Gertrude Käsebier - Photographs from the Collection of the Art Institute of Chicago London Monday, November 17, 2014 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Gift of Mina Turner, 1973

  • Literature

    Michaels, Gertrude Käsebier: The Photographer and Her Photographs, pl. 72 for a variant

  • Catalogue Essay

    Gertrude Käsebier built a remarkable reputation as a leading artist of her time beginning in midlife, when she enrolled in Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute to study painting. After a period spent studying photographic chemistry in Germany, however - her teacher, Herman Wilhelm Vogel, had also trained Alfred Stieglitz- Käsebier put her initial artistic interests exclusively in the service of photography. By 1897 she had opened a commercial portrait studio in New York City, and soon established a signature style: painterly effects achieved by the use of simple backgrounds, soft focus, and chemical and hand manipulation of her negatives and prints. Käsebier quickly became one of the most successful studio photographers in New York.

    Within a few years Käsebier was involved in the intimate circles of the most progressive photographers of the day. Already in 1900 she had work exhibited in the very first photography exhibition held at the Art Institute of Chicago, jurors for which included Stieglitz and Clarence White. She was elected to The Linked Ring, a photographic society dedicated to promoting photography as an art form, and in 1902 she co-founded the Photo-Secession with Stieglitz, White, and Edward Steichen. Some say that Käsebier met the esteemed French sculptor, August Rodin, while visiting Steichen in Paris, 1901; others believe that Baron de Meyer, whom Käsebier visited in Venice during the summer of 1905, while travelling with fellow photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston, wrote her a letter of introduction. That fall she met Rodin in his studio and made several full-length portraits of him, using a large format camera and glassplate negatives.

    I found Rodin to be very simple, very generous and very sincere. He had the greatest aura I had ever seen. It stood around him like a halo.

    The famous profile of Rodin, as seen in the current lot, was created by a typical Pictorialist process, in which the original negative was printed, then cropped through rephotography to produce another large-format negative (in this case showing only Rodin’s distinctive profile), which was then reprinted in contact with a new sheet of photosensitized paper. The fuzzing of information through this technique was not at all problematic, but instead highly desirable and precisely controlled. The loss of detail exactly complements the soft lighting that molds her subject, creating an image of the great sculptor that is close-up and thus intimate, while at the same time ethereal and majestic.

    The Käsebier photographs offered in lots 1, 2 and 3 were gifted to the Art Institute by the artist’s granddaughter, Mina Turner, in 1973.

    Other prints of this image are in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and The University Museums at the University of Delaware.


Auguste Rodin

Gum bichromate print.
34 x 26.7 cm (13 3/8 x 10 1/2 in.)
'The Art Institute of Chicago' collection label affixed to the reverse of the mat.

£12,000 - 18,000 

Sold for £21,250

Contact Specialist
Lou Proud
Head of Photographs
+ 44 207 318 4018

Photographs from the Collection of the Art Institute of Chicago

London 18 November 2014 2pm