Thursday, January 15, 2009

Painting or Photography?

Across the Salt Marshes, ca. 1905
Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
15 1/16 x 17 7/8 in
oil on canvas?
Toledo Museum of Art 1912.4
Image ALH

It's wonderful to find out an artist's creative history. Edward Steichen, who most people know as a photographer also trained in painting and drawing. His Tonalist (sorry this is a weak link) paintings share an affinity with his much of his photography. The soft focus and size of this painting (I'll pop in dimensions when I get to work tomorrow - need to look them up) remind me of a photograph. I was initially drawn to the quiet, soft beauty of the painting, and when checking out the wall label was surprised to see that it was Edward Steichen, I had never known he was a painter as well. A quick search brought up another work with a similar title, and wonderfully, it is a Steichen photograph of the same scene. Of course, due to the digital nature, its very difficult to pay a lot of attention to differences in the images. The photograph is also dated 1905 and I would assume it came first. His early photography had this dreamlike quality and helped to elevate his work to a fine status, being particularly painterly.

I'd like to note that in our museum collections system, the image of this painting looks utterly different than my photograph and what I recall seeing in the gallery, more purples and blues than the greenish blues. Ah, frustrations of imaging. I've also realized that the work comes across differently online when shown with its frame.

Steichen also rounded out his career as curator of photography at Museum of Modern Art, as a Fashion and celebrity photographer and a documentary photographer. "The Frustrating Genius of Edward Steichen".

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