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1005 Langley St

Victoria, BC V8W 1V7

1005 Langley St

Victoria, BC V8W 1V7

Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm

Alvin Langdon Coburn

Figure Head

$6,000
Size
  • Artwork Info
  • About the Artist
  • About this Photograph
  • circa 1940
    Gelatin silver print mounted to tissue paper, tipped to period paper, ferrotyped
    Signed, in pencil, on first support
    Printed circa 1940

  • Born in Boston and eventually becoming a British citizen, Alvin Langdon Coburn (June 11, 1882 – November 23, 1966) was an early 20th-century photographer who became a key figure in the development of American pictorialism. He became the first major photographer to emphasize the visual potential of elevated viewpoints and later made some of the first completely abstract photographs – Vortographs – using a kaleidoscope-like attachment that he invented for the camera.

    While still a young man, his photography attracted the attention of Alfred Stieglitz, who included Coburn’s compositions in editions of his seminal photography journal, Camera Work (Issue Nos. 3, 15, & 21). Cultural luminaries were captivated by his photographs, with George Bernard Shaw declaring in 1907 that the 24-year-old Coburn was, in his opinion, “the greatest photographer in the world”.

    By 1930, as mysticism and Freemasonry gained a greater hold on Coburn’s attention, he lost almost all interest in photography. That year he destroyed practically all his life’s work – approximately 15,000 glass and film negatives – and donated his extensive collection of contemporary and historical photographs to the Royal Photographic Society.

    Despite dedicating his focus towards a spiritual life after 1930, Coburn would still occasionally make photographs. These rare, later photographs are highly sought after by collectors.

    Adapted from Wikipedia.com

  • By 1930, as mysticism and Freemasonry gained a greater hold on Coburn’s attention, he lost almost all interest in photography. That year he destroyed practically all his life’s work – approximately 15,000 glass and film negatives – and donated his extensive collection of contemporary and historical photographs to the Royal Photographic Society.

    This listing is for a rare, later photograph by Coburn. Shot and printed in 1940, the subject matter melds the artist’s interests of his young adulthood with his later-in-life spiritual pursuits. A ship’s figurehead, across centuries of civilization, was often credited with harbouring a protective spirit whose task was to spare sailors from sickness and the ship from the dangers of traversing open water. Coburn would have been familiar with that seafaring folklore and, with his deep attachment to symbolism, mysticism, and Freemasonry, likely felt compelled to photograph this fine example of its type.