that!

Similarly, in one of my favourite photographs by Dupain, At Newport (1952) “Dupain’s viewpoint turns the top of the wall into a taught line across the picture and his five bathers are strung out along it and held in tension like forms on a wire. As one prepares to dive, his counterweight, the sinewy young man, descends on the dry side. At the picture’s edges, the girls in bathing caps counterbalance the boy with hunched shoulders.” Birds on a wire, notes on a musical stave. Can you imagine being Dupain standing there and recognising that composition and the distorted shadow, in that very instance of its emergence, its flowering, for that ever so brief second in the existence of the cosmos….

Simply put, Max Dupain is the greatest Australian male photographer that has ever lived.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

View Max Dupain photographs Part 2

.
All images are used under fair use conditions for the purpose of educational research. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Max Dupain. 'Mosman Bay at dusk' 1937

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Mosman Bay at dusk
1937
Gelatin silver print
28 x 37.5cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Night with her train of stars and her gift of sleep' 1936-37

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Night with her train of stars and her gift of sleep
1936-37
Gelatin silver print
30 x 36cm

 

Max Dupain. '(Rhythmic Form)' 1935

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Rhythmic Form)
1935
Gelatin silver print
22.5 x 30.5cm

 

Max Dupain. '(Nude Figure with Trombone Shadow)' 1930s

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Nude Figure with Trombone Shadow)
1930s
Gelatin silver print
25 x 17.5cm

 

Max Dupain. '(Nude Figure with Shell Transposed)' 1936

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Nude Figure with Shell Transposed)
1936
Gelatin silver print
50 x 35.5cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Two forms' 1939

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Two forms
1939
Gelatin silver print
50.5 x 38.5cm

 

 

This photograph relates conceptually to Dupain’s experiments with photographs of nudes. According to the vitalist philosophies of the time, the spiralling rounded shell being shaped by nature is feminine, while the hard metallic tool is man-made and represents the masculine principle. Photographed on a plain surface and lit with raking light, the sense of space is ambiguous. Dupain retained an interest in still-lifes throughout his career, returning to them particularly towards the end of his life. In the 1930s his most well-known still-life was Shattered intimacy 1936 (AGNSW collection) where an image of broken glass and a broken classical statue has been solarised, producing a powerful narrative. Two forms is a more contemplative image as the shell and the head of a hammer lie side by side and are of similar scale. Interestingly, the two forms are distant from each other, rather than close together, and their scale gives them equality. It is not known whether Dupain necessarily subscribed to the contemporaneous anxiety about the ‘new woman’, but certainly one can read this image as an examination of difference.

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007

 

Max Dupain. 'Tea Towel Trio' 1934

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Tea Towel Trio
1934
Gelatin silver print
29.5 x 22cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Still Life' 1935

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Still Life
1935
Gelatin silver print
29.5 x 21.5cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Blankets' Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Blankets
Nd
Gelatin silver print
31 x 24cm

 

Max Dupain. '(Male Nude with Discus)' Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Male Nude with Discus)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
39 x 32cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Dart' 1935

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Dart
1935
Gelatin silver print
50 x 37.5cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Dart' 1935

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Dart
1935
Gelatin silver print

 

Max Dupain. 'Sleeping Boy' 1941

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Sleeping Boy
1941
Gelatin silver print

 

Max Dupain. 'Portrait of Boy in Sunlight' 1936

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Portrait of Boy in Sunlight
1936
Gelatin silver print
29 x 26cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Jean with Wire Mesh' 1938

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Jean with Wire Mesh
1938
Gelatin silver print
49.5 x 39.5cm

 

 

In 1937, [Jean] Bailey posed for Jean with wire mesh, which some experts hail as the single most powerful image ever taken by Max Dupain, generally regarded as Australia’s greatest lensman.

It’s more subtle than his most famous image, Sunbaker, also shot in 1937. It’s less frozen in time than his striking scenes of wartime Australians serving in New Guinea. It’s more universal than his evocative tableaux of shearers, cattle drovers, miners and “six o’clock swillers”. And it’s less contrived than the commissioned portraits he took of wealthier women for the equivalent of today’s social pages.

Of all the many women who posed for his camera, Bailey was regarded as Dupain’s muse. Even by her own admission, she was not the most beautiful woman in 1930s Sydney.

In some pictures, by other photographers, she looks quite plain. …

But Dupain saw something special in her, though even Bailey does not know what it was.

“It’s not enormously erotic,” says [Alan] Davies. “But it is incredibly sensual, masterful in its use of light and shade. To photograph someone with her forehead in full sunlight and the rest of her figure cloaked in shadow is an extraordinary technical achievement. Most photographers would regard it as professional suicide. They wouldn’t attempt it.”

The image, he says, “is an astonishing masterpiece of chiaroscuro”. Unlike so many of Dupain’s images, this – and another outstanding work in the exhibition of an unknown model called Nude with pole – are timeless, betraying none of the nostalgia for which Dupain is so often noted.

White, who under Dupain’s tutelage became an accomplished photographer herself, says simply, “I think Jean with wire mesh is his most beautiful image. It leaves Sunbaker for dead.”

Anonymous. “Portrait of a lady,” on The Sydney Morning Herald website, July 12, 2003 [Online] Cited 24/10/2020

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992) '(Nude Figure behind Wire Mesh)' 1930s

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Nude Figure behind Wire Mesh)
1930s
Gelatin silver print
50.5 x 40 cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Hands of a Dancer' 1935

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Hands of a Dancer
1935
Gelatin silver print
29 x 27.5cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Artist and Model' 1938

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Artist and Model
1938
Gelatin silver print
35.5 x 30.5cm

 

Max Dupain. '(Super-Imposed Woman and Night Cityscape)' 1937

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Super-Imposed Woman and Night Cityscape)
1937
Gelatin silver print
46 x 35cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Fire Stairs at Bond Street Studio (Solarised)' 1935

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Fire Stairs at Bond Street Studio (Solarised)
1935
Gelatin silver print
30 x 21.5cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Fire Stairs at Bond Street Studio' 1930s

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Fire Stairs at Bond Street Studio
1930s
Gelatin silver print
24.5 x 9cm

 

Max Dupain. '(Olive Cotton in Wheat Fields)' Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Olive Cotton in Wheat Fields)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
30 x 30cm

 

Max Dupain. '(Fire Stairs at Bond Street)' 1934

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Fire Stairs at Bond Street)
1934
Gelatin silver print
26 x 21cm

 

 

Max Dupain is Australia’s most celebrated modernist photographer. Born in the Sydney, Dupain practiced photography as a teenager, receiving his first camera in 1924. In 1929 he joined the New South Wales Photographic Society, and in 1930 was employed in the studio of prominent Pictorialist Cecil Bostock, where he received solid training in all aspects of photography. He established his own studio in Sydney in 1934, servicing commercial clients and producing still lifes, figure photography and portraits. In his personal work, he explored the surrealist aesthetic of Man Ray, experimenting with formal abstraction and montage. With the outbreak of World War II, Dupain worked with the Camouflage Unit in 1941, travelling to New Guinea and the Admiralty Islands. His photography of the 1960s and 70s was shaped by architectural interests and he fostered working relationships with several prominent architects, most notably Harry Seidler.

Text from the Art Gallery of New South Wales website [Online] Cited 24/10/2020

 

Max Dupain. 'Silos through windscreen' 1935

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Silos through windscreen
1935
Gelatin silver print
40 x 43cm

 

 

While cars and machinery were rarely Max Dupain’s personal choice of forms to photograph, his Silos through windscreen 1935 embraces the new age from a new perspective. It is an uncharacteristically complex composition. The view of the silos from the front seat shows off the car’s smart dashboard; at the same time his camera records a fragment of a brick factory reflected in the rear vision mirror.

 

Max Dupain. 'Silos at Pyrmont' 1935

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Silos at Pyrmont
1935
Gelatin silver print
49 x 37cm

 

 

Pyrmont silos is one of a number of photographs that Dupain took of these constructions in the 1930s. In all cases Dupain examined the silos from a modernist perspective, emphasising their monumentality from low viewpoints under a bright cloudless sky. Additionally, his use of strong shadows to emphasise the forms of the silos and the lack of human figures celebrates the built structure as well as providing no sense of scale. Another photograph by Dupain in the AGNSW collection was taken through a car windscreen so that the machinery of transport merges explicitly with industrialisation into a complex hard-edge image of views and mirror reflections. There were no skyscrapers in Sydney until the late 1930s so the silos, Walter Burley Griffin’s incinerators and the Sydney Harbour Bridge were the major points of reference for those interested in depicting modern expressions of engineering and industrial power.

Dupain was the first Australian photographer to embrace modernism. One of his photographs of the silos was roundly criticised when shown to the New South Wales Photographic Society but Dupain forged on regardless with his reading, thinking and experimentation. Some Australian painting and writing had embraced modernist principles in the 1920s, but as late as 1938 Dupain was writing to the Sydney Morning Herald:

“Great art has always been contemporary in spirit. Today we feel the surge of aesthetic exploration along abstract lines, the social economic order impinging itself on art, the repudiation of the ‘truth to nature criterion’ … We sadly need the creative courage of Man Ray, the original thought of Moholy-Nagy, and the dynamic realism of Edouard [sic] Steichen.”1

1. Dupain, M. 1938, ‘Letter to the editor’, Sydney Morning Herald, 30 March

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007

 

Max Dupain. 'Bondi' 1939

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Bondi
1939
Gelatin silver print
37 x 37.5cm

 

 

Dupain was one of the first Australian photographers to embrace Modernism. The simplicity of form and unusually low vantage point of this picture reflect the influence of German photography that he saw in the journal Das Deutsche Lichtbild. At first Dupain preferred another version of the image; when it was published in 1948, the photograph shows the woman standing with her arms folded. Here, she leans toward the man, their bodies slightly overlapping. Standing parallel to the picture plane, their bodies and those of the young men at their sides form a pyramid – one of Dupain’s preferred forms at this time.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

Max Dupain. 'At Newport' 1952

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
At Newport
1952
Gelatin silver print
25 x 29cm

 

 

There is a strong sense of masculinity found in many of Dupain’s beach works. In At Newport this is emphasised by the strong, angular lines of the figures, an image that seems to capture the essence of male youth at the beach. In this image, three male swimmers are positioned in the foreground of a beachside pool setting. The long shadows of the late summer sun place further emphasis on the angularity and thus the masculinity that is a feature of this image.

Text from the Annette Larkin Fine Art website

 

Max Dupain. 'At Newport Baths' 1952

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
At Newport
1952
Gelatin silver print
45.0 x 40.0cm
National Gallery of Australia
Purchased 1976

 

 

Dupain took At Newport in 1952 at the Newport Baths, as it was then known, a sea-water pool next to the Pacific Ocean about 20 miles north of Sydney. It’s an ambiguous photograph in more ways than one because the angle of the shot makes it seem as if the tremendous weight of the sea is being held back by nothing stronger than a low wall, with the water rising almost to the brim. Dupain’s viewpoint turns the top of the wall into a taught line across the picture and his five bathers are strung out along it and held in tension like forms on a wire. As one prepares to dive, his counterweight, the sinewy young man, descends on the dry side. At the picture’s edges, the girls in bathing caps counterbalance the boy with hunched shoulders. The distant pillars along the side of the pool duplicate these intervals. There appears to be some indecision, though, about the crop Dupain intended on the right. A print in his archive shows space between the right-hand girl and the edge, which is better, while a print in a national collection omits her entirely. Losing her disembodied head and intense concentration on the diver weakens the photograph. (There is also a second picture of bathers from the same group (below))

At Newport can be straightforwardly construed as another celebration by Dupain the dedicated modernist of the vitalising power of sunlight and the exuberant Australianness of the beach, but there is an alternative way of reading it. An essay in Dupain’s Sydney (1999) notes that the photographer didn’t like people very much, valued solitude, and would rather be doing something than have to talk. (He was remarkably industrious, leaving an archive of more than a million pictures.) This group of bathers is together but disconnected. Two faces are hidden and unknowable, looking down at the water, and the others are half-concealed in shadow, lost in their own thoughts. Then there is the ungainly shape cast by the young man’s long legs, which serves as a foil to the dark tones of the rising land. The shadow introduces an element of discord and adds to the mood of subtle disquiet.

Rick Poynor. “Exposure: Newport Baths by Max Dupain,” on the Design Observer website 23/06/2015 [Online] Cited 24/10/2020

 

Max Dupain. 'Newport Baths I' 1952

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Newport Baths I
1952
Gelatin silver print
23.5 x 25.5cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Bondi Couple' 1950s

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Bondi Couple
1950s
Gelatin silver print
20.5 x 20.5cm

 

Max Dupain. 'Manly' 1940s

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Manly
1940s
Gelatin silver print
47 x 37.5cm

 

 

From 1938, and throughout the late 1940s after his return from the war, Dupain took many photographs of Manly beach from the high vantage point offered by its iconic shark tower. These landscapes often found striking diagonal obliques in the convergence of incoming surf, the activities of lifesavers, the lines of beachgoers, and the surrounding modernist architecture, including promenades. These photographs tell us as much about Dupain’s leisure time as they do his artistic interests: the beach was ‘how I used to spend my weekends’, Dupain later wrote. More than its convenience, Manly offered a very local experience of modernity. Dupain strongly believed in and advocated for a contemporary photography, that it was important to consciously be part of the age into which one was born.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

 

Max Dupain. '(Life Guards with Flag and Reel March)' Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Life Guards with Flag and Reel March)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
26 x 26.5 cm

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992) '(Life Savers at Attention in a Row)' 1940s

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Life Savers at Attention in a Row)
1940s
Gelatin silver print
25.5 x 30 cm

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992) 'Lifesavers' 1940s

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
Lifesavers
1940s
Gelatin silver print
36.5 x 47.5cm

 

Max Dupain. '(Passengers Disembarking from Ferry)' 1950s

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Passengers Disembarking from Ferry)
1950s
Gelatin silver print
30.5 x 30.5cm

 

Max Dupain. '(Male Commuters departing Ferry)' Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Male Commuters departing Ferry)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
27 x 26cm

 

Max Dupain. '(Newsstand)' Nd

 

Max Dupain (Australian, 1911-1992)
(Newsstand)
Nd
Gelatin silver print
36 x 30.5cm