Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Photography of Walker Evens

Walker Evens 
Walker Evans  was born on November 3rd, 1903 and died on April 10th, 1975. He was an American photographer and photojournalist best known for his work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA) documenting the effects of the Great Depression. Much of Evans's work from the FSA period uses the large-format, 8×10-inch (200×250 mm) camera. He said that his goal as a photographer was to make pictures that are "literate, authoritative, transcendent". Many of his works are in the permanent collections of museums and have been the subject of retrospectives at such institutions as The Metropolitan Museum of Art or George Eastman House.
He was born in St. Louis, Missouri, to Jessie (née Crane) and Walker Evans. His father was an advertising director. Walker was raised in an affluent environment; he spent his youth in ToledoChicago, and New York City. He attended The Loomis Institute and Mercersburg Academy before graduating from Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, in 1922. He studied French literature for a year at Williams College, spending much of his time in the school's library, before dropping out. After spending a year in Paris in 1926, he returned to the United States to join the edgy literary and art crowd in New York City. John CheeverHart Crane, and Lincoln Kirstein were among his friends. He was a clerk for a stockbroker firm in Wall street from 1927 to 1929.
Evans took up photography in 1928 around the time he was living in Ossining, New York.[ His influences included Eugène Atget and August Sander. In 1930, he published three photographs (Brooklyn Bridge) in the poetry book The Bridge by Hart Crane. In 1931, he made a photo series of Victorian houses in the Boston vicinity sponsored by Lincoln Kirstein.
In May and June 1933, Evans took photographs in Cuba on assignment for Lippincott, the publisher of Carleton BealsThe Crime of Cuba (1933), a "strident account" of the dictatorship of Gerardo Machado. There Evans drank nightly with Ernest Hemingway, who loaned him money to extend his two-week stay an additional week. His photographs documented street life, the presence of police, beggars and dockworkers in rags, and other waterfront scenes. He also helped Hemingway acquire photos from newspaper archives that documented some of the political violence Hemingway described in To Have and Have Not (1937). Fearing that his photographs might be deemed critical of the government and confiscated by Cuban authorities, he left 46 prints with Hemingway. He had no difficulties when returning to the United States, and 31 of his photos appeared in Beals' book. The cache of prints left with Hemingway was discovered in Havana in 2002 and exhibited at an exhibition in Key West.
In 1935, Evans spent two months at first on a fixed-term photographic campaign for the Resettlement Administration (RA) in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. From October on, he continued to do photographic work for the RA and later the Farm Security Administration (FSA), primarily in the Southern United States.
In the summer of 1936, while on leave from the FSA, he and writer James Agee were sent by Fortune magazine on assignment to Hale County, Alabama, for a story the magazine subsequently opted not to run. In 1941, Evans's photographs and Agee's text detailing the duo's stay with three white tenant families in southern Alabama during the Great Depression were published as the groundbreaking book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Its detailed account of three farming families paints a deeply moving portrait of rural poverty. The critic Janet Malcolm  notes that as in the earlier Beals' book there was a contradiction between a kind of anguished dissonance in Agee's prose and the quiet, magisterial beauty of Evans's photographs of sharecroppers.[10][page needed]
The three families headed by Bud Fields, Floyd Burroughs and Frank Tingle, lived in the Hale County town of Akron, Alabama, and the owners of the land on which the families worked told them that Evans and Agee were "Soviet agents," although Allie Mae Burroughs, Floyd's wife, recalled during later interviews her discounting that information. Evans's photographs of the families made them icons of Depression-Era misery and poverty. In September 2005, Fortune revisited Hale County and the descendants of the three families for its 75th anniversary issue.[11] Charles Burroughs, who was four years old when Evans and Agee visited the family, was "still angry" at them for not even sending the family a copy of the book; the son of Floyd Burroughs was also reportedly angry because the family was "cast in a light that they couldn't do any better, that they were doomed, ignorant".[11]
Evans continued to work for the FSA until 1938. That year, an exhibition, Walker Evans: American Photographs, was held at The Museum of Modern Art, New York. This was the first exhibition in the museum devoted to the work of a single photographer. The catalogue included an accompanying essay by Lincoln Kirstein, whom Evans had befriended in his early days in New York.
In 1938, Evans also took his first photographs in the New York subway with a camera hidden in his coat. These would be collected in book form in 1966 under the title Many are Called. In 1938 and 1939, Evans worked with and mentored Helen Levitt.
Evans, like such other photographers as Henri Cartier-Bresson, rarely spent time in the darkroom making prints from his own negatives. He only very loosely supervised the making of prints of most of his photographs, sometimes only attaching handwritten notes to negatives with instructions on some aspect of the printing procedure.
Evans was a passionate reader and writer, and in 1945 became a staff writer at Time magazine. Shortly afterward he became an editor at Fortune magazine through 1965. That year, he became a professor of photography on the faculty for Graphic Design at the Yale University School of Art.
In one of his last photographic projects, Evans completed a black and white portfolio of Brown Brothers Harriman & Co.'s offices and partners for publication in Partners in Banking, published in 1968 to celebrate the private bank's 150th anniversary. In 1973 and 1974, he also shot a long series with the then-new Polaroid SX-70 camera, after age and poor health had made it difficult for him to work with elaborate equipment.
The first definitive retrospective of his photographs, which "individually evoke an incontrovertible sense of specific places, and collectively a sense of America," according to a press release, was on view at New York's Museum of Modern Art in early 1971. Selected by John Szarkowski, the exhibit was titled simply Walker Evans.
Evans died at his home in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1975.
 In 1994, The Estate of Walker Evans handed over its holdings to New York City's The Metropolitan Museum of Art.[15] The Metropolitan Museum of Art is the sole copyright holder for all works of art in all media by Walker Evans. The only exception is a group of approximately 1,000 negatives in collection of the Library of Congress which were produced for the Resettlement Administration (RA) / Farm Security Administration (FSA). Evans's RA / FSA works are in the public domain.
In 2000, Evans was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame.

Photos by Walker Evens

The Origin of Common Expressions: Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve

Meaning:  If you wear your heart on your sleeve, you openly show your feelings or emotions rather than keeping them hidden.

Origin: We use the phrase "wear your heart on your sleeve" in a casual way to say that we are showing our intimate emotions in an honest and open manner. But why are we "wearing" our emotions? And why a sleeve? Before getting to the heart of this matter, we should turn to the first recorded use of the expression, which is in William Shakespeare’s Othello .It's likely that the phrase "wear your heart on your sleeve" comes from medieval jousts, where a 'sleeve' referred to a piece of armor which covered and protected the arm. Knights would often wear a lady's token around their sleeve of armor.

In Shakespeare’s tragedy, it is none other than the dishonest and villainous Iago who speaks the words to his confederate Rodrigo: For when my outward action doth demonstrate / The native act and figure of my heart / In complement extern, 'tis not long after / But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve / For daws [birds] to peck at: I am not what I am.

Iago's imagery effectively conveys his belief that when what he feels in his heart is openly revealed, he will become vulnerable to attack. But why did Shakespeare choose the image of a heart upon a sleeve of all things? How did such a turn of phrase come about? Quite possibly, it originated in medieval jousts.

In the Middle Ages, sleeve not only referred to a part of a garment covering the arm but to a piece of armor for covering and protecting the arm. When participating in a joust, knights would often dedicate their performance to a lady of the court and wear something of hers, such as a scarf or ribbon, around their sleeve of armor, which indicated to the tournament's spectators which lady the knight favored. This chivalrous and affectionate gesture may be the source of the saying "wear your heart on your sleeve."
But this is mere conjecture since evidence is lacking that shows the phrase was used in reference to a knight outwardly displaying who his object of affection was. The only certainty is that by the 17th century, a figurative meaning of the phrase existed, as attested by Shakespeare's use, to express emotional honesty and openness.
I wear my heart on my sleeve. - Princess Diana
Some people wear their heart up on their sleeve. I wear mine underneath my right pant leg, strapped to my boot.  - Ani DiFranco

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Art of John Singer Sargent

John Singer Sargent

John Singer Sargent was born on January 20th 1865, in Florence, Grand Duchy of Tuscany (Italy) and died on April 14th, 1925 in London, U.K. He was the premiere portraitist of his generation, well-known for his depictions of high society figures in Paris, London, and New York. He updated a centuries-old tradition by using vibrant Impressionistic brushstrokes and untraditional compositional solutions in order to capture his sitters' character and even reputation. Sargent's oeuvre was not limited to portraiture and also included impressionistic landscapes, executed en plein airalongside his friend Claude Monet. He also painted official murals commissioned by governmental officials both in the United States and the United Kingdom as well as a good number of nude sketches probably meant as personal works.
Key Ideas
There was many a Sargent's distinct method of making his sitter's shine while also capturing their personalities, aspirations, inclinations, and distinct characteristics differentiated his work in the portraiture genre from others before him.  patron who, upon seeing the final results, complained or outright refused to accept the work. His infamous portrait of Madame X, for example, emphasizing the notorious behavior of the sitter, met with much criticism from both the sitter herself and the great audience at the annual Salon.
Sargent took the very best of formal compositional development, as absorbed through his study of Old Masters including Anthony Van Dyck and Diego Velazquez and updated it with a pseudo-Impressionist style learned from an anti-Academic instructor. The result was a more vibrant type of portraiture albeit elevated by its grounding in the best the tradition had to offer.
His works of sensual male nudes, carefully hidden away by the artist so as not to compromise his successful position as society painter, indicate a depth of investigation previously unknown in Sargent's work. There is great speculation regarding the artist's sexual proclivities to which this oeuvre as well as his relationship to Henry James bear witness.
Sargent's family had strong roots in New England, in fact his father's family were among the earliest colonial settlers in Massachusetts. Leaving behind the family shipping business, Sargent's father Fitzwilliam moved to Philadelphia where he became an eye surgeon. In 1850, he married Mary Newbold Singer, the daughter of a successful Philadelphia merchant. Their first child, a daughter, was born the following year, and died in 1853. Distraught, the couple left the United States for an extended period of time. Largely based in Paris, they traveled throughout Western Europe, including Italy, Germany, and Switzerland.
John Singer Sargent was born in Florence, Tuscany (before the Italian Risorgimento) in 1856. Though American, he didn't visit his native country until he was 20. Due to his family's nomadic lifestyle, he received little formal education and was tutored by his parents in languages, history, arithmetic, and music. He became fluent in Italian, German, and French. Fitzwilliam hoped his son would one day join the American Navy. Meanwhile, his mother, an aspiring artist herself, encouraged Sargent's early interest in painting and drawing. She apparently commented, "If we could afford to give him really good lessons, he would soon be quite a little artist." His parents arranged for watercolor lessons from a German landscape painter, Carl Welsch, living in Florence.
Early Training
Fitzwilliam and Mary decided that Paris was the best environment in which to develop their son's talent. Sargent began training with the popular portrait artist, Charles Auguste Émile Carolus-Duran, in 1874. This Frenchman would have a major impact on the development of his technique and approach to painting over the next several years, encouraging his respect for Old Masters such as Anthony van Dyck, Rembrandt van Rijn, and Diego Velazquez, and encouraging his students not to rely on preparatory sketches or drawings when creating a portrait but instead, to begin straight away with the subject's face.
In 1874, Sargent passed the difficult entrance exam for the École des Beaux-Arts, France's leading art school and almost immediately attracted attention from fellow artists and figures important within the contemporary art world. The American impressionist painter J. Alden Weir met Sargent at this time and called him "one of the most talented fellows I have ever come across.
Considered the leading portrait painter of his generation, if not American art history, Sargent created over two thousand watercolors, nine hundred oil paintings, and a staggering number of works on paper. Although his work fell out of critical favor during the height of modernism, interest in his contribution has continuously grown since the 1950's and 1960's.
Sargent's impact upon the art world is difficult to overstate and can be seen, for example, in the aristocratic portraits of his friend Emil Fuchs, the works of contemporary British portrait artist Isabella Watling, and the early portraits of the American modernist painter Archibald Motley. Andy Warhol, whose works reflect the glamour of Sargent's best-known portraits if not a direct homage to his technique, commented that Sargent "made everybody look glamorous. Taller. Thinner." In 2014, Sargent's work inspired a New York exhibition, titled "Sargent's Daughters," in which 40 female artists created works influenced by his unique contribution to painting. This testament to his broad, enduring appeal included significant works such as Robin Williams' Mr. X (2014), which cites Sargent's most famous painting while playing with gender, and Jordan Casteel's Galen 1 (2014), which draws inspiration from the artist's late male nudes.
Quotes by John Singer Sargent
I do not judge, I only chronicle.
Every time I paint a portrait I lose a friend.
Artwork by John Singer Sargent