For a young woman in the early 20th century, photographer Imogen Cunningham had a bold eye for the touch and movement of the nude human body. With a close eye for detail and an unwavering gaze, she also created striking images of flowers and straight-forward portraiture. A trilogy of artist books are currently exploring her eye for the quiet and haunting.
The first book in the trilogy being produced by 21st Editions with the Imogen Cunningham Trust was released last March and concentrated on her botanicals and shapes of the human body, and the second is now being produced focusing on her early Symbolist work. Called Imogen Cunningham: Symbolist with Poetry and Prose by William Morris, it places a series of her photographs from between 1905 and 1916 alongside work by 19th century writer William Morris, whose darkly toned poems echo in the odd ethereal work of Cunningham’s photographs. It’s not a cheap book by any means at $8,500, but the photographs are carefully printed with a gum-arabic platinum process on handmade paper and the collection includes loose prints, so it’s really a handcrafted work of art.
As John Woods writes in his introduction:
It would be interesting to try to guess which of Morris’s poems inspired the individual Symbolist photographs she created, but it would only be guess-work. As someone who has long studied and written about Symbolist and Pictorialist photography, I tend to think — or guess — it was not so much individual poems that were the inspiration as it was their feel and sensibility, the fading perfumes of an old century.
While her career spanned seven decades and is entwined with artists like Edward S. Curtis and Edward Weston, her influence on the modernist look of photography is sometimes overlooked. However, last week a retrospective opened at Kulturhuset in Stockholm, with about 200 photographs, some published for the first time or rarely on view, including some from her Symbolist era such as a self portrait of the artist sprawled naked on dandelion-dotted grass. Since the first book in the trilogy, Imogen Cunningham: Platinum/Palladium, sold out its incredibly limited 35 copies in days last year, there’s definitely a both renewed and dedicated love of her work.
Born in Portland, Oregon, Cunningham actually lost interest in her earliest experiments with photography, but while at the University of Washington in 1906 she was inspired by another groundbreaking woman photographer, Gertrude Käsebier, to start again. Yet she was initially interested in the chemistry behind the photography, even working with her chemistry professor in college on unraveling its processes. Upon graduation in 1907, she started working for the influential Edward S. Curtis and would go on to open a portrait studio of her own. There in the 1920s, her nude photography would harken back to these earlier Symbolist experiments of the beautiful symmetry and tension there can be between bodies and nature.
Imogen Cunningham: Symbolist with Poetry and Prose by William Morris is available from 21st Editions for $8,500.
The retrospective on Imogen Cunningham’s photography at the Kulturhuset (Sergels torg, 111 57 Stockholm, Sweden) shows through September 8.
Once denounced as “women’s work” with no artistic merit, embroidery is experiencing a revival, with a feminist punch.
Inspired by the journey made by the epic hero Homer’s Odyssey, a show at Villa Carmignac combines myth with contemporary issues.
This new kunsthaus in Potsdam shows modern and contemporary works of art from East Germany in what was once a terrace restaurant.
Courtney Stephens’s documentary on women’s travels from the 1920s to ’50s presents not just personal glimpses into daily life a century ago but also documents of colonialism.
Laura Larson’s City of Incurable Women draws from archival materials to speculate on the lives of women who were famously hospitalized for hysteria throughout history.
The Philadelphia organization offers artists on-site access to recovered materials, studio space, construction equipment, a $1,000 stipend, and more.
The company is asking users to verify their bank details via Plaid, a fintech company that recently settled a privacy class action lawsuit.
Each artist will receive $190,000 in cash and benefits from the Tulsa Artist Fellowship over a three-year period.
Drawn to Life at the Ackland in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, showcases 17th-century Dutch drawings of landscapes, portraits, preparatory studies, and biblical and historical scenes.
The 1,000-year-old Cañada de la Virgen ceremonial site will be protected from encroaching development.
A total of 24 board members stepped down from their posts after the art center’s parent company allegedly attempted to terminate 12 of their colleagues.
A group of artists and writers denounced the center for hosting Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son of the country’s former dictator.