Imogen Cunningham - The Odyssey of Collecting: Photographs from Joy of Giving Something Foundation, Part 1 New York Monday, April 3, 2017 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    From the artist to Maida Glover Gandy
    Swann Galleries, New York, 6 April 1998, lot 252

  • Exhibited

    The American Century: Art and Culture 1900-2000, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, April- August 1999

  • Literature

    Dater, Imogen Cunningham: A Portrait, pl. 11
    The Imogen Cunningham Trust, Imogen Cunningham, Frontiers: Photographs 1906-1976, table 4, image C, pl. 34
    Mann, Imogen Cunningham: Photographs, pl. 11
    Lorenz and Heiting, Imogen Cunningham: 1883-1976, p. 200
    Lorenz, Imogen Cunningham: The Modernist Years, n.p.
    Lorenz, Imogen Cunningham: Flora, pl. 11
    Lorenz, Imogen Cunningham: Ideas without End, pl. 38
    Ewing, Flora Photographica: Masterpieces of Flower Photography, pl. 77

  • Catalogue Essay

    Magnolia Blossom is one of series of photographs of flowers and plants Cunningham made in the 1920s that, in their own quiet way, were revolutionary in approach and execution. In Magnolia Blossom, the flower fills the entire frame. The pistils and stamens are in sharp focus and, through Cunningham’s masterful handling, the petals become a transfixing study of light, shadow, and translucence. It is an unsentimental and, for its time, entirely new approach to familiar and easily-romanticized subject matter.

    This was an important image for Cunningham nearly from the time of its making. It was one of a selection of her images exhibited in the seminal Film und Foto exhibition in 1929, an exhibition which, decades later, continues to define photographic Modernism. It is a testament to the strength of this image that it has endured so resonantly within her oeuvre.

    The print of Magnolia Blossom offered here comes originally from the collection of Maida Glover Gandy, a student at Mills College, where Cunningham’s husband, the artist Roi Partridge taught, and where the Cunningham family lived in the 1920s and ‘30s. It is printed on the warm-toned, matte-surface paper that Cunningham favored at that time. With its distinct surface and long tonal range, the paper is the perfect medium for this photograph, capturing the delicate balance of light and shadow that makes the image such an absorbing visual experience. Early in the 1930s, Cunningham would begin to print on photographic paper with a glossy surface, and later iterations of Magnolia Blossom, while beautifully rendered, present a very different experience of the image.


Magnolia Blossom

Gelatin silver print.
9 1/8 x 11 3/4 in. (23.2 x 29.8 cm)
Signed in pencil in the margin.

$180,000 - 220,000 

Sold for $162,500

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The Odyssey of Collecting: Photographs from Joy of Giving Something Foundation, Part 1

New York 3 April 2017