Posts Tagged ‘National Portrait Gallery London

24
May
17

Exhibition: ‘Gillian Wearing and Claude Cahun: Behind the mask, another mask’ at the National Portrait Gallery, London

Exhibition dates: 9th March – 29th May 2017

 

This is the last posting for a while as my hand operation is tomorrow… so let’s make the most of the occasion!

 

“…the life of spirit is not the life that shrinks from death and keeps itself untouched by devastation, but rather the life that endures it and maintains itself in it. It wins its truth only when, in utter dismemberment, it finds itself. It is this power, not as something positive, which closes its eyes to the negative as when we say of something that it is nothing or is false, and then having done with it, turn away and pass on to something else; on the contrary, spirit is this power only by looking the negative in the face, and tarrying with it. This tarrying with the negative is the magical power that converts it into being.”

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George Wilhelm Frederich Hegel 1807 ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’, Preface (trans. A. V. Miller 1977), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 10

 

 

This is an interesting pairing for an exhibition but the connection between the artists is unconvincing. This is because Wearing and Cahun are talking to different aspects of the self.

Wearing’s self-portraits, her mask-querades, her shielded multiple personalities, talk to a “postmodern meditation on the slipperiness of the self” in which there is little evidence of the existence of any “real” person. Wearing wears her identities in a series of dress-ups, performances where only the eyes of the original protagonist are visible. These identities evidence Jung’s shadow aspect, “an unconscious aspect of the personality which the conscious ego does not identify in itself.” Rather than an assimilation of the shadow aspect into the self followed by an ascent (enantiodromia), Wearing’s images seem to be mired in a state of melancholia, a “confrontation with the shadow which produces at first a dead balance, a stand-still that hampers moral decisions and makes convictions ineffective…tenebrositas, chaos, melancholia.” This is not a confrontation that leads anywhere interesting, by looking the negative in the face and tarrying with it. These split personalities rise little above caricature, an imitation of a person in which certain striking characteristics are over emphasised, such as in Wearing’s portraits of her as Andy Warhol or Robert Mapplethorpe. To me, the photograph of Wearing as Mapplethorpe is a travesty of the pain that artist was feeling as he neared the end of his life, dying from HIV/AIDS.

Cahun’s self-portraits contain all the depth of feeling and emotion that Wearing’s can never contain. Here, identity and gender is played out through performance and masquerade in a constructive way, a deep, probing interrogation of the self in front of the camera. While Cahun engages with Surrealist ideas – wearing masks and costumes and changing her appearance, often challenging traditional notions of gender representation – she does so in a direct and powerful way. As Cumming observes, “She is not trying to become someone else, not trying to escape [as Wearing is]. Cahun is always and emphatically herself. Dressed as a man, she never appears masculine, nor like a woman in drag. Dressed as a woman, she never looks feminine. She is what we refer to as non-binary* these days, though Cahun called it something else: “Neuter is the only gender that always suits me.””

*Those with nonbinary genders can feel that they: Have an androgynous (both masculine and feminine) gender identity, such as androgyne. Have an identity between male and female, such as intergender. Have a neutral or unrecognized gender identity, such as agender, neutrois, or most xenogenders.*

Cahun had a gift for the indelible image but more than that, she possesses the propensity for humility and openness in these portraits, as though she is opening her soul for interrogation, even as she explores what it is to be Cahun, what it is to be human. This is a human being in full control of the balance between the ego and the self, of dream-state and reality. The photographs, little shown in Cahun’s lifetime, are her process of coming to terms with the external world, on the one hand, and with one’s own unique psychological characteristics on the other. They are her adaption** to the world.

**“The constant flow of life again and again demands fresh adaptation. Adaptation is never achieved once and for all.” (Carl Jung. “The Transcendent Function,” CW 8, par. 143.)**

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Claude Cahun is person I would have really liked to have met. Affiliated with the French Surrealist movement, living with her partner the artist and stage designer Marcel Moore, the two women left Paris for the Isles of Scilly and were then imprisoned in Nazi-occupied Jersey during the Second World War as a result of their roles in the French Resistance.

“Fervently against war, the two worked extensively in producing anti-German fliers. Many were snippets from English-to-German translations of BBC reports on the Nazis’ crimes and insolence, which were pasted together to create rhythmic poems and harsh criticism. The couple then dressed up and attended many German military events in Jersey, strategically placing them in soldier’s pockets, on their chairs, etc. Also, they inconspicuously crumpled up and threw their fliers into cars and windows. In many ways, Cahun and Malherbe’s [Marcel Moore] resistance efforts were not only political but artistic actions, using their creative talents to manipulate and undermine the authority which they despised. In many ways, Cahun’s life’s work was focused on undermining a certain authority, however her specific resistance fighting targeted a physically dangerous threat. In 1944 she was arrested and sentenced to death, but the sentence was never carried out. However, Cahun’s health never recovered from her treatment in jail, and she died in 1954.” (Wikipedia)

Undermining a certain authority … while ennobling her own identity and being. Love and respect.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the National Portrait Gallery, London for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. For more information please see the blog entry Claude Cahun: Freedom Fighter.

 

This exhibition brings together for the first time the work of French artist Claude Cahun and British contemporary artist Gillian Wearing. Although they were born almost seventy years apart and came from different backgrounds, remarkable parallels can be drawn between the two artists. Both of them share a fascination with the self-portrait and use the self-image, through the medium of photography, to explore themes around identity and gender, which is often played out through masquerade and performance.

 

 

“Under this mask, another mask. I will never finish removing all these faces.”

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Claude Cahun, 1930

 

 

Claude Cahun. 'Autoportrait' 1929

 

Claude Cahun
Self-portrait (reflected image in mirror with chequered jacket)
1927
Silver gelatin print

 

 Claude Cahun. 'Autoportrait' 1928

 

Claude Cahun
Autoportrait
1928
Gelatin silver print
13.9 x 9 cm
Jersey Heritage Collection
© Jersey Heritage

 

 

“Once seen, never forgotten: Cahun had a gift for the indelible image. Even when the signals are jammed, and the meaning deliberately baffled, her vision always holds strong. This is partly convenienced by the artist’s exceptional looks. Her long, thin face, with its shaved eyebrows, large eyes and linear nose, takes paint like a canvas. She converts herself into a harpy, a lunatic or a doll with equal ease. In one self-portrait, she even holds her own bare face like a mask…

Peering into these monochrome images, so delicate and small, the viewer might inevitably wonder which is the real Cahun: the woman in the aviator goggles, the pensive Buddhist, the young man in a white silk scarf? But this is not the right question. She is not trying to become someone else, not trying to escape. Cahun is always and emphatically herself.

Dressed as a man, she never appears masculine, nor like a woman in drag. Dressed as a woman, she never looks feminine. She is what we refer to as non-binary these days, though Cahun called it something else: “Neuter is the only gender that always suits me.” …

There is little evidence that she ever displayed these photographs, which were forgotten for decades after her death. It seems that her partner was generally behind the lens, but we know almost nothing about how they were made. Of her lifelong project, Cahun wrote: “Under this mask, another mask. I will never finish removing all these faces.”

Commentators have taken this to mean that she thought of herself as a series of multiple personalities, and the double exposures, shadows and reflections in her work all seem to undermine the idea of a singular self. Yet Cahun is formidably and unmistakably Cahun, her force of personality registering every time in that utterly penetrating look. Far from some postmodern meditation on the slipperiness of the self, her images are completely direct. They acknowledge the sufferings of a double life and are deepened by them every time; and yet they rejoice in that life too.”

Laura Cumming. “Gillian Wearing and Claude Cahun: Behind the Mask, Another Mask – review,” on The Observer website

 

 

Claude Cahun in collaboration with Marcel Moore. 'Aveux non avenus frontispiece' 1929-30

 

Claude Cahun in collaboration with Marcel Moore
Aveux non avenus frontispiece
1929-30
Photomontage
Silver gelatin print
Jersey Heritage Collections
© Jersey Heritage

 

 

“Cahun appears in enigmatic guises, playing out different personas using masks and mirrors, and featuring androgynous shaven or close-cropped hair – as can be seen in the multiple views of her in the lower left-hand side of this collage. The image also includes symbols made up by the women to represent themselves – the eye for Moore, the artist, and the mouth for Cahun, the writer and actor. Whereas the majority of Surrealists were men, in whose images women appear as eroticised objects, Cahun’s androgynous self-portraits explore female identity as constructed, multifaceted, and ultimately as having a nihilistic absence at the core.”

Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008

 

Claude Cahun. 'Self-portrait (as a dandy, head and shoulders)' 1921-22

 

Claude Cahun
Self-portrait (as a dandy, head and shoulders)
1921-22
Silver gelatin print
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Thomas Walther Collection
Digital image, The Museum of Modern Art, New York / Scala, Florence

 

Claude Cahun. 'Studies for a keepsake' c. 1925

 

Claude Cahun
Studies for a keepsake
c. 1925
Silver gelatin prints
Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris
© Musée d’Art moderne / Roger-Viollet

 

Claude Cahun. 'Study for a keepsake' c. 1925

 

Claude Cahun
Study for a keepsake
c. 1925
Silver gelatin print
Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris
© Musée d’Art moderne / Roger-Viollet

 

Claude Cahun. 'I am in training don't kiss me' c. 1927

 

Claude Cahun
I am in training don’t kiss me
c. 1927
Silver gelatin print
117mm x 89mm (whole)
Jersey Heritage Collections
© Jersey Heritage

 

Totor (progenitor of Tintin) and Popol are two comic characters by the Belgian cartoonist Hergé. Castor and Pollux are the twin stars; Pollux and Helen were the children of Zeus and Leda, while Castor and Clytemnestra were the children of Leda and Tyndareus.

 

Claude Cahun. 'Self-portrait (kneeling, naked, with mask)' c. 1928

 

Claude Cahun
Self-portrait (kneeling, naked, with mask)
c. 1928
Silver gelatin print
116mm x  83mm
Jersey Heritage Collections
© Jersey Heritage

 

Claude Cahun. 'Self-portrait (full length masked figure in cloak with masks)' 1928

 

Claude Cahun
Self-portrait (full length masked figure in cloak with masks)
1928
Silver gelatin print
109mm x 82mm
Jersey Heritage Collections
© Jersey Heritage

 

Claude Cahun. 'Self-portrait' 1929

 

Claude Cahun
Self-portrait
1929
Silver gelatin print

 

Claude Cahun. 'Je tends les bras (I extend my arms)' c. 1932

 

Claude Cahun
Je tends les bras (I extend my arms)
c. 1932
Silver gelatin print
Jersey Heritage Collections
© Jersey Heritage

 

Claude Cahun. 'Self-portrait (in cupboard)' c. 1932

 

Claude Cahun
Self-portrait (in cupboard)
c. 1932
Silver gelatin print
Jersey Heritage Collections
© Jersey Heritage

 

 

Gillian Wearing and Claude Cahun: Behind the mask, another mask (9 March – 29 May 2017) draws together over 100 works by French artist Claude Cahun (1894-1954) and British contemporary artist Gillian Wearing (b.1963). While they were born 70 years apart, they share similar themes of gender, identity, masquerade and performance.

Cahun, along with her contemporaries André Breton and Man Ray, was affiliated with the French Surrealist movement although her work was rarely exhibited during her lifetime. Together with her partner, the artist and stage designer Marcel Moore, the two women left Paris and were then imprisoned in Nazi-occupied Jersey during the Second World War as a result of their roles in the French Resistance. In her photographs she is depicted wearing masks and costumes and engaging with Surrealist ideas. She also changes her appearance by shaving her hair and wearing wigs, often challenging traditional notions of gender representation.

Gillian Wearing studied at Goldsmiths University, winning the Turner Prize in 1997. She has exhibited extensively in the United Kingdom and internationally, including solo exhibitions at the Whitechapel Gallery and Serpentine Gallery, whilst overseas, recent retrospectives include IVAM Valencia and K20 Dusseldorf. Wearing’s photographic self-portraits incorporate painstaking recreations of her as others in an intriguing and sometimes unsettling range of guises such as where she becomes her immediate family members using prosthetic masks.

Despite their different backgrounds, obvious and remarkable parallels can be drawn between the artists whose fascination with identity and gender is played out through performance and masquerade. Wearing has referenced Cahun overtly in the past: Me as Cahun holding a mask of my face is a reconstruction of Cahun’s self-portrait Don’t kiss me I’m in training of 1927, and forms the starting point of this exhibition, the title of which (Behind the mask, another mask) adapts a quotation from Claude Cahun’s Surrealist writings.

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery, London, says: ‘This inspired, timely and poignant exhibition pairs the works of Gillian Wearing and Claude Cahun. These pioneering artists, although separated by several decades, address similarly compelling themes around gender, identity, masquerade, performance and the idea of the self, issues that are ever more relevant to the present day.’

Sarah Howgate, Curator, Gillian Wearing and Claude Cahun: Behind the mask, another mask, says: ‘It seems particularly fitting that at the National Portrait Gallery on International Women’s Day we are bringing together for the first time Claude Cahun’s intriguing and complex explorations of identity with the equally challenging and provocative self-images of Gillian Wearing.’

Gillian Wearing and Claude Cahun: Behind the mask, another mask is curated by Sarah Howgate, Senior Curator of Contemporary Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, London.

 

Claude Cahun. 'Self-portrait as a young girl' 1914

 

Claude Cahun
Self-portrait as a young girl
1914
Silver gelatin print
Jersey Heritage Collections
© Jersey Heritage

 

Claude Cahun. 'Self-portrait as a young girl' 1914

 

Claude Cahun
Self-portrait as a young girl
1914
Silver gelatin print
Jersey Heritage Collections
© Jersey Heritage

 

Claude Cahun. 'Self-portrait (shaved head, material draped across body)' 1920

 

Claude Cahun
Self-portrait (shaved head, material draped across body)
1920
Silver gelatin print
115mm x 89mm

 

Claude Cahun. 'Autoportrait' 1927

 

Claude Cahun
Autoportrait
1927
Silver gelatin print

 

Claude Cahun. 'Self-Portrait' 1927

 

Claude Cahun
Self-Portrait
1927
Silver gelatin print

 

Claude Cahun. 'Que me veux tu?' 1929

 

Claude Cahun
Que me veux tu? (What do you want from me?)
1929
Gelatin silver print
18 x 23 cm (7 1/16 x 9 1/16 ins)
Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris

 

Claude Cahun. 'Self-portrait' 1929

 

Claude Cahun
Self-portrait
1929
Gelatin silver print

 

Claude Cahun. 'Autoportrait' 1939

 

Claude Cahun
Autoportrait
1939
Gelatin silver print
10 x 8 cm
Jersey Heritage Collection
© Jersey Heritage

 

Claude Cahun. 'Self-portrait (with Nazi badge between her teeth)' 1945

 

Claude Cahun
Self-portrait (with Nazi badge between her teeth)
1945
Photograph – Courtesy of the artist

 

 

Ten things you need to know about this extraordinary artist

1. Her real name was Lucy Schwob.
She was born 25 October 1894 in Nantes, daughter of newspaper owner Maurice Schwob and Victorine Marie Courbebaisse; her uncle was the Symbolist writer Marcel Schwob. Subjected to anti-Semitic acts following the Dreyfus Affair, she was removed to a boarding school in Surrey, where she studied for two years.

2. Cahun’s lover was also her stepsister.
In 1909, she met her lifelong partner and collaborator Suzanne Malherbe while studying in Nantes, in what she described as a ‘thunderbolt encounter’. Eight years later, Cahun’s father married Suzanne’s widowed mother.

3. The couple adopted gender-neutral names.
Schwob first used the name Claude Cahun in the semi-biographical text ‘Les Jeux uraniens’, Cahun being a surname from her father’s side. Malherbe changed her name to Marcel Moore and the pair moved to Paris in 1914, where they began their artistic collaborations and Cahun studied literature and philosophy at the Sorbonne.

4. Cahun was one of the few female Surrealists.
In 1932 she was introduced to André Breton, who called her ‘one of the most curious spirits of our time’. Four years later, Cahun participated in the Surrealist exhibition at the Galerie Charles Ratton, Paris, and visited the International Surrealist Exhibition at the New Burlington Galleries, London. Whereas in the works of male Surrealists women often appear as eroticised objects, Cahun’s self-portraits explore female identity as constructed and multifaceted.

5. She was first and foremost a writer.
Now best known for her striking self-portraits, Cahun saw herself primarily as a writer. In 1930 she published Aveux non avenus (translated into English as Disavowals or Cancelled Confessions), an ‘anti-memoir’ including ten photomontages created in collaboration with Moore.

6. In 1937 the couple swapped Paris for Jersey.
Cahun and Moore moved to La Rocquaise, a house in St Brelade’s Bay, Jersey, where they led a secluded life. The couple reverted to their given names, Lucy Schwob and Suzanne Malherbe, and were known by the islanders as ‘les mesdames’.

7. They were actively involved in the resistance against Nazi Occupation.
When the Germans invaded Jersey in 1940 they decided to stay and produced counter-propaganda tracts. In July 1944 they were found out, arrested, stood trial, and were, briefly, sentenced to death (though these sentences were commuted). The couple were imprisoned in separate cells for almost a year before Liberation in May 1945.

8. In 1951 Cahun received the Medal of French Gratitude for her acts of resistance during the Second World War. Suffering increasingly from ill health, she died in 1954 at the age of sixty. Moore died eighteen years later, in 1972.

9. She remained forgotten for half a century
Following her move to Jersey, Cahun slipped from critical attention. After the death of Marcel Moore, much of Cahun’s work was put up for auction and acquired by collector John Wakeham, who then sold it to the Jersey Heritage Trust in 1995. The publication in 1992 of the definitive biography by Francois Leperlier, Claude Cahun: l’ecart et la metamorphose, and subsequent exhibition, Claude Cahun: Photographe, at the Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in 1995 encouraged a growing interest in the artist’s work. It was during this time that Gillian Wearing discovered Claude Cahun.

10. She was an artist ahead of her time
Wearing speaks of a ‘camaraderie’ between her and Cahun but she is not the only contemporary artist to have been influenced by her work. Cahun has a dedicated following among artists and art historians working from postmodern, feminist and queer theoretical perspectives; the American art critic Hal Foster described Cahun as ‘a Cindy Sherman avant la lettre’.

 

Gillian Wearing. 'Self-portrait as my brother Richard Wearing' 2003

 

Gillian Wearing
Self-portrait as my brother Richard Wearing
2003
Heather Podesta Collection
© Gillian Wearing, courtesy Maureen Paley, London; Regen Projects, Los Angeles; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York

 

Gillian Wearing. 'Me as Mapplethorpe' 2009

 

Gillian Wearing
Me as Mapplethorpe
2009
© Gillian Wearing, courtesy Maureen Paley, London, Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York

 

Gillian Wearing. 'Me as Warhol in Drag with Scar' 2010

 

Gillian Wearing
Me as Warhol in Drag with Scar
2010
© Gillian Wearing, courtesy Maureen Paley, London, Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York

 

Gillian Wearing. 'Me as Diane Arbus' 2008-2010

 

Gillian Wearing
Me as Diane Arbus
2008-2010
© Gillian Wearing, courtesy Maureen Paley, London, Regen Projects, Los Angeles and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York

 

Gillian Wearing. 'Me as Cahun holding a mask of my face' 2012

 

Gillian Wearing
Me as Cahun holding a mask of my face
2012
© Gillian Wearing, courtesy Maureen Paley, London; Regen Projects, Los Angeles; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York

 

Gillian Wearing. 'Self-portrait of me now in a mask' 2011

 

Gillian Wearing
Self-portrait of me now in a mask
2011
Collection of Mario Testino
© Gillian Wearing, courtesy Maureen Paley, London; Regen Projects, Los Angeles; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York

 

Gillian Wearing. 'Me as mask' 2013

 

Gillian Wearing
Me as mask
2013
Private collection, courtesy Cecilia Dan Fine Art
© Gillian Wearing, courtesy Maureen Paley, London; Regen Projects, Los Angeles; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York

 

Gillian Wearing. 'At Claude Cahun's grave' 2015

 

Gillian Wearing
At Claude Cahun’s grave
2015
© Gillian Wearing, courtesy Maureen Paley, London

 

 

National Portrait Gallery
St Martin’s Place
London, WC2H 0HE

Opening hours:
Monday – Wednesday, Saturday – Sunday 10am – 6pm
Thursday – Friday 10am – 9pm

National Portrait Gallery website

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07
Oct
16

Exhibition: ‘William Eggleston Portraits’ at the National Portrait Gallery, London

Exhibition dates: 21st July to 23rd October 2016

Curator: Phillip Prodger, Head of Photographs at the National Portrait Gallery

 

 

Just look. Really look. And then think about that looking.

Minute, democratic observations produce images which nestle, and take hold, and grow in the imagination.

No words are necessary. This is a looking that comes from the soul.

“A lot of these pictures I take are of very ordinary, unremarkable things. Can one learn to see? I don’t know. I think probably one is born with the ability to compose an image, in the way one is born with the ability to compose music. It is vastly more important to think about the looking, though, rather than to try to talk about a picture and what it means. The graphic image and words, well, they are two very different animals.” ~ William Eggleston

Marcus

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

 

William Eggleston is a pioneering American photographer renowned for his vivid, poetic and mysterious images. This exhibition of 100 works surveys Eggleston’s full career from the 1960s to the present day and is the most comprehensive display of his portrait photography ever. Eggleston is celebrated for his experimental use of colour and his solo show at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1976 is considered a pivotal moment in the recognition of colour photography as a contemporary art form. Highlights of the exhibition will include monumental prints of two legendary photographs first seen forty years ago: the artist’s uncle Adyn Schuyler Senior with his assistant Jasper Staples in Cassidy Bayou, Mississippi, and Devoe Money in Jackson, Mississippi.

Also on display will be a selection of never-before seen vintage black and white prints from the 1960s. Featuring people in diners, petrol stations and markets in and around the artist’s home in Memphis, Tennessee, they help illustrate Eggleston’s unique view of the world. (Text from the NPG website)

 

 

“Eggleston is someone who has always tried to maintain emotional detachment in his work, photographing landscapes and inanimate objects with the same attention he would apply to people. He does not believe a photograph is a ‘window on the soul’ as we so often have it, nor does he think a viewer can ever truly understand a photographer’s thoughts and feelings from the pictures they make. Instead, he photographs ‘democratically’, which is to say, he gives even the smallest observations equal weight. His usual method is to capture people going about their business unawares, often performing ordinary tasks like eating in a restaurant or pumping petrol at a filling station. He photographs everyone the same, whether they are a celebrity, a member of his family, or a stranger.”

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Curator Phillip Prodger

 

 

William Eggleston. 'Untitled' (the artist's uncle, Adyn Schuyler Senior, with assistant Jasper Staples, in Cassidy Bayou, Sumner, Mississippi) 1969-70

 

William Eggleston
Untitled, 1969-70 (the artist’s uncle, Adyn Schuyler Senior, with assistant Jasper Staples, in Cassidy Bayou, Sumner, Mississippi)
1969-70
Dye transfer print
© Eggleston Artistic Trust

 

 

For Eggleston this photo is highly personal. Jasper Staples, the figure on the right, had been around him for his whole life as his family’s “house man”. Here he is next to his employer, Eggleston’s uncle, at a funeral. His exact mimicking of his boss’s posture and their shared focus on an event happening off-camera gives them a moment of unity. Yet the composition of the shot, with their balance and the open car door suggesting some ongoing action, is highly theatrical and might even put us in mind of a TV detective show. (Text by Fred Maynard)

 

William Eggleston. 'Untitled, 1974' (Karen Chatham, left, with the artist's cousin Lesa Aldridge, in Memphis, Tennessee)

 

William Eggleston
Untitled, 1974 (Karen Chatham, left, with the artist’s cousin Lesa Aldridge, in Memphis, Tennessee)
1974
Dye transfer print
Wilson Centre for Photography
© Eggleston Artistic Trust;

 

William Eggleston. 'Untitled, 1974' (Biloxi, Mississippi)

 

William Eggleston
Untitled, 1974 (Biloxi, Mississippi)
1974
Dye transfer print
Wilson Centre for Photography
© Eggleston Artistic Trust

 

William Eggleston. 'Untitled, 1970-74' (Dennis Hopper)

 

William Eggleston
Untitled, 1970-74 (Dennis Hopper)
1970-74
Dye transfer print
© Eggleston Artistic Trust

 

William Eggleston. 'Untitled' 1970-1973

 

William Eggleston
Untitled
1970-1973
Dye transfer print
© Eggleston Artistic Trust

 

William Eggleston. 'Untitled, c. 1975' (Marcia Hare in Memphis Tennessee) c. 1975

 

William Eggleston
Untitled, c. 1975 (Marcia Hare in Memphis Tennessee)
c. 1975
Dye transfer print
© Eggleston Artistic Trust

 

 

One of Eggleston’s most famous images, this pictures shows why he is known as the man who brought colour photography into the artistic mainstream. The subject, Marcia Hare, floats on a cloud-like bed of soft-focus grass, the red buttons on her dress popping out like confectionary on a cake. The dye-transfer technique which Eggleston borrowed from commercial advertising and turned into his trademark gives such richness to the colour that we are brought out of the Seventies and into the realm of Pre-Raphaelite painting. The ghost of Millais’s “Ophelia” sits just out of reach, a connection which the inscrutable artist is happy, as ever, to neither confirm nor deny. (Text by Fred Maynard)

 

William Eggleston. 'Untitled, c. 1970' (Devoe Money in Jackson, Mississippi)

 

William Eggleston
Untitled, c. 1970 (Devoe Money in Jackson, Mississippi)
c. 1970
Dye transfer print
© Eggleston Artistic Trust

 

 

“This is Devoe, a distant relative of mine (although I can’t remember exactly how), but also a friend. She is dead now, but we were very close. She was a very sweet and charming lady. I took this picture in the yard at the side of her house. I would often visit her there in Jackson. I remember I found the colour of her dress and the chair very exciting, and everything worked out instantly. I think this is the only picture I ever took of her, but I would say it sums her up. I didn’t pose her at all – I never do, usually because it all happens so quickly, but I don’t think I would have moved her in any way. I’m still very pleased with the photograph.” ~ William Eggleston

 

William Eggleston. 'Untitled, c. 1965-9'

 

William Eggleston
Untitled, c. 1965-9
Dye transfer print
© Eggleston Artistic Trust

 

 

“These two are strangers. I happened to be walking past and there it was, the picture. As usual I took it very rapidly and we didn’t speak. I think I was fortunate to catch that expression on the woman’s face. A lot of these pictures I take are of very ordinary, unremarkable things. Can one learn to see? I don’t know. I think probably one is born with the ability to compose an image, in the way one is born with the ability to compose music. It is vastly more important to think about the looking, though, rather than to try to talk about a picture and what it means. The graphic image and words, well, they are two very different animals.” ~ William Eggleston

 

William Eggleston. 'Untitled, 1970' (Self-portrait)

 

William Eggleston
Untitled, 1970 (Self-portrait)
Dye transfer print
© Eggleston Artistic Trust

 

 

William Eggleston
Stranded in Canton
Video

In 1973, photographer William Eggleston picked up a Sony PortaPak and took to documenting the soul of Memphis and New Orleans.

 

 

“A previously unseen image of The Clash frontman Joe Strummer and a never-before exhibited portrait of the actor and photographer Dennis Hopper will be displayed for the first time in the National Portrait Gallery this summer.  They will be included in the first museum exhibition devoted to the portraits of pioneering American photographer, William Eggleston it was announced today, Thursday 10 March 2016.

William Eggleston Portraits (21 July to 23 October) will bring together over 100 works by the American photographer, renowned for his vivid, poetic and mysterious images of people in diners, petrol stations, phone booths and supermarkets. Widely credited with increasing recognition for colour photography, following his own experimental use of dye-transfer technique, Eggleston will be celebrated by a retrospective of his full career, including a selection of never-before seen vintage black and white photographs from the 1960s taken in and around the artist’s home in Memphis, Tennessee.

The first major exhibition of Eggleston’s photographs in London since 2002 and the most comprehensive of his portraits, William Eggleston Portraits will feature family, friends, musicians and actors including rarely seen images of Eggleston’s own close relations. It will provide a unique window on the artist’s home life, allowing visitors to see how public and private portraiture came together in Eggleston’s work. It will also reveal, for the first time, the identities of many sitters who have until now remained anonymous. Other highlights include monumental, five foot wide prints of the legendary photographs of the artist’s uncle, Adyn Schuyler Senior, with his assistant Jasper Staples in Cassidy Bayou, Mississippi and Devoe Money in Jackson, Mississippi from the landmark book Eggleston’s Guide (1976).

Since first picking up a camera in 1957, Eggleston’s images have captured the ordinary world around him and his work is said to find ‘beauty in the everyday’. His portrayal of the people he encountered in towns across the American South, and in Memphis in particular, is shown in the context of semi-public spaces. Between 1960 and 1965, Eggleston worked exclusively in black and white and people were Eggleston’s primary subject, caught unawares while going about ordinary tasks. In the 1970s, Eggleston increasingly frequented the Memphis night club scene, developing friendships and getting to know musicians and artists. His fascination with club culture resulted in the experimental video ‘Stranded in Canton’, a selection of which will also be on view at the exhibition. ‘Stranded in Canton’ chronicles visits to bars in Memphis, Mississippi and New Orleans.

Eggleston’s 1976 show at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, is considered a pivotal moment in the recognition of colour photography as a contemporary art form. His work has inspired many present day photographers, artists and filmmakers, including Martin Parr, Sofia Coppola, David Lynch and Juergen Teller.

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London, says: William Eggleston makes memorable photographic portraits of individuals – including friends and family, musicians and artists – that are utterly unique and highly influential. More than this, Eggleston has an uncanny ability to find something extraordinary in the seemingly everyday. Combining well-known works with others previously unseen, this exhibition looks at one of photography’s most compelling practitioners from a new perspective.”

Curator Phillip Prodger, Head of Photographs at the National Portrait Gallery says, “Few photographers alive today have had such a profound influence on the way photographs are made and seen as William Eggleston. His pictures are as fresh and exciting as they were when they first grabbed the public’s attention in the 1970s. There is nothing quite like the colour in an Eggleston photograph – radiant in their beauty, that get deep under the skin and linger in the imagination.”

Press release from the National Portrait Gallery, London

 

William Eggleston. 'Untitled, 1965' (Memphis Tennessee)

 

William Eggleston
Untitled, 1965 (Memphis Tennessee)
Nd
Dye transfer print
Wilson Centre for Photography
© Eggleston Artistic Trust

 

 

According to Eggleston talking on this video, this was his first successful colour negative.

The photo that made Eggleston’s name, this image of a grocery-store boy lining up shopping carts is a prime example of his ability to capture the humdrum reality of life in mid-century America. Yet it is also something more: the delicacy of his motion, the tension in his posture, the concentration on his brow evoke a master craftsman at work. Despite Eggleston’s presence, he seems entirely unselfconscious: caught in perfect profile and sun-dappled like a prime specimen of American youth. Eggleston, hovering between documentarian and sentimentalist, creates a semi-ironic paean to America. (Text by Fred Maynard)

 

William Eggleston. 'Untitled' (Memphis) c. 1969-71

 

William Eggleston
Untitled (Memphis)
c. 1969-71
Dye transfer print
© Eggleston Artistic Trust

 

 

“I took this picture in front of the music school of the university in Memphis. She was waiting on an automobile to come pick her up. I remember she was studying the sheaves of music on her lap. Not one word was exchanged – I was gone before she had the chance to say anything to me and it happened so fast that she wasn’t even sure I had taken a picture. I didn’t make a point of carrying a camera, but I usually had one with me.” ~ William Eggleston

 

William Eggleston. 'Untitled, c. 1980' (Joe Strummer)

 

William Eggleston
Untitled, c. 1980 (Joe Strummer)
c. 1980
Dye transfer print
© Eggleston Artistic Trust

 

William Eggleston. 'Untitled' 1973-4

 

William Eggleston
Untitled, 1973-74
1973-4
Dye transfer print
© Eggleston Artistic Trust

 

 

The closest Eggleston came to taking traditional portraits was in a series he shot in bars in his native Memphis and the Mississippi Delta in 1973-4. The sitters in his Nightclub Portraits – anonymous figures plucked, slightly flushed, from their nights out – are not posing but instead are photographed mid-conversation, Eggleston capturing them at their most unguarded. What is remarkable about this example is the strange composure of the subject, the slightly ethereal sheen as the flash from the camera is reflected by her make-up. Eggleston’s precise focus picks out the individual threads of her cardigan. Something hyper-real and statuesque emerges from an ordinary night out. (Text by Fred Maynard)

 

William Eggleston. 'Untitled, 1973-74'

 

William Eggleston
Untitled, 1973-74
1973-74
Dye transfer print
© Eggleston Artistic Trust

 

Another one of the sitters in his Nightclub Portraits

 

William Eggleston. 'Untitled, 1973-74' (Dane Layton)

 

William Eggleston
Untitled, 1973-74 (Dane Layton)
1973
Dye transfer print
© Eggleston Artistic Trust

 

William Eggleston. 'Untitled' 1970-1973

 

William Eggleston
Untitled
1970-1973
Dye transfer print
© Eggleston Artistic Trust

 

 

“I don’t know who this woman is, I simply saw her on the street. I never know what I am looking for until I see it. The images just seem to happen, wherever I happen to be. Was I attracted by the movement? I think I was attracted to the bright orange of her dress. She wasn’t raising her hand as a result of anything I did, but I think I must have been aware of the repeat made by her shadow in the frame – subconsciously at least – it needed to be in the picture.” ~ William Eggleston

 

William Eggleston. 'Untitled' 1971-1974

 

William Eggleston
Untitled
1971-1974
Dye transfer print
© Eggleston Artistic Trust

 

 

“Refusing to be pinned down to any viewpoint or agenda, Eggleston’s greatest strength is his almost enraging ambiguity. He is neither a sentimentalist nor a documentarian, neither subjective nor objective: he somehow captures that ephemeral moment we experience when we’re not quite sure why a memory sticks with us, why an otherwise mundane glance from a stranger seems to take on a greater significance.

His refusal to think of himself as a portraitist is what gives this exhibition such wry power. Here is a photographer who makes no distinctions, viewing every subject from cousins to coke cans with the same inscrutable gaze. When approached about the idea of a portrait show, the NPG’s Philip Prodger recalls, Eggleston expressed surprise because he didn’t “do” portraits. Prodger reframed the exhibition as a series of photos that just happened to have people in them. “That makes sense”, Eggleston deadpanned.

The unvarnished Americana for which he is so famous – brash logos and a hint of rust – can contain something uneasy, even threatening, precisely because Eggleston maintains a blithe poker-face about his feelings on his subjects. Walking through this exhibition is to meet more placards marked “Untitled” than you can handle. The names of previously anonymous sitters, revealed specially for this exhibition, are hardly likely to make things much more concrete for the viewer. Rather we are let in on an extraordinary experience, moving between the mysterious faces of a transitional moment in American history, not quite sure whether some greater revelation is bubbling under the surface.”

Extract from Fred Maynard. “William Eggleston, the reluctant portraitist,” on the 1843 website July 26, 2016 [Online] Cited 30/09/2016

 

William Eggleston. 'Untitled, 1960s'

 

William Eggleston
Untitled, 1960s
1960s
Silver gelatin print
© Eggleston Artistic Trust

 

William Eggleston. 'Untitled, 1960s'

 

William Eggleston
Untitled, 1960s
1960s
Silver gelatin print
© Eggleston Artistic Trust

 

 

National Portrait Gallery
St Martin’s Place
London, WC2H 0HE

Opening hours:
Monday – Wednesday, Saturday – Sunday 10am – 6pm
Thursday – Friday 10am – 9pm

National Portrait Gallery website

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15
Oct
10

Exhibition: ‘Camille Silvy, Photographer of Modern Life, 1834-1910’ at the National Portrait Gallery, London

Exhibition dates: 15th July – 24th October 2010

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

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Camille Silvy
‘James Pinson Labulo Davies and Sarah Forbes Bonetta (Sarah Davies)’
1862
Copyright: National Portrait Gallery, London

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Camille Silvy
‘Silvy in his Studio with his Family’
1866
Copyright: Private Collection, Paris

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Camille Silvy
Proof sheet of Madame Silvy’
c.1865
Copyright: Private Collection, Paris

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“This is the first retrospective exhibition devoted to Camille Silvy, pioneer of street photography, early image manipulation and photographic mass production. The exhibition includes photographs not seen for over 150 years.

The first retrospective exhibition of work by Camille Silvy, one of the greatest French photographers of the nineteenth century, will open at the National Portrait Gallery this summer. Marking the centenary of Silvy’s death, Camille Silvy, Photographer of Modern Life, 1834 – 1910, includes over a hundred objects, many of which have not been exhibited since 1860. The portraits on display offer a unique glimpse into nineteenth-century Paris and Victorian London through the eyes of one of photography’s greatest innovators.

Focusing on Silvy’s ten-year creative burst from 1857-67 when he was working in Algiers, rural France, Paris and London, the exhibition will show how Silvy pioneered many branches of the photographic medium including theatre, fashion, military and street photography. Working under the patronage of Queen Victoria, Silvy photographed royalty, statesmen, aristocrats, celebrities, the professional classes, businessmen and the households of the country gentry. Silvy’s London studio was a model factory producing portraits in the new carte de visite format – small, economically priced, and collectable. Silvy played an important role in the popularity of the carte de visite format in London and these portraits show how the modern and fashionably dressed looked. Silvy’s Bayswater studio, with a staff of forty, produced over 17,000 portraits.

Works on display will include River Scene, France (1858), considered Silvy’s masterpiece, alongside his London series on twilight, sunlight and fog. Anticipating our own era of digital manipulation, Silvy created photographic illusions in these works by using darkroom tricks. Mark Haworth-Booth, the curator of this exhibition, claims that Camille Silvy came closest in photography to embodying the vision of ‘the painter of modern life’ sketched out by Charles Baudelaire in a famous essay.

The exhibition draws on works from public and private collections including that belonging to Silvy’s descendants, seen for the first time, along with a cache of letters in which Silvy describes to his parents how he set up and ran his London studio. A selection of Daybooks, providing a unique record of the day to day workings of Silvy’s studio will also be on display. The Daybooks were bought by the National Portrait Gallery in 1904 and are among the rarely seen treasures of the Gallery’s photography collection. Albums, documents, a dress worn by Silvy’s wife for a portrait session in 1865 and other items which build up a picture of Silvy’s working practice will also be included in the exhibition. The exhibition will illustrate the transformation of photographic art into industry, the beginnings of the democratisation of portraiture and the life of this photographic genius who fell into obscurity.

Born 1834 in Nogent-le-Rotrou, France, Silvy graduated in arts and law and took up a diplomatic post in the French foreign office in 1853 and was first sent to London the following year. In 1857, he joined a six month mission to Algeria to draw buildings and scenes but he soon realised the inadequacy of his talents and turned to photography. Returning to London, he exhibited River Scene, France to immense success in the 3rd annual exhibition of the Photographic Society in Edinburgh and at the first ever Salon of photography as a fine art in Paris. In 1859 he took over the photographic studio of Caldesi and Montecchi at 38 Porchester Terrace in Bayswater, London. After ten years of creative productivity, in 1869, at the age of thirty-five, Silvy retired from photography. He went on to fight with distinction in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 before being diagnosed with folie raisonnante (manic-depression) in 1875. Camille Silvy spent the remaining thirty-one years of his life in psychiatric asylums before dying from bronchopneumonia in the Hôpital de St Maurice, France in 1910.”

Press release from the National Portrait Gallery website

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Camille Silvy
‘Adelina Patti as Harriet in Martha’
1861
Copyright: Private Collection

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Camille Silvy
‘Studies on Light: Twilight’
1859
Copyright: Private Collection, Paris

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Camille Silvy
‘Self-portrait’
1863
Copyright: Private Collection, Paris

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National Portrait Gallery
St Martin’s Place
London WC2H 0HE

Opening hours:
Open daily 10:00-18:00
Open until 21:00
Thursday and Friday

National Portrait Gallery website

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Études’ 1994

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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