Pictorialism from the Turn-of the-Century Photo-Secession Movement

The Photo-Secession was an early-20th-century movement that promoted photography as a fine art.

A group of photographers, led by Alfred Stieglitz and F. Holland Day in the early 1900s, held the then controversial viewpoint that what was significant about a photograph was not what was in front of the camera but the manipulation of the image by the artist/photographer to achieve his or her subjective vision.

The movement helped to raise standards and awareness of art photography. Proponents of Pictorialism, which was the underlying value of the Photo-Secession, argued that photography needed to emulate the painting and etching of the time. Pictorialists believed that, just as a painting is distinctive because of the artist’s manipulation of the materials to achieve an effect, so too should the photographer alter or manipulate the photographic image. Among the methods used were soft focus; special filters and lens coatings; burning, dodging and/or cropping in the darkroom to edit the content of the image; and alternative printing processes such as sepia toning, carbon printing, platinum printing or gum bichromate processing.

The “membership” of the Photo-Secession varied according to Stieglitz’s interests and temperament but was centered around the core group of Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, Clarence H. White, Gertrude Käsebier, Frank Eugene, F. Holland Day, and later Alvin Langdon Coburn.

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 Mending Nets by Alfred Stieglitz. Carbon print, 1894 via

 

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 “A Study” by Gertrude Käsebier. Platinum print, ca. 1898 via

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By Clarence H. White, 1871 via

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Actress Minnie Maddern Fiske by Fred Holland Day, created ca. 1895-1912 via

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The Brass Bowl by Edward Steichen. Photogravure on tissue-thin Japan paper. Literature: Camera Work 14, 1906 via

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Minuet by Frank Eugene, Photogravure on tissue-thin Japan paper. Literature: Camera Work 30, 1910 via

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 The Bubble by Alvin Langdon Coburn. Gum bichromate over platinum print, 1908 via 

Portraits by Gertrude Käsebier (1852–1934)

Gertrude Käsebier (1852–1934) was one of the most influential American photographers of the early 20th century. She was known for her evocative images of motherhood, her powerful portraits of Native Americans and her promotion of photography as a career for women.

Her husband supported her financially when she began to attend art school at the age of thirty-seven, a time when most women of her day were well-settled in their social positions. Käsebier never indicated what motivated her to study art, but she devoted herself to it wholeheartedly.

Throughout the late 1910s and most of the 1920s Käsebier expanded her portrait business, taking photos of many important people of the time including Robert Henri, John Sloan, William Glackens, Arthur B. Davies, Mabel Dodge and Stanford White. In 1924 her daughter Hermine Turner joined her in her portrait business.

In 1929 Käsebier gave up photography altogether and liquidated the contents of her studio. That same year she was given a major one-person exhibition at the Booklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences.

Käsebier died on 12 October 1934 at the home of her daughter, Hermine Turner.

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Miss N (Portrait of Evelyn Nesbit), 1903 by Gertrude Käsebier via

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Girl in Satin Dress with Roses by Gertrude Käsebier (Museum of Fine Arts, Bostonvia

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The Bride by Gertrude Käsebier, 1902 via

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Genevieve Lyon by Gertrude Käsebier, 1914 via

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Portrait of Miss Minnie Ashley by Gertrude Käsebier, 1905 via

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The Magic Crystal, or the Crystal Gazer by Gertrude Käsebier, 1904 via

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Self-Portrait by  Gertrude Käsebier, 1905 via

A Collection of Photos Feat. Rita de Acosta Lydig

Cuban-American socialite Rita de Acosta Lydig (1875 – 1929) was in her heyday one of the foremost women of high society –  photographed by Adolf de Meyer, Edward Steichen and Gertrude Käsebier, she was regarded:

“the most picturesque woman in America.”

She was sculpted in alabaster by Malvina Hoffman and  painted by Giovanni Boldini and John Singer Sargent. Isabella Stewart Gardner, the creator of the Gardner museum in Boston, once asked their mutual friend, John Singer Sargent, why Rita had never expressed herself artistically. “Why should she?” Sargent answered, “She herself is art.”

Lydig was famous for her extravagant lifestyle, :

“…Rita was equally welcomed in Paris, where she spent parts of each year. She would arrive at the Ritz with a hairdresser, masseuse, chauffeur, secretary, maid,… and forty Louis Vuitton trunks…”

Saddly her overspending into heavy debt and she was declared bankrupt – shortly afterwards she died of pernicious anaemia at the age of 54.

Later her personal wardrobe became the basis for the start of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Rita de Acosta Lydig by Edward Steichen, 1905 via

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Rita de Acosta Lydig (1875-1929) photographed by Gertrude Käsebier (1852-1934). Illustration in “Camera work”, n° 10, April 1905 via

RITA DE ACOSTA LYDIG. PUBLIE DANS HARPER'S BAZAAR EN MARS 1917

Rita de Acosta Lydig’ by Adolphe de Meyer, 1913

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Rita de Acosta Lydig’ by Adolphe de Meyer, 1913

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