Posts Tagged ‘equivalent

08
Sep
20

Exhibition: ‘Gathering Clouds: Photographs from the Nineteenth Century and Today’ at George Eastman Museum, Rochester, NY

Exhibition dates: 26th July 2020 – 3rd January 2021

 

John Shaw Smith (British, 1811-1873) 'The Mosque of Omar, Jerusalem' April 1852

 

John Shaw Smith (British, 1811-1873)
The Mosque of Omar, Jerusalem
April 1852
Albumen silver print, printed c. 1855
George Eastman Museum, gift of Alden Scott Boyer
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

From December 1850 to September 1852, John Shaw Smith travelled throughout the Mediterranean with a camera. He used the paper negative process that William Henry Fox Talbot patented in 1841. Shaw Smith masked out uneven tonality or aberrations in the sky with India ink, a common practice at the time, and he introduced clouds into his prints through combination printing. Rather than a cloud negative made from life, however, his second paper negative consisted of clouds hand-drawn with charcoal.

 

John Shaw Smith (British, 1811-1873) 'The Mosque of Omar, Jerusalem' April 1852

 

John Shaw Smith (British, 1811-1873)
The Mosque of Omar, Jerusalem
April 1852
Calotype negative
George Eastman Museum, gift of Alden Scott Boyer
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

Completing a triumvirate of postings about aeroplanes, air, and sky … we finish with a posting on a small but perfectly formed exhibition, Gathering Clouds: Photographs from the Nineteenth Century and Today at George Eastman Museum.

The technical competence of the early photographers, and the sheer beauty of their images, is mesmerising. To overcome the technical deficiencies of early photographic processes – where the dynamic tonal range between shadows and highlights was difficult to capture on one negative – the artists used painted clouds, hand-drawn clouds, and combination prints with cloud negatives made from life. You name it, they could do it to fill a sky!

My particular favourites in this elevated selection, these songs of the earth and sky, are three. Firstly, that most divine of daguerreotypes, a woman by Southworth & Hawes c. 1850 (below). “The heavenly realm had long been represented by clouds in Western art.” Secondly, and always a desire of mine, are the seascapes of Gustave Le Gray. There is something so spatial, so serene about his images. One day I know I will own one. And finally, the surprise that is that most beautiful of images, Marsh at Dawn 1906 (below). You could have knocked me over with a feather when I found out it was by that doyen of modernist photography, Imogen Cunningham, a member of the California-based Group f/64, known for its dedication to the sharp-focus rendition of simple subjects. How an artist evolves over the life time of their career.

I have added text to some of the images from the George Eastman Museum virtual tour, and also added further biographical notes on the artists below some of the photographs. I do hope you enjoy the magic of these accumulated – a cumulus related images.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

Gathering Clouds traces the complex history of photography’s relationship with clouds from the medium’s invention to Alfred Stieglitz’s Equivalents. The exhibition demonstrates that clouds played a seminal role in the development and subsequent reception of photography in the nineteenth century. At the same time, with Equivalents serving as a connection between past and present, the exhibition features contemporary works that forge new aesthetic paths while responding in various ways to the history of cloud photography.

 

Clouds and the Limitations of Photography

In the nineteenth century, clouds were technically difficult to photograph. As early as the 1830s, the medium’s inventors observe that photographic plates were more sensitive to violet and blue wavelengths of light and less sensitive to warm greens, yellows, oranges and reds. In order to record grass and trees in a landscape, photographers had to expose the plate to light longer, which left the sky overexposed; if they times their exposure to record the sky properly, the grass and trees were underexposed. Furthermore, clouds disappeared from even properly exposed skies because blue and white registered the same tonal value  on the plate. Pink and orange skies created enough contrast for photographers to capture clouds, but the yellow hue of the late-day sun made it a challenge to record the browns and greens of the landscape. Cloudless skies are therefore a common feature of nineteenth-century photographs.

 

 

 

Clouds & Combination Printing

 

Painted Clouds and Combination Prints with Hand-Drawn Clouds

Southworth & Hawes (Albert Sands Southworth, American, 1811-1894; Josiah Johnson Hawes, American, 1808-1901) 'Woman' c. 1850

 

Southworth & Hawes (Albert Sands Southworth, American, 1811-1894; Josiah Johnson Hawes, American, 1808-1901)
Woman
c. 1850
Daguerreotype
George Eastman Museum, gift of Alden Scott Boyer
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

Around 1850, Southworth & Hawes began adding hand-painted clouds to select portraits of women. This was undoubtedly an aesthetic decision, but the association of women with clouds also corresponds with mid-nineteenth-century views of white women and their role in American society. At the time, piety was seen as a virtue bestowed on women by God – a strength upon which men were to draw. The heavenly realm had long been represented by clouds in Western art.

 

Southworth & Hawes (Albert Sands Southworth, American, 1811-1894; Josiah Johnson Hawes, American, 1808-1901) 'Woman' c. 1850 (detail)

 

Southworth & Hawes (Albert Sands Southworth, American, 1811-1894; Josiah Johnson Hawes, American, 1808-1901)
Woman (detail)
c. 1850
Daguerreotype
George Eastman Museum, gift of Alden Scott Boyer
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

Count Camille Bernard Baillieu d'Avrincourt (French, 1824-1862) 'Château de Chambord' c. 1855

 

Count Camille Bernard Baillieu d’Avrincourt (French, 1824-1862)
Château de Chambord
c. 1855
Salted paper print
George Eastman Museum, gift of Kodak-Pathé
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

Count Camille Bernard Baillieu d’Avrincourt received praise from his peers for his technical skill and artistic sentiment. The clouds in Baillieu d’Avrincourt’s photographs of the Château de Chambord demonstrate his commitment to both. Perhaps dissatisfied with the relationship of clouds to the tower, he used combination printing to alter the placement of the cloud formation between the two prints.

 

Count Camille Bernard Baillieu d'Avrincourt (French, 1824-1862) 'Château de Chambord' c. 1855

 

Count Camille Bernard Baillieu d’Avrincourt (French, 1824-1862)
Château de Chambord
c. 1855
Salted paper print
George Eastman Museum, gift of Kodak-Pathé
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

“We have the sky always before us, therefore we do not recognise how beautiful it is. It is very rare to see anybody go into raptures over the wonders of the sky, yet of all that goes on in the whole world there is nothing to approach it for variety, beauty, grandeur, and serenity.”

.
H. P. Robinson, ‘The Elements of a Pictorial Photograph’, 1896

 

 

At the end of the nineteenth century, Henry Peach Robinson (British, 1830–1901) emphasised the significance of the sky in landscape photography. “The artistic possibilities of clouds,” he further noted, “are infinite.” Robinson’s plea to photographers to attend to the clouds was not new. From photography’s beginnings, clouds had been central to aesthetic and technological debates in photographic circles. Moreover, they featured in discussions about the nature of the medium itself. Gathering Clouds demonstrates that clouds played a key role in the development and reception of photography from the medium’s invention (1839) to World War I (1914-18). Through the juxtaposition of nineteenth-century and contemporary works, the exhibition further considers the longstanding metaphorical relationship between clouds and photography. Conceptions of both are dependent on oppositions, such as transience versus fixity, reflection versus projection, and nature versus culture.

Gathering Clouds includes cloud photographs made by prominent figures such as Anne Brigman (American, 1869-1950), Alvin Langdon Coburn (British, 1882-1966), Peter Henry Emerson (British, 1856-1936), Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884), Eadweard Muybridge (British, 1830-1904), Henry Peach RobinsonSouthworth & Hawes (American, active 1843-1863), and Adam Clark Vroman (American, 1856-1916). Selections from the group of photographs that Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) titled Equivalents (1923-34) serve as a link between past and present. The featured contemporary artists are Alejandro Cartagena (Mexican, b. Dominican Republic, 1977), John Chiara (American, b. 1971), Sharon Harper (American, b. 1966), Nick Marshall (American, b. 1984), Joshua Rashaad McFadden (American, b. 1990), Sean McFarland (American, b. 1976), Abelardo Morell (American, b. Cuba, 1948), Vik Muniz (Brazilian, b. 1961), Trevor Paglen (American, b. 1974), Bruno V. Roels (Belgian, b. 1976), Berndnaut Smilde (Dutch, b. 1978), James Tylor (Kaurna, Māori & Australian, b. 1986), Carrie Mae Weems (American, b. 1953), Will Wilson (American, Navajo, b. 1969), Byron Wolfe (American, b. 1967), Penelope Umbrico (American, b. 1957), and Daisuke Yokota (Japanese, b. 1983).

Text from the George Eastman House website

 

Combination Prints with Cloud Negatives Made from Life

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884) 'Mediterranean with Mount Agde' 1857

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884)
Mediterranean with Mount Agde
1857
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, gift of Eastman Kodak Company, ex-collection Gabriel Cromer
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

The seascapes that Gustave Le Gray made between 1856 and 1858 were both praised and panned by his contemporaries. Some faulted the clouds for being too luminous in relation to the sea. One critic maintained that in Le Gray’s photographs, the clouds and the landscape – made on two separate negatives and combined during printing – were untrue to the laws of nature.

 

Combination Prints with Cloud Negatives Made from Life

Gioacchino Altobelli (Italian, 1825-1878) 'The Colosseum' c. 1865

 

Gioacchino Altobelli (Italian, 1825-1878)
The Colosseum
c. 1865
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, purchase
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

Gioacchino Altobelli used combination printing to achieve a “moonlight effect,” made by photographing the sun (not the moon) behind clouds. Altobelli likely made such photographs with foreign travellers in mind. Inspired by Romantic poets like Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Lord Byron, tourists to Rome often visited the Colosseum by moonlight.

 

At the end of 1865 the two painter-photographers divided and Gioacchino Altobelli moved to a studio at Passeggiata di Ripetta n.16 that had been used by the photographer Michele Petagna. A new company was formed “Photographic Establishment Altobelli & Co.” which leads us to assume that Atobelli was working in conjunction with other photographers probably including Enrico Verzaschi.

In the beginning of 1866 Altobelli asked for a declaration of ownership (a brevet) to the Department of Commerce in Rome for his invention of the application of color to photographic images (a union of photography with chrome-lithography). The manager of the Pontifical Chrome-Lithography strongly opposed his application as they are already using such an invention from his own Company. Few months later Altobelli asked for another brevet that is granted him this time, “to perform in photograph the views of the monuments with effect of sky”. His method, similar if not identical to that of Gustave Le Gray, consisted in taking a first photograph of a monument where the exposure was adjusted to highlight the architectural characteristics sought. Subsequently Altobelli took at another time one or more additional photographs exposed to capture strong sky and cloud contrasts. In the dark room Altobelli captured on photographic paper the double exposure of the two perfectly aligned plates – this resulted in a well illuminated monument contrasted with a strong sky that gave the feeling of “claire de lune”. In November 1866 Altobelli obtained the brevet for 6 years. It is probable that he didn’t know that in Venice the photographers Carlo Ponti and Carlo Naya were already using the “claire de lune” technique – moreover they tinted them with aniline giving their prints a beautiful blue tone as if the water of the lagoon was illuminated at night by the moon. However the brevet allowed the painter-photographer Gioacchino Altobelli to have great notoriety in Rome and this helped him to increase his work as a portraitist.

Text from the Luminous-Lint website [Online] Cited 21/08/2020

 

George N. Barnard (American, 1819-1902) 'Rebel Works in Front of Atlanta, Ga. No. 1' 1866

 

George N. Barnard (American, 1819-1902)
Rebel Works in Front of Atlanta, Ga. No. 1
1866
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, purchase, ex-collection Philip Medicus
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

Within one copy of Photographic Views of Sherman’s Campaign (1866), George N. Barnard sometimes used the same cloud negative to print in cloudscapes to two different scenes, such as in the example shown here. Moreover, between two copies of the album, he is also known to have used different cloud negatives to reproduce the same scene. In reviews of the album, the cloudscapes received particular attention. One reviewer claimed that the pictures’ clouds conveyed “a fine idea of the effects of light and shade in the sunny clime in which the scenes are laid.” In part because of Barnard’s practice of re-using cloud negatives, however, it is impossible to know whether Barnard even photographed the clouds while in the South.

 

George N. Barnard (American, 1819-1902) 'Rebel Works in Front of Atlanta, Ga. No. 1' 1866 (detail)

 

George N. Barnard (American, 1819-1902)
Rebel Works in Front of Atlanta, Ga. No. 1 (detail)
1866
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, purchase, ex-collection Philip Medicus
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

One of the first persons to open a daguerreotype studio in the United States, George Barnard set up shop in Oswego, New York. In 1854 he moved his operation to Syracuse, New York, and began using the collodion process, a negative / positive process that allowed for multiple prints, unlike the unique daguerreotype.

Along with Timothy O’Sullivan, John Reekie, and Alexander Gardner, Barnard worked for the Mathew Brady studio and is best known for his photo-documentation of the American Civil War. In 1864 he was made the official photographer for the United States Army, Chief Engineer’s Office, Division of the Mississippi. He followed Union General William Tecumseh Sherman’s infamous march to the sea and in 1866 published an album of sixty-one photographs, Photographic Views of Sherman’s Campaign. After the war he continued primarily as a portrait photographer in Ohio, Chicago, Charleston, South Carolina, and Rochester, New York, where he briefly worked with George Eastman, the founder of the Eastman Kodak Company.

Text from the J. Paul Getty website [Online] Cited 21/08/2020

 

Combination Prints with Cloud Negatives Made from Life

Carleton E. Watkins (American, 1829-1916) 'Cape Horn, Columbia River, Oregon' 1867

 

Carleton E. Watkins (American, 1829-1916)
Cape Horn, Columbia River, Oregon
1867
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, museum accession
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

In 1867, Carleton E. Watkins travelled to Oregon for two purposes; to photograph the state’s geological features, and to document the sites and scenes along the Oregon Steam Navigation Company’s steamboat and portage railway route. This photograph was circulated with and without clouds, suggesting a third function for his Oregon views. The introduction of clouds into the prints staked a claim for the photograph’s artistic potential, in addition to its original scientific and commercial goals.

 

Clouds and Landscape on a Single Negative

Eadweard J. Muybridge (English, 1830-1904) 'Clouds' 1868-1872

 

Eadweard J. Muybridge (English, 1830-1904)
Clouds
1868-1872
From the series Great Geyser Springs
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, museum accession
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

Painted Clouds and Combination Prints with Hand-Drawn Clouds

Unidentified maker. 'Mount Fuji' c. 1870

 

Unidentified maker
Mount Fuji
c. 1870
Albumen silver print with applied colour
George Eastman Museum, gift of University of Rochester
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

Hand-painted Japanese photographs made for Western tourists often played to their prospective consumers’ assumptions and desires. Near the port city of Yokohama, Mount Fuji was readily accessible to foreign travellers, and photographs of the mountain were common. Guidebooks primed visitors to delight in the clouds surrounding the mountain, an expectation to which this photograph – with its hand-painted clouds – caters.

 

Henry Peach Robinson (British, 1830-1901) 'Evening on Culverden Down' c. 1870

 

Henry Peach Robinson (British, 1830-1901)
Evening on Culverden Down
c. 1870
Albumen silver print
Lent by Patrick Montgomery

 

 

An influential practitioner of combination printing, H.P. Robinson argued that printing in clouds was essential to the photographer’s endeavour to interpret nature. A “properly selected cloud,” he wrote, allowed the photographer to control the composition, thereby rescuing the “art form from the machine.”

 

Clouds and Landscape on a Single Negative

Charles Victor Tillot (French, 1825-1895) 'Vues instantannées, effets de nuages, Barbizon' 'Instant views, cloud effects, Barbizon' 1874

 

Charles Victor Tillot (French, 1825-1895)
Vues instantannées, effets de nuages, Barbizon
Instant views, cloud effects, Barbizon

1874
Albumen silver print
Lent by Patrick Montgomery

 

 

Charles Victor Tillot’s instantaneous views were criticised for being to dark. In addition to practicing photography, Tillot was a painter and exhibited with the Impressionists, whose central concerns were the effects of light and the truthfulness to nature. As a photographer, Tillot was attentive to the play of light both on the clouds – the most fleeting aspect of the scene – and in unaltered photographs.

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905) 'Jahaz Mahal' between 1879 and 1881

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905)
Jahaz Mahal
between 1879 and 1881
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, gift of University of Rochester Library
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Hindi: लाला दीन दयाल) 1844 – 1905; (also written as ‘Din Dyal’ and ‘Diyal’ in his early years) famously known as Raja Deen Dayal) was an Indian photographer. His career began in the mid-1870s as a commissioned photographer; eventually he set up studios in Indore, Mumbai and Hyderabad. He became the court photographer to the sixth Nizam of Hyderabad, Mahbub Ali Khan, Asif Jah VI, who awarded him the title Raja Bahadur Musavvir Jung Bahadur, and he was appointed as the photographer to the Viceroy of India in 1885.

In the early 1880s he travelled with Sir Lepel Griffin through Bundelkhand, photographing the ancient architecture of the region. Griffin commissioned him to do archaeological photographs: The result was a portfolio of 86 photographs, known as “Famous Monuments of Central India”.

Text from the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 21/08/2020

 

Photograph of the Jahaz Mahal at Mandu in Madhya Pradesh, taken by [Indian photographer] Lala Deen Dayal in the 1870s. The Jahaz Mahal or Ship Palace is part of the Royal Enclave in northern Mandu and dates from the late 15th century. It is a long, narrow, two-storey arcaded range crowned with roof-top pavilions and kiosks, built between two artificial lakes, the Munj Talao and Kapur Sagar. It was so named because from a distance in this setting it resembled a ship. Conceived as a pleasure palace, it housed the harem of Ghiyath Shah Khalji, a Sultan of Malwa who ruled between 1469 and 1500. This is a perspective view of the façade taken from one end, showing a flight of steps ascending to the roof terrace at left and rubble in the foreground. The palace is one of several at Mandu, a historic ruined hill fortress which first came to prominence under the Paramara dynasty at the end of the 10th century. It was state capital of the Sultans of Malwa between 1401 and 1531, who renamed the fort ‘Shadiabad’ (City of Joy) and built palaces, mosques and tombs amid the gardens, lakes and woodland within its walls. Most of the remaining buildings date from this period and were originally decorated with glazed tiles and inlaid coloured stone. They constitute an important provincial style of Islamic architecture characterised by an elegant and powerful simplicity that is believed to have influenced later Mughal architecture at Agra and Delhi.

Text from the British Library website [Online] Cited 21/08/2020

 

Painted Clouds and Combination Prints with Hand-Drawn Clouds

Unidentified maker. 'The Roman Forum' c. 1885

 

Unidentified maker
The Roman Forum
c. 1885
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, gift of George C. Pratt

 

Painted Clouds and Combination Prints with Hand-Drawn Clouds

William Henry Jackson (American, 1843-1942) 'Mt. Hood from Lost Lake' c. 1890

 

William Henry Jackson (American, 1843-1942)
Mt. Hood from Lost Lake
c. 1890
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum, gift of Harvard University
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

Writing in 1883, the poet Joaquin Miller declared that the constantly moving cloud effects around Mount Hood added “most of all to the beauty and sublimity of the mount scenery.” Perhaps Miller’s description of the clouds elucidates William Henry Jackson’s decision to print clouds from drawn – as opposed to photographed – negatives. Jackson might have lacked cloud negatives that communicated motion and vigour and felt compelled to draw them himself.

 

William Henry Jackson (April 4, 1843 – June 30, 1942) was an American painter, Civil War veteran, geological survey photographer and an explorer famous for his images of the American West. He was a great-great nephew of Samuel Wilson, the progenitor of America’s national symbol Uncle Sam. …

The American photographer along with painter Thomas Moran are credited with inspiring the first national park at Yellowstone, thanks to the images they carried back to legislators in Washington, D.C. America’s great, open spaces lured these artists, who delivered proof of the natural jewels that sparkled on the other side of the country.

From 1890 to 1892 Jackson produced photographs for several railroad lines (including the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) and the New York Central) using 18 x 22-inch glass plate negatives. The B&O used his photographs in their exhibit at the World’s Columbian Exposition.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Unidentified maker. 'Plate V' 1896

 

Unidentified maker
Plate V
1896
Chromolithograph
From the International Cloud-Atlas, edited by Hugo Hildebrand Hildebrandsson (Swedish, 1838-1925), Albert Riggenbach (Swiss, 1854-1921), and Léon Philippe Teisserenc de Bort (French, 1855-1913), published by Gauthier-Villars et Fils (Paris)
George Eastman Museum, purchase with funds from the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

Published in 1896, the International Cloud-Atlas standardised the definitions and descriptions of cloud formations and outlined instructions for cloud observations so that scientists could communicate dependable data across borders. The atlas was illustrated with chromolithographs made after photographs. Photography thus played a central role in overcoming the difficulty of applying language to ever-changing cloud formations. To cloud scientists, photograph was valued not for its perceived objectivity but for its ability to capture minute details in a sea of infinite and transient forms. Photographs helped ensure that cloudspotters everywhere could use a standard vocabulary to describe their observations.

 

Unidentified maker. 'Plate III' 1896

 

Unidentified maker
Plate III
1896
Chromolithograph
From the International Cloud-Atlas, edited by Hugo Hildebrand Hildebrandsson (Swedish, 1838-1925), Albert Riggenbach (Swiss, 1854-1921), and Léon Philippe Teisserenc de Bort (French, 1855-1913), published by Gauthier-Villars et Fils (Paris)
George Eastman Museum, purchase with funds from the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

Unidentified maker. 'Plate IV' 1896

 

Unidentified maker
Plate IV
1896
Chromolithograph
From the International Cloud-Atlas, edited by Hugo Hildebrand Hildebrandsson (Swedish, 1838-1925), Albert Riggenbach (Swiss, 1854-1921), and Léon Philippe Teisserenc de Bort (French, 1855-1913), published by Gauthier-Villars et Fils (Paris)
George Eastman Museum, purchase with funds from the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

Alfred Horsley Hinton (English, 1863-1908) 'Day's Awakening' 1896

 

Alfred Horsley Hinton (English, 1863-1908)
Day’s Awakening
1896
Platinum print
George Eastman Museum, gift of the 3M Foundation, ex-collection Louis Walton Sipley. Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

“In the photographic rendering of clouds, not as atmospheric phenomena, but as vehicles of beautiful thought, we have to-day something of an indication of how much superior the photograph may be wen made and controlled by an artist mind.” ~ A. Horsely Hinton, 1897

 

Alfred Horsley Hinton (1863 – 25 February 1908) was an English landscape photographer, best known for his work in the Pictorialist movement in the 1890s and early 1900s. As an original member of the Linked Ring and editor of The Amateur Photographer, he was one of the movement’s staunchest advocates. Hinton wrote nearly a dozen books on photographic technique, and his photographs were exhibited at expositions throughout Europe and North America. …

Hinton’s landscape photographs tend to be characterised by prominent foregrounds and dramatic cloud formations, often in a vertical format. He typically used sepia platinotype and gum bichromate printing processes. Unlike many Pictorialists, Hinton preferred sharp focus to soft focus lenses. He occasionally cropped and mixed cloud scenes and foregrounds from different photographs, and was known to rearrange the foregrounds of his subjects to make them more pleasing. His favourite topic was the English countryside, especially the Essex mud flats and Yorkshire moors.

Text from the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 21/08/2020

 

Combination Prints with Cloud Negatives Made from Life

Osborne I. Yellott (American, b. 1871 - d. unknown) 'Winter Evening' 1898

 

Osborne I. Yellott (American, b. 1871 – d. unknown)
Winter Evening
1898
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

“Before printing a cloud negative into any view the worked should always ask himself whether those particular clouds are properly appropriate to the scene, or whether they lend expression to the scene.” ~ Osborne I. Yellott, 1901

Yellott distinguished between two branches of cloud photograph: clouds for their own sake and clouds for printing in. The first he identified as a “delightful hobby,” the pursuit of which would lead to a collection of “pleasing or unusual” cloud formations to be viewed as lantern-slide projections or as cyanotypes in an album. The second, practiced by Yellott himself, required more discrimination: the photographer must carefully select their clouds and camera position.

 

Osborne I. Yellott (American, b. 1871 - d. unknown) 'Winter Evening' 1898 (detail)

 

Osborne I. Yellott (American, b. 1871 – d. unknown)
Winter Evening (detail)
1898
Albumen silver print
George Eastman Museum
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

Clouds and Landscape on a Single Negative

Adam Clark Vroman (American, 1856-1916) 'Cibollita Mesa (South from top of Mesa)' 1899

 

Adam Clark Vroman (American, 1856-1916)
Cibollita Mesa (South from top of Mesa)
1899
Platinum palladium print
George Eastman Museum, purchase with funds from the Charina Foundation
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

“… if fortune favours you, you may find a background of such beautiful clouds as only the light clear air of the south-west can produce. All day long these fleecy rolls of cotton-like vapour have tempted you, until you are in danger of using up all your… plates the first day out. You think there never can be such clouds again – but keep a few for tomorrow, they are a regular thing in this land of surprises.”

.
Vroman, 1901

 

 

Vroman never used combination printing to add cloud effects to his celebrated photographs of the SW landscape. Rather, the Pasadena bookstore owner capture both cloudscapes and landscapes on an orthochromatic plate and made prints from this single negative. By the mid-1880s, orthochromatic plates were available and made the photography of clouds and landscape easier.

 

Adam Clark Vroman (1856-1916), a native of LaSalle, Illinois, moved to Pasadena, California, in 1892. He was an amateur field photographer who worked primarily with glass plate photography and was the founder of Vroman’s Bookstore located in Pasadena. His impressive body of photographic work from the late 1890s and early 1900s documents his multiple expeditions to the pueblos and mesas of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah, several of these trips alongside Dr Frederick Webb Hodge with the Bureau of American Ethnology. Vroman’s close friendship with the natives, notably the Zuni, Hopi, and Navajo, allowed him to capture intimate images of their daily lives and customs as well as the lands that they inhabited. These photographs provide a stark contrast from common depictions of the time period that portrayed American Indian peoples as either exotic subjects or as savages.

His work during this period also reflects his extreme fondness of the glowing, superior quality of light found in the Southwest region. During these expeditions he worked primarily with a 6 ½” x 8 ½” view camera as well as with 4″ x 5″ and 5″ x 7″ cameras. Between 1895 and 1905, Vroman documented the interiors and exteriors of the Spanish missions in California prior to the restoration of the buildings. He photographed areas in California such as Pasadena, Yosemite National Park, as well as the eastern region of the United States, including Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. Vroman was also an avid art collector with an interest in the crafts of Native Americans and treasures from Japan and the Far East. He spent the last years of his life traveling to the East Coast and Canada, as well as to Japan and to countries in Europe. He died in Altadena, California, in 1916 of intestinal cancer.

Text from the Online Archive of California website [Online] Cited 21/08/2020

 

Combination Prints with Cloud Negatives Made from Life

Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934) 'The Sketch (Beatrice Baxter)' 1903

 

Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934)
The Sketch (Beatrice Baxter)
1903
Platinum print
George Eastman Museum, gift of Hermine Turner

 

 

Gertrude Käsebier’s addition of clouds, which are absent from the original negative, gives this photograph a meditative quality that parallels the subject’s contemplative state. As a leading Pictorialist, Käsebier viewed photographs as an art form and drew inspiration from the work of famous painters. Perhaps, then, she was aware of painter Joghn Constable’s belief that the sky as the “chief organ of sentiment” in a picture.

 

Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934) 'The Sketch (Beatrice Baxter)' 1903 (detail)

 

Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934)
The Sketch (Beatrice Baxter) (detail)
1903
Platinum print
George Eastman Museum, gift of Hermine Turner

 

Clouds and Landscape on a Single Negative

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976) 'Marsh at Dawn' 1906

 

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976)
Marsh at Dawn
1906
Platinum print, printed 1910
George Eastman Museum, purchase
© The Imogen Cunningham Trust. All Right Reserved

 

Alvin Langdon Coburn (British, b. United States, 1882-1966) 'Clouds in the Canyon' 1911

 

Alvin Langdon Coburn (British, b. United States, 1882-1966)
Clouds in the Canyon
1911
Gum bichromate over platinum print
George Eastman Museum, bequest of the photographer

 

Unidentified maker (French) 'Cumulus' c. 1918

 

Unidentified maker (French)
Cumulus
c. 1918
Gelatin silver print
George Eastman Museum, purchase
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

Unidentified maker (French) 'Mer de nuages' (Sea of ​​clouds) c. 1918

 

Unidentified maker (French)
Mer de nuages (Sea of ​​clouds)
c. 1918
Gelatin silver print
George Eastman Museum, purchase
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Equivalent' 1925

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Equivalent
1925
Gelatin silver print
George Eastman Museum, purchase and gift of Georgia O’Keeffe
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

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

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Equivalent
probably 1926
Gelatin silver print
George Eastman Museum, purchase and gift of Georgia O’Keeffe
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

Vik Muniz (Brazilian, b. 1961) 'Reclining Girl and Dog Cloud' 1993

 

Vik Muniz (Brazilian, b. 1961)
Reclining Girl and Dog Cloud
1993
Gelatin silver print
George Eastman Museum, purchase with funds from the Charina Foundation
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum
© 2020 Vik Muniz / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

 

 

Sometimes we see a cloud that’s dragonish;
A vapour sometime like a bear or lion,
A tower’d citadel, a pendent rock,
A forked mountain, or blue promontory
With trees upon’t, that nod unto the world,
And mock our eyes with air.

Shakespeare, “Antony and Cleopatra”, (IV, xii, 2-7)

 

Trevor Paglen (American, b. 1974) 'Untitled (Reaper Drone)' 2013

 

Trevor Paglen (American, b. 1974)
Untitled (Reaper Drone)
2013
Chromogenic development print
Courtesy of the Artist and Altman Siegel, San Francisco
© Trevor Paglen

 

 

Trevor Paglen’s artwork draws on his long-time interest in investigative journalism and the social sciences, as well as his training as a geographer. His work seeks to show the hidden aesthetics of American surveillance and military systems, touching on espionage, the digital circulation of images, government development of weaponry, and secretly funded military projects. …

Since the 1990s, Paglen has photographed isolated military air bases located in Nevada and Utah using a telescopic camera lens. Untitled (Reaper Drone) reveals a miniature drone mid-flight against a luminous morning skyscape. The drone is nearly imperceptible, suggested only as a small black speck [in] the image. The artist’s photographs are taken at such a distance that they abstract the scene and distort our capacity to make sense of the image. His work both exposes hidden secrets and challenges assumptions about what can be seen and fully understood.

Text from the Institute of Contemporary Art / Boston website [Online] Cited 21/08/2020

 

Abelardo Morell (American, b. Cuba 1948) 'Rapidly Moving Clouds over Field, Flatford, England, #1' 2017

 

Abelardo Morell (American, b. Cuba 1948)
Rapidly Moving Clouds over Field, Flatford, England, #1
2017
From After Constable
Inkjet print
Courtesy of Edwynn Houk Gallery
© Abelardo Morell

 

 

After Constable, [is] a series of unique visions of the landscape of Hamstead Heath by Abelardo Morell.

In June of 2017, the photographer Abelardo Morell took a pilgrimage to England, visiting the landscape of nineteenth-century Romantic painter John Constable. In the hopes of capturing the spirit of Constable’s work, Morell pitched a tent in the middle of London’s Hampstead Heath. This tent, a constructed camera obscura, projected the surrounding landscape onto the earthen ground through a small aperture at the tent’s top. Describing his camera obscura, Morell stated, “I invented a device – part tent, part periscope – to show how the immediacy of the ground we walk on enhances our understanding of the panorama, the larger world it helps to form.”

Photographing the ground below him, Morell captured both the texture of the earth as well as its vast surrounding landscape: both macro- and micro-visions of Constable’s surroundings, caught in harmony on one plane. With this layering, the photographs blend both image and texture. Always drawn to the dimension of a painting’s surface, Morell sought to emulate texture in his own photographs. In Constable’s romantic visions of Hampstead Heath from the early nineteenth century, the painter captured the english landscape in gestures of tactile, thick paint. With the roughness of the ground underneath the projected sky, each photograph’s plane echoes a painting’s surface.

Text from the Rosegallery website [Online] Cited 21/08/2020

 

James Tylor (Kaurna, Māori and Australian, b. 1986) 'Turalayinthi Yarta (Wirramumiyu)' 2017

 

James Tylor (Kaurna, Māori and Australian, b. 1986)
Turalayinthi Yarta (Wirramumiyu)
2017
Inkjet print with ochre
George Eastman Museum, purchase with funds from the Charina Foundation
Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum
© James Tylor

 

 

This series explores my connection with Kaurna yarta (Kaurna land) through learning, researching, documenting and traveling on country. Turalayinthi Yarta* is a Kaurna phrase “to see yourself in the landscape” or “landscape photography”. In a two year period I travelled over 300 km of the southern part of the Hans Heysen trail that runs parallel along the Kaurna nation boundary line in the Mount Lofty ranges. Combining photographs and traditional Nunga** designs to represent my connection with this Kaurna region of South Australia.

*Yarta means Land, Country and Nation in Kaurna language
**Nunga means South Australian Aboriginal people or person (Nunga language)

Text from the James Tylor website [Online] Cited 21/08/2020

 

John Chiara (American, b. 1971) 'Old River Road: Stovall Road: Oakhurst Road' 2018

 

John Chiara (American, b. 1971)
Old River Road: Stovall Road: Oakhurst Road
2018
Silver dye bleach print
Courtesy of ROSEGALLERY
© John Chiara

 

 

John Chiara is an experimental photographer who makes unique works by directly manipulating photosensitive paper. Chiara always believed that too much was lost in the final photograph because of the enlargement processes in the darkroom. In 1995, he was working primarily with making contact prints with large-format negatives, but in subsequent years he developed equipment and processes that allowed him to make large-scale, colour, positive photographic images without the use of film. The largest of his devices is a field camera that is large enough for Chiara to enter; he attaches the paper to this camera’s back wall and uses his hands and body to burn and dodge the image instinctively. Chiara’s developing process often leaves anomalies in the resulting images, which he embraces.

Text from the Artsy website [Online] Cited 21/08/2020

 

 

George Eastman Museum
900 East Ave, Rochester, NY 14607, USA

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Saturday 10am – 5pm
Sunday 11am – 5pm
Closed Mondays and Tuesdays

George Eastman House website

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01
Nov
17

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

Exhibition dates: 22nd July – 5th November 2017

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

Marcus

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

 

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

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

Text from the MFA website

 

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

 

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

 

 

291

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

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

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website

 

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

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

Text from the Getty Museum website

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Georgia Engelhard (1906 – 1986)

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

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

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

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

Text from the JWL Collection website

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Avenue of the Arts
465 Huntington Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts

Opening hours:
Monday and Tuesday 10am – 5 pm
Wednesday – Friday 10am – 10 pm
Saturday and Sunday 10am – 5 pm

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston website

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30
Nov
11

Exhibition: ‘In Focus: The Sky’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 26th July 26 – 4th December 2011

 

Many thankx to Melissa Abraham for her help and to the J. Paul Getty Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

With its immensity, immateriality, and variability, the sky has been an enduring subject in art history, fascinating and challenging generations of artists. As soon as the medium of photography was introduced in 1839, photographers attempted to represent the sky and its natural phenomena.

Atmospheric light and its constant mutability have always been hard to capture, but by the 1850s the greater light sensitivity of collodion negatives (compared to the daguerreotype and calotype processes) allowed the spectacles of the sky to be more easily transposed to photography.

With further technical improvements such as the development of instantaneous processes in the 1880s and the advent of Kodachrome colour film around 1935, photographers have continued to explore this theme in diverse and imaginative ways.

 

John Divola. 'Untitled', Zuma Series, 1977

 

John Divola (American, b. 1949)
Untitled
Zuma Series
1977
Chromogenic print
24.8 x 30.4 cm (9 3/4 x 11 15/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Michael and Jane Wilson
© John Divola

 

 

Skies in Color

In the fall of 1977, after discovering an abandoned lifeguard headquarters at Zuma Beach, California, John Divola began visiting the site to photograph. Painting the walls, incorporating props, using flash, and depending on the Pacific Ocean and the sky for a dramatic backdrop, he created a series of makeshift scenes.

Discussing his work in 1980, Divola said, “These photographs are the product of my involvement with an evolving situation. The house evolving in a primarily linear way toward its ultimate disintegration, the ocean and light evolving and changing in a cyclical and regenerative manner.”

Text from the J. Paul Getty website

 

John Divola (American, b. 1949) 'Untitled' 1977

 

John Divola (American, b. 1949)
Untitled
Zuma Series
1977
Chromogenic print
24.6 × 30.5 cm (9 11/16 × 12 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Michael and Jane Wilson
© John Divola

 

Col. Henry Stuart Wortley. 'The Day is Done, and the Darkness Falls from the Wings of Night.' about 1862

 

Col. Henry Stuart Wortley (British, 1832-1890)
The Day is Done, and the Darkness Falls from the Wings of Night.,
about 1862
Albumen silver print
29.5 x 35.2 cm (11 5/8 x 13 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884) 'Cloudy Sky – Mediterranean Sea' 1857

 

Gustave Le Gray (French, 1820-1884)
Cloudy Sky – Mediterranean Sea
1857
Albumen silver print
12 1/4 x 16 7/16 in.
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

Clouds

The collodion process (in which a syrupy, light–sensitive mixture was applied to glass–plate negatives) was advantageous for its short exposure time and sharpness, but its sensitivity to blue light could also pose a challenge. By the time the camera captured detail in the foreground, the sky was often overexposed and thus printed as blank space.

To create his sweeping seascape, Cloudy Sky – Mediterranean Sea, Gustave Le Gray combined two slightly overlapping negatives: one for the sky and one for the sea.

Text from the J. Paul Getty website

 

Carleton Watkins (American, 1829-1916) '[Solar Eclipse]' January 1, 1889

 

Carleton Watkins (American, 1829-1916)
[Solar Eclipse]
January 1, 1889
Albumen silver print
16.5 × 21.6 cm (6 1/2 × 8 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

Standing atop Mount Santa Lucia in northern California at approximately 3:50 p.m. on January 1, 1889, Carleton Watkins was able to make only one exposure during the instant of complete eclipse. Accompanied by professors from the newly created University of California and the United States Naval Observatory, Watkins waited slightly more than an hour for the moon to begin its movement and assume its temporary position directly in front of the sun. The radiating sun, its brilliance hidden by the black moon, lies suspended over a sea of clouds whose rippling waves dominate the sky. Only the inclusion of the treetops in the foreground serves to ground the image in a familiar reality.

Text from the J. Paul Getty website

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Full Moon, Southwestern Utah' 1953

 

Dorothea Lange (American, 1895-1965)
Full Moon, Southwestern Utah
1953
Gelatin silver print
15.6 x 15.3 cm (6 1/8 x 6 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of the John Dixon Collection
© Oakland Museum of California, the City of Oakland

 

 

Dorothea Lange suffered health problems in the late 1940s, but she wanted to travel again and be part of the current documentary effort. Since the federal government was no longer funding such projects, this meant working for the thriving picture magazines. Lange proposed to Life that she and Ansel Adams do a project in Utah. They would travel with her son Daniel, who would write text for the article, and her husband, who had a continuing interest in the survival of utopian communities. Their purpose was to record the landscape, built environment and inhabitants of three towns in southwestern Utah settled in the mid-nineteenth century by Mormons. The grandchildren of some of these pioneers were Lange’s subjects during her visit to Gunlock, Toquerville, and St. George in 1953.

Adapted from Judith Keller, Dorothea Lange, In Focus: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2002), p. 64. © 2002 J. Paul Getty Trust.

 

 

The J. Paul Getty Museum presents In Focus: The Sky, a thematically-installed exhibition of permanent collection photographs, on view at the Getty Center from July 26 – December 4, 2011.

“The sky has fascinated and challenged photographers since the invention of the medium,” said Anne Lyden, associate curator, Department of Photographs, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and curator of the exhibition. “This exhibition showcases a wide range of approaches to capturing the many moods and effects of the sky – things we usually take for granted.”

The selection of 22 artworks provides visitors with an opportunity to explore the Getty Museum’s world-renowned photographs collection through the pictorial subject of the sky, with the works loosely organised under four different themes: urban skies, clouds, dark skies, and colourful skies.

The exhibition features photographs by artists such as: Ansel Adams, John Divola, André Kertész, Joel Meyerowitz, Alfred Stieglitz, and Carleton Watkins, among others. The Getty’s collection includes exemplary objects that demonstrate both technological and aesthetic innovations in photography. Among the different processes highlighted are daguerreotypes, albumen silver prints, palladium prints, platinum prints, and more contemporary inkjet prints.

One of the most well-known works in the exhibition is Ansel Adams’ Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, (negative made November 1, 1941; printed December 16, 1948). Traveling by car through New Mexico, Adams was inspired by light from the setting sun illuminating crosses in the graveyard at the side of the road. By carefully considering the composition, visualising the printed image before creating the photograph, understanding the required exposure needed in response to the available light, and exerting a certain degree of control in the printing process so that detail and shadows were retained, Adams succeeded in capturing the fleeting moment when the sun was setting and the bright moon appeared in the darkening sky.

The summer sky of Cape Cod features in Meyerowitz’s photograph Fence, Truro, negative 1976; printed 1992. Having recently acquired a large view camera, Meyerowitz spent two summers recording the structures and light of the coastal area that ultimately resulted in the 1978 book, Cape Light. Noting the shifting shadows as they played across the picket fence, his use of colour aptly describes the very subject of light itself.

Included in the exhibition is a selection from John Divola’s Zuma Beach series. In the fall of 1977, after discovering an abandoned lifeguard headquarters at Zuma Beach, California, Divola began visiting the site mornings and evenings to photograph. Bringing paints, using flash, and depending on the Pacific Ocean and the ever-changing sky for a dramatic backdrop, he created spontaneous scenes in this seaside theatre.

Also on view is a small group of three photographs by Alfred Stieglitz. From 1922 to 1934, Stieglitz photographed clouds and created a series of abstract configurations which reflected the fluctuation of his subjective state. By simply titling each piece Equivalent, he invited an open reading of the images and their content.

In Focus: The Sky is the ninth installation of the ongoing In Focus series of exhibitions, thematic presentations of photographs from the Getty’s permanent collection.

Press release from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

 

André Kertész. 'The Lost Cloud, New York' negative 1937; print 1970s

 

André Kertész (American, born Hungary, 1894-1985)
The Lost Cloud, New York
Negative 1937; print 1970s
Gelatin silver print
24.8 x 16.5 cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Estate of André Kertész

 

 

Urban Skies

Soon after arriving in New York in October 1936, André Kertész spent time searching the city streets for fresh material, just as he had done in Paris for a decade. One afternoon he observed a solitary white cloud in a vast blue sky, dwarfed by the monolithic presence of the Rockefeller Center. Kertész later recounted that he was “very touched when he saw the cloud, as it “didn’t know which way to go” (Bela Ugrin, Dialogues with Kertész, ” 1978-85, the Getty Research Institute) – a sentiment he strongly identified with as a new immigrant.

From the lyrical to the abstract, photography has often been an apt medium with which to capture the fleeting nature of skies.

Text from the J. Paul Getty website

 

The impenetrable façade of Rockefeller Center in New York dominates the frame of this photograph, filling the lower and right sides of the image with its cold, hard, modern lines. The other third of the composition belongs to the sky, in which a lone puff of white cloud hangs isolated like a cotton ball, holding sway against the force of the skyscraper. The brilliant white form is “lost” in this scene that is otherwise devoid of natural, spirited shapes. The cloud possesses an innate impermanence; it will be gone with the next gust of wind, blown along on its path to some other expanse of sky. Andre Kertész’s juxtaposition of the whimsical cloud and unforgiving architecture seems to emphasise his own sense of isolation; the photograph was made soon after he had emigrated from Europe.

Text from the J. Paul Getty website

 

Alfred Stieglitz. 'Songs of the Sky' 1924

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Songs of the Sky
1924
Gelatin silver print
11.7 x 9.2 cm (4 5/8 x 3 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© J. Paul Getty Trust

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958) 'Cloud, Mexico' 1926

 

Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Cloud, Mexico
1926
Palladium print
14.9 × 24 cm (5 7/8 × 9 7/16 in.)
© 1981 Arizona Board of Regents, Center for Creative Photography

 

 

The first image with artistic intention that Edward Weston made in Mexico was of a cloud. Stopped in the port of Mazatlan on his way to Mexico City in 1923, Weston, for the first time in his career, was moved to photograph the sky, a theme that would occupy him intermittently throughout his entire sojourn in Mexico. Working with his Graflex, which allowed for greater flexibility than his tripod-mounted eight-by-ten-inch camera, he shot clouds spontaneously and maintained a personal collection of prints that he referred to as his “cloud series.” He noted in his daybook, “Next to the recording of a fugitive expression, or revealing the pathology of some human being, is there anything more elusive to capture than cloud forms! And the Mexican clouds are so swift and ephemeral, one can hardly allow the thought, ‘Is this worth doing?’ or, ‘ls this placed well?’ – for an instant of delay and what was, is not!”

The economy of form achieved in this 1926 image through the isolation of a single strip of stratus clouds oriented diagonally within the frame was not new to Weston’s aesthetic; his 1924 picture of Tina Modotti (1896-1942) nude on the roof of their home (see 86.XM.710.8) employs a remarkably similar composition. If Mexico provided Weston the inspiration to explore and expand the range of his oeuvre, adding clouds, still lifes, and landscapes to his repertoire of portraits and nudes, it simultaneously served as the place where his visual approach to the world was honed. His time in Mexico came to an end the same year he made this picture, but many of the principles he developed there would last him throughout his career.

Brett Abbott. Edward Weston, In Focus: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2005), 48. ©2005, J. Paul Getty Trust.

 

Bernice Abbott. 'Night View, New York City' 1932

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
[The West Side, Looking North from the Upper 30s / Nightview]
1932
Gelatin silver print
33.8 × 26.8 cm (13 5/16 × 10 9/16 in.)
© Estate of Berenice Abbott

 

 

If [photography] is to be utterly honest and direct, it should be related to the pulse of the times – the pulse of today.

Nowhere is Berenice Abbott’s statement better demonstrated than in this photograph of the pulsating vibrancy of New York City, alive at night with thousands of glittering lights. The flashes of illumination perforate the frame, reflecting the dynamism of the world’s fastest-changing city. Abbott set about documenting New York when she returned there in 1929 after nine years spent in Europe. Abbott made this photograph from a high vantage point in the Empire State Building on Fifth Avenue looking north.

Text from the J. Paul Getty website

 

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

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Equivalent
1926
Gelatin silver print
11.6 × 9.1 cm (4 9/16 × 3 9/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

 

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

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Equivalent
1926
Gelatin silver print
11.7 × 9.2 cm (4 5/8 × 3 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico' 1941

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico
Negative November 1, 1941; print December 16, 1948
Gelatin silver print
34.9 × 44 cm (13 3/4 × 17 5/16 in.)
© The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

 

 

Arguably Ansel Adams’s most famous image, this photograph is titled Moonrise rather than Sunset, even though the moon technically does not rise in the sky. As a scholar noted: The factuality and, moreover, the meaning of the setting sun were rejected by him in favour of the expressive symbolism of the rising moon; of the shining luminescence ablaze with greatness in its primal mystery, dramatically isolated in the infinity of darkness.

Instead of making an unmanipulated print from the negative, Adams selectively printed the sky black and the foreground dark in order to achieve a particular illumination and spiritual transcendence. The photographer’s skill and vision transformed the tiny town of Hernandez, dotted with glowing white cemetery and church crosses, into a spectral landscape.

Text from the J. Paul Getty website

 

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

 

Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Sangre de Cristo, New Mexico
1930
Platinum print
9.2 × 11.9 cm (3 5/8 × 4 11/16 in.)
© Aperture Foundation

 

William A. Garnett (American, 1916-2006) 'Smog, Los Angeles' 1949

 

William A. Garnett (American, 1916-2006)
Smog, Los Angeles
1949
Gelatin silver print
25.2 × 34 cm (9 15/16 × 13 3/8 in.)
© Estate of William A. Garnett

 

 

An ardent conservationist, Garnett became concerned about land use and air pollution in the early 1940s. He made this photograph in an attempt to raise public awareness. Over the years Garnett came to believe that he was more likely to inspire positive change by pointing out nature’s enduring beauty than by showing the ugliness caused by poor choices.

Text from the J. Paul Getty website

 

Robert Weingarten (American, born 1941) '6:30 A.M. 10/06/03, #98, Malibu, CA' 2003

 

Robert Weingarten (American, born 1941)
6:30 A.M. 10/06/03, #98, Malibu, CA
2003
Inkjet print
76.4 × 76.4 cm (30 1/16 × 30 1/16 in.)
© Robert Weingarten
Gift of Alvin and Heidi Toffler

 

The horizon at dawn, looking southeast over Santa Monica Bay, from the artist’s home in Malibu.

 

Joel Meyerowitz. 'Fence, Truro' negative 1976; print 1992

 

Joel Meyerowitz (American, b. 1938)
Fence, Truro
negative 1976; print 1992
Chromogenic print
59.7 x 47.3 cm (23 1/2 x 18 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Nancy and Bruce Berman
© Joel Meyerowitz, courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, NY

 

 

The J. Paul Getty Museum
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, California 90049

Opening hours:
Tues – Friday 10 – 5.30pm
Saturday 10 – 9pm
Sunday 10 – 9pm
Monday closed

The J. Paul Getty Museum website

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22
Jun
11

Review: ‘American Dreams: 20th century photography from George Eastman House’ at Bendigo Art Gallery, Victoria

Exhibition dates: 16th April – 10th July 2011

 

Gertrude Käsebier. 'The Sketch (Beatrice Baxter)' 1903

 

Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934)
The Sketch (Beatrice Baxter)
1903
Platinum print
Gift of Hermine Turner
Collection of George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film

 

 

This is a fabulous survey exhibition of the great artists of 20th century American photography, a rare chance in Australia to see such a large selection of vintage prints from some of the masters of photography. If you have a real interest in the history of photography you must see this exhibition, showing as it is just a short hour and a half drive (or train ride) from Melbourne at Bendigo Art Gallery.

I talked with the curator, Tansy Curtin, and asked her about the exhibition’s gestation. This is the first time an exhibition from the George Eastman House has come to Australia and the exhibition was 3-4 years in the making. Tansy went to George Eastman House in March last year to select the prints; this was achieved by going through solander box after solander box of vintage prints and seeing what was there, what was available and then making work sheets for the exhibition – what a glorious experience this would have been, undoing box after box to reveal these magical prints!

The themes for the exhibition were already in the history of photography and Tansy has chosen almost exclusively vintage prints that tell a narrative story, that make that story accessible to people who know little of the history of photography. With that information in mind the exhibition is divided into the following sections:

Photography becomes art; The photograph as social document; Photographing America’s monuments; Abstraction and experimentation; Photojournalism and war photography; Fashion and celebrity portraiture; Capturing the everyday; Photography in colour; Social and environmental conscience; and The contemporary narrative.

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There are some impressive, jewel-like contact prints in the exhibition. One must remember that, for most of the photographers working after 1940, exposure, developing and printing using Ansel Adams Zone System (where the tonal range of the negative and print can be divided into 11 different ‘zones’ from 0 for absolute black and to 10 for absolute white) was the height of technical sophistication and aesthetic choice, equal to the best gaming graphics from today’s age. It was a system that I used in my black and white film development and printing. Film development using a Pyrogallol staining developer (the infamous ‘pyro’, a developer I tried to master without success in a few trial batches of film) was also technically difficult but the ability of this developer to obtain a greater dynamic range of zones in the film itself was outstanding.

“The Zone System provides photographers with a systematic method of precisely defining the relationship between the way they visualise the photographic subject and the final results… An expressive image involves the arrangement and rendering of various scene elements according to photographer’s desire. Achieving the desired image involves image management (placement of the camera, choice of lens, and possibly the use of camera movements) and control of image values. The Zone System is concerned with control of image values, ensuring that light and dark values are rendered as desired. Anticipation of the final result before making the exposure is known as visualisation.”1

Previsualisation, the ability of the photographer to see ‘in the mind’s eye’ the outcome of the photograph (the final print) before even looking through the camera lens to take the photograph, was an important skill for most of these photographers. This skill has important implications for today’s photographers, should they choose to develop this aspect of looking: not as a mechanistic system but as a meditation on the possibilities of each part of the process, the outcome being an expressive print.

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A selection of the best photographs in the exhibition could include,

1. An original 1923 Alfred Steiglitz Equivalent contact print – small (approx. 9cm x 12cm, see below), intense, the opaque brown blacks really strong, the sun shining brightly through the velvety clouds. In the Equivalents series the photograph was purely abstract, standing as a metaphor for another state of being, in this case music. A wonderful melding of the technical and the aesthetic the Equivalents “are generally recognised as the first photographs intended to free the subject matter from literal interpretation, and, as such, are some of the first completely abstract photographic works of art.”2

2. Paul Strand Blind (1915, printed 1945) – printed so dark that you cannot see the creases in the coat of the blind woman with a Zone 3 dark skin tone.

3. Lewis Hine [Powerhouse mechanic] see below, vintage 1920 print full of subtle tones. Usually when viewing reproductions of this image it is either cropped or the emphasis is on the body of the mechanic; in this print his skin tones are translucent, silvery and the emphasis is on the man in unison with the machine. The light is from the top right of the print and falls not on him directly, but on the machinery at upper right = this is the emotional heart of this image!

4. Three tiny vintage Tina Modotti prints from c. 1929 – so small, such intense visions. I have never seen one original Modotti before so to see three was just sensational.

5. Walker Evans View of Morgantown, West Virginia vintage 1935 print – a cubist dissection of space and the image plane with two-point perspective of telegraph pole with lines.

6. An Edward S. Curtis photogravure Washo Baskets (1924, from the portfolio The North American Indian) – such a sumptuous composition and the tones…

7. Ansel Adams 8″ x 10″ contact print of Winter Storm (1944, printed 1959, see above) where the blackness of the mountain on the left hand side of the print was almost impenetrable and, because of the large format negative, the snow on the rock in mid-distance was like a sprinkling of icing sugar on a cake it was that sharp.

8. A most splendid print of the Chrysler Building (vintage 1930 print, approx. 48 x 34  cm) by Margaret Bourke-White – tonally rich browns, smoky, hazy city at top; almost like a platinum print rather than a silver gelatin photograph. The bottom left of the print was SO dark but you could still see into the shadows just to see the buildings.

9. An original Robert Capa 1944 photograph from the Omaha Beach D Day landings!

10. Frontline soldier with canteen, Saipan (1944, vintage print) by W Eugene Smith where the faces of the soldiers were almost Zone 2-3 and there was nothing in the print above zone 5 (mid-grey) – no physical and metaphoric light.

11. One of the absolute highlights: two vintage Edward Weston side by side, the form of one echoing the form of the other; Nude from the 50th Anniversary Portfolio 1902 – 1952 (1936, printed 1951), an 8″ x 10″ contact print side by side with an 8″ x 10″ contact print of Pepper No. 30 (vintage 1930 print). Nothing over zone 7 in the skin tones of the nude, no specular highlights; the sensuality in the pepper just stunning – one of my favourite prints of the day – look at the tones, look at the light!

12. Three vintage Aaron Siskind (one of my favourite photographers) including two early prints from 1938 – wow. Absolutely stunning.

13. Harry Callahan. That oh so famous image of Eleanor and Barbara, Chicago (vintage 1953 print) that reminds me of the work of Jeffrey Smart (or is it the other way around). The wonderful space around the figures, the beautiful composition, the cobblestones and the light – just ravishing.

14. The absolute highlight: Three vintage Diane Arbus prints in a row – including a 15″ square image from the last series of work Untitled (6) (vintage 1971 print, see above) – the year in which she committed suicide. This had to be the moment of the day for me. This has always been one of my favourite photographs ever and it did not disappoint; there was a darkness to the trees behind the three figures and much darker grass (zone 3-4) than I had ever imagined with a luminous central figure. The joyousness of the figures was incredible. The present on the ground at the right hand side was a revelation – usually lost in reproductions this stood out from the grass like you wouldn’t believe in the print. Being an emotional person I am not afraid to admit it, I burst into tears…

15. And finally another special… Two vintage Stephen Shore chromogenic colour prints from 1976 where the colours are still true and have not faded. This was incredible – seeing vintage prints from one of the early masters of colour photography; noticing that they are not full of contrast like a lot of today’s colour photographs – more like a subtle Panavision or Technicolor film from the early 1960s. Rich, subtle, beautiful hues. For a contemporary colour photographer the trip to Bendigo just to see these two prints would be worth the time and the car trip/rail ticket alone!

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Not everything is sweetness and light. The print by Dorothea Lange Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California is a contemporary print from 2003, the vintage print having just been out on loan; the contemporary section, ‘The contemporary narrative’, is very light on, due mainly to the nature of the holdings of George Eastman House; and there are some major photographers missing from the line up including Minor White, Fredrick Sommer, Paul Caponigro, Wynn Bullock and William Clift to name just a few.

Of more concern are the reproductions in the catalogue, the images for reproduction supplied by George Eastman House and the catalogue signed off by them. The reproduction of Margaret Bourke-White’s Chrysler Building (1930, see below) bears no relationship to the print in the exhibition and really is a denigration to the work of that wonderful photographer. Other reproductions are massively oversized, including the Alfred Stieglitz Equivalent, Lewis Hine’s Powerhouse mechanic (see below) and Tina Modotti’s Woman Carrying Child (c. 1929). In Walter Benjamin’s terms (The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction) the aura of the original has been lost and these reproductions further erode the authenticity of the original in their infinite reproducability. Conversely, it could be argued that the reproduction auraticizes the original:

“The original artwork has become a device to sell its multiply-reproduced derivatives; reproductability turned into a ploy to auraticize the original after the decay of aura…”3

In other words, after having seen so many reproductions when you actually see the original –  it is like a bolt of lightning, the aura that emanates from the original. This is so true of this exhibition but it still begs the question: why reproduce in the catalogue at a totally inappropriate size? Personally, I believe that the signification of the reproduction (in terms of size and intensity of visualisation) is so widely at variance with the original one must question the decision to reproduce at this size knowing that this variance is a misrepresentation of the artistic interpretation of the author.

In conclusion, this is a sublime exhibition well worthy of the time and energy to journey up to Bendigo to see it. A true lover of classical American black and white and colour photography would be a fool to miss it!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Anon. “Zone System,” on Wikipedia [Online] Cited 13/06/2011
  2. Anon. “Equivalents,” on Wikipedia [Online] Cited 13/06/2011
  3. Huyssen, Andreas. Twilight Memories: Marking Time in a Culture of Amnesia. London: Routledge, 1995, pp. 23-24

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Many thankx to Tansy Curtin, Senior Curator, Programs and Access at Bendigo Art Gallery for her time and knowledge when I visited the gallery; and to Bendigo Art Gallery for allowing me to publish the text and photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Alfred Stieglitz. 'Equivalent' 1923

 

Actual size of print: 9.2 x 11.8 cm
Size of print in catalogue: 18.5 x 13.9 cm

These two photographs represent a proportionate relation between the two sizes as they appear in print and catalogue but because of monitor resolutions are not the actual size of the two prints.

 

Alfred Stieglitz. 'Equivalent' 1923

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Equivalent
1923
Gelatin silver print
Collection of George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film 

 

Lewis Hine [Powerhouse mechanic] 1920 catalogue size

 

Actual size of print: 16.9 x 11.8 cm
Size of print in catalogue: 23.2 x 15.8 cm

These two photographs represent a proportionate relation between the two sizes as they appear in print and catalogue but because of monitor resolutions are not the actual size of the two prints.

 

Lewis Hine. [Powerhouse mechanic] 1920 catalogue size

 

Lewis Hine
[Powerhouse mechanic]
1920
Gelatin silver print
Transfer from the Photo League Lewis Hine Memorial Committee, ex-collection Corydon Hine
Collection of George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film

 

Margaret Bourke-White. 'Chrysler Building' New York City, 1930

 

As it approximately appears in the exhibition (above, from my notes, memory and comparing the print in the exhibition with the catalogue reproduction)

Below, as the reproduction appears in the catalogue (scanned)

 

Margaret Bourke-White. 'Chrysler Building' New York City, 1930

 

Margaret Bourke-White (American, 1904-1971)
Chrysler Building
New York City
1930
Silver gelatin photograph

 

 

An exhibition of treasures from arguably the world’s most important photographic museum, George Eastman House, has been developed by Bendigo Art Gallery. The exhibition American Dreams will bring, for the first time, eighty of some of the most iconic photographic images from the 20th Century to Australia.

The choice of works highlights the trailblazing role these American artists had on the world stage in developing and shaping the medium, and the impact these widely published images had on the greater community.

Curator Tansy Curtin, who worked closely with George Eastman House developing the exhibition commented, “Through these images we can recognise the extraordinary ability of these artists, and their pivotal role influencing the evolution of photography. Their far-reaching images helped shape American culture, and impacted on the fundamental role photography has in communications today. Even more than this we can see through these artists the burgeoning love of photography that engaged a nation.”

Through these images we can see not only the development of photography, but also as some of the most powerful social documentary photography of last century, we see extraordinary moments captured in the lives of a wide range of Americans. The works distil the dramatic transformation that affected people during the 20th century – the affluence, degradation, loss, hope and change – both personally and throughout society.

The role of photography in nation building is exemplified in Ansel Adams’ majestic portraits of Yosemite national park, Bourke-White’s Chrysler building and images of migrants and farm workers during the Depression. Tansy Curtin added, “We see the United States ‘growing up’ through photography. We see hopes raised and crushed and the inevitable striving for the American Dream.” Director of Bendigo Art Gallery Karen Quinlan said, “We are thrilled to have been given this unprecedented opportunity to work with this unrivalled photographic archive. The resulting exhibition American Dreams, represents one of the most important and comprehensive collections of American 20th Century photography to come to Australia.”

George Eastman House holds over 400,000 images from the invention of photography to the present day. George Eastman, one time owner of the home in which the archives are housed, founded Kodak and revolutionised and democratised photography around the world. Eastman is considered the grandfather of snapshot photography.

American Dreams is one of the first exhibitions from this important collection to have been curated by an outside institution. It will be the first time Australian audiences have been given the opportunity to engage with this vast archive.

Press release from the Bendigo Art Gallery

 

Alfred Steiglitz. [Georgia O'Keefe hand on back tire of Ford V8] 1933

 

Alfred Steiglitz (American, 1864-1946)
[Georgia O’Keefe hand on back tire of Ford V8]
1933
gelatin silver print
Part purchase and part gift from Georgia O’Keefe
Collection of George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film

 

Walker Evans. 'Torn Poster, Truro, Massachusetts' 1930

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Torn Poster, Truro, Massachusetts
1930
gelatin silver contact print
Purchased with funds from National Endowment for the Arts
Collection of George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California' 1936, printed c. 2003

 

Dorothea Lange (American, 1895-1965)
Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California
1936, printed c. 2003
Photogravure print
Gift of Sean Corcoran
Collection of George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film

 

Dorothea Lange. 'Kern County California' 1938

 

Dorothea Lange (American, 1895-1965)
Kern County California
1938
Gelatin silver print
Exchange with Roy Stryker
Collection of George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film

 

Ansel Adams. 'Winter Storm' 1942

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Winter Storm
1942
Gelatin silver print

 

Diane Arbus. 'Untitled (6)' 1971

 

Diane Arbus (American, 1923-1971)
Untitled (6)
1971
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Bendigo Art Gallery
42 View Street Bendigo
Victoria Australia 3550
Phone: 03 5434 6088

Opening hours:
Bendigo Art Gallery is open daily 10 am – 5 pm

Bendigo Art Gallery website

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12
Jun
11

Review: ‘Trace’ by Murray Fredericks at Arc One Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 24th May – 18th June 2011

 

Murray Fredericks. 'Salt 271' 2011

 

Murray Fredericks (Australian, b. 1970)
Salt 271
2011
150 x 120 cm
Pigment print on cotton rag

 

 

“Photographers tell me what I already know. The recognition of the beautiful, bizarre, or boring (the three photographic B’s) is not the problem. You would have to be a refrigerator not to be moved by the beauty of Yosemite. The problem is to deal with one’s total experience, emotionally as well as visually. Photographers should tell me what I don’t know.”

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Duane Michals Real Dreams1

 

“While we cannot describe its appearance (the equivalent), we can define its function. When a photograph functions as an Equivalent we can say that at that moment, and for that person the photograph acts as a symbol or plays the role of a metaphor for something that is beyond the subject photographed.”

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Minor White

 

 

Fredericks new infrared panoramic works show the strength of nature at it’s finest (9 out of 10 to nature especially when see through this type of filtration), excellent technical skills and good printing somehow any revelation of spirit in the sublime has been lost in these photographs. The photographer does not take me anywhere, there is no new space to step into, another view of the world that I want to spend time with. The relationship between the two series is also nebulous, the critical ice/fire space between the works adding little frisson to the exhibition.

I ask: Is it sufficient to use a digital scientific infrared back, if for no other reason that it is there? Is it sufficient to know that these climatic conditions take place in the same area each day, at the same time, place the camera down and just capture the scene? Is there really a decisive moment in these photographs, a poetic insight, or is this just what was, literally, hanging around so to speak?

The answer to all three questions I leave up to the reader.

Personally, I need photography to push the boundaries of elusiveness through an understanding in revelation, not just through an understanding of space and form, light and colour. I believe that conventional patterns of perception are there to be broken in ways that disrupt the technologies of the self – the self-regulating of our senses, the conventions of cultural capital – but too what do we open ourselves up to? As Minor White says: ‘The sound of one hand clapping’.

While the photographs have the weight of serious equipment and professional acumen behind them after the initial awe on viewing they fall to earth, like the rainstorms they portray, a little flat. As with my earlier review of Salt they seem to be more about the photographer than any revelation of the thing being photographed. Duane Michals observes that, “The best artists give themselves in their work” but this giving is ego-less, the dropping away of the bells and whistles to let an’other’ emerge: in this sense I do not feel the total experience, emotionally as well as visually. Paul Strand said that it took him 10 years to start to become an artist, to let go of ego in his work; paradoxically after this the work became more his own.

For me, these photographs never become a metaphor for something that is beyond the subject being photographed.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Michals, Duane. Real Dreams 1976 [Online] Cited 08/06/2011, on longer available online.

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Many thankx to Angela Connor for her help and to Arc One Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Murray Fredericks. 'Salt 273' 2011

 

Murray Fredericks (Australian, b. 1970)
Salt 273
2011
150 x 120 cm
Pigment print on cotton rag

 

Murray Fredericks. 'Hector 10' 2011

 

Murray Fredericks (Australian, b. 1970)
Hector 10
2011
220 x 120 cm
Pigment print on cotton rag

 

Murray Fredericks. 'Hector 11' 2011

 

Murray Fredericks (Australian, b. 1970)
Hector 11
2011
204 x 120 cm
Pigment print on cotton rag

 

 

Salt began in 2003 and is a series of photographs of vast empty landscapes. Each image in the series is connected by the placement of the horizon running across the lower third of the frame. The horizon is the only referential form, breaking the void and providing the viewer with an element that paradoxically ‘defines’ the space. These new works add another dimension to Salt, with the water from last year’s rains now creating scenes diametrically opposed to the work occupying the adjacent walls as Hector.

Hector draws its title from an affectionately name atmospheric phenomenon that produces some of the world’s biggest thunderstorms. These new black and white works employ Murray’s methodical consistency of composition with distinctly different outcomes to the Zen-like vistas of Salt. In these works the expanse of the storm is consciously contained and forced into a barometric battle with the invisible air at its limits for the place of subject within the photograph…

By juxtaposing these series, each viewer is at once placed outside the containers which harbour these landscapes of remote territories – one calm and one facing the eye of the storm – and at the same time place in the centre of Murray’s minimal, ethereal representations of these places. In this way we can trace his exploration into these subjects – capturing the moment is our witness to a reverence to land and country.

Text from Arc One Gallery

 

Joseph Mallord William Turner (English, 1775-1851) 'Valley of Aosta: Snowstorm, Avalanche, and Thunderstorm' 1836/37

 

Joseph Mallord William Turner (English, 1775-1851)
Valley of Aosta: Snowstorm, Avalanche, and Thunderstorm
1836/37
Oil on canvas
36 1/4 x 48 in. (92.2 x 123 cm)
The Art Institute of Chicago: Frederick T. Haskell Collection

 

 

Arc One Gallery
45 Flinders Lane
Melbourne, 3000
Phone: (03) 9650 0589

Opening hours:
Tues – Sat 11 am – 5 pm

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21
Aug
10

Exhibition: ‘Alfred Stieglitz: the Lake George years’ at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

Exhibition dates: 17th June – 5th September 2010

 

Alfred Stieglitz. 'Ford V-8' 1935

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Ford V-8
1935
Gelatin silver photograph
19.5 x 24.3 cm
George Eastman House, part purchase and part gift from Georgia O’Keeffe

 

 

Many thankx to Susanne Briggs and the Art Gallery of New South Wales for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“… much has happened in photography that is sensational, but very little that is comparable with what Stieglitz did. The body of his work, the key set – I think – is the most beautiful photographic document of our time.”

Georgia O’Keeffe 1978

 

The photographs Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) took around his summer house at Lake George, New York state, USA after 1915 are considered a major departure and dramatically influenced the course of photography. The desire to build a specifically ‘American’ art led Stieglitz to explore the essential nature of photography, released from contrivances and from intervention in print and negative. “Photography is my passion. The search for truth my obsession,” he would write in 1921.

This major exhibition is the first in Australia of Stieglitz’s photographs. 150 are included and are amongst the very best Stieglitz ever printed. They are also the rarest. One third of the exhibition is being lent by the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, which holds ‘the key set’ – selected by his lover, muse and wife, the artist Georgia O’Keeffe, and deposited there after Stieglitz’s death.

 

 

Alfred Stieglitz. ‘City of ambition’ 1911

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
City of ambition
1911
Photogravure
33.9 x 26.0 cm
George Eastman House, Museum purchase from Museum of Modern Art, New York

 

Alfred Stieglitz. 'Ellen Koeniger' 1916

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Ellen Koeniger
1916
Gelatin silver photograph
11.1 x 9.1 cm
J Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Alfred Stieglitz. 'Waldo Frank' 1920

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Waldo Frank
1920
Palladium photograph
25.1 x 20.2 cn
Art Institute of Chicago, Alfred Stieglitz Collection

 

Waldo David Frank was an American novelist, historian, political activist, and literary critic, who wrote extensively for The New Yorker and The New Republic during the 1920s and 1930s.

 

Alfred Stieglitz. 'Spiritual America' 1923

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Spiritual America
1923
Gelatin silver photograph
11.7 x 9.2 cm
Philadelphia Museum of Art: the Alfred Stieglitz Collection 1949

 

 

The photographs Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946) took around his summer house at Lake George, New York state, USA after 1915 are considered a major departure and dramatically influenced the course of photography. The desire to build a specifically ‘American’ art led Stieglitz to explore the essential nature of photography, released from contrivances and from intervention in print and negative.

‘Stieglitz’s mature photographs from the 1910s onwards are free from any sense that photography must refer to something outside of itself in order to express meaning,’ said Judy Annear, senior curator photography, Art Gallery of New South Wales.

This major exhibition is the first in Australia of Stieglitz’s photographs. 150 are included and are amongst the very best Stieglitz ever printed. They are also the rarest. One third of the exhibition is being lent by the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, which holds ‘the key set’ – selected by his lover, muse and wife, the artist Georgia O’Keeffe, and deposited there after Stieglitz’s death.

‘Passionate and provocative; charismatic, verbose and intellectually voracious; a self described revolutionist and iconoclast with an unwavering belief in the efficacy of radical action; competitive, egotistical, narcissistic and at times duplicitous, but also endowed with a remarkable ability to establish a deep communion with those around him – these are but some of the adjectives that can be used to describe Alfred Stieglitz,’ said Sarah Greenough, senior curator of photographs, National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Major loans are also coming from the J Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Museum of Modern Art and Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Art Institute of Chicago, and George Eastman House, Rochester amongst others.

The exhibition begins with a selection of Stieglitz’s photographs from the 1910s including those that he took at his gallery 291 in New York City of artists and collaborators, including O’Keeffe. Stieglitz was a superb photographic printer and dedicated to aesthetics in publishing. A number of the later editions (from 1911-17) of his publication Camera work – described as the most beautiful journal in the world – are included.

Stieglitz’s portraits grew steadily in power in the 1910s and 20s, and continued to be a major part of his photographic practice. He would sometimes photograph his subjects over and over again and none more so than O’Keeffe, whom he met in 1916.

Stieglitz photographed O’Keeffe for the first time in 1917. He continued to photograph her from every angle, clothed and unclothed, indoors and out until his last photographs from 1936/37. In all there are more than 300 photographs of O’Keeffe which convey all the nuances of their relationship in that 20-year period. A selection is included.

Stieglitz first visited Lake George in the 1870s with his parents. The visits slowed until the 1910s but from 1917 until his death he spent every summer there. Stieglitz’s ashes are buried at Lake George.

The photographs of people, buildings, landscapes and skies that Stieglitz took at Lake George form a collective portrait of a place which has not been rivalled in the history of photography worldwide for its subtlety of feeling expressed in the simplest of terms.

Stieglitz developed the idea for his cloud photographs in 1922 because he wanted to create images which carried the emotional impact of music and to disprove the idea being put about that he hypnotised his (human) subjects. The first title for the cloud photographs was simply Music: a sequence…; this was eventually superseded by Equivalent as Stieglitz believed that these photographs could exist as the visual equivalent to other forms of expression.

Stieglitz changed the course of photography worldwide and has influenced major figures in photography from Minor White to Robert Mapplethorpe, Max Dupain to Tracey Moffatt and Bill Henson.”

Press release from the Art Gallery of New South Wales website

 

Alfred Stieglitz. 'Georgia O'Keeffe: a portrait' 1918

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Georgia O’Keeffe: a portrait
1918
Platinum photograph
24.6 x 19.7 cm
The J. Paul Getty Museum
Copyright J. Paul Getty Trust

 

Alfred Stieglitz. 'Georgia O'Keeffe' 1920

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Georgia O’Keeffe
1920
Gelatin silver photograph
23.5 x 19.69 cm
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Alfred Stieglitz Collection. Gift of Georgia O’Keeffe

 

 

“Stieglitz is too easily bundled in amongst a rush to the reductions of modernism and cubism, the time he inhabits and the new technology he is stretching make that almost inevitable. On looking at the images here it feels like a mistake to label him that simply. We can see hints of the abstract, the grids of Mondrian or the blocks of Braque, but his work is as human and as smudged as a fingerprint. It is this sense of flaw and serendipity is what makes him so different to photographers like Man Ray for Stieglitz seems to embrace the beauty of imperfection. The memorable works here inhabit a world of infinite shining gradations between black and white, they are expansive and open rather than reductive and finished, in doing this Stieglitz’s greatest innovation might be to take a static form and make it so intensely moving.”

John Matthews on his Art Kritique blog Sunday 15 August 2010 [Online] Cietd 22/12/2019

 

Alfred Stieglitz. 'Self-portrait' 1907, printed 1930

 

Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Self-portrait
1907, printed 1930
Gelatin silver photograph
24.8 x 18.4 cm
J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery Road, The Domain, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia

Opening hours:
Open every day 10am – 5pm
except Christmas Day and Good Friday

Art Gallery of New South Wales website

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18
Mar
10

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

Exhibition dates: 6th February – 9th May 2010

 

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

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Grey Blue & Black – Pink Circle
1929
Oil on canvas
36 x 48 in. (91.4 x 121.9 cm)
Dallas Museum of Art
Gift of The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation

 

 

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

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

Marcus

 

 

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

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

.
Georgia O’Keeffe, 1976

 

 

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

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Flower Abstraction
1924
Oil on canvas
48 x 30 in.
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
50th Anniversary Gift of Sandra Payson
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

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

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Jack-in-the-Pulpit No. IV
1930
Oil on canvas
40 x 30 in.
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Alfred Stieglitz Collection, Bequest of Georgia O’Keeffe
Image courtesy of the Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington

 

 

Wall text from the exhibition

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

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

 

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

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Early Abstraction
1915
Charcoal on paper
24 x 18 5/8 in. (61 x 47.3 cm)
Milwaukee Art Museum
Gift of Jane Bradley Pettit Foundation and The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation
Photography by Malcolm Varon
© Milwaukee Art Museum

 

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

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Blue II
1916
Watercolour on paper
27 7/8 x 22 1/4 in. (70.8 x 56.5 cm)
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Gift, The Burnett Foundation
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

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

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Untitled (Abstraction/Portrait of Paul Strand)
1917
Watercolour on paper
12 x 8 7/8 in. (30.5 x 22.5 cm)
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Gift, The Burnett Foundation
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Music, Pink and Blue No. 2
1918
Oil on canvas, 35 x 29 1/8 in. (88.9 x 74 cm)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Gift of Emily Fisher Landau in honour of Tom Armstrong
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York
Photograph by Sheldan C. Collins

 

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

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Series I – No. 3
1918
Oil on board
20 x 16 in. (50.8 x 40.6 cm)
Milwaukee Art Museum
Gift of Jane Bradley Pettit Foundation and The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation
Photography by Larry Sanders
© Milwaukee Art Museum

 

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

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Series I, No. 4
1918
Oil on canvas
20 x 16 in. (50.8 x 40.6 cm)
Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich
Gift of The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation

 

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

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Abstraction White Rose
1927
Oil on canvas
36 x 30 in. (91.4 x 76.2 cm)
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Gift, The Burnett Foundation and The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation
© Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

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

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986)
Black Place II
1944
Oil on canvas
36 x 40 in. (91.4 x 101.6 cm)
Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Gift, The Burnett Foundation
© 1987, Private Collection

 

 

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

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

Phillips Collection website

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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: ‘Dogs, chickens, cattle’ 1994-95

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