Archive for the 'London' Category

18
May
18

Exhibition: ‘Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography’ at the National Portrait Gallery, London Part 2

Exhibition dates: 1st March – 20th May 2018

Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography is curated by Phillip Prodger PhD, Head of Photographs at the National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

Poster for the exhibition 'Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography' at the National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Poster for the catalogue for the exhibition Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography at the National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

Oh Clementina! the light, the stars!

There is enough text in the posting for me not to really have to say anything. It’s all there…

Art, influence, technology;
Classical, formal, diaristic;
Intimacy, mystery, atmospheric;
Motherhood, sexuality, feminist identity, nascent womanhood;
‘Profil perdu’ (French, ‘lost profile’, which refers to a portrait in which the profile cannot be seen), mirror, loss, duplication and replication, illusion, and fetish

… all woven into a performative, psychological, expressive and creative (self) portraiture.

The real stars of the show are most definitely the women… the avant-garde artists of their era.

Marcus

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

 

This major exhibition is the first to examine the relationship between four ground-breaking Victorian artists: Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79), Lewis Carroll (1832-98), Lady Clementina Hawarden (1822-65) and Oscar Rejlander (1813-75). Drawn from public and private collections internationally, the exhibition features some of the most breath-taking images in photographic history. Influenced by historical painting and frequently associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, the four artists formed a bridge between the art of the past and the art of the future, standing as true giants in Victorian photography.

 

 

“The women are the real stars of this exhibition. Their pictures are bolder and bigger, more imaginative and more daring. They portray people with a raw reality that is not just the result of the collodion method but a powerful, visionary insight.

Hawarden’s pictures of Victorian women have an intimacy that transcends time and a mystery that asserts the autonomy of her subjects. They are feminist, and gothic too, in their eerie atmosphere. In an 1863-4 picture called ‘Photographic Study’, she poses a young woman by a mirror so that we see her twice. The “real” woman is in brooding profile while her reflection is a shadowy full-face image. The effect is spookily absorbing as we become witnesses to her melancholic introspection.

Hawarden’s ultra-sharp yet shadow-rich prints create unresolved stories featuring women free to show who they really are. None of them look happy. All are curiously defiant – these pictures anticipate those of the 1970s US artist Francesca Woodman. As portraits of women created by women, these Victorian photographers’ subversive creations have almost no precedents.

Not that Cameron looked to the handful of earlier women artists as models. She was trying to be a new Rembrandt: her portraits consciously compete with the masterpieces of the baroque age. While the painted portraits of male Victorian artists such as John Everett Millais and George Frederic Watts are period pieces at best, her great 1866 photograph Mountain Nymph, Sweet Liberty (Mrs Keene) with its subtle mix of resolution and suggestiveness brings us face to face with someone whose eyes hold ours and whose mind is as real to us as her tangled hair. There is a sensitivity to the magic of being human in Cameron’s portraits that makes her the greatest British artist of her time. This exhibition puts her in a brilliantly delineated context of experiment and imagination, the first avant-garde artist of the camera.”

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Extract from Jonathan Jones. “Victorian Giants: the Birth of Art Photography review – the triumph of the female gaze,” on The Guardian website Friday 2 March 2018

 

 

 

 

Clementina Hawarden

Her life cruelly cut short by pneumonia at the age of forty-two, Clementina Maude, Viscountess Hawarden produced some 800 photographs in her lifetime, nearly all are of her eight children posed in poignant tableaux. She began to photograph on her family’s estate, outside Tipperary, around 1857, later moving to Princes Gardens, London, near Hyde Park. Frequently compared to Cameron, she was much admired by Carroll, and on her death, Rejlander wrote her obituary. (Wall text)

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“I
n that vein, the greatest discovery in the exhibition is a thrillingly strange image by Hawarden, to my mind always the most intriguing photographer of the four. Hawarden was a Scottish countess who had ten children. She photographed all of her daughters repeatedly, and there were so many of them it’s hard to keep track. Her photographs, which are often classical in their formal qualities, nevertheless anticipate the diaristic work of the 20th century photographers Sally Mann and Nan Goldin. They often contain more than one girl, and often feature mirrors, so that everything is about multiplication or reflection – an effect that might also be seen as a form of self-portraiture in the mother of so many.” (Gaby Wood)

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Her photographic years were brief but prolific. Hawarden produced over eight hundred photographs between 1857 and her sudden death in 1864. During this time she gave birth to three of her eight children. Lady Hawarden’s photographic focus remained on her children. There is only one photograph believed to feature the Viscountess Hawarden, yet it could also be a portrait of her sister Anne Bontine.

A collection of 775 portraits were donated to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London in 1939 by Hawarden’s granddaughter, Clementina Tottenham. The photographs were torn, or cut, from family albums for reasons that are still unclear. This accounts for the torn or trimmed corners which are now considered a hallmark of Hawarden’s work.

Carol Mavor writes extensively about the place of Hawarden’s work in the history of Victorian photography as well as contemporary interpretations of the work. She states, “Hawarden’s pictures raise significant issues of gender, motherhood, and sexuality as they relate to photography’s inherent attachments to loss, duplication and replication, illusion, fetish.” (Mavor, Carol (1999). Becoming: the photographs of Clementina, Viscountess Hawarden (1st ed.). Durham, NC: Duke University Press.) (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Clementina Hawarden (1822-65) 'Photographic Study, 5 Princes Gardens (Clementina Maude)' 1863-1864

 

Clementina Hawarden (1822-65)
Photographic Study, 5 Princes Gardens (Clementina Maude)
1863-1864
from The Photographic Study Series by Clementina, Lady Hawarden
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Given by Lady Clementina Tottenham
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

“Although her work has often been linked to that of Julia Margaret Cameron, the best known woman photographer of the Victorian epoch, Clementina Hawarden struck out into areas and depicted moods unknown to the art photographers of her age.” ~ Graham Ovenden 1974

 

This remarkable photograph shows a woman gazing into a mirror, but not at her own reflection. Instead, the picture was carefully arranged so that the woman’s face is seen in profile, while only her reflection looks back out of the mirror. Hawarden excelled at producing ambiguous narrative photographs such as this one, suggesting the rich inner life of the subject, without telling a clear story. The heroes of her pictures are nearly always women, who seem all but trapped in domestic interiors. (Wall text)

 

Clementina Hawarden (1822-65) 'Photographic Study (Clementina Maude)' early 1860s

 

Clementina Hawarden (1822-65)
Photographic Study (Clementina Maude)
early 1860s
Albumen print from wet collodion negative
20.1 x 14.4 cm (7 15/16 x 5 11/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Harriette and Noel Levine Gift, 2005
© Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Clementina, Lady Hawarden, is a poetic, if elusive, presence among nineteenth-century photographers. As a devoted mother, her life revolved around her eight children. She took up photography in 1857; using her daughters as models, she created a body of work remarkable for its technical brilliance and its original depiction of nascent womanhood. Lady Hawarden showed her work in the 1863 and 1864 exhibitions of the Photographic Society. With the exception of a few rare examples, her photographs remained in the possession of her family until 1939, when the more than eight hundred images were donated to the Victoria and Albert Museum. Only recently have they been the objects of research, publication, and exhibition.

Clementina Maude, her mother’s preferred model, is seen here in a reflective pose against a star-studded wall. The casual placement of the shawl on the table and the girl’s loose hair contribute to the feeling of intimacy. In the airy room time seems to be suspended. The sensuous curves of the table legs, the soft weight of the crushed velvet, and the crispness of the starry wallpaper are enhanced by the skilful handling of the collodion technique. The composition, devoid of Victorian clutter, brings together light, shadow, and compositional elements in a spare and appealing interplay. In contrast to the prevailing fashion of giving literary or sentimental titles to portraits of young women, Lady Hawarden titled her works simply “Photographic Study.”

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website

 

Clementina Hawarden (1822-65) 'Photographic Study (Clementina and Isabella Grace Maude)' 1863-64

 

Clementina Hawarden (1822-65)
Photographic Study (Clementina and Isabella Grace Maude)
1863-64
Albumen print from wet collodion negative
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

Hawarden frequently dressed up her sitters and arranged them in enigmatic narratives like this one. Although not derived from any known painting, the manner of dress, including the cloak and tricorn hat of the male figure (actually one of Hawarden’s daughters dressed up), suggest an eighteenth century reference. (Wall text)

 

Clementina Hawarden (1822-65) 'Photographic Study (Florence Elizabeth and Clementina Maude)' 1863-4

 

Clementina Hawarden (1822-65)
Photographic Study (Florence Elizabeth and Clementina Maude)
1863-4
Albumen print from wet collodion negative
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

Working from upstairs rooms at 5 Princes Gardens, near to the South Kensington Museum (where both she and Julia Margaret Cameron were frequent visitors), Hawarden used light streaming from large floor to ceiling windows to illuminate her pictures. Her subjects were usually her children, especially her daughters Clementina, Florence, and Isabella Grace, whom she posed in domestic tableaux.

Both Carroll and Rejlander knew and admired Hawarden. On at least one occasion, Rejlander photographed her daughter Isabella Grace; after Hawarden’s death, he also photographed her youngest daughter, Antonia. (Wall text)

 

Clementina Hawarden (1822-65) Hawarden. 'Isabella Grace and Clementina Maude, 5 Princes Gardens' c. 1863-4

 

Clementina Hawarden (1822-65)
Hawarden Isabella Grace and Clementina Maude, 5 Princes Gardens
c. 1863-4
Albumen print from wet collodion negative
Given by Lady Clementina Tottenham
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

Virginia Dodier thinks that this photograph belongs to an ‘Orientalist’ series. Here, Lady Hawarden gives her drawing room a tent-like atmosphere. Such scenes were popularised by the painter J. F. Lewis, and Roger Fenton exhibited his photographic ‘Nubian Series’ in 1859. Dodier writes that the idea of Orientalism allowed European artists to ‘evoke sensuality on the premise of presenting quasi-ethnographical information about the customs of the East’. The idea of the fancy dress or allegorical portrait stems from an earlier tradition in English art. They are found, for example, in the work of the painter Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-92). (Text from the Victoria and Albert Museum website)

 

 

Lady Clementina Hawarden: Themes & Style (extract)

With careful choice of props, clothing, mirrors, balcony, and posture, Hawarden produced exquisite studies of her adolescent daughters. The figures and dress are the main subject, carefully framed in the room, and often in front of the balcony. The city beyond often provides a blurred background.

The writer Carol Mavor in Becoming: The Photographs of Clementina, Viscountess Hawarden suggests that the often provocative poses of Hawarden’s daughters are significant. The Victorians were bothered by the idea of sexuality and adolescence, and in 1861 the Offences Against the Person Act raised the age of consent from 10 to 12. This was also the year in which Hawarden began to make this kind of photograph, though there is no evidence that she was deliberately exploring this controversial topic.

Hawarden liked to use natural light in her studio at her South Kensington home, in a way that was seen at the time as ‘daring’. She placed mirrors to reflect light and used them to explore the idea of ‘the double’, just as other photographers (and occasionally Hawarden herself) used a stereoscopic camera to produce twin prints.

From around 1862 Hawarden concentrated on photographing her daughters in costume tableaux, a popular subject at the time. Costumes from the dressing up box are combined with dresses at the height of fashion to produce beautiful and detailed studies that confound the contemporary with the make-believe.

Text from the Victoria and Albert Museum website

 

Clementina Hawarden (1822-65) 'Photographic Study (Clementina and Florence Elizabeth Maude)' 1859-61

 

Clementina Hawarden (1822-65)
Photographic Study (Clementina and Florence Elizabeth Maude)
1859-61
Uncut stereo albumen print

 

Figure 60 and 61 of the catalogue for the exhibition 'Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography' at the National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Figure 60 and 61 of the catalogue for the exhibition Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography at the National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Figure 112 and 113 of the catalogue for the exhibition 'Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography' at the National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Figure 112 and 113 of the catalogue for the exhibition Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography at the National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

Oscar Rejlander

According to his naturalisation papers, Rejlander was born in Stockholm on October 19, 1813. He was the son of Carl Gustaf Rejlander, a stonemason and Swedish Army Officer. During his youth, his family moved to the Swedish-speaking community in Rauma, Finland (then Russia). In the 1830s, he relocated to England, initially settling in Lincoln, England. In the 1850s he abandoned his original profession as a painter and portrait miniaturist, apparently after seeing how well a photograph captured the fold of a sleeve.

He set up as a portraitist in the industrial Midlands town of Wolverhampton, probably around 1846. In the early 1850s he learned the wet-collodion and waxed-paper processes at great speed with Nicholas Henneman in London, and then changed his business to that of a photography studio. He undertook genre work and portraiture. Rejlander also produced nude studies, mainly for use as studies by painters. There are no known erotic photographs of children by Rejlander. His so-called ‘Charlotte Baker’ photograph is a well-known forgery, produced by convicted child sex offender Graham Ovenden by Ovenden’s friend Howard Grey in the 1970s, rephotographed and printed to look antique by Ovenden. No person by the name Charlotte Baker ever seems to have posed for Rejlander.

Rejlander undertook many experiments to perfect his photography, including combination printing, which he did not invent; however, he created more elaborate and convincing composite photographs than any prior photographer. He had articles feature in the Wolverhampton Chronicle, on 15 November 1854 an article called “Improvement in Calotypes, by Mr. O.G. Rejlander, of Wolverhampton” it suggests that by 1854 he was experimenting with combination printing from several negatives. He was a friend of photographer Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (better known by the nom de plume Lewis Carroll), who collected Rejlander’s work and corresponded with him on technical matters. Rejlander later created one of the best known and most revealing portraits of Dodgson.

Rejlander participated in the Paris Exhibition of 1855. In 1856 he made his best-known allegorical work, The Two Ways of Life. This was a seamlessly montaged combination print made of thirty-two images (akin to the use of Photoshop today, but then far more difficult to achieve) in about six weeks. First exhibited at the Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition of 1857, the work shows a man being lured to paths of vice or virtue by good and bad angels. The image’s partial nudity, which showed real women as they actually appeared and not the idealised forms then common in Victorian art, was deemed ‘indecent’ by some. Rejlander was also accused of using prostitutes as models, although Rejlander categorically denied this and no proof was ever offered. Reservations about the work subsided when Queen Victoria ordered a 10-guinea copy to give to Prince Albert. Victoria and Albert would go on to purchase three copies of the work, all of which are now lost. …

Rejlander moved his studio to Malden Road, London around 1862 and largely abandoned her early experiments with double exposure, photomontage, photographic manipulation and retouching. Instead, he became one of Britain’s leading portraitists, creating pictures with psychological charge. He became a leading expert in photographic techniques, lecturing and publishing widely, and sold work through bookshops and art dealers. He also found subject-matter in London, photographing homeless London street children to produce popular ‘social-protest’ pictures such as “Poor Joe,” also known as “Homeless”. …

Rejlander’s ideas and techniques were taken up by other photographers and this, to some extent, justifies labelling him as the father of art photography.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'Charles Darwin' 1871

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
Charles Darwin
1871
Albumen print
© Moderna Museet, Stockholm

 

 

Starting in the late 1860s, Charles Darwin began collecting photographs for use in the research that would eventually become his book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872). Hoping to find authentic photographs, that captured emotional expressions as they actually occurred, he visited print shops and studios in London, and contacted several photographers hoping to commission new pictures. Few, if any, of the photographs he acquired met his ambitious expectations.

In April, 1871, Darwin wrote, ‘I am now rich in photographs, for I have found in London Rejlander, who for years has had a passion for photographing all sorts of chance expressions, exhibited on various occasions … instantaneously.’ Rejlander would go on to become the main contributor of photographs to Darwin’s book. (Wall text)

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'The Two Ways of Life' 1856-7

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
The Two Ways of Life
1856-7
Albumen print, made from approximately 32 separate negatives
Moderna Museet, Stockholm

 

 

One of the most famous pictures in photographic history, Rejlander’s Two Ways of Life caused a sensation when it was exhibited at the Manchester Art Treasures exhibition in 1857. To make it, Rejlander combined some thirty-two separate negatives (there were variations between printings, and it is not always clear where negatives begin and end). Some viewers were offended by the nudes, whose bodies appear frank and realistic compared to the ideal fantasies painters were expected to produce. Others objected to its ambition, since Rejlander seemed to be saying that photography could be used to produce pictures just as meaningful, and as artistically composed, as any painting.

To make Two Ways of Life, Rejlander had to arrange the various subjects within it at the right size to maintain visual perspective. This was a challenge, since enlargement and reduction of negatives was not yet possible in the darkroom. The only way he could change the size of something in the negative was to rephotograph it.

This is the finest known print of the photograph, which is also known in a reduced form. The photograph is a parable featuring Rejlander himself, who stands in the middle, listening to ‘good’ and ‘bad’ angels luring him to paths of vice and virtue. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert loved the picture and bought three copies, none of which survive. (Wall text)

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'The Evening Sun (Iphigenia)' c. 1860

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
The Evening Sun (Iphigenia)
c. 1860
© Gernsheim Collection, Harry Ransom Centre, The University of Texas at Austin

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'The Evening Sun (Iphigenia)' c. 1860

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
The Evening Sun (Iphigenia)
c. 1860
© Gernsheim Collection, Harry Ransom Centre, The University of Texas at Austin

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'The Evening Sun (Iphigenia)' c. 1860 (detail)

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
The Evening Sun (Iphigenia) (detail)
c. 1860
© Gernsheim Collection, Harry Ransom Centre, The University of Texas at Austin

 

 

Iphigenia was a daughter of King Agamemnon who appears in legends about the Trojan War. When her father accidentally offended the goddess Artemis, he was forced to sacrifice Iphigenia to appease the goddess so that she would allow his ships to sail to Troy. She was tricked into going to the town of Aulis under the pretence that she would marry the heroic warrior Achilles. In some versions she was killed, while in others she was rescued by Artemis. (Wall text)

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'Ariadne' 1857

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
Ariadne
1857
Albumen print from a wet collodion negative

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'Nude female study' c. 1867

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
Nude female study
c. 1867
Albumen print
7 3/4 in. x 5 3/8 in. (196 mm x 138 mm) overall
Given by Stephan Loewentheil, 2017
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

Rejlander produced a number of nude studies which he sold to painters for use as studies. He considered these pictures significant because they pointed up errors historically made by painters when depicting human anatomy. Although he was happy for painters to use photographs to improve their paintings, he also saw accuracy of depiction as one of the things that made photography special when compared to other art forms. (Wall text)

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'The Virgin in prayer' c. 1857

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
The Virgin in prayer (after Sassoferrato)
c. 1857
albumen print
6 7/8 in. x 5 7/8 in. (174 mm x 150 mm) overall
Purchased with help from the Art Fund, Jane and Michael Wilson and Stephen Barry, 2015
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

This photograph is a based on the famous painting The Virgin in Prayer painted by the Italian Baroque painter Sassoferrato 1640-50, now in the collection of the National Gallery, London. The rise of public art spaces in Britain in the nineteenth century, including the National Gallery (1824), and the National Portrait Gallery (1856), provided inspiration for countless photographers. Rejlander was particularly enthusiastic about restaging famous paintings, often in order to demonstrate mistakes that painters had made in scale and perspective. The process was fun, and the results fuelled the debate about photography’s role among the arts. (Wall text)

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'The Virgin in prayer (after Sassoferrato)' c. 1857

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
The Virgin in prayer (after Sassoferrato)
c. 1857
Albumen print
7 3/4 in. x 5 3/4 in. (196 mm x 146 mm) overall
Given by Stephan Loewentheil, 2017
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'Unknown young woman' 1860-1866

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
Unknown young woman
1860-1866
Albumen print
7 3/8 in. x 5 1/4 in. (188 mm x 134 mm) overall
Purchased with help from the Art Fund, Jane and Michael Wilson and Stephen Barry, 2015
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'Untitled (unknown sitter, possibly Rejlander's wife, Mary)' c. 1863

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
Untitled (unknown sitter, possibly Rejlander’s wife, Mary)
c. 1863
Printed by Julia Margaret Cameron
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Given by Mrs Margaret Southam, 1941
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

 

Cameron invited Rejlander to the Isle of Wight in 1863. Before the visit, Rejlander provided her with some of his own negatives, so that she could practise printing. She experimented with some, decorating them with ferns. This picture, which descended through Cameron’s family, was once believed to have been made by her. However, it is now recognised as one of the pictures Cameron printed from a Rejlander negative. The subject is one who frequently appears in Rejlander’s work, and may even have been his wife, Mary. (Wall text)

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'Unknown young woman' 1863-1866

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
Unknown young woman
1863-1866
Albumen print
8 1/8 in. x 5 7/8 in. (205 mm x 149 mm) overall
Purchased with help from the Art Fund, Jane and Michael Wilson and Stephen Barry, 2015
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) ''Sleep' (Mary Rejlander (née Bull))' c. 1855

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
‘Sleep’ (Mary Rejlander (née Bull))
c. 1855
Albumen print
6 1/8 in. x 6 5/8 in. (156 mm x 167 mm) overall
Purchased with help from the Art Fund, Jane and Michael Wilson and Stephen Barry, 2015
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'Minnie Constable' 1860-1866

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
Minnie Constable
1860-1866
Albumen print
7 1/2 in. x 5 3/4 in. (192 mm x 146 mm) overall
Purchased with help from the Art Fund, Jane and Michael Wilson and Stephen Barry, 2015
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) ''Art must assist Photography' (Putto as Allegory of Painting)' 1856

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
‘Art must assist Photography’ (Putto as Allegory of Painting)
1856
Albumen print
4 3/4 in. x 3 5/8 in. (120 mm x 93 mm) overall
Purchased with help from the Art Fund, Jane and Michael Wilson and Stephen Barry, 2015
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'Oscar Gustav Rejlander; Mary Rejlander (née Bull)' 1860-1866

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
Oscar Gustav Rejlander; Mary Rejlander (née Bull)
1860-1866
Albumen print
8 5/8 in. x 6 1/4 in. (219 mm x 158 mm) overall
Purchased with help from the Art Fund, Jane and Michael Wilson and Stephen Barry, 2015
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'Unknown woman' 1860-1866

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
Unknown woman
1860-1866
Albumen print
8 in. x 5 3/4 in. (202 mm x 147 mm) overall
Purchased with help from the Art Fund, Jane and Michael Wilson and Stephen Barry, 2015
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) ''A devotee' (Unknown woman)' 1860-1866

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
‘A devotee’ (Unknown woman)
1860-1866
Albumen print
8 5/8 in. x 6 1/4 in. (219 mm x 158 mm) overall
Purchased with help from the Art Fund, Jane and Michael Wilson and Stephen Barry, 2015
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'Purify my heart' also known as 'The Little Sisters' c. 1862

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
Purify my heart also known as The Little Sisters
c. 1862
Albumen print
5 in. x 4 1/8 in. (127 mm x 105 mm) overall
Given by Stephan Loewentheil, 2017
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

This photograph shows two sisters side by side in profile, their hands clasped in prayer. One girl seems almost to be a mirror reflection of the other. Rejlander exhibited versions of this photograph with two different titles. Purify My Heart is a reference to the biblical passage James 4:8: ‘Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.’ Lewis Carroll admired this photograph and purchased a copy for his personal collection. (Wall text)

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'Unknown young woman' 1863-1866

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75)
Unknown young woman
1863-1866
Albumen print
8 1/8 in. x 5 7/8 in. (205 mm x 149 mm) overall
Purchased with help from the Art Fund, Jane and Michael Wilson and Stephen Barry, 2015
© National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

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30
Mar
18

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Note this

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

And then

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

 

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

.
Lord Tennyson. The Charge of the Light Brigade

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

The exhibition

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

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

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

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

 

The Crimean War, 1853-6

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

The Battle of Inkerman 5 November 1854

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

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

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

Inkerman

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Roger Fenton (1819-69)

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Press release from The Queen’s Gallery

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

Fenton’s Crimean Commission: 8 March – June 1855

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Balaklava – the British base

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

After the war

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

Fenton’s photographic process

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

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

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

 

 

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

Opening hours:
Open daily 10.00 – 17.30

Closures:
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24 December last admission 14.45, closes at 16.00
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15
Dec
17

Book: Photographs from ‘Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit’ [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] 1928 Part 1

December 2017

Authors: Hermann and Marianne Aubel

Publisher: Karl Robert Langewiesche Vlg. Königstein, 1928. 112 pages, numerous illustrations. Pictures of Isadora Duncan, Nijinski, Anna Pavlova, Alexander Sacharoff, Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff, Die Schwestern Wiesenthal, Tamara Karsavina, La Argentina, Ellen Petz, Niddy Impekoven, Rudolf von Laban, Mary Wigman, Palucca, Harald Kreutzberg, Javanische Tanzgruppe.
Language: German

 

 

A performance by the Natural Dance Movement in silk robes c. 2000

 

A performance by the Natural Dance Movement in silk robes, England
c. 2000
Photograph taken by my mother

 

 

I have always loved dancing… it comes from the soul. I have danced since 1975 – pre-disco, through disco, high energy, new romantics, soul, trance, techno and more. I still go out dancing today. While this is a different kind of dance, notably free dance, all forms of dance are a connection to music, earth, cosmos. A connection to the earliest of human beings dancing round an open fire.

This is a book I bought on the Internet for $12. I have scanned the photographs and given them a digital clean. The costumes are fabulous, the poses exquisite, exotic, and joyous. The silhouettes and shapes created are just glorious. The photographs usually have low depth of field, the figures “caught” in front of contextless backgrounds. But as Grete Wiesenthal’s assistant Maria Josefa Schaffgotsch observes, the time freeze of the photograph is the antithesis of free dance:
.

“Grete Wiesnethal’s primary concern was to overcome as far as possible the unavoidable static element of classical dance and to dissolve everything that smacked of a pose in a never-ending stream of movement. The flowing, swinging, wavelike three-four rhythm, transforming Strauss’s waltzes into movement – that was her particular art, that was what made her world famous.”1

.
Many of the photographs work against the nature of the medium, and the idea of posing for the camera, to capture the fleeting expressiveness of dance. Just look at the ecstatic shape created in Hugo Erfurth’s Schwestern Wiesenthal [Wiesenthal sisters] (c. 1928, below). Indeed, the language of spiritual revelation!

My favourites are the photographs of Sent M’Ahesa and Nijinski. But honestly, they are all glorious. The photographs in this book, “The Artistic Dance of Our Time,” represent the cutting edge of dance, art, and photography in 1928. It is so nice to seem them now.

Marcus

 

  1. Andrea Amort. “Free Dance in Interwar Vienna,” in Deborah Holmes and Lisa Silverman (eds.,). Interwar Vienna: Culture Between Tradition and Modernity. Rochester, New York: Camden House, 2009, p. 123.

 

Free dance

Free dance is a 20th-century dance form that preceded modern dance. Rebelling against the rigid constraints of classical ballet, Loie Fuller, Isadora Duncan and Ruth St. Denis (with her work in theatre) developed their own styles of free dance and laid the foundations of American modern dance with their choreography and teaching. In Europe Rudolf Laban, Emile Jaques-Dalcroze and François Delsarte developed their own theories of human movement and methods of instruction that led to the development of European modern and Expressionist dance.

Free dance was prolific in Central and Eastern Europe, where national schools were created, such as the School of Musical Movement (Heptachor), in Russia, and the Orkesztika School, in Hungary. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Hermann and Marianne Aubel (authors) Karl Robert Langewiesche (publisher) 'Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time]' 1928

 

Hermann and Marianne Aubel (authors)
Karl Robert Langewiesche (publisher)
Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time]
1928
Book front cover

 

 

Elvira (Munich)
Isadora Duncan
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 1
Published 1928

 

 

“Wir sehen das Ziel der Tanzkunst und jeder Kunst darin, eine Sprache geistiger Offenbarung zu sein, aus der Natur heraus sich äubernd und mit ihr verbunden.”

“We see the goal of dance and every art as being a language of spiritual revelation, external to and connected with it.”

.
Hermann and Marianne Aubel

 

 

Vielleicht auf keinem Gebiet kunstlerischer Entfaltung haben die letzten Jahrsehute ein solches Strebennach Weiterentwicklung gebracht, wie auf dem Gebiete der Tanzkunst. Sie ist, als letztes Zile der Arbeit an der menschilchen Bewegung, mehr und mehr mit in den Mittelpunkt des allgeneinen Interesses gerückt und übt so eine gröbere Wirkung auf breitere Kreis aus, als sie es noch vor 20, ja vor 10 Jahen vermochte. Eine neue Form des bewegten Ausdrucks will sich bilden.

Perhaps in no field of artistic development, the last years have brought about such a development as in the field of dance art. It is, as the last part of the work on the human movement, more and more pushed into the centre of general interest, and thus exerts a greater effect on a wider circle than it did 20 or even 10 years ago. A new form of moving expression wants to form itself. (Introduction, V)

 

Rudolf Jobst (Vienna) 'Schwestern Wiesenthal [Wiesenthal sisters]' c. 1928

 

Rudolf Jobst (Vienna)
Schwestern Wiesenthal [Wiesenthal sisters]
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 4
Published 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden) 'Schwestern Wiesenthal [Wiesenthal sisters]' c. 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden)
Schwestern Wiesenthal [Wiesenthal sisters]
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 5
Published 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden) 'Grete Wiesenthal' c. 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden)
Grete Wiesenthal
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 6
Published 1928

 

 

Grete Wiesenthal (1885-1970)

Austrian dancer and choreographer. She and her sister Elsa (1887-967) were both dancers with the Vienna Court Opera Ballet but she left in 1904 to choreograph and perform her own work, which was accompanied primarily by waltz music (Chopin and J. Strauss). She proved so popular that her sisters Elsa and Berta joined her in works that communicated a (then) revolutionarily ecstatic response to waltz rhythms. The sisters moved to Berlin where they performed together until 1910, after which Grete worked independently, choreographing and performing in vaudeville, film, and opera around Europe and the US. The Grete Wiesenthal Dance group (1945-56) toured the world and two of its members subsequently staged her dances for the Vienna State Opera Ballet. …

The “ambassador of waltz,” began life as a dancer within the traditions of ballet; entered the corps (1901) and advanced to coryphée (1902); with sister Elsa, began choreographing new ways of movement and expression through dance and allied with Secession circle of innovators; with Elsa and sister Berta, came to prominence as the Wiesenthal sisters at Vienna’s Cabaret Fledermaus (1908); in Berlin, danced with sisters at Max Reinhardt’s Deutsches Theater; danced role of 1st elf in Reinhardt’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Munich’s Artist’s Theater (1909); with sisters, performed at London’s Hippodrome and at Théâtre du Vaudeville in Paris (1909).

Made solo debut in Berlin in pantomime Sumurùn, produced by Reinhardt (1910); made US debut at Winter Garden in NY (1912); created role of Kitchen Boy in Reinhardt’s Stuttgart production of Der Bürger als Edelmann, with music by Richard Strauss; appeared in “Grete Wiesenthal Series” of films (1913–14): Kadra Sâfa, Erlkönigs Tochter and Die goldne Fliege; following WWI, opened dancing school (1919); returned to Vienna stage at Staatsoper (State Opera House), in lead role of her ballet Der Taugenichts in Wien (The Ne’er-Do-Well in Vienna, 1927); remained active professionally, appearing in solo dance concerts and tours, including a return to NY (1933); appointed professor of dance at Vienna’s Academy for Music and the Performing Arts (1934), then served as director of artistic dance section (1945-52).

After WWII, her work enjoyed a renaissance in Austria, especially the dances she created for various Salzburg Festival productions; wrote autobiography, Der Aufstieg (The Way Upwards, 1919), which appeared as Die ersten Schritte (The First Steps, 1947); also published a novel, Iffi: Roman einer Tänzerin (Iffi: Novel of a Dancer, 1951); best remembered for having transformed the Viennese waltz from a monotonous one-two-three movement, performed by smiling dancers laced into corsets, into an ecstatic experience, performed by dancers with unbound hair and swinging dresses.

Text from the Gustav Mahler website

 

Rudolf Jobst (Vienna) 'Else Wiesenthal' c. 1928

 

Rudolf Jobst (Vienna)
Else Wiesenthal
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 7
Published 1928

 

Hanns Holdt (Munich) 'Sent M'Ahesa' c. 1928

 

Hanns Holdt (Munich)
Sent M’Ahesa
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 10
Published 1928

 

Franz Löwy (Vienna) 'Sent M'Ahesa' c. 1928

 

Franz Löwy (Vienna)
Sent M’Ahesa
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 11
Published 1928

 

 

Sent M’Ahesa (born August 17, 1883 in Riga as Else von Carlberg – November 19, 1970 in Stockholm ) was a expressive dancer, who worked in Germany until the 1920s. She also wrote articles for newspapers and magazines.

She was portrayed by Max Beckmann, Bernhard Hoetger, Dietz Edzard and Adolf Münzer. The Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis saw her dance in Berlin in 1923 (“She danced only once and then returned to her Munich villa”) and wrote to his wife: “Since I saw Sent M’Ahesa dancing I do not want any other kind of dance, I saw its highest form.” (Wikipedia)

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden) 'Sent M'Ahesa' c. 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden)
Sent M’Ahesa
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 12
Published 1928

 

d'Ora (Arthur Benda) (Vienna) 'Sent M'Ahesa' c. 1928

 

d’Ora (Arthur Benda) (Vienna)
Sent M’Ahesa
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 13
Published 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden) 'Sent M'Ahesa' c. 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden)
Sent M’Ahesa
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 14
Published 1928

 

Hanns Holdt (Munich) 'Sent M'Ahesa' c. 1928

 

Hanns Holdt (Munich)
Sent M’Ahesa
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 15
Published 1928

 

Hanns Holdt (Munich) 'Sent M'Ahesa' c. 1928

 

Hanns Holdt (Munich)
Sent M’Ahesa
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 16
Published 1928

 

Franz Löwy (Vienna) 'Sent M'Ahesa' c. 1928

 

Franz Löwy (Vienna)
Sent M’Ahesa
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 17
Published 1928

 

 

Sent M’Ahesa

“Such confusion of identity did not apply in the case of Sent M’Ahesa (Elsa von Carlberg 1893-1970), whom audiences persisted in identifying with Egyptian dances (though her dance aesthetic  included images from other ancient o exotic cultures). She performed all her dances solo. Born in Latvia, she went to Berlin in 1907 with her sister to study Egyptology but became so enchanted with ancient Egyptian art and artifacts that she decided to pursue her interest through dance rather than scholarship… Under he name of Sent M’Ahesa, she presented a program of Egyptian dances in Munich in December 1909 (Ettlinger). From then until the mid-1920s, she achieved fame for her exceptionally dramatic dances dominated by motifs from ancient Egyptian iconography. …

Her dances always functioned in relation to intricate, highly decorative costumes of her own design, so that it appeared as if she chose movements for their effect upon her costume.  In her moon goddess (or Isis) dance, she attached large, diaphanous cloth wings to her black-sleeved arms… Sent M’Ahesa often exposed her flesh below the navel, but I have yet to find a picture of her in which she exposed her hair, so keen was she on the use of wigs, helmets, caps, scarves, kerchiefs, tiaras, masks, and crowns. In her peacock dance, she attached a large fan of white feather plumes to her spine. In other dances, she draped herself with tassels, decorative aprons, double sashes, layers of jeweled necklaces, and arm, wrist, and ankle bracelets. Only in her Indian dances did she wear anything resembling pants. …

… her body was wonderfully svelte, and her face displayed a cool, chiseled beauty, I think, rather, that she sought to decontextualise female beauty and erotic feeling from archetypal images of them originating in cultures other than her own or her audience’s; she sought to dramatize a tension between a modern female body and old images of female desire and desirability. Ettlinger, in 1910, was perhaps more accurate when he remarked that

“Sent M’Ahesa’s dance has nothing to do with what one commonly understands as dance. She does not produce “beautiful,” “sensually titillating” effects. She does not represent feelings, “fear,” “horror,” “lust,” “despair,” as “lovely.” Her are requires its own style. Her movements are angular, geometrically uncircular, just as we find them in old Egyptian paintings and reliefs. Neither softness of line nor playful grace are the weapons with which she puts us under her spell. On the contrary: her body constructs hard, quite unnaturally broken lines. Arms and legs take on nearly doll-like attitudes. But precisely this deliberate limiting of gestures gives her the possibility of until now unknown, utterly minute intensities, the most exquisite of refinements of bodily expression. With a sinking of the arm of only a few millimeters, she calls forth effects which all the tricks of the ballet school cannot teach.”

Sent M’Ahesa was similar to Schrenck in one respect, even though Schrenck never performed exotic dances: both project and intensely erotic aura while moving within a very confined space. They showed persuasively that convincing signification of erotic desire or pleasure did not depend on a feeling of  freedom in space, as exemplified in the convention of ballet and modern dance, with their cliched use of runs, leaps, pirouettes, and aerial acrobatics. These dancers revealed that erotic aura intensifies in relation to an acute sense of bodily confinement, of the body imploding, turning in on itself, riddled with tensions and contradictory pressures. They adopted movements to portray the body being squeezed and twisted, drifting in to a repertoire of squirms, spasms, angular thrusts, muscular suspensions. Contortionist dancing is perhaps the most extreme expression of this aesthetic. But Sent M’Ahesa complicated the matter by doing exotic dances – that is, she confined her body within a remote cultural-historical context, as if to suggest that the ecstatic body imploded metaphorical as well as physical space.”

Karl Eric Toepfer, “Solo Dancing,” in Karl Eric Toepfer. Empire of Ecstasy: Nudity and Movement in German Body Culture, 1910-1935. University of California Press, 1997, pp. 175-179.

 

Hanns Holdt (Munich) 'Sent M'Ahesa' c. 1928

 

Hanns Holdt (Munich)
Sent M’Ahesa
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 18
Published 1928

 

Dührkoop (Hamburg) 'Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff' c. 1928

 

Minya Diez-Dührkoop (Hamburg)
Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 19
Published 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden) 'Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff' c. 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden)
Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 20
Published 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden) Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff c. 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden)
Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 21
Published 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden) 'Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff' c. 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden)
Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 23
Published 1928

 

 

Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff

Clotilde von Derp, stage name of Clotilde Margarete Anna Edle von der Planitz (5 November 1892 – 11 January 1974), was a German expressionist dancer, an early exponent of modern dance. Her career was spent essentially dancing together with her husband Alexander Sakharoff with whom she enjoyed a long-lasting relationship. …

As a child in Munich, Clotilde dreamt of becoming a violinist but from an early age she revealed how talented she was as a dancer. After receiving ballet lessons from Julie Bergmann and Anna Ornelli from the Munich Opera, she gave her first performance on 25 April 1910 at the Hotel Union, using the stage name Clotilde von Derp. The audience were enthralled by her striking beauty and youthful grace. Max Reinhardt presented her in the title role in his pantomime Sumurûn which proved a great success while on tour in London. A photo by Rudolf Dührkoop of her was exhibited in 1913 at the Royal Photographic Society. Clotilde was a member of the radical Blaue Reiter Circle which had been started by Wassily Kandinsky in 1911.

Among her admirers were artists such as Rainer Maria Rilke and Yvan Goll. For his Swiss dance presentations, Alexej von Jawlensky gave her make-up resembling his abstract portraits. From 1913, Clotilde appeared with the Russian dancer Alexander Sacharoff with whom she moved to Switzerland during the First World War. Both Sacharoff and Clotilde were known for their transvestite costumes. Clotilde’s femininity was said to be accentuated by the male attire. Her costumes took on an ancient Greek look which she used in Danseuse de Delphes in 1916. Her style was said to be elegant and more modern than that achieved by Isadora Duncan. Their outrageous costumes included wigs made from silver and gold coloured metal, with hats and outfits decorated with flowers and wax fruit.

They married in 1919 and, with the financial support of Edith Rockefeller, appeared at the Metropolitan Opera in New York but without any great success. They lived in Paris until the Second World War. Using the name “Les Sakharoff.” Their 1921 poster by George Barbier to advertise their work was seen as showing a “mutually complementary androgynous couple” “united in dance” joined together in an act of “artistic creation.”

They toured widely visiting China and Japan which was so successful that they returned again in 1934. They and their extravagant costumes visited both North and South America. They found themselves in Spain when France was invaded by Germany. They returned to South America making a new base in Buenos Aires until 1949. They toured Italy the following year and they took up an invitation to teach in Rome by Guido Chigi Saracini. They taught at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena for Saracini and they also opened their own dance school in Rome. She and Sakharoff stopped dancing together in 1956. They both continued to live in Rome until their deaths. Clotilde gave and sold many of their writings and costumes, that still remained, to museums and auctions. She eventually sold the iconic 1909 painting of her husband by Alexander Jawlensky. In 1997 the German Dance Archive Cologne purchased many remaining items and they have 65 costumes, hundreds of set and costume designs and 500 photographs.

Unlike her husband, Clotilde had a taste for modern music, frequently choosing melancholic music by contemporaries such as Max Reger, Florent Schmitt and Stravinsky. Her haunting eyes and delicate smiles gave the impression she took pleasure in displaying her finely-costumed voluptuous body, even when she reached her forties. She was particularly effective in interpreting Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune. Hans Brandenbourg maintained her ballet technique was superior to that of Alexander although he did not consider her a virtuoso. Clotilde also moved more independently of the music, dancing to the impression it created in her mind rather than to the rhythm.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden) 'Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff' c. 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden)
Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 26
Published 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden) 'Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff' c. 1928

 

Veritas (Stephanie Held) (Munich)
Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 27
Published 1928

 

'Nijinski' From the works "The Russian Theater", Amalthea-Verlag, Vienna c. 1928

 

Nijinski
Aus dem werke “Das Russische Theater”, Amalthea-Verlag, Wien [From the works “The Russian Theater”, Amalthea-Verlag, Vienna]
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 28
Published 1928

 

'Nijinski' Portrait cards Verlag Leiser, Berlin - Wilmersdorf c. 1928

 

Nijinski
Porträt karten verlag Leiser, Berlin – Wilmersdorf
Portrait cards Verlag Leiser, Berlin – Wilmersdorf
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 29
Published 1928

 

E. O. Hoppé (London) 'Nijinski' c. 1928

 

E. O. Hoppé (London)
Nijinski
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 30
Published 1928

 

'Nijinski' From the works "The Russian Theater", Amalthea-Verlag, Vienna c. 1928

 

Nijinski
Aus dem werke “Das Russische Theater”, Amalthea-Verlag, Wien [From the works “The Russian Theater”, Amalthea-Verlag, Vienna]
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 31
Published 1928

 

'Nijinski' Portrait cards Verlag Leiser, Berlin - Wilmersdorf c. 1928

 

Nijinski
Porträt karten verlag Leiser, Berlin – Wilmersdorf
Portrait cards Verlag Leiser, Berlin – Wilmersdorf
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 32
Published 1928

 

'Nijinski' From the works "The Russian Theater", Amalthea-Verlag, Vienna c. 1928

 

Nijinski
Aus dem werke “Das Russische Theater”, Amalthea-Verlag, Wien [From the works “The Russian Theater”, Amalthea-Verlag, Vienna]
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 33
Published 1928

 

'Nijinski' From the works "The Russian Theater", Amalthea-Verlag, Vienna c. 1928

 

Nijinski
Aus dem werke “Das Russische Theater”, Amalthea-Verlag, Wien [From the works “The Russian Theater”, Amalthea-Verlag, Vienna]
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 35
Published 1928

 

d'Ora (Arthur Benda) (Vienna) 'Anna Pavlova' c. 1928

 

d’Ora (Arthur Benda) (Vienna)
Anna Pavlova
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 36
Published 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin) 'Anna Pavlova' c. 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin)
Anna Pavlova
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 37
Published 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin) 'Anna Pavlova' c. 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin)
Anna Pavlova
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 38
Published 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin) 'Anna Pavlova' c. 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin)
Anna Pavlova
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 39
Published 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin) 'Anna Pavlova' c. 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin)
Anna Pavlova
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 40
Published 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin) 'Anna Pavlova' c. 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin)
Anna Pavlova
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 41
Published 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin) 'Anna Pavlova' c. 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin)
Anna Pavolva
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 42
Published 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin) 'Anna Pavlova' c. 1928

 

Hänse Herrmann (Berlin)
Anna Pavlova
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 43
Published 1928

 

Ernst Schneider (Berlin) 'Anna Pavlova' c. 1928

 

Ernst Schneider (Berlin)
Anna Pavlova
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 44
Published 1928

 

E. O. Hoppé (London) 'Anna Pavlova' c. 1928

 

E. O. Hoppé (London)
Anna Pavlova
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 45
Published 1928

 

 

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22
Nov
17

Display: ‘Stan Firm inna Inglan’ at Tate Britain, London

November 2017

 

James Barnor (born 1929) 'Mike Eghan at the BBC Studios, London' 1967, printed 2010

 

James Barnor (born 1929)
Mike Eghan at the BBC Studios, London
1967, printed 2010
Gelatin silver on paper
Gift of Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2013

 

 

This was the best photography exhibition which wasn’t an exhibition – because it was a “display” – that I saw on my recent trip to Europe.

Why was it the best? Because this is what strong, insightful photography can do: it can capture life; it can document different cultures; and it can be a powerful agent for social change.

I remember London in the 1970s. I lived in Clapham (Claiff-ham Heights) and Stockwell (we called it St. Ockwell) near Brixton at the time. I remember the Brixton riot of 1981, as I was living in my little room down the road, as the cars burnt and the buildings were smashed. “Brixton in South London was an area with serious social and economic problems. The whole United Kingdom was affected by a recession by 1981, but the local African-Caribbean community was suffering particularly high unemployment, poor housing, and a higher than average crime rate.” (Wikipedia) People felt oppressed by recession, racism, the police, and by the establishment, for this was the era of Margaret Thatcher and her bullies. But as these photographs show, there was such a vibrant sense of community in these areas as they sought to ‘stand firm in England’ because it was their home.

It is our great privilege that we have the images of this very talented group of photographers who documented Black communities in London during this time: Raphael Albert, Bandele ‘Tex’ Ajetunmobi, James Barnor, Colin Jones, Neil Kenlock, Dennis Morris, Syd Shelton and Al Vandenberg. And I find it heartening that all of these photographers were documenting their community at the same time. The African-Caribbean diaspora is part of the genetic makeup of the UK and multiculturalism, from where ever it emanates, should be valued in societies around the world. It enriches contemporary culture through an understanding and acceptance of difference.

Against racism; against fascism; against discrimination. For freedom from oppression and the right to be heard.

Marcus

PS. There were no media images so I took iPhone installation photographs of the display, so please excuse any reflection of the gallery in the images. I have cleaned and balanced them as much as possible.

.
All installation shots are © Dr Marcus Bunyan.

 

James Barnor

 

 

James Barnor (born 1929)
Drum Cover Girl Erlin Ibreck, London
1966, printed 2010
C-print on paper
Gift of Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2013

 

 

“The picture of a young woman leaning against a shiny grey Jaguar was taken in Kilburn, north London, in 1966. The pastel minidress, heavy fringe and costume jewellery feel instantly familiar as belonging to the era, but while we’re used to seeing a pallid Twiggy or Penelope Tree striding about London in fashion shoots from the same time, we rarely see images in which the model is black.

The pictures shown here of young women with 1960s-style beehives and miniskirts were shot as fashion stories for Drum , an influential anti-apartheid magazine based in Johannesburg, and Africa’s first black lifestyle magazine. …

Erlin Ibreck, the model in the main photograph who was 19 at the time, remembers Barnor asking her to pose in Trafalgar Square while flocks of excited pigeons landed on her. ‘I was more nervous about the pigeons than people around us who were staring.’

Some of the models were professional, but Ibreck was someone Barnor spotted in a bus queue at Victoria station. Ibreck was living in Cheshire but visiting her sister, who lived in London. Barnor asked if she would like to be photographed for Drum magazine and eventually she agreed.

Encouraged by Barnor, Ibreck enrolled at the Lucie Clayton modelling school in Manchester, but finding work as a black model in the 1960s was not easy.

‘It was very tough as there were very few black models,’ she says. ‘I was selected by Lucie Clayton to model De Beers diamonds – a South African company, and this was during apartheid. When they discovered that I was black De Beers cancelled the booking and chose a white model.

‘That booking would have enhanced my career, so it was a very painful experience to have been rejected on the basis of my colour. This experience made me realise what I was up against.’ After two years Ibreck gave up modelling and moved to New York.”

Although Barnor says he wasn’t consciously attempting to chronicle ‘black culture’ in England, and was simply taking photographs of things that interested him and the readers of Drum , the effect was, none the less, an optimistic suggestion that these cosmopolitan young African women were part of the exciting new, multicultural society in London that people were talking about.

Barnor’s memories of the time seem to be largely positive, and he says he doesn’t remember experiencing any overt racism. ‘I moved in enlightened circles so I did not have to put up with most of what other black people had to go through, though I did notice when I sat on a bus many people didn’t want to sit next to me.’

Kate Salter. “Colour me beautiful: James Barnor’s photographs for Drum magazine,” on the Telegraph website 07 December 2010 [Online] Cited 08/10/2017

 

James Barnor (born 1929) 'Wedding Guests, London' 1960s, printed 2010

 

James Barnor (born 1929)
Wedding Guests, London
1960s, printed 2010
Gelatin silver on paper
Gift of Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2013

 

James Barnor (born 1929) 'Eva, London' 1960s, printed 2010

 

James Barnor (born 1929)
Eva, London
1960s, printed 2010
Gelatin silver on paper
Gift of Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2013

 

Stan Firm

 

 

 

This display brings together works from the 1960s and 1970s by eight photographers who documented Black communities in London: Raphael Albert, Bandele ‘Tex’ Ajetunmobi, James Barnor, Colin Jones, Neil Kenlock, Dennis Morris, Syd Shelton and Al Vandenberg.

The photographs reveal the many and varied experiences of individuals who travelled from the Caribbean region and West Africa to live in London, from everyday family life to political engagement. They show people as they respond to, react against and move beyond the racial tension and exclusion that were part of life for Black communities in the British capital. The title of the display, ‘Stan Firm inna Inglan’, is taken from the poem It Dread inna Inglan by Linton Kwesi Johnson, who in the 1970s gave a voice and poetic form to the Afro-Caribbean diaspora and its resistance in the face of racism. The poem expresses in Jamaican patois (creole) the resolve of African, Asian and Caribbean immigrants to ‘stand firm in England’, asserting the determination of Black British communities to remain in Britain and declare it as their rightful home.

The work of most of the photographers has gained prominence in recent years through the research and curatorial work of Autograph ABP, which was established in London in 1988 to advocate the inclusion of historically marginalised photographic practices. All works in the display have been gifted to the Tate collection and form part of the Eric and Louise Franck London Collection, an important collection of photography which was assembled over more than 20 years.

This display has been curated by Elena Crippa, Allison Thompson and Susana Vargas Cervantes. Alison and Susana worked at Tate as part of the Brooks International Fellowship programme for three months in 2016, fully funded by the Rory and Elizabeth Brooks Foundation and in partnership with the Delfina Foundation.

Text from the Tate Britain website

 

Dennis Morris

 

Dennis Morris. ''Mother's Pride', Hackney' 1976, printed 2012

 

Dennis Morris
‘Mother’s Pride’, Hackney
1976, printed 2012
Gelatin silver print on paper
Gift of Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2016

 

Dennis Morris. 'Young Gun, Hackney' 1969, printed 2012

 

Dennis Morris
Young Gun, Hackney
1969, printed 2012
Gelatin silver print on paper
Gift of Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2016

 

Bandele Ajetunmobi (1921-1994) 'Couple Kissing, Whitechapel, London' 1960s, printed 2012

 

Bandele Ajetunmobi (1921-1994)
Couple Kissing, Whitechapel, London
1960s, printed 2012
Gelatin silver print on paper
Gift of Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2016

 

 

“Bandele Ajetunmobi – widely known as Tex – took photographs in the East End for almost half a century, starting in the late forties. He recorded a tender vision of interracial camaraderie, notably as manifest in a glamorous underground nightlife culture yet sometimes underscored with melancholy too – creating poignant portraits that witness an almost-forgotten era of recent history.

In 1947, at twenty-six years old, he stowed away on a boat from Nigeria – where he found himself an outcast on account of the disability he acquired from polio as a child – and in East London he discovered the freedom to pursue his life’s passion for photography, not for money or reputation but for the love of it.

He was one of Britain’s first black photographers and he lived here in Commercial St, Spitalfields, yet most of his work was destroyed when he died in 1994 and, if his niece had not rescued a couple of hundred negatives from a skip, we should have no evidence of his breathtaking talent. …

“He did all this photography yet he didn’t do it to make money, he did it for pleasure and for artistic purposes. He was doing it for art’s sake.He had lots of books of photography and he studied it. He was doing it because those things needed to be recorded. You fall in love with a medium and that’s what happened to him. He spent all his money on photography. He had expensive cameras, Hasselblads and Leicas. My mother said, ‘If you sold one, you could make a visit to Nigeria.’ But he never went back, he was probably a bit of an outcast because of his polio as a child and it suited him to be somewhere people didn’t judge him for that. …

He used to do buying and selling from a stall in Brick Lane. When he died, they found so much stuff in his flat, art equipment, pens, old records and fountain pens. He had a very good eye for things. Everybody knew him, he was always with his camera and they stopped him in the street and asked him to take their picture. He was able to take photographs in clubs, so he must have been a trusted and respected figure. Even if the subjects are poor, they are strutting their stuff for the camera. He gave them their pride and I like that.” (Victoria Loughran)

The Gentle Author . “Bandele “Tex” Ajetunmobi, Photographer,” on the Spitalfields Life website December 2, 2013 [Online] Cited 08/10/2017

 

Bandele Ajetunmobi (1921-1994) 'East End, London' c. 1975, printed 2012

 

Bandele Ajetunmobi (1921-1994)
East End, London
c. 1975, printed 2012
C-print on paper
Gift of Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2016

 

Al Vandenberg

 

 

Al Vanbenberg (1932-2012) 'Untitled' c. 1975-80

 

Al Vanbenberg (1932-2012)
Untitled
c. 1975-80
From the series On a Good Day
Gelatin silver print on paper
Gift of Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2013

 

Al Vanbenberg (1932-2012) 'Untitled' c. 1975-80

 

Al Vanbenberg (1932-2012)
Untitled
c. 1975-80
From the series On a Good Day
Gelatin silver print on paper
Gift of Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2013

 

Al Vanbenberg (1932-2012) 'Untitled' c. 1975-80

 

Al Vanbenberg (1932-2012)
Untitled
c. 1975-80
From the series On a Good Day
Gelatin silver print on paper
Gift of Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2013

 

Colin Jones

 

Colin Jones From the series 'The Black House, 571 Holloway Road, London' 1976, printed 2012

Colin Jones From the series 'The Black House, 571 Holloway Road, London' 1976, printed 2012

Colin Jones From the series 'The Black House, 571 Holloway Road, London' 1976, printed 2012

Colin Jones From the series 'The Black House, 571 Holloway Road, London' 1976, printed 2012

Colin Jones From the series 'The Black House, 571 Holloway Road, London' 1976, printed 2012

Colin Jones From the series 'The Black House, 571 Holloway Road, London' 1976, printed 2012

 

Colin Jones (born 1936)
From the series The Black House, 571 Holloway Road, London
1976, printed 2012
Gelatin silver print on paper
Gift Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2016

 

Syd Shelton

 

Syd Shelton (born 1947) 'Southhall Carnival against the Nazis' 1979, printed 2012

 

Syd Shelton (born 1947)
Southhall Carnival against the Nazis
1979, printed 2012
Gelatin silver print on paper
Gift Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2016

 

Syd Shelton (born 1947) 'Jubilee Street, Stepney, London' 1977, printed 2012

 

Syd Shelton (born 1947)
Jubilee Street, Stepney, London
1977, printed 2012
Gelatin silver print on paper
Gift Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2016

 

Syd Shelton (born 1947) 'Bagga (Bevin Fagan), Hackney, East London' 1979, printed 2012

 

Syd Shelton (born 1947)
Bagga (Bevin Fagan), Hackney, East London
1979, printed 2012
Gelatin silver print on paper
Gift Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2016

 

Syd Shelton (born 1947) 'Skinheads, Petticoat Lane, East London' 1979, printed 2012

 

Syd Shelton (born 1947)
Skinheads, Petticoat Lane, East London
1979, printed 2012
Gelatin silver print on paper
Gift Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2016

 

Syd Shelton (born 1947) 'Anti racist Skinheads, Hackney, London' 1979, printed 2012

 

Syd Shelton (born 1947)
Anti racist Skinheads, Hackney, London
1979, printed 2012
Gelatin silver print on paper
Gift Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2016

 

Neil Kenlock

 

Neil Kenlock (born 1950) 'The Bailey Sisters in Clapham' c. 1970, printed 2010

 

Neil Kenlock (born 1950)
The Bailey Sisters in Clapham
c. 1970, printed 2010
Gelatin silver print on paper
Presented by Tate Members 2013 and forming part of the Eric and Louise Franck London Collection

 

Neil Kenlock (born 1950) 'Demonstration outside Brixton Library' 1972, printed 2010

 

Neil Kenlock (born 1950)
Demonstration outside Brixton Library
1972, printed 2010
Gelatin silver print on paper
Presented by Tate Members 2013 and forming part of the Eric and Louise Franck London Collection

 

Neil Kenlock (born 1950) ''Keep Britain White' graffiti, Balham' 1972, printed 2010

 

Neil Kenlock (born 1950)
‘Keep Britain White’ graffiti, Balham
1972, printed 2010
Gelatin silver print on paper
Presented by Tate Members 2013 and forming part of the Eric and Louise Franck London Collection

 

Raphael Albert

 

Raphael Albert (1935-2009) 'The Golden Chip, Hammersmith, London' c. 1970, printed 2012

 

Raphael Albert (1935-2009)
The Golden Chip, Hammersmith, London
c. 1970, printed 2012
Gelatin silver print on paper
Gift Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2016

 

Raphael Albert (1935-2009) 'Hammersmith, London' 1960s, printed 2012

 

Raphael Albert (1935-2009)
Hammersmith, London
1960s, printed 2012
Gelatin silver print on paper
Gift Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2016

 

Raphael Albert (1935-2009) 'The Harder They Come, Hammersmith Apollo' c. 1972, printed 2012

 

Raphael Albert (1935-2009)
The Harder They Come, Hammersmith Apollo
c. 1972, printed 2012
Gelatin silver print on paper
Gift Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2016

 

Raphael Albert (1935-2009) 'Holley posing at Blythe Road, London' c. 1974, printed 2012

 

Raphael Albert (1935-2009)
Holley posing at Blythe Road, London
c. 1974, printed 2012
Gelatin silver print on paper
Gift Eric and Louise Franck London Collection 2016

 

 

Tate Britain
Millbank, London SW1P 4RG
United Kingdom
Phone: +44 20 7887 8888

Opening hours:
10.00 am – 18.00 pm daily

Tate Britain website

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03
Oct
17

Review: ‘Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines’ at The Photographers’ Gallery, London

Exhibition dates: 23rd June – 8th October 2017

 

Gregory Crewsdon. 'The Haircut' 2014

 

Gregory Crewdson
The Haircut
2014
© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian

 

 

End of days

I have written critically and glowingly of Crewdson’s work in the past (see my review of his exhibition at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne 2012). With the exhibition Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines the same elements are extant: life in the back woods of America, the tableaux beautifully staged and presented in large photographic prints throughout the three floors of the expansive spaces of the Photographers’ Gallery, London. And yet there is something particularly “icky”, if I can use that word, about this new body of work. What made me feel this way?

Firstly, I was uncomfortable with the number of naked or half-naked females (compared to men) in the photographs, all looking vulnerable, melancholic and isolated in small, rural town America. This is how Crewdson sees women in the microcosms he creates, women vulnerable in forest and cabin settings, but this incessant observation became/is objectionable to me. These are not powerful, strong, independent women, far from it. These are stateless women who peer endlessly out of windows, or sit on the end of beds looking downcast. It is almost degrading to females that these woman are so passive and objectified. Reinforcing the theme of isolation and desperation is the word “HELP!” painted on the bridge above a naked woman standing on a roadway; reinforcing the feeling of voyeurism is a woman’s bra hanging in a toilet being observed by a man on a pair of skis.

Secondly, compared to the earlier series, the spaces in these new photographs seem to be completely dead. The photographs look handsome enough but they have a very different feel from the previous work. While externally referencing a sense of space and uncertainty present in B grade movies, European and American 19th century landscape paintings (where the human figure is dwarfed by the supposed sublime), and the paintings of Edward Hopper – the spaces in these new works feel closed, locked down and a bit scary. Nothing is real (and never has been) in Crewdson’s work but this time everything seems to be over directed. As my friend Elizabeth Gertsakis observed, “The environmental context is chilling. The palette is extremely cold, there is no warmth at all. The viewer is not welcome, because there is nothing to be welcome to… even for curiosity’s sake. No one is real here – everything is silent.” Or dead. Or lifeless.

The whole series seems apathetic. That is, apathy with extreme effort. While Crewdson observes that the darkness lifted, leading to a reconnection with his artistic process and a period of renewal and intense creativity, this work is clearly at the end of something. As Elizabeth comments, “An invisible wall has come down here…. and there is absolutely no entry. This body of work is so much more pervy because it is so obvious and wooden. The camera here is well and truly in the mortuary and the photographer is the undertaker as well as the man who makes dead faces look ‘human’.” But he doesn’t make them human, and there’s the rub. Which all begs the question: where is this work going?

While Crewdson continues to move down a referential and associative path, the work fails to progress conceptually even as the work ultimately stagnates, both visually and emotionally. These wooden mise en scène are based on a very tired conceptual methodology, that of the narrative of the B grade movie which, if you have the money, time and willingness to invest in, can seem sufficiently sophisticated. Of course, buyers want to keep buying a signatory technique or idea that is easily recognisable and this adds to the cachet of the art… but as a critic you have to ask where the work is going, if an artist keeps repeating the same thing over and over and over again in slightly different contexts. Imagine if Degas had kept painting ballet dancers using the same lighting, the same perspective, the same colour palette, the same psychological investigation painting after painting… what we would be saying about the resulting work. Sure, there is great technical proficiency contained in Crewdson’s work, but is he pushing the work anywhere more interesting? And the simple answer to that question is, no he isn’t. No wonder he has been having a tough time reconnecting with his artistic process.

Marcus

.
All installation photographs © Dr Marcus Bunyan, The Photographers’ Gallery and the artist. Please observe that there are reflections in the installation photographs of the surrounding gallery.

 

 

“It was deep in the forests of Becket, Massachusetts that I finally felt darkness lift, experienced a reconnection with my artistic process, and moved into a period of renewal and intense creativity.”

.
Gregory Crewdson

 

 

Room 1

Installation view of Room 1 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Installation view of Room 1 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Gregory Crewdson. Woman at Sink 2014

Installation view of Room 1 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Installation view of Room 1 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Gregory Crewdson. Woman in Parked Car 2014

Installation view of Room 1 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Installation view of Room 1 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

 

Installation views of Room 1 of Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines at The Photographers’ Gallery, London

 

Gregory Crewdson. 'The Basement' 2014

 

Gregory Crewdson
The Basement
2014
© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian

 

 

This is the first UK exhibition of Cathedral of the Pines, a new body of work by acclaimed American artist Gregory Crewdson, and it is also the first time The Photographers’ Gallery has devoted all three of its gallery spaces to one artist.

With this series, produced between 2013 and 2014, Crewdson departs from his interest in uncanny suburban subjects and explores human relations within more natural environments. In images that recall nineteenth-century American and European paintings, Crewdson photographs figures posing within the small rural town of Becket, Massachusetts, and its vast surrounding forests, including the actual trail from which the series takes its title. Interior scenes charged with ambiguous narratives probe tensions between human connection and separation, intimacy and isolation.

Crewdson describes this project as ‘his most personal’, venturing to retrieve in the remote setting of the forest, a reminiscence of his childhood. The images in Cathedral of the Pines, located in the dystopian landscape of the anxious American imagination, create atmospheric scenes, many featuring local residents, and for the first time in Crewdson’s work, friends and family. In Woman at Sink, a woman pauses from her domestic chores, lost in thought. In Pickup Truck, Crewdson shows a nude couple in the flatbed of a truck in a dense forest – the woman seated, the man turned away in repose. Crewdson situates his disconsolate subjects in familiar settings, yet their cryptic actions – standing still in the snow, or nude on a riverbank – hint at invisible challenges. Precisely what these challenges are, and what fate awaits these anonymous figures, are left to the viewer’s imagination.

Crewdson’s careful crafting of visual suspense conjures forebears such as Diane Arbus, Alfred Hitchcock, and Edward Hopper, as well as the influence of Hollywood cinema and directors such as David Lynch. In Cathedral of the Pines, Crewdson’s persistent psychological leitmotifs evolve into intimate figurative dramas. Visually alluring and often deeply disquieting, these tableaux are the result of an intricate production process: For more than twenty years, Crewdson has used the streets and interiors of small-town America as settings for photographic incarnations of the uncanny.

Maintaining his trademark elaborate production processes, Crewdson works with a large crew to produce meticulously staged images with an obsessive attention to detail. Situated between Hollywood cinema and nineteenth-century American and European Romantic landscape painting, these scenes are charged with ambiguous narratives, which prove tensions between human connection and separation, intimacy and isolation.

Text from The Photographers’ Gallery website and wall text

 

Room 2

Installation view of Room 2 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Installation view of Room 2 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Installation view of Room 2 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Gregory Crewdson. The VW Bus 2013

Installation view of Room 2 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Gregory Crewdson. Pregnant Woman on Porch 2013

Installation view of Room 2 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Installation view of Room 2 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Gregory Crewdson. Father and Son 2013

Installation view of Room 2 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Gregory Crewdson. The Ice Hut 2014

Installation view of Room 2 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Installation view of Room 2 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Gregory Crewdson. Sisters 2014

Installation view of Room 2 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Gregory Crewdson. Sisters 2014 (detail)

Installation view of Room 2 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Installation view of Room 2 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Gregory Crewdson. The Disturbance 2014 (detail below)

Installation view of Room 2 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

 

Installation views of Room 2 of Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines at The Photographers’ Gallery, London

 

Gregory Crewdson. 'The Disturbance' 2014

 

Gregory Crewdson
The Disturbance
2014
© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian

 

Room 3

Installation view of Room 3 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Installation view of Room 3 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Gregory Crewdson. Woman on Road 2014

Installation view of Room 3 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Installation view of Room 3 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Installation view of Room 3 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Installation view of Room 3 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Installation view of Room 3 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

Installation view of Room 3 of 'Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines' at The Photographers' Gallery

 

Installation views of Room 3 of Gregory Crewdson: Cathedral of the Pines at The Photographers’ Gallery, London

 

 

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

Opening hours:
Mon – Sat: 10.00 – 18.00
Thu: 10.00 – 20.00 during exhibitions
Sun: 11.00 – 18.00

The Photographers’ Gallery website

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24
Sep
17

Review: ‘Queer British Art 1861-1967’ at Tate Britain, London

Exhibition dates: 5th April – 1st October 2017

Curators: Clare Barlow, Assistant Curator, Tate Britain with Amy Concannon, Assistant Curator, Tate Britain

 

 

Queer British Art book cover

 

Queer British Art 1861-1967 book cover

 

 

 

Very Pauline

Queer British Art 1861-1967 at Tate Britain examines the “historical reality of same-sex relationships and non-normative sexual identities” from 1861, the year for the end of the death penalty for sodomy in Great Britain, through to 1967 which is when sex between consenting adults in private, obviously male homosexuality is partially decriminalised in England and Wales. The timescale of the exhibition encompasses the beginning of a more considered understanding of gender and sexual identity through to the beginnings of a limited freedom: from repression to liberation.

For a man who came out in London in 1975, only 8 short years after the decriminalisation of homosexuality, this exhibition should have been more engaging than it was. While there were some outstanding art works and artefacts presented in the eight rooms of the exhibition, chronologically laid out in the posting below – such as the prison door from Oscar Wilde’s cell at Reading Gaol, Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell’s book covers, the paintings of Henry Scott Tuke and the photography of Angus McBean – there was little of the passion of being gay in evidence in much of the objects, or how they were presented. It all seemed so very academic, and not in a good way. Other than some stunning erotic drawings by Aubrey Beardsley, Duncan Grant and Keith Vaughan (see below) there was little to suggest that being gay had anything to do with sex, the exhibition living up to that very British of axiom’s, “No sex please, we’re British!” The curators may have thought that sex would be a distraction, for it was all ‘very Pauline’.

The exhibition is full of innuendo, supposition, obfuscation, abstinence, hints, traces, clouded desires and supposed longings – in both the art work and the wall texts which accompanied the work. Of course, this is how artists had to hide their sexuality, same-sex desires and relationships during much of this period for fear of ostracisation from society and possible prosecution, but the presentation came across as little more than “au fait”, so much matter of fact. The exhibition was not helped by illuminating texts such as this: “The exact nature of Thomas and Philpot’s relationship is unknown. Many of Philpot’s depictions of Thomas carry a homoerotic charge and some are exoticising. What Thomas felt about his years with Philpot from 1929 to the artist’s death in 1937 is unknown.” Ugh!

You might as well have said nothing, and let the art work speak for itself.

Other commentaries could have done with a more insightful enunciation of the circumstances of the particular artist, in addition to text on the specific art work. A perceptive anointing of their life would have added invaluably to the frisson of the exhibition. For example, I wanted to know why the painter Christopher Wood died at the young age of 29 as well as the specifics of his painting Nude Boy in a Bedroom (1930, below). According to Wikipedia, Wood – bisexual, addicted to opium and painting frenetically in preparation for his Wertheim exhibition in London – became psychotic and jumped under a train at Salisbury railway station. These are the things that you need to know if you are to fully appreciate the gravitas of a life and a person’s relationship to their art, don’t you think?

Further, no pictures were allowed in the gallery spaces. Whereas I could take photographs of the Rachel Whiteread exhibition at the same venue to my heart’s content (even after being confronted by a guard who said I couldn’t, who was then corrected by a colleague with no apology for his attitude to me), I had to play a Machiavellian game of cunning hide and seek with guards and attendants to get the installation photographs of this exhibition. Why was this so? It almost seemed to be a case of the gallery being ashamed of the art they were exhibiting, as though the attitudes of the past towards art that explores same-sex relationships was being replicated by the duplicity of the gallery itself: the art could be seen but not heard, hidden away in the bowls of an academic institution. I also noted that one of 19 collages that Kenneth Halliwell exhibited at the Anno Domino gallery in 1967 (see below) was purchased by the Tate in 2016. Considering “the exhibition was a failure and Halliwell’s professional frustration contributed to the breakdown of his relationship with Orton,” eventuating the murder of the playwright and his own suicide… for some of those very same works to now reside at the Tate is the ultimate irony. I doubt Halliwell would have been laughing in his grave.

The stand out works in this exhibition were by Duncan Grant and Keith Vaughan. Their work explores the strength and beauty of the male form with a vitality of purpose and harmony of composition that was succinct and illuminating for this viewer. Grant’s Bathing (1911, below) ascribes anthropomorphic qualities to distorted figures whose elongated arms, distended chests and exposed buttocks would have been shocking to the people of Belle Epoque Britain. His erotic drawings (below) were the most beautiful, sensitive and sensual art works in the whole exhibition. Vaughan’s simplification of the figuration of the male form into abstract shapes, whilst still retaining the enigma of sensuality, narrative and context, are the triumph of this inverts painting. Their patterning and displacement of time and space onto an intimate other – a copious, coital realm of existence full of feeling, information and matter – were a revelation to me.

While the exhibition enunciates a remarkable range of identities and stories, from the playful to the political and from the erotic to the domestic, it was a deflating experience. I came away thankful that I had seen the work, that the artist’s had been able to express themselves however surreptitiously, but angry that so much of the world still sees LGBTQI people as second class citizens whose art work has to be examined through the prism of sexuality, rather than on the quality of the work itself.

Marcus

PS. How you can classify Claude Cahun as a British artist I will never know: she lived on the Channel Islands for a few years, but she was the very epitome of a French artist!

.
Many thankx to Tate Britain for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. All installation images are by Dr Marcus Bunyan. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Featuring works from 1861-1967 relating to lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ) identities, the show marks the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality in England. Queer British Art explores how artists expressed themselves in a time when established assumptions about gender and sexuality were being questioned and transformed.

Deeply personal and intimate works are presented alongside pieces aimed at a wider public, which helped to forge a sense of community when modern terminology of ‘lesbian’, ‘gay’, ‘bisexual’ and ‘trans’ were unrecognised. Together, they reveal a remarkable range of identities and stories, from the playful to the political and from the erotic to the domestic. With paintings, drawings, personal photographs and film from artists such as John Singer Sargent, Dora Carrington, Duncan Grant and David Hockney the diversity of queer British art is celebrated as never before.

 

 

“Much more fucking and they’ll be screaming hysterics in next to no time.”

.
Joe Orton

 

“For me, to use the word ‘queer’ is a liberation; it was a word that frightened me, but no longer.”

.
Derek Jarman

 

“It’s really interesting as to whether or not we should be concerned with the sexuality of an artist when we consider the merits of his artwork, because really what he does behind closed doors – or she does – has nothing to do, or shouldn’t have anything to do with the impact of the artwork as we see it. But what is important is the artist can use that material of their personal life and create a work that is almost a personal diary but visually.”

.
Estelle Lovatt

 

 

Room 1: Coded Desires

In spite of the Victorian era’s prudish reputation, there are many possible traces of transgressive desire in its art – in Frederic Leighton’s sensuous male nudes, for instance, or Evelyn De Morgan’s depictions of Jane Hales. Simeon Solomon attracted sustained criticisms of ‘unwholesomeness’ or ‘effeminacy’ – terms which suggest disapproval of alternative forms of masculinity as much as same sex desire. Yet other works which might look queer to us passed without comment.

The death penalty for sodomy was abolished in 1861 but it was still punishable with imprisonment. Sex between women was not illegal and society sometimes tolerated such relationships. Yet for most people, there seems to have been little sense that certain sexual practices or forms of gender expression reflected a core aspect of the self. Instead, this was a world of fluid possibilities.

These ambiguities offered scope for artists to produce work that was open to homoerotic interpretation. Queer subcultures developed: new scholarship on same-sex desire in Renaissance Italy and ancient Greece allowed artists to use these civilisations as reference points, while the beautiful youths in Wilhelm von Gloeden’s photographs attracted communities of collectors. As long as there was no public suggestion that artists had acted on their desires, there was much that could be explored and expressed.

 

Installation view of Room 1 of the exhibition 'Queer British Art' at Tate Britain

Installation view of Room 1 of the exhibition 'Queer British Art' at Tate Britain

 

Installation views of Room 1 of the exhibition Queer British Art at Tate Britain with Frederic Leighton’s The Sluggard (1885, bronze) in the middle of the room

 

Simeon Solomon (1840-1905) 'Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene' 1864

 

Simeon Solomon (1840-1905)
Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene
1864
Watercolour on paper
330 x 381 mm
Tate. Purchased 1980

 

 

Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene is a touching image of female love. The piece is inspired by fragmented poems written by a woman named Sappho in the 4th century BC, in which she pleads that Aphrodite help her in her same-sex relationship. The term ‘lesbian’ derives directly from this poet, as her homeland was the Greek Island of Lesbos. Sappho’s story points to a longer history of same-sex desire. It’s perhaps for this reason that Simeon Solomon, a man who was attracted to men in defiance of the law, painted her. While a depiction of two men kissing would have been completely taboo, this is a passionate depiction of same-sex desire.

Solomon’s own sexual preferences eventually lead to his incarceration. When he was released from prison he was rejected by many of his acquaintances, struggled to find work and soon became homeless; a painful reminder of our repressive past. (Website text)

This strikingly frank image shows the ancient Greek poet Sappho in a passionate embrace with her fellow poet Erinna. Sappho is associated with the Island of Lesbos and her story gives us the word ‘lesbian’. There was a surge of interest in Sappho’s achievements and desires from the 1840s onwards. Solomon may be responding to his friend Algernon Charles Swinburne’s poem Anactoria which includes Erinna amongst Sappho’s lovers. While female same-sex desire was considered more acceptable than its male equivalent, Solomon’s depiction of Sappho’s fervent kiss and Erinna’s swooning response is unusually explicit and the image was not publicly exhibited. (Wall text)

 

Simeon Solomon (1840-1905) 'The Bride, Bridegroom and Sad Love' 1865

 

Simeon Solomon (1840-1905)
The Bride, Bridegroom and Sad Love
1865
Ink on paper
Victoria and Albert Museum

 

 

This work was inspired by a passage from the Gospel of St John which tells how ‘the friend of the bridegroom… rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice’. In Solomon’s drawing, the friend of the bridegroom has the wings of love but his downcast expression identifies him as ‘sad love’, forever excluded. The positioning of his and the bridegroom’s hands hints at the reason for his grief, implying that that they are former sexual partners. He is forced to look on as his lover enters a heterosexual marriage: a fate shared by many men in same-sex relationships in this period. (Wall text)

 

Simeon Solomon (1840-1905) 'Bacchus' 1867

 

Simeon Solomon (1840-1905)
Bacchus
1867
Oil paint on paper on canvas
Lent by Birmingham Museums Trust on behalf of Birmingham City Council

 

 

The classical god of wine, Bacchus also embodies sexual ambiguity and gender fluidity. While grapes and vine leaves identify the god in Solomon’s painting, Bacchus’s full lips, luxuriant hair and enigmatic gaze hint at his elusive sexuality. When it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1867, the critic of The Art Journal thought the figure looked effeminate, commenting ‘Bacchus is a sentimentalist of rather weak constitution; he drinks mead, possibly sugar and water, certainly not wine’. Solomon’s friend, critic Walter Pater wrote a favourable essay about the painting and poet Algernon Charles Swinburne said he found in Solomon and Bacchus alike, ‘the stamp of sorrow; of perplexities unsolved and desires unsatisfied’. (Wall text)

 

Simeon Solomon (1840-1905) 'The Moon and Sleep' 1894

 

Simeon Solomon (1840-1905)
The Moon and Sleep
1894
Oil paint on canvas
Tate. Presented by Miss Margery Abrahams in memory of Dr Bertram L. Abrahams and Jane Abrahams 1973

 

 

Made a few years after Solomon’s arrest and social ostracisation, this painting depicts the love of the moon goddess Selene for Endymion, who, in one version of the myth, is given eternal youth and eternal sleep by Zeus. While it ostensibly depicts a heterosexual pairing, the striking similarity of the profiles of the figures in Solomon’s painting gives them both an air of androgyny. This painting was given to Tate by a descendent of Rachel Simmons, Solomon’s first cousin, who helped to support him after his fall from public favour by regularly buying his works for small sums of money. (Wall text)

 

Photographer unknown. 'John Addington Symonds' (installation view) c. 1850s

 

Photographer unknown
John Addington Symonds (installation view)
c. 1850s
Photograph, tinted collodion on paper

 

 

John Addington Symonds was a writer, critic and an early campaigner for greater tolerance of same-sex desire. This photograph probably dates from Symonds’s time at Oxford University (1858-1863). His studies informed his later essay, A Problem in Greek Ethics 1873, one of the earliest attempts at a history of male same-sex desire. Symonds frankly discussed his desires in his diaries and unpublished writings, which he believed would be ‘useful to society’. However, when his friend Edmund Gosse inherited Symonds’s papers in 1926, he burned them all apart from Symonds’s autobiography. This destruction nauseated Symonds’s granddaughter Janet Vaughan. It was not until 1984 that Symonds’s autobiography was finally published. (Wall text)

 

Sidney Harold Meteyard (1868-1947) 'Hope Comforting Love in Bondage' Exhibited 1901

 

Sidney Harold Meteyard (1868-1947)
Hope Comforting Love in Bondage
Exhibited 1901
Oil paint on canvas
Lent by Birmingham Museums Trust on behalf of Birmingham City Council

 

 

Hope is depicted as a respectably fully-clothed matron, whereas Love’s only costume is his elaborate cloth bindings and the rose briars that are delicately threaded through the feathers of his wings. The flowers and thorns of the roses hint at pleasures and pains combined. Love’s pensive expression and androgynous beauty is reminiscent of the work of Simeon Solomon and, while Hope stretches out her hand to comfort him, his gaze is fixed elsewhere, leaving the object of his affections undefined. (Wall text)

 

Installation view of Frederic Leighton's 'Daedalus and Icarus' 1896

 

Installation view of Frederic Leighton’s Daedalus and Icarus 1896 from the exhibition Queer British Art at Tate Britain

 

Frederic Leighton (1830-1896) 'Daedalus and Icarus' Exhibited 1869

 

Frederic Leighton (1830-1896)
Daedalus and Icarus
Exhibited 1869
Oil paint on canvas
Private collection

 

 

In a story from the Roman poet Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Daedalus made wings for his son Icarus to escape from Rhodes. Icarus’s golden beauty is here contrasted with his weather-beaten father. When the work was exhibited at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 1869, The Times anxiously remarked that Icarus had the air of ‘a maiden rather than a youth’ and exhibited ‘the soft rounded contour of a feminine breast’. This response may reflect increasing concern amongst educated circles about the pairings of older men and adolescent youths in books such as Plato’s Symposium, as new scholarship explored the eroticism of the original texts. (Wall text)

 

Installation view of Henry Scott Tuke's 'A Bathing Group' 1914

 

Installation view of Henry Scott Tuke’s A Bathing Group 1914 from the exhibition Queer British Art at Tate Britain

 

Henry Scott Tuke (1858-1929) 'A Bathing Group' 1914

 

Henry Scott Tuke (1858-1929)
A Bathing Group
1914
Oil paint on canvas
Lent by the Royal Academy of Arts, London

 

 

While Henry Scott Tuke used the professional model Nicola Lucciani for this painting, it is similar to his images of Cornish youths in its frank appreciation of the male nude. Lucciani’s torso is illuminated by a shaft of sunlight and he looks towards the second figure, who crouches as if in awe of his godlike beauty. Tuke presented the painting to the Royal Academy on his election as a member. Tuke used professional models when he first moved to Cornwall, but he soon befriended some of the local fishermen and swimmers in Falmouth who modelled for him in many paintings. (Wall text)

 

Henry Scott Tuke (1858-1929) 'The Critics' 1927

 

Henry Scott Tuke (1858-1929)
The Critics
1927
Oil paint on board
Courtesy of Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum (Warwick District Council)

 

 

Made just two years before Tuke’s death, The Critics is one of a number of works by Henry Scott Tuke depicting young men bathing off the Cornish coast. There has been much speculation about his relationships with his Cornish models although nothing has been substantiated. It is, however, not difficult to find a homoerotic undercurrent in this painting, as the two men on the shore appraise the swimming technique – and possibly the physique – of the youth in the water. Writer John Addington Symonds was a frequent visitor and he encouraged Tuke in his painting of male nudes in a natural outdoor setting. (Wall text)

 

Room 2: Public Indecency

This room looks at ways in which sexuality and gender identity did – and did not – go public, from the 1880s to the 1920s. Public debate over sexuality and gender identity was stirred up by scandals, campaigns and scientific studies. The trials of Oscar Wilde in 1895 for gross indecency and Radclyffe Hall’s novel The Well of Loneliness in 1928 for supposed obscenity put a spotlight on same-sex desire. In the field of science, the project of classifying sexual practices and forms of gender presentation into distinct identities, which had been begun by German psychiatrists such as Richard von Krafft-Ebing, reached Britain through the work of Havelock Ellis who co-authored his book Sexual Inversion 1896 with John Addington Symonds. However, change was slow, and many people remained unaware of new terminologies and approaches to the self that this new science offered.

 

Installation view of Henry Bishop's 'Henry Havelock Ellis' 1890s

 

Installation view of Henry Bishop’s Henry Havelock Ellis from the exhibition Queer British Art at Tate Britain

 

Henry Bishop (1868-1939) 'Henry Havelock Ellis' 1890s

 

Henry Bishop (1868-1939)
Henry Havelock Ellis
1890s
Oil paint on canvas
National Portrait Gallery, London. Bequeathed by François Lafitte, 2003

 

 

The sexologist Henry Havelock Ellis’s great work Sexual Inversion, co-authored with John Addington Symonds, defined queer sexualities in Britain for a generation. Published in English in 1897, it drew on the experiences of people such as Edward Carpenter (whose portrait hangs nearby). It was effectively banned in Britain after the prosecution of a bookseller, George Bedborough. This informal portrait was probably made around the time of Bedborough’s trial. It depicts Ellis sitting in a deckchair in Henry Bishop’s studio in St Ives. There is some evidence Bishop was attracted to men and Ellis’s non-judgemental attitudes may have encouraged Bishop to make his acquaintance. He became a lifelong friend. (Wall text)

 

Edmund Dulac (1882-1953) 'Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon as Medieval Saints' 1920

 

Edmund Dulac (1882-1953)
Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon as Medieval Saints
1920
Tempera on linen over board
The Syndics of the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge

 

 

Oscar Wilde described the home of the artist and designer Charles Ricketts and his lifelong partner the painter Charles Shannon as ‘the one house in London where you will never be bored’. Here, the couple are playfully depicted by their friend Edmund Dulac in the robes of Dominican friars. These robes possibly hint at the permanence of their bond: monastic vows were, after all, intended to mark entry for life into an all-male community. The peacock feather in Rickett’s hand signals their devotion to aestheticism, an art movement dedicated to beauty and ‘art for art’s sake’. By the 1920s, this was an emblem of a previous era. (Wall text)

 

Charles Buchel (1872-1950) 'Radclyffe Hall' (installation view) 1918

 

Charles Buchel (1872-1950)
Radclyffe Hall (installation view)
1918
Oil paint on canvas
National Portrait Gallery, London. Bequeathed by Una Elena Vincenzo (née Taylor), Lady Troubridge, 1963

 

 

Born ‘Marguerite’ Radclyffe Hall and known as ‘John’ to close friends, Radclyffe Hall was a key figure in provoking debate on female same-sex desire. This portrait was made ten years before Hall found fame as the author of The Well of Loneliness 1928. Despite the pleas of literary figures, including Virginia Woolf, this novel was effectively banned on the grounds of obscenity for its frank depiction of female same-sex desire. It was semi-autobiographical and was influenced by Havelock Ellis’s Sexual Inversion. Hall’s sober jacket, skirt, cravat and monocle in this image reflected contemporary female fashions for a more masculine style of dress. After the trial, Hall’s clothes and cropped hair became associated with lesbianism and this portrait has become a queer icon. It was given to the National Portrait Gallery by Hall’s lover, Una Troubridge. (Wall text)

 

Installation view of Room 2 of the exhibition 'Queer British Art' at Tate Britain

Installation view of Room 2 of the exhibition 'Queer British Art' at Tate Britain

 

Installation views of Room 2 of the exhibition Queer British Art at Tate Britain with Oscar Wilde’s Prison Door c. 1883

 

 

This is the door of Oscar Wilde’s prison cell at Reading Gaol. Wilde spent three months of his incarceration writing a tortured letter to his lover Lord Alfred Douglas. This was later published as De Profundis (‘from the depths’). Wilde was not allowed to send the letter, although the manuscript was given back to him when he left prison. He told his friend Robert Ross, ‘I know that on the day of my release I will merely be moving from one prison into another, and there are times when the whole world seems to be no larger than my cell, and as full of terror for me’. (Wall text)

 

Robert Goodloe Harper Pennington. 'Oscar Wilde' c. 1881

 

Robert Goodloe Harper Pennington
Oscar Wilde
c. 1881
William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, Los Angeles, California

 

 

The American artist Harper Pennington gave this portrait to Wilde and his wife Constance as a wedding present in 1884. It captures Wilde as a young man aged 27, on the cusp of success and it hung in Wilde’s home in Tite Street, Chelsea, London. While awaiting trial, Wilde was declared bankrupt and all his possessions, including this portrait, were sold at public auction to pay his debts. Few objects from his extensive collection have been traced. This painting was bought by Wilde’s friend Ada Leverson and it was kept in storage. Wilde told a friend that Ada’s husband ‘could not have it in his drawing-room as it was obviously, on account of its subject, demoralising to young men, and possibly to young women of advanced views’. (Wall text)

 

Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898) 'Enter Herodias from 'Salome' by Oscar Wilde' 1890s

 

Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898)
Enter Herodias from ‘Salome’ by Oscar Wilde
1890s
Photo-process print on paper
Victoria and Albert Museum

 

 

Here Herodias, Salome’s mother makes a dramatic entrance, bare-breasted and positioned at the centre of the composition. The grotesque figure on the left plucks at her cloak, his robe barely concealing his giant phallus, while the slender page appears notably unmoved. They seem to epitomise two forms of masculinity: the grotesquely heterosexual and the elegantly ambiguous. Oscar Wilde is satirised as the showman-like jester in the foreground. (Wall text)

 

Cecil Beaton. 'Cecil Beaton and his Friends' 1927

 

Cecil Beaton (1904-1980)
Cecil Beaton and his Friends
1927
Photograph, bromide print on paper
National Portrait Gallery, London. Accepted in lieu of tax by H.M. Government and allocated to the Gallery, 1991

 

 

This photograph was taken at Wilsford Manor in Wiltshire, Stephen Tennant’s childhood home. The party depicted here includes Tennant, artist Rex Whistler, society hostess Zita Jungman and Beaton himself, although their elaborate fancy dress and make-up makes it hard to tell them apart. The poet Siegfried Sassoon, Tennant’s lover at this time, wrote in his diary, ‘It was very amusing, and they were painted up to the eyes, but I didn’t quite like it’. (Wall text)

 

Room 3: Theatrical Types

The use of ‘theatrical’ as a euphemism for queer hints at the rich culture on the late nineteenth and early twentieth century stage. The extent to which audiences were aware of this varied. Music hall male and female ‘impersonation acts’ were wildly popular but were mostly seen as innocent ‘family fun’. In the formal theatre, plays for public production had to be passed by the Lord Chamberlain’s office. While some directors found ways to avoid censorship, there were few positive and explicit depictions of queer lives and experience. Many celebrities who were in same-sex relationships understandably tried to keep their lives from public view, although their desires were often open secrets. Nevertheless, whether as the subject of a moralistic ‘problem’ play or an innuendo in a saucy song, queer perspectives could find public expression on the stage.

 

Installation view of Room 3 of the exhibition 'Queer British Art' at Tate Britain

 

Installation view of Room 3 of the exhibition Queer British Art at Tate Britain

 

Unknown photographer, published by The Philco Publishing Company. 'Hetty King (Winifred Ems)' 1910s

 

Unknown photographer, published by The Philco Publishing Company
Hetty King (Winifred Ems)
1910s
National Portrait Gallery

 

 

Angus McBean

Angus McBean’s career was forged in the theatre. Success came in 1936 with his photographs of Max Beerbohm’s The Happy Hypocrite 1896, starring Ivor Novello. In a break with convention, McBean’s close-up images were well lit with studio lights and staged as intimate tableaux. Inspired by the International Surrealist exhibitions of 1936 and 1937, he began to make playful ‘surrealised portraits’, which were initially published in The Sketch. These used complex props and staging to create fantastical scenes and to give the illusion of distorted scale.

The images here all depict sitters who were in same-sex relationships. McBean’s own relationships with men led to a police raid on his house and his arrest in 1942 for criminal acts of homosexuality. He was convicted and sentenced to four years in jail but was released in 1944 and quickly reestablished his reputation as a photographer.

 

Angus McBean (1904-1990) 'Sir Robert Murray Helpmann' 1950

 

Angus McBean (1904-1990)
Sir Robert Murray Helpmann
1950
Photograph, bromide print on paper
© Estate of Angus McBean / National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

McBean’s portrait of Robert Helpmann, published in The Tatler and Bystander on 28 April 1948, shows him in the role of Hamlet, which he was then playing at Stratford-upon-Avon. The production was designed to be Victorian gothic: an Elsinore of guttering candles and chiaroscuro lighting effects. There is perhaps some suggestion of this in the heavy shadows of McBean’s photograph, while Helpmann’s dramatic make-up emphasises his melancholic expression. The backdrop was created from a blown-up photograph of text from the First Folio of the play. In defiance of the law, Helpmann lived comparatively openly with his partner, the theatre director Michael Benthall. Their relationship lasted from 1938 until Benthall’s death, in 1974. (Wall text)

 

Angus McBean (1904-1990) 'Danny La Rue' 1968

 

Angus McBean (1904-1990)
Danny La Rue
1968
Photograph, bromide print on paper
National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

Born Danny Carroll, Danny La Rue was one of the greatest stars in female impersonation. La Rue first performed while in the navy during the Second World War and later toured with all male revues such as Forces in Petticoats before becoming a cabaret star. La Rue’s glamorous appearance on stage, captured here, was undercut by the gruff ‘wotcher mates’, with which he opened his set. La Rue preferred the term ‘comic in a frock’ to ‘female impersonator’ and described his act as ‘playing a woman knowing that everyone knows it’s a fella’. (Wall text)

 

Glyn Warren Philpot (1884-1937) 'Glen Byam Shaw as 'Laertes'' 1934-5

 

Glyn Warren Philpot (1884-1937)
Glen Byam Shaw as ‘Laertes’
1934-5
Oil paint on canvas
Kindly lent by the sitter’s grandson, Charles Hart

 

 

The actor Glen Byam Shaw is depicted here as Laertes in John Gielgud’s 1934 critically acclaimed production of Hamlet in a costume designed by Motley: Elizabeth Montgomery, Margaret Percy and Sophie Harris. Glyn Philpot cut down the original three-quarter length portrait after it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1935. This reduction puts even greater focus on Byam Shaw’s face and heavy stage make-up. While the image is typical of productions of the period, the medium of the portrait removes it from its original theatrical context. Coupled with Byam Shaw’s arch expression, the overriding impression is one of high camp. Byam Shaw had almost certainly been the lover of the poet Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967) and may have met Philpot through Sassoon. (Wall text)

 

Francis Goodman (1913-1989) 'Oliver Messel' 1945

 

Francis Goodman (1913-1989)
Oliver Messel
1945
Photograph, silver gelatin print on paper
National Portrait Gallery, London. Bequeathed by the estate of Francis Goodman, 1989

 

 

Francis Goodman’s carefully posed photograph depicts Oliver Messel, the foremost British stage designer from the 1920s to the 1950s, surrounded by eclectic props. The producer Charles Cochran recalled how Messel ‘would pull something new out of his pocket – usually something used for domestic work – which he proposed to employ to give the illusion of some other fabric’. Messel was attracted to men and his fascination with dandyish excess, pastiche and artifice has been interpreted as a queer aesthetic. (Wall text)

 

Paul Tanqueray (1905-1991) 'Douglas Byng' 1934

 

Paul Tanqueray (1905-1991)
Douglas Byng
1934
Photograph, bromide print on paper
National Portrait Gallery. Given by Paul Tanqueray, 1974

 

 

Gay performer Douglas Byng gained the title ‘The Highest Priest of Camp’ with songs such as ‘Doris the Goddess of Wind’, ‘I’m a Mummy (An Old Egyptian Queen)’ and ‘Cabaret Boys’, which he performed with Lance Lester. Coward described him as ‘The most refined vulgarity in London, mais quel artiste!’ Byng’s costume in Paul Tanqueray’s photograph was probably the one he wore for his song ‘Wintertime’. (Wall text)

 

Room 4: Bloomsbury and Beyond

The Bloomsbury Group of artists and writers famously ‘lived in squares and loved in triangles’. Dora Carrington had relationships with men and women but loved and was loved by Lytton Strachey, who was attracted to men. Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell lived together in Charleston Farmhouse in East Sussex. A chosen few of Duncan Grant’s male lovers made visits but Paul Roche was forced to camp on the South Downs as he did not meet with Bell’s approval. Bell’s husband Clive lived apart from her but they remained happily married. While sexual intimacy was valued by the Group, it was not the most important bond tying the members together. Their network was a profoundly queer experiment in modern living founded on radical honesty and mutual support.

Bloomsbury’s matter-of-fact acceptance of same-sex desire was unusual but not unique. The objects in this room show a variety of different perspectives, from the quiet homeliness of Ethel Sands’s Tea with Sickert, to Gluck’s defiant self-portrait. Together, they reveal a generation of artists and sitters exploring, confronting and coming to terms with themselves and their desires.

 

Installation view of Room 4 of the exhibition 'Queer British Art' at Tate Britain

 

Installation view of Room 4 of the exhibition Queer British Art at Tate Britain featuring Ethel Walker’s Decoration: The Excursion of Nausicaa 1920

 

Ethel Walker (1861-1951) 'Decoration: The Excursion of Nausicaa' 1920

 

Ethel Walker (1861-1951)
Decoration: The Excursion of Nausicaa
1920
Oil paint on canvas

 

 

The composition of this painting reveals Ethel Walker’s fascination with Greco-Roman friezes, as well as the artistic possibilities of the female nude. The painting is inspired by Book IV of Homer’s Odyssey, in which the princess Nausicaa bathes with her maidens. In 1900, Walker became the first woman member of the New English Arts Club, whose select committee reacted to this painting with ‘spontaneous and enthusiastic applause’. There has been some speculation about the nature of Walker’s relationship with painter Clara Christian, with whom she lived and worked in the 1880s, although little evidence survives. This image offers a utopian vision of an all-female community. (Wall text)

 

Installation view of Room 4 of the exhibition 'Queer British Art' at Tate Britain

Installation view of Room 4 of the exhibition 'Queer British Art' at Tate Britain

 

Installation views of Room 4 of the exhibition Queer British Art at Tate Britain featuring Duncan Grant’s Bathing 1911 (at left in the bottom image)

 

Duncan Grant. 'Bathing' 1911

 

Duncan Grant (1885-1978)
Bathing
1911
Oil paint on canvas
2286 x 3061 mm
© Tate. Purchased 1931

 

 

Bathing was conceived as part of a decorative scheme for the dining room at Borough Polytechnic, and it was Duncan Grant’s first painting to receive widespread public attention. Grant’s design takes inspiration from summers spent around the Serpentine in Hyde Park, which was one of a number of sites associated with London’s queer culture. The painting celebrates the strength and beauty of the male form, and its homoerotic implications were not lost on Grant’s contemporaries: the National Review described the dining room as a ‘nightmare’ which would have a ‘degenerative’ effect on the polytechnic’s working-class students. (Wall text)

 

Duncan Grant (1885-1978) 'Bathers by the Pond' (installation view) 1920-21

 

Duncan Grant (1885-1978)
Bathers by the Pond (installation view)
1920-21
Oil paint on canvas
Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (Hussey Bequest, Chichester District Council 1985)

 

 

This painting shows a scene filled with homoerotic possibilities. The setting is possibly Charleston Farmhouse in East Sussex, where Duncan Grant lived with Vanessa Bell, her children and his lover David (Bunny) Garnett. Grant’s use of dots of colour shows the influences of the pointillist technique pioneered by Georges Seurat. The nude figure in the foreground basks in the sun while the seated figures behind him exchange appreciative glances. Swimming ponds often served as cruising grounds and it is perhaps unsurprising that this work was not exhibited in Grant’s lifetime. (Wall text)

 

Duncan Grant (1885-1978) 'Paul Roche Reclining' c. 1946

 

Duncan Grant (1885-1978)
Paul Roche Reclining (installation view)
c. 1946
Oil paint on canvas
The Charleston Trust

 

 

This painting depicts Duncan Grant’s close friend and possible lover Paul Roche, lying as if asleep. He is depicted against a patterned background reminiscent of colours and fabrics produced by the Omega Workshop, the design collective founded in 1913 by Roger Fry. These soft textures contrast with Roche’s bare torso, which is further emphasised by his briefs, socks and open shirt. Grant and Roche met by chance in July 1946: after making eye contact crossing the road at Piccadilly Circus, the two struck up a conversation. Their friendship lasted until Grant’s death in 1978. (Wall text)

 

Duncan Grant

Duncan Grant produced erotic works on paper prolifically throughout his life. These objects were created in private and for personal consumption only. Racially diverse figures are presented in various states of sexual play, and Grant’s range of representation moves from explicit passion to tender post- coital repose. Overlapping bodies are depicted in impossible contortions, and the works reveal Grant’s fascination with the artistic possibilities of the male form as well as the importance of harmonious composition. The objects also demonstrate a characteristically witty approach to sexuality, with some copulating figures playfully masquerading as ballet dancers and wrestlers. As his daughter Angelica Garnett recalled, one of Grant’s favourite maxims was to ‘never be ashamed’, and his private erotica offers an unapologetic celebration of gay male sex and love.

 

Installation view of erotic drawing by Duncan Grant

Installation view of erotic drawing by Duncan Grant

 

Installation views of erotic drawings by Duncan Grant

 

Installation view of Ethel Sands' 'Tea with Sickert' c. 1911-12

 

Installation view of Ethel Sands’ Tea with Sickert c. 1911-12 from Room 4 of the exhibition Queer British Art at Tate Britain

 

Ethel Sands (1873-1962) 'Tea with Sickert' c. 1911-12

 

Ethel Sands (1873-1962)
Tea with Sickert
c. 1911-12
Oil paint on canvas
Tate. Bequeathed by Colonel Christopher Sands 2000, accessioned 2001

 

 

The scene of this painting is the sitting room Nan Hudson and Sands’s home. Although it features two figures – the artist Walter Sickert and Hudson – the table is set for afternoon tea for three. The composition of the painting is arranged as if the artist was standing behind Nan, and this perspective highlights their position as a couple. In 1912, the work was exhibited as part of Sands and Hudson’s joint exhibition at the Carfax Gallery and it drew mixed reactions: Westminster Gazette called it ‘a daring picture’ but ‘a somewhat overwhelming indulgence in pure orange vermilion’. (Wall text)

 

Clare Atwood (1866-1962) 'John Gielgud's Room' 1933

 

Clare Atwood (1866-1962)
John Gielgud’s Room
1933
Oil paint on canvas
Tate. Presented by Mrs E.L. Shute 1937

 

 

This picture was painted in Sir John Gielgud’s flat at the time he was playing Richard II in Gordon Daviot’s Richard of Bordeaux at the New Theatre. Rather than emphasising his life in the public eye, this work draws attention to Gieglud’s domestic life. In this way, Clare ‘Tony’ Atwood gently subverts traditional associations of the feminine with private space. Atwood lived in a menage a trois with Gielgud’s second-cousin, Edith (Edy) Craig and the feminist playwright Christopher St John, who had previously lived together as an openly lesbian couple. St John later stated that ‘the bond between Edy and me was strengthened not weakened by Tony’s association with us’. (Wall text)

 

Installation view of Gluck's 'Self-Portrait' 1942

 

Installation view of Gluck’s Self-Portrait 1942 from Room 4 of the exhibition Queer British Art at Tate Britain

 

Gluck (Hannah Gluckstein) 'Self-Portrait' 1942

 

Gluck (Hannah Gluckstein)
Self-Portrait
1942
Oil paint on canvas
National Portrait Gallery, London
Given by the sitter and artist, ‘Gluck’ (Hannah Gluckstein), 1973

 

 

Gluck locks gazes with the viewer in this unflinching self-portrait. Born Hannah Gluckstein, Gluck requested that the name Gluck be reproduced with ‘no prefix, suffix or quotes’. Gluck exhibited to great acclaim at the ‘The Gluck Room’ of The Fine Art Society, where visitors included Queen Mary. This painting was painted in 1942, in a difficult period in Gluck’s relationship with Nesta Obermer, Gluck’s ‘darling wife’. Obermer was frequently away, sometimes with her husband Seymour Obermer. In 1944, their relationship broke down and Gluck went to live with Edith Shackleton Herald. Their relationship lasted until Gluck’s death. (Wall text)

 

Gluck (1895-1978) 'Lilac and Guelder Rose' 1932-7

 

Gluck (1895-1978)
Lilac and Guelder Rose
1932-7
Oil paint on canvas
Manchester Art Gallery

 

 

This was one of a number of flower paintings that Gluck made during and immediately after her relationship with society florist and author Constance Spry, who she met in 1932. Spry was a leading figure in cultivating a fashion for white flowers, and often used Gluck’s paintings to illustrate her articles. Many of Spry’s customers also commissioned flower paintings from Gluck. When Lilac and Guelder Rose was exhibited at Gluck’s 1937 exhibition at the Fine Art Society, it was much admired by Lord Villiers, who remarked ‘It’s gorgeous, I feel I could bury my face in it’. (Wall text)

 

Glyn Warren Philpot (1884-1937) 'Henry Thomas' (installation view) 1934-5

 

Glyn Warren Philpot (1884-1937)
Henry Thomas (installation view)
1934-5
Oil paint on canvas
Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (Bequeathed by Mrs Rosemary Newgas, the neice of the artist 2004)

 

 

Henry Thomas was Glyn Philpot’s servant and one of his favourite models. The high-cheekboned angularity of Thomas’s face is echoed in the diagonal lines of the abstracted background, perhaps an allusion to the batik fabric behind. The exact nature of Thomas and Philpot’s relationship is unknown. Many of Philpot’s depictions of Thomas carry a homoerotic charge and some are exoticising. What Thomas felt about his years with Philpot from 1929 to the artist’s death in 1937 is unknown. The words he wrote on Philpot’s funeral wreath, ‘For memory to my dear master as well as my father and brother to me’, hints at the imbalance between them, while also suggesting many complex layers of relationship. (Wall text)

 

Edward Wolfe (1897-1982) 'Portrait of Pat Nelson' 1930s

 

Edward Wolfe (1897-1982)
Portrait of Pat Nelson (installation view)
1930s
Oil paint on canvas
James O’Connor

 

 

Patrick Nelson emigrated from Jamaica to North Wales in 1937, before settling in London to study law the following year. While living in Bloomsbury, Nelson worked as an artists’ model and soon became acquainted with Edward Wolfe. Nelson would also meet other prominent gay artists at this time, including his sometime boyfriend and lifelong friend Duncan Grant. Wolfe’s depiction of Nelson against the rich green background is exoticising and his pose invites the viewer to admire his body. Such objectification was typical of many depictions of black men from this time and reflects an uneven power dynamic, although Nelson’s friendship with members of the Bloomsbury group adds a level of complexity to the relationship between artist and sitter. (Wall text)

 

Glyn Warren Philpot (1884-1937) 'Man with a Gun' (installation view) 1933

 

Glyn Warren Philpot (1884-1937)
Man with a Gun (installation view)
1933
Oil paint on canvas
The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Bequeathed by Jeffrey Daniels, 1986

 

 

Glyn Philpot developed a strong reputation as a society portraitist until the 1930s, at which point he began to explore modernist forms, as well as express his sexuality more openly. This work depicts Philpot’s friend Jan Erland, who was the subject of a series of paintings by Philpot on the theme of sports and leisure. Erland is depicted cradling a gun which, he recalled, had been specifically borrowed for the occasion. Erland’s firm grip on the gun’s phallic barrel seems suggestive. Writing to his sister Daisy, Philpot described ‘every moment with this dear Jan’ as filled with ‘inspiration and beauty’. (Wall text)

 

Glyn Warren Philpot (1884-1937) 'Man with a Gun' 1933

 

Glyn Warren Philpot (1884-1937)
Man with a Gun
1933
Oil paint on canvas
The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Bequeathed by Jeffrey Daniels, 1986

 

 

Tate Britain today opens the first exhibition dedicated to queer British art. Unveiling material that relates to lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ+) identities, the show marks the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality in England and Wales. It presents work from the abolition of the death penalty for sodomy in 1861 to the passing of the Sexual Offences Act in 1967 – a time of seismic shifts in gender and sexuality that found expression in the arts as artists and viewers explored their desires, experiences and sense of self.

Spanning the playful to the political, the explicit to the domestic, Queer British Art 1861-1967 showcases the rich diversity of queer visual art and its role in society. Themes explored in the exhibition include coded desires amongst the Pre-Raphaelites, representations of and by women who defied convention (including Virginia Woolf), and love and lust in sixties Soho. It features works by major artists such as Francis Bacon, Keith Vaughan, Evelyn de Morgan, Gluck, Glyn Philpot, Claude Cahun and Cecil Beaton alongside queer ephemera, personal photographs, film and magazines.

Work from 1861 to 1967 by artists with diverse sexualities and gender identities is showcased, ranging from covert images of same-sex desire such as Simeon Solomon’s Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene 1864 through to the open appreciation of queer culture in David Hockney’s Going to be a Queen for Tonight 1960. A highlight of the exhibition is a section focusing on the Bloomsbury set and their contemporaries – an artistic group famous for their bohemian attitude towards sexuality. The room includes intimate paintings of lovers, scenes of the homes artists shared with their partners and large commissions by artists such as Duncan Grant and Ethel Walker.

Many of the works on display were produced in a time when the terms ‘lesbian’, ‘gay’, ‘bisexual’ and ‘trans’ had little public recognition. The exhibition illustrates the ways in which sexuality became publically defined through the work of sexologists such as Henry Havelock Ellis and campaigners such as Edward Carpenter. It also looks at the high profile trials of Oscar Wilde and Radclyffe Hall. Objects on display include the door from Wilde’s prison cell, Charles Buchel’s portrait of Radclyffe Hall and erotic drawings by Aubrey Beardsley.

In contrast to the bleak outlook from the courtroom prior to 1967, queer culture was embraced by the British public in the form of theatre. From music hall acts to costume design, the theatre provided a forum in which sexuality and gender expression could be openly explored. Striking examples on display include photographs of performers such as Beatrix Lehmann, Berto Pasuka and Robert Helpmann by Angus McBean, who was jailed for his sexuality in 1942, alongside stage designs by Oliver Messel and Edward Burra. Theatrical cards of music hall performers such as Vesta Tilley (whose act as ‘Burlington Bertie’ had a large lesbian following) are featured, as well as a pink wig worn in Jimmy Slater’s act ‘A Perfect Lady’ from the 1920s.

Queer British Art 1861-1967 shows how artists and audiences challenged the established views of sexuality and gender identity between two legal landmarks. Some of the works in the show were intensely personal while others spoke to a wider public, helping to forge a sense of community. Alongside the exhibition is a room showing six films co-commissioned by Tate and Channel 4 Random Acts. Created in response to Queer British Art 1861-1967 and featuring figures in the LGBTQ+ community, including Sir Ian McKellen and Shon Faye, they present personal stories prompted by the themes in the show, and invite visitors to relate their own experiences.

Queer British Art 1861-1967 is curated by Clare Barlow, Assistant Curator, Tate Britain with Amy Concannon, Assistant Curator, Tate Britain. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue from Tate Publishing and a programme of talks and events in the gallery.

Press release from Tate Britain

 

Why is the word ‘queer’ used in the exhibition title?

Queer has a mixed history – from the 19th century onwards it has been used both as a term of abuse and as a term by LGBT people to refer to themselves. Our inspiration for using it came from Derek Jarman who said that it used to frighten him but now ‘for me to use the word queer is a liberation’. More recently, of course, it has become reclaimed as a fluid term for people of different sexualities and gender identities. Historians of sexuality have also argued that it is preferable to other terms for sexualities in the past as these often don’t map onto modern sexual identities. In addition to carrying out audience research, we took advice from Stonewall and other LGBT charities and held focus groups with LGBT people. The advice from all of these sources was overwhelmingly that we should use it. While we tried other titles, no other option captured the full diversity of sexualities and gender identities that are represented in the show.

Text provided by Clare Barlow, curator of Queer British Art.

 

Installation view of Alvaro Guevara's 'Dame Edith Sitwell' 1916

 

Installation view of Alvaro Guevara’s Dame Edith Sitwell 1916 from Room 5 of the exhibition Queer British Art at Tate Britain

 

Alvaro Guevara (1894-1951) 'Dame Edith Sitwell' 1916

 

Alvaro Guevara (1894-1951)
Dame Edith Sitwell
1916
Oil paint on canvas
Tate. Presented by Lord Duveen, Walter Taylor and George Eumorfopoulos through the Art Fund 1920

 

 

The poet Edith Sitwell does not seem to have had sexual relationships but was viciously satirised by the artist and writer Wyndham Lewis as a lesbian. Sitwell described the life of the artist as ‘very Pauline’, referring to the letters of St Paul, which may suggest she thought sex would be a distraction. She was close friends with Alvaro Guevara, the artist of this portrait, who had relationships with men and women. Diana Holman Hunt in her 1974 biography of Guevara suggested that Sitwell and Guevara shared a love that was ‘not physical but certainly romantic and spiritual.’ The bright colours reflect the designs of Roger Fry and Vanessa Bell’s Omega Workshops and Sitwell is sitting on a dining chair designed by Fry. (Wall text)

 

Room 5: Defying Conventions

This room shows how artists and writers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century challenged gender norms. Some, such as Laura Knight, laid claim to traditionally masculine sources of artistic authority by depicting themselves in the act of painting nude female models. Others, such as Vita Sackville-West, had open marriages and same-sex relationships, or, like Claude Cahun, questioned the very concept of gender binaries. This was a period of radical social change. Women took on new roles during the First and Second World Wars, and gained the vote in 1918. Sackville-West worked with the Land Girls. Cahun resisted the Nazis on Jersey and was sentenced to death, imprisoned for a year and only freed by the end of the war. New fashions developed. For women, wearing trousers in public became stylishly avant-garde. Expectations were changing. Public discussion about female same-sex desire offered ways of viewing the self, but it also brought problems. Lives that had previously passed without comment might now be labelled transgressive. But for some, this was a time of liberating possibilities.

 

Installation views of Room 5 of the exhibition 'Queer British Art' at Tate Britain

 

Installation view of Room 5 of the exhibition Queer British Art at Tate Britain featuring with at left, Laura Knight’s Self-portrait 1913; second right, William Strang’s Lady with a Red Hat 1918, and at right Alvaro Guevara’s Dame Edith Sitwell 1916

 

Installation view of William Strang's 'Lady with a Red Hat' 1918

 

Installation view of William Strang’s Lady with a Red Hat 1918 from Room 5 of the exhibition Queer British Art at Tate Britain

 

William Strang. 'Lady with a Red Hat' 1918

 

William Strang (1859-1921)
Lady with a Red Hat
1918
Oil paint on canvas
Lent by Glasgow Life (Glasgow Museums) on behalf of Glasgow City Council
Purchased 1919

 

 

This portrait is of writer Vita Sackville-West. According to her son, Nigel Nicolson, she attended sittings with her lover Violet Trefusis. Sackville-West adopted a male persona, ‘Julian’, at some points in this relationship, allowing her and Trefusis to pose as a married couple so they could stay together at a boarding-house. Her fashionable dress in this image, however, gives no sign of such androgynous role-playing. The book in Sackville-West’s hand may refer to her book Poems of East and West 1917. At the time this was painted she was writing Challenge, a novel about her relationship with Trefusis, but this was not published until 1974. (Wall text)

 

Laura Knight (1877-1970) 'Self-portrait' 1913

 

Laura Knight (1877-1970)
Self-portrait
1913
Oil paint on canvas
National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

When this painting was exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1913, the reviewer Claude Phillips wrote ‘it repels, not by any special inconvenience – for it is harmless enough and with an element of sensuous attraction – but by dullness and something dangerously close to vulgarity’. His strong reaction hints at anxieties over women painting the female nude, which subverted the hierarchy of male artist and female model. When Laura Knight was at art school women were not been allowed to attend life classes. Her sensuous depiction of herself painting Ella Naper, a friend, lays claim to a professional artistic identity. In 1936, Knight was the first woman to become an Academician since its foundation. (Wall text)

 

Dorothy Johnstone (1892-1980) 'Rest Time in the Life Class' 1923

 

Dorothy Johnstone (1892-1980)
Rest Time in the Life Class
1923
Oil paint on canvas
City Art Centre, City of Edinburgh Museums and Galleries

 

 

This image depicts the life-class Johnstone taught for women at Edinburgh College of Art, which Johnstone presents as a space of friendship and collaboration. In the foreground, one woman comments on another’s drawing while in the background, Johnstone depicts herself gesturing towards the canvas. Johnstone had an intense relationship with Cecile Walton and Walton’s husband Eric Robertson, who were also part of the Edinburgh Group of artists. She later married fellow artist David Macbeth Sutherland. (Wall text)

 

Claude Cahun (1894-1954) 'Untitled' 1936

Claude Cahun (1894-1954) 'Untitled' 1936

 

Claude Cahun (1894-1954)
Untitled
1936
2 photographs, gelatin silver print on paper

 

 

These images (to the left and right of I Extend My Arms), from a larger group of photographs, hint at different narrative possibilities for the sexless manikin. In one, the doll seems to take on a feminine air, posed as if delighting in the long hair that trails round its body. The other is less overtly gendered, wearing a hat made from an upright feather and holding aloft a tiny plant. The porcelain dolls’ heads outside the jar in one image are reminiscent of the masks that repeated occur in Cahun’s work and these images seem to hint at the themes of role-playing that Cahun explored in earlier self-portraits. (Wall text)

 

Room 6: Arcadia and Soho

London was a magnet for queer artists. In the 1950s and 1960s, Soho was the epicentre of queer culture, described by Francis Bacon as ‘the sexual gymnasium of the city’. Many of the artists shown in this room were friends, often living in London, sometimes sharing studios. Several were encouraged by the patron and collector Peter Watson, founder of the influential literary magazine Horizon and co-founder of the Institute of Contemporary Arts. Their work was often inspired by travel: to the Mediterranean, to costal Brittany, or to the seedy American bars that inspired works such as Edward Burra’s Izzy Orts.

John Craxton, John Minton and Keith Vaughan have been described as ‘neo-romantics’. Craxton, however, preferred the term ‘Arcadian’, referencing a classical utopian vision of a harmonious wilderness, populated by innocent shepherds. Yet, while it is idealised, depictions of Arcadia still sometimes include references to death and its peace can be disrupted by undercurrents of desire.

 

Installation view of Christopher Wood's 'Nude Boy in a Bedroom' 1930

 

Installation view of Christopher Wood’s Nude Boy in a Bedroom 1930 from Room 6 of the exhibition Queer British Art at Tate Britain

 

Christopher Wood (1901-1930) 'Nude Boy in a Bedroom' 1930

 

Christopher Wood (1901-1930)
Nude Boy in a Bedroom
1930
Oil paint on hardboard laid on plywood
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh

 

 

Christopher Wood’s Nude Boy in a Bedroom depicts the artist’s friend and sometime lover Francis Rose, in a hotel room in Brittany where they stayed with a group of friends in 1930. The group was later joined by Wood’s mistress, Frosca Munster. According to Rose, the work ‘is a nude painting of me washing at a basin’ in which Wood ‘scattered playing cards on the bed’. The cards are tarot cards and the top card shows the Page of Cups reversed, symbolising anxiety about a deception that will be soon discovered, or referring to someone incapable of making commitments. Wood may have included these cards as an oblique reference to his ongoing relationships with his male lover and female mistress. (Wall text)

 

Edward Burra. 'Soldiers at Rye' 1941

 

Edward Burra (1905-1976)
Soldiers at Rye
1941
Tate
© Tate. Presented by Studio 1942

 

 

Edward Burra based Soldiers at Rye on sketches of troops around his home town of Rye between September and October 1940. His macabre sensibility was informed by his experiences in the Spanish Civil War. In the final stages of painting, he added red and yellow Venetian carnival masks, giving the figures the air of predatory birds – a regular symbol in Burra’s work from the 1930s. Seen from behind, the soldiers’ close-fitting uniforms and bulbous physiques led one critic to comment that they had the ‘bulging husky leathery shape’ of ‘military ruffians’. There is an ominous atmosphere to the painting, conveying a dangerous homoeroticism. (Wall text)

 

John Craxton (1922-2009) 'Head of a Cretan Sailor' 1946

 

John Craxton (1922-2009)
Head of a Cretan Sailor
1946
Oil paint on board
On loan from the London Borough of Camden Art Collection
© Estate of John Craxton. All rights reserved, DACS 2016
Photo credit: London Borough of Camden

 

 

The sitter in this portrait was on national service in the Greek Navy when he first met John Craxton in a taverna in Poros. He caught Craxton’s eye with his performance of the Greek dance the zeibékiko, with ‘splendidly controlled steps, clicking his thumbs and forefingers and circling round and round in his white uniform like a seagull’. Craxton followed him to Crete in 1947, where the sailor was now working as a butcher in Herákleion. The island was a revelation and Craxton returned often, eventually partly settling there in 1960. (Wall text)

 

 Installation views of Room 6 of the exhibition 'Queer British Art' at Tate Britain

 Installation views of Room 6 of the exhibition 'Queer British Art' at Tate Britain

 Installation views of Room 6 of the exhibition 'Queer British Art' at Tate Britain

 

Installation views of Room 6 of the exhibition Queer British Art at Tate Britain with Robert Medley’s Summer Eclogue No. 1: Cyclists 1950 at left, Keith Vaughan’s Kouros 1960 second left, Keith Vaughan’s Three Figures 1960-1 second right, and his Bather: August 4th 1961 1961 at right

 

Robert Medley (1905-1994) 'Summer Eclogue No. 1: Cyclists' 1950

 

Robert Medley (1905-1994)
Summer Eclogue No. 1: Cyclists
1950
Oil paint on canvas
Tate. Purchased 1992

 

 

Exhibited at the Hanover Gallery in February 1950, Robert Medley’s painting of racing cyclists on a summer’s evening in a Gravesend public park underscores his attraction to cross-class sociability. The river esplanade offers a permissible space for observing the muscular bodies and taut limbs of the youths and their admirers. The title refers to Virgil’s Eclogues, in which pastoral tranquillity is disrupted by erotic forces and revolutionary change. Medley wrote in his autobiography that the eclogue theme provided for ‘a more contemporary subject matter’. One of the cyclists was modelled on fellow artist Keith Vaughan’s lover, Ramsay McClure. (Wall text)

 

Installation view of Keith Vaughan's 'Kouros' 1960

 

Installation view of Keith Vaughan’s Kouros 1960 from Room 6 of the exhibition Queer British Art at Tate Britain

 

Keith Vaughan (1912-1977) 'Kouros' 1960

 

Keith Vaughan (1912-1977)
Kouros
1960
Oil paint on canvas
Private collection

 

 

In a diary entry for 1956, Keith Vaughan wrote of ‘A silver bromide image of Johnny standing naked in my studio, aloof, slightly tense, withdrawn like a Greek Kouros, gazing apprehensively at himself in the mirror, lithe, beautiful…. it lies tormenting me on my table’. This was a photograph of Vaughan’s lover Johnny Walsh who is also represented in this painting. A ‘Kouros’ was a free-standing ancient Greek sculpture of a male youth and the image may also have been inspired by a visit Vaughan made to Greece in 1960. (Wall text)

 

Keith Vaughan (1912-1977) 'Three Figures' (installation view) 1960-1

 

Keith Vaughan (1912-1977)
Three Figures (installation view)
1960-1
Oil paint on board

 

 

Three Figures is typical of Keith Vaughan’s approach to group figure painting. The subjects are depicted in indeterminate locations and the lack of details a makes it to impossible to identify them or guess at their social class or profession. The close proximity of the figures in this image and the contrast between the nudity of the man with his back towards us and the other two men might suggest that this is an erotic encounter. Yet the composition remains intentionally enigmatic. (Wall text)

 

Keith Vaughan (1912-1977) 'Bather: August 4th 1961' 1961

 

Keith Vaughan (1912-1977)
Bather: August 4th 1961
1961
Oil paint on canvas
Tate. Purchased 1962

 

 

Keith Vaughan wrote in his journal, ‘The continual use of the male figure…retains always the stain of a homosexual conception… “K.V. paints nude young men”. Perfectly true, but I feel I must hide my head in shame. Inescapable, I suppose – social guilt of the invert’. He wrestled with the competing impulses of figuration and abstraction in his work, describing how: ‘I wanted to go beyond the specific, identifiable image – yet I did not want to do an “abstract” painting. Bather: August 4th 1961 was the first break through. Every attempt up to then had finally resolved itself into another figure painting or an “abstract”.’ (Wall text)

 

Keith Vaughan

In contrast over his concerns whether his desires would be shown in his paintings, Keith Vaughan’s private drawings are explicitly erotic. Across them he depicts a range of different encounters, from sadomasochistic fantasies through to moments of tender intimacy. This is perhaps a hint of these fluctuating desires in his descriptions of relationship with his lover Jonny Walsh, of which Vaughan said, ‘I can move from tenderness to sadism in the same harmonic key’.

 

Keith Vaughan (1912-1977) 'Drawing of two men kissing' 1958-73

 

Keith Vaughan (1912-1977)
Drawing of two men kissing
1958-73
Tate Archive © DACS, The Estate of Keith Vaughan

 

 

Room 7: Public/Private Lives

This room explores the contradictions of queer life in the 1950s and 1960s. Before the partial decriminalisation of sex between men in 1967, the boundaries between public and private were acutely important to couples in same-sex relationships. Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell had separate beds in their tiny flat to maintain the pretence that they weren’t a couple. Such caution was justified. Peter Wildeblood, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu and Michael Pitt-Rivers were sent to jail in a case that became a rallying point for calls to change the law, which was increasingly attacked as a ‘blackmailer’s charter’. Lesbianism was not illegal, but women faced prejudice. Avant-garde photographer Barbara Ker-Seymer was thrown out of her room after she left a copy of Radclyffe Hall’s banned book The Well of Loneliness out in plain sight.

Yet despite the threat of exposure, couples lived happily together, community flourished, and a few even became queer celebrities.

 

Stephen Tennant (1906-1986) 'Lascar, a story of the Maritime Boulevard' Nd

 

Stephen Tennant (1906-1986)
Lascar, a story of the Maritime Boulevard
Nd
Ink, watercolour and collage on paper
The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art & Natural History, London

 

 

In this illustration for Stephen Tennant’s novel Lascar a riotous collage of burly sailors, bright flowers, letters and visiting cards seem to burst forth from the page. Some of Tennant’s initial sketches of sailors were made on visits to the Old Port of Marseilles in the 1930s, but he constantly reworked the illustrations and text, never completing it. In the last two decades of his life, visitors to Wilsford Manor in Wiltshire where Tennant lived in virtual seclusion, found pages of the novel strewn across the decaying interiors. (Wall text)

 

Because We’re Queers

Between 1959 and 1962, couple Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell borrowed and stole books from libraries around Islington. They cut out some of the illustrations, which they used to paper the walls of their flat and to create new collaged covers for the books. They then returned the volumes to the shelves of the libraries and waited to watch reactions.

The covers they created are full of jokes and references to queer culture. The addition of wrestling men turns Queen’s Favourite into an innuendo. Acting family the Lunts become kitsch glass figurines, while The Secret of Chimneys is depicted as a pair of giant cats. Others were more explicit: The World of Paul Slickey gains not only a phallic budgerigar but also a cut out shape of an erect penis. The plays of Emlyn Williams are retitled Knickers must fall and Fucked by Monty.

Orton and Halliwell were eventually caught and jailed for six months for ‘malicious damage’, which Orton claimed was ‘because we’re queers’. Prison destroyed Halliwell. While Orton became a successful playwright, Halliwell became an alcoholic. In 1967, he killed Orton and took his own life. Yet while their lives ended in tragedy, the bookcovers give insight into a playful and subversive relationship.

 

Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell. 'The Secret Chimneys by Agatha Christie'

 

Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell
The Secret Chimneys by Agatha Christie
Islington Local History Centre

 

Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell. 'Queen's Favourite'

 

Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell
Queen’s Favourite
Islington Local History Centre

 

Interior of the flat at 25 Noel Rd showing the extent of the collages

 

Interior of the flat at 25 Noel Rd showing the extent of the collages
Image courtesy of Islington Council

 

Kenneth Halliwell (1926-1967) 'Untitled' (installation view) 1967

 

Kenneth Halliwell (1926-1967)
Untitled (installation view)
1967
Printed papers on hardboard
Tate. Purchased 2016

 

 

This is one of 19 collages that Halliwell exhibited at the Anno Domino gallery in 1967. Unlike the earlier book-covers, these were made by Halliwell alone, yet they are similarly kaleidoscopic in their use of images. An archeological artefact here sits alongside fashion photography, sea-shells, insects and words from newspapers and magazines. Some of these juxtapositions are playful: ‘Eye’ appears where an eye would be. Others are more obscure and the phrases ‘Blackmail’ and ‘dirty word’ perhaps hint at oppression. The exhibition was a failure and Halliwell’s professional frustration contributed to the breakdown of his relationship with Orton, who was now established as a playwright. (Wall text)

 

George Elam. 'Joe Orton in Islington, London' 1967

 

George Elam
Joe Orton in Islington, London
1967
George Elam/Daily Mail/REX

 

Angus McBean (1904-1990) 'Quentin Crisp' 1941

 

Angus McBean (1904-1990)
Quentin Crisp
1941
Photograph, bromide print on paper
National Portrait Gallery, London

 

 

Angus McBean met the writer and raconteur Quentin Crisp while walking in the blackout in 1941 and the two became lovers. McBean later said of Crisp, ‘He was really one of the most beautiful people I have ever photographed. It was a completely androgynous beauty and under different circumstances it would have been difficult to know what sex he was’. This ambiguity is captured in McBean’s photograph, which is posed to emphasise Crisp’s long lashes, glossy lips and elaborate ring, the position of which is suggestive of an earring. Crisp’s refusal to conform to traditional masculine appearance was courageous and unswerving. (Wall text)

 

John Deakin (1912-1972) 'Colin' (installation view) c. 1950s

 

John Deakin (1912-1972)
Colin (installation view)
c. 1950s
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
John Deakin Archive / James Moores Collection

 

 

We don’t know anything about the sitter in this portrait. Deakin’s friend Bruce Bernard, who catalogued John Deakin’s negatives, likely gave it the label ‘Colin’, perhaps from memory, perhaps from an original sleeve note by Deakin. It is therefore not clear whether it depicts a drag performance or whether the glamorous outfit reflects the sitter’s true identity. It is, however, shot in a domestic setting rather than on the stage, leaving open the possibility that it depicts the sitter’s lived experience. (Wall text)

 

John Deakin

John Deakin seems almost to embody queer Soho of the 1950s. A close friend and drinking companion of Francis Bacon, his portrait photographs include many artists, actors, poets and celebrities. His style was often startlingly unflattering, capturing his sitters as they truly were. He said of his work, ‘Being fatally drawn to the human race, what I want to do when I take a photograph is make a revelation about it. So my sitters turn into my victims’. Deakin admitted to a drink problem which led to a chequered career and was twice sacked from Vogue. After his death, many of his photographic negatives were found in a box under his bed and were saved by his friend, writer and picture editor Bruce Bernard.

 

John Deakin (1912-1972) 'The Two Roberts Asleep - Colquhoun and MacBryde' c. 1953

 

John Deakin (1912-1972)
The Two Roberts Asleep – Colquhoun and MacBryde
c. 1953
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
John Deakin Archive / James Moores Collection

 

 

Robert Colquhoun and Robert MacBryde are here shown asleep on each other shoulders in a moment of tender intimacy. They had met on their first day at Glasgow School of Art and became lovers and lifelong partners. This photograph was probably taken at Tilty Mill, the home of the writer Elizabeth Smart, who invited Colquhoun and MacBryde to live with her and her partner the poet George Barker, when they’d been evicted from their studio in London. They spent the next four years there, combining painting with helping to raise Smart and Barker’s four children. The edges of the image show evidence of fire damage from some forgotten occasion. (Wall text)

 

Barbara Ker-Seymer

Barbara Ker-Seymer was a photographer active in the interwar years. After studying at the Chelsea School of Art, she worked for the society portrait photographer Olivia Wyndham. When Wyndham moved to New York to be with her lover, the African-American actress Edna Lloyd-Thomas, Ker-Seymer was left in charge of her studio. She established her own studio on New Bond Street in 1931, and began a successful career as a fashion photographer for Harper’s Bazaar. She pursued relationships with both men and women, and was associated with the queer subculture known as the Bright Young Things. After the Second World War, she ceased to work as a photographer, opening a laundrette in 1951. Her papers, in Tate Archive, are full of playful images of her friends.

 

Barbara Ker-Seymer (1905-1993) 'Photograph album' (installation view) Nd

 

Barbara Ker-Seymer (1905-1993)
Photograph album (installation view)
Nd
Tate Archive

 

 

This creatively arranged spread in one of Ker-Seymer’s photograph albums shows images of a number of her friends, including Marty Mann, an American who was for a time Ker- Seymer’s business partner and lover. Mann’s drinking was increasingly a problem and their relationship floundered. She later became an important advocate for the newly formed ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’. (Wall text)

 

Room 8: Francis Bacon and David Hockney

The most fearless depictions of male same-sex desire in the years before 1967 are in the work of Francis Bacon and David Hockney. Bacon told how as a teenager his parents threw him out of their home for trying on his mother’s underwear. He gravitated to London, where he began his visceral exploration of the human figure. Hockney arrived in London in 1959 to study at the Royal College of Art. He was deeply impressed by Bacon’s 1960 exhibition at the Marlborough Gallery, commenting ‘you can smell the balls’, but his own style was more playful, experimenting with abstraction and graffiti.

Hockney and Bacon both drew heavily on the visual culture that surrounded them, from well-established artistic sources such as Eadweard Muybridge’s innovative photographs of wrestlers to cheap bodybuilding magazines. They were not alone in spotting the homoerotic potential of this material – artists such as Christopher Wood had already used the trope of wrestlers to hint at queer intimacy. Yet Hockney and Bacon went further, fearlessly stripping away ambiguities.

Their work was controversial. Bacon’s 1955 exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts was investigated by the police for obscenity while Hockney once described his early paintings as ‘homosexual propaganda’. They both continued to push the boundaries of what could be depicted in art, breaking new ground.

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992) 'Two Figures in a Landscape' (installation view) 1956

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
Two Figures in a Landscape (installation view)
1956
Oil paint on canvas
Lent by Birmingham Museums Trust on behalf of Birmingham City Council

 

 

Two Figures in a Landscape combines the homoerotic themes of the ‘crouching nude’ and ‘figures in the grass’ that Francis Bacon explored in multiple paintings throughout the 1950s. He was inspired by Eadweard Muybridge’s photographs of wrestlers and athletes, along with Michelangelo’s drawings and sculpture. Bacon adapted these to explore his homosexuality with varying degrees of ambiguity. He later explained ‘Michelangelo and Muybridge are mixed up in my mind together’ and ‘I manipulate the Muybridge bodies into the form of the bodies I have known’. (Wall text)

 

Francis Bacon. 'Seated Figure' 1961

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
Seated Figure
1961
Tate. Presented by J. Sainsbury Ltd 1961
© Estate of Francis Bacon

 

 

This image probably depicts Francis Bacon’s former lover Peter Lacy. Bacon was a masochist and Lacy once told him ‘you could live in a corner of my cottage on straw. You could sleep and shit there’. Lacy’s suit and the inclusion of domestic details such as the exotic rug and chair contrast with the tempestuous abstract backdrop, giving the image an air of suppressed violence. Bacon spoke of his treatment of sitters in his portraits as an ‘injury’ and once said ‘I hate a homely atmosphere. . . I want to isolate the image and take it away from the interior and the home’. (Wall text)

 

Installation view of David Hockney's 'Life Painting for a Diploma' 1962

 

Installation view of David Hockney’s Life Painting for a Diploma 1962 from Room 8 of the exhibition Queer British Art at Tate Britain

 

David Hockney (born 1937) 'Life Painting for a Diploma' 1962

 

David Hockney (born 1937)
Life Painting for a Diploma
1962
Oil paint, charcoal and collage on canvas
Yageo Foundation Collection, Taiwan

 

 

Life Painting for a Diploma formed part of David Hockney’s final submission at the Royal College of Art. The hanging skeleton displays Hockney’s skills as a draftsman but it is the well-toned bodybuilder who catches the viewer’s attention. Hockney’s gay American friend Mark Berger introduced him to ‘beefcake’ magazines such as Physique Pictorial. Here, the stereotypical model and inscription PHYSIQUE references this material. Hockney claimed he painted this image to satisfy the RCA’s requirement that students produce a number of life-drawings. The work’s title and its contrast between the arid skeleton and lively model (clearly not painted from life) subtly mocks his instructors. (Wall text)

 

David Hockney (born 1937) 'Going to be a Queen for Tonight' 1960

 

David Hockney (born 1937)
Going to be a Queen for Tonight
1960
Oil paint on canvas
Royal College of Art

 

 

The words ‘queer’ and ‘queen’, both terms for gay men at this time, are scrawled across the surface of this image. Hockney was fascinated with the graffiti in the public toilets at Earls Court Underground station. Here, messages about opportunities for casual sex were mixed with other slogans. The title playfully hints at these possibilities – ‘queen’ but only for the night. It was one of a number of paintings made by Hockney at the Royal College Of Art which reference queer urban life. Hockney described his early works as ‘a kind of mixture of Alan Davie cum Jackson Pollock cum Roger Hilton’. (Wall text)

 

Keith Vaughan (1912-1977) 'Wrestlers' 1965

 

Keith Vaughan (1912-1977)
Wrestlers (installation view)
1965
Watercolour and ink on paper
York Museums Trust (York Art Gallery)
Gifted through the Contemporary Art Society, as a bequest from Dr Ronald Lande, in memory of his life partner Walter Urech, 2012

 

 

Physique Photography In Britain

British Physique photography flourished after the Second World War. Body-building magazines such as Health and Strength or Man’s World could be purchased quite innocently in newsagents. For many gay men, however, these publications were an important first step towards finding a community.

Bodybuilding shots, wrestlers and ‘art studies’ offered a pretext for gay photographers such as Vince, Basil Clavery (alias ‘Royale’ and ‘Hussar’), Lon of London and John Barrington to produce homoerotic imagery. Their work often included references to classical civilisation, an established shorthand for queer culture. Some dropped the pretence of bodybuilding altogether and sold more explicit material directly to a burgeoning private market.

This was a risky business: selling or sending such images through the post could land both photographer and purchaser in jail. Yet for many gay men, the easy availability of physique imagery gave reassurance that they were not alone. Somebody out there understood and shared their desires.

 

Installation view of physique album pages

Installation view of physique album pages

 

Installation view of physique album pages from Room 8 of the exhibition Queer British Art at Tate Britain

 

 

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12
Sep
17

Exhibition: ‘Thomas Struth: Figure Ground’ at Haus der Kunst, Munich

Exhibition dates: 5th May – 17th September 2017

Curator: Thomas Weski

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Thomas Struth: Figure Ground' at Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Installation view of the exhibition Thomas Struth: Figure Ground at Haus der Kunst, Munich
Courtesy of the artist and Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Crosby Street, Soho, New York' 1978

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Crosby Street, Soho, New York
1978
Silver gelatin print
66.0 x 84.0 cm
© Thomas Struth

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Rue de Beaugrenelle, Beaugrenelle, Paris' 1979

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Rue de Beaugrenelle, Beaugrenelle, Paris
1979
Silver gelatin print
66.0 x 84.0 cm
© Thomas Struth

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Thomas Struth: Figure Ground' at Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Installation view of the exhibition Thomas Struth: Figure Ground at Haus der Kunst, Munich
Courtesy of the artist and Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

 

I have always liked this man’s work. His understanding of space, colour, form and photograph as aesthetic experience is sublime. His muscular compositions show evidence of clear thinking and seeing… an investigation into sachlichkeit, that is objectivity: the boundaries between human, animal and machine (the aesthetics of innovation).

And yet Struth’s “unheroic” images also show evidence of subjective forces at work: impulsion, chaos, and serendipity to name a few, capturing a ‘razzmatazz of sensations’ that challenge the existential nature of the human, ‘being’.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to Haus der Kunst for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“Most of the images are very unheroic. I have a strong relationship to clarity. That’s why my compositions and choices are very meticulous.”

.
Thomas Struth

 

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'National Gallery 1, London' 1989

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
National Gallery 1, London
1989
Chromogenic print
180.0 x 196.0 cm
© Thomas Struth

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Thomas Struth: Figure Ground' at Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Installation view of the exhibition Thomas Struth: Figure Ground at Haus der Kunst, Munich with Louvre 4 Paris (1989) centre left
Courtesy of the artist and Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Louvre 4 Paris' 1989

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Louvre 4, Paris
1989
© Thomas Struth

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Kyoko and Tomoharu Murakami, Tokyo' 1991

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Kyoko and Tomoharu Murakami, Tokyo
1991
Chromogenic print
105.5 x 126.0 cm
© Thomas Struth

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Thomas Struth: Figure Ground' at Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Installation view of the exhibition Thomas Struth: Figure Ground at Haus der Kunst, Munich with Paradise 26 (Bougainville), Palpa, Peru (2003) to the right
Courtesy of the artist and Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Bright sunflower - No. 1, Winterthur' 1991

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Bright sunflower – No. 1, Winterthur
1991
Chromogenic print
84.0 x 66.0 cm
© Thomas Struth

 

 

This major exhibition by the pioneering German photographer Thomas Struth (born 1954) presents the most comprehensive survey of his genre-defining oeuvre. Covering four decades of work and every phase of his illustrious artistic career, the exhibition focuses especially on the aspect of Struth’s social interests which represent the important forces of his internationally influential artistic development. Starting with his first series Unbewusste Orte (Unconscious Places) published in 1987 through his current works that deal with the field of research and technology in the globalised world, Struth’s work develops its own specific analytical nature through his choice of subject matter, the manner of its photographic realisation and its modes of presentation. These aspirations are manifested in questioning the relevance of public space and transformation of cities, the cohesive factor of family solidarity, the importance of the relationship between nature and culture, and exploring the limits and possibilities of new technologies. The momentum of participation further characterises these aspirations, as Struth’s extensive pictorial inventions and strategies allow individual interpretation based on collective knowledge.

In this exhibition, early works and research materials related to the artist’s subject matter, and collected over several decades, are shown for the first time in the context of an exhibition, offering access and insight into Struth’s working methods. Together with the photographs, these materials elucidate his longstanding interests behind the different series, demonstrating the process of artistic translation before the perfection of the image.

Featuring around 130 works, two multichannel video installations, and a selection of archival material, the exhibition in Haus der Kunst is the largest survey of Struth’s artistic career to date. The survey links his early ideas to well-known series such as Straßen (Streets), Unbewusste Orte (Unconscious Places), Portraits, Museumsbilder (Museum Pictures), Paradise, and Audiences which are placed in dialogue with site-specific works like Löwenzahnzimmer (Dandelion Room), the landscape- and flower photographs that were made for the patients’ rooms at the Hospital on the Lindberg in Winterthur, Switzerland. It also includes photographs recently shown in the exhibition Nature & Politics. Within this interplay, the exciting ability of the artist to combine analysis and individual pictorial invention in multifaceted works and techniques builds an overarching idea on how to deal with the elementary matters of our times.

The exhibition is accompanied by a publication from Schirmer / Mosel Publishers, Munich, designed by Fernando Gutierrez, with texts by Thomas Weski, Ulrich Wilmes, Jana-Maria Hartmann, and an interview with the artist by Okwui Enwezor. The exhibition is organised by Haus der Kunst and curated by Thomas Weski.

Press release from Haus der Kunst

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Wangfujing Dong Lu, Shanghai' 1997

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Wangfujing Dong Lu, Shanghai
1997
Chromogenic print
117.5 x 143.6 cm
© Thomas Struth

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Paradise 10 (Xi Shuang Banna), Yunnan Province, China' 1999

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Paradise 10 (Xi Shuang Banna), Yunnan Province, China
1999
Chromogenic print
182.0 x 227.0 cm
© Thomas Struth

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Self-Portrait, Munich' 2000

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Self-Portrait, Munich
2000
© Thomas Struth

 

“Albrecht Durer painted his self-portrait in 1500, so Struth’s Self-Portrait, Munich 2000 feels like a conversation between artists across 500 years.”

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'National Gallery 2, London' 2001

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
National Gallery 2, London
2001
Chromogenic print
148.0 x 170.4 cm
© Thomas Struth

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Audience 7, Florence' 2004

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Audience 7, Florence
2004
Chromogenic print
179.5 x 291.5 cm
© Thomas Struth

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Audience 11, Florence' 2004

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Audience 11, Florence
2004
Chromogenic print
179.5 x 291.5 cm
© Thomas Struth

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Thomas Struth: Figure Ground' at Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Installation view of the exhibition Thomas Struth: Figure Ground at Haus der Kunst, Munich with Semi Submersible Rig, DSME Shipyard, Geoje Island (2007) at centre
Courtesy of the artist and Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Semi Submersible Rig, DSME Shipyard, Geoje Island' 2007

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Semi Submersible Rig, DSME Shipyard, Geoje Island
2007
© Thomas Struth

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Thomas Struth: Figure Ground' at Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Installation view of the exhibition Thomas Struth: Figure Ground at Haus der Kunst, Munich with Tokamak Asdex Upgrade Periphery, Max Planck IPP, Garching (2009) at left
Courtesy of the artist and Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Tokamak Asdex Upgrade Periphery, Max Planck IPP, Garching' 2009

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Tokamak Asdex Upgrade Periphery, Max Planck IPP, Garching
2009
Chromogenic print
109.3 x 85.8 cm
© Thomas Struth

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Har Homa, East Jerusalem' 2009

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Har Homa, East Jerusalem
2009
Inkjet print
148.6 x 184.8 cm
© Thomas Struth

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Thomas Struth: Figure Ground' at Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Installation view of the exhibition Thomas Struth: Figure Ground at Haus der Kunst, Munich with The Faez Family, Rehovot (2009) second left
Courtesy of the artist and Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'The Faez Family, Rehovot' 2009

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
The Faez Family, Rehovot
2009
© Thomas Struth

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Grazing Incidence Spectrometer, Max Planck IPP, Garching' 2010

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Grazing Incidence Spectrometer, Max Planck IPP, Garching
2010
© Thomas Struth

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Chemistry Fume Cabinet, The University of Edinburgh' 2010

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Chemistry Fume Cabinet, The University of Edinburgh
2010
© Thomas Struth

 

 

Take, for instance, Struth’s photograph “Chemistry Fume Cabinet, The University of Edinburgh” (2010). Ostensibly a photograph of a chemistry fume cabinet at the University of Edinburgh, photographed through a clear, glass window, the work is also a study in colour and form. Within a white background space, the back wall has black horizontal lines running along it, while the side walls have one vertical line each. These opposing lines create what appear to be a haphazard grid. A wide red horizontal structure runs across the front of the room, creating one more line that both breaks up and contributes to the grid. Various machines within the room, two square red panels on the left and right sides of the window, and six coloured balloons provide a series of objects that fit within the finely structured container of the photograph’s frame.

What struck me immediately upon seeing this image was how the various lines and objects interact with one another. Struth presents the viewer with a kind of interactive field in which she can either read the image “as is” – photograph documenting a chemistry fume cabinet – or as a purely aesthetic experience. Or, of course, she can do both, which is what makes Struth’s work so rich and gratifying. It is in the way his mastery of colour and other formal elements coincides with his documentation of the world.

Cynthia Cruz. “Seeing the Deterioration of Technology in Thomas Struth’s Photographs,” on the Hyperallergic website [Online] Cited 05/08/2017

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Thomas Struth: Figure Ground' at Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Installation view of the exhibition Thomas Struth: Figure Ground at Haus der Kunst, Munich with Queen Elizabeth II & The Duke of Edinburgh, Windsor Castle (2010) at left
Courtesy of the artist and Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Queen Elizabeth II & The Duke of Edinburgh, Windsor Castle' 2010

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Queen Elizabeth II & The Duke of Edinburgh, Windsor Castle
2010
© Thomas Struth

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Thomas Struth: Figure Ground' at Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Installation view of the exhibition Thomas Struth: Figure Ground at Haus der Kunst, Munich with Aquarium, Atlanta, Georgia (2013) at right
Courtesy of the artist and Haus der Kunst, Munich

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Aquarium, Atlanta, Georgia' 2013

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Aquarium, Atlanta, Georgia
2013
© Thomas Struth

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954) 'Schaltwerk 1 Berlin' 2016

 

Thomas Struth (born 1954)
Schaltwerk 1, Berlin
2016
© Thomas Struth

 

 

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Germany
Tel: +49 89 21127 113

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

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