Posts Tagged ‘Auguste Rodin

24
Jan
20

Exhibition: ‘Illusions of the Photographer: Duane Michals at the Morgan’ at The Morgan Library & Museum

Exhibition dates: 25th October 2019 – 2nd February 2020

Curator: Joel Smith

 

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'Self-Portrait Asleep in a Tomb of Mereruka Sakkara' 1978

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
Self-Portrait Asleep in a Tomb of Mereruka Sakkara
1978
6 (5 x 7 inch) silver gelatin prints with hand-applied text
© Duane Michals, Courtesy DC Moore Gallery, New York
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

The things-for-which-there-are-no-words

Duane Michals is one of the greatest photographic storytellers of the twentieth century. His parables – seemingly simple stories used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson – resonate, vibrate, with energy, and insight into, the human condition. They are as profound as the air we breathe but cannot see – expressing the invisible, presencing the spiritual. I feel, I know these stories, intimately. Those things-for-which-there-are-no-words.
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Presencing. In 1885, Van Gogh, wrote a letter to his brother Theo: ‘Rembrandt goes so deep into the mysterious that he says things for which there are no words in any language. It is with justice that they call Rembrandt – [a] magician.’ (Letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh [letter 534], on or about 10 October 1885, in Leo Jansen, Luijten and Nienke Bakker (eds.,). Vincent van Gogh: The Letters. Van Gogh Museum and the Huygens Institute, Amsterdam, 2009 [Online] Cited 11/10/2019)

The things-for-which-there-are-no-words remain hidden when approached with conceptual thought. They need to be experienced to be known. The currency of this experience, as we have seen, is deeply personal, but in allowing it we can touch on truth, perhaps even the truth.”1

 

There are things here not seen in this photograph. The spirit leaves the body. William Blake and Duane Michals. Enchanted melancholy. The mysterious / music. In swift embrace. In love. In memory. In death. The fluidity of the line of the artist. Things are queer. The world implodes and ravages itself. Paradise is reborn. The letter, and love, from my father that I, also, never did receive. The nature of reality. Truth?

“I’m completely overwhelmed by the nature of our reality,” he is quoted as saying in the exhibition catalog about human evolution. “We’ve been working on this version of man for a thousand years. He lives longer, he’s healthier, but he’s still an unproven product. Still the same greedy little bastard.”

“For Michals, photography is not documentary in nature but theatrical and fictive: the camera is one of many tools humanity uses to construct a comprehensible version of reality. In his imaginative, visually rich photographs, the artist exploits the medium’s storytelling capacity,” says the press release. Isobel Crombie suggests the ‘medium’ of photography has ‘The ability to speak to us across time and to connect to the mind and the heart.’2

When I was young. What was time?

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Kim Devereux. “Me and My Muse,” in the NGV Magazine Issue 19 Nov-Dec 2019, p. 55
  2. Isobel Crombie. “One Suggestive Moment,” in the NGV Magazine Issue 19 Nov-Dec 2019, p. 33

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Many thankx to The Morgan Library & Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“I write with this photograph not to tell you what you can see, rather to express what is invisible.”

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Duane Michals 1966 in Johnson, B. (ed.,) 2004, ‘Photography speaks: 150 photographers on their art’, Aperture, New York p. 150

 

“I think photographs should be provocative and not tell you what you already know. It takes no great powers or magic to reproduce somebody’s face in a photograph. The magic is in seeing people in new ways.”

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Duane Michals

 

Duane Michals uses visual narrative, symbolism and metaphysical imagery to interpret the human condition. His photographic sequences have a film-like appearance and represent intangible elements of dreams, imagination, death, time, myth and spirit. A freelance commercial photographer, Michals began experimenting with sequence works in the 1960s, later adding text to illuminate emotion and philosophical ideas and following in the tradition of painters such as René Magritte and Giorgio de Chirico whom he greatly admired. His staged, fictive tableaux vivants are intimate scenes that explore the atmosphere of the invisible and metaphysical…

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

 

 

DEATH

Robert Wiles. 'Evelyn Francis McHale May 1, 1947' 1947

 

Robert Wiles
Evelyn Francis McHale May 1, 1947
1947
Gelatin silver print
Overall: 9 1/2 × 8 in. (24.1 × 20.3 cm)
Purchased on the Goldsmith Fund for Americana
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

On 30 April she visited her fiancée in Easton presumably to celebrate his 24th birthday and boarded a train back to NYC at 7 a.m., 1 May 1947. Barry [Rhodes] stated to reporters that “When I kissed her goodbye she was happy and as normal as any girl about to be married.”

Of course we’ll never know what went through Evelyn’s mind on 66 mi train ride home. But after she arrived in New York she went to the Governor Clinton Hotel where she wrote a suicide note and shortly before 10:30 a.m. bought a ticket to the 86th floor observation deck of the Empire State Building.

Around 10:40 am Patrolman John Morrissey, directing traffic at Thirty-fourth Street and Fifth Avenue, noticed a white scarf floating down from the upper floors of the building. Moments later he heard a crash and saw a crowd converge on 34th street. Evelyn had jumped, cleared the setbacks, and landed on the roof of a United Nations Assembly Cadillac limousine parked on 34th street, some 200 ft west of Fifth Ave.

Across the street, Robert C. Wiles, a student photographer, also noticed the commotion and rushed to the scene where he took several photos, including this one, some four minutes after her death. Later, on the observation deck, Detective Frank Murray found her tan (or maybe gray, reports differ) cloth coat neatly folded over the observation deck wall, a brown make-up kit filled with family pictures and a black pocketbook with the note which read:

“I don’t want anyone in or out of my family to see any part of me. Could you destroy my body by cremation? I beg of you and my family – don’t have any service for me or remembrance for me. My fiance asked me to marry him in June. I don’t think I would make a good wife for anybody. He is much better off without me. Tell my father, I have too many of my mother’s tendencies.”

Lizz Buzz. “The Story Behind the “The Most Beautiful Suicide” Picture of Evelyn McHale (1947),” on the Atchuup! website April 23, 2019 [Online] Cited 17/11/2019

 

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

Duane Michals. 'The Spirit Leaves The Body' 1968

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
The Spirit Leaves the Body
1968
Gift of Richard and Ronay Menschel
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'I Build a Pyramid' 1978

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
I Build a Pyramid
1978
6 (5 x 7 inch) silver gelatin prints with hand-applied text
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

ILLUSION

Francesco Salviati (1510-1563) 'Emblematic Design with Two-Headed Horse and Moth' c. 1550-63

 

Francesco Salviati (1510-1563)
Emblematic Design with Two-Headed Horse and Moth
c. 1550-63
Pen and brown ink, brown wash, on paper; framing lines at upper left and right edges in pen and brown ink
Overall: 7 1/2 × 7 3/8 in. (19.1 × 18.7 cm)
Gift of János Scholz
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827) 'Satan Smiting Job with Boils' c. 1805-10

 

William Blake (British, 1757-1827)
Satan Smiting Job with Boils
c. 1805-10
Pen and black and gray ink, gray wash, and watercolour, over faint indications in pencil, on paper
Overall: 9 3/16 x 11 inches (233 x 280 mm)
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913) in 1909
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Jehan Georges Vibert (1840-1902) 'A Cardinal in Profile' 1880

 

Jehan Georges Vibert (French, 1840-1902)
A Cardinal in Profile
1880
Watercolour on paper
Overall: 4 7/8 × 3 3/8 in. (12.4 × 8.6 cm)
Gift of John M. Thayer
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Henry Pearson (American, 1914-2006) '128th Psalm (Study for "Five Psalms")' 1968

 

Henry Pearson (American, 1914-2006)
128th Psalm (Study for “Five Psalms”)
1968
Chinese ink on heavy paper
Overall: 23 1/2 × 18 in. (59.7 × 45.7 cm)
Gift of Regina and Lawrence Dubin, M.D
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'The Illuminated Man' 1968

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
The Illuminated Man
1968
Gelatin silver print, unique print
Image: 15 5/8 x 22 7/8 inches
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

When Michals arrived in New York from Pittsburgh in the early 1950s, the city provided not only freedom from the strict conventions of his Catholic upbringing, but an opening to worlds of ideas and experiences that extended in all directions. By the early 1960s, he was living with his life partner, the architect Frederick Gorree (who passed away in 2017) and experimenting with the photographic image beyond the single frame, often including handwritten texts.

“Duane cut photography’s umbilical cord,” Smith said about the photographer’s contributions to the medium. “He saw there’s no reason to limit the camera to what you find in the world; it should be part of the history of expressing ideas.” Michals’s 1970 one-man show at the Museum of Modern Art confirmed his significance in establishing a new genre.

In the 1960s, he became interested in Buddhism and meditation, further expanding his artistic concerns. At the Morgan, Michals walked over to a large, eye-popping ink drawing by Henry Pearson, an abstract artist loosely associated with the Op Art movement. Pearson’s “128th Psalm (Study for ‘Five Psalms’)” from 1968, is a light-bulb-shaped form with lines emanating from the center like electrified nerve endings and pulsating out beyond the frame.

“This drawing is pure energy,” he said. That same year, Michals – who had not known Pearson’s work – made “The Illuminated Man,” a photograph of a male figure facing the camera, his head emanating light, suggesting enlightenment. “The Illuminated Man” and “128th Psalm” share the theme of spiritual radiance.

Michals cited a 1937 painting by René Magritte not in the Morgan Collection called “The Pleasure Principle.” It is a portrait of the poet Edward James, a patron of Surrealist art, his head a glowing light bulb. “I only discovered the painting later,” he said, after he had made his own photographic homage, in 1965, in which Magritte appears ghostlike in double exposure, against a canvas on an easel, behind an empty chair. “I was very proud to have had a similar idea to one of my deities,” he said.

Philip Gefter. “Duane Michals Searches the Morgan and Finds Himself,” on The New York Times website Oct 29, 2019 [Online] Cited 14/11/2019

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'The Human Condition' 1969

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
The Human Condition
1969
© Duane Michals via DC Moore Gallery
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

“The nature of consciousness is always the central question,” he asserted. In The Human Condition, his panel of six photographs from 1969 begins with a man standing on the 14th Street subway platform; the train arrives and he is bathed in a halo of light; the light becomes a swirl and in the last frame he is swept into a white disc the size of a galaxy passing through the night sky. From the immediate to the universal in six frames.

Philip Gefter. “Duane Michals Searches the Morgan and Finds Himself,” on The New York Times website Oct 29, 2019 [Online] Cited 14/11/2019

 

Duane Michals. 'The Bewitched Bee' 1986

Duane Michals. 'The Bewitched Bee' 1986

Duane Michals. 'The Bewitched Bee' 1986

Duane Michals. 'The Bewitched Bee' 1986

Duane Michals. 'The Bewitched Bee' 1986

Duane Michals. 'The Bewitched Bee' 1986

Duane Michals. 'The Bewitched Bee' 1986

Duane Michals. 'The Bewitched Bee' 1986

Duane Michals. 'The Bewitched Bee' 1986

Duane Michals. 'The Bewitched Bee' 1986

Duane Michals. 'The Bewitched Bee' 1986

Duane Michals. 'The Bewitched Bee' 1986

Duane Michals. 'The Bewitched Bee' 1986

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
The Bewitched Bee
1986
Gelatin silver print
Gift of Duane Michals
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

IMAGE AND WORD

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'There Are Things Here Not Seen in This Photograph' 1977

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
There Are Things Here Not Seen in This Photograph
1977
10 15/16 x 13 7/8 inches
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Duane Michals. From the series 'I Remember Pittsburgh' 1982

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
I Remember Pittsburgh 8
1982
Gelatin silver print
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Ciro Ferri (Italian, 1634-1689) 'Fame Painting a Portrait Held by Religion' 17th century

 

Ciro Ferri (Italian, 1634-1689)
Fame Painting a Portrait Held by Religion
17th century
Brush and brown and white gouache, pen and and brown ink, over black chalk, on brown toned paper
Overall: 11 x 7 9/16 inches (279 x 192 mm)
Purchased as the gift of the Fellows
The Morgan Library & Museum

Design for a frontispiece engraved by Gérard Audran for a volume of portraits of cardinals published by Giovanni Giacomo de’ Rossi

 

Irving Penn (American, 1917-2009) 'Giorgio de Chirico, Rome' Rome, 1944

 

Irving Penn (American, 1917-2009)
Giorgio de Chirico, Rome
Rome, 1944 (negative), 1946-47 (print)
Gelatin silver print on paper; mounted to cardstock
Image And Sheet: 7 1/16 × 7 3/8 in.
Gift of Irving Penn, 2006
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'Andy Warhol' 1958

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
Andy Warhol
1958
Gelatin silver print
8 × 10 inches (20.3 × 25.4 cm)
Collection of Richard and Ronay Menschel
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'René Magritte at His Easel' 1965

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
René Magritte at His Easel
1965
77/8 × 97/8 inches (20 × 25.1 cm)
Collection of Richard and Ronay Menschel
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Florian, Marquis de (1755-1794) 'Red leather portfolio [realia]' 18th century

 

Florian, Marquis de (1755-1794)
Red leather portfolio [realia] – Portefeuille de Monsieur de Voltaire and Donné à Monsieur de Florian
“Voltaire’s briefcase”
18th century
Leather, gold clasp
Stamped on front: “Portefeuille de Monsieur / de Voltaire”; on back: “Donné a Monsieur / de Florian”
Overall: 16 15/16 × 12 5/8 in. (43 × 32 cm)
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1911
Pierpont Morgan Library Dept. of Literary and Historical Manuscripts
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

Voltaire gave this briefcase to the marquis de Florian, the husband of his niece Elisabeth Mignot. Her sister, Marie-Louise Mignot, Mme Denis, was Voltaire’s companion for the last twenty-nine years of his life. With extensive decorative gold tooling. Exhibited numerous times at the Morgan Library as “Voltaire’s briefcase.”

Text from The Morgan Library & Museum website

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'Candide, 2019'

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
Candide, 2019
2019
Inspired by Voltaire
© Duane Michals via DC Moore Gallery
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

“The things we chose from the collection were so close to what my instincts are,” he said to Joel Smith, the curator of photography at the Morgan, who organised the show with Michals.

The photographer was referring to the kinship between things he chose and the irreverent nature of his own work. “I’m completely overwhelmed by the nature of our reality,” he is quoted as saying in the exhibition catalog about human evolution. “We’ve been working on this version of man for a thousand years. He lives longer, he’s healthier, but he’s still an unproven product. Still the same greedy little bastard.”

To illustrate the point, he reached for Voltaire’s briefcase among the holdings in the Morgan’s collection. It dates from the 1700s and is decorated with gold-leaf filigree on its red leather casing.

Smith recalled that Michals was so “wowed at the thought of Voltaire’s ideas living inside it and amused by the showbiz of its provenance” that he went home and painted a portrait of Candide on an old tintype, adding Voltaire’s bitterly ironic refrain in white block letters: “This Is the Best of All Possible Worlds.” The briefcase and Candide, 2019 are both in the show.

Yet, Michals doesn’t share Voltaire’s bleak view of existence. His own work is often characterised by an iconoclastic wit, imbued with serious metaphysical inquiry – a “curiosity about the nature of reality, in a much more profound sense than just a bunch of atoms.”

Philip Gefter. “Duane Michals Searches the Morgan and Finds Himself,” on The New York Times website Oct 29, 2019 [Online] Cited 14/11/2019

 

Auguste Rodin. 'Lucifer' c. 1900

 

Auguste Rodin (French, 1840-1917)
Lucifer
c. 1900
Pencil and watercolour, on paper
Overall: 9 3/8 × 12 7/16 in. (23.8 × 31.6 cm)
Gift of Alexandre P. Rosenberg
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Egon Schiele (Austrian, 1890-1918) 'Embrace' 1914

 

Egon Schiele (Austrian, 1890-1918)
Embrace
1914
Graphite on wove paper
Overall: 19 1/8 × 12 3/4 in. (48.6 × 32.4 cm)
Bequest of Fred Ebb
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

[Looks at Egon Schiele’s drawing Embrace (p. 22)] There’s so much emotion in this; it’s so immediate. There’s a few things happening: physical entanglement, then you see the look on his face, registering some kind of emotional response. I love the idea: Schiele had no thought that in a hundred years we’d be standing here or how we’d be talking about it. Art is not really about the future.

Duane Michals in Illusions of the Photographer: Duane Michals at the Morgan exhibition catalogue 2019, p. 21

 

In this depiction of the artist in the arms of an unidentified companion, the jagged, seemingly erratic contours suggest a psychological agitation characteristic of Schiele’s self-portraits. A feeling of tension derives from the position of the artist’s head-turned away from the woman embracing him – as well as from the placement of the couple to the left of the sheet, with the figure of the woman cropped. The resulting asymmetry conveys the artist’s emotional unbalance and emphasises his egocentric character while demonstrating the amazing technical agility he brought to bear to express a wide range of emotions.

Text from The Morgan Library & Museum website

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'A Letter from My Father' 1960

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
A Letter from My Father
1960 (image), 1975 (text)
15 3/4 × 19 7/8 inches (40 × 50.5 cm)
Gift of Duane Michals
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

The Morgan Library & Museum proudly presents an exhibition combining a six-decade retrospective of Duane Michals with an artist’s-choice selection of works from all corners of the permanent collection. Michals is known for his picture sequences, inscribed photographs, and, more recently, films that pose emotional, conceptual, and cosmic questions beyond the scope of the lone camera image. Illusions of the Photographer: Duane Michals at the Morgan (October 25, 2019 to February 2, 2020) takes viewers on a tour of the artist’s mind, putting work from his expansive career in conversation with Old Master and modern drawings, books, manuscripts, and historical objects.

The first retrospective on Michals to be mounted by a New York City institution, the exhibition is organised around animating themes in the artist’s work: Theatre, Reflection, Love and Desire, Playtime, Image and Word, Nature, Immortality, Time, Death, and Illusion. It showcases his storytelling instincts, both in stand-alone staged photographs and in sequences. The exhibition also includes screenings of short films, Michals’s preferred medium in recent years.

For Michals, photography is not documentary in nature but theatrical and fictive: the camera is one of many tools humanity uses to construct a comprehensible version of reality. In his imaginative, visually rich photographs, the artist exploits the medium’s storytelling capacity. For example, the six images in I Build a Pyramid (1978) find the artist in Egypt, stacking stones in a modest pile that, from the camera’s perspective, appears to rival the scale of the ancient pharaohs’ monuments. Michals reveals that the scenario echoes his childhood habit of building cities from stones in his backyard in McKeesport, Pennsylvania. In the exhibition, Michals’s staged scenes are juxtaposed with those of his creative heroes, who include William Blake, Edward Lear, and Saul Steinberg. In his dual role as artist and curator he matches wits with writers, stage designers, toy makers, and his fellow portraitists of the past and the present.

Since 2015 Michals has focused his creative efforts on filmmaking, a natural outgrowth of his directorial habits as a photographer. On a screen in the exhibition, three short films are featured amid a cycle of over 200 photographs from the series Empty New York (1964-65), the project through which the artist first recognised his theatrical vision of reality. Michals will host two special programs of film screenings in the Morgan’s Gilder Lehrman Hall, introducing films that have never been screened publicly before.

Illusions of the Photographer revives the format of the 2015 exhibition Hidden Likeness: Emmet Gowin at the Morgan, which The New York Times said “all but redefined the genre” of the collection dive curated by a contemporary artist. The present project is a personal one for Michals, who explains, “The Morgan literally is my favourite museum in New York. I always learn something at the Morgan. I’m so thrilled about this show, because it’s probably going to be the very last time to see me there, with all my resources and touchstones. I’m … archaic, in a way. I’m eighty-seven! I’m of my generation. My references are not at all to what people are talking about today. I’m comfortable there, that’s where I belong – and that’s what I contribute.”

Joel Smith, the Morgan’s Richard L. Menschel Curator and Department Head, says “Duane Michals’s art is contemplative, confessional, and comedic. It transcends the conventional bounds, and audience, of photography. Through narration and sequencing he reorients the camera towards timeless human dilemmas; he derives poetic effects from technical errors such as double exposure and motion blur. His originality and intimacy as an artist come through in the discoveries he brings to light from the Morgan’s collection.”

Illusions of the Photographer: Duane Michals at the Morgan is accompanied by an 88-page softcover catalogue featuring a wide-ranging interview with the artist and illustrations of seventy works, including his selections from the Morgan’s collection and the previously unpublished 1969 title sequence.

 

About Duane Michals

Duane Michals (b. February 18, 1932, McKeesport, Pennsylvania) is an American photographer who often combines images with text in a format that recalls cinematic storytelling. Michals received his BA from the University of Denver in 1953. He began photographing for magazines in 1960 and became a prolific portraitist of artists such as Andy Warhol, René Magritte, and Marcel Duchamp. His first solo exhibition was held at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1970. Michals lives and works in New York City.

Press release from The Morgan Library & Museum [Online] Cited 14/11/2019

 

 

NATURE

James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902) 'God Creating the World' c. 1900-1902

 

James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902)
God Creating the World
c. 1900-1902
Gouache on board
7 3/4 x 5 1/4 inches (201 x 135 mm)
Morgan Family Collection

 

James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902) 'God Creates Eve while Adam is Asleep' c. 1900-1902

 

James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902)
God Creates Eve while Adam is Asleep
c. 1900-1902
Gouache on board
12 x 9 1/8 inches (305 x 233 mm)
Morgan Family Collection

 

James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902) 'Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden' c. 1900-1902

 

James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902)
Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden
c. 1900-1902
Gouache on board
11 x 8 inches (279 x 203 mm)
Morgan Family Collection

 

James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902) 'Adam and Eve Perceive their Nakedness' c. 1900-1902

 

James Jacques Joseph Tissot (French, 1836-1902)
Adam and Eve Perceive their Nakedness
c. 1900-1902
Gouache on board
12 1/8 x 8 3/4 inches (308 x 221 mm)
Morgan Family Collection

 

Duane Michals. 'Paradise Regained' 1968

Duane Michals. 'Paradise Regained' 1968

Duane Michals. 'Paradise Regained' 1968

Duane Michals. 'Paradise Regained' 1968

Duane Michals. 'Paradise Regained' 1968

Duane Michals. 'Paradise Regained' 1968

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
Paradise Regained
1968
6 silver gelatin prints with hand-applied text

 

 

… He picked up a panel of gouache drawings from around 1900 by French illustrator James Jacques Joseph Tissot titled “God Creating the World,” a biblical morality tale in a series of lighthearted scenes depicting the creation of Adam; then Eve; the two of them frolicking; Eve eating the apple; and their banishment from paradise. The Tissot sequence is among nearly 60 works in his final selection for the current exhibition Illusions of the Photographer: Duane Michals at the Morgan, through Feb. 2. His pick of drawings, paintings and artefacts resides in dialogue with 38 of Michals’s photographic works – his narrative sequences as well as stand-alone prints, projected images from a series titled “Empty New York,” and several of his recent short films.

He pointed out a link between the Tissot drawings and his own “Paradise Regained,” from 1968: a suite of six images that begins with a well-dressed young couple sitting and facing the camera in an empty apartment. With each frame they get progressively undressed, and more and more plants fill up the space behind them. In the final image, they are naked amid a lush, domestic Eden.

“I had been looking at a lot of Rousseau paintings when I made the sequence,” Michals said, referring to the jungle scenes of the French Post-Impressionist. While he loves the Tissot panel, he admitted, “I’m a raging atheist,” distancing himself from its religious message. “I was a pretend Catholic and then I stopped pretending.” The spiritual dimension of “Paradise Regained” is balanced by the artist’s tongue-in-cheek view of urban life, where men and women only return to a natural state indoors, where everything is unnatural.

Philip Gefter. “Duane Michals Searches the Morgan and Finds Himself,” on The New York Times website Oct 29, 2019 [Online] Cited 14/11/2019

 

Jacob Hoefnagel (1573? - c. 1632) 'Orpheus Charming the Animals' 1613

 

Jacob Hoefnagel (1573? – c. 1632)
Orpheus Charming the Animals
1613
Watercolour and gouache, heightened with white gouache, over traces of black chalk, on vellum mounted to panel; bordered in gold
Overall: 6 9/16 × 8 5/16 in. (16.7 × 21.1 cm)
Purchased on the Sunny Crawford von Bülow Fund 1978
Morgan Family Collection

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'Warren Beatty' 1967

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
Warren Beatty
1967
Gelatin silver print
8 × 9 15/16 inches (20.3 × 25.2 cm)
Purchased on the Photography Acquisition Fund
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

PLAYTIME

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

Duane Michals. 'Things are Queer' 1973

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
Things Are Queer
1973
Nine gelatin silver prints
Images: 5 × 7 inches (12.7 × 17.8 cm) each
Gift of Duane Michals
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

REFLECTION

Wallace Studio, Manchester, New Hampshire. 'Untitled (Mirror)' c. 1880s

 

Wallace Studio, Manchester, New Hampshire
Untitled (Mirror)
c. 1880s
Cabinet card with rounded corners
Mount: 6 7/16 × 4 3/16 in. (16.4 × 10.6 cm)
Print: 5 11/16 × 4 in. (14.4 × 10.2 cm)
Gift of Adam Fuss
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Carlo Galli Bibiena (1728 - c. 1778) 'Interior of a Gallery' 1750s

 

Carlo Galli Bibiena (1728 – c. 1778)
Interior of a Gallery
1750s
Pen and black ink and gray and brown wash
Sheet is framed by an overmount of paper that leaves around 8 5/8 x 11 7/8 inches visible
Overall: 9 1/4 × 12 13/16 in. (23.5 × 32.5 cm)
Thaw Collection
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

John F. Collins (American, 1888-1990) 'Multiple Self-Portrait' 1935

 

John F. Collins (American, 1888-1990)
Multiple Self-Portrait
1935
Gelatin silver print
Image: 13 3/4 × 10 9/16 in. (34.9 × 26.8 cm)
Purchase on the Photography Collectors Committee Fund
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'A Story About a Story' 1989

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
A Story About a Story
1989
15 7/8 x 19 3/4 inches (40.3 × 50.2 cm)
Purchased on the Photography Collectors Committee Fund
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

In Michals work, the immediate and the infinite spar. In the show is a single image by a little-known photographer named John F. Collins. The 1935 self-portrait shows Collins looking at us while holding a large photograph of himself; in that photograph he is looking down at the same photograph of himself. In each subsequent picture within a picture, he is looking out, and then into the photograph he is holding, into a spiralling infinity.

It is a striking parallel to Michals’ “A Story Within a Story” of 1989, in which a man leans against a mirror in the corner of the frame and faces a mirror in which his reflection echoes repeatedly as it recedes behind him. “This is a story about a man telling a story about a man. …” starts his text.

He might as well have been describing himself.

Philip Gefter. “Duane Michals Searches the Morgan and Finds Himself,” on The New York Times website Oct 29, 2019 [Online] Cited 14/11/2019

 

N. Institoris (d. 1845) 'Interior of a Prison' c. 1825-45

 

N. Institoris (d. 1845)
Interior of a Prison
c. 1825-45
Pen and black ink, with gray wash, over pencil, on paper; verso contains slight sketch of a building, in graphite.
13 x 17 1/2 inches (330 x 445 mm)
Gift of Mrs. Donald M. Oenslager, 1982
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Gabriel Pierre Martin Dumont (French, 1720-1791) 'Perspective View of the Mechanical Works and Construction of a Theater. Verso: Sketch of an elevation of a colonnade' 18th century

 

Gabriel Pierre Martin Dumont (French, 1720-1791)
Perspective View of the Mechanical Works and Construction of a Theater. Verso: Sketch of an elevation of a colonnade
18th century
Pen and black ink, with gray wash, over graphite, on paper; verso: graphite
12 1/4 x 14 9/16 inches (310 x 369 mm)
Purchased as the gift of Mrs. Donald M. Oenslager in memory of her husband
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Cour de Rouen' 1898

 

Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Cour de Rouen
1898
Albumen print
Overall: 8 × 6 3/4 in. (20.3 × 17.1 cm)
Purchased on the Photography Collectors Committee Fund
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Louis Faurer (1916-2001) 'Penn Station Lovers' 1946-47, printed c. 1981

 

Louis Faurer (1916-2001)
Penn Station Lovers
1946-47, printed c. 1981
Gelatin silver print
14 x 11 in. (sheet)
Purchased as the gift of Elaine Goldman
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'Empty New York, Subway Interior' c. 1964

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
Empty New York, Subway Interior
c. 1964
Gelatin silver print
8 × 10 inches (20.3 × 25.4 cm)
Collection of Nancy and Burt Staniar
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'Empty New York' c. 1964

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
Empty New York, Dry cleaners upper East side
c. 1964
Gelatin silver print
8 × 10 inches (20.3 × 25.4 cm)
Collection of Nancy and Burt Staniar
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'Empty New York' c. 1964

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'Empty New York' c. 1964

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'Empty New York' c. 1964

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
From the series Empty New York
c. 1964
Gelatin silver prints
8 × 10 inches (20.3 × 25.4 cm)
Collection of Nancy and Burt Staniar
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

TIME

Herbert Matter (1907-1984) 'Alexander Calder hanging mobile in motion' 1936

 

Herbert Matter (1907-1984)
Alexander Calder hanging mobile in motion
1936
Gelatin silver print with additions by hand
5 9/16 × 6 3/16 in. (14.13 × 15.72 cm)
Purchased as the gift of Richard and Ronnie Grosbard
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Saul Steinberg (American, b. Romania, 1914-1999) 'Untitled (Cat and wheel of time)' 1965

 

Saul Steinberg (American, b. Romania, 1914-1999)
Untitled (Cat and wheel of time)
1965
Ink (black, blue, red, green, brown) and pencil on laid Strathmore
19 × 25 in. (48.26 × 63.5 cm)
Gift of the Saul Steinberg Foundation
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

Saul Steinberg defined drawing as “a way of reasoning on paper,” and he remained committed to the act of drawing. Throughout his long career, he used drawing to think about the semantics of art, reconfiguring stylistic signs into a new language suited to the fabricated temper of modern life. Sometimes with affection, sometimes with irony, but always with virtuoso mastery, Saul Steinberg peeled back the carefully wrought masks of 20th-century civilisation.

Text from The Morgan Library & Museum website

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'When He Was Young' 1979

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
When He Was Young
1979
8 x 9 15/16 inches (20.3 × 25.2 cm)
Purchased on the Photography Collectors Committee Fund
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932) 'What is Time?' 1994

 

Duane Michals (American, b. 1932)
What is Time?
1994
Gelatin silver print
16 × 19 7/8 inches (40.6 × 50.5 cm)
Gift of Duane Michals
The Morgan Library & Museum

 

 

Included in his selection from the Morgan is an amusing drawing by Saul Steinberg, “Cat and the Wheel of Time,” 1965, in which the months of the year, the days of the week, and the hours of the day are written in circles inside a large wheel following a small cat down a hill. “Time has always been central to so much of my thinking,” Michals said. Smith handed him his text and image piece, What Is Time? from 1994, in which an eternally handsome young man holds an old-fashioned round clock to his ear. The text beneath it begins, “Time is the duration of everything, and life is an event, a fluttering of wings … the moment is the interval between now and then and, then, again.”

Philip Gefter. “Duane Michals Searches the Morgan and Finds Himself,” on The New York Times website Oct 29, 2019 [Online] Cited 14/11/2019

 

 

The Morgan Library & Museum
225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street, New York, NY
Phone: (212) 685-0008

Opening hours:
Tuesday through Thursday: 10.30 am – 5 pm
Friday: 10.30 am – 9 pm
Saturday: 10 am – 6 pm
Sunday: 11 am – 6 pm

The Morgan Library & Museum website

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22
Mar
17

Exhibition: ‘Edward Steichen: Twentieth-Century Photographer’ at deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, MA

Exhibition dates: 7th October 2016 – 26th March 2017

 

Just for enjoyment.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973) 'Self-Portrait with Studio Camera' 1917; printed 1982

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
Self-Portrait with Studio Camera
1917; printed 1982
Silver gelatin print
13 1/8 x 10 5/8 inches (image and paper)
Gift of Stephen L. Singer and Linda G. Singer

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973) 'Self-Portrait with Studio Camera' c. 1917

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
Self-Portrait with Studio Camera
c. 1917
Gelatin silver print

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973) 'Self-Portrait with photographers paraphenalia' 1929

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
Self-Portrait with photographers paraphenalia
1929
Gelatin silver print

 

Installation view of 'Edward Steichen: Twentieth-Century Photographer' at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum

 

Installation view of Edward Steichen: Twentieth-Century Photographer at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum
Courtesy Photo/Clements Photography and Design, Boston
Creative Commons Wicked Local

 

 

DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum is pleased to present the upcoming exhibition Edward Steichen: Twentieth-Century Photographer. Edward Steichen (1879-1973) is known for his role in expanding the breadth of twentieth-century photography through his memorable images and his work as a gallery director and museum curator. Steichen was a painter, horticulturalist, museum curator, graphic designer, publisher, and film director. He also served as a military photographer in both World Wars, and lived a life that embraced a century transformed by modernisation. On view in the James and Audrey Foster Galleries, the exhibition is drawn from deCordova’s permanent collection, and features important loans from private collectors and select institutions. The majority of photographs included in this show were made from Steichen’s original negatives and printed after his death in the 1980s by photographer George Tice. The exhibition also features a select number of vintage prints printed by Steichen in the 1910s and 1920s that reveal the lush interpretations he made with experimental printing techniques.

From his early Pictorialist images with their painterly quality, to his decades-long work as a commercial photographer for Condé Nast, Steichen explored the full range of the photographic medium. In his role as the Director of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, he often reproduced and integrated other photographers’ work into groundbreaking exhibitions that reflected his curatorial practice. The combined aspects of his career as a photographer and curator positioned Steichen to become a controversial yet prescient advocate for photography’s ability to record and amplify human observation, endeavour, and creativity.

The exhibition includes portraits of glamorous celebrities and socialites, still-life photographs of plants and flowers, dynamic cityscapes, and commercial advertisements. Also on view are Steichen’s portraits of fellow artists and writers that reveal his place among avant-garde cultural communities in New York and Europe. Edward Steichen also explores his work as the head of the Naval Aviation Photographic Unit in World War II, and traces his role at the Museum of Modern Art, NY where he curated over forty exhibitions. The aesthetic range of the images shows Steichen’s experimentation throughout his career with new techniques for lighting, composing, and printing photographs.

Edward Steichen continues deCordova’s longstanding commitment to the exhibition and collection of important photographic works. The exhibition opens to the public on October 7, 2016 and will be on view until March 26, 2017.

Press release from the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973) 'Auguste Rodin and the Monument to Victor Hugo' 1902

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
Auguste Rodin and the Monument to Victor Hugo
1902
Gum bichromate print

 

 

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

Text from the Metropolitan Museum website

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973) 'J. Pierpont Morgan, Esq.' 1903

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
J. Pierpont Morgan, Esq.
1903
Gum bichromate over platinum print

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973) 'The Flatiron' 1904

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
The Flatiron
1904
Gum bichromate over platinum print

 

 

While Steichen’s palette recalls Whistler’s Nocturne paintings and the foreground branch echoes those often found in the Japanese prints that were much in vogue in turn-of-the-century Paris, his subject is distinctly modern and American. The newly completed, twenty-two-story skyscraper soars so high above Madison Square in New York that it could not be contained within the photographer’s frame… Steichen’s three variant printings of The Flatiron, each in a different tonality, evoke successive moments of twilight and forcefully assert that photography can rival painting in scale, colour, individuality, and expressiveness.

Text from the Metropolitan Museum website

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973) 'Lotus, Mount Kisco, New York' 1915; printed 1982

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
Lotus, Mount Kisco, New York
1915; printed 1982
Silver gelatin print
13 1/4 x 10 1/2 inches (image and paper)
Gift of Diane Singer in honour of the marriage of Diane Singer to Eric Pearlman

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973) Alfred 'Stieglitz' 1915; printed 1982

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
Alfred Stieglitz
1915; printed 1982
Silver gelatin print
9 5/8 x 7 3/4 inches (image and paper)
Gift of Stephen L. Singer and Linda G. Singer

 

 

The most recognisable of these images involve celebrity. Artists – Constantin Brancusi, Eugene O’Neill – and actors Charlie Chaplin, Lillian Gish, Marlene Dietrich, the unforgettable Greta Garbo – all sat for Steichen, who strove for a discovery of the individual.

In black-and-white photography, composition, cast and shadow take prominence. Looming stage equipment behind a smiling Chaplin quietly recalls his movie roles. Garbo, clutching her “terrible hair,” wordlessly speaks volumes about her self- and public images. Carl Sandburg (Steichen’s brother-in-law) gazes poetically away from the camera. German author Gerhart Hauptmann stares directly into the camera under the starry firmament. The British dramaturge E. Gordon Craig poses foppishly in front of Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris.

Keith Powers. “DeCordova focuses on the varied career photographer Edward Steichen,” on The Metro West Daily News website

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973) 'Brancusi, Voulangis, France' c. 1922; printed 1987

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
Brancusi, Voulangis, France
c. 1922; printed 1987
Silver gelatin print
13 x 10 1/2 inches (image and paper)
Gift of Stephen L. Singer and Linda G. Singer

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973) 'Carl Sandburg, Umpawaug, Connecticut' 1930

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
Carl Sandburg, Umpawaug, Connecticut
1930
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Carl Sandburg (January 6, 1878 – July 22, 1967) was an American poet, writer, and editor who won three Pulitzer Prizes: two for his poetry and one for his biography of Abraham Lincoln. During his lifetime, Sandburg was widely regarded as “a major figure in contemporary literature”, especially for volumes of his collected verse, including Chicago Poems (1916), Cornhuskers (1918), and Smoke and Steel (1920). He enjoyed “unrivalled appeal as a poet in his day, perhaps because the breadth of his experiences connected him with so many strands of American life”, and at his death in 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson observed that “Carl Sandburg was more than the voice of America, more than the poet of its strength and genius. He was America.”

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973) 'Greta Garbo' 1929

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
Greta Garbo
1929
Silver gelatin print

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973) 'E. Gordon Craig, Paris' 1920, printed in 1987

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
E. Gordon Craig, Paris
1920, printed in 1987
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Edward Henry Gordon Craig CH OBE (16 January 1872 – 29 July 1966), sometimes known as Gordon Craig, was an English modernist theatre practitioner; he worked as an actor, director and scenic designer, as well as developing an influential body of theoretical writings…

Craig’s idea of using neutral, mobile, non-representational screens as a staging device is probably his most famous scenographic concept. In 1910 Craig filed a patent which described in considerable technical detail a system of hinged and fixed flats that could be quickly arranged to cater for both internal and external scenes. He presented a set to William Butler Yeats for use at the Abbey Theatre in Ireland, who shared his symbolist aesthetic.

Craig’s second innovation was in stage lighting. Doing away with traditional footlights, Craig lit the stage from above, placing lights in the ceiling of the theatre. Colour and light also became central to Craig’s stage conceptualisations…

The third remarkable aspect of Craig’s experiments in theatrical form were his attempts to integrate design elements with his work with actors. His mise en scène sought to articulate the relationships in space between movement, sound, line, and colour. Craig promoted a theatre focused on the craft of the director – a theatre where action, words, colour and rhythm combine in dynamic dramatic form.

All of his life, Craig sought to capture “pure emotion” or “arrested development” in the plays on which he worked. Even during the years when he was not producing plays, Craig continued to make models, to conceive stage designs and to work on directorial plans that were never to reach performance. He believed that a director should approach a play with no preconceptions and he embraced this in his fading up from the minimum or blank canvas approach.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973) 'The Blue Sky, Long Island, New York' 1923; printed 1987

 

Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
The Blue Sky, Long Island, New York
1923; printed 1987
Silver gelatin print
9 1/2 x 7 1/4 inches (image and paper)
Gift of Stephen L. Singer and Linda G. Singer

 

 

DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum
51 Sandy Pond Road in Lincoln, Massachusetts

Opening hours (Winter hours):
Wednesday – Friday, 10 am – 4 pm
Saturday – Sunday, 10 am – 5 pm

deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum website

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24
Mar
16

Exhibition: ‘Cosa Mentale: Art and Telepathy in the 20th century’ at the Centre Pompidou-Metz, Paris

Exhibition dates: 28th October 2015 – 28th March 2016

 

Telepathic art in the 20th century. What a fascinating subject for a spiritual, phantasmagoric exhibition which explores artists’ fascination with the direct transmission of thought and emotion. A lot of phenomena – for example telepathy, X-rays, psychoanalysis – were named or discovered in the last half of the nineteenth century or are concepts and things that began to gain popularity in the collective consciousness at that time, such as the unconscious mind, the anima and animus, the study of signs, photographs of thought, photographs of hysteria (Charcot) and notes and photographs on unexplained paranormal experiences.

“The exhibition enables the spectator to understand how, throughout the 20th century, attempts to give material and visible form to thought processes coincide with the experiments of avant-garde artists. This fantasy of a direct projection of thought not only had a decisive impact on the birth of abstraction but also influenced surrealism and its obsession with the collective sharing of creation and, in the post war period, it gave rise to numerous visual and sound installations inspired by the revolution in information technology, leading to the declaration of “the dematerialisation of art” in conceptual practices.”

Love the work of Émile Cohl and Len Lye, both a revelation to me.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the Centre Pompidou-Metz for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Louis Darget. 'Fluidic Thought-Image Photography' 1896

 

Louis Darget
Fluidic Thought-Image Photography
1896

(L) Inscribed: “Photo… of thought. Head obtained by Mr. Henning, having a plate wrapped in black paper on his forehead while he played the piano. Opposite him on the piano was a portrait of Beethoven. Could this be that [same] portrait reflected by the brain onto the plate through the black paper. Comt. Darget”

(R) “Photograph of a Dream: The Eagle.” 25 June, 1896.
Inscribed: “Obtained by placing a photographic plate above the forehead of Mme Darget while she was asleep.”

 

Edvard Munch. 'Madonna' 1895

 

Edvard Munch
Madonna
1895
Paris, Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’Art moderne
© Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Georges Meguerditchian

 

Odilon Redon. 'Portrait de Paul Gauguin' 1903-1906

 

Odilon Redon
Portrait of Paul Gauguin
1903-1906
Paris, Musée d’Orsay
© RMN-Grand Palais (musée d’Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

 

 

Émile Cohl
Le retapeur de cervelles (The creators brain)
1910

 

Auguste Rodin. 'Le Penseur [The Thinker]' 1903

 

Auguste Rodin
Le Penseur [The Thinker]
1903
Plâtre patiné / patinated plaster
72 x 37 x 57,50 cm
© Photographe : Christian Baraja
© Musée Rodin, Paris

 

 

When conceived in 1880 in its original size (approx. 70 cm) as the crowning element of The Gates of Hell, seated on the tympanum, The Thinker was entitled The Poet. He represented Dante, author of the Divine Comedy which had inspired The Gates, leaning forward to observe the circles of Hell, while meditating on his work. The Thinker was therefore initially both a being with a tortured body, almost a damned soul, and a free-thinking man, determined to transcend his suffering through poetry. The pose of this figure owes much to Carpeaux’s Ugolino (1861) and to the seated portrait of Lorenzo de Medici carved by Michelangelo (1526-31).

While remaining in place on the monumental Gates of Hell, The Thinker was exhibited individually in 1888 and thus became an independent work. Enlarged in 1904, its colossal version proved even more popular: this image of a man lost in thought, but whose powerful body suggests a great capacity for action, has became one of the most celebrated sculptures ever known. Numerous casts exist worldwide, including the one now in the gardens of the Musée Rodin, a gift to the City of Paris installed outside the Panthéon in 1906, and another in the gardens of Rodin’s house in Meudon, on the tomb of the sculptor and his wife. (Text from the Rodin Museum website)

 

Stephen Haweis and Henry Coles. 'Le Penseur' c. 1903-1904

 

Stephen Haweis and Henry Coles
Le Penseur
c. 1903-1904
Epreuve au charbon / Charcoal
23 x 16,60 cm
© Musée Rodin, Paris

 

 

“Cosa Mentale  is a unique exhibition that offers a re-reading of the history or art from 1990 to modern day by exploring artists’ fascination with the direct transmission of thought and emotion. It invites the spectator to re-live one of the unexpected adventures of modernity: telepathic art in the 20th century. This exhibition traces a chronological path from symbolism to conceptual art with a collection of some one hundred works by major artists, ranging from Edvard Munch to Vassily Kandinsky, and from Joan Miró to Sigmar Polke. These artists provide innovative ways of communicating with spectators that take us beyond conventional linguistic codes.

The exhibition enables the spectator to understand how, throughout the 20th century, attempts to give material and visible form to thought processes coincide with the experiments of avant-garde artists. This fantasy of a direct projection of thought not only had a decisive impact on the birth of abstraction but also influenced surrealism and its obsession with the collective sharing of creation and, in the post war period, it gave rise to numerous visual and sound installations inspired by the revolution in information technology, leading to the declaration of “the dematerialisation of art” in conceptual practices.

The exhibition begins with the invention of the term “telepathy” in 1882, at a time when the study of psychology interacted with rapid developments in telecommunications. Endeavours ranged from the creation of “photographs of thought” in 1895 to the first “encephalograms” in 1924 (the year when the Surrealist Manifesto was published) and it was the actual activity of the brain which was to be shown in all its transparency, which encouraged artists to reject the conventions of representation by suppressing all restrictions of translation. Telepathy was far from remaining an obscure paranormal fantasy and consistently intrigued and enthralled artists throughout the 20th century. Always present in the world of science fiction, it resurfaced in psychedelic and conceptual art in the period from 1960 to 1970 before reappearing today in contemporary practices enraptured by technologies of “shared knowledge” and the rapid development of neuroscience.

Curator

Pascal Rousseau, professor of contemporary history of art at the University of Paris I Panthéon Sorbonne. Pascal Rousseau has also curated Robert Delaunay exhibitions: From impressionism to abstraction, 1906-1914, at the Centre Pompidou (1999) and To the origins of abstraction (1800-1914) at the Musée d’Orsay (2003).”

Press release from the Centre Pompidou-Metz

 

Joan Miró. 'La Sieste' July-September 1925

 

Joan Miró
La Sieste
July – September 1925
© Successió Miró/ ADAGP, Paris, 2015

 

Vassily Kandinsky. 'Bild mit rotem Fleck [Tableau à la tache rouge / Image with red spot]' 25 February 1914

 

Vassily Kandinsky
Bild mit rotem Fleck [Tableau à la tache rouge / Image with red spot]
25 February 1914
Paris, Centre Pompidou – Musée national d’art moderne
© Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Adam Rzepka

 

Frantisek Kupka. 'Facture robuste' 1920

 

Frantisek Kupka
Facture robuste
1920
Strasbourg, Musée d’Art moderne et contemporain
© ADAGP, Paris, 2015
© Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Jacques Faujour

 

 

Len Lye (New Zealand/America, 1901-1980)
Tusalava
1929
Film
10 min. 5 sec.

 

 

As a student, Lye became convinced that motion could be part of the language of art, leading him to early (and now lost) experiments with kinetic sculpture, as well as a desire to make film. Lye was also one of the first Pākehā artists to appreciate the art of Māori, Australian Aboriginal, Pacific Island and African cultures, and this had great influence on his work. In the early 1920s Lye travelled widely in the South Pacific. He spent extended periods in Australia and Samoa, where he was expelled by the New Zealand colonial administration for living within an indigenous community.

Working his way as a coal trimmer aboard a steam ship, Lye moved to London in 1926. There he joined the Seven and Five Society, exhibited in the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition and began to make experimental films. Following his first animated film Tusalava, Lye began to make films in association with the British General Post Office, for the GPO Film Unit. He reinvented the technique of drawing directly on film, producing his animation for the 1935 film A Colour Box, an advertisement for “cheaper parcel post”, without using a camera for anything except the title cards at the beginning of the film. It was the first direct film screened to a general audience. It was made by painting vibrant abstract patterns on the film itself, synchronizing them to a popular dance tune by Don Baretto and His Cuban Orchestra. A panel of animation experts convened in 2005 by the Annecy film festival put this film among the top ten most significant works in the history of animation (his later film Free Radicals was also in the top 50). (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Rudolf Steiner. 'Untitled (drawing on blackboard at a conference of 14 May 1924)' Dornach, 14 May 1924

 

Rudolf Steiner
Untitled (drawing on blackboard at a conference of 14 May 1924)
Dornach, 14 May 1924
Chalk on black paper
Rudolf Steiner Archive, Dornach
© Rudolf Steiner Archiv, Dornach
© ADAGP, Paris, 2015

 

 

A room of the exhibition features ten blackboards by Rudolf Steiner. They are the instructions of a new design language that the artist wants to develop. Steiner believes in the development of a supersensible consciousness, a big change for the future of humanity. He gives many lectures in which he details his research on the concept of transmission and its influence on the social. Whether true or not, artists such as Piet Mondrian, Wassily Kandinsky and others are interested in the complex graphics of Steiner and his research. Mondrian will even write: “Art is a way of development of mankind.” (Text from the Culture Box website translated from French)

 

Victor Brauner. 'Signe' 1942-45

 

Victor Brauner
Signe
1942-45
© ADAGP, Paris, 2015

 

 

Exhibition layout

Introduction

The exhibition starts with a version of the famous figure of Rodin’s Thinker, set off against a sequence of seven photographs from the start of the century, in which the pictorialist dimension seems to attempt to show lighting emissions produced by the cerebral concentration of the subject. This collection is presented opposite TV Rodin, a video installation created by the artist Nam June Paik who, in the 1970s, reinterpreted electromagnetic animation of closed-circuit thought, when interest in cybernetics was at its peak.

Auras

The direct visualisation of thought and emotional states and the impact of this on the beginnings of abstraction at the start of the 20th century.

The first room focuses on the passion during the century for “photography of thought.” As a direct response to the discovery of radiography by Röntgen, in 1895, numerous amateur researchers attempted to produce images of the brain on photosensitive plates. Since it was possible to see through opaque bodies, why not try to see through the skull, which was now transparent? A curiosity cabinet presents the photographic experiments of Hippolyte Baraduc and Louis Darget with “psychic ones” or “images of thought.” This selection of photographs interacts with two film animation extracts by Émile Cohl, showing, with some humour, the direct projection of thought onto the big screen with the arrival of the cinema.

In the second room, a collection of engravings from the theosophical works of Annie Besant and Charles Leadbeater, presented by the American artist Christian Sampson, reveals the close relationship between the representation of emotional states (thought-patterns) and early abstract painting. They inspired many pioneers of abstract painters, including Kupka and Kandinsky. A group of auras and halos is shown, associated with a colour code for different effects, captured by Kandinsky in order to paint authentic abstract (auto) portraits. In the same vein, paintings by Wilhelm Morgner, Janus de Winter and Jacob Bendien present “psychic portraits” which illustrate a psychological range of emotions by means of chromatic signs.

The third room presents a sequence of ten “blackboards” by Rudolph Steiner, the founder of anthroposophy (the “science of the mind” that was a major influence on some of the members of the avant-garde abstract movement), showing how he developed his theories of the “mental body” and “psychic force”. Next to this is a collection of watercolours by the Swedish painter Hilma af Klint, a pioneer of abstract art. Around this area a multimedia installation by the artist Tony Oursler has been specially created for this exhibition reinterpreting the historical imagination of these “mental projections”.

Magnetic fields

The spread of telepathy in the inter-war period and its influence on surrealism.

In 1924, André Breton published the Surrealist Manifesto (1924) just when the neurologist Hans Berger invented the first electroencephalogram as a result of experimental research into telepathy: this being a less than accidental coincidence, relating to automated transcriptions of the mind. The “exquisite corpses” or “communicated drawings” of the surrealists are linked to experiments that took place at that time into the telepathic transfer of images.

The first room presents a sequence of photographs of the surrealist group in poses in which heads and bodies communicate with each other to produce a collective work under the mysterious influence of “magnetic fields.” Tusalava (1929), a film by the Australian artist Len Lye, illustrates the cinematographic solution found to make mental activity visible, in the form of abstract ideograms taken from aboriginal language.

The second room shows a collection of photographs from the 1920s, some of which are presented by the artist Frédéric Vaesen, relating to the materialisation of psychic entities, the famous “ectoplasms” which give a more tangible reality to imponderable thought. Next to this is a series of works by Joan Miró, in which the painter depicts coloured auras, including a mental map of emotional states, a “photograph of his dreams”.

Mind expander

With the reconstruction of the post war period, divided between the cybernetic model and psychedelic liberation, telepathy remained more than ever a creative horizon for artists in search of perception extended to the electromagnetic manifestations of consciousness.

The New Age spirit of the 1960s witnessed the curious revival of “photographs of thought” (Ted Serios and Salas Portugal), which influenced experimental cinema and psychedelic video (Jordan Belson), a well as some photographic practices (Anna and Bernhard Blume, Dieter Appelt, Suzanne Hiller, John Baldessari and Sigmar Polke).

Under the influence of psychotropic drugs or immersed in highly intense audiovisual devices, electric thought in motion is captured with a penetrating eye. Experimental and radical architectural patterns embody “expanded consciousness”, as is seen in the Mind Expander project (1967) by the Austrian group Haus Rucker Co, which invites the spectator to venture into “superception.” Music has its role here, with the rise in “biomusic” at the end of the 1960s, led by Alvin Lucier, Pierre Henry and David Rosenboom, who produced authentic “brain symphonies,” by means of the sound transcription of the activity of electric waves emitted by the brain, directly captured by electrodes.

Telepathy

The establishment of telepathic art in the 1970s influenced by conceptual practices.

On the margins of pop art, avant-garde artists in the 1970s produced a critique of both form and the art market, by means of strategies that emphasised language and sociological discourse. This also involved a major project in the dematerialisation of art works in which telepathy could be an ideal model for a new non-standard form of communication.

The American artist Robert Morris produced his own Autoportrait in the form of an encephalogram (EEG Portrait) at the same time as his compatriot Robert Barry, a central figure in conceptual art, produced Telepathic Pieces (1969) and Vito Acconci explored extra sensory perception through the form of video (Remote Control, 1971). Against this backdrop, we see considerable new interest in a utopia of shared creation (Robert Filliou and Marina Abramovic) in the era of global communication and the “noosphere” prophetically declared by Teilhard de Chardin and Marshall McLuhan.

The exhibition ends with a vast installation by the artist Fabrice Hyber, a major figure of contemporary art in France, with experimental telepathic booths, paintings, drawings and “prototypes of operating objects” (POF). Hyber invites the spectator to participate, alone or in groups, in an experience which has several surprises, reminding us how, today, under the influence of information networks, neuroscience and the globalised internet, telepathy (ultra democratic and utopian yet also obscure) is more topical than ever and can be explored by artists with the same spirit of derision or anticipation.”

Press release from the Centre Pompidou-Metz

 

Haus-Rucker-Co. Laurids, Zamp and Pinter with 'Environment Transformern (Flyhead, Viewatomizer and Drizzler)' 1968, from the 'Mind Expander project'

 

Haus-Rucker-Co
Laurids, Zamp and Pinter with Environment Transformern (Flyhead, Viewatomizer and Drizzler)
1968
From the Mind Expander project
Photo: Gert Winkler

 

 

Taking their cue from the Situationist’s ideas of play as a means of engaging citizens, Haus-Rucker-Co created performances where viewers became participants and could influence their own environments, becoming more than just passive onlookers. These installations were usually made from pneumatic structures such as Oase No. 7 (1972), which was created for Documenta 5 in Kassel, Germany. An inflatable structure emerged from the façade of an existing building creating a space for relaxation and play, of which contemporary echoes can be found in the ‘urban reserves’ of Santiago Cirugeda. The different versions of the Mind Expander series (1967-69), consisted of various helmets that could alter the perceptions of those wearing them, for example the ‘Fly Head’ disoriented the sight and hearing of the wearer to create an entirely new apprehension of reality; it also produced one of their most memorable images.

Haus-Rucker-Co’s installations served as a critique of the confined spaces of bourgeois life creating temporary, disposable architecture, whilst their prosthetic devices were designed to enhance sensory experience and highlight the taken-for-granted nature of our senses, seen also in the contemporaneous work of the Brazilian artist Lygia Clark. Contemporary versions of such work can be found in the pneumatic structures favoured by Raumlabor and Exyzt. (Text from the Spatial Agency website)

 

Installation view of Haus-Rucker-Co, 'Mindexpander 1' 1967 in the exhibition 'Cosa mentale' at the Centre Pompidou-Metz

 

Installation view of Haus-Rucker-Co, Mindexpander 1 1967 in the exhibition Cosa mentale at the Centre Pompidou-Metz.
Photo Pompidou Centre. MNAM CCI-distrib. RMN / G. Meguerditchian.

 

 

In 1968, the Austrian collective Haus-Rucker-Co designed the Mind Expander as an immersive capsule propelling the audience into a new mode of perception of reality: the “Superception”. This, then, is a synthesis of avant-garde utopias, throughout the twentieth century, influenced by the imagination that gave rise to the development of telecommunications, seeking to develop a way of live transmission of emotion. Its aim was to invent a new, immediate, relationship between the artist and the viewer.

 

Haus-Rucker-Co. 'Mind Expander' 1967

 

Haus-Rucker-Co
Mind Expander
1967 Vienna
Epreuve gélatino-argentique
Photo: Michael Plitz. Haus-Rucker-Co.

 

David Rosenboom. 'Portable Gold and Philosophers' Stones in Paris 1' 1975

 

David Rosenboom
Portable Gold and Philosophers’ Stones in Paris 1
1975
© David Rosenboom 1975
All rights reserved.

 

 

Pianist-composer J.B. Floyd, a long-time collaborator with David Rosenboom is seen with electrodes attached to his head while performing a solo version of Rosenboom’s brainwave music composition Portable Gold and Philosophers’ Stones at Centre Culturel Americain in Paris on 7 January 1975. The equipment shown includes a brainwave monitoring device and an ARP 2600 Synthesizer. The performance occurred simultaneously with a lecture given by David Rosenboom in a presentation titled Biofeedback and the Arts. Artist Jacqueline Humbert, who also participated in the performance, is seated off to the right of the picture frame.

 

Nam June Paik. 'TV Rodin' 1976-1978 (detail)

 

Nam June Paik (American, b. 1932 – 29-01-2006)
TV Rodin (detail)
1976-1978
Plaster, video camera, tripod, monitor, pedestal
132 x 110 x 115 cm

 

 

Long considered the most important video artist since the advent of the form in the late 1960s, Nam June Paik’s TV Rodin is one of several related works that involve sculpture – in this case, a cast of Auguste Rodin’s Thinker, studying itself in a small video monitor via closed circuit television. As museum visitors walk around the work and look over the sculpture’s shoulder, their image also appears on the screen. Paik’s influential vision of television as a global cultural force found intelligent and witty form in his videotapes, video sculptures, and intercontinental satellite performances. (Text from the Carnegie Museum of Art website)

 

Nam June Paik. 'TV Rodin' 1976-1978

 

Nam June Paik (American, b. 1932 – 29-01-2006)
TV Rodin
1976-1978
Plaster, video camera, tripod, monitor, pedestal
132 x 110 x 115 cm
Photo: Primae / Claude Germain. The Estate of Nam June Paik

 

Marina Abramovic and Ulay. 'That Self - Point of Contact' 1980

 

Marina Abramovic and Ulay
That Self – Point of Contact
1980
Performance au De Appel Art Centre, Amsterdam
© Adagp, Paris 2015
Courtesy Marina Abramovic Archives

 

Sigmar Polke. 'Untitled (Blue)' 1992

 

Sigmar Polke
Untitled (Blue)
1992
Set of 10 Cibachromes trials
61 cm x 51
The estate of Sigmar Polke / ADAGP, Paris, 2015

 

Fabrice Hyber. 'screen+télépathy' 2013

 

Fabrice Hyber
screen+télépathy
2013
Watercolor, charcoal on paper
76 x 57 cm
Collection of the artist
© Photographie Marc Domage

 

Susan Hiller. 'Homage to Marcel Duchamp: Aura (Blue Boy)' 2011

 

Susan Hiller
Homage to Marcel Duchamp: Aura (Blue Boy)
2011
© Susan Hiller

 

 

Centre Pompidou-Metz
1, parvis des Droits-de-l’Homme
CS 90490
F-57020 Metz Cedex 1
Tel: +33 (0)3 87 15 39 39

Opening hours:
Monday 10 am – 6 pm
Tuesday closed
Wednesday 10 am – 6 pm
Thursday 10 am – 6 pm
Friday 10 am – 7 pm
Saturday 10 am – 7 pm
Sunday 10 am – 7 pm

Centre Pompidou-Metz website

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02
Nov
14

Review: ‘Victor Hugo: Les Misérables – From Page to Stage’ at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 18th July – 9th November 2014

 

Devour the main course but don’t stay for dessert

This is an exhibition in two galleries. In the first you are not allowed to take photographs but in the second you can take as many as you want. You are told this as you enter the exhibition but the import of this incantation only becomes apparent much later in your visit.

The first gallery is a profound experience: manuscripts, letters, photographs, paintings, and posters that all relate to the great man and his work Les Misérables. The Charles Marville photographs are sublime (as always) with the width of the vertical prints being the element that I noticed most on this viewing. The space that Marville manages to capture in these vertical images makes them seem almost as wide as they are high giving them an almost panoramic feel, as though the space of the image goes on forever, from side to side and into the distance. There is a wonderful sense of volume in the atmosphere, tones and textures of these images. One juxtaposition is particularly tantalising, the pairing of Marville’s Rue Tirechape (1865) with engravings such as the demolition work for constructing the Boulevard St. Germain by Maxine Lalanne (1827-1886). The illusion that one could be the other is enlightening, and there is an established association (especially in Pictorialist photography) between representation in etching and photography.1

As Philip Ebury observes,

“It has often been said that Pictorial photographs resemble works in other media. The analogy with etchings is especially striking and the comparison is more than physical. Between 1890 and the late 1920s, etching and Pictorial photography had a shared history and many similar aims. Parallels between the two disciplines in Australia had their antecedents in England. In the late nineteenth century many photographers in that country were consciously promoting artistic, as opposed to documentary work. At the same time, printmakers were reviving the art of original etching as an expressive rather than a reproductive medium.”2

But the Charles Marville photographs are not the star of the show, oh no. That is left to five things:

a) An album of which you can see only one leaf in the exhibition, Les Proscrits (‘The Exiles’) (1856, below), but that one leaf is enough. The enigma, light and intimacy of this one page is just magnificent.

b) Equally impressive are the very small intense portraits of Victor Hugo such as the silver gelatin photograph attributed to Arsène Garnier (1820-1909) – dark, atmospheric with Neo-classical sculptures and chandeliers reflected in expansive mirrors, VH propped up by a favourite chair; or Charles Hugo’s salted paper print from a collodion negative of his father in Jersey leaning on the back of a chair (1853-55). The intensity of these portraits is remarkable.

c) Victor Hugo’s own paintings, usually pen and brown ink wash on paper, are also very powerful. In images such as Ma destinée (My destiny) (1867, below) where VH wrote in direct conversation with the ocean and The bowels of the Leviathan (1866) – dark, dank labyrinthine Parisian sewers – Hugo draws you into a world of the disenfranchised, the poor, the destitute and their (and his) destiny.

d) The beautiful theatre posters (1880s-1910s) worth the price of admission on their own

e) Leaving the best till last, the autographed manuscript Volume 1 of Les Misérables in all its glory (the first time it has ever left France), complete with revisions, crossings out and the final version in red, resting innocuously in a glass display cabinet. The psychological weight of the volume is immense. This is getting as close to the ‘source’ as you can possibly get without touching it. I remember once holding a first edition of Oscar Wilde’s The Ballad of Reading Gaol in my hand. This had that same spine tingling effect.

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The first gallery assembles this incredible story and builds a glorious intensity of experience. I was on such an elevated level it was great.

And then, in literally two minutes, it was gone… No, no, no, no!

The second gallery is such a let down. It features costumes, posters, pamphlets and video in an exploration of the musical ‘phenomena’ this is the (Disney-fied) Les Misérables. A stage set from the musical with cut our heads so people can have their photo taken, and for performances; very poor quality black and white images of the sets of the theatrical productions of Les Misérables; a cardboard cut-out two-wheeled cart that is the worst thing that you could possibly see; and videos of workshops with men explaining how they are using a bandsaw to create the stage for the musical (as if I want to see that after what has gone before!). From the sublime to the ridiculous. I’m sure the kids might like it but after seeing such an amazing first half of the exhibition, for me this was like being tied with a ball and chain and dropped over the side to sink like a stone. Why do curators insist on doing this. Do they think that they always have to have a “popular” space for the family and the kids these days. That more is really more?

In this case it quite ruined what was up till then an incredible experience. So visit the exhibition for the main course (and don’t take any photos), but if I were you I would turn around after the first gallery and walk out the way I came in, thinking to myself ‘less is more!

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

 

1. See Ebury, Frances. “Engravers and Etchers, Pictorialists and Photographers,” Part 2, Chapter 2 in Making Pictures: Australian Pictorial Photography as Art 1897 – 1957 Volume 1. Phd thesis, The University of Melbourne, 2001, p. 73.
2. Ibid.,

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Many thankx to the State Library of Victoria for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“As long as social damnation exists, through laws and customs, artificially creating hell at the heart of civilization and muddying a destiny that is divine with human calamity; as long as the three problems of the century – man’s debasement through the proletariat, woman’s demoralisation through hunger, the wasting of the child through darkness – are not resolved … as long as ignorance and misery exist in this world, books like the one you are about to read are, perhaps, not entirely useless.”

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Victor Hugo, Hauteville House, 1 January 1862

 

 

Victor Hugo. 'Les Misérables vol. 1' 1845-1862

 

Victor Hugo
Les Misérables vol. 1
1845-1862
Autograph manuscript
Bibliothèque nationale de France

 

Victor Hugo. 'Title page of 'Les Misérables' vol. 1' 1845-1862

 

Victor Hugo
Title page of Les Misérables vol. 1
1845-1862
Autograph manuscript
Bibliothèque nationale de France

 

Victor Hugo. 'Paris' Paris, 1867

 

Victor Hugo
Paris
Paris, 1867
Maison Littéraire de Victor Hugo

 

Victor Hugo. 'Ma destinée (My destiny)' 1867

 

Victor Hugo
Ma destinée (My destiny)
1867
Ink and brown-ink wash
© Maisons de Victor Hugo / Roger-Viollet

 

'Les Proscrits' ('The Exiles') 1856

 

Les Proscrits (‘The Exiles’)
1856
Album of photographs
Bibliothèque nationale de France

 

Album The Exiles – Victor Hugo and his circle of friends in exile started in Guernsey on the 1st January 1856. The album creates an allegorical portrait of VH. His family is represented by Victor Hugo’s hand (left), Adele’s hand (right), Marine Terrace their home in Jersey 1852-56 (centre) and VH posing at his desk in his study at Hauterville House, Guernsey, where he completed Les Misérables surrounded by sunlight. The page appears in the posting the correct way up, as it appears in the album.

 

Les Proscrits ('The Exiles') album (detail of page) 1856

 

Victor Hugo’s hand
From the album Les Proscrits (‘The Exiles’) (detail of page)
1856
Album of photographs
Bibliothèque nationale de France

 

Les Proscrits ('The Exiles') album (detail of page) 1856

 

Victor Hugo posing at his desk in his study at Hauterville House, Guernsey
From the album Les Proscrits (‘The Exiles’) (detail of page)
1856
Album of photographs
Bibliothèque nationale de France

 

Edmond Bacot. 'Victor Hugo en 1862' (Victor Hugo in 1862)

 

Edmond Bacot
Victor Hugo en 1862 (Victor Hugo in 1862)
1862
Maison de Victor Hugo
Image © Edmond Bacot / Maisons de Victor Hugo / Roger-Viollet

 

Auguste Rodin. 'Victor Hugo, buste dit À l'Illustre Maître' (Victor Hugo, bust known as 'To the illustrious master') 1883

 

Auguste Rodin
Victor Hugo, buste dit À l’Illustre Maître (Victor Hugo, bust known as ‘To the illustrious master’)
1883
Musée Rodin

 

Rodin states that Hugo would not pose. “I worked out on the veranda. I observed him swiftly, but carefully as he refused to pose. He accepted to be looked at, from all angles, but he would not pose. And so I looked at his conscience. And this is how I was able to capture the real Hugo.”

 

 

When the first two volumes of Les Misérables arrived in Paris in April 1862, all 6000 copies sold in a day. Public readings were organised when copies sold out. Everyone was reading it, from the literary intelligentsia to the common people. It was also quickly translated into nine languages to reach a global audience. After only three months, 100,000 authorised copies (and countless editions on the black market) had been sold worldwide, making the novel into an unprecedented literary bestseller of western literature. In 1870 after the fall of Napoleon III, Hugo returned to France and was hailed a national hero.

Victor Hugo’s legacy and the iconic story of Les Misérables endure to this day with various adaptations being created around the world. There have been at least 48 films, 14 animated films or TV series, radio plays, 12 television miniseries, numerous comic books, and at least 286 editions of Les Misérables published, sung and spoken. The stage musical of Boublil and Schönberg’s Les Misérables is in itself a worldwide phenomenon. It is the longest running theatre performance in London and has been seen by over 65 million people in 43 countries and in 21 languages. It returns to Melbourne in June 2014.

About Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo is considered one of the most important and influential authors of the 19th century. Through his transformative literary works and political activism, French society’s most vulnerable were given a voice in a nation ruled by those with power and privilege. Best known for his novels Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame Hugo is also acclaimed for his theatre, essays, drawings and poetry.

Born in Besançon, France in 1802, Hugo was the son of an atheist and anti-monarchist French General and a Catholic pro-monarchist mother. A precocious talent, Hugo’s first work was published at the age of 15. His debut as a professional writer soon followed with the release of his first volume of romantic poems; Ode et poésies diverses in 1822Many of his early romantic works drew inspiration from his childhood sweetheart and wife Adele Foucher, with whom he had four children. Another powerful female influence on Hugo’s writings was his mistress of more than fifty years, Juliette Drouet.

As Hugo’s career progressed, his aptitude and fondness for romantic literature was matched by his passion for addressing themes of disadvantage and poverty. Hugo’s first major masterpiece The Hunchback of Notre Dame published in 1831 reflected his interest in highlighting such prejudices. However, it was his greatest masterpiece, Les Misérables, that first challenged and then changed the social and political understanding of poverty, disadvantage and inherited privilege in society. In Les Misérables Hugo casts an ex-convict, Jean Valjean, as the revered protagonist and paints a villain of the character representing authority and privilege, Inspector Javert.

Hugo dedicated 17 years of his life to plan and write the epic three part story beginning in the early 1840s and finally publishing the novel in 1862. In addition to his social and political sympathies, Hugo drew from many of his own personal experiences and professional turmoil to inform the characters and themes in Les Misérables. These included the tragic drowning of his eldest daughter, Leopoldine, in a boating accident in 1843, and Hugo’s exile from France by Louis Napoleon III in 1851 – a result of his public opposition to the increasingly authoritarian rule of the self-declared emperor.

From his exile on the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey where he lived for 19 years, Hugo maintained his trenchent opposition to the political status quo and the death penalty, while also publishing widely and spending three years finishing his magnum opus Les Misérables. When Les Misérables finally hit the stands in Paris in 1862 the response by the public was explosive. All 6000 copies sold out in a day, and three months later the book was an international best seller and had been translated into nine languages. Following the success of Les Misérables Hugo returned to France in 1870 after the fall of Napoleon III and was hailed a national hero. He continued to work until he died on 22 May 1885. At his state funeral it was estimated that close to two million people attended. Hugo’s wish to be buried in a pauper’s coffin was granted and his body lay in state under the Arc de Triomphe until he was interred in the Panthéon.

Today Victor Hugo’s extraordinary legacy continues. Les Misérables has been published in at least 250 editions since 1862, 48 films have been made of the story and the Boublil and Schönberg Les Misérables musical has been seen by over 65 million people worldwide in 42 countries and 22 languages, and is one of the most popular musicals of all time. Victor Hugo is remembered as an international literary giant and a French national hero.

Themes

The possibility that the condemned can rise above poverty and degradation to become good and honourable, and perhaps above all to fight for freedom of body and soul.

 

Charles Marville. 'Percement de l'avenue de l'Opéra' (Clearing of the Avenue de l'Opéra) c. 1876

 

Charles Marville
Percement de l’avenue de l’Opéra (Clearing of the Avenue de l’Opéra)
c. 1876
State Library of Victoria

 

Charles Marville. 'Rue Soufflot (pendant la démolition)' (Rue Soufflot [during demolition]) c. 1876-77

 

Charles Marville
Rue Soufflot (pendant la démolition) (Rue Soufflot [during demolition])
c. 1876-77
State Library of Victoria

 

Charles Marville. 'Avenue d'Iéna' c. 1877

 

Charles Marville
Avenue d’Iéna
c. 1877
State Library of Victoria

 

Charles Marville. 'Boulevard Haussmann' c. 1877

 

Charles Marville
Boulevard Haussmann
c. 1877
State Library of Victoria

 

Charles Marville. 'Cour du Dragon' c. 1863-1869

 

Charles Marville
Cour du Dragon, Rue de Taranne
c. 1863-1869
State Library of Victoria

 

Charles Marville. 'Rue Tirechape' c. 1863-69

 

Charles Marville
Rue Tirechape
c. 1863-69
State Library of Victoria

 

Charles Marville. 'Rue de Fontaines' c. 1863-69

 

Charles Marville
Rue de Fontaines
c. 1863-69
State Library of Victoria

 

129_SLV_Marville_Rude-du-Marche-aux-fleurs-WEB

 

Charles Marville
Rue du Marche aux fleurs
c. 1863-69
State Library of Victoria

 

Paul Carpentier. 'Episode du 29 juillet 1830, rue Chilperic, face á la colonnade du Louvre' (Event of 29 July 1830, rue Chilperic, before the colonnade of the Louvre) 1830

 

Paul Carpentier
Episode du 29 juillet 1830, rue Chilperic, face á la colonnade du Louvre (Event of 29 July 1830, rue Chilperic, before the colonnade of the Louvre)
1830
© Musée Carnavalet / Roger-Viollet

 

Ff110366_WEB

 

Charles Méryon
Le petit pont (The little bridge)
1850
National Gallery of Victoria, purchased 1891

 

36_BNF_I-Miserabili-WEB

 

Ottavio Rodella Tavio
Poster for I Miserabili di Victor Hugo (Les Misérables by Victor Hugo)
1890
Bibliothèque nationale de France

 

'Les Misérables by Victor Hugo' New York, Classics Illustrated no. 9 1950

 

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
New York, Classics Illustrated no. 9
1950
State Library of Victoria

 

Design by Slawomir Kitowski. 'Les Misérables poster' 1989-2000

 

Design by Slawomir Kitowski
Les Misérables
poster
1989-2000
Teatr Muzyczny, Gdynia, Poland
Courtesy Cameron Mackintosh Ltd

 

 

State Library of Victoria
328 Swanston St,
Melbourne VIC 3000
T: (03) 8664 7000

Opening hours:
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Monday 10.00 am – 9.00 pm
Tuesday 10.00 am – 9.00 pm
Wednesday 10.00 am – 9.00 pm
Thursday 10.00 am – 9.00 pm
Friday 10.00 am – 6.00 pm
Saturday 10.00 am – 6.00 pm

State Library of Victoria website

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24
Jan
13

Exhibition: ‘nude men: from 1800 to the present day’ at the Leopold Museum, Vienna

Exhibition dates: 19th October 2012 – extended until 4th March 2013

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Martin Ferdinand Quadal. 'Nude Life Class at the Vienna Art Academy in the St.-Anna-Gebäude' 1787

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Martin Ferdinand Quadal
Nude Life Class at the Vienna Art Academy in the St.-Anna-Gebäude
1787
© Paintings Gallery of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna

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Joseph-D_sir_Court_Tod_des_Hippolytos-WEB

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Joseph-Désiré Court
Death of Hippolytus
1825
© Musée Fabre de Montpellier Agglomération

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François-Léon Benouville. 'Achills Zorn' 1847

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François-Léon Benouville
Achills Zorn
1847
© Musée Fabre de Montpellier

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“When we stop and think about it, we all are naked underneath our clothes.”

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(Heinrich Heine, Travel Pictures, 1826)

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A great posting. I used to have a print of Querelle by Andy Warhol on my wall when I was at university in London aged 17 years old – that and We Two Boys Together Clinging by David Hockney. My favourite in this posting is the painting Seated Youth (morning) by Austrian expressionist painter Anton Kolig. Such vivacity, life and colour, perhaps a post-coital glow (was he straight, bisexual, gay? who cares, it is a magnificent painting). There is very little information on Kolig on the web. Upon recommendation by Gustav Klimt and Carl Moll Kolig received a 1912 scholarship for a stay in Paris, where Kolig studied modern painting at the Louvre. He enlisted in the First World War in 1916 and survived, continuing to work in paint, tapestries and mosaic during the postwar years and the 1920s. He received two offers for professorships in Prague and Stuttgart, he opted for the Württemberg Academy in Stuttgart, where he trained a number of important painters later. In addition, his work was also shown internationally at numerous exhibitions. He was persecuted by the Nazis and his art destroyed because it was thought to be “degenerate” art. Kolig, which was essentially apolitical, remained until the fall of 1943 in Stuttgart, where he felt less and less well, however, and eventually returned to Nötsch. On 17 December 1944 Kolig was buried with his family in a bomb attack and seriously injured. Much of his work was destroyed here. He died in 1950.

For more information on the male body in photographic history please see the chapter “Historical Pressings” from my PhD research Sex, Body Image and the Gay Male (2001). The chapter examines the history of photographic images of the muscular male body from the Victorian to contemporary era. The pages are not a fully comprehensive guide to the history and context of this complex field, but may offer some insight into its development.

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Many thankx for the Leopold Museum, Vienna for allowing me to publish the text and photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Anon. 'Anonymous Youth of Magdalensberg' 16th Century casting after Roman Original

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Anon
Anonymous Youth of Magdalensberg
16th Century casting after Roman Original
© Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Antiquities

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Anon. 'Anonymous standing figure of the court official Snofrunefer Egypt, Old Kingdom, late 5th Dynasty' around 2400 BC

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Anon
Anonymous standing figure of the court official Snofrunefer
Egypt, Old Kingdom, late 5th Dynasty, around 2400 BC
© Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna with MVK and ÖTM, Egyptian and Near Eastern Collection

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Auguste Rodin. 'The Age of Bronze' 1875/76

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Auguste Rodin
The Age of Bronze
1875/76
© Kunsthaus Zurich

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Anton Kolig. 'Seated Youth (morning)' 1919

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Anton Kolig
Seated Youth (morning)
1919
© Leopold Museum, Wien, Inv. 406

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“Previous exhibitions on the theme of nudity have mostly been limited to female nudes. With the presentation “naked men” in the autumn of 2012 the Leopold Museum will be showing a long overdue exhibition on the diverse and changing depictions of naked men from 1800 to the present.

Thanks to loans from all over Europe, the exhibition “naked men” will offer an unprecedented overview of the depiction of male nudes. Starting with the period of Enlightenment in the 18th century, the presentation will focus mainly on the time around 1800, on tendencies of Salon Art, as well as on art around 1900 and after 1945. At the same time, the exhibition will also feature important reference works from ancient Egypt, examples of Greek vase painting and works from the Renaissance. Spanning two centuries, the presentation will show different artistic approaches to the subject, competing ideas of the ideal male model as well as changes in the concept of beauty, body image and values.

The exhibition, curated by Tobias G. Natter and Elisabeth Leopold, traces this theme over a long period and draws a continuous arc from the late 18th century to the present. Altogether, the showing brings together around 300 individual works by nearly 100 female and male artists from Europe and the USA. The objective of the two curators Tobias G. Natter and Elisabeth Leopold was “to clearly show the differing artistic approaches, competing models of masculinity, the transformation of ideas about the body, beauty and values, the political dimension of the body, and last but not least the breaking of conventions.”

“Over the past few years, portrayals of nude males have achieved a hitherto unseen public presence,” says Elisabeth Leopold. To which Tobias G. Natter adds, “At the same time, this exhibition is our way of reacting to the fact that categories which had previously seemed established, such as ‘masculinity’, ‘body’ and ‘nakedness’, have today become unstable for a broad swath of society.”

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Diversity and abundance: showing for what “nude men” could stand

Elisabeth Leopold remarks that, “In the run-up to our project, we were very surprised to note that some commentators expected a ‘delicate’ exhibition. But in fact, we had no intention of treating the theme in such a way – with reserve, with tact, or in any other way delicately. And we did not understand this topic to be at all delicate in terms of an exhibition on art history somehow requiring a degree of discretion.” A project like nude men would be entirely unthinkable without the experiences and impulses of feminist art as well as cultural history, cultural studies and gender studies. With the exhibition nude men, the Leopold Museum seeks to react to the circumstance that societal categories commonly thought to be firmly established – such as “masculinity”, “body” and “nakedness” – are currently undergoing major changes.

By seizing on these developments, we understand the museum to be an institution which is relevant to today’s society – that is to say, a place for both the present and the future. Tobias G. Natter: “Our objective is to show the diversity and transformation of the portrayal of nude men in light of clearly defined thematic focuses. With fresh curiosity, without traditional scholarly prejudices, and with fascination for an inexhaustibly rich field, we use this exhibition to draw an arc spanning over 200 years which, not least, make a theme of the long shadow cast by the fig leaf.”

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The exhibition

The exhibition traces its theme from the late 18th century to the present day. It has three key historical themes: the classical era and the Age of Enlightenment around 1800, classical modernism around 1900, and post-1945 art. These three themes are introduced by a prologue.

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Prologue

The exhibition’s three focuses are preceded by a prologue. Using five outstanding sculptures from European art history, the prologue illuminates this theme’s long tradition. It runs from the “oldest nude in town” – a larger-than-life freestanding figure from ancient Egypt – and the statue known as the Jüngling vom Magdalensberg to Auguste Rodin and Fritz Wotruba, and on to a display window mannequin which Heimo Zobernig reworked to create a nude self-portrait.

Tobias G. Natter: “The curatorial intention behind prologue was to have the audience stroll through nearly five millennia of Western sculptural art in just a few steps. This is meant both to communicate both the long tradition of such images and to highlight the degree to which nude men were taken for granted to be the foundation of our art. These five thousand years form the exhibition’s outer referential frame. Strictly speaking, the showing begins in earnest with the Age of Enlightenment and the period around 1800.”

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Three out of five characters from the Prologue "naked men"

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Three out of five characters from the Prologue “naked men”

Anon
Freestanding figure of the court official Snofrunefer
c. 2400 B.C.
© Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

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Auguste Rodin
The Age of Bronze
1875/76
© Kunsthaus Zürich

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Heimo Zobernig
Untitled
2011
© VBK, Vienna, 2012

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Paul Cézanne. 'Seven Bathers' ca. 1900

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Paul Cézanne
Seven Bathers
c. 1900
Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel

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Edvard Munch. 'Bathing Men' 1915

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Edvard Munch
Bathing Men
1915
Munch Museum, Oslo
© The Munch Museum/The Munch Ellingsen Group/VBK, Vienna 2012

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Wilhelm von Gloeden. 'Flute Concert' 1905

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Wilhelm von Gloeden
Flute Concert
1905
Verlag Adolph Engel, private collection

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Richard Gerstl. 'Nude Self-portrait with Palette' 1908

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Richard Gerstl
Nude Self-portrait with Palette
1908
© Leopold Museum, Wien

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Egon Schiele. '“Prediger” (Selbstakt mit blaugrünem Hemd) ["Preacher" (Nude with teal shirt)]' 1913

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Egon Schiele
‘”Prediger” (Selbstakt mit blaugrünem Hemd)’ [“Preacher” (Nude with teal shirt)]
1913
© Leopold Museum, Wien, Inv. 2365

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Theme 1: Classicism and the Power of Reason

In the 18th century and beginning in France, the emancipation of the bourgeois class and the swan song of the Ancien Régime occasioned a renegotiation of concepts of masculinity with both societal and aesthetic implications. The naked male hero was defined anew as a cultural pattern. It became the embodiment of the new ideals.

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Theme 2: Classical Modernism

A new and independent pictorial world arose in the late 19th century with the casual depiction of naked men bathing in natural, outdoor settings. The various ways in which artists dealt with this topic can be viewed together as a particularly sensitive gauge of societal moods. In the exhibition, the genre is represented with prominent examples by Paul Cézanne, Edvard Munch, Wilhelm von Gloeden, Max Liebermann, Ernst Ludwig

Kirchner and others. Classical modernism’s quest for a new artistic foundation also had its impact on the topics of nakedness and masculinity. But what happened when the painter’s gaze wandered on from the naked other to the naked self? A principle witness with regard to this phenomenon in turn-of-the-20th-century Vienna is Egon Schiele. With his taboo-breaking self-reflections, he radicalized artists’ self-understanding in a way that nobody had before him. Elisabeth Leopold: “The shift of the painter’s gaze from the naked opposite to the exposed self gave rise to the nude self-portrait – a shining beacon of modernism.”

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Theme 3: Post-1945 Developments

In light of the abundance of interesting works from which to choose, the exhibition’s third theme comprises three specific focuses. Common to all three is the way in which the political potential of the naked body is explored. The first of these focuses concentrates on the battle fought by women for legal and social equality during the 20th century.

Outstanding examples of the intense way in which feminist artists have dealt with their own bodies as foils for the projection of gender roles can be found in the output of Maria Lassnig and Louise Bourgeois, whose works are included in the exhibition alongside others by younger woman artists. It was pioneers such as Lassnig and Bourgeois who set in motion the process which, today, underlies feminist art’s steadily increasing presence in terms of interpretation, resources, norms, power, and participation in the art business. The second area introduces artistic works that interlock nude self-portraits and the culture of protest, which bears great similarities to feminist criticism – the naked self between normativity and revolt.

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The one issue is the nude self-portrait as a field for experimentation and a phenomenon which questions artistic and societal identities. The other issue has to do with substantive contributions to the gender debate, as well as with artists who take the crisis of obsolete male images as an opportunity to put forth self-defined identities. The third focus, finally, lies in the shift in roles in which the man goes from being the subject to being the object, in fact becoming an erotically charged object – perhaps one of the most fundamental shifts in terms of the forms via which nude men have been portrayed from 1800 to the present. Gay emancipation, in particular, served to radically cast doubt upon normative concepts of masculinity, which it opposed with its own alternative models. In this exhibition, these are represented above all in paintings that feature intimate closeness and male couples.

As the opening of this exhibition neared, a frequently-asked question was that of why the project is being undertaken. Tobias G. Natter’s response: “There are many reasons. But most importantly: because it is overdue.”

Press release from the Leopold Museum website

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Bruce Nauman. 'Untitled (Five Marching Men)' 1985

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Bruce Nauman
Untitled (Five Marching Men)
1985
© Friedrich Christian Flick Collection / VBK Wien 2012

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Gilbert & George. 'Spit Law' 1997

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Gilbert & George
Spit Law
1997
© Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris • Salzburg

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Elmgreen & Dragset. 'Shepherd Boy (Tank Top)' 2009

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Elmgreen & Dragset
Shepherd Boy (Tank Top)
2009
Courtesy Galleri Nicolai Wallner
© Courtesy Galleri Nocolai Wallner / VBK Wien 2012

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Thomas Ruff. 'nudes vg 02' 2000

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Thomas Ruff
“nudes vg 02”
2000
Ed. 3/5
© Private collection Cofalka, Austria/with the kind support of agpro – austrian gay professionals
© VBK, Wien 2012

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Jean Cocteau. 'Male Couple Illustration for Jean Genet’s Querelle de Brest' 1947

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Jean Cocteau
Male Couple
Illustration for Jean Genet’s ‘Querelle de Brest’

1947
© Private collection © VBK, Wien 2012

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Louise Bourgeois. 'Fillette (Sweeter Version)' 1968, cast 1999

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Louise Bourgeois
Fillette (Sweeter Version)
1968, cast 1999
© Ursula Hauser Collection, Switzerland © VBK, Wien 2012

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Pierre & Gilles. 'Vive la France [Long live France]' 2006

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Pierre & Gilles
Vive la France [Long live France]
2006
© Private collection, Courtesy Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, Paris

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Andy Warhol. 'Querelle' c. 1982

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Andy Warhol
Querelle
c. 1982
© Privatsammlung/ VBK, Wien 2012

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Leopold Museum
Museums Quartier, Museumsplatz 1
1070 Vienna, Austria

Opening hours:
Daily 10am – 6pm
Thursdays: 10am – 9pm
Closed on Tuesdays

Leopolod Museum website

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09
Dec
09

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

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

Curator: Tom Hinson, Curator of Photography

 

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

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

 

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

 

Matthew Brady (American 1823-1896)
Prosper Whetmore
1857
Salted paper print from wet collodion negative
47 x 39.4 cm (18 1/2 x 15 1/2 in.)
CC0 1.0 Universal

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Charles Sheeler (1883-1965)
Bucks County Barn
1915
Gelatin silver print
9 1/4 x 7 5/16″ (23.5 x 18.6 cm)

 

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

 

Margaret Bourke-White (American 1904-1971)
Terminal Tower
1928
13 1/4 x 10″ (33.7 x 25.4 cm)
Gelatin silver print

 

Imogene Cunningham. 'Black and White Lilies III' 1928

 

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976)
Black and White Lilies III
1928
Gelatin silver print

 

Alfred Steiglitz. 'Georgia O'Keefe' 1933

 

Alfred Steiglitz (American 1864-1946)
Georgia O’Keefe
1933
Gelatin silver photograph

 

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

 

Dorothea Lange (American 1895-1965)
Resident, Conway, Arkansas
1938
Gelatin silver print
11 15/16 x 9 1/2 in. (30.32 x 24.13 cm)

 

Laszlo Moholy Nagy. 'Untitled' 1939

 

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Untitled
1939
Photogram
Gelatin silver print

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Carelton Watkins (American 1829-1916)
Yosemite Valley from the Best General View No. 2
1866
Albumen silver print

 

 

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

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

 

Carleton Watkins. 'Bridal Veil, Yosemite' 1866

 

Carelton Watkins (American 1829-1916)
Bridal Veil, Yosemite
1866
Albumen silver print

 

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

 

Eadweard J. Muybridge (American, born England, 1830-1904)
Valley of Yosemite, from Rocky Ford
1872
Albumen silver print

 

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

 

Edward Steichen (American 1879-1973)
Rodin The Thinker
1902
Gum bichromate print

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Arthur Rothstein (American 1915-1985)
Dust Storm, Cimarron County
1936
Gelatin silver photograph
40.4 × 39.6cm

 

 

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

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

The Frick Art and Historical Center website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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