Posts Tagged ‘American modernist photography

27
Apr
18

Exhibition: ‘In the Beginning: Minor White’s Oregon Photographs’ at the Portland Art Museum Phase 1, Part 2

Exhibition dates: 9th December 2017 – 6th May 2018

Curated by Julia Dolan PhD, the Minor White Curator of Photography

 

Over two postings, Phase 1 of this exhibition which features one of the greatest collections of early photographs by Minor White!

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Untitled (Dock)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Untitled (Dock)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

 

Catching fire

It is a memorable experience to be able to observe a great artist experimenting with his craft, which is exactly what MW is doing in the photographs in these two postings. Here is an artist at the start of the path, honing his skills as a “creative photographer”: for these are creative, public photographs not expressive, private ones.

The photographs are a strange mix… part modernism, part romanticism, with a large dose of Pictorialism (dare I mention the word!) thrown in for good measure. I can see influences of the night work of Brassaï; the architectural photographs of Charles Sheeler; the photographs of Albert Renger-Patzsch and the German New Objectivity; the urban and urbane photographs of Walker Evans (The Customer, c. 1939 and Joseph, Oregon (Joseph Cemetery) c. 1940 below); the spatiality, surrealism and detail of Eugene Atget’s Paris photographs; and the landscape work of Ansel Adams. Overlay these influences with feelings of spirituality, sexuality and the atmosphere of place and you have a heady mix. And yet these photographs are purely his own.

What a time MW was having when he made these photographs. There were no limits to where he could point his camera.

As I talk to my friend and mentor about photography, we have brave conversations about artists, vision, looking, previsualition, representation, the print, and more generally life, words, spirit. He observed of this group of photographs:

.
“There were things that looked like photographs that other people had made.
There were things that were naively interesting to him for what they were.
There were things that allowed him to experiment with ideas of metaphor.
There was a combination of subject matter and light that enabled him to touch upon a world of symbol and ritual without him ever really being confident
in that world (at this time).

There were also affirmations of how he could organise the world through his camera. He knew he was really accomplished with organising the edges of his image (particularly the right hand edge) and how this segued into the centre of his images where he hoped he could also organise subject matter – but he was not as skilled with this. He was still learning his craft.

He also knew that he could escape reality by changing scale, changing the lightness of his subject matter, changing the mood of his images with print colour (cold events printed warm) and then affirming the mood of his images with print colour. He knew there must be more with how he printed – was he beginning to understand that there his knowledge of printing chemistry could also be applied to film chemistry? Maybe there was an inkling of this but he was never extremely skilful with this. And he was not trying to expose and change film development techniques according to the subject matter – but there were emerging confused questions about this that would be exceptionally refined later.

I don’t think he applied labels like modernist or romantic to himself – but he was burningly aware of his authorship – and it excited him to the bone. Sometimes he was aware that he was walking an edge between various worlds and this was starting to take a form where he was both teacher and student – he could sense it starting to appear in his images and this made him secretly full of delight.”

.
My friend has such a tremendous knowledge of the work of MW and of photography and life in general. I most appreciate the passing on of these observations to me. You really can feel that the artist is walking an edge between various worlds and that the photographs embody a critical shift in consciousness, from “truth in appearances” to a longing for transcendence. The work is full of symbolic and metaphorical allusions/illusions.

That MW’s photographs still offer these affirmations to the viewer nigh on 80 years later show’s the intensity of their visualisation. They are a gift from the cosmos to one human being and back to the cosmos (in the form of an ensō, or Zen circle), and should be accepted as such.

Marcus

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

 

“A banquet of frustration”: Minor White penned the phrase in 1939, after reading T. S. Eliot’s 1922 poem The Waste Land. “I perceived that if one could put out the energy to produce a banquet of frustration, then frustration had power,” White commented. “It was worth pursuing.”(1)

(1) Minor White, “Memorable Fancies,” 1932-37; quoted in Peter C. Bunnell, Minor White: The Eye That Shapes (Princeton and Boston: The Art Museum, Princeton University; Bulfinch/Little, Brown, 1989), 19.

“The duplicity one senses in White’s career, in both his writing and his images, stems certainly from this frustration about sexuality (as Peter Bunnell has written,”White’s sexuality underlies the whole of the autobiographical statement contained in his work”),(6) but it also mirrors a much larger countertradition found within modernism itself, a romantic tradition that draws from Romanticism, Symbolism, Dada, and Surrealism. More specifically, White’s frustration coincides with the collapse of modernist ideals during the postwar era. This passage in the history of photography, if examined at all, is normally pinned to the arid vision of Robert Frank.(7) Aesthetically, White’s vision was less dark than Frank’s, and in no sense nihilistic. Yet White’s work embodies a critical shift in consciousness, from the heroic modernist notion of “truth in appearances” toward the acknowledgment – and even the cultivation – of illusion, deception, and buried meanings. White’s banquet of frustration would look like a tea setting compared to the theoretical abattoirs of generations of later artists; nevertheless, the historical narrative of photographic modernism’s dissolution owes an early chapter to White and his longing for transcendence, which he seems not to have attained.”

Extracts from Kevin Moore. “Cruising and Transcendence in the Photographs of Minor White,” on the Aperture website [Online] Cited 27/04/2018

 

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Untitled (Propeller)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Untitled (Propeller)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Freight Depot' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Freight Depot
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Untitled (Girder)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Untitled (Girder)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Untitled (Portland Lumber Mills)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Untitled (Portland Lumber Mills)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Log Boom' c. 1940

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Log Boom
c. 1940
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Boats at Dock' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Boats at Dock
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'East Side of Willamette' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
East Side of Willamette
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Boards' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Boards
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Lily Pads and Pike' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Lily Pads and Pike
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'The Patch' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
The Patch
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Horsetail and Skunk Cabbage' 1940

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Horsetail and Skunk Cabbage
1940
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Tree Root' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Tree Root
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Detail (California Foundry)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Detail (California Foundry)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Detail (227 Southeast Front Street)' 1938

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Detail (227 Southeast Front Street)
1938
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Front and Burnside' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Front and Burnside
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Ladd and Tilton Bank (1868 Southwest First and Stark Streets)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976
Ladd and Tilton Bank (1868 Southwest First and Stark Streets)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Pioneer Post Office and Portland Hotel Gate' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Pioneer Post Office and Portland Hotel Gate
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Southwest Fourth and Salmon Streets, Courthouse' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Southwest Fourth and Salmon Streets, Courthouse
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Kamm Building (Southwest Pine near First Avenue)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Kamm Building (Southwest Pine near First Avenue)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Fifth at Yamhill (Public Service Building)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Fifth at Yamhill (Public Service Building)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'New on Old (Southeast Corner, First and Burnside)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
New on Old (Southeast Corner, First and Burnside)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'The Iron Fronts' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
The Iron Fronts
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Front Street' 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Front Street
1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Arches of the Dodd Building (Southwest Front Avenue and Ankeny Street)' 1938

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Arches of the Dodd Building (Southwest Front Avenue and Ankeny Street)
1938
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, no known copyright restrictions

 

 

In 1939 White was living at the Portland YMCA, where he had organised a camera club and had built a darkroom and modest gallery for exhibiting pictures. White’s photographs from this period concentrate on the environs of Portland, particularly the area of the commercial waterfront, which was undergoing demolition for redevelopment. Hired by the Oregon Art Project, an arm of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), White trawled the city’s Front Avenue neighbourhood, documenting the nineteenth-century buildings with cast-iron façades that were about to be torn down.(8) White’s photographs are anything but clinical. His street views, many taken at night, have a ghostlike quality, with the occasional lone figure haunting the wet pavement; boarded-up doorways are cast in deep shadow; and mercantile objects, heaped onto the sidewalk before emptied warehouses, take on a forlorn anthropological character.(9)

Among these pictures is a group of five depicting a handsome young man leaning in a doorway on Front Avenue. He is dressed like a labourer in jeans, work shirt, and boots, but there is something of the dandy in the raffish positioning of the man’s newsie cap, the tight cut of his trousers, pulled high and cinched at the waist, and the studied nonchalance of his pose. In one image, his hand is shoved into a pocket, leaving the index finger exposed and pointing downward toward a prominent bulge. Most importantly, he gazes – not at the photographer but down the street – intently and expectantly, as if anticipating something that has not yet come into view. A second photograph shows the man from behind, revealing the nape of his neck, a pair of rounded buttocks, and white stains splashed down the right thigh of his trousers. The pose suggests that he is urinating in this abject doorway with its peeling paint and debris underfoot; he could be taken for a plasterer relieving himself during a break. Another image, taken in a different boarded-up doorway, shows the man leaning with one arm raised and smiling coyly (again, not at the photographer), with his thumbs slipped under his belt and his fingers cupped, calling attention once again to his bulge. An “Air Circus” poster behind him advertises “Tex Rankin and other famous flyers” as well as “stunts” and “thrills.”

The scene is both explicit and coded, even to contemporary eyes. This handsome loitering man might have been taken by certain passersby for an ordinary labourer, on break or looking for work. Others might have recognised him as a man looking for sex (or for another kind of work) with other men. White’s sexual interest in men and his approach to looking at things “for what else they are” stratify the two narratives, establishing layers of meaning on parallel planes. This man is both a labourer and a cruising homosexual. He is, then, just what the photographic image in general would come to signify for White: a common trace from the visible world, transformed into another set of charged meanings.(10)

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Extract from Kevin Moore. “Cruising and Transcendence in the Photographs of Minor White,” on the Aperture website [Online] Cited 27/04/2018

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Doorway, Dodd Building' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Doorway, Dodd Building
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

 

White’s earlier Portland series, by contrast, is the darker product of a romantic turn of mind and conveys not the affirmative, civic-minded Whitman of poems such as “A Broadway Pageant” but the melancholy, searching Whitman of the “Calamus” poems.(13) In Portland, we see White engaging Front Avenue for its sense of mystery and possibility, an investigation among darkened doorways and in the silhouettes of passing strangers for moments of revelation. More than simply a celebration of the manifold aspects of the city, the desired charge might be specified as the possibility of an erotic connection, however ephemeral, as proposed by Whitman in “City of Orgies”:

City of orgies, walks and joys,
City whom that I have lived and sung in your midst will one
   day make you illustrious,
Not the pageants of you, not your shifting tableaus, your
   spectacles, repay me,
Not the interminable rows of your houses, nor the ships
   at the wharves,
Nor the processions in the streets, nor the bright windows
   with goods in them,
Nor to converse with learn’d persons, or bear my share in
   the soiree or feast;
Not those, but as I pass O Manhattan, your frequent and
   swift flash of eyes offering me love,
Offering response to my own—these repay me, 
Lovers, continual lovers, only repay me.(14)

.
Extract from Kevin Moore. “Cruising and Transcendence in the Photographs of Minor White,” on the Aperture website [Online] Cited 27/04/2018

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Pilaster and Hood Molding, Dodd Building (Southwest Front and Ankeny)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Pilaster and Hood Molding, Dodd Building (Southwest Front and Ankeny)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Door of Iron - First Brick Building in Portland, 1852 (Ladd and Tilton Building)' 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Door of Iron – First Brick Building in Portland, 1852 (Ladd and Tilton Building)
1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'China Town' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
China Town
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Morrison Bridge - Winter' 1938

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Morrison Bridge – Winter
1938
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'St. Johns Bridge' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
St. Johns Bridge
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Catherine Creek' c. 1941

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Catherine Creek
c. 1941
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Joseph, Oregon (Joseph Cemetery)' c. 1940

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Joseph, Oregon (Joseph Cemetery)
c. 1940
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Hurricane Creek (Trees and Rock)' 1941

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Hurricane Creek (Trees and Rock)
1941
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Ice Lake' 1940

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Ice Lake
1940
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'The Customer' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
The Customer
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) '1323-29 Southwest First Avenue' 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
1323-29 Southwest First Avenue
1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Untitled (Young Man)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Untitled (Young Man)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Shipmates Visit the Photographer' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Shipmates Visit the Photographer
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Untitled (Woman Sitting)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Untitled (Woman Sitting)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Untitled (Man Praying)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Untitled (Man Praying)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

 

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15
Apr
18

Exhibition: ‘In the Beginning: Minor White’s Oregon Photographs’ at the Portland Art Museum Phase 1, Part 1

Exhibition dates: 9th December 2017 – 6th May 2018

Curated by Julia Dolan PhD, the Minor White Curator of Photography

 

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Untitled (Union Station Loading Platform)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Untitled (Union Station Loading Platform)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

 

Phase 1 of this exhibition, over two postings on Art Blart, features one of the greatest collections of early photographs by Minor White!

In this posting it’s so nice to see the great man metaphorically getting his hands dirty – feet in the water, hand cupped to the eye looking through it to gauge the composition (his previsualisation), before getting under the black cloth to make final adjustments to his 4×5 view camera.

Other things to note in the Minor White During a Workshop photographs of MW using his camera are this:

  • MW has tilted forward the front of the camera to extend the depth of field that recedes away from him, for example the sand or the surface of the water
  • MW has also raised the front of the camera slightly
  • MW is using a large Majestic tripod
  • MW is possibly using a Weston light meter, for which he gave specific instructions in the first edition of his Zone System manual. The light meter can be seen still in it’s leather case with hanging strap in various images, with MW’s thumb on the dial in two images. In one image you can see him calculating his light meter exposure
  • His glasses case is in his top shirt pocket, and he is wearing a well used hat (so important when taking photographs) with sweat stains on its brim

.
In these valuable pictures, the 51 year-old Minor White is making tiny adjustments to the camera movements to control the depth of field.

Paul Caponigro, a student of Minor White, observed that watching MW use the view camera was more than instructive, it was a joy. The very last sentence in the Fourth Sequence colophon reinforces the notion that the camera’s strongest point was its photographic authenticity, that is, a faithful camera technique leads to an authentic photograph, or to authenticity.1

“For technical data – the camera was faithfully used.” ~ MW

Further comment on the photographs in Part 2 of the posting.

Marcus

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

  1. Andrew E. Hershberger. “White’s Theory of Sequential Photography, ” in Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka (ed.,). Analecta Husserliana: The Yearbook of Phenomenological Research Vol. LXXXVII. Human Creation Between Reality and Illusion. Springer, 2005, p.212.

 

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981) 'Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)' 1959

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981)
Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)
1959
Gelatin silver print
Gift of the artist by his family: Helen D. Allara, Morgan F. Allara, and Mitchell W. Allara
© Maxwell Allara

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981) 'Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)' 1959

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981)
Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)
1959
Gelatin silver print
Gift of the artist by his family: Helen D. Allara, Morgan F. Allara, and Mitchell W. Allara
© Maxwell Allara

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981) 'Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)' 1959

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981)
Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)
1959
Gelatin silver print
Gift of the artist by his family: Helen D. Allara, Morgan F. Allara, and Mitchell W. Allara
© Maxwell Allara

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981) 'Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)' 1959

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981)
Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)
1959
Gelatin silver print
Gift of the artist by his family: Helen D. Allara, Morgan F. Allara, and Mitchell W. Allara
© Maxwell Allara

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981) 'Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)' 1959

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981)
Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)
1959
Gelatin silver print
Gift of the artist by his family: Helen D. Allara, Morgan F. Allara, and Mitchell W. Allara
© Maxwell Allara

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981) 'Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)' 1959

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981)
Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)
1959
Gelatin silver print
Gift of the artist by his family: Helen D. Allara, Morgan F. Allara, and Mitchell W. Allara
© Maxwell Allara

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981) 'Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)' 1959

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981)
Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)
1959
Gelatin silver print
Gift of the artist by his family: Helen D. Allara, Morgan F. Allara, and Mitchell W. Allara
© Maxwell Allara

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981) 'Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)' 1959

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981)
Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)
1959
Gelatin silver print
Gift of the artist by his family: Helen D. Allara, Morgan F. Allara, and Mitchell W. Allara
© Maxwell Allara

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981) 'Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)' 1959

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981)
Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)
1959
Gelatin silver print
Gift of the artist by his family: Helen D. Allara, Morgan F. Allara, and Mitchell W. Allara
© Maxwell Allara

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981) 'Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)' 1959

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981)
Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)
1959
Gelatin silver print
Gift of the artist by his family: Helen D. Allara, Morgan F. Allara, and Mitchell W. Allara
© Maxwell Allara

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981) 'Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)' 1959

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981)
Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)
1959
Gelatin silver print
Gift of the artist by his family: Helen D. Allara, Morgan F. Allara, and Mitchell W. Allara
© Maxwell Allara

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981) 'Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)' 1959

 

Maxwell Allara (American, born Italy, 1906-1981)
Untitled (Minor White During a Workshop)
1959
Gelatin silver print
Gift of the artist by his family: Helen D. Allara, Morgan F. Allara, and Mitchell W. Allara
© Maxwell Allara

 

 

Long before co-founding Aperture magazine or establishing the groundbreaking photography program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, renowned modernist photographer Minor White (American, 1908-1976) moved to Portland, where he sowed the seeds of what would become a forceful artistic vision. This exhibition of White’s rarely exhibited early works celebrates the artist’s influence on the region, and honours the Portland Art Museum’s dedication to acquiring and exhibiting photography as the institution enters its 125th year.

In 1937, after traveling to Portland from Minnesota and taking up residence at the downtown YMCA, White joined the Oregon Camera Club, using its darkroom and library to hone his photography skills. He instituted a darkroom, education, and exhibition program at the YMCA, and in 1938 was hired as a “creative photographer” for the Oregon Art Project, a division of the federal government’s Works Progress Administration. Charged with documenting the Front Avenue buildings slated for demolition as well as the waterfront factories, he captured the beauty of iron-front facades, the distinct forms of industrial architecture, and the cultural undercurrents of a city under transition. These photographs, much more than straightforward government documents, mark a critical period in Portland’s history and hold clues to White’s mature modernist approach.

In 1942, after touring the nation, White’s WPA images returned to Portland and became the first photographs to be accessioned into the Museum’s permanent collection. That same year, the Museum gave White his first solo exhibition and commissioned him to photograph two historic Portland homes. White was drafted into the Army later that spring, and although he never returned to live in the city, his bonds to the community remained strong, resulting in multiple Oregon-based workshops in the 1950s and 1960s. To this day he remains a significant influence on photographic practice in the Northwest and beyond.

The first phase of In the Beginning (on view December 9, 2017, through May 6, 2018) presents approximately 60 photographs of waterfront industrial buildings, Portland Civic Theatre portraits, night scenes, and images of Minor White teaching workshops in Oregon during the late 1950s and early 1960s. The second phase of the exhibition (on view May 6 through October 21, 2018) will feature downtown and Front Street scenes, photographs of Eastern Oregon, and images of two historic houses that White photographed for the Museum in 1942.

Text from the Portland Art Museum website

 

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Plane Study' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Plane Study
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Plane Study' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Plane Study
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Untitled (Grain Elevators)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Untitled (Grain Elevators)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Grain Tanks' c. 1940

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Grain Tanks
c. 1940
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Grain Loading Depot' 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Grain Loading Depot
1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Untitled (Elevator, Tree, Car)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Untitled (Elevator, Tree, Car)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Untitled (Grain Elevator from the Water)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Untitled (Grain Elevator from the Water)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Untitled (Ship and Grain Elevator)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Untitled (Ship and Grain Elevator)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Untitled (Dagmar Salen)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Untitled (Dagmar Salen)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Water Street, Portland' 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Water Street, Portland
1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'After the Fire Architecture (1211 Southwest First Avenue at Madison)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
After the Fire Architecture (1211 Southwest First Avenue at Madison)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Untitled (House at 27th Southwest Hall Street)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Untitled (House at 27th Southwest Hall Street)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Untitled (Houses at Hall and First Street)' 1940

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Untitled (Houses at Hall and First Street)
1940
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Jacobs House (Jacobs-Dolph House, Southwest Park and Montgomery)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Jacobs House (Jacobs-Dolph House, Southwest Park and Montgomery)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Untitled (St. Mary's Academy, Third Avenue Entrance)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Untitled (St. Mary’s Academy, Third Avenue Entrance)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Untitled (Beach and Pilings)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Untitled (Beach and Pilings)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Portland' 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Portland
1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Hand Forge' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Hand Forge
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Untitled (Sawdust)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Untitled (Sawdust)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Untitled (Municipal Market, from a Barge on East Side of the River)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Untitled (Municipal Market, from a Barge on East Side of the River)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Untitled (Pier B Municipal Terminal No. 1)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Untitled (Pier B Municipal Terminal No. 1)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Design (Portland Dry Docks)' c. 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Design (Portland Dry Docks)
c. 1939
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Design' 1939

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Design
1939
Gelatin silver print
Image: 13 1/2 in x 10 3/8 in; sheet: 13 1/2 in x 10 3/8 in
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration. Commissioned through the New Deal art projects

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976) 'Design (Cable and Chain)' c. 1940

 

Minor White (American, 1908-1976)
Design (Cable and Chain)
c. 1940
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration
Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain

 

 

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04
Jan
18

Exhibition: ‘Clarence H. White and His World: The Art and Craft of Photography, 1895-1925’ at the Princeton University Art Museum

Exhibition dates: 7th October 2017 – 7th January 2018

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'The Bubble' 1898, printed 1905

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
The Bubble
1898, printed 1905
Platinum print
24.2 x 19.3 cm. (9 1/2 x 7 5/8 in.)
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

A sense of the beyond

I have waited over nine years to be able to do a posting on this artist. This is the first retrospective of Clarence H. White’s photographs in a generation… and my first posting for 2018. What a beauty the posting is, and what beauty is contained within, his photographs.

White was born in Newark, Ohio (see map below) in 1871. Just to put that into perspective, of the big three Alfred Stieglitz was born in 1871, Edward Steichen in 1879 and Paul Strand in 1890. Soon after marrying his wife in 1893 White took up photography, applying some of his artistic vision, developed earlier through filling sketchbooks with pencil sketches, pen-and-ink drawings and watercolours, to the craft of photography. “He learned how to use light, or the lack of it, to draw attention to his subject. He also learned how to visualise his subjects in his mind.” He was completely self-taught, “in part because he had no money to pay for training or courses at the time when he was developing his own vision in the medium. Many of his friends, students and biographers believe his lack of any formal training was one of his greatest strengths… It is important to note that at that time there were no formal schools of photography in the U.S. or even acknowledged leaders with whom White might have studied.”1

In 1895, he exhibited his first photos in public, at the Camera Club of Fostoria, Ohio, and by 1898 he had met Fred Holland Day and Alfred Stieglitz. His star continued to rise, White having solo exhibitions in 1899 at the Camera Club of New York and at the Boston Camera Club, and he also exhibited in the London Photographic Salon organised by The Linked Ring. In 1900 White was elected to membership in The Linked Ring and in 1901 White and 10 others to become “charter members” of the Photo-Secession, a group founded by Alfred Stieglitz to promote pictorialism and fine art photography. Due to financial constraints during this time, White was only able to create about 8 photographs each month, and he had to photograph either very early in the morning, after he finished work as a bookkeeper, or at the weekend. Some of his most memorable images were created at this time, before his move to New York in 1906. As Cathleen A. Branciaroli and William Inness Homer observe in “The Artistry of Clarence H. White”, “White is most significant in the history of photography because, in his early years, he redefined the nature of picture-making, creating a distinctly modern idiom for his own time…. He reduced his compositions to very simple elements of form, and by experimenting with principles of design derived largely from Whistler and Japanese prints, he created a personal style that was unique for photography.”2

If the photograph consumes light, then Clarence H. White was consumed by photography. Informed by the widespread Japonisme of the period, especially ukiyo-e prints (the term ukiyo-e translates as “picture[s] of the floating world”) with their flat perspective, unmodulated colours and outlined forms – his photographs “sought to capture either the geometry of perceived pattern or the gorgeous effect of shimmering light… qualities of image that the camera, conjoining realism and poetic perception, could render with compelling effect.”3 We now group these kind of photographs under the label “pictorialism,” soft-focus photographs that were more than purely representational, that project “an emotional intent into the viewer’s realm of imagination.”4 Here, an “atmosphere” (formulated, created, conceptualised, captured) is the key to conveying an expressive mood and an emotional response to the viewer “through an emphasis on the atmospheric elements in the picture and by the use of “vague shapes and subdued tonalities … [to convey] a sense of elegiac melancholy.””5

After his move to New York in 1906, White and Stieglitz “jointly created a series of photographs of two models, Mabel Cramer and another known only as Miss Thompson,” in 1907. This was the only time that Stieglitz ever worked with another photographer. “In 1908 Stieglitz continued to show his admiration for White by devoting an entire issue of Camera Work to him and 16 of his photographs. It was only the third time Stieglitz had singled out an individual photographer for this honor (the others were Steichen and Coburn).”6 In 1910, White set up the Seguinland School of Photography, the first independent school of photography in America, while in 1912 he had a terminal falling out with the excessive ego of Stieglitz. “First Käsebier, then White and finally Steichen broke off their relationship with Stieglitz, each citing Stieglitz’s overbearing ego, his refusal to consider other’s viewpoints and his repeated actions on behalf of the Photo-Secession without consulting any of the so-called “members” of the group.”7

Encouraged by his newfound freedom to act outside of the shadow of Stieglitz, White founded the Clarence H. White School of Photography in 1914… an influential school which, over the next decade, “attracted many students who went on to become notable photographers, including Margaret Bourke-White, Anton Bruehl, Dorothea LangePaul OuterbridgeLaura GilpinRalph SteinerKarl StrussMargaret Watkins and Doris Ulmann.”8 In his class “The Art of Photography” White stressed that the primary thing his students had to learn was “the capacity to see.” White became one of the most important teachers of photography of the age. White died suddenly of a heart attack while on a trip to Mexico with students to take his first photographs in years. He was 54 years old.

After Alfred Stieglitz died in 1946 numerous photographs by White were found in his personal collection. Despite their differences, it is obvious that Stieglitz held White in very high regard, “one of the very few who understand what the Photo-Session means & is.”9 “Although White and Stieglitz had tried to reconcile their differences before White died, Stieglitz never forgave White for breaking from him in 1912. Upon hearing about White’s untimely death, Stieglitz wrote to Kuehn, “Poor White. Cares and vexation. When I last saw him he told me he was not able to cope with [life as well as he was] twenty years ago. I reminded him that I warned him to stay in business in Ohio – New York would be too much for him. But the Photo-Session beckoned. Vanity and ambitions. His photography went to the devil.” In spite of these words, Stieglitz had 49 of White’s photographs, including 18 created jointly with Stieglitz, in his personal collection when he died.”10

There is something undeniable in what Stieglitz says. White’s greatest photographs emerge from the Stygian dusk, a dash of melancholy, a lot of beauty, mostly before he moved to New York. It says a lot that Stieglitz still thought that much of him as an artist, a man, and as an emasculated friend, that he kept nearly 50 of his photographs in his personal collection until he died. Stieglitz knew the nature of [his] genius.

 

The value of self-expression and direct engagement with experience

Clarence H. White’s artistic achievements may have been overshadowed by the likes of Stieglitz, Steichen and Strand’s later modernist photographs, but there is no doubt in my mind that he is a colossus, a monster in the history of art photography. Simply put, there is no one else like him in the history of photography, for you can always recognise the “signature” of a White photograph.

Peter Bunnell notes, “[White] celebrated elemental things, the time spent playing in the fields or woods, the simple pleasure of unhurried living, the playing of games in interior spaces…. White, growing up within an extended family, knowing nothing else, had no real sense of other societies and his pictures thus had a kind of fortification against the outside. They were his private epic.”12 His private epic was a personal mythology which expressed his personality and distinctive sentiments through his photographs of imagined worlds. This is the critical thing that makes him so different from other photographers of the period: he was beholden to no movement, no school, teacher or narrative – but only to himself. In his best photographs it was this private world writ large in light that made him famous.

His “masterful reinterpretation of the possibilities of light and the photographic medium done with artistic intent”11 allowed him to develop this personal mythology. White learned how to visualise his subjects in his imagination, before rendering them by drawing in light. His unique prints, made in a variety of processes (platinum, gum-platinum, palladium, gum-palladium, gum, glycerin developed platinum, cyanotype and hand-coated platinum) with the same image sometimes printed using different processes,13 celebrate “pure photography”, a cerebral, ethereal emanation of pure light and form. They seem not of this earth. Indeed, I would argue that White steps outside strict pictorialism into this “other”, private realm.

There may be, as Peter Bunnell suggests, a luminosity of tone in his prints rarely achieved in the history of photography, but there was also a luminosity in his thinking, in the way he approaches the medium itself. I look at the photograph The Deluge (c. 1902-03, below) and I think of William Blake. I look at the three versions of the photograph Spring – A Triptych [Letitia Felix] (1898, below) and observe how each iteration is different (in colour, tone and inflection), but how they are just as valid as each other. There are personal, domestic quotidian scenes (Blindmans’ Bluff, 1898 or Mother was living in the old home alone, 1902); mythic scenes, such as the glorious photograph The Bubble (1898, above) where the figure seems to hover above the ground (“pictures of the floating world”); and early Modernist inclinations such as Drops of Rain (1903, below) and Newport the Maligned (1907, below). But above all, there is the light which shines from within.

Further, his was a whole art aligned perhaps subconsciously, perhaps not, to that German Art Nouveau movement named after the Munich periodical Die Jugend (‘Youth’) – Jugendstijl. “A decorative art with the mid-century idea of the gesamtkunstwerk; the ‘total work of art’ applied in Wagner’s opera and in Dülfer’s architecture, Jugendstil before 1900 favoured floral motifs and ukiyo-e prints of Japanese art.” Evidence of this ‘total work of art’ (an expression of folk legend as universal humanist fable), can be seen in the few Pictorialist works from the late 1890s that survive in their original exhibition frames (see below). The plain dark wood frames with their curved tops serve to further isolate and flatten the pictorial space of the photograph; the dark colour of the wood pushing against the luminosity, line, form and reddish brown colour of the prints. The last version of Spring – A Triptych [Letitia Felix] (1898, below) is particularly illuminating in this respect, the dark wood framing the individual panels fragmenting the field upon which the young woman stands, so that we are no longer in a fairytale landscape (as in the first iteration) but surrounded by writhing tree trunks of sombre hue with a ghost-like presence walking amongst them. And then we see how these photographs were originally exhibited!

In Display of Clarence H. White photographs in Newark Camera Club exhibition, Young Men’s Christian Association building, Newark, Ohio, 1899 (below) we observe, we are witness to, a flow of energy from one side of the wall to the other – none of this staid singular hanging “on the line” – but a dynamic narrative that moves the viewer both physically and mentally. How wondrous is this display! An then in William Herman Rau’s photograph Untitled [Clarence H. White works in Second Philadelphia Photographic Salon installation (1899, below) we see a networked display, almost a cross-like shape, with portraits surrounding what looks like a central landscape image (although it is difficult to make out exactly what the image is). This is an almost contemporary sequencing of photographic work, still used by the likes of Annette Messager today… a perfect example of gesamtkunstwerk, where White has fully understood concept, narrative, form, function, the physicality of the photograph, it’s frame, and the context and environment of the image display.

To me, the early prints of Clarence H. White give the sense that he has found a metaphor, but he is not sure what that metaphor relates to: a cosmology? / man creating something of wonder (when viewed with imagination)?

He is still working it out… and then he goes to New York.
Does it matter that he didn’t find the answer? A thing that is done as a reaction to a situation.
Not at all. It’s the journey that matters.

The sense of ethereal beauty and the beyond that he captured on his glass plates are enough to make him a genius in my eyes. “Images arising from dreams are the well spring of all our efforts to give enduring form and meaning to the urgencies within,” states Douglas Fowler.14 White’s oneiric photographs, and our prior experiences with dreaming and imagination, help to create a sense of oneness with his photographs. Ultimately, his private epic, his personal mythology brought these aspects of art into photography.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the Princeton University Art Museum for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the art work for a larger version of the image.

 

  1. Anonymous. “Clarence Hudson White,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 02/01/2018
  2. Cathleen A. Branciaroli and William Inness Homer. “The Artistry of Clarence H. White,” in Homer, William Innes (ed.). Symbolism of Light: The Photographs of Clarence H. White. Wilmington, DE: Delaware Art Museum, 1977, p. 34
  3. Richard K. Kent. “Early Twentieth-Century Art Photography in China: Adopting, Domesticating, and Embracing the Foreign,” in Local Culture/Global Photography, Trans Asia Photography Review Vol. 3, Issue 2, Spring 2013 [Online] Cited 02/01/2018
  4. Pictorialism is the name given to an international style and aesthetic movement that dominated photography during the later 19th and early 20th centuries. There is no standard definition of the term, but in general it refers to a style in which the photographer has somehow manipulated what would otherwise be a straightforward photograph as a means of “creating” an image rather than simply recording it. Typically, a pictorial photograph appears to lack a sharp focus (some more so than others), is printed in one or more colours other than black-and-white (ranging from warm brown to deep blue) and may have visible brush strokes or other manipulation of the surface. For the pictorialist, a photograph, like a painting, drawing or engraving, was a way of projecting an emotional intent into the viewer’s realm of imagination.”
    Anonymous. “Pictorialism,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 02/01/2018
  5. Naomi Rosenblum. A World History of Photography. New York: Abbeville Press, 1989, p. 297 quoted in Anonymous. “Pictorialism,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 02/01/2018
  6. Anonymous. “Clarence Hudson White,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 02/01/2018
  7. Maynard Pressley White Jr. Clarence H. White: A Personal Portrait. Wilmington, Delaware: University of Delaware, PhD dissertation, 1975 quoted in Anonymous. “Clarence Hudson White,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 02/01/2018
  8. Lucinda Barnes (ed.) with Constance W. Glenn and Jane L. Bledsoe. A Collective Vision: Clarence H. White and His Students. Long Beach, CA: University Art Museum, 1985 in Anonymous. “Clarence Hudson White,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 02/01/2018
  9. Maynard Pressley White Jr. Clarence H. White: A Personal Portrait. Wilmington, Delaware: University of Delaware, PhD dissertation, 1975, p. 175 quoted in Anonymous. “Clarence Hudson White,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 02/01/2018
  10. Weston J. Naef. The Collection of Alfred Stieglitz, Fifty Pioneers of Modern Photography. NY: Viking Press, 1978, pp. 482-493 quoted in Anonymous. “Clarence Hudson White,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 02/01/2018
  11. Peter Bunnell. Clarence H. White: The Reverence for Beauty. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Gallery of Fine Arts, 1986, p. 17 quoted in Anonymous. “Clarence Hudson White,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 02/01/2018
  12. Anonymous. “A Reevaluation: Clarence H. White,” on the Photoseed blog [Online] Cited 02/01/2018
  13. “White sometimes printed the same image using different processes, and as a result there are significant variations in how some of his prints appear. His platinum prints have a deep magenta-brown tone, for example, whereas his gum prints have a distinct reddish hue. Photogravures of his images in Camera Work, which he considered to be true prints, were more neutral, tending toward warm black-and-white tones.”
    Maynard Pressley White Jr. Clarence H. White: A Personal Portrait. Wilmington, Delaware: University of Delaware, PhD dissertation, 1975, p. 68 quoted in Anonymous. “Clarence Hudson White,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 02/01/2018
  14. Douglas Fowler. The Kingdom of Dreams in Literature and Film: Selected Papers from the Tenth Annual Florida State University Conference on Literature and Film. Tallahassee: University Presses of Florida, 1986, p. 10 quoted in Anonymous. “Oneiric (film theory),” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 03/01/2018

 

 

Newark, Ohio

 

Newark, Ohio – where Clarence H. White was born and taught himself photography

 

 

 

Anne McCauley, curator of the exhibition and David Hunter McAlpin Professor of the History of Photography and Modern Art, explores the legacy of one of the early twentieth century’s most gifted photographers and influential teachers. Program took place on Saturday, October 14, 2017.

 

 

 

Collaboration with Yale Reveals Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth-Century Photographic Processes

Preparations for the first retrospective exhibition in a generation of pioneer photographer Clarence Hudson White (1871-1925) have inspired an unexpected collaboration between the Princeton University Art Museum and the Yale Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage. Immersed in the real-life setting of the Princeton University Art Museum, the project drew students, researchers, and curators from across two universities and from numerous disciplines to analyse the experimental techniques that took place during the “Pictorialism” period of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

 

Display of Clarence H. White photographs in Newark Camera Club exhibition, Young Men's Christian Association building, Newark, Ohio, 1899

 

Unknown photographer
Display of Clarence H. White photographs in Newark Camera Club exhibition, Young Men’s Christian Association building, Newark, Ohio, 1899
1899

 

Unknown photographer. 'Jury of the Second Philadelphia Photographic Salon' 1899

 

Unknown photographer
Jury of the Second Philadelphia Photographic Salon
1899
Photograph shows, from left: Frances Benjamin Johnston, Clarence H. White, F. Holland Day, Gertrude Käsebier, and Henry Troth

 

William Herman Rau (1855-1920) 'Untitled [Clarence H. White works in Second Philadelphia Photographic Salon installation]' 1899

 

William Herman Rau (1855-1920)
Untitled [Clarence H. White works in Second Philadelphia Photographic Salon installation]
1899

Photograph shows a wall installation of photographs by Clarence H. White at the second exhibition of the Philadelphia Photographic Salon; according to the catalog for the exhibition, the works shown are “Fear”, “Morning”, “A Puritan”, “The Bubble”, “Lady in Black”, “Evening : An Interior”, “On the Old Stair”, “At the Old Canal Lock”, and “Lady with the Venus.” Also includes a portrait, presumably of White, half-length, facing right.

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'A Rift in the Clouds' 1896

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
A Rift in the Clouds
1896
Platinum print
Image (window): 10.3 x 13.9 cm (4 1/16 x 5 1/2 in.)
Frame: 28.6 × 36.2 cm (11 1/4 × 14 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'A Rift in the Clouds' 1896

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
A Rift in the Clouds
1896
Platinum print
Image (window): 10.3 x 13.9 cm (4 1/16 x 5 1/2 in.)
Frame: 28.6 × 36.2 cm (11 1/4 × 14 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

 

White was completely self-taught throughout his career, in part because he had no money to pay for training or courses at the time when he was developing his own vision in the medium. Many of his friends, students and biographers believe his lack of any formal training was one of his greatest strengths. When a one-man exhibition of his work was held in Newark in 1899, fellow Newark photographer Ema Spencer wrote, “He has been remote from artistic influences and is absolutely untrained in the art of the schools. In consequence, traditional lines have unconsciously been ignored and he has followed his own personal bent because he has been impelled by that elusive and inscrutable force commonly known as genius.” It is also important to note that at that time there were no formal schools of photography in the U.S. or even acknowledged leaders with whom White might have studied. The most common way a new photographer learned the trade was by working with an experienced photographer, and, other than a few portraitists, there was no one to learn from in Newark.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'The Girl with the Violin' 1897

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
The Girl with the Violin
1897
Platinum print with gouache in original frame
Image: 14.7 x 14 cm (5 13/16 x 5 1/2 in.)
Frame: 22.9 x 22.4 cm (9 x 8 13/16 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'The Deluge' c. 1902-03 Gum bichro

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
The Deluge
c. 1902-03
Gum bichromate print
Image (arched top): 20.2 x 16.2 cm (7 15/16 x 6 3/8 in.)
Frame: 43.8 × 36.2 × 3.2 cm (17 1/4 × 14 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Just a Line' 1897

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Just a Line
1897
Platinum print in original frame
Image: 19.2 x 13.3 cm (7 9/16 x 5 1/4 in.)
Frame: 28.8 x 22.9 cm (11 5/16 x 9 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Climbing the Hill' 1897

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Climbing the Hill
1897
Platinum print with gouache in original frame
Image: 20 x 16 cm (7 7/8 x 6 5/16 in.)
Frame: 34.5 x 30.5 cm (13 9/16 x 12 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'At the Window' 1896, printed 1897

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
At the Window
1896, printed 1897
Platinum print in original frame
Image: 20.4 x 14.2 cm (8 1/16 x 5 9/16 in.)
Frame: 29.8 x 22.9 cm (11 3/4 x 9 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

 

“These photographs [above] are among the few Pictorialist works from the late 1890s that survive in their original exhibition frames.”

(Wall text from the exhibition)

 

Gertrude L. Brown (approximately 1870-1934) 'Clarence H. White (seated center), Gertrude Käsebier (seated right), and students, Summer School of Photography, Five Islands, Maine' c. 1913

 

Gertrude L. Brown (approximately 1870-1934)
Clarence H. White (seated center), Gertrude Käsebier (seated right), and students, Summer School of Photography, Five Islands, Maine
c. 1913
Clarence H. White School of Photography

 

 

“My photographs were less sharp than others and I do not think it was because of the lens so much as the conditions under which the photographs were made – never in the studio, always in the home or in the open, and when out of doors at a time of day very rarely selected for photography.”

.
Clarence H. White

 

“I think that if I were asked to name the most subtle and refined master photography has produced, that I would name him… To be a true artist in photography one must also be an artist in life, and Clarence H. White was such an artist.”

.
Alvin Langdon Coburn

 

“What he brought to photography was an extraordinary sense of light. ‘The Orchard’ is bathed in light. ‘The Edge of the Woods’ is a tour de force of the absence of light.”

.
Beaumont Newhall

 

“Clarence White’s poetic vision and sensitive intuition produced images that insinuate themselves deeply into one’s consciousness.”

.
Edward Steichen

 

“[White] celebrated elemental things, the time spent playing in the fields or woods, the simple pleasure of unhurried living, the playing of games in interior spaces…. White, growing up within an extended family, knowing nothing else, had no real sense of other societies and his pictures thus had a kind of fortification against the outside. They were his private epic.”

“The qualities that make White’s photographs memorable have to do with both form and content. In his finest pictures the disposition of every element, of each line and shape, is elevated to an expressive intensity few photographers managed to attain. … White was able to transform the sensory perception of light into an exposition of the most fundamental aspect of photography – the literal materialisation of form through light itself. His prints, mostly in the platinum medium, display a richness, a subtlety, and a luminosity of tone rarely achieved in the history of photography.”

.
Peter Bunnell

 

 

Innovative American Photographer Clarence H. White Receives First Retrospective in a Generation

The vision and legacy of photographer Clarence H. White (1871-1925), a leader in the early twentieth-century effort to position photography as an art, will be the focus of a major traveling exhibition organised by the Princeton University Art Museum. The first retrospective devoted to the photographer in over a generation, Clarence H. White and His World: The Art and Craft of Photography, 1895-1925 will survey White’s career from his beginnings in 1895 in Ohio to his death in Mexico in 1925.

On view at the Princeton University Art Museum from October 7, 2017, through January 7, 2018, the exhibition will draw on the Clarence H. White Collection at the Museum and the deep holdings at the Library of Congress as well as loans from other public and private collections. Clarence H. White and His World reasserts White’s place in the American canon and, in the process, reshapes and expands our understanding of early twentieth-century American photography.

White’s career spans the radical shifts in photographic styles and status from the Kodak era of the 1890s; the corresponding fight for art photography primarily associated with his friend and fellow photographer Alfred Stieglitz; and the postwar rise of advertising and fashion photography. While living in a small town in Ohio, White received international recognition for his beautiful scenes of quiet domesticity and his sensitivity to harmonious, two-dimensional composition. With his move to New York in 1906, he became renowned as a teacher, first at Teachers College with Arthur Wesley Dow, then in the summer school he established in Maine, and finally with the Clarence H. White School of Photography, founded in 1914. Among his students were some of the most influential artistic and commercial photographers of the early twentieth century: Laura Gilpin, Doris Ulmann, Paul Outerbridge, Ralph Steiner, Margaret Watkins, Dorothea Lange, Karl Struss, Anton Bruehl and hundreds more who did not become professional photographers but were shaped by White’s belief that art could enrich the lives of everyday Americans.

“The goal of the exhibition is to locate White’s own diverse and rich body of work within a period of great social and aesthetic change, from the Gilded Age to the Roaring Twenties,” said Anne McCauley, exhibition curator and David Hunter McAlpin Professor of the History of Photography and Modern Art at Princeton. “Far from staying stuck in the nineteenth century, White embraced new media like cinema and new commercial uses for photography, including fashion and advertising.”

The exhibition will feature photographs by White’s fellow Photo-Secessionists and his students as well as a selection of paintings and prints by other artists whom he knew and admired, and was influenced by or whose work he shaped, including William Merritt Chase, Thomas Dewing, Max Weber, Edmund Tarbell and John Alexander.

Also explored within the exhibition are White’s links to the American Arts and Crafts movement, his embrace of socialism, his radically modern representations of childhood, and his complicated printing and framing processes. Of particular note is his lifelong investment in photographing the nude model, culminating in series that he made with Alfred Stieglitz in 1907 and with Paul Haviland in 1909, brought together here for the first time.

“As an artist and a teacher, White emerges as one of the essential American innovators of the early twentieth century, dedicated to the creation of beauty,” notes James Steward, Nancy A. Nasher – David J. Haemisegger, Class of 1976, Director. “Through significant new archival research and bringing together works not seen in one setting since the artist’s lifetime, this exhibition and publication aim to reaffirm White’s astonishing accomplishments.”

After premiering at the Princeton University Art Museum, the exhibition travels to the Davis Museum, Wellesley College (February 7-June 3, 2018), the Portland Museum of Art, Maine (June 30-September 16, 2018) and the Cleveland Museum of Art (October 21, 2018-January 21, 2019). The exhibition is accompanied by a sumptuous 400-page catalogue by Anne McCauley, published by the Princeton University Art Museum and distributed by Yale University Press, with contributions by Peter C. Bunnell, Verna Posever Curtis, Perrin Lathrop, Adrienne Lundgren, Barbara L. Michaels, Ying Sze Pek and Caitlin Ryan.

Press release from the Princeton University Art Museum

 

The Clarence H. White School of Photography

In 1910, to augment his courses in New York City and bring in extra income, White opened a summer school for photography. Named the Seguinland School of Photography, it was housed in a hotel, which was to be part of the new “Seguinland” resort on the mid-coast of Maine near Georgetown and Seguin Island. Pictorialist photographer F. Holland Day, who summered nearby, had earlier invited White and his family to the area for a respite from the city and the opportunity to explore creative photography outdoors. The fellowship between the two photographers and their families was an important factor in White’s decision to start the summer school. Students wore sailor suits, a practice begun by Day and his summer guests, and boarded at the Seguinland Hotel. Day regularly conducted critiques for White’s students, as on occasion did New York photographer Gertrude Käsebier. After 1912, the Pilot House adjacent to the hotel served as the school’s studio and darkroom. Among the students attracted to the idyllic coastal setting was the Pictorialist Anne W. Brigman from Northern California, who made the pilgrimage to Maine during an eight-month visit to the East Coast. White’s summer school in Maine lasted until 1915, when White relocated to northwestern Connecticut’s Berkshire Hills for summers. He reintroduced a summer school there, first in East Canaan, and then in Canaan that lasted until his death.

In the fall of 1914, the Clarence H. White School of Photography opened its doors at 230 E. 11th St. in New York City. This was the first of four locations for the school in the burgeoning art and publishing capital. White’s first instructor for art appreciation and design between 1914 and 1918 was avant-garde painter Max Weber, who often posed for the students. When Weber left, White hired one of his Columbia students, Charles J. Martin.

In 1917 the school occupied the “Washington Irving House” at 122 E. 17th St. at the corner of Irving Place near Union Square and Gramercy Park. Three years later, when that location was no longer available, the Clarence H. White Realty Corp. was formed in order to purchase a building for the school, and the White School resettled again, at 460 W. 144th St., where it remained until 1940. The uptown location provided a meeting place for White’s Columbia classes. From the 1920s on, photographer Edward Steichen was among those who served regularly as guest lecturers. White students paid $150 per semester, a fee that held constant until the school’s closing.

After Clarence White’s unexpected death in 1925, friends urged his widow to carry on despite the fact that his personality had been crucial to the advancement of the school. Though Jane Felix White was not a photographer herself, she took on the challenge and remained the school’s director until her retirement in 1940, when her youngest son, Clarence H. White Jr., took over. Jane and Clarence Jr. recruited more students, raising the enrolment to 106 by 1939. With greater numbers came significant changes: twice as many men as women (a reversal of the previous 2-to-1 ratio of women to men) and new classes. Art integrated with technique – the school’s previous hallmark – was no longer central to the curriculum. Nonetheless, the school continued to prosper, and its reputation surpassed other competitors, such as the New York Institute of Photography, a commercial school established in 1910, and the Studio School of Art Photography, which began in 1920 and continued a strict orientation toward the soft-focus, Pictorialist style. A poorly timed and costly move to larger, more centrally located quarters at 32 West 74th Street in 1940, however, soon helped bring about its closure. The mobilisation for World War II dealt the White School its final blow. After surviving for three decades, it closed its doors in 1942.

Text from the Library of Congress website

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Spring - A Triptych [Letitia Felix]' 1898

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Spring - A Triptych [Letitia Felix]' 1898

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Spring - A Triptych [Letitia Felix]' 1898

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Spring – A Triptych [Letitia Felix]
1898
Gum bichromate prints with graphite
Image (1): 16.8 x 2.7 cm (6 5/8 x 1 1/16 in.)
Image (2): 20.7 x 9.8 cm (8 1/8 x 3 7/8 in.)
Image (3): 16.8 x 2.7 cm (6 5/8 x 1 1/16 in.)
Frame: 34 x 28.5 x .5 cm (13 3/8 x 11 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Arthur Wesley Dow. 'Spring Landscape' 1892

 

Arthur Wesley Dow
Spring Landscape
1892
Oil on canvas
University of Michigan Museum of Art

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'The Orchard' 1902

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
The Orchard
1902
Palladium print
24.3 x 19.1 cm (9 9/16 x 7 1/2 in.)

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'What shall I say?' 1896, printed after 1917

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
What shall I say?
1896, printed after 1917
Palladium print
Image: 14.8 × 17.3 cm (5 13/16 × 6 13/16 in.)
Frame: 43.8 × 36.2 × 3.2 cm (17 1/4 × 14 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Girl with Mirror' 1898

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Girl with Mirror
1898
Varnished palladium print
George Eastman Museum, purchase

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Evening Interior' c. 1899

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Evening Interior
c. 1899
Platinum print

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Untitled [Male academic nude]' c. 1900

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Untitled [Male academic nude]
c. 1900
Waxed platinum print
Image: 22.7 x 14.7 cm (8 15/16 x 5 13/16 in.)
Frame: 51.4 × 41.3 × 3.2 cm (20 1/4 × 16 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'The Ring Toss' 1899

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
The Ring Toss
1899
Palladium print

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Untitled [Portrait of F. Holland Day with Male Nude]' 1902

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Untitled [Portrait of F. Holland Day with Male Nude]
1902
Platinum print
24.2 x 18.8 cm (9 1/2 x 7 3/8 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Harriette and Noel Levine Gift, 2005
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Untitled [F. Holland Day lighting a cigarette]' 1902

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Untitled [F. Holland Day lighting a cigarette]
1902
Cyanotype
Image: 24.2 x 19.2 cm (9 1/2 x 7 9/16 in.)
Frame: 43.8 × 36.2 × 3.2 cm (17 1/4 × 14 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'The Boy with His Wagon [1/3]' 1898

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
The Boy with His Wagon [1/3]
1898
Platinum print
Sheet: 17.7 x 15.5 cm (6 15/16 x 6 1/8 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) "Blindman's Bluff" 1898

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
“Blindman’s Bluff”
1898
Platinum print
Library of Congress

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Drops of Rain' 1903

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Drops of Rain
1903
Platinum print
Image: 21.1 × 16.2 cm (8 5/16 × 6 3/8 in.)
Frame: 51.4 × 41.3 × 3.2 cm (20 1/4 × 16 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Winter Landscape' 1903

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Winter Landscape
1903
Photogravure

 

Léon Dabo (American, born France, 1868-1960) 'Rondout, New York' c. 1907

 

Léon Dabo (American, born France, 1868-1960)
Rondout, New York
c. 1907
Oil on canvas
68.6 x 91.4 cm
Indianapolis Museum of Art, Gift of S. O. Buckner
© Estate of Léon Dabo

 

 

Leon Dabo (July 9, 1864 – November 7, 1960) was an American tonalist landscape artist best known for his paintings of New York, particularly the Hudson Valley. His paintings were known for their feeling of spaciousness, with large areas of the canvas that had little but land, sea, or clouds. During his peak, he was considered a master of his art, earning praise from such luminaries as John Spargo, Bliss Carman, Benjamin De Casseres, Edwin Markham, and Anatole Le Braz. His brother, Scott Dabo, was also a noted painter.

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) "Newport the Maligned" 1907

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Unpublished illustration [Beacon Rock with home of E. D. Morgan III] for Gouverneur Morris, “Newport the Maligned”
1907
Platinum print
Image: 23.9 x 19.2 cm (9 7/16 x 7 9/16 in.)
Frame: 51.4 × 41.3 × 3.2 cm (20 1/4 × 16 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (1871-1925) 'The Sea (Rose Pastor Stokes, Caritas Island, Connecticut)' 1909

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
The Sea (Rose Pastor Stokes, Caritas Island, Connecticut)
1909
Platinum print
The Clarence H. White Collection, Princeton University Art Museum

 

Clarence H. White (1871-1925) "At the Edge of the Woods - Evening" 1901

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
“At the Edge of the Woods – Evening” [Letitia Felix]
1901
Chine-collé photogravure
14.4 x 10.1 cm
28.6 x 19.6 cm uncut
Camera Notes, Vol. IV, April 1901

 

Clarence H. White (1871-1925) 'Untitled [Jean Reynolds in Newark, Ohio]' c. 1905

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Untitled [Jean Reynolds in Newark, Ohio]
c. 1905
Gum bichromate print
Image: 24.1 x 19 cm (9 1/2 x 7 1/2 in.)
Frame: 43.8 × 36.2 cm (17 1/4 × 14 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (1871-1925) 'Mother was living in the old home alone' 1902

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Mother was living in the old home alone
1902
Photogravure
From the book Eben Holden, John Andrew & Son (Boston) 1903

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Untitled [Interior of Weiant house, Newark, Ohio]' 1904

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Untitled [Interior of Weiant house, Newark, Ohio]
1904
Platinum print
Image: 15.6 x 19.6 cm. (6 1/8 x 7 11/16 in.)
Frame: 36.2 × 43.8 × 3.2 cm (14 1/4 × 17 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
Gift of Edmund T. Weiant

 

Clarence H. White (American,  1871-1925) and Paul Burty Haviland (French, 1880-1950) 'Untitled [Florence Peterson]' 1909, printed after 1917

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) and Paul Burty Haviland (French, 1880-1950)
Untitled [Florence Peterson]
1909, printed after 1917
Palladium print
Image: 25.6 x 19.6 cm (10 1/16 x 7 11/16 in.)
Frame: 51.4 × 41.3 × 3.2 cm (20 1/4 × 16 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (1871-1925) 'Morning - The Bathroom' 1906

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Morning – The Bathroom
1906
Platinum print
22.3 x 18.0 cm. (8 3/4 x 7 1/16 in.)
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) and Clarence H. White (American,  1871-1925) "Experiment 28" 1907

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) and Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
“Experiment 28”
1907
Vintage japanese tissue photogravure
20.6 x 15.9 cm
30.2 x 21.1 cm uncut
Published in Camera Work XXVII, 1909

 

 

In 1907, the year after Clarence White arrived in New York City, he collaborated with Photo-Secession founder Alfred Stieglitz on a series of portraits featuring two models. Shown here holding a glass globe, California model Mabel Cramer poses in a portrait later reproduced as a plate in Camera Work. Said to be a friend of the German American photographer Arnold Genthe and possessing a face worthy of Cleopatra, Cramer and a woman known only as a Miss Thompson, posed for a series of photographs intended to promote photography as an equivalent medium to painting. It was the only time Stieglitz would ever work in tandem with another photographer and shows the extent to which the photographers were allied aesthetically and technically.

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) and Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Untitled [Miss Thompson]' 1907

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) and Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Untitled [Miss Thompson]
1907
Platinum print
Image: 23.7 x 18.4 cm (9 5/16 x 7 1/4 in.)
Frame: 43.8 × 36.2 × 3.2 cm (17 1/4 × 14 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

 

Also in 1910, Stieglitz led an effort to create a major exhibition of the Photo-Secession artists at what was then called the Albright Gallery in Buffalo, New York (now known as the Albright-Knox Art Gallery). While this effort was announced as a group activity of the Photo-Secession, Stieglitz refused to allow any others to have input or make decision about who would be included in the exhibition and how it would be displayed. Stieglitz, who was already known for his domineering ways and dogmatic approach to photography, took his self-assigned, unilateral authority even beyond his past actions; in this case he proved to have gone too far for several people who had been closely aligned with him. First Käsebier, then White and finally Steichen broke off their relationship with Stieglitz, each citing Stieglitz’s overbearing ego, his refusal to consider other’s viewpoints and his repeated actions on behalf of the Photo-Secession without consulting any of the so-called “members” of the group.

Stieglitz reacted to these claims and White’s departure in particular with his usual antagonistic manner. Within a short while, he delivered to White most of the negatives and prints he had jointly produced with White in 1907. The split between the two was so deep that Stieglitz wrote to White “One thing I do demand…is that my name not be mentioned by you in connection with either the prints or the negatives…Unfortunately I cannot wipe out the past….” …

Although White and Stieglitz had tried to reconcile their differences before White died, Stieglitz never forgave White for breaking from him in 1912. Upon hearing about White’s untimely death, Stieglitz wrote to Kuehn, “Poor White. Cares and vexation. When I last saw him he told me he was not able to cope with [life as well as he was] twenty years ago. I reminded him that I warned him to stay in business in Ohio – New York would be too much for him. But the Photo-Session beckoned. Vanity and ambitions. His photography went to the devil.” In spite of these words, Stieglitz had 49 of White’s photographs, including 18 created jointly with Stieglitz, in his personal collection when he died.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) and Clarence H. White (American,  1871-1925) 'Torso' 1907

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) and Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Torso
1907
Platinum print
22.1 x 18.7 cm. (8 11/16 x 7 3/8 in.)
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

In 1907 White and Stieglitz collaborated on a series of nude studies in which they planned to experiment with various lenses and papers. Stieglitz placed the camera and choreographed the poses, much as he would later do in his extensive portrait of Georgia O’Keeffe, while White focused the camera and developed the negatives. These three photographs illustrate the range of the imagery and its progression from the most formal and demure image in which the draped Miss Thompson assumes a cool classical pose to the second image which is surprisingly intimate and unaffected. Combining the compositional strength and naturalism of the first two photographs, but exchanging props and interior surroundings for tight framing and expressive chiaroscuro, the third and most accomplished photograph is both modern and sensual. (Text from The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

 

Clarence H. White (American,  1871-1925) 'Untitled [Florence Peterson]' c. 1909

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Untitled [Florence Peterson]
c. 1909
Platinum print
Image (arched top): 22.5 x 16.5 cm (8 7/8 x 6 1/2 in.)
Frame: 51.4 × 41.3 × 3.2 cm (20 1/4 × 16 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American,  1871-1925) 'Morning' 1905

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Morning
1905
Platinum print
From Camera Work (No. 23, July 1908)

 

 

Morning perfectly embodies the tenets of Pictorialism: expressive, rather than narrative or documentary, content; craftsmanship in the execution of the print; and a carefully constructed composition allied to Impressionist and American Tonalist painting and to popular Japanese prints. His photographs from the period before he moved to New York in 1906 signalled a remove from the modern urban world. Neither genre scene nor narrative tableau, this photograph is a retreat into domesticised nature. (Text from The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

 

Clarence H. White (American,  1871-1925) 'Eugene Debs' c. 1906-08

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Eugene Debs
c. 1906-08
Platinum print
Image: 22.2 x 17.8 cm (8 3/4 x 7 in.)
Frame: 51.4 × 41.3 × 3.2 cm (20 1/4 × 16 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

 

Eugene Victor Debs (November 5, 1855 – October 20, 1926) was an American union leader, one of the founding members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or the Wobblies), and five times the candidate of the Socialist Party of America for President of the United States. Through his presidential candidacies, as well as his work with labor movements, Debs eventually became one of the best-known socialists living in the United States. …

Debs ran as a Socialist candidate for President of the United States five times, including 1900 (earning 0.63% of the popular vote), 1904 (2.98%), 1908 (2.83%), 1912 (5.99%), and 1920 (3.41%), the last time from a prison cell. He was also a candidate for United States Congress from his native state Indiana in 1916.

Debs was noted for his oratory, and his speech denouncing American participation in World War I led to his second arrest in 1918. He was convicted under the Sedition Act of 1918 and sentenced to a term of 10 years. President Warren G. Harding commuted his sentence in December 1921. Debs died in 1926, not long after being admitted to a sanatorium due to cardiovascular problems that developed during his time in prison. He has since been cited as the inspiration for numerous politicians.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Clarence H. White (American,  1871-1925) 'Alfred Stieglitz' 1907

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Alfred Stieglitz
1907
Cyanotype
image: 24.2 x 19.2 cm (9 1/2 x 7 9/16 in.)
frame: 43.8 × 36.2 × 3.2 cm (17 1/4 × 14 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American,  1871-1925) 'Portrait of Arthur Wesley Dow' 1908

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Portrait of Arthur Wesley Dow
1908
Vintage waxed platinum print
22.1 x 16.6 cm

 

 

“White was hired by Arthur Wesley Dow at Teachers College in 1907 and shared Dow’s philosophy that students of the fine and the applied arts should have the same fundamental training based on design principles (anticipating the approach of the Bauhaus in the 1920s).”

Arthur Wesley Dow (April 6, 1857 – December 13, 1922) was an American painter, printmaker, photographer and influential arts educator.

Dow taught at three major American arts training institutions over the course of his career beginning with the Pratt Institute from 1896-1903 and the New York Art Students League from 1898-1903; then, in 1900, he founded and served as the director of the Ipswich Summer School of Art in Ipswich, Massachusetts, and from 1904 to 1922, he was a professor of fine arts at Columbia University Teachers College.

His ideas were quite revolutionary for the period; he taught that rather than copying nature, art should be created by elements of the composition, like line, mass and colour. He wanted leaders of the public to see art is a living force in everyday life for all, not a sort of traditional ornament for the few. Dow suggested this lack of interest would improve if the way art was presented would permit self-expression and include personal experience in creating art.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Clarence H. White (American,  1871-1925) 'Clarence H. White' c. 1908-1910

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Clarence H. White
c. 1908-1910
Autochrome
17.5 x 12.5 cm
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

 

In the decade after the invention of the Kodak point-and-shoot camera in 1888, thousands of men and women began taking their own amateur photographs. Some of them, generally from educated backgrounds and interested in the fine arts, aspired to make aesthetically pleasing images that rivalled paintings and prints in their compositions and tonal effects. These serious photographers, favouring large-format view cameras on tripods, called themselves pictorialists, which merely meant that they were concerned with making artistic “picture” rather than documents.

One of the most successful and influential of these self-taught amateurs was Clarence H. White (1871-1925), who rose from modest origins in Newark, Ohio, to become an internationally known art photographer and teacher. Clarence H. White and His World: The Art and Craft of Photography, 1895-1925 celebrates the short-lived career of this dedicated visionary, which spans the turbulent era from the Gilded Age through the 1913 Armory Show to the Roaring Twenties.

Drawing primarily on the vast collection of prints and archival material acquired by former curator Peter C. Bunnell for the Princeton University Art Museum and from the Library of Congress’s White Family Collection, the exhibition also includes photographs by White’s friends – such as Alvin Langdon Coburn, F. Holland Day, and Gertrude Käsebier – and works by a sampling of the hundreds of students who White trained at Columbia Teachers College, the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, and the schools he founded in New York, Maine, and Connecticut. Complementing more than 140 rare photographic prints, illustrated books, and albums are paintings and drawings by John White Alexander, Léon Dabo, Thomas Wilmer Dewing, Arthur Wesley Dow, Alice Barber Stephens, Edmund Charles Tarbell, Max Weber, and Marius de Zayas that illuminate the artistic milieu in which White’s style evolved.

White’s early career centers on his Midwestern hometown, where he took up the camera in 1894. Squeezing photographic sittings into the spare time he had from his job as a bookkeeper for a wholesale grocer, he dressed his wife, her sisters, and his friends in costumes evocative of the colonial or antebellum era and posed them in penumbral interiors or the twilit hills outside Newark. White’s knack for setting up tableaux that were at once naturalistic and yet formally striking won him prizes in regional exhibitions, followed by his acceptance in 1898 in the exclusive group show of art photographs held at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. His meeting there with Alfred Stieglitz, F. Holland Day, Gertrude Käsebier, and others led to his participation in international exhibitions and his eventual inclusion as a founding member of the group that Stieglitz in 1902 dubbed the “Photo-Secession.” White stood out from his contemporaries for his assimilation of the radical cropping and flattened planes of Japanese prints, his melancholy, introspective women, and his frank, unromanticised portrayals of children.

White’s decision in 1904 to become a full-time photographer and his move in 1906 to New York transformed his life and his subjects. While in Newark, he had already earned extra income from commercial jobs illustrating fiction, primarily stories set in frontier America, such as the bestselling novel by Irving Bacheller, Eben Holden: A Tale of the North Country. A section of the exhibition reveals the extent to which White, like many Photo-Secessionists, sold portraits, landscapes, and narrative illustrations to magazines – a practice that has received little attention as a result of Alfred Stieglitz’s renowned dismissal of commercial photography.

Another discovery explored in the exhibition is the importance of socialism for White’s aesthetic vision. White’s selection of handmade printing techniques – such as gum prints in which a pigmented gum emulsion is hand applied to drawing paper – and his transformation of each platinum print (made in contact with a negative) into a unique object are indebted to the ideals of William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement, which valued hand labor over standardised machine production. White’s deep friendship with the family of Stephen M. Reynolds, Eugene Debs’s campaign manager and a leading Indiana socialist, resulted in idealised portraits of a family that embraced the simple life, racial and social equality, and the philosophy that every object in the home should be harmonious. White also went on to celebrate Rose Pastor Stokes and her husband, Graham Stokes, a socialist power couple in the years prior to the American entry into World War I.

Consistent with many socialists’ embrace of Morris and Walt Whitman, White also accepted the undressed human form as natural and free of sin. Throughout his career he made photographs of nude figures, primarily his sons outdoors and young women posed in the studio or in secluded glens. Drawing upon his greater experience with indoor lighting, White joined with Stieglitz in 1907 for a series of soft-focus studies of female models. A sampling of these prints is reunited here for the first time since 1912, when Stieglitz split with White and disavowed this collaborative venture.

The latter part of the exhibition is devoted to White’s innovations as a teacher, which form a major part of his legacy. White was hired by Arthur Wesley Dow at Teachers College in 1907 and shared Dow’s philosophy that students of the fine and the applied arts should have the same fundamental training based on design principles (anticipating the approach of the Bauhaus in the 1920s). At a time when the few American schools that existed to teach photography focused solely on processes and technique, White assigned more open-ended compositional and exposure problems followed by group critiques. Later, at the Clarence H. White School that he founded in New York in 1914, he hired a series of artists (starting with Max Weber) to teach art history and composition. White’s students – represented here by Anton Bruehl, Laura Gilpin, Paul Burty Haviland, Paul Outerbridge, Karl Struss, Doris Ulmann, and Margaret Watkins, among others – mastered abstract principles of framing, cropping, and lighting that prepared them for a wide array of professional careers, including the growing arenas of advertising and fashion photography.

White’s late works include portraits of famous, but now forgotten, actresses and silent film stars, such as Alla Nazimova and Mae Murray, as well as the painter Abbott Thayer and the art director for Condé Nast, Heyworth Campbell. White also tried his hand at fashion photography and welcomed filmmaking into the White School in the months before he led a summer class to Mexico City, where he tragically succumbed to a heart attack at the age of fifty-four.

Far from rejecting modern styles, White accommodated them in his school, although he maintained his preference for matte printing papers and a degree of soft focus for his personal salon prints. What unites his career, and allows his work to speak to us today, is his belief in the transformative power of art and the potential of every individual to craft objects of lasting beauty.

Anne McCauley
David Hunter McAlpin Professor of the History of Photography and Modern Art

 

Margaret Watkins (Canadian, 1884-1969) 'Untitled [Kitchen still life]' c. 1919-20

 

Margaret Watkins (Canadian, 1884-1969)
Untitled [Kitchen still life]
c. 1919-20
Gelatin silver print
16 x 18.7 cm
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of the Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin
© The Estate of Margaret Watkins, courtesy of Robert Mann Gallery, New York
Digital image © Museum Associates / LACMA

 

 

Margaret Watkins (1884-1969) was a Canadian photographer who is remembered for her innovative contributions to advertising photography. She lived a life of rebellion, rejection of tradition, and individual heroism; she never married, she was a successful career woman in a time when women stayed at home, and she exhibited eroticism and feminism in her art and writing. …

Watkins opened a studio in Greenwich Village, New York City, and in 1920 became editor of the annual publication Pictorial Photography in America. She worked successfully as an advertising photographer for Macy’s and the J. Walter Thompson Company and Fairfax, becoming one of the first women photographers to contribute to advertising agencies. She also produced landscapes, portraits, nudes and still lifes. While teaching at the Clarence White school from 1916 to 1928, her students included Margaret Bourke-White, Laura Gilpin, Paul Outerbridge, Ralph Steiner and Doris Ulmann.

One of the earliest art photographers in advertising, her images of everyday objects set new standards of acceptability. From 1928, when she was based in Glasgow, she embarked on street photography in Russia, Germany and France, specialising in store fronts and displays. Watkins died in Glasgow, Scotland in 1969, largely forgotten as a photographer.

Watkins legacy exists in her exemplary work left behind, but also her example as a single, successful woman. According to Queen’s Quarterly, her life is an inspiration for single women, who are fulfilled by their careers, rather than the traditional gender roles women face of fulfilment through marrying and having children.

Before she died, Watkins handed over a sealed box of all her work to her neighbour and executor of her will, Joseph Mulholland. She gave him strict instructions to not open it until after she died. As a result, several solo exhibitions were subsequently held in Britain and North America. When she died in November 1969, she left most of her estate to music charities.

In October 2012, a retrospective exhibition of Margaret Watkins’ work titled “Domestic Symphonies” opened at the National Gallery of Canada. This exhibition showcased 95 of her photographs dating from 1914 – 1939. Of these photos were portraits and landscapes, modern still life, street scenes, advertising work, and commercial designs. Music was a vital inspiration for Watkins, and that can be seen just from the title of this exhibition.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) Shipbuilding, Bath, Maine 1917

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Shipbuilding, Bath, Maine
1917
Hand-applied platinum print
Image: 12.1 x 9.8 cm (4 3/4 x 3 7/8 in.)
Frame: 43.8 × 36.2 × 3.2 cm (17 1/4 × 14 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Untitled [Dome of the Church of Our Lady of Carmen, San Ángel, Mexico]' 1925

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Printed by Clarence H. White Jr., American, 1907-1978
Untitled [Dome of the Church of Our Lady of Carmen, San Ángel, Mexico]
1925
Palladium print by Clarence H. White Jr.
Image: 21.9 x 17.1 cm (8 5/8 x 6 3/4 in.)
Frame: 43.8 × 36.2 × 3.2 cm (17 1/4 × 14 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Mae Murray' c. 1919-20

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Mae Murray
c. 1919-20
Platinum print with graphite
Image: 24.3 x 14.8 cm (9 9/16 x 5 13/16 in.)
Frame: 43.8 × 36.2 × 3.2 cm (17 1/4 × 14 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

 

Mae Murray (May 10, 1885 – March 23, 1965) was an American actress, dancer, film producer, and screenwriter. Murray rose to fame during the silent film era and was known as “The Girl with the Bee-Stung Lips” and “The Gardenia of the Screen”.

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Alla Nazimova' 1919

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Alla Nazimova
1919
Photogravure
Library of Congress

 

 

Alla Nazimova (Russian: Алла Назимова; born Marem-Ides Leventon; June 3 [O.S. May 22], 1879 – July 13, 1945) was a Russian actress who immigrated to the United States in 1905. On Broadway, she was noted for her work in the classic plays of Ibsen, Chekhov and Turgenev. Her efforts at silent film production were less successful, but a few sound-film performances survive as a record of her art. Nazimova openly conducted relationships with women, and her mansion on Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard was believed to be the scene of outlandish parties. She is credited with having originated the phrase “sewing circle” as a discreet code for lesbian or bisexual actresses.

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'The Dancers - Barnard Greek Games' 1922

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
The Dancers – Barnard Greek Games
1922
Palladium print
Image: 24.5 x 19.6 cm (9 5/8 x 7 11/16 in.)
Frame: 43.8 × 36.2 × 3.2 cm (17 1/4 × 14 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

 

The Barnard Greek Games were a tradition at Barnard College pitting the freshman and sophomore classes against one another in a series of competitions. They began in 1903 when the Class of 1905 challenged the Class of 1906 to an informal athletic contest. In later years upperclass students would cheer on their juniors, “odds” cheering for “odds” and “evens” for “evens.” Signature events included a chariot race, with chariots pulled by teams of 4 students, and a torch race. The torch race is captured in the “Spirit of the Greek Games” statue outside Barnard Hall that was given by the Class of 1905 as a gift on the 25th anniversary of the games in 1928. The games, a central part of Barnard campus life, were held annually until 1968, when upheaval on campus caused their cancellation, snuffing out this tradition along with such longstanding features of campus life as the Varsity Show.

After a 22 year absence, the Games were revived in 1989 as part of Barnard’s Centennial celebrations. The games were revived again in 2000, and have been held sporadically since.

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925) 'Heyworth Campbell' c. 1921

 

Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Heyworth Campbell
c. 1921
Hand-applied platinum print
Image: 24 x 18.9 cm (9 7/16 x 7 7/16 in.)
Frame: 51.4 × 41.3 × 3.2 cm (20 1/4 × 16 1/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The Clarence H. White Collection, assembled and organized by Professor Clarence H. White Jr., and given in memory of Lewis F. White, Dr. Maynard P. White Sr., and Clarence H. White Jr., the sons of Clarence H. White Sr. and Jane Felix White

 

Gertrude Käsebier (1852 - 1934) 'Portrait of Clarence H. White' c. 1910

 

Gertrude Käsebier (1852 – 1934)
Portrait of Clarence H. White
c. 1910
Silver gelatin print
Library of Congress

Note: Digital clean and print balance by Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

 

Princeton University Art Museum
McCormick Hall, Princeton, NJ ‎
T: (609) 258-3788

The Museum is located on the Princeton University campus, a short walk from Nassau Street in downtown Princeton. Once on campus, simply follow the lamppost Museum banners.

Opening hours:
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday 10.00 am – 5.00 pm
Thursday 10.00 am – 9.00 pm
Sunday 12.00 – 5.00 pm

Princeton University Art Museum website

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01
Nov
17

Exhibition: ‘Alfred Stieglitz and Modern America’ at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Exhibition dates: 22nd July – 5th November 2017

 

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

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
The Steerage
1907
Photograph, gelatin silver print
Gift of Miss Georgia O’Keeffe
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

Look at the tonality and sensuality in Georgia O’Keeffe: A Portrait (8) (1919, below) and Dancing Trees (1922, below). No one would ever think of printing a photograph like that today!

Marcus

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

 

This exhibition presents a selection of the MFA’s exceptional holdings of works by Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946), the great American impresario of photography at the turn of the 20th century. Featuring 36 photographs, the exhibition showcases fine examples of his New York views, portraits and photographs that Stieglitz took at his family’s country home at Lake George. The New York views reveal the artist’s lifelong interest in the city, from his early explorations of the picturesque effects of rain, snow and nightfall to later ones that focus on the inherent geometry of modernity’s rising architectural structures. The portraits include 10 images from Stieglitz’s magnificent extended series of images of his wife, the celebrated painter Georgia O’Keeffe – a “portrait in time” that reflects his ideals of modern womanhood and is evocative of their close relationship. These portraits are accompanied by additional images of members of his family and friends.

The Lake George photographs include, in addition to views of the family property, a sequence of the mystical cloud studies that Stieglitz called “equivalents,” which explore the interpretation of inner states of being. Many of the photographs on view were donated by Stieglitz to the MFA in 1924 – making it one of the first museums in the US to collect photography as fine art. Enhanced by an additional gift from O’Keeffe in 1950, the MFA’s Stieglitz holdings form an outstanding survey of the photographer’s career, as well as the cornerstone of the Museum’s photography collection.

Text from the MFA website

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'From the Back Window - "291" (1)' 1915

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
From the Back Window – “291” (1)
1915
Photograph, platinum print
Gift of Alfred Stieglitz
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

291

291 is the commonly known name for an internationally famous art gallery that was located in Midtown Manhattan at 291 Fifth Avenue in New York City from 1905 to 1917. Originally known as the “Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession“, the gallery was created and managed by photographer Alfred Stieglitz.

The gallery is famous for two reasons. First, the exhibitions there helped bring art photography to the same stature in America as painting and sculpture. Pioneering artistic photographers such as Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Gertrude Käsebier and Clarence H. White all gained critical recognition through exhibitions at 291. Equally important, Stieglitz used this space to introduce to the United States some of the most avant-garde European artists of the time, including Henri Matisse, Auguste Rodin, Henri Rousseau, Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, Constantin Brâncuși, and the Dadaists Francis Picabia and Marcel Duchamp.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Georgia O'Keeffe: A Portrait (4)' 1918

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Georgia O’Keeffe: A Portrait (4)
1918
Photograph, gelatin silver print
The Alfred Stieglitz Collection – Gift of the Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation, Sophie M. Friedman Fund and Lucy Dalbiac Luard Fund
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Dorothy True' 1919

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Dorothy True
1919
Photograph, gelatin silver print
Gift of Alfred Stieglitz
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

First published in 1921 with the caption “Watch your step!” in the single issue of Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray’s magazine New York Dada, Stieglitz’s surreal portrait was a happy accident. Attempting to capture the modern character of Dorothy True, a friend of Georgia O’Keeffe, Stieglitz made two exposures: a conventional, full-face portrait and a view of one artfully posed leg. Stieglitz was thrilled with the fortuitous superimposition of the images, believing that together they captured the spirit of the postwar American female. While the equation of short hair and skirts with women’s liberation might seem trite today, Stieglitz made the portrait in 1919, the year that Congress extended suffrage to women. In 1926, he exhibited it with the title American Girl.

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website

 

This double exposure of the face and leg of Dorothy True constitutes an unusual portrait. Her somewhat somber face, very faint, is not immediately apparent, but slowly a mouth, nose, and eye begin to reveal themselves in the black-stockinged ankle and calf. Alone, the image of the leg is an interesting one; her foot appears veritably stuffed into her stylish, patent leather pump. Her instep bulges out of the top of the shoe, and the leather ripples from the pressure at the toe, making the foot an almost sculptural form.

True appears to step down upon overturned prints or mats. A chair casts a graphic shadow across the floor, and a vertical paper backdrop echoes the black shadow at the upper left, uncovered by the sagging paper. The neat triangle of True’s skirt lends additional geometric balance.

Text from the Getty Museum website

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Georgia O'Keeffe: A Portrait (8)' 1919

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Georgia O’Keeffe: A Portrait (8)
1919
Photograph, palladium print, solarized
Gift of Alfred Stieglitz
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Georgia Engelhard' 1920

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Georgia Engelhard
1920
Photograph, gelatin silver print
Gift of Alfred Stieglitz
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

Georgia Engelhard (1906 – 1986)

Georgia Engelhard was the first child of George Engelhard and Agnes Stieglitz. It is as the niece of Alfred Stieglitz, modernism’s most successful early booster in the United States, that Engelhard’s artistic career was encouraged. From the age of 12 to 22 she corresponded regularly with Stieglitz who serve as a confidant to the young woman. Engelhard occasionally posed for Stieglitz and the uncle honoured her with an exhibition at his famous gallery, 291, when she was only ten years old. (Stieglitz’s motivation to show his niece’s work was more than likely a response to Wassily Kandinsky’s proposition that there was a fundamental spirituality to be found in true art and that children’s art had the ability to convey this “inner truth.”)

It is under the tutelage of Stieglitz’s wife, Georgia O’Keeffe, that Engelhard matured as a painter. In biographies Engelhard is repeatedly mentioned as O’Keeffe’s friend and companion. Georgia minor, as Engelhard was called, served as comic release for the older artist who often found Stieglitz and his family oppressive. The two artists frequently painted together at Stiegltiz’s summer house on Lake George and occasionally took excursions together. Engelhard’s paintings reflect O’ Keeffe’s influence – flat areas of pure colour and sensuous curves are used to define the landscape. …

Despite a paralyzing fear of heights, Engelhard became a premier mountain climber at the age of 20 and was the first female climber to ascend many of the peaks in the Canadian Rockies. Engelhard’s determination to overcome this specific fear evolved into a passion for the mountains that lasted throughout her lifetime…

Engelhard was also a writer and an accomplished photographer. In 1938 when she began living with Eaton Cromwell she stopped painting and together the couple pursued photography. While living in Switzerland they sold a number of their pictures to postcard companies. Few of Georgia Engelhard’s paintings are in existence today and when one does appear there is often a dispute about whether the canvas comes from O’Keefe’s hands or Engelhard’s.

Text from the JWL Collection website

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Georgia O'Keeffe: A Portrait (9)' probably around 1921

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Georgia O’Keeffe: A Portrait (9)
probably around 1921
Photograph, gelatin silver print
Gift of Alfred Stieglitz
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

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

 

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

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Equivalent' 1926

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Equivalent
1926
Photograph, gelatin silver print
Gift of Miss Georgia O’Keeffe
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

“How to hold a moment, how to record something so completely, that all who see it will relive an equivalent of what has been expressed.”

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Georgia O'Keeffe: A Portrait (15)' 1930

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Georgia O’Keeffe: A Portrait (15)
1930
Photograph, gelatin silver print
The Alfred Stieglitz Collection – Gift of the Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation and M. and M. Karolik Fund
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'House and Grape Leaves' 1934

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
House and Grape Leaves
1934
Photograph, gelatin silver print
Gift of Miss Georgia O’Keeffe
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'From the Shelton, Looking West' 1935-36

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
From the Shelton, Looking West
1935-36
Photograph, gelatin silver print
Gift of Miss Georgia O’Keeffe
Photograph: © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

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03
Jul
16

Exhibition: ‘Paul Strand: Photography and Film for the 20th Century’ at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Exhibition dates: 19th March – 3rd July 2016

 

Last day for this exhibition from one of the masters of photography. Apologies to the gallery and the readers that I did not get the posting up earlier but I have just been so busy at work. At least we have a record of the exhibition online.

Some of the media images were in a really shocking state. I can’t believe that an artist of Paul Strand’s standing would ever have wanted his photographs distributed in such a state – for example, enlarge the unrestored Milly, John and Jean MacLellan, South Uist, Hebrides (1954, detail) below, and then look at the restored version above that I have digitally cleaned.

What can you say about Strand that has not already been said before? He is a seminal figure in the history of photography. His Wall Street, New York (1915, below) is still one of my favourite images of all time – for its light, foreboding, and insicisve comment on capitalism and the worker. Follow this by one of the first truly “modernist” images, and one that changed the course of photography (and what a difference a year, and an image makes), White Fence, Port Kent, New York (1916, below) and you set the scene for a stellar career. To have that natural perspicaciousness: a penetrating discernment – a clarity of vision or intellect which provides a deep understanding and insight – is an element of wisdom that cannot be taught. As an artist, you’ve either got it or you haven’t.

As is observed in the Wikipedia entry on perspicacity, “In 17th century Europe René Descartes devised systematic rules for clear thinking in his work Regulæ ad directionem ingenii (Rules for the direction of natural intelligence). In Descartes’ scheme, intelligence consisted of two faculties: perspicacity, which provided an understanding or intuition of distinct detail; and sagacity, which enabled reasoning about the details in order to make deductions. Rule 9 was De Perspicacitate Intuitionis (On the Perspicacity of Intuition). He summarised the rule as

Oportet ingenii aciem ad res minimas et maxime faciles totam convertere, atque in illis diutius immorari, donec assuescamus veritatem distincte et perspicue intueri.

We should totally focus the vision of the natural intelligence on the smallest and easiest things, and we should dwell on them for a long time, so long, until we have become accustomed to intuiting the truth distinctly and perspicuously.”

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Intuiting the truth distinctly and perspicuously… quick to pick out, from among the thousands of things he sees, those that are significant, and to synthesize observations. This is what Strand does so well. His photographs are honest, direct, without ego. They just are. They live and breathe the subject. How do you get that look, that presence such as in Young Boy, Gondeville, Charente, France (1951, below). That presence is repeated again and again – in rocks, tendrils, people, buildings, landscapes – and finally, in the last years of his life, in intimate, sensitive and complex images of his garden at Orgeval. God bless that we have great artists like Paul Strand.

Marcus

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

 

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Paul Strand: Photography and Film for the 20th Century' at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Paul Strand: Photography and Film for the 20th Century' at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Paul Strand: Photography and Film for the 20th Century' at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Paul Strand: Photography and Film for the 20th Century' at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Paul Strand: Photography and Film for the 20th Century' at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Paul Strand: Photography and Film for the 20th Century' at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Paul Strand: Photography and Film for the 20th Century' at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Paul Strand: Photography and Film for the 20th Century' at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition Paul Strand: Photography and Film for the 20th Century at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London

 

 

“For the first time in the UK in 40 years a major retrospective on the American photographer Paul Strand (1890-1976) opens at the V&A. The exhibition is the first of its kind since Strand’s death in 1976 and shows how the pioneering photographer defined the way fine art and documentary photography is understood and practiced today.

Part of a tour organised by Philadelphia Museum of Art, in collaboration with Fundación MAPFRE and made possible by the Terra Foundation for American Art, the V&A exhibition reveals Strand’s trailblazing experiments with abstract photography, screens what is widely thought of as the first avant-garde film and shows the full extent of his photographs made on his global travels beginning in New York in 1910 and ending in France in 1976. Newly acquired photographs from Strand’s only UK project – a 1954 study of the island of South Uist in the Scottish Hebrides – are also on show, alongside other works from the V&A’s own collection.

Paul Strand: Photography and Film for the 20th Century encompasses over 200 objects from exquisite vintage photographic prints to films, books, notebooks, sketches and Strand’s own cameras to trace his career over sixty years. Arranged both chronologically and thematically, the exhibition broadens understanding of Strand as an international photographer and filmmaker with work spanning myriad geographic regions and social and political issues.

Martin Barnes, curator of the exhibition said: “The V&A was one of a handful of UK institutions to collect Paul Strand’s work during his lifetime and the Museum now houses the most extensive collection of his prints in the UK. Through important additional loans, the exhibition explores the life and career of Strand, but also challenges the popular perception of Strand as primarily a photographer of American places and people of the early 20th century.”

The exhibition begins in Strand’s native New York in the 1910s, exploring his early works of its financial district, railyards, wharves and factories. During this time he broke with the soft-focus and Impressionist-inspired ‘Pictorialist’ style of photography to produce among the first abstract pictures made with a camera. The influence of photographic contemporaries Alfred Stieglitz and Alvin Langdon Coburn as well European modern artists such as Braque and Picasso can be seen in Strand’s experiments in this period. On display are early masterpieces such as Wall Street which depicts the anonymity of individuals on their way to work set against the towering architectural geometry and implied economic forces of the modern city. Strand’s early experiments in abstraction, Abstraction, Porch Shadows and White Fence are also shown, alongside candid and anonymous street portraits, such as Blind Woman, made secretly using a camera with a decoy lens.

The exhibition explores Strand’s experiments with the moving image with the film Manhatta (1920 – 21). A collaboration with the painter and photographer Charles Sheeler, Manhatta was hailed as the first avant-garde film, and traces a day in the life of New York from sunrise to sunset punctuated by lines of Walt Whitman’s poetry. Strand’s embrace of the machine and human form is a key focus of the exhibition. In 1922, he bought an Akeley movie camera. The close-up studies he made of both his first wife Rebecca Salsbury and the Akeley during this time are shown alongside the camera itself. Extracts of Strand’s later, more politicised films, such as Redes (The Wave), made in cooperation with the Mexican government are featured, as well as the scarcely-shown documentary Native Land, a controversial film exposing the violations of America’s workforce.

Strand travelled extensively and the exhibition emphasises his international output from the 1930s to the late 1960s, during which time he collaborated with leading writers to publish a series of photobooks. As Strand’s career progressed, his work became increasingly politicised and focused on a type of social documentary alongside the desire to depict a shared humanity. The exhibition features Strand’s first photobook Time in New England (1950), alongside others including a homage to his adopted home France and his photographic hero Eugène Atget, La France de profil, which he made in collaboration with the French poet, Claude Roy. One of Strand’s most celebrated images, The Family, Luzzara, (The Lusetti’s) was taken in a modest agricultural village in Italy’s Po River valley for the photobook Un Paese, for which he collaborated with the Neo-Realist screen writer, Cesare Zavattini. On display, this hauntingly direct photograph depicts a strong matriarch flanked by her brood of five sons, all living with the aftermath of the Second World War.

From the late 1950s to the mid-1960s, Strand photographed in Egypt, Morocco and Ghana, all of which had gone through transformative political change. The exhibition shows Strand’s most compelling pictures from this period, including his tender portraits, complemented by street pictures showing public meetings and outdoor markets. The exhibition concludes with Strand’s final photographic series exploring his home and garden in Orgeval, France, where he lived with his third wife Hazel until his death in 1976. The images are an intimate counterpoint to Strand’s previous projects and offer a rare glimpse into his own domestic happiness.”

Press release from the V&A

 

 

Paul Strand and Charles Sheeler
Manhatta
1921
Courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art, New York
© Aperture Foundation Inc., Paul Strand Archive

 

 

Fred Zinnemann and Emilio Gómez Muriel (directors)
Paul Strand (photography)
Silvestre Revueltas (music)
Redes / The Wave
1936
Filmada en Alvarado, Veracruz (México)

 

 

Paul Strand and Leo Hurwitz (directors)
Paul Strand (photography)
Native Land
1942
VOSE (Tierra Natal)

 

Paul Strand. 'Wall Street, New York' 1915

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890 – 1976)
Wall Street, New York
1915
© Paul Strand Archive, Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890 - 1976) 'White Fence, Port Kent, New York' 1916 (negative); 1945 (print)

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890 – 1976)
White Fence, Port Kent, New York
1916 (negative); 1945 (print)
© Paul Strand Archive, Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890 - 1976) 'Blind Woman, New York' 1916

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890 – 1976)
Blind Woman, New York
1916
© Paul Strand Archive, Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890 - 1976) 'Rebecca, New York' 1921

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890 – 1976)
Rebecca, New York
1921
© Paul Strand Archive, Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890 - 1976) 'New Mexico' 1930

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890 – 1976)
New Mexico
1930
© Paul Strand Archive, Aperture Foundation

 

 

“Ahead of the first UK retrospective on Paul Strand in over 40 years, the V&A has acquired nine rare photographs from the pioneering 20th century photographer’s only UK-based series. Taken in 1954 in the Outer Hebrides in Scotland, the photographs document the threat to traditional Gaelic life during the Cold War. The photographs will be unveiled for the first time together as part of the exhibition, Paul Strand: Photography and Film for the 20th Century, opening 19 March.

Paul Strand defined the way fine art and documentary photography is understood and practiced today through his revolutionary experiments with the medium. The major acquisition, purchased for the V&A with the assistance of its Photographs Acquisition Group, comprise an intimate set of nine exquisite black and white vintage prints originally made for Strand’s photobook Tir A’Mhurain (‘Land of Bent Grass’).

A committed Marxist, Strand fled McCarthyism in the U.S. in 1950, pursued by the FBI. He settled in France, and carried out work there and in Italy before arriving on the Hebridean island of South Uist in 1954. Inspired by a BBC radio programme on Gaelic song, and news that the island would become home to a testing range for America’s new nuclear missile, Strand raced to capture the sights, sounds and textures of the place steeped in the threatened traditions of Gaelic language, fishing and agricultural life of pre-Industrial times. The photographs reveal Strand’s meticulous and methodical approach to photography, much like a studio photographer in the open air. They capture not only a pivotal moment in time, but also the end of a particular way of life for the islanders.

The acquisition encompasses four portraits of islanders staring directly at the camera, exuding strength and dignity. Each was photographed in their own environment, usually in or around their home, and is framed by weathered walls, doors or window frames – devices used often by Strand and borrowed from his 19th century photographic heroes David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson. The V&A has also acquired five of Strand’s evocative landscapes, revealing the island’s reliance on the land and sea.

John MacLellan was eight years’ old when he was photographed by Strand with his two sisters for the picture Milly, John and Jean MacLellan, South Uist (below). Of the experience, he said: “I was very young when I met Strand, but I knew he must have been a serious photographer because of the quality of his camera. Me and my sisters were lined up and knew to look at the camera. Looking at the picture, my mother had combed our hair and dressed us in our smartest clothes. I’ve since read that Strand was motivated to take these photographs by the idea that things would change. I know so many people in the photographs, it’s wonderful to be able to look at them now and remember the place I used to call home.”

Martin Barnes, Senior Curator of Photographs at the V&A said: “The photographs made by Strand in the Hebrides are for me a high point in his long and distinguished career. Strand worked slowly yet deliberately and with great poise in his pictures. By this time, his vision for his work had fully matured. His approach to sequencing and editing images in books such as ‘Tir A’Mhurain’ was informed by his collaborative experience making films for over twenty years. The Scottish book contains establishing panoramas of landscapes and the sea, a cast of characters with memorable faces, details of homes and workplaces and close-ups of the rocks, sands and grasses of the natural environment. The accompanying text by Basil Davidson is eloquent and informative about life on the islands, both in the past and at a pivotal time in the 1950s.The whole is a subtle sequence of meditative, revealing pictures and texts that avoid sentimentality and are yet full of empathy. These pictures make a surprising British link with this major American Modernist photographer and will have a satisfying legacy as part of the permanent collection at the V&A.”

Strand is an important figure in the history of photography not only because his career spanned much of the 20th century, but because he relentlessly trialled and pioneered myriad photographic approaches, subjects and technologies. Ironically it was his variety and failure to coin a signature style, and his belief in the integrity of the photographic print as an original artwork, that have seen him increasingly overlooked in the 40 years since his death. The V&A’s exhibition seeks to redress the balance, covering all aspects of Strand’s long career, from his trailblazing experiments in abstraction and dynamic views of New York in the 1910s to his final intimate pictures of his home and garden in France made during the 1970s.”

Text from the V&A

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890 - 1976) 'The Family, Luzzara (The Lusettis)' 1953 (negative); mid- to late 1960s (print)

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890 – 1976)
The Family, Luzzara (The Lusettis)
1953 (negative); mid- to late 1960s (print)
© Paul Strand Archive, Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890 - 1976) 'Young Boy, Gondeville, Charente, France' 1951 (negative); mid- to late 1960s (print)

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890 – 1976)
Young Boy, Gondeville, Charente, France
1951 (negative); mid- to late 1960s (print)
© Paul Strand Archive, Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890 - 1976) 'Milly, John and Jean MacLellan, South Uist, Hebrides' 1954

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890 – 1976)
Milly, John and Jean MacLellan, South Uist, Hebrides
1954
© Paul Strand Archive, Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890 - 1976) 'Milly, John and Jean MacLellan, South Uist, Hebrides' 1954 (detail)

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890 – 1976)
Milly, John and Jean MacLellan, South Uist, Hebrides (detail)
1954
© Paul Strand Archive, Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890 - 1976) 'Angus Peter MacIntyre, South Uist, Hebrides' 1954

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890 – 1976)
Angus Peter MacIntyre, South Uist, Hebrides
1954
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
© Paul Strand Archive, Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890 - 1976) 'Angus Peter MacIntyre, South Uist, Hebrides' 1954 (detail)

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890 – 1976)
Angus Peter MacIntyre, South Uist, Hebrides (detail)
1954
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
© Paul Strand Archive, Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890 - 1976) 'Katie Margaret Mackenzie, Benbecula, Hebrides' 1954

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890 – 1976)
Katie Margaret Mackenzie, Benbecula, Hebrides
1954
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
© Paul Strand Archive, Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890 - 1976) 'Katie Margaret Mackenzie, Benbecula, Hebrides' 1954 (detail)

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890 – 1976)
Katie Margaret Mackenzie, Benbecula, Hebrides (detail)
1954
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
© Paul Strand Archive, Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890 - 1976) 'Rock, Loch Eynort, South Uist, Hebrides' 1954

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890 – 1976)
Rock, Loch Eynort, South Uist, Hebrides
1954
Victoria and Albert Museum, Londonn
© Paul Strand Archive, Aperture Foundation

Paul Strand (American, 1890 - 1976) 'Tendrils and Sand, South Uist, Hebrides' 1954

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890 – 1976)
Tendrils and Sand, South Uist, Hebrides
1954
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
© Paul Strand Archive, Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890 - 1976) 'Sea Rocks and Sea, The Atlantic, South Uist, Hebrides' 1954

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890 – 1976)
Sea Rocks and Sea, The Atlantic, South Uist, Hebrides
1954
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
© Paul Strand Archive, Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890 - 1976) 'The Road, South Lochboisdale, South Uist, Hebrides' 1954

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890 – 1976)
The Road, South Lochboisdale, South Uist, Hebrides
1954
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
© Paul Strand Archive, Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890 - 1976) 'Trawler, South Uist, Hebrides' 1954

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890 – 1976)
Trawler, South Uist, Hebrides
1954
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
© Paul Strand Archive, Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890 - 1976) 'Driveway, Orgeval' 1957

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890 – 1976)
Driveway, Orgeval
1957
© Paul Strand Archive, Aperture Foundation

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890 - 1976) 'Couple, Rucăr, Romania' 1967

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890 – 1976)
Couple, Rucăr, Romania
1967
© Paul Strand Archive, Aperture Foundation

 

Martine Franck. 'Paul Strand Photographing the Orgeval Garden' 1974

 

Martine Franck
Paul Strand Photographing the Orgeval Garden
1974
© Martine Franck / Magnum Photos

 

From my mentor:

“Great camera – very great photographer.

He is making an image – his lower hand is about to go to the shutter button – the lens doesn’t have to be a camera lens, it could be an enlarger lens = note how the lens is tilted slightly forward to extend the depth of field… He has dressed up to take photos!!”

After I questioned holding a camera like this to take a photograph without using a tripod:

“Strand may not be making a picture – he may be just pretending. But he might be shooting @ f4. He might be showing off!!”

 

 

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25
Jun
16

Exhibition: ‘Brett Weston: Significant Details’ at Pasadena Museum of California Art

Exhibition dates: 17th April – 11th September 2016

Curator: Erin Aitali, PMCA Director of Exhibitions and Registrar

 

 

If your subject is essentially unrecognizable – a defining characteristic of many of Weston’s photographs – devoid of sentimentality, featuring an explosion of geometry as a form of Western expressionism, able to extract the microcosm from the macrocosm through an absence of human presence and apparent narrative – then your previsualisation must be spot on otherwise you loose clear focus as to just what it is you are trying to communicate. It’s all very well being obsessed with capturing the intricacies and rhythms of form, light and shadow, visual poetry in photography, but if that obsession has no ‘feeling’ outcome then you are doomed to failure.

Imagine (if you can) that master of documentary realism Eugène Atget placing his camera in just the wrong position for one of his photographs. The tripod just a little too low, the position a metre to the left of where it should have been. The resulting image would not feel like an Atget, the angles would not feel right, the mixture of objective and subjective would not be present, the magic of his photographs – recognisably his photographs – would be missing. What Atget does so convincingly is to combine the aesthetic with the documentary or representational. As G.H. Saxon Mills observes in his essay ‘Modern photography’ ‘”modern” photography means photography whose aim is partly or wholly aesthetic, as opposed to photography which is merely documentary or representational.’ Atget proves that both were possible within the same frame.

This is not the case with the photographs by Brett Weston in this posting. Although I have commented elsewhere on this website that, “Brett Weston’s pictures are ageing well – the decorative aesthetic seems to have more currency today than previously when the values of his father were predominant,” and admired the reductive minimalism of his photographs … this is not the case with these ‘significant details’. In this instance they are just representation, poor relations to the photographs of Minor White and Aaron Siskind. I think that the best of his work is very fine – a sort of celebration of all that had gone before with a layer of super-fineness added. However he made many images that were a bit like a preacher rather than an artist. In some of his portfolios the choice of images is just plain weird, catering to the market rather than takng the chance to make a powerful statement. And photography aficionados remain unconvinced by his work, shying away from collecting it. Perhaps they know, or feel a lack of something, some spirit or other, or a seeming unevenness in the quality of his artistic production.

Perhaps it is his printing, which is a bit “Kodak meets EW” in the darkroom (even as his father entrusted him with printing some of his negatives). Weston achieved his good results because he was a careful craftsman, not an experimenter. Someone, I forget who, said that you never looked at his work when desperate for sustenance – and I think a lot of “connoisseurs” think that – and in a Brett Weston you can too often argue yourself out of the celebration. There is a certain dourness that is hard to overcome. I challenge you, now, to say one meaningful good thing about any of the images presented here. They take you nowhere. They are either too tightly cropped (that lack of true previsualisation / placing the camera in the wrong position / lack of context) or rely on pattern and representation, and only that, to do the heavy lifting.

My feeling about his work is that he saw and felt many great things that he used in his work – but at the final hurdle, his implementation was always handled a little directly, or not a well as might have been… or is sometimes absent. Perhaps it’s just his viewpoint which seems to be too limited in a psychological sense. If Atget had photographed the city without those magnificent tripod positions and understanding of space, then they would have been dead. That’s how BW’s work sometimes feels. Instead of the space feeling larger than the camera can contain, on occasions his photographs feel enclosed and stilted.

Weston said, “There are a million choices for shot. At its simplest, photography is very complex. So I try to keep it simple and focus on things I can master.”

Sometimes, keeping things simple does not result in preternatural outcomes.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

“My father was driven and so am I. You’re ruthless. You brush off your friends and women. He was much kinder than me. I don’t verbalize well and I don’t socialize much. Too time consuming. And I’m not a good salesman of my work. I love people, but they can be a drain. Some are stimulating; some are leeches. So I seek people on my own terms. Most artists are loners. I guess they have to be.”

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Brett Weston

 

“Weston isn’t really a nature photographer… He was obsessed with capturing the intricacies and rhythms of form, light and shadow. Weston is as fascinated by close-ups of the exfoliating bark of a bristlecone pine or the spikes of a Joshua Tree as he is with the visual poetry of peeling paint on the side-panel of a rusted out truck.”

.
Jeffrey St. Clair

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brett Weston: Significant Details' at the Pasadena Museum of California Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brett Weston: Significant Details' at the Pasadena Museum of California Art

Installation view of the exhibition 'Brett Weston: Significant Details' at the Pasadena Museum of California Art

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition Brett Weston: Significant Details at the Pasadena Museum of California Art
Photos: © 2016 Don Milici

 

 

“Although Brett Weston (1911-1993) is best known for his striking scenic photographs, the majority of his work ranges from middle-distance scenes to close-up abstractions. These concentrated images share the high-contrast and graphic qualities of Weston’s panoramas while emphasizing his affinity for “significant details” and the unprecedented attention to form, texture, shadow, and light that he explored throughout his nearly-seventy-year career.

Weston took up photography at the age of fourteen. Although he received basic technical instruction from his father, renowned photographer Edward Weston, Brett’s early efforts owed much to his intuition and innate eye. His elemental talent coupled with an unflagging commitment to his photographic vision – often at the expense of personal relationships and fiscal well-being – carried him from early critical acclaim, through difficult periods, to eventual financial success within his own lifetime.

By the age of twenty-five, Weston’s photographs were included in significant exhibitions both nationally and internationally, but despite early recognitition he served as a WPA photographer during the Great Depression and as a Signal Corps photographer during World War II. By neccessity, he also worked intermittently in the first half of his career as an industrial and portrait photographer. However, when he achieved prosperity beginning in the 1970s, he devoted himself exclusively to the photography and intercontinental expeditions that fulfilled him. His initial interest in abstracted details continually revealed itself, especially once he began using a new, smaller camera after health problems in the late 1960s forced him to abandon the bulky equipment he had used for over thirty years.

Early and continuing critical success notwithstanding, following Brett’s death, the comparison to his famed father left the younger Weston on the wrong side of a narrowing modern canon of photography. Reaffirming Weston’s legacy and his exceptional contributions to modernist photography, these uncharted, close-up images – more than half of which are on view for the first time – demonstrate the major themes present in Weston’s work: a focus on natural and urban landscapes and the objects therein, the absence of human presence and apparent narrative, and an extraordinary ability to extract the microcosm from the macrocosm.”

Introduction text from the exhibition

 

Brett Weston. 'Untitled (Worm Wood, California)' c. 1937 (printed c. 1970)

 

Brett Weston (1911 – 1993)
Worm Wood, California
c. 1937 (printed c. 1970)
Silver gelatin print
10 1/2 x 13 3/4 inches
The Brett Weston Archive
Courtesy Christian Keesee Collection, 2016

 

 

Although Weston’s wife Cicely provided the couple with a steady income, she became pregnant with the pair’s first (and only) child in 1937, providing Weston impetus to generate additional means of support. Hoping to replicate the financial success of Ansel Adams’s portfolio of limited edition original photographs, Weston produced one of his own. His first portfolio San Francisco (1937) consisted of twelve 8 x 10 original prints. Unlike the photograph Staircase, San Francisco (1928) included in this exhibition, the portfolio photos were panoramic vistas. However, without the robust support of a collector like Albert Bender, who both promoted and purchased enough of Adams’s portfolios to assure commercial success, Weston didn’t profit from his portfolio. He lacked not only the promotional skills and collector base but also refused gallery sales owing to his deep distrust and outrage at their commissions.

 

Brett Weston. 'Wood' 1972

 

Brett Weston (1911 – 1993)
Wood
1972
Silver gelatin print
7 1/2 x 8 5/8 inches
The Brett Weston Archive
Courtesy Christian Keesee Collection, 2016

 

 

“One of the most celebrated and prolific photographers of the twentieth century, Brett Weston (1911-1993) is best known for his striking scenic images, yet the bulk of his work ranges from middle-distance scenes to closeup abstractions. The Pasadena Museum of California Art (PMCA) is proud to present Brett Weston: Significant Details, the first museum exhibition to focus on Weston’s close-up photography. The works – over half of which are on view for the first time – share the high-contrast and graphic qualities of Weston’s panoramic photographs while emphasizing the “significant details,” the tendency toward abstraction and extremes in tonality that Weston explored through his nearly 60-year career. The exhibition further contextualizes Weston within the pivotal Group f/64 and highlights how intuition and a dedication to photography in its purest form guided his practice.

Although the teaching of his father, famed modernist photographer Edward Weston, was invaluable and his influence undeniable, Weston’s practice was largely shaped by instinct and informal training. He took up photography at the age of 14 when, on an extended trip to Mexico with his father, he started photographing the crew of the SS Oaxaca with the elder Weston’s Graflex camera. This trip also coincided with the end of his formal education; he was enrolled at an English-speaking school, but dropped out within two weeks. While in Mexico, Weston became part of the modernist mileu, socializing with and viewing the work of some of the greatest artists of the time, including David Siqueiros, Diego Rivera, and José Clemente Orozco.

Weston’s professional entry into the world of photography occurred during a shift from the East Coast Pictorialists and their accentuation of romantic effects to the West Coast photographic movement, which coalesced with Group f/64 and their sharp images that captured daily life. Like the members of Group f/64, which included Edward Weston and Ansel Adams, Brett Weston focused primarily on two types of images: close-ups and the scenic view. However, Weston’s approach was distinct, tending toward highly graphic images, with intense areas of dark and highlights, rather than midgray tones used by many, including his father.

By the age of 25, Weston’s work had been included in the landmark international photography exhibition Film und Foto and in a solo exhibition at the M. H. de Young Museum in San Francisco. Though he received critical acclaim and  his reputation grew, Weston remained dedicated to art for art’s sake and to creating pure, elemental photographs. He was a simple man and used the same equipment for most of his career. However, when health problems forced him to switch to a smaller camera – the Rollei – in 1968, he further experimented with close-up photographs, and his work became even more intent on exploring specific details and abstract qualities. In Torn Leaf, Hawaii (1978, below), for example, the brittle, curling leaf appears monumental on a black ground. It exists as a singular object, not fully contained within the composition, and the size is indeterminable without context.

The uncharted, close-up images that are the focus of Significant Details demonstrate the major themes present in Weston’s work: a play on scale, the absence of the human presence, and a refrain from imposed order. This exhibition features approximately 40 works taken over a period of 55 years, ranging from 1929 to 1984, and brings to the forefront the unprecedented attention to form, texture, shadow, and light that was the distinctive characteristic of Weston’s oeuvre.”

Press release from the Pasadena Museum of California Art

 

Brett Weston. 'Wall, Europe' 1971

 

Brett Weston (1911 – 1993)
Wall, Europe
1971
Silver gelatin print
8 x 10 inches
The Brett Weston Archive
Courtesy Christian Keesee Collection, 2016

 

 

In 1971 Brett returned to Europe for the third time. While there, he captured both abstract images, like this one, and panoramas. Notably, this trip resulted in the photograph of Holland Canal, which Weston grew to hate, despite its commercial success or perhaps because of it, “I’m so sick of the thing but people love it. I could retire on sales of this print alone. I’d hate to tell you how many of these I’ve printed.” Although this scenic print wasn’t the legacy Weston desired for himself, it led to an overall increased attention from collectors interested in his work, including his abstractions.

 

Brett Weston. 'Untitled (Cracked Mud, High Sierra, California)' 1960

 

Brett Weston (1911 – 1993)
Cracked Mud, High Sierra, California
1960
Silver gelatin print
8 x 10 inches
The Brett Weston Archive
Courtesy Christian Keesee Collection, 2016

 

Direct evidence of human presence was rare in Weston’s photos. But here, two playful sets of handprints on the mud provide scale, which would otherwise be indeterminable in the image.

 

Brett Weston. 'Electrical Towers, Metal' c. 1975

 

Brett Weston (1911 – 1993)
Electrical Towers, Metal
c. 1975
Silver gelatin print
8 x 10 inches
The Brett Weston Archive
Courtesy Christian Keesee Collection, 2016

 

 

Brett Weston: Significant Details

Brett Weston, born in 1911 in Tropico, CA (now Glendale), took up photography at the age of fourteen while on an extended trip to Mexico with his father, famed photographer Edward Weston. In Mexico for just over a year, his time there was pivotal in many ways, not only marking the start of his photography career, but also the end of his formal education. His father allowed him to drop out of the international school after two short weeks and provided the younger Weston with basic instructions in photography. Still, Brett relied heavily on his innate sensibilities toward form and tonality, evident in Tin Roof, Mexico, an early photograph from 1926 featuring a cropped view of a jagged roofline with dramatic dark shadows splitting the image. Weston also benefited from a social education of sorts. Through connections of his father’s mistress, photographer Tina Modotti, Weston became a part of the Mexican modernist milieu, socializing with and viewing the work of some of the greatest artists of the time, including Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros.

During his nearly-seventy-year career, Weston’s talent and unique vision developed into two related types of works, panoramic landscapes and abstracted close-ups. The image most associated with Weston was and probably still is Holland Canal from 1971. The photograph of a tree-lined canal with still water reflecting a flawless image of the surrounding landscape is sensual and magnificently balanced. However, the photographer bemoaned his connection to this particular work and its extreme popularity saying, “I’m so sick of the thing, but people love it.” Although this print and other panoramic images, such as Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska (1973), came to typify his work in the public’s mind, the bulk of Weston’s photographs range from middle-distance scenes to close-ups, which became increasingly abstract beginning in the 1950s. Brett Weston: Significant Details focuses on the close-up works that epitomize his unique and unwavering vision. These images share the high-contrast and graphic qualities of Weston’s well-known scenic photographs while emphasizing what the photography historian Beaumont Newhall characterized as his affinity for “significant details.” Weston applied this penchant for details to natural and urban environments alike. Another early image, Stairway, Grandview Park, San Francisco from 1928, offers a fragmented view of a San Francisco stairwell. Without context, the unpopulated image’s narrative possibilities are limited; instead, the emphasis is on the orderly, graphic form of the staircase.

From the beginning of his career, Weston’s work was celebrated by institutions and peers. The year following Stairway, Weston’s work was included in the landmark 1929 German photography exhibition Film und Foto, and the early 1930s saw his association with Group f/64, a distinctly West Coast movement of “straight” photographers (as opposed to the East Coast Pictorialist tradition, which was waning at this time) that comprised Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Edward Weston, and others. Brett’s work appeared in their 1932 inaugural exhibition at the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco. The following year, both San Francisco Stairway and Tin Roofs (presumably the same works discussed in this essay) were included with forty-three other photographs in a solo exhibition at the de Young.

Although Weston saw early success with his work included in major exhibitions, this did not translate into a steady income. Like most artists during the Great Depression, the Federal Art Project – a branch of the Works Progress Administration – employed Weston, first as a sculptor and then later as a photographer. He quit the FAP in December of 1936 after about two and half years because he had no passion for the documentary nature of the work and it impinged upon time for his personal projects, something that he could not bear for long. Throughout the thirties and forties, he worked intermittently – and discontentedly – as a portrait and industrial photographer to stave off poverty and support his daughter who was born in 1938. In complete contrast to the realistic, documentary style of his FAP and commissioned works, an untitled photograph from 1937 is an extreme close-up of paint that is almost organic in appearance, with leaf-like veins in the upper portion of the image. The subject is essentially unrecognizable, which is a defining characteristic of many of Weston’s photographs.

The slim Depression years segued into the tumultuousness of World War II, during which Weston served in the US Army before a much-requested transfer to the US Signal Corps stationed him to work as a photographer in New York. At the end of the war, when Brett returned to Carmel, CA, where the Weston family had made their long-time home, he found his father beginning to show marked symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, which would increasingly debilitate the elder Weston in the last decade of his life. Before Edward’s death in 1958, he enlisted his sons Brett and Cole and a small group of trusted assistants to secure his lasting legacy by making thousands of prints under his supervision. In addition to printing work for his father, during this time, Brett also worked on his Guggenheim fellowship project and his second and third portfolios, White Sands (1949) and New York (1954).

Besides photographing the beaches of Carmel, one of which was dubbed “Weston Beach,” Brett also traveled up and down the California coast countless times over the decades. He repeatedly returned to capture the dunes of Oceano, and these images range from sweeping vistas to striking abstractions. An image from 1952, Dune, Oceano, although not technically a detail, falls into the latter category. The dunes appear wave-like and swirling, and a dark, somewhat-menacing shadow at the centre – similar to the roofline image taken in Mexico – provides graphic force. Jellyfish, California, another beach image, taken in 1967, is a close-up of one of the bulbous marine animals washed ashore. In contrast to the ethereal and weightless appearance jellyfish take underwater, it looks monumental and grotesquely beautiful. The curving form expands beyond the picture’s boundaries and in place of luminescence is a gradation of pure white reflections to jet-black striated patterns on the bell.

Although the tendency to work close-up had always been present in Weston’s work, it became much more pronounced and obvious after health issues necessitated a change in camera equipment. For over thirty years, Weston worked with a large format 8 x 10 camera and preferred contact prints (versus enlarging from smaller negatives). However, a heart attack  in 1967 and an ongoing battle with angina forced Weston to switch to a smaller camera because he could no longer manage the bulky equipment. In 1968, he began using the Rollei SL-66 almost exclusively. The camera used roll film that produced small, square negatives and allowed the artist to work close-up with ease. As a result, his work became even more intent on exploring specific elements and abstract qualities. Sand and Kelp from around 1970 is a lyrical example of this. Individual grains of sand are visible and marked by traces of implied movement, both in the dancing shadows of the kelp and the trailing patterns lightly indented into the surface.

While Weston had traveled steadily and as often as he could afford to in his younger years – expeditions that included Europe, Japan, the Pacific Northwest, Baja California, and Mexico – his later years were spent primarily in Hawaii. The tropical climate was beneficial for his health, and the varied terrain provided limitless visual appeal. In 1979, the photographer purchased land there on the slopes of a volcanic mountain. He became especially engrossed with the lava formations and the verdant and spectacular plant life, which he photographed until his death in 1993.

Weston achieved, within his lifetime, the recognition and financial comforts of a highly esteemed photographer. Even so, following his death, Brett’s reputation was eclipsed in favor of his father, due in part to the notion that there wasn’t room for two Westons in the canon of modernist photography. The 2008 exhibition Out of the Shadow (Oklahoma City Museum of Art and The Phillips Collection) and his biography A Restless Eye (2011) have begun to remedy this situation. Significant Details furthers that work by centering on the uncharted, closeup images that characterize Weston’s innate and distinctive eye. These photographs reveal the major themes present in his oeuvre: a focus on natural and urban landscapes and the objects therein, the absence of human presence and apparent narrative, and an extraordinary ability to extract the microcosm from the macrocosm.

Erin Aitali, Director of Exhibitions and Registrar

 

Brett Weston. 'Broken Glass, California' 1954

 

Brett Weston (1911 – 1993)
Broken Glass, California
1954
Silver gelatin print
8 x 10 inches
The Brett Weston Archive
Courtesy Christian Keesee Collection, 2016

 

Brett Weston. 'Torn Leaf, Hawaii' 1978

 

Brett Weston (1911 – 1993)
Torn Leaf, Hawaii
1978
Silver gelatin print
10 3/4 x 12 inches
The Brett Weston Archive
Courtesy Christian Keesee Collection, 2016

 

Brett Weston. 'Jellyfish, California' 1967

 

Brett Weston (1911 – 1993)
Jellyfish, California
1967
Silver gelatin print
7 5/8 x 9 5/8 inches
The Brett Weston Archive
Courtesy Christian Keesee Collection, 2016

 

Brett Weston. 'Cracked Paint' 1937 (printed later)

 

Brett Weston (1911 – 1993)
Cracked Paint
1937 (printed later)
Silver gelatin print
12 1/2 x 10 1/8 inches
The Brett Weston Archive
Courtesy Christian Keesee Collection, 2016

 

 

Like Broken Glass, California (1954, above), this image of cracked paint is an extreme close-up to the point that the subject is indistinguishable. Instead pure form becomes the focus. This intense focus also characterizes Weston’s approach to life; he prioritized his photography above all else, often at the expense of both financial stability and personal relationships (he was married four times and had countless lovers).

In 1937 Weston was living with his first wife, Cicely, in San Francisco who was employed as a violinist in the WPA symphony. Weston had recently quit the WPA because, as he explained in a letter to his father in December 1936, “It has been a good thing in many ways but after 2 1/2 years I feel that I have had enough experience of this kind. I feared it was beginning to tell on me as well as my work. I would rather divorce, starve, anything, than have this happen. The actual work I’ve been doing for the work program has been child’s play but the sacrifice of one’s priceless days… has become too much.”

 

Brett Weston. 'Snow' 1954

 

Brett Weston (1911 – 1993)
Snow
1954
Silver gelatin print
9 1/2 x 7 5/8 inches
The Brett Weston Archive
Courtesy Christian Keesee Collection, 2016

 

 

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Études’ 1994

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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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