Edward Steichen
In Memoriam

In Memoriam
Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
In Memoriam
1904
Gum bichromate print
H. 47.6; W. 36 cm
© Estate of Edward Steichen

In Memoriam


This monumental nude, from one of the American masters of the Photo-Secession movement, is one of the masterpieces of photographic pictorialism. Brought up in Wisconsin, where his family moved to from Luxembourg in 1889, Steichen was enrolled by Alfred Stieglitz in the Photo-Secession movement in 1902, and went on to play a leading role in it. In particular, he introduced the French pictorial and sculptural avant-garde that he discovered during several visits to Paris, and he also established himself as a superbly talented photographer.

As in many pictorial photographs, this nude is blurred, enhancing the impression of mystery introduced by the studied pose of the model with her face hidden. The way the figure occupies the space is typical of Steichen's compositional skills. In spite of the abstract nature of the image, emphasised by the chiaroscuro throughout the photograph, we can feel the physical weight of the woman's body, which is somewhat unusual in Steichen's nudes who are usually more ethereal. He probably produced this image while on a visit to Paris in 1900, before making the prints in the United States after the model committed suicide because of her love for him, and hence the title In Memoriam, which is symbolist in spirit as is the whole image.


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