Discuss a Gertrude Kaesebier Photograph

Discussion in 'Discussing a ****** Photograph' started by SuzanneR, Nov 4, 2006.

  1. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I've been wanting to start a thread about her, but there are very few good scans of her work on the web, so I have scanned a couple from a book, which may be ethically a little dubious, and apologies for the slightly crooked scan.

    Anyway, Kaesebier was a member of the photo-secessionists, and her work is very much of her time, and despite the very painterly and romantic feel of her work, I have always found her sitters to look very modern, and engaged; they are somehow not romanticized or idealized. Especially her portraits of American Indians.

    The first is titled Portrait (Miss N) and the second is titled Red Man. I'd love to hear other's opinions on these two portraits.
     

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  2. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    Interesting.

    Is the head cropping yours or hers.

    Michael
     
  3. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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  4. juan

    juan Subscriber

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    I find these very interesting - I'm going to look for more of her work. The models are engaged.

    As for ethics, I don't believe there is anything wrong with what you've done for a thread like this, which is educational for those of us you actually read the comments.
    juan
     
  5. Chazzy

    Chazzy Member

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    I've always loved that portrait of Evelyn Nesbit. It makes it a little easier to understand how a murder could be committed over her. It's too bad that modernism became a sort of dogmatic orthodoxy for photography and that the Pictorialists were almost written out of the history books by modernist allies like Beaumont Newhall. Reading his history one would conclude that Pictorialism was an aberration foisted upon us by people whose aesthetic was simply that photographs had to "look like paintings," and that it died completely after about 1925--all of which is patently false. Fortunately recent work has begun to correct the record--especially Christian Petersen's book on Pictorialism after the Photo-Secession.
     
  6. bruce terry

    bruce terry Member

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    What a nice surprise Suzanne! Something from the beginning of the last century but as you point out very modern and unpostured.

    There are a few 'old' portrait photographs - had I the pleasure of great wealth - that I would find, buy and display, and Miss N, the moment I enlarged your book-scanned image would be one of about four. Like all stuff this far back, the original must be drop-dead-arresting.

    I find 'Miss N' absolutely fascinating: the placement of her shoulders against the headboard of a bed for goodness sake, the gripped little pitcher resting lazily at the bottom of the image, her right hand slightly tense - impatiently claw-ish rather than submisively draped, her cocked head, eyes askew not of shyness but of attitude, dark locks fluffed down over her chest, bodice and sleeves suggestively slid-down a little but maybe not, the loose-but-telling material across her breasts so straightforwardly telling what ls beneath. Such naturalness in this picture, such a compliment to a female!

    'Red Man' is a magnificent and haunting composition in every possible way but Miss N has stolen my objectivity, my heart actually.

    Thanks so much for the thread.

    Bruce
     
  7. bruce terry

    bruce terry Member

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    So now Chazzy tells me there have been 'others' besides me.
     
  8. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Other than finding her portrait one of the most seductive of the early part of the century, I don't know anything else about Miss Nesbitt. Can you share the story of this murder you mention?

    And thanks for the book reference, I'll have to look it up.

    Also, for everyone's information, both portraits are dated 1902.
     
  9. cowanw

    cowanw Member

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    I suspect that pictoralism slumbered in the hearts of camera clubs all over the continent and with the connivance of the photoshop empire will reign supreme again and put those limiting qualities of the old photography in their place.
     
  10. rrankin

    rrankin Member

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    I remember Ms Nesbitt the best from the movie 'Ragtime'. Elizabeth McGovern probably studied that photo to get the sense of her, and I'm sure the makeup people must have studied it as well. The Stanford White murder was all the rage back then...

    http://imdb.com/title/tt0082970/

    Cheers,
    Richard
     
  11. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    I really enjoy both images. Very straight forward presentations for the time, especially Red Man, where the focus is so much about the eyes of the subject. The tightly cropped closeup would have been a huge departure from the photographic conventions of the day.
     
  12. Chazzy

    Chazzy Member

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    I was going to recommend the novel _Ragtime_ myself, but you beat me to it. :smile: At the risk of repeating myself, I find that portrait absolutely fascinating. Incidentally, the Barbara Michaels book on Käsebier is well worth having, in my opinion.
     
  13. Gay Larson

    Gay Larson Member

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    Red Man is wonderful. I like that the texture of the blanket come across so well, i could almost feet it's roughness. His eyes draw you in. Thanks for posting
     
  14. smieglitz

    smieglitz Member

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    I believe the portrait of Evelyn Nesbit is laterally reversed here. The 1903 version in Camera Work has her holding the pitcher in her right hand and hair cascading over her left shoulder. It flows much better that way IMO. It is also printed very warm unlike the version shown above.

    Joe
     
  15. catem

    catem Member

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    She is indeed seductive, the photograph is sensual, even erotic (yikes don't go there). Less is more. Thanks Suzanne for posting.

    Cate
     
  16. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    oops.. quite right, Joe!
     

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  17. Bill Mitchell

    Bill Mitchell Member

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    That's strange -- I've been familiar with the Nesbitt image for years, and never throught it was anything but a tacky illustration of a notorous woman. Printed "backwards" as your first illustration, however, I find it extremely sensual, almost erotic.
    Much later, Dorothea Lange made an image similar to Red Man, which I've always admired, but the Kaesebier is even finer.
    Thank you for presenting these. I'll have to look up Gertrude in more detail.
     
  18. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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  19. reellis67

    reellis67 Subscriber

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    Interesting back story - very sad really. Gertrude seems to be overshadowed by others from her time these days but her work is quite impressive, at least to my eye. These are good examples of her work too - I particularly like the Nesbit photograph, but I always have. There is something in her stance that, as other have mentioned, is quite captivating. I'm not very knowledgeable when it comes to portraiture, but these photographs are both very engaging.

    - Randy
     
  20. Charles Webb

    Charles Webb Member

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    Her work has long been on my list of favorites, I however do not like the top of the heads to be chopped off. I am sure she was trying to make a statement of her style, but I think it might have worked even better to be a bit more conventional. Just my opinion, I would rather see the complete image. I respect her work very much!


    Charlie...............................