Explore the Brave Work of Early Modern Photographer Anne Brigman With Fresh Books and a Zoom Panel Discussion

  • June 17, 2020 13:27

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Photographed at Donner Pass in the Sierras, Anne Brigman, "Dawn," 1909. Gelatin silver print, 5 1/4 x 10 1/4 in. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933. (33.43.100). Copy photograph © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image source: Art Resource, NY
"Anne Brigman: A Visionary in Modern Photography," written and edited by Ann M. Wolfe, with contributors (Nevada Museum of Art and Rizzoli Electa).

Following a major retrospective in 2018-19 at the Nevada Museum of Art, the late 19th-early 20th century photography of Anne Brigman is getting a closer look. 

Born in Hawaii, Brigman (1869-1950) was championed by photographer-art dealer Alfred Stieglitz in New York and while living most of her life in California she was aligned with the Arts & Crafts philosophy and Pictorialist photography. Also a poet, critic, and mountaineer, Brigman became best-known for her iconic nudes (modeled herself or with other women) posed in remote High Sierra landscapes⁠—a subject that was radical for a female photographer of the early 1900s and created in a wilderness setting then considered groundbreaking in art.

Anne Brigman, "Incantation," 1905. Wilson Centre for Photography.

Due to its popularity, a previously sold-out book accompanying the Nevada Museum of Art (NMA) exhibition is now available in second edition. Written and edited by curator Ann M. Wolfe, with contributions from art historians and scholars, and co-published by the Nevada Museum of Art and Rizzoli Electa, this 400-page, heavily illustrated tome ($115) examines Brigman's photography and illustrates her take on nature and the High Sierra. Visit shop.nevadaart.org to purchase. (Note: An iteration of the NMA's exhibition Anne Brigman: A Visionary in Modern Photography scheduled at Grey Art Gallery NYU this spring was cancelled, but a short documentary with curator highlights is available on YouTube and there is an image selection with explanatory text here.)

A forthcoming (June 23, 2020) 244-page book by Kathleen Pyne, professor emerita of art history at the University of Notre Dame, explores Stieglitz's promotion of Brigman in the Photo-Secession group and notes how he later positioned Georgia O’Keeffe in Brigman's image as an embodiment of an ideal woman artist. Anne Brigman: Photographer of Enchantment ($65, Yale University Press) reasserts "Brigman’s place among photography’s most important early advocates and provides new insight into the gender and racialist dynamics of the early twentieth-century art world, especially on the West Coast of the United States."

Anne Brigman, "The Breeze," 1909/printed 1915. Gelatin silver print, 9 5/8 x 7 3/8 in. Wilson Centre for Photography.

From June 27-28, photo l.a. offers ticket holders access to a live fair with 3-D exhibitions, digital sales platform and live streaming programming, including a Panel Discussion on June 27 from 10:30 am -12 pm PST entitled "Anne Brigman - The Spirit of Nature in early 20th Century Photography." 

As part of photo l.a.'s Virtual Connect + Collect program: "The panelists will exchange ideas and opinions about Anne Brigman's sometimes controversial life, art and times.  Topics will include the special character of Pictorialism as an art movement, Brigman's influence as a brave and progressive modern artist and woman, and why she has been largely left out of the photographic canon. Other topics will include her participation in a circle of advanced photographers in the San Francisco Bay Area around 1920, the significance of her nude self-portraits made outdoors, and a shift latter in her career to writing poetry and reflecting on her lifework after moving to Southern California in the 1930-1940s.”

Brigman chose this poem to accompany her photograph "The Breeze" in her book "Songs of a Pagan":
What was it stirred the bough? . . .
There was no breath of wind! . . .
Why did the aspens tremble
In the quiet of sunset? . . .
Was it the shadow of trees
That slipped softly
Over the hill
Into the cañon? . . .
Why did the slim, young moon
Shine as of minted silver
And the little red foxes
Bark from their coverts? . . .
Then I knew, knew
In the breath of the wild rose . . .
Knew in the wild, sweet fragrance
Flooding the trail
That Beauty was passing . . .
Diana . . . the lovely and swift . . .
With her lean, gray, phantom hounds! . . .

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