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View Full Version : Discuss a Gertrude Kaesebier Photograph



SuzanneR
11-04-2006, 11:43 AM
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.

blansky
11-04-2006, 12:07 PM
Interesting.

Is the head cropping yours or hers.

Michael

SuzanneR
11-04-2006, 12:10 PM
Hers...

juan
11-04-2006, 01:02 PM
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

Chazzy
11-04-2006, 03:49 PM
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.

bruce terry
11-04-2006, 04:10 PM
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

bruce terry
11-04-2006, 04:15 PM
So now Chazzy tells me there have been 'others' besides me.

SuzanneR
11-04-2006, 04:39 PM
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.

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.

cowanw
11-04-2006, 05:00 PM
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.

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.

rrankin
11-04-2006, 07:11 PM
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

Jim Chinn
11-04-2006, 07:30 PM
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.

Chazzy
11-04-2006, 08:04 PM
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

I was going to recommend the novel _Ragtime_ myself, but you beat me to it. :) 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.

Gay Larson
11-04-2006, 09:00 PM
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

smieglitz
11-05-2006, 01:00 AM
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

catem
11-05-2006, 06:00 AM
She is indeed seductive, the photograph is sensual, even erotic (yikes don't go there). Less is more. Thanks Suzanne for posting.

Cate

SuzanneR
11-05-2006, 06:39 AM
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

oops.. quite right, Joe!

Bill Mitchell
11-05-2006, 06:57 AM
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.

blansky
11-05-2006, 12:22 PM
Evelyn Nesbit.... the girl on the red velvet swing.

http://www.prairieghosts.com/thaw.html


Michael

reellis67
11-06-2006, 02:39 PM
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

Charles Webb
11-07-2006, 07:52 PM
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...............................