Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
Edward Steichen (1879-1973)

In Memoriam, 1901

Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
In Memoriam, 1901
coated platinum print, flush-mounted on original board, printed 1904/1905
signed and dated in roman numerals twice, in red and dark media (recto); title and annotation '19 1/4 x 15 1/2' in pencil (mount, verso)
image/sheet/flush mount: 18 1/2 x 15 1/8 in. (47.1 x 38.5 cm.)
Gino Severini (1883-1966);
with SAGE Paris;
with Bruce Silverstein Gallery, New York.
Alfred Stieglitz, Camera Work, New York, Steichen Supplement, April 1906, pl. VII.
Edward Steichen, A Life in Photography, Doubleday & Company, Inc./The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1963, pl. 28.
Weston J. Naef, The Collection of Alfred Stieglitz: Fifty Pioneers of Modern Photography, Viking Press/Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1978, pl. 502, pp. 464-465.
Ruth Kelton, Edward Steichen, Aperture, Millerton, NY, 1978, p. 19.
Dennis Longwell, Steichen: The Master Prints 1895-1914, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1978, pl. 22, pp. 66-67.
Joel Smith, Edward Steichen: The Early Years, Princeton University Press/Metropolitan Museum of Art, Princeton, 1999, pl. 11.
Brent R. Benjamin et al., Impressionist Camera: Pictorial Photography in Europe 1888-1918, Saint Louis Art Museum/Merrell, New York, London, 2006, fig. 65, p. 105.
Todd Brandow and William A. Ewing, Edward Steichen: Lives in Photography, W.W. Norton & Company/ Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography and the Musée de l'Elysée, New York and London, 2007, pl. 34, p. 55.
William A. Ewing and Todd Brandow, Edward Steichen: In High Fashion, The Condé Nast Years, W.W. Norton & Company/ Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography and the Musée de l'Elysée, New York and London, 2007, pl. 9, p. 25.
Malcolm Daniel, Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand: Masterworks from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Yale University Press/Metropolitan Museum of Art, New Haven, 2010, pl. 67.

Lot Essay

A photo must represent, partake, suggest or reflect the object photographed, but it is not a work of art because it does either or all of these. It must be alive and as a photograph have an existence of its own.
Edward Steichen

Steichen's photographic nudes... contain perhaps the best and noblest aspirations of his artistic career. [...] Their bodies are no paeans of the flesh nor do they proclaim absolutely the purity of nudity. Steichen's nudes are a strange procession of female forms, naïve, non-moral, almost sexless, with shy, furtive movements, groping with their arms mysteriously into the air or assuming attitudes commonplace enough, but imbued with some mystic meaning, with the light concentrated upon their thighs, their arms, or the back, while the rest of the body is drowned in darkness. 'What does all this mean?' Futile question. Can you explain the melancholy beauty of the falling rain, or tell why the slushy pavements, reflecting the glaring lights of Fifth Avenue stores, remind us of the golden dreams the poets dream?
Sadakichi Hartmann

Edward Steichen most likely captured this arresting image in 1900 during his formative trip to Paris while enrolled at the Académie Julian. As a young man of only twenty-one, Steichen was idealistic and ambitious, with a reverence for the romantic and a newly cemented devotion to the medium of photography. Exemplified by the present lot, his explorations of Pictorialism during this time, notably with portraiture and nudes, are some of the artist's most beautifully raw objects – their palpable texture and mood often heightened by the use of the gum bichromate or multiple processes. For this particular print, the photographer has coated the platinum print with a consistent layer of soft wax, gum, or natural resin in order to create the rich, painterly surface characteristic of Pictorialist works.

To Steichen, the nude body contained the ideals of beauty. Quite unlike contemporary conventional Pictorialist nudes – blurred, impressionistic, whispers of skin and form – the evocative In Memoriam achieves what Joanna Steichen called a ‘polished marble quality.' The model emerges with stunning dimensionality, presence and femininity. Steichen printed the image upon returning to the United States and titled the work In Memoriam in honor of the model whose unrequited love of him resulted in the taking of her own life.

This is the only version of this print in private hands, the other ones are in public collections, one with Musée d’Orsay, the other with The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

More from Modern Visions: Exceptional Photographs

View All
View All