Posts Tagged ‘The Infant Photography Giving the Painter an Additional Brush

07
Jun
19

Exhibition: ‘Oscar Rejlander: Artist Photographer’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 12th March – 9th June 2019

 

Oscar Rejlander (1813-75) 'The Two Ways of Life' 1856-7

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Two Ways of Life (Hope in Repentance)
1857
Albumen silver print
21.8 x 40.8 cm (8 9/16 x 16 1/16 in.)
Moderna Museet, Stockholm

 

 

Oscar Rejlander, the father of photography, sets in motion many of the later developments of photographic art.

I could wax lyrical about the light, staging and humour of the images; the allegorical, religious and emotional portraits; the influence of photography on painting; the spontaneous act caught on film (Eh!); the combination printing, precursor to digital manipulation (Two Ways of Life); the costume dramas (The Comb Seller); or the presaging of the work of August Sander (The Juggler). But I won’t.

Instead, I just want you to think about the period in which these photographs were made – that Dickensian era of archetypal humanity, intricate narrative. I want you to feel that these reality pictures are alive and how they transcend the time of their creation through the lyricism of the print.

From the mind of the artist to works of art that stare down that cosmic time shift, from cradle to grave.

Marcus

.
Many thanks 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.

 

 

“It is the mind of the artist, and not the nature of his materials which makes his production a work of art.”

.
Oscar G. Rejlander

 

 

 

 

Oscar Gustav Rejlander is best known for his work “Two Ways of Life,” a masterpiece for which he used over 32 different negatives. It took him around six weeks to create it and over 3 days to produce a final print.

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'The Infant Photography Giving the Painter an Additional Brush' c. 1856

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
The Infant Photography Giving the Painter an Additional Brush
c. 1856
Albumen silver print
6 × 7.1 cm (2 3/8 × 2 13/16 in.)
Courtesy The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

 

After emigrating from Sweden to England in 1839 and taking up photography in 1852, he became one of the first to recognise photography’s potential as a “handmaid of art” – exemplified by early photographs like “The Infant Photography Giving the Painter an Additional Brush.” This tiny print served to demonstrate how photography could preserve an allegorical scene for a painter’s extended study. It also functioned as a self-portrait and hinted at Rejlander’s hidden ambitions: reflected in the convex mirror, he presents himself as a modern-day Jan van Eyck.

Extract from Dana Ostrander. “The Overlooked Legacy of Oscar Rejlander, Who Elevated Photography to an Art,” on the Hyperallergic website April 2, 2019 [Online] Cited 06/06/2019

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Non Angeli sed Angli (Not Angels but Anglos), after Raphael’s Sistine Madonna' c. 1854-1856

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Non Angeli sed Angli (Not Angels but Anglos), after Raphael’s Sistine Madonna
c. 1854-1856
Albumen silver print
20.5 x 26.3 cm (8 1/16 x 10 3/8 in.)
Princeton University Art Museum
Museum purchase, David H. McAlpin, Class of 1920, Fund

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Mary Constable and Her Brother' 1866

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Mary Constable and Her Brother
1866
Albumen silver print
16.8 x 22.1 cm (6 5/8 x 8 11/16 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection
Purchase, Harriette and Noel Levine Gift, 2005

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'The Bachelor's Dream' c. 1860

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
The Bachelor’s Dream
c. 1860
Albumen silver print
13.9 x 19.6 cm (5 1/2 x 7 11/16 in.)
George Eastman Museum, purchase
Photo: Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Hard Times (The Out of Work Workman's Lament)' 1860

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Hard Times (The Out of Work Workman’s Lament)
1860
Albumen silver print
13.8 x 19.7 cm (5 7/16 x 7 3/4 in.)
George Eastman Museum, purchase
Photo: Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Head of St. John the Baptist in a Charger' c. 1860

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Head of St. John the Baptist in a Charger
c. 1860
Albumen silver print
14.1 x 17.8 cm (5 9/16 x 7 in.)
George Eastman Museum, purchase
Photo: Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Study of Hands' 1856

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Study of Hands
1856
Albumen silver print
14.8 x 17.6 cm (5 13/16 x 6 15/16 in.)
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Purchased 2014

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'A "Set To"' 1855

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
A “Set To”
1855
In “Prince Albert’s Calotype Album,” vol. 2, about 1860
Salted paper print
15 x 21 cm (5 7/8 x 8 1/4 in.)
Royal Collection Trust
© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

 

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) was one of the 19th century’s greatest innovators in the medium of photography, counting Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, Charles Darwin, Lewis Carroll and Julia Margaret Cameron among his devotees. Nevertheless, the extent of Rejlander’s work and career has often been overlooked. Oscar Rejlander: Artist Photographer, on view March 12 – June 9, 2019 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, Los Angeles, is the first exhibition to explore the prolific career of the artist who became known as “the father of art photography,” and whose bold experimentation with photographic techniques early in the medium’s development and keen understanding of human emotion were ahead of their time.

The exhibition features 150 photographs that demonstrate Rejlander’s remarkable range, from landscapes and portraits to allegories and witty commentaries on contemporary society, alongside a selection of his early paintings, drawings, and prints.

“Rejlander tells us in his writings that ‘It is the mind of the artist, and not the nature of his materials, which makes his production a work of art’,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “While technologies have dramatically changed, some of the fundamental issues that Rejlander grappled with in his photographs still resonate with photographic practice today. His photographs, though made a century and a half ago, are both meticulously of their time and timeless, foreshadowing many later achievements of the medium through to the digital age.”

Oscar G. Rejlander was born in Sweden and moved to England in 1839, working first as a painter before turning to photography in 1852. He made a living as a portrait photographer while experimenting with photographic techniques, most notably combination printing, in which parts of multiple negatives were exposed separately and then printed to form a single picture. Rejlander moved to London in 1862, where his business continued to grow and where his wife, Mary Bull, worked alongside him in his photography studios.

 

Portraits and Images of Everyday Life

Portraiture, particularly of members of the higher ranks of London society, was Rejlander’s main professional activity and supported his livelihood. Art critics and clients alike admired his skill with lighting as well as the natural and seemingly spontaneous expressions he was able to capture. Rejlander photographed some of the most important figures of the day, including the English scientist Charles Darwin, known for his theory of evolution, and poets Alfred Lord Tennyson and Henry Taylor. He also guided the first photographic efforts of the writer and mathematician Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (known as Lewis Carroll), the creator of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, as well as photographer Julia Margaret Cameron.

From the beginning of his career as a photographer, Rejlander was keenly interested in depicting the activities of ordinary people, particularly the middle and lower classes of society. It was through his staged domestic images that he illustrated familial relationships with tenderness and humour, often using models and props to re-create in his studio the scenes he had witnessed in the streets, from young boys who swept up dirt and debris in exchange for tips, to street vendors such as “flower girls” who offered bouquets for sale to passersby. Like a modern street photographer, Rejlander chose his compositions and subjects based on what he saw and heard, realising the final images in the studio.

In 1863 Rejlander constructed a unique iron, wood, and glass “tunnel studio,” where the sitter, positioned in the open, light-filled part of the studio, would look into the darker part of the room where the camera and operator were situated, nearly invisible. The pupils of the sitters’ eyes expanded, allowing for “more depth and expression,” as a writer observed in Photographic News. In addition to this technique, Rejlander often exploited his own unique ability to enact exaggerated emotions to assist his subjects. Charles Darwin illustrated many of Rejlander’s expressive photographs in The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, published in 1872.

 

Combination Printing and Two Ways of Life

Rejlander holds an important place in the history of photography primarily because of the groundbreaking way he applied the technique of combination printing. On view in the exhibition is the most ambitious example of the artist’s pioneering experimentation, the epic photograph, Two Ways of Life, or Hope in Repentance (1857). It attracted immediate attention upon its exhibition both for its large size and the ambition of its production, which included the combination printing of over 30 separate wet collodion on glass negatives, a process that took more than three days.

The work represents an intricate allegory of two opposing philosophies of life: Vice and Virtue. In the centre of the picture, a wise man guides a younger man to the right, toward a life of virtue – work, study, and religion. To the left, a second young man is tempted by the call of desire, gambling, idleness, and vice. Prince Albert may have worked with Rejlander on the overall conception of the picture, and he and Queen Victoria purchased three versions for their art collection.

Despite this support from the Royal Family, Two Ways of Life divided the photographic community, with professional photographers considering it a technical tour de force, and amateurs seeing it as not only artificial in production but also immoral in its subject. However, it remains one of finest examples of combination printing to come from this period.

 

Art and Photography

Today, the debate about photography’s status as an art may be obsolete, but the arts community in 19th-century Britain was passionately divided over Rejlander’s chosen medium. Rejlander strongly advocated the view that photography was an independent art, while he was also convinced that a photograph could help artists by providing an effective substitute for working from live models. He was possibly the first to provide artists with visual references for their work in photographs, creating figure studies in a range of poses and costumes, including close-ups of hands, feet, drapery, and even fleeting facial expressions. Although many painters were reluctant to disclose their reliance on photography, several collected Rejlander’s photographs, including George Frederic Watts (English, 1817-1904) and Henri Fantin-Latour (French, 1836-1904).

Paintings also strongly influenced Rejlander’s choice of subjects, leading him not only to imitate the styles of artists but also to re-create the figures found in their compositions. He frequently photographed actors or models posing as a “Madonna,” a “Devotee,” a “Disciple,” or specific Christian figures such as John the Baptist. He may have intended these studies, as well as others showing figures in classical robes, for artists to consult as well.

“What we hope comes through in the exhibition is Rejlander’s humanity and humour, as well as his humble nature, particularly evident in the fact that he often sent his work to exhibitions under the name ‘amateur’,” says Karen Hellman, assistant curator of photographs at the Getty Museum. “His explanation: ‘When I compare what I have done with what I think I ought to do, and some day hope I shall do, I think of myself as only an amateur, after all – that is to say, a beginner’.”

Oscar Rejlander: Artist Photographer, is on view March 12 – June 9, 2019 at J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center. The exhibition is curated by Lori Pauli, curator of photographs at the National Gallery of Canada, and Karen Hellman, assistant curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum.

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Mr. Collett's Return' 1841

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Mr. Collett’s Return
1841
Black chalk, charcoal and white wash highlights on paper (backed)
92.8 × 74.4 cm
The Collection: Art and Archaeology in Lincolnshire (Usher Gallery, Lincoln)

 

Attributed to Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) '[Landscape]' c. 1855

 

Attributed to Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
[Landscape]
c. 1855
Salted paper print
22.3 × 19.7 cm
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Purchased 2014.

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'The Sailor Boy' 1855, printed 1873

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
The Sailor Boy
1855, printed 1873
Carbon print
19 x 16 cm (7 1/2 x 6 5/16 in.)
Royal Collection Trust
© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Ariadne' 1857

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Ariadne
1857
Albumen print from a wet collodion negative
Paul Mellon Fund
Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington

 

 

“I believe photography will make painters better artists and more careful draughtsmen. You may test their figures by photography. In Titian’s Venus and Adonis, Venus has her head turned in a manner that no female could turn it and at the same time shows so much of her back. Her right leg also is too long. I have proved the correctness of this opinion by photography with variously shaped female models.” ~ Oscar G. Rejlander 1863

“He was perhaps the first to market photographic nude studies to artists, and he even used them to test the anatomical accuracy of the Old Masters. His photograph “Ariadne” was created, in part, to expose the unnatural pose and elongated feminine proportions in Titian’s “Venus and Adonis.” Many of Rejlander’s contemporaries came to rely on these nude studies, and the exhibition contains at least three originally owned by the painter Henri Fantin-Latour.”

Extract from Dana Ostrander. “The Overlooked Legacy of Oscar Rejlander, Who Elevated Photography to an Art,” on the Hyperallergic website April 2, 2019 [Online] Cited 06/06/2019

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Madonna and Child with St. John the Baptist' c. 1860

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Madonna and Child with St. John the Baptist
c. 1860
Albumen silver print
17.8 × 12.4 cm (7 × 4 7/8 in.)
Courtesy The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Young Lady in a Costume' c. 1860

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Young Lady in a Costume
c. 1860
Albumen silver print
Courtesy National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Eh!' negative about 1854-1855; print about 1865

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Eh!
negative about 1854-1855; print about 1865
Albumen silver print
8.9 x 5.9 cm (3 1/2 x 2 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'The First Negative' 1857

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
The First Negative
1857
Albumen silver print
29 x 15 cm (11 7/16 x 5 7/8 in.)
Musée d’Orsay, Paris Photo
© RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY / Patrice Schmidt

 

In “The First Negative,” Rejlander restages Pliny’s account of the origins of painting, boldly suggesting that the act of tracing a shadow is more akin to creating a photographic negative than a painting.

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'The Participles, or Grammar for Little Boys: Catching' 1857

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
The Participles, or Grammar for Little Boys: Catching
1857
Albumen silver print
18.7 x 12.7 cm (7 3/8 x 5 in.)
Moderna Museet, Stockholm

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'The Participles, or Grammar for Little Boys: Caught' 1857

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
The Participles, or Grammar for Little Boys: Caught
1857
Albumen silver print
20.3 x 15.7 cm (8 x 6 3/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Mr. Coleman as Belphegor' c. 1857, printed later

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Mr. Coleman as Belphegor
c. 1857, printed later
Platinum print
18.2 x 14.4 cm (7 3/16 x 5 11/16 in.)
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A, acquired with the generous assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund and Art Fund Image
© Victoria & Albert Museum, London

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Please Give Us a Copper' c. 1866-1868

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Please Give Us a Copper
c. 1866-1868
Albumen silver print
17.9 x 12.6 cm (7 1/16 x 4 15/16 in.)
Princeton University Art Museum. Museum purchase

 

A copper is a brown coin of low value made of copper or bronze.

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'The Juggler' c. 1865, printed later

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
The Juggler
c. 1865, printed later
Platinum print
19.5 x 14.6 cm (7 11/16 x 5 3/4 in.)
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A, acquired with the generous assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund and Art Fund Image
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Enchanted by a Parrot (Mary Rejlander?)' c. 1860

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Enchanted by a Parrot (Mary Rejlander?)
c. 1860
Albumen silver print
Image (approx.): 50 x 30 cm (19 11/16 x 11 13/16 in.)
William Talbott Hillman Collection
Photo: Hans P. Kraus, Jr., New York

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'The Cup that Cheers' c. 1860

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
The Cup that Cheers
c. 1860
Albumen silver print
19.9 x 15 cm (7 13/16 x 5 7/8 in.)
Princeton University Art Museum
Museum purchase, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Max Adler

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Knuckle Bones' 1860

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Knuckle Bones
1860
Albumen silver print
15.4 x 12.5 cm (6 1/16 x 4 15/16 in.)
George Eastman Museum, purchase
Photo: Courtesy of the George Eastman Museum

 

 

Knucklebones

Knucklebones, also known as TaliFivestones, or Jacks, is a game of ancient origin, usually played with five small objects, or ten in the case of jacks. Originally the “knucklebones” (actually the astragalus, a bone in the ankle, or hock) were those of a sheep, which were thrown up and caught in various manners. Modern knucklebones consist of six points, or knobs, projecting from a common base, and are usually made of metal or plastic. The winner is the first player to successfully complete a prescribed series of throws, which, though similar, differ widely in detail. The simplest throw consists in either tossing up one stone, the jack, or bouncing a ball, and picking up one or more stones or knucklebones from the table while it is in the air. This continues until all five stones or knucklebones have been picked up. Another throw consists in tossing up first one stone, then two, then three and so on, and catching them on the back of the hand. Different throws have received distinctive names, such as “riding the elephant”, “peas in the pod”, “horses in the stable”, and “frogs in the well”.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) '"Father Times" (Where's the Cat?)' c. 1860

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
“Father Times” (Where’s the Cat?)
c. 1860
Albumen paper print
16.5 x 14.2 cm (6 1/2 x 5 9/16 in.)
Wilson Centre for Photography

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Night in Town (Poor Jo, Homeless)' before 1862; print after 1879

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Night in Town (Poor Jo, Homeless)
before 1862; print after 1879
Carbon print
20.3 x 15.7 cm (8 x 6 3/16 in.)
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Purchased 1993

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Grief (Hidden Her Face, Yet Visible Her Anguish)' 1864

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Grief (Hidden Her Face, Yet Visible Her Anguish)
1864
Albumen silver print
19.6 x 14 cm (7 11/16 x 5 1/2 in.)
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, M. H. de Young Memorial Museum. Gift of John H. Rubel

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'The Comb Seller (Oscar and Mary Rejlander)' c. 1860

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
The Comb Seller (Oscar and Mary Rejlander)
c. 1860
Albumen silver print
20 x 14.9 cm (7 7/8 x 5 7/8 in.)
University of New Mexico Art Museum, Albuquerque. Gift of Eleanor and Van Deren Coke

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Lionel Tennyson' c. 1863

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Lionel Tennyson
c. 1863
Albumen print from a wet collodion negative
Image (oval): 18.3 x 14.3 cm (7 3/16 x 5 5/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Paul Mellon Fund

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Mental Distress (Mother's Darling)' 1871

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Mental Distress (Mother’s Darling)
1871
Carbon print of a polychrome drawing from a photograph
54 x 43.2 cm (21 1/4 x 17 in.)
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A, acquired with the generous assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund and Art Fund Image
© Victoria & Albert Museum, London

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson)' 1863

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson)
1863
Albumen silver print
8.9 x 5.9 cm (3 1/2 x 2 5/16 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection
Purchase, Sam Salz Foundation Gift, 2005

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Allegorical Study (Sacred and Profane Love)' c. 1860

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Allegorical Study (Sacred and Profane Love)
c. 1860
Albumen paper print
12 x 17.5 cm (4 3/4 x 6 7/8 in.)
Wilson Centre for Photography

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Bad Temper' Negative about 1865; print later

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Bad Temper
Negative about 1865; print later
Albumen paper print
The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A, acquired with the generous assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund and Art Fund, Image
© Victoria & Albert Museum, London

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Henry Taylor' 1863

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Henry Taylor
1863
Albumen silver print
20.2 x 15 cm (7 15/16 x 5 7/8 in.)
Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. William D. Paden

 

Sir Henry Taylor KCMG (18 October 1800 – 27 March 1886) was an English dramatist and poet, Colonial Office official, and man of letters.

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'Self-Portrait with Parrot' c. 1865

 

Oscar G. Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
Self-Portrait with Parrot
c. 1865
In “Album of Photographs by Oscar G. Rejlander,” 1856-72
Albumen silver print
Closed: 37.4 x 27.6 x 0.3 cm (14 3/4 x 10 7/8 x 1/8 in.)
Sir Nicholas Mander Collection

 

 

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

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Sunday 10 am – 5.30 pm
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06
Sep
09

Exhibition: ‘In Focus: Making A Scene’ at The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 30th June – 18th October 2009

 

What a fabulous selection of photographs to illustrate a fascinating “scene”. I love staged, theatrical, constructed, conceptual, collaged, surreal, imaginary, narrative photography.

Marcus

.
Many thankx 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.

 

 

Hill & Adamson (Scottish, active 1843-1848) '[Lane and Peddie as Afghans]' 1843

 

Hill & Adamson (Scottish, active 1843-1848)
[Lane and Peddie as Afghans]
1843
Salted paper print from a paper negative
20.6 × 14.3 cm (8 1/8 × 5 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum

 

 

The team of Hill and Adamson initially began making dramatic portrait photographs as studies for one of Hill’s composite paintings. They also produced costume studies, including this scene in which Arabic scholar Mr. Lane and Mr. (Peddie) Redding appear in foreign garb.

 

Unknown maker, French. 'Woman Reading to a Girl' c. 1845

 

Unknown maker, French
Woman Reading to a Girl
c. 1845
Daguerreotype
9.1 × 7.1 cm (3 9/16 × 2 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum

 

 

Through a skilful manipulation, the light coming from above and behind the figures casts the faces of mother and child in a softly modulated half-shadow. Their close grouping and familiar, intimate gestures evoke tenderness. The reflected light on the woman’s pointing finger and on the glowing white pages of the open book forms a strong visual triangle, drawing the viewer’s eye and serving to integrate and balance the composition.

 

Oscar Gustave Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875) 'The Infant Photography Giving the Painter an Additional Brush' c. 1856

 

Oscar Gustave Rejlander (British, born Sweden, 1813-1875)
The Infant Photography Giving the Painter an Additional Brush
c. 1856
Albumen silver print
6 × 7.1 cm (2 3/8 × 2 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum

 

 

Oscar Rejlander’s photograph could be read as a metaphor of his own career. The additional “brush” or image-making tool provided by photography to painters was evident from the beginnings of the medium. Many early practitioners arrived at photography from painting, as did Rejlander. Photographs were often thought of and used as sketching tools for painters. Although photographs never managed to signal the death of painting as initially predicted, they did frequently assume the function that drawing had traditionally held in relation to painting.

Compositionally, this is an unusual photograph. Rejlander employs a narrative device from painting: the use of figures, or parts of figures, as allegorical representations for ideas. A very young child represents the infant medium of photography. The Painter appears only as a hand extending into the frame at the upper left, although the traditional arts are also represented by the sculpture reproduction in the lower left corner. The Infant Photography, identified by the camera on which the child supports himself, faces away from the camera, his features totally obscured. The mirror behind the child gives a clear reflection of Rejlander at his camera, making this image.

 

Roger Fenton (English, 1819-1869) 'Contemplative Odalisque' 1858

 

Roger Fenton (English, 1819-1869)
Contemplative Odalisque
1858
Albumen silver print
35.9 × 43.8 cm (14 1/8 × 17 1/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum
Gift of Professors Joseph and Elaine Monsen

 

 

Three years after traveling in the Crimea, Roger Fenton made a series of Orientalist photographs in his London studio using props gathered during his travels and non-Eastern models. Orientalism refers to just such romanticised depictions of imagined scenes of Muslim culture in the Ottoman Empire and its territories in the Near East and North Africa.

Orientalist scenes were more often fiction than fact. Cultural biases and misunderstandings were laid down on paper or canvas and frequently became the only source of information on the subjects depicted. When a group of these Orientalist photographs was exhibited in 1858, one reviewer described them as “truly representing some phases in the life of this interesting people.”

But not everyone so easily accepted Fenton’s images at face value; a more astute critic called for “the necessity of having real national types as models.” The same model shown here also appears as “Nubian” and “Egyptian” in other photographs by Fenton. This photograph may have originally been exhibited with the title The Reverie. The odalisque, meaning a slave or concubine in a harem, poses upon her sofa. Barefoot, blouse open, her surroundings convey a sensual disarray that conforms to an Orientalising fantasy of the available woman.

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British, born India, 1815-1879) 'The Rosebud Garden of Girls' June 1868

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British, born India, 1815-1879)
The Rosebud Garden of Girls
June 1868
Album silver print
29.4 × 26.7 cm (11 9/16 × 10 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum

 

 

As evolutionary science and increasing secularism transformed the way Victorians understood the world, Cameron remained a devout Christian. She photographed influential public figures of her day as well as the women of her household, casting them in allegories of literary and religious subjects. Like her artistic contemporaries, the Pre-Raphaelite painters, who modelled their work on medieval religious and mythological art, Cameron intended her photographs to evince a connection between the spiritual and the natural realms.

 

 

Julia Margaret Cameron (British, born India, 1815-1879)
Venus Chiding Cupid and Removing His Wings
1872
Album silver print
32.4 × 27.3 cm (12 3/4 × 10 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum

 

Lewis Carroll (British, 1832-1898) 'Saint George and the Dragon' June 26, 1875

 

Lewis Carroll (British, 1832-1898)
Saint George and the Dragon
June 26, 1875
Albumen silver print
12.2 × 16.2 cm (4 13/16 × 6 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum

 

 

Like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and his other books, Carroll’s photographs are fantasies starring the children of his friends. In this production, the Kitchin siblings enacted the romantic legend of Saint George, the patron saint of England, who slayed a child-eating dragon before it devoured a princess. George later married the rescued princess and converted her pagan town to Christianity. Using crude stagecraft to reference key plot points, Carroll condensed the entire legend into a single scene in which the princess appears as both damsel in distress and bride.

 

Baron Wilhelm von Gloeden (German, 1856-1931) 'Untitled [Two Male Youths Holding Palm Fronds]' c. 1885 - 1905

 

Baron Wilhelm von Gloeden (German, 1856-1931)
Untitled [Two Male Youths Holding Palm Fronds]
c. 1885 – 1905
Albumen silver print
23.3 × 17.5 cm (9 3/16 × 6 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum

 

Baron Wilhelm von Gloeden (German, 1856-1931) 'L'Offerta' (The Offering) 1902

 

Baron Wilhelm von Gloeden (German, 1856-1931)
L’Offerta (The Offering)
1902
Albumen silver print
22.4 × 16.8 cm (8 13/16 × 6 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum

 

 

Von Gloeden left Germany and settled in a coastal town in Sicily, where he took up photography. His subjects were young native boys, whom he often photographed nude in classical compositions. Rather than reenact specific historical or literary scenes, von Gloeden mused nostalgically on the ancient Greek and Roman ancestry of his attractive models.

 

Guido Rey (Italian, 1861-1935) '[The Letter]' 1908

 

Guido Rey (Italian, 1861-1935)
[The Letter]
1908
Platinum print
21.9 × 17 cm (8 5/8 × 6 11/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum

 

 

A deliberate homage to an earlier artistic style that Guido Rey admired, the composition derives from a painting made by Dutch artist Jan Vermeer in the 1600s. In this posed scene, a young suitor bearing flowers approaches a woman seated at her writing desk, with her pen poised in mid-air as she turns to greet him. A leaded glass window opens into her room, providing a natural light source for the photograph’s illumination. The mounted corner clock, decorative jar on the desk, and painting on the wall were Rey’s everyday household items or objects borrowed from friends, carefully chosen for period accuracy. Likewise, a seamstress who lived in the attic of Rey’s home in Turin created the costumes to his specifications.

 

 

“Photography, although commonly associated with truthfulness, has been used to produce fiction since its introduction in 1839. The acceptance of staging, and the degree of its application, has varied greatly depending on the genre and the historical moment, but it has persisted as an artistic approach. The photographs in this exhibition, drawn exclusively from the J. Paul Getty Museum’s collection, make no pretence about presenting the world as it exists; instead, they are the productions of directors and actors who rely on stagecraft and occasional darkroom trickery to tell stories.
 Spanning photography’s history and expressing a range of sentiments, the images in this exhibition are inspired by art history, literature, religion, and mainstream media.

Like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and his other books, Lewis Carroll’s photographs are fantasies starring his friends’ children. In the image below, children enact the mythological story of Saint George, the patron saint of England, slaying a child-eating dragon before it could devour a princess.

 

Life Imitating Art

Well-represented in this exhibition are tableaux vivants (living pictures), inspired by the popular Victorian parlour game in which costumed participants posed to resemble famous works of art or literary scenes.
The genre paintings of 17th-century Dutch masters Johannes Vermeer and Pieter de Hooch fascinated Guido Rey. Not self-conscious about being slavish to the past, he carefully studied the paintings and then arranged similar tableaux for his camera. His photographs captured equally serene domestic scenes and mimicked the minute architectural details of 17th-century interiors, such as the leaded-glass windowpanes and the checkerboard floor.

 

Playing Dress Up

The exhibition also includes costume studies of people posing as literary characters and self-portraits of artists pretending to be other people. 

American painter and photographer Man Ray and the French artist Marcel Duchamp met in New York in 1915, and they began a playful, iconoclastic collaboration that resulted in the photograph (above), among others. Influenced by Dadaism, a cultural movement that rejected reason and logic in favour of anarchy and the absurd, their work embraced games of chance, performance, and wordplay. Here an irreverent Duchamp appears in women’s clothing as his alter ego, Rrose Sélavy, a pun on the French pronunciation “Eros, c’est la vie” (Sex, that’s life).

 

Imaginary Subjects

A number of photographs in the exhibition explore the medium’s capacity to visualise subjects of the imagination by using darkroom trickery to manipulate prints.
 An optician and family man, Ralph Eugene Meatyard photographed his children, friends, and neighbours enacting dramas in suburban backyards and abandoned buildings near his Lexington, Kentucky, home. He often used experimental techniques, such as multiple exposures and blurred motion. Uncanny details imbue Meatyard’s otherwise ordinary vernacular scenes with the qualities of a dream or supernatural vision.

 

Theatricality as a Critical Strategy

In recent decades there has been renewed interest in theatricality among contemporary photographers whose highly artificial scenes critique mainstream media and representation.
 In her series Family Docudrama Eileen Cowin blurs the boundaries between truth and fiction, and private behaviour and public performance. Drawing equally from family snapshots and soap operas, Cowin presents staged domestic scenes in which she and members of her family, including her identical twin sister, perform as actors. In these ambiguous, open-ended narratives, dramatic moments are exaggerated, and the camera’s glare is ever present.”

Text from The Getty Museum website [Online] Cited 16/04/2019

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Rrose Sélavy (Marcel Duchamp)' 1923

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Rrose Sélavy (Marcel Duchamp)
1923
Gelatin silver print
22.1 × 17.6 cm (8 11/16 × 6 15/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum
© Man Ray Trust ARS-ADAGP

 

 

When Man Ray moved to Paris, he was greeted by his friend and artistic compatriot Marcel Duchamp, who introduced him to members of the Dada circle of writers and artists. The two men had collaborated in a number of creative endeavours in New York, including the creation of a female alter-ego for Duchamp named Rrose Sélavy (a pun on the French pronunciation Eros, c’est la vie “Sex, that’s life”). Man Ray photographed Duchamp several times as Rrose Sélavy.

 

Man Ray. 'Larmes' 1930

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Larmes (Tears)
1930-1932
Gelatin silver print
22.9 × 29.8 cm (9 × 11 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum
© Man Ray Trust ARS-ADAGP

 

 

Judging from his inclusion of this image in other photographic compositions, Man Ray must have considered Tears one of his most successful photographs. A cropped version of it with a single eye also appears as the first plate in a 1934 book of his photographs.

Like the emotive expression of a silent screen star in a film still, the woman’s plaintive upward glance and mascara-encrusted lashes seem intended to invoke wonder at the cause of her distress. The face belongs to a fashion model who cries tears of glistening, round glass beads; the effect is to aestheticise the sentiment her tears would normally express. Man Ray made this photograph in Paris around the time of his breakup with his lover Lee Miller, and the woman’s false tears may relate to that event in the artist’s life.

 

Dora Maar (French, 1907-1997) 'Le Simulateur (The Pretender)' 1936

 

Dora Maar (French, 1907-1997)
Le Simulateur (The Pretender)
1936
Gelatin silver print
26.6 × 21.7 cm (10 1/2 × 8 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum
© Dora Maar Estate/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris

 

 

In this picture Dora Maar constructed her own reality by joining together several images and rephotographing them. The seamlessness of the photographic surface makes this construction believable and leaves the viewer wondering about the strange world the figure inhabits. On closer examination, the viewer may notice that the floor is an upside-down ceiling vault, that the bricked-in windows are drawn in by hand, and that the figure was added separately. Despite these discoveries, the picture resists logical interpretation.

 

Ralph Eugene Meatyard (American, 1925-1972) 'Untitled (Michael and Christopher Meatyard)' 1966

 

Ralph Eugene Meatyard (American, 1925-1972)
Untitled (Michael and Christopher Meatyard)
1966
Gelatin silver print
16.8 × 17.5 cm (6 5/8 × 6 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum
Gift of Christopher Meatyard and Jonathan Greene
© Estate of Ralph Eugene Meatyard

 

 

An optician and family man, Meatyard photographed his children, friends, and neighbours enacting dramas in the suburban backyards and abandoned buildings of Lexington, Kentucky. He often used experimental techniques, such as multiple exposures and blurred motion. Uncanny details imbue Meatyard’s otherwise ordinary vernacular scenes with the qualities of a dream or supernatural vision.

 

Lucas Samaras. 'Photo-Transformation' November 22, 1973

 

Lucas Samaras (American, born Greece, 1936)
Photo-Transformation
November 22, 1973
Polaroid SX-70 dye diffusion print
7.6 × 7.6 cm (3 × 3 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum
© Lucas Samaras

 

 

In this self-portrait, Lucas Samaras reaches out as if trapped in the photograph. In sharp contrast to the indistinct background of his upper body, his crisply defined fingers curl forward, as if he is searching for a way to transcend a two-dimensional world of his own creation. An overriding sense of claustrophobia defines this image, underscored by the small scale of the Polaroid print. Samaras, a hermit-like person, made many Polaroid self-portraits like this in the 1970s as a means of observing himself. The images are open to a wide range of interpretation. Here, Samaras may have tried to convey the sense of isolation he experiences as a reclusive person.

 

Lucas Samaras. 'Photo-Transformation' September 9, 1976

 

Lucas Samaras (American, born Greece, 1936)
Photo-Transformation
September 9, 1976
Polaroid SX-70 dye diffusion print
7.6 × 7.6 cm (3 × 3 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum
© Lucas Samaras

 

 

As if engaging in a tug-of-war with himself, Lucas Samaras confronts and struggles with his own reflection in this self-portrait. The leg-less reflection is incomplete, however, giving the impression of a deformed adversary. A monochromatic polka-dot background and a vibrant green and red border act as a stage for this dramatic struggle.

Samaras’s Photo-Transformations, which he made in the 1970s as a means to examine various facets of himself, could be understood as visual manifestations of internal conflict. They are complex psychological investigations that, according to at least one critic, illustrate one person’s efforts toward spiritual healing.

 

Lucas Samaras (American, born Greece, 1936) 'Photo-Transformation, 1976'

 

Lucas Samaras (American, born Greece, 1936)
Photo-Transformation, 1976
1976
Polaroid SX-70 dye diffusion print
7.6 × 7.6 cm (3 × 3 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum
© Lucas Samaras

 

 

Submerged in narcissism, nothing remains… but “me and myself, I am my own audience, the other, contemplating my existence.”

Made in the 1970s as a means of studying himself, Lucas Samaras’s photographs illustrate the internal struggle that can occur between conflicting aspects of one personality. Bent over a captain’s chair, Samaras rests his head as if he is at the guillotine. Another blurry form hovers above, about to violently attack the submissive figure.

Samaras made his Photo-Transformations, a series of self-portraits, with SX-70 Polaroid film. Still wet, the film’s emulsions could be manipulated to alter the finished image. He used straight pins, rubber erasers, and other simple tools to “draw” into the developing surface. For this portrait, he created a diamond pattern over and around the dominant figure that underscores the frenzy of motion.

 

Joel Peter-Witkin (American, born 1939) 'Mother and Child (with Retractor, Screaming)' 1979

 

Joel Peter-Witkin (American, born 1939)
Mother and Child (with Retractor, Screaming)
1979
Gelatin silver print
36 × 36 cm (14 3/16 × 14 3/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum
© Joel-Peter Witkin

 

Eileen Cowin (American, born 1947) 'Untitled' from the series 'Family Docudrama' 1980-1983

 

Eileen Cowin (American, born 1947)
Untitled from the series Family Docudrama
1980-1983
Chromogenic print
48.4 × 60.7 cm (19 1/16 × 23 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum
Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council
© Eileen Cowin

 

 

In her series Family Docudrama Cowin blurs the boundaries between truth and fiction, and private behaviour and public performance. Drawing equally from family snapshots and soap operas, she presents staged domestic scenes in which she and members of her family, including her identical twin sister, perform as actors. In these ambiguous, open-ended narratives, dramatic moments are exaggerated and the camera’s glare is ever present.

 

 

The Getty Museum at the Getty Center
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, California 90049

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday 10 am – 5.30 pm
Saturday 10 am – 9 pm
Closed Mondays

The Getty Museum website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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