Paul Strand's evolving vision in the years prior to the United States entry to World War I is often described as his "proto-Modernist" period. Between 1913 and 1916 his photographs brilliantly displayed a prescient and unique knowledge of European avant-garde formalism within the framework of the atmospheric sentimentality of a purely American (and urban) concept of photography as Art. Unlike George Seeley of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, (see lots 145 and 146) an earlier member of Stieglitz's brood, who found atmospheric abstraction in great swaths of nature, Strand used the city as his canvas, drawn to the Machine Age arena where the new millenium was taking shape. Paul Strand, unlike any other photographer of the time, understood the essence of the developing urban environment to be the arena where the great bouts of the 20th century would take place - man versus nature, man versus machine and man versus man.
When Strand was photographing outside New York, as in the Twin Lakes, Connecticut Porch Abstractions or in the several still lifes from this period, he was still able to imbue an urban sensibility. The porch abstractions, with their towering verticals set at dizzying diagonals, recall the city's bursting skyline. Even his close-up still lifes of fruit and bowls disperse of scale and bring a monumentality that must have been akin to the "man on the street's" first experience with a skyscraper.
With the onslaught of World War I and the dispersal of the New York avant-garde, Stieglitz closed his gallery, 291 and the last issues of Camera Work, devoted to Strand's work, were issued. For Strand, the pursuit of Modernism in the early 1920s entered a new stage. No longer confined by any influence of the Photo-Secession his pictures became pointedly sharp.
The 1998 exhibition circulated by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Paul Strand, circa 1916, featured the largest selection of prints from this era ever displayed at once. The exhibition and catalogue brought to light this early period of Strand's work re-establishing its importance.
Strand's enlarged platinum prints of the period are quite limited and in most cases are known to exist as unique copies only. Anthony Montoya of the Paul Strand Archive has noted that both the original lantern slide and the enlarged negative from which this print was made no longer exist. In addition, no other extant prints of this image are known.
For other works by this artist please see lots 155, 258 and 259.