Silver Anniversary: 25 Photographs, 1835 to 1914 Hans P. Kraus, Jr. Fine Photographs celebrates the gallery’s 25th anniversary with a new exhibition tracing the history of photography from its birth in the mid 1830s to the early 20th century.
Hippolyte Bayard’s direct positives are extraordinarily rare, and his image of a bust (possibly of Alexander the Great), circa 1839, is an extraordinary example of his work. As Lord writes in the catalogue, “With the bust emerging almost hauntingly from the spare background, this image parallels Bayard’s own attempts to emerge from the shadows of Daguerre and Talbot as an independent inventor of photography.”
The Golden Age
Both Auguste Salzmann and J. B. Greene used the paper negative process while traveling. Salzmann came to photography as a landscape painter and an amateur archaeologist. One of his best-known photographs is included in Silver Anniversary. His salt print, Jérusalem. Sarcophage Judaïque, 1854, is a strong abstract composition that also conveys its original archaeological intent. J. B. Greene also had a strong interest in archaeology, as evidenced by Obelisk at Luxor, from 1854, striking because of its formal simplicity.
Charles Nègre took photography to another level with his salt print of a chandelier in the 1850s. “This delightfully clever image derives much of its charm from an inherent paradox in early photography,” Lord writes in the catalogue. “In order for certain subjects to look real in the final photograph, they had to be faked. The flames of the chandelier were too ephemeral to be captured, so Nègre, a former painter, took the liberty of drawing them himself on the glass negative.” He was so skillful that the artifice is not immediately apparent in this rich salt print.
Humphrey Lloyd Hime’s coated salt print, The Prairie Looking West, 1858, depicts a human skull almost floating on an endless Canadian prairie. The austere and haunting image was taken during a topographical expedition by the fledgling Canadian government.
The Pictorialist Movement
Silver Anniversary includes a rare carbon print of Alfred Stieglitz’s Winter - Fifth Avenue, 1893, which Edward Steichen later referred to as Stieglitz’s “most exhibited, reproduced, and prize-awarded print, and was a technical achievement considered impossible.” The cityscape was taken during a massive blizzard on the corner of 35th Street and Fifth Avenue, just a few blocks from where the famous 291 gallery would be located. This print was a gift to Heinrich Kühn in Vienna.
The last work in the exhibition, Alvin Langdon Coburn’s The Aeroplane, 1914, expresses the exhilaration of overcoming gravity. Coburn once confessed to the Cubist painter Max Weber—to whom he sent this print—that, “it is this psychological side of photography of life that interested me. I always want to photograph the essence of things rather than their husks and shells.” As Schaaf writes, “Coburn was praised by his contemporaries for his absolute mastery over printing processes and this photograph preserves all his poetry.”
Silver Anniversary: 25 Photographs, 1835 to 1914 will be on view at Hans P. Kraus, Jr. Fine Photographs, located at 962 Park Avenue, New York, from October 14 though November 20, 2009. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, noon to 6 p.m. and by appointment.
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Celebrating his 25th anniversary, Hans P. Kraus, Jr. has