Posts Tagged ‘Georgia O’Keefe


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)
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.

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.

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!

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

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)
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]
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
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]
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
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
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
Gelatin silver print


Diane Arbus. 'Untitled (6)' 1971


Diane Arbus (American, 1923-1971)
Untitled (6)
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

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

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

Curator: Tom Hinson, Curator of Photography


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

Dr Marcus Bunyan



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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Imogene Cunningham. 'Black and White Lilies III' 1928


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


Alfred Steiglitz. 'Georgia O'Keefe' 1933


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


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


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


Laszlo Moholy Nagy. 'Untitled' 1939


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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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



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

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


Carleton Watkins. 'Bridal Veil, Yosemite' 1866


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


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


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


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


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



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

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

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

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


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


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



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

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

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Exhibition: ‘Yayoi Kusama: Mirrored Rooms’ at Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), Sydney

Exhibition dates: 24th February – 8th June 2009




“Discover the work of internationally acclaimed Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama with this major exhibition that spans decades of her artistic practice.

Yayoi Kusama: Mirrored Years demonstrates the enduring force of Yayoi Kusama. Renowned early installations such as Infinity Mirror Room – Phalli’s Field (1965) along with recent immersive environments including Fireflies on the Water (2000) and Clouds (2008) provide insight into the creative energy of this extraordinary artist and her lifelong preoccupation with the perceptual, visual and physical worlds.

Working across different media and forms that include painting, collage, sculpture, installation and film, as well as performance and its documentation, Kusama creates works that reveal a fixation with repetition, pattern and accumulation. Describing herself as an “obsessive artist”, her work is intensely sensual, infused with autobiographical, psychological and sexual content.”

Text from the MCA website [Online] Cited 12/03/2009 (no longer available online)

Many thanks to Ed Jansen for the use of his installation photographs of this exhibition at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam in 2008. See the whole set of his photographs on Flickr. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.


Yayoi Kusama. 'Infinity Mirror Room - Phalli's Field' 1965


Yayoi Kusama
Infinity Mirror Room – Phalli’s Field


Yayoi Kusama. 'Infinity Mirror Room - Phalli's Field' 1965

Yayoi Kusama. 'Infinity Mirror Room - Phalli's Field' 1965


Yayoi Kusama
Infinity Mirror Room – Phalli’s Field
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 2008



Rewind 1960

Visual hallucinations of polka dots since childhood have inspired the most significant works of this avant-gardist, who says creating art “saved” her during her lifelong battle with mental illness.

Interview by Natalie Reilly

This photograph [see above, top, for the image of her in 1965] shows a creative work that I made in New York in 1960. I was 31 years old at the time and my inspiration was the inundation and proliferation of polka dots. The work represents the evolution of my original formative process. Of all the pieces I have made, I like this one the best. It was my intention to create an interminable image by using mirrors and multiplying red polka dots.

I was born in Nagano Prefecture , a mountainous region in Japan. The youngest of four children, I have one sister and two brothers.

Since childhood, I have loved to paint pictures and create art forms. [Kusama has suffered from obsessive thinking and visual hallucinations since early childhood. the hallucinations – often of polka dots, or “nets” as she calls them – have become the inspiration for much of her work.] I did many artworks in great numbers in my younger days.

I went to Seattle in 1957 where I had my first solo exhibition in the US. I moved  to New York in 1958. Japan in those days was too conservative for avant-garde art to be accepted. [By 1961, Kusama was an active participant in the avant-garde movement in New York. Her art, which often included performance and controversial themes such as nudity and protests against the Vietnam War, drew acclaim for art critics and other artists such as Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg.]

I was deeply moved by the efforts the artists in New York were making then to develop a new history for art. I owe what I am today to many people in the art circles in Japan, the US and Europe who enthusiastically supported my art and gave me a boost into the international art scene.

Artists Georgia O’Keefe and Joseph Cornell were among the many friends who helped me, including Donald Judd and [writer and activist] Lucy Lippard who appreciated the originality of my art.  [In 1962 at the height of her success in New York, Kusama’s mental health began to suffer as she grew more paranoid about other artists copying her work. Late that year, she covered up all the windows in her studio in an attempt to “shut out the world”, and by November she was hospitalised after suffering a nervous breakdown.]

I came back to Japan in 1973, because my health had deteriorated. I wanted to create art in a quiet atmosphere. I once said, “if it were not for art, I would have killed myself a long time ago” an that’s still true. I do art in order to pursue my philosophy of life seeking truth in art.

Reilly, Natalie. “Rewind 1960,” in Boleyn, Alison (ed.,). Sunday Life: The Sunday Age Magazine. Melbourne: Fairfax Magazines. February 15th 2009, p. 30.


Yayoi Kusama. 'Clouds' 1999 and 'Love Forever' 2005


Yayoi Kusama
Clouds 1999 and Love Forever 2005
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 2008


Yayoi Kusama. 'Fireflies on the Water' 2000

Yayoi Kusama. 'Fireflies on the Water' 2000


Yayoi Kusama
Fireflies on the Water


Yayoi Kusuama. 'The Moment of Regeneration' 2004


Yayoi Kusama
The Moment of Regeneration


Yayoi Kusama. 'Narcissus Garden' 1966


Yayoi Kusama
Narcissus Garden (at the Venice Biennale, Italy)


Yayoi Kusama. 'Invisible Life' 2000


Yayoi Kusama
Invisible Life



Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA)
140 George Street
The Rocks, Sydney, Australia

Opening hours: 11 – 5pm daily

Yayoi Kusama website

Museum of Contemporary Art 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.

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

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