Portraits of Women Artists
June 16, 2009
To celebrate Women’s History Month, a selection of women artist portraits from the Peter A. Juley & Son Collection, part of the photograph archives at the American Art Museum, was added to Flickr in March.
Peter A. Juley (1862–1937) and his son Paul P. Juley (1890–1975) headed the largest and most respected fine arts photography firm in New York. Between 1896 and 1975, the Juleys photographed hundreds of thousands of artworks and many artists. The American Art Museum acquired the firm's photographic negatives in 1975. Most of the 127,000 negatives are pictures of artworks, but nearly 4,700 are portraits of artists: some in formal poses, some candid; some at work in their studios, at home, or teaching classes.
A few sculptors illustrate the wide variety of personalities and portrait styles. For example, Selma Burke poses next to a clay bust while wearing a black dress and a multistrand necklace. Margaret French Cresson, also in a “dressed-up” pose, holds a tool of her trade: a wire-end clay modeling tool. In a seemingly candid, informal shot, Helene Sardeau has clay-stained hands and coveralls.
Other portraits are more formal and traditional, like those of Peggy Bacon, Isabel Bishop, and Theresa Bernstein, who died in 2002, just shy of her 112th birthday. And then there is the photo of Bianca Todd, wherein she evokes the image of a child playing dress-up. Was she really so dramatic and fun? (See more images of Bianca Todd.)
Many of these pictures also offer unique views of works-in-progress. We see Aline H. Rhonie standing on scaffolding in front of her aviation mural at Roosevelt Field in Garden City, New York. Countess Maria Zichy poses beside her portrait of Benjamin Franklin. And Gwen Lux works on a model for one of her sculptures that was later shown at the Third Sculpture International exhibition in Philadelphia in 1949.
It is easy to take for granted the proliferation of art images available to us today—on the Internet, museum Web sites, and community sharing sites like Flickr. It is now easier than ever to take our own photographs with digital cameras or cell phones and post them online immediately. But that wasn’t the case a hundred years ago. In the early twentieth century, when cameras were not as portable and reproduction was costly, photos of art were much harder to come by. Thankfully, Peter A. Juley & Son devoted itself almost entirely to fine art photography, and today those pictures of artists and artworks remain relevant for art historical research as well as for our viewing pleasure. I hope you enjoy these portraits as much as I do.
- Peter A. Juley & Son Collection, Photography, Artist Portraits, Women's History Month,
Flickr Commons, American Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum
To all of us who worked so hard cataloguing these photo negatives of the Peter and Paul Juley Collection, I salute you!!!!!!!!!
Posted by: Beth Blumenthal | Jun 17, 2009
I think that photographic portraits are great story starters for students. Using one or more photos, students can write a story or fictional biography about this person/people.
Posted by: Robyn | Jun 23, 2009
I think the proliferation of social media Web sites like flickr and picassa are wonderful platforms for education in the arts, although the sheer numbers of these sites appearing on a monthly basis can be overwhelming. Kudos to the American Art Museum for taking advantage of internet technology in such an important way.
Posted by: Shareef Defrawi | Jun 29, 2009
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