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Details
IMOGEN CUNNINGHAM (1883–1976)
Magnolia Blossom, 1925
gelatin silver contact print
signed in pencil (margin)
image: 6 3/4 x 8 in. (17.1 x 20.3 cm.)
sheet: 8 x 10 in. (20.3 x 25.4 cm.)
Provenance
Edwynn Houk Gallery, Chicago;
acquired from the above by the present owner, c. 1984.
Literature
Margery Mann, Imogen Cunningham: Photographs 1910-1973, University of Washington Press, Seattle, 1970, pl. 11.
Richard Lorenz, Imogen Cunningham: Ideas without End, a Life in Photographs, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 1993, pl. 38, p. 103.
Exhibited
Ithaca, New York, Herbert F. Johnson Museum, Cornell University, An American Portrait: Photographs from the Collection of Diann and Thomas Mann, April 1–June 12, 1994, no. 104.

Lot Essay

Imogen Cunningham’s Magnolia Blossom demonstrates the artist's evolution toward a more modern approach in her photography. The bold sensuality and oscillation between representation and abstraction is definitively modern, echoing abstract expressionist works of the 1920s such as Georgia O’Keeffe’s early large-scale flower paintings. Furthermore, Cunningham's botanical studies from 1923–1925 achieved a surprisingly strong sense of emotional vulnerability. The way in which the plants spill out toward the viewer, free of inhibition or restraint, elicits an intimacy that relates to her nude self-portraits, so courageously made for a woman photographer at the beginning of the 20th century. In this respect, Cunningham’s impact on photography continues deep into the 20th century. Robert Mapplethorpe’s focus on eroticism that links his floral studies to his imposing figurative works and Irving Penn’s elegant exploration of the pistils of flowers are indebted to Cunningham’s early adventurous work.

The present lot is a vintage, contact print on matte paper, signed by Cunningham but not dated, conforming with the artist's practice during the 1920s.

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