photography

From Muse to Master

Throughout art history, the muse has played a central role in the artist’s process. The modern art muse has found its most frequent embodiment in women, from Victorine Muerent to Camille Claudel to Kiki de Montparnasse to Marie-Therese Walter (and the numerous other women portrayed by Picasso). Female muses have been both model and artistic catalyst to their typically more famous male collaborators, even though their own creative production is often considered of equal value. Lee Miller, one of the subjects of the special exhibition Man Ray | Lee Miller: Partners in Surrealism (on view at the Legion of Honor through October 14), has long been pigeonholed as Man Ray’s muse. But, as this exhibition reveals, Miller’s relationship with Man Ray was only the beginning of her journey from muse to master.

Floating

Man Ray (American, 1890–1976). Portrait of Lee Miller–Flying Head, c. 1930. Vintage gelatin silver print. Lee Miller Archives, England © 2012 Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY / ADAGP, Paris

The Art of the Photo Finish

As millions watch the Summer Olympics opening ceremony this Friday, July 27, the best athletes in the world will officially open the Games of the XXX Olympiad. The next day, Saturday, July 28, Gifts from the Gods: Art and the Olympic Ideal opens at the Legion of Honor. Like the opening ceremony, and the Games themselves, this exhibition celebrates athletic

Man Ray and Lee Miller: Excerpts from a Conversation with Julian Cox

The special exhibition Man Ray | Lee Miller: Partners in Surrealism opens tomorrow at the Legion of Honor. Earlier this summer, Julian Cox sat down with the San Francisco Arts Quarterly’s John Held, Jr. to discuss the photography of Man Ray and Lee Miller, their mutual invention and artistic discovery, and the stormy, but inspired, relationship that ultimately lasted a lifetime. Read the complete interview in issue 10 of the SFAQ print edition on August 3.

Man Ray, Lee Miller, and a gun

Attributed to Man Ray (1890–1976) Fairground, c. 1930. Vintage postcard print. The Roland Penrose Collection, England

Happy birthday, Julia Margaret Cameron!

Since its invention in the mid 19th century, photography has been at the forefront of progressive art making traditions—so its presence in The Cult of Beauty: The Victorian Avant-Garde, 1860–1900 is no surprise. By the 1890s, photography was a half-century old and its supporters vociferously claimed it to be an independent art form, advocating for the idea of "art photography." Today we celebrate the birthday of Julia Margaret Cameron, one of the greatest photographers from this period and whose work is currently on display in The Cult of Beauty at the Legion of Honor (closing this Sunday, June 17).

Portrait of a Woman

Julia Margaret Cameron (English, 1815–1879). Portrait of a Woman (Louise Beatrice de Fonblanque), 1868. Albumen silver print from wet-collodion-on-glass negative mounted to a heavier sheet. Museum purchase, Mrs. Milton S. Latham Fund. 1992.138

Designing Arthur Tress: San Francisco 1964

This weekend marks your last chance to experience the special exhibition Arthur Tress: San Francisco 1964 , on view at the de Young until June 3. As book designer and guest blogger Martin Venezky aptly notes, the catalogue represents a lasting impression of an otherwise temporary exhibition. Today, Venezky shares with us the process behind the creation of this unique publication.

The catalogue for the special exhibition Arthur Tress: San Francisco 1964 provides a nice case study into the inner workings of a book design. The book itself is deceptively simple. It contains reproductions of sixty-eight photographs from the exhibition, an essay, an interview, locations and credits, a foreword, and a set of additional images—some historical, some personal, and some working contact sheets. But beneath the seemingly placid surface there were hundreds of options to consider and decisions to make.

Cover

Conservation in 3D: Skype, Stereographs and Silicon

Recently one of the Museums’ most generous supporters, Dorothy Saxe, purchased a sculpture for the collection in memory of our late director John E. Buchanan. Created by contemporary glass artist Beth Lipman, Candlesticks, Books, Flowers and Fruit (2010) is a complex compilation of multiple elements balanced precariously on a table. My role as an objects conservator is to ensure that all the elements of this fragile sculpture are installed safely and in keeping with the artist’s original intent.

Mystery Glass Negatives from Land's End

Before there were digital image files and even before there was film, photographers captured images on glass plate negatives. In the collection of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco there are over seventy of these glass plate negatives depicting scenes of Land’s End and old San Francisco. Discovered in the basement of the old de Young, these century-old negatives were in desperate need of cleaning and re-housing. When the negatives came into the paper conservation lab at the Legion of Honor for proper care, the labor intensive project proved a perfect opportunity for pre-program conservation student Jennifer Martinez.

Foundation of Cliff House

Foundation of Cliff House, c. 1895

FRAME|WORK: Untitled (Portals of the Past) by Arnold Genthe

FRAME|WORK is a weekly blog series that highlights an artwork in the Museums permanent collections. Today we commemorate the 1906 earthquake and ensuing fire that ravaged the majority of San Francisco. Arnold Genthe’s Untitled (Portals of the Past), a jewel of the Museums’ photography collection, provides a look back at that dark day. This photograph is currently not on display, so please enjoy this exclusive virtual viewing.

Portals of the Past

Arnold Genthe (American, b. Prussia, 1869–1942). Untitled (Portals of the Past), 1906 (printed 1956). Gelatin silver print. Museum purchase, James D. Phelan Bequest Fund. 1943.407.130.2

Mad Men at the de Young: Protests, Pop Art and Pews

On Sunday night, millions of viewers tuned in to watch the much-anticipated season premiere of AMC’s Mad Men. Set in 1960s New York, Mad Men follows the careers and lives of Madison Avenue advertising executives as they negotiate the changing landscape of that mythologized decade. Currently on view at the de Young are three exhibitions that tap into this tumultuous time period: Arthur Tress: San Francisco 1964 (through June 3), New Dimensions: Prints and Multiples from the Anderson Collection (through July 1) and Matter + Spirit: The Sculpture of Stephen De Staebler (through May 13).

Mashup

From left to right: Arthur Tress, Untitled (Coit Tower), 1964. Printed 2010–11. Selenium-toned silver gelatin print. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. ©2012 Arthur Tress. Jasper Johns (American, b. 1930). Flag, from the Lead Reliefs series, 1969. Sheet-lead relief. Anderson Graphic Arts Collection, gift of the Harry W. and Mary Margaret Anderson Charitable Foundation. 1996.74.214. Stephen De Staebler. Masks. Photo courtesy the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Artwork © Estate of Stephen De Staebler

Finding San Francisco

Arthur Tress: San Francisco 1964 opens tomorrow at the de Young. Although the primary subject of the exhibition is the city we call home, many of the locations represented in the pictures were difficult to pin point. During his preparations for the exhibition, curator James Ganz tried to track down some of the more mysterious sites portrayed, which resulted in a San Francisco adventure of his own.

Tress 40

Arthur Tress, Untitled (Legion of Honor Museum), 1964. Printed 2010–11. Selenium-toned silver gelatin print. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. ©2012 Arthur Tress

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