Posts Tagged ‘alfred steiglitz


Exhibition: ‘Made in America 1900-1950. Photographs from the National Gallery of Canada’, Ottawa, Ontario

Exhibition dates: 9th December 2011 – 1st April 2012


Edward Steichen.
 'Nocturne - Orangery Staircase, Versailles' 1908


Edward Steichen
 (American, 1879-1973)
Nocturne – Orangery Staircase, Versailles
Purchased 1976
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa



Stunning photographs in this posting: Steichen’s
 Nocturne – Orangery Staircase, Versailles (1908) is just sublime; Sheeler’s Side of a White Barn (1917) is early Modernist perfection, rivalling Paul Strand’s The White Fence, Port Kent (1916); Barbara Morgan’s photograph of dancer Martha Graham (1940) portraying, radiantly, her divine dissatisfaction; and the most beautiful portrait by Imogen Cunningham of Frida Kahlo (1931). Every time I see this portrait I nearly burst into tears – the light falling from the right and from the left onto the boards behind her, the texture of her cloak, the languorous nature of her hands, her absolute poise and beauty – looking straight into the camera, looking straight into your soul. What a beautiful women, such strength and vulnerability. A stunning photograph of an amazing women. The photograph just takes your breath away…


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


Arthur Leipzig
 (American, 1918-2014) 'Opening Night at the Opera, New York' 1945


Arthur Leipzig
 (American, 1918-2014)
Opening Night at the Opera, New York
Gelatin silver print
27 x 34.1 cm
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
© Arthur Leipzig/Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery


Charles Sheeler (American, 1883-1965) 'Side of a White Barn, Pennsylvania' 1917


Charles Sheeler (American, 1883-1965)
Side of a White Barn, Pennsylvania
Gelatin silver print
7 5/8 x 9 5/8 in.
The J. Paul Getty Museum



“Lines and texture define this view of the side of a white barn. In the photographic rendering, the white barn is a soft gray, punctuated by knots in the wood and shadows cast by the uneven boards. In the lower right corner of the image, a small window, a fence, and a chicken standing atop a pile of hay add visual weight yet surrender to the repetitive, vertical domination of the structure. Like every other line, the horizontal line dividing the areas of wood and plaster is drawn without a straight edge.” Text from the Getty Museum website


Alfred Stiegitz (American, 1864-1946) 'The Steerage' 1907


Alfred Steiglitz (American, 1864-1946)
The Steerage
Gelatin silver print


Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)  'Corner of State and Randolph Streets, Chicago' c. 1946-1947


Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Corner of State and Randolph Streets, Chicago
c. 1946-1947
Gelatin silver print
Image: 26.1 x 25 cm
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Gift of Benjamin Greenberg, Ottawa, 1981
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Barbara Morgan.
 'Martha Graham, Letter to the World, "Kick"' 1940, printed c. 1945


Barbara Morgan
 (American, 1900-1992)
Martha Graham, Letter to the World, “Kick”
1940, printed c. 1945
Gelatin silver print
38.6 x 48.2 cm
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa



“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable it is, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate YOU. Keep the channel open… No artist is pleased… There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction; a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”

Martha Graham to Agnes DeMille



In the first five decades of the 20th century photography came into its own – both as an art form and as a tool to document social and political change. American photographers were exploring both the poetic and transformative expressiveness of the medium, as well as recording the growth and change of the country in its various phases of industrial development. On view until April 1, 2012, Made in America 1900-1950: Photographs from the National Gallery of Canada looks at both approaches, and the divisions between the two, as they are necessarily porous and somewhat arbitrary.

“The Gallery’s collection is so rich in 20th century American photographs that it needs an exhibition in two parts and a catalogue in two volumes. This first presentation focuses on the period between 1900 and 1950,” noted NGC director Marc Mayer. “This comprehensive collection has been amassed in large part through the generosity of brilliant collectors.”

“Each of [the decades] is characterised by tremendous growth, change, and creative thought about the medium and its reception in the United States,” noted curator Ann Thomas in the catalogue, American Photographs 1900-1950.

It was a period of great technical and technological change: such as the introduction of the personal 35mm camera in the early 1920s, following the German model developed by Leica, and Ansel Adams’ and Fred Archer’s creation of the zone system to determine optimal film exposure and development.

Composed of over 130 photographs, two issues of Camera Work, one issue of Manuscripts, and several period cameras, the exhibition Made in America celebrates the exceptional contribution that American photographers made to the history of art in the 20th century. Made been 1900-1950, these photographs represent an extraordinarily fertile period in the evolution of photography. They include stunning works by Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, Clarence White, Paul Strand, Walker Evans, Margaret Bourke-White, Dorothea Lange, Berenice Abbott, Ansel Adams, Lisette Model, Weegee, and members of New York’s Photo League.

Made in America is the fourth in a series of exhibitions and catalogues presenting the Gallery’s outstanding collection of international photographs. It follows Modernist Photographs (2007), 19th Century French Photographs (2010), and 19th Century British Photographs (2011).

Made in America 1900-1950: Photographs from the National Gallery of Canada explores a dynamic period in the history of photography when the medium was emerging as both an art form and a tool for documenting social change. Presenting 134 works from the National Gallery’s extraordinary collection of American photographs, this exhibition chronicles the evolution of the medium, beginning with Pictorialism and moving through modernism, straight photography and documentary work. On the walls are some truly magnificent, iconic works by the most influential photographers, among them Alfred Stieglitz’s The Steerage, Edward Steichen’s Nocturne – Orangerie Staircase, Versailles, Ansel Adams’ Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico and Barbara Morgan’s Martha Graham, Letter to the World (Kick).

At the turn of the 20th century, American photographers were fully engaged in the Pictorialist aesthetic, creating pastoral landscapes, foggy street scenes and idealised portraits of women and children. With their soft focus and gentle lighting, the images convey a romantic moodiness. Pictorialist photographers often manipulated their negatives and prints to achieve painterly effects. Gertrude Käsebier’s Serbonne, for instance, is reminiscent of an Impressionist painting.

Around the mid-teens, artists such as Stieglitz, Paul Strand and Walker Evans came to reject the notion of photography imitating painting, and instead sought to take advantage of the medium’s inherent, unique characteristics, especially its ability to achieve sharp definition, even lighting and smooth surfaces. The result was ground-breaking modernist work such as Stieglitz’s Equivalent series, Alvin Langdon Coburn’s Vortograph and Charles Sheeler’s Side of White Barn.

Out on the west coast in the early 1930s, Group f.64 was committed to the ideal of pure, un-manipulated, or “straight” photography. Edward Weston’s nudes and juniper trees, and Imogen Cunningham’s portrait of Frida Kahlo demonstrate the hallmarks of f.64: crisp detail, sharp focus, and often a sensual minimalism.

The first decades of the 20th century also provided rich subject matter for documentary photographers, as social and economic changes dramatically transformed daily life. Lewis Hine’s photographs of immigrants and child labourers tell fascinating stories, as do images of the Depression by Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans. The Photo League sent its members out into New York’s streets to capture ordinary people on film. Helen Levitt, Jerome Liebling and Sol Libsohn chronicled small dramas unfolding on sidewalks.

Visitors familiar with Ansel Adams’ grand, sublime landscapes might be surprised by his more contemplative series of foaming Pacific waves, titled Surf Sequence. Sharing the gallery space is Minor White’s poetic series Song Without Words, made along the same coast. Both demonstrate an almost cinematic approach to photograph-making and plunge the viewer into seaside reverie.

Press release from the National Gallery of Canada website


Alvin Coburn (American, 1882-1966) 'Vortograph' 1917


Alvin Coburn (American, 1882-1966)
Gelatin silver print
11 1/8 × 8 3/8″ (28.2 × 21.2 cm)
Courtesy of George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film



The intricate patterns of light and line in this photograph, and the cascading tiers of crystalline shapes, were generated through the use of a kaleidoscopic contraption invented by the American / British photographer Alvin Langdon Coburn, a member of London’s Vorticist group. To refute the idea that photography, in its helplessly accurate capture of scenes in the real world, was antithetical to abstraction, Coburn devised for his camera lens an attachment made up of three mirrors, clamped together in a triangle, through which he photographed a variety of surfaces to produce the results in these images. The poet and Vorticist Ezra Pound coined the term “vortographs” to describe Coburn’s experiments. Although Pound went on to criticise these images as lesser expressions than Vorticist paintings, Coburn’s work would remain influential.

Gallery label from Inventing Abstraction, 1910-1925, December 23, 2012 – April 15, 2013.


Gertrude Kasebier (American, 1852-1934) 'Serbonne' 1902, printed 1903


Gertrude Kasebier (American, 1852-1934)
1902, printed 1903
from Camera Work, January 1903
Gum bichromate, halftone
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa


Imogen Cunningham. 'Frida Kahlo' 1931


Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976)
Frida Kahlo
Gelatin silver print
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa


Ralph Steiner.
 'Model T' 1929


Ralph Steiner
 (American, 1899-1986)
Model T
1929, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Image: 24.2 x 19.7 cm
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa


Walker Evans.
 'Citizen in Downtown Havana' 1933


Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Citizen in Downtown Havana
Gelatin silver print
25.1 x 20.1 cm
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Gift of Phyllis Lambert, Montreal, 1982
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art



National Gallery of Canada
380 Sussex Drive
P.O. Box 427, Station A
Ottawa, Ontario
K1N 9N4

Opening hours:
Daily 10am – 5pm
Thursday 10am – 8pm

1 October – 30 April
Monday closed
Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 5pm
Thursday 10am – 8pm

National Gallery of Canada website


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Exhibition: ‘Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstraction’ at The Phillips Collection, Washington D.C.

Exhibition dates: 6th February – 9th May 2010


Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Grey Blue & Black - Pink Circle' 1929


Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Grey Blue & Black – Pink Circle
Oil on canvas
36 x 48 in. (91.4 x 121.9 cm)
Dallas Museum of Art
Gift of The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation



Many thankx to Shira Pinsker and The Phillips Collection for allowing me to reproduce the images in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

For an excellent analysis of the convergences between Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams see Geneva Anderson’s review Masters of the Southwest: Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams Natural Affinities.




“It is surprising to me to see how many people separate the objective from the abstract. Objective painting is not good painting unless it is good in the abstract sense. A hill or tree cannot make a good painting just because it is a hill or a tree. It is lines and colours put together so that they say something. For me that is the very basis of painting. The abstraction is often the most definite form for the intangible thing in myself that I can only clarify in paint.”

“I long ago came to the conclusion that even if I could put down accurately the thing that I saw and enjoyed, it would not give the observer the kind of feeling it gave me. I had to create an equivalent for what I felt about what I was looking at – not copy it.”

Georgia O’Keeffe, 1976



Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Flower Abstraction' 1924


Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Flower Abstraction
Oil on canvas
48 x 30 in.
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
50th Anniversary Gift of Sandra Payson
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York


Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Jack-in-the-Pulpit No. IV' 1930


Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Jack-in-the-Pulpit No. IV
Oil on canvas
40 x 30 in.
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Alfred Stieglitz Collection, Bequest of Georgia O’Keeffe
Image courtesy of the Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington



Wall text from the exhibition

Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) is fixed in the public imagination as a painter of places and things. She has long been recognised for her still lifes of flowers, leaves, animal bones and shells, her images of Manhattan skyscrapers, and her Lake George and New Mexico landscapes. Yet it was with abstraction that O’Keeffe entered the art world and first became celebrated as an artist. In the spring of 1916, she burst onto the New York art scene with a group of abstract charcoal drawings that were among the most radical works produced in the United States in the early twentieth century. As she expanded her repertoire in the years that followed to include watercolour and oil, she retained the fluid space and dynamic, organic motifs of these early charcoals.

Abstraction dominated O’Keeffe’s output in the early part of her career and remained a fundamental language for her thereafter. Some of her abstractions have no recognisable source in the natural world; others distill visible reality into elemental, simplified forms. For O’Keeffe, abstraction offered a way to portray what she called the “unknown” – intense thoughts and feelings she could not express in words and did not rationally understand. Her abstractions recorded an array of emotions and responses to people and places. At the heart of her practice was an affinity for the flux and sinuous rhythms of nature. Through swelling forms and sumptuous colour, O’Keeffe depicted the experience of being in nature – so enveloped by its sublime mystery and beauty that awareness of all else is suspended.


Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Early Abstraction' 1915


Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Early Abstraction
Charcoal on paper
24 x 18 5/8 in. (61 x 47.3 cm)
Milwaukee Art Museum
Gift of Jane Bradley Pettit Foundation and The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation
Photography by Malcolm Varon
© Milwaukee Art Museum


Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Blue II' 1916


Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Blue II
Watercolour on paper
27 7/8 x 22 1/4 in. (70.8 x 56.5 cm)
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Gift, The Burnett Foundation
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York


Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Untitled (Abstraction/Portrait of Paul Strand)' 1917


Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Untitled (Abstraction/Portrait of Paul Strand)
Watercolour on paper
12 x 8 7/8 in. (30.5 x 22.5 cm)
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Gift, The Burnett Foundation
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York



The artistic achievement of Georgia O’Keeffe is examined from a fresh perspective in Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstraction, a landmark exhibition debuting this winter at The Phillips Collection. While O’Keeffe (1887-1986) has long been recognised as one of the central figures in 20th-century art, the radical abstract work she created throughout her long career has remained less well-known than her representational art. By surveying her abstractions, Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstraction repositions O’Keeffe as one of America’s first and most daring abstract artists. The exhibition, one of the largest of O’Keeffe’s work ever assembled, goes on view February 6 – May 9, 2010.

Including more than 125 paintings, drawings, watercolours, and sculptures by O’Keeffe as well as selected examples of Alfred Stieglitz’s famous photographic portrait series of O’Keeffe, the exhibition has been many years in the making.

While it is true that O’Keeffe has entered the public imagination as a painter of sensual, feminine subjects, she is nevertheless viewed first and foremost as a painter of places and things. When one thinks of her work it is usually of her magnified images of open flowers and her iconic depictions of animal bones, her Lake George landscapes, her images of stark New Mexican cliffs, and her still lifes of fruit, leaves, shells, rocks, and bones. Even O’Keeffe’s canvasses of architecture, from the skyscrapers of Manhattan to the adobe structures of Abiquiu, come to mind more readily than the numerous works – made throughout her career – that she termed abstract.

This exhibition is the first to examine O’Keeffe’s achievement as an abstract artist. In 1915, O’Keeffe leaped into the forefront of American modernism with a group of abstract charcoal drawings that were among the most radical creations produced in the United States at that time. A year later, she added colour to her repertoire; by 1918, she was expressing the union of abstract form and colour in paint. First exhibited in 1923, O’Keeffe’s psychologically charged, brilliantly coloured abstract oils garnered immediate critical and public acclaim. For the next decade, abstraction would dominate her attention. Even after 1930, when O’Keeffe’s focus turned increasingly to representational subjects, she never abandoned abstraction, which remained the guiding principle of her art. She returned to abstraction in the mid 1940s with a new, planar vocabulary that provided a precedent for a younger generation of abstractionists.

Abstraction and representation for O’Keeffe were neither binary nor oppositional. She moved freely from one to the other, cognisant that all art is rooted in an underlying abstract formal invention. For O’Keeffe, abstraction offered a way to communicate ineffable thoughts and sensations. As she said in 1976, “The abstraction is often the most definite form for the intangible thing in myself that I can only clarify in paint.” Through her personal language of abstraction, she sought to give visual form (as she confided in a 1916 letter to Alfred Stieglitz) to “things I feel and want to say – [but] havent [sic] words for.” Abstraction allowed her to express intangible experience – be it a quality of light, colour, sound, or response to a person or place. As O’Keeffe defined it in 1923, her goal as a painter was to “make the unknown – known. By unknown I mean the thing that means so much to the person that he wants to put it down – clarify something he feels but does not clearly understand.”

This exhibition and catalogue chronicle the trajectory of O’Keeffe’s career as an abstract artist and examine the forces impacting the changes in her subject matter and style. From the beginning of her career, she was, as critic Henry McBride remarked, “a newspaper personality.” Interpretations of her art were shaped almost exclusively by Alfred Stieglitz, artist, charismatic impresario, dealer, editor, and O’Keeffe’s eventual husband, who presented her work from 1916 to 1946 at the groundbreaking galleries “291”, the Anderson Galleries, the Intimate Gallery, and An American Place. Stieglitz’s public and private statements about O’Keeffe’s early abstractions and the photographs he took of her, partially clothed or nude, led critics to interpret her work – to her great dismay – as Freudian-tinged, psychological expressions of her sexuality.

Cognisant of the public’s lack of sympathy for abstraction and seeking to direct the critics away from sexualised readings of her work, O’Keeffe self-consciously began to introduce more recognisable images into her repertoire in the mid-1920s. As she wrote to the writer Sherwood Anderson in 1924, “I suppose the reason I got down to an effort to be objective is that I didn’t like the interpretations of my other things [abstractions].” O’Keeffe’s increasing shift to representational subjects, coupled with Stieglitz’s penchant for favouring the exhibition of new, previously unseen work, meant that O’Keeffe’s abstractions rarely figured in the exhibitions Stieglitz mounted of her work after 1930, with the result that her first forays into abstraction virtually disappeared from public view.”

Text from the Phillips Collection website [Online] Cited 15/03/2010 no longer available online


Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Music, Pink and Blue No. 2' 1918


Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Music, Pink and Blue No. 2
Oil on canvas, 35 x 29 1/8 in. (88.9 x 74 cm)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Gift of Emily Fisher Landau in honour of Tom Armstrong
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York
Photograph by Sheldan C. Collins


Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Series I - No. 3' 1918


Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Series I – No. 3
Oil on board
20 x 16 in. (50.8 x 40.6 cm)
Milwaukee Art Museum
Gift of Jane Bradley Pettit Foundation and The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation
Photography by Larry Sanders
© Milwaukee Art Museum


Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Series I, No. 4' 1918


Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Series I, No. 4
Oil on canvas
20 x 16 in. (50.8 x 40.6 cm)
Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich
Gift of The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation


Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Abstraction White Rose' 1927


Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Abstraction White Rose
Oil on canvas
36 x 30 in. (91.4 x 76.2 cm)
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Gift, The Burnett Foundation and The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York


Georgia O'Keeffe (American, 1887-1986) 'Black Place II' 1944


Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Black Place II
Oil on canvas
36 x 40 in. (91.4 x 101.6 cm)
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Gift, The Burnett Foundation
© 1987, Private Collection



The Phillips Collection
1600 21st Street, NW, Washington, D.C., near the corner of 21st and Q Streets, NW

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm, with extended evening hours on Thursdays until 8.30 pm, and on Sundays from 12 pm to 6 pm.

Phillips Collection website


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Exhibition: ‘Icons of American Photography: A Century of Photographs from the Cleveland Museum of Art’ at the Frick Art and Historical Center, Pittsburgh

Exhibition dates: 3rd October 2009 – 3rd January 2010

Curator: Tom Hinson, Curator of Photography


Many thankx to the Frick Art and Historical Center for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

Dr Marcus Bunyan



Matthew Brady (American 1823-1896) 'Prosper Whetmore' 1857


Matthew Brady (American 1823-1896)
Prosper Whetmore
Salted paper print from wet collodion negative
47 x 39.4 cm (18 1/2 x 15 1/2 in.)
CC0 1.0 Universal



A popular author, legislator, and general in the New York State militia, Wetmore, here at age 59, still resembles Edgar Allen Poe’s description of him from a decade earlier: “about five feet eight in height, slender, neat; with an air of military compactness.” Brady’s portrait studio, with branches in New York and Washington, DC, was the most important of its era in America, thanks in part to its success in photographing political, social, and cultural figures. These early celebrity portraits … could sell thousands of copies.


Anne W. Brigman (American, 1869-1950) 'The Hamadryads' c. 1910


Anne W. Brigman (American, 1869-1950)
The Hamadryads
c. 1910
Platinum print


Charles Sheeler (1883-1965) 'Bucks County Barn' 1915


Charles Sheeler (1883-1965)
Bucks County Barn
Gelatin silver print
9 1/4 x 7 5/16″ (23.5 x 18.6 cm)


Margaret Bourke-White (American 1904-1971) 'Terminal Tower' 1928


Margaret Bourke-White (American 1904-1971)
Terminal Tower
13 1/4 x 10″ (33.7 x 25.4 cm)
Gelatin silver print


Imogene Cunningham. 'Black and White Lilies III' 1928


Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976)
Black and White Lilies III
Gelatin silver print


Alfred Steiglitz. 'Georgia O'Keefe' 1933


Alfred Steiglitz (American 1864-1946)
Georgia O’Keefe
Gelatin silver photograph


Dorothea Lange (American 1895-1965) 'Resident, Conway, Arkansas' 1938


Dorothea Lange (American 1895-1965)
Resident, Conway, Arkansas
Gelatin silver print
11 15/16 x 9 1/2 in. (30.32 x 24.13 cm)


Laszlo Moholy Nagy. 'Untitled' 1939


Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Gelatin silver print



On October 3, 2009, Icons of American Photography: A Century of Photographs from the Cleveland Museum of Art opens at The Frick Art Museum. This exhibition is composed of fifty-nine photographs from Cleveland’s extraordinary collection that chronicle the evolution of photography in America from a scientific curiosity in the 1850s to one of the most potent forms of artistic expression of the twentieth century.

Icons of American Photography presents some of the best work by masters of the medium, like Mathew Brady, William Henry Jackson, Eadweard Muybridge, Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, Paul Strand, Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, Margaret Bourke-White, Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, and Robert Frank, encompassing themes of portraiture, the Western landscape, Pictorialism, documentary photography, and abstraction.

The exhibition explores the technical developments of photography, starting with outstanding examples of daguerreotypes – a sheet of copper coated with light sensitive silver. The daguerreotype gave way to salt, albumen, and then gelatin silver prints. Technologies improved to accommodate larger sizes, easy reproduction of multiple prints from a single negative, and commercially available negative film and print papers. As we move into an increasingly digitised twenty-first century, the lure of the photographer’s magic and the mysteries of making photographic images appear on paper is still strong.

Icons of American Photography presents a remarkable chronicle of American life seen through the camera’s lens. The earliest days of photography saw a proliferation of portraiture – intimately personal and honest in composition. A rare multiple-exposure daguerreotype by Albert Southworth (1811- 894) and Josiah Hawes (1808-1901) presents the sitter in variety of poses and expressions, while the formal portrait of Prosper M. Wetmore, 1857, by Civil War-era photographer Mathew Brady (1823-1896) is more typical of early portraiture. The carefully staged daguerreotype, Dead Child on a Sofa, c. 1855, is an outstanding example of the postmortem portrait. The high rate of infant mortality throughout the 1800s made this variety of portraiture common, satisfying the emotional need of the parents to have a lasting memory of their loved one.

Advances in photographic processes allowed for a range of expressive qualities that were exploited by photographers with an artistic flair. In a style known as Pictorialism, works such as Hamadryads, 1910, by Anne Brigman (1869-1950) imitated the subject matter of painting. In Greek mythology a hamadryad is a nymph whose life begins and ends with that of a specific tree. In this work, two nudes representing wood nymphs were carefully placed among the flowing forms of an isolated tree in the High Sierra. The platinum print method used by Brigman allowed for a detailed, yet warm and evocative result. Edward Steichen’s Rodin the Thinker, 1902 (see below), was created from two different negatives printed together using the carbon print process. This non-silver process provided a continuous and delicate tonal range. For even greater richness, these prints were often toned, producing dense, glossy areas in either black or warm brown.

During the late nineteenth century, the U.S. Congress commissioned photographers to document the American West. Photographs by Timothy O’Sullivan (1840-1882) and William Henry Jackson (1843-1942) are the most celebrated from among this era. The exhibition includes O’Sullivan’s East Humbolt Mountains, Utah, 1868, and Jackson’s Mystic Lake, M.T., 1872, as well as Bridal Veil, Yosemite, c. 1866 (see below), by Carleton Watkins (1829-1916). Photographers carried large-format cameras with heavy glass negatives to precarious vantage points to create their sharply focused and detailed views. Decades later, Ansel Adams (1902-1984) carried on the intrepid tradition when he swerved to the side of the road and hauled his view camera to the roof of his car to make the famous image Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941.

Responding to the rapid growth of the twentieth century, many photographers shifted their attention from depictions of the natural world to the urban landscape. The power, energy, and romance of the city inspired varied approaches, from sweeping vistas to tight, close-up details and unusual camera angles. Margaret Bourke-White (1904-1971) established her reputation during the late 1920s by photographing industrial subjects in Cleveland. Her Terminal Tower, 1928, documents what was then the second tallest building in America. Berenice Abbot’s (1898-1991) New York, 1936, is one of many depictions of this vibrant metropolis. The human life of the city intrigued many photographers, including Helen Levitt (1913-2009) whose photographs of children are direct, unsentimental and artful; Weegee [Arthur Fellig] (1899-1968) who unflinchingly documented crime and accident scenes; and Gordon Parks (1912-2006) who chronicled the life of African Americans.

Exploiting the new medium, numerous photography projects were instituted as part of FDR’s New Deal. The most legendary was that of the Farm Security Administration (FSA) run by Roy Stryker, who hired such important photographers such as Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, and Arthur Rothstein. One of the most iconic images of the New Deal was Dust Storm, Cimarron County, 1936 (see below), by Arthur Rothstein (1915-1985). In the spring of 1936, Rothstein made hundreds of photographs in Cimarron County in the Oklahoma panhandle, one of the worst wind-eroded areas in the United States. Out of that body of work came this gripping, unforgettable image. Dorothea Lange’s (1895-1965) work chronicled the human toll wrought by hardship in Resident, Conway, Arkansas, 1938.

As an art form, photography kept in step with formalist modern styles and an increasing trend toward abstraction. Known for his precisionist paintings, Charles Sheeler’s (1883-1965) Bucks County Barn, 1915, features a geometric composition, sharp focus, and subtle tonal range. In Black and White Lilies III, c. 1928 (see above), Imogen Cunningham (1883-1976) combined the clarity and directness of Modernism with her long-held interest in botanical imagery. For two decades she created a remarkable group of close-up studies of plants and flowers that identified her as one of the most sophisticated and experimental photographers working in America.

Photographers such as Edward Weston (1886-1958) and Paul Strand (1890-1976) employed a straight-on clarity that highlighted the abstract design of everyday objects and the world around us. A completely abstract work by artist László Moholy-Nagy (1894-1946), Untitled, 1939 (see above), is a photogram made by laying objects onto light-sensitive photographic paper and exposing it to light. The objects partially block the light to create an abstract design on the paper.

By 1960, photography had attained a prominent place not only among the fine arts, but in popular culture as well, ushering in a new era of image-based communication that has profoundly affected the arts as well as everyday life.

Icons of American Photography: A Century of Photographs from the Cleveland Museum of Art is organised by the Cleveland Museum of Art. The exhibition is curated by Tom Hinson, Curator of Photography.”

Press release from the The Frick Art and Historical Center website [Online] Cited 06/12/2009 no longer available online


Unknown photographer (American) 'Dead child on a sofa' c. 1855


Unknown photographer (American)
Dead child on a sofa
c. 1855
Quarter plate daguerreotype with applied colour


Carleton Watkins. 'Yosemite Valley from the Best General View No. 2.' 1866


Carelton Watkins (American 1829-1916)
Yosemite Valley from the Best General View No. 2
Albumen silver print



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

Text from the J. Paul Getty Museum [Online] Cited 14/05/2019


Carleton Watkins. 'Bridal Veil, Yosemite' 1866


Carelton Watkins (American 1829-1916)
Bridal Veil, Yosemite
Albumen silver print


Eadweard J. Muybridge. 'Valley of Yosemite, from Rocky Ford' 1872


Eadweard J. Muybridge (American, born England, 1830-1904)
Valley of Yosemite, from Rocky Ford
Albumen silver print


Edward Steichen (American 1879-1973) 'Rodin The Thinker' 1902


Edward Steichen (American 1879-1973)
Rodin The Thinker
Gum bichromate print



When Edward Steichen arrived in Paris in 1900, Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) was regarded not only as the finest living sculptor but also perhaps as the greatest artist of his time. Steichen visited him in his studio in Meudon in 1901 and Rodin, upon seeing the young photographer’s work, agreed to sit for his portrait. Steichen spent a year studying the sculptor among his works, finally choosing to show Rodin in front of the newly carved white marble of the “Monument to Victor Hugo,” facing the bronze of “The Thinker.” In his autobiography, Steichen describes the studio as being so crowded with marble blocks and works in clay, plaster, and bronze that he could not fit them together with the sculptor into a single negative. He therefore made two exposures, one of Rodin and the “Monument to Victor Hugo,” and another of “The Thinker.” Steichen first printed each image separately and, having mastered the difficulties of combining the two negatives, joined them later into a single picture, printing the negative showing Rodin in reverse.

“Rodin – The Thinker” is a remarkable demonstration of Steichen’s control of the gum bichromate process and the painterly effects it encouraged. It is also the most ambitious effort of any Pictorialist to emulate art in the grand tradition. The photograph portrays the sculptor in symbiotic relation to his work.

Suppressing the texture of the marble and bronze and thus emphasiSing the presence of the sculptures as living entities, Steichen was able to assimilate the artist into the heroic world of his creations. Posed in relief against his work, Rodin seems to contemplate in “The Thinker” his own alter ego, while the luminous figure of Victor Hugo suggests poetic inspiration as the source of his creativity. Recalling his response to a reproduction of Rodin’s “Balzac” in a Milwaukee newspaper, Steichen noted: “It was not just a statue of a man; it was the very embodiment of a tribute to genius.” Filled with enthusiasm and youthful self-confidence, Steichen wanted in this photograph to pay similar tribute to Rodin’s genius.

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website [Online] Cited 14/05/2019


Arthur Rothstein (American 1915-1985) 'Dust Storm, Cimarron County' 1936


Arthur Rothstein (American 1915-1985)
Dust Storm, Cimarron County
Gelatin silver photograph
40.4 × 39.6cm



The Frick Art and Historical Center
7227 Reynolds Street
Pittsburgh PA 15208

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 5pm
Friday 10am – 9pm
Closed Monday

The Frick Art and Historical Center website


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Exhibition: ‘TruthBeauty: Pictorialism and the Photograph as Art, 1845-1945’ at George Eastman House, New York

Exhibition dates: 7th February 2009 – 31st May 2009


Alfred Steiglitz. 'Snapshot - In the New York Central Yards' Negative 1903; Printed 1910


Alfred Steiglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Snapshot – In the New York Central Yards
Negative 1903; Printed 1910


This photograph of a train departing from Grand Central Terminal was probably made from the 48th Street foot bridge, which crossed over the railroad yard.


Alvin Langdon Coburn. 'Wapping' 1904


Alvin Langdon Coburn (American, 1882-1966)



Pictorialism was simultaneously a movement, a philosophy, an aesthetic, and a style, resulting in some of the most spectacular photographs in the history of the medium. This exhibition shows the rise of Pictorialism in the late 19th century from a desire to elevate photography to an art form equal to painting, drawing, and watercolour, and extends the historical period generally associated with it by including its influential precursors, its persistent practitioners, and its seminal effect on photographic Modernism.

With 130 masterworks from such well-known photographers as Alvin Langdon Coburn, Edward Steichen, Alfred Stieglitz, Robert Demachy, Frederick Evans, and F. Holland Day, this remarkable exhibition will illustrate the Pictorialism movement’s progression from its early influences to its lasting impact on photography and art.

Text from the George Eastman House website

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


Edward Steichen (American, 1879-1973) 'The Pond - Moonlight' Negative 1904; print 1906


Edward Steichen (American, 1879-1973)
The Pond – Moonlight
Negative 1904; print 1906



The Pond – Moonlight (also exhibited as The Pond – Moonrise) is a pictorialist photograph by Edward Steichen. The photograph was made in 1904 in Mamaroneck, New York, near the home of his friend art critic Charles Caffin. The photograph features a forest across a pond, with part of the moon appearing over the horizon in a gap in the trees. The Pond – Moonlight is an early photograph created by manually applying light-sensitive gums, giving the final print more than one colour. Only three known versions of The Pond – Moonlight are still in existence and, as a result of the hand-layering of the gums, each is unique. (Wikipedia)


Edward Steichen. 'Grand Prix at Longchamp, After the Races' 1907


Edward Steichen (American, 1879-1973)
Grand Prix at Longchamp, After the Races


Eva Watson Schutze (American, 1867-1935) 'Woman with Lilly' 1905


Eva Watson Schutze (American, 1867-1935)
Woman with Lilly



Eva Watson-Schütze (1867-1935) was an American photographer and painter who was one of the founding members of the Photo-Secession. …

Around the 1890s Watson began to develop a passion for photography, and soon she decided to make it her career. Between 1894 and 1896 she shared a photographic studio with Amelia Van Buren another Academy alumna in Philadelphia, and the following year she opened her own portrait studio. She quickly became known for her pictorialist style, and soon her studio was known as a gathering place for photographers who championed this aesthetic vision.

In 1897 she wrote to photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston about her belief in women’s future in photography: “There will be a new era, and women will fly into photography.”

In 1898 six of her photographs were chosen to be exhibited at the first Philadelphia Photographic Salon, where she exhibited under the name Eva Lawrence Watson. It was through this exhibition that she became acquainted with Alfred Stieglitz, who was one of the judges for the exhibit.

In 1899 she was elected as a member of the Photographic Society of Philadelphia. Photographer and critic Joseph Keiley praised the work she exhibited that year, saying she showed “delicate taste and artistic originality”.

The following year she was a member of the jury for the Philadelphia Photographic Salon. A sign of her stature as a photographer at that time may be seen by looking at the other members of the jury, who were Alfred Stieglitz, Gertrude Kasebier, Frank Eugene and Clarence H. White.

In 1900 Johnston asked her to submit work for a groundbreaking exhibition of American women photographers in Paris. Watson objected at first, saying “It has been one of my special hobbies – and one I have been very emphatic about, not to have my work represented as ‘women’s work’. I want [my work] judged by only one standard irrespective of sex.” Johnston persisted, however, and Watson had twelve prints – the largest number of any photographer – in the show that took place in 1901.

In 1901 she married Professor Martin Schütze, a German-born and -trained lawyer who had received his Ph.D. in German literature from the University of Pennsylvania in 1899. He took a teaching position in Chicago, where the couple soon moved.

That same year she was elected a member of The Linked Ring. She found the ability to correspond with some of the most progressive photographers of the day very invigorating, and she began to look for similar connections in the U.S.

In 1902 she suggested the idea of forming an association of independent and like-minded photographers to Alfred Stieglitz. They corresponded several times about this idea, and by the end of the year she joined Stieglitz as one of the founding members of the famous Photo-Secession.

About 1903 Watson-Schütze began to spend summers in Woodstock at the Byrdcliffe Colony in the Catskill Mountains of New York. She and her husband later bought land nearby and built a home they called “Hohenwiesen” (High Meadows) where she would spend most of her summer and autumn months from about 1910 until about 1925.

In 1905 Joseph Keiley wrote a lengthy article about her in Camera Work saying she was “one of the staunchest and sincerest upholders of the pictorial movement in America.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Frederick Evans. 'York Minster: In Sure and Certain Hope' 1903


Frederick Evans (British, 1853-1943)
York Minster: In Sure and Certain Hope



Frederick H. Evans (26 June 1853, London – 24 June 1943, London) was a British photographer, primarily of architectural subjects. He is best known for his images of English and French cathedrals. Evans began his career as a bookseller, but retired from that to become a full-time photographer in 1898, when he adopted the platinotype technique for his photography. Platinotype images, with extensive and subtle tonal range, non glossy-images, and better resistance to deterioration than other methods available at the time, suited Evans’ subject matter. Almost as soon as he began, however, the cost of platinum – and consequently, the cost of platinum paper for his images – began to rise. Because of this cost, and because he was reluctant to adopt alternate methodologies, by 1915 Evans retired from photography altogether.

Evans’ ideal of straightforward, “perfect” photographic rendering – unretouched or modified in any way – as an ideal was well-suited to the architectural foci of his work: the ancient, historic, ornate and often quite large cathedrals, cloisters and other buildings of the English and French countryside. This perfectionism, along with his tendency to exhibit and write about his work frequently, earned for him international respect and much imitation. He ultimately became regarded as perhaps the finest architectural photographer of his, or any, era – though some professionals privately felt that the Evans’ philosophy favouring extremely literal images was restrictive of the creative expression rapidly becoming available within the growing technology of the photographic field.

Evans was also an able photographer of landscapes and portraits, and among the many notable friends and acquaintances he photographed was George Bernard Shaw, with whom he also often corresponded. Evans was a member of the Linked Ring photographic society.

Text from the Wikipedia website


F. Holland Day. 'Ebony and Ivory' 1899


F. Holland Day (American, 1864-1933)
Ebony and Ivory


Robert Demachy. 'Une Balleteuse' 1900


Robert Demachy (French, 1859-1936)
Une Balleteuse
Gum bichromate print



Demachy was, with Émile Joachim Constant Puyo, the leader of the French Pictorial movement in France. His aesthetic sophistication and skill with the gum bichromate technique, which he revived in 1894 and pressed into the service of fine art photography, were internationally renowned. With the gum medium, he was able to achieve the appearance of a drawing or printmaking process-in this photograph, he has added marks characteristic of etching during intermediate stages of development-in order to advocate photography’s membership in the fine arts by revealing the intervention of the photographer’s hand in the printmaking stage of the photographic process. The result attested to Demachy’s mastery of his medium, but also proved his ability to unify a composition and select significant details from the myriad of facts available in his negatives. In this picture, Demachy has gently elided the background and erased the features of the left third of the image in order to emphasise the grace and delicacy of the ballet dancer that is its subject.

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website



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900 East Avenue
Rochester, NY 14607

Opening hours:
Tues – Sat 10am – 5pm
Sunday 11am – 5pm

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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