In the early 1920s Imogen Cunningham became increasingly interested in photographing flora and although this botanical absorption must have been inherent, she was undoubtedly also aware of two floral masterpieces reproduced in recent issues of Vanity Fair - Charles Sheeler's Zinnia and Nasturtium Leaves (May, 1920) and Edward Steichen's Lotus, Mount Kisco, New York (July 1923). Cunningham's response was to produce a series of studies of magnolia blossoms from 1923-1925. These became simplified as she strove to represent only the flower's most elemental form and the present lot is recognized as perhaps the most successful of the series.
Cunningham's flower studies of the period were admired by the photographer Johan Hagemeyer, a former horticulturalist, who himself produced a number of exquisite floral images (see lot 378).
This rare, vintage photograph was given to Hagemeyer by Cunningham. After Hagemeyer's death in 1962, the work was bequeathed as part of his collection to long-time champion and patron Leonard Loeb, an eminent Berkeley physicist and talented amateur photographer in his own right. The photograph has remained subsequently in the Loeb family collection.