Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Alvin Langdon Coburn:

An Inventory of His Collection at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center

Creator: Coburn, Alvin Langdon, 1882-1966
Title: Alvin Langdon Coburn Collection,
Dates: ca. 1904-1963
Extent: 58 items in 6 boxes
Access:

Open for research




Acquisition:

Purchases, 1964-66

Processed by:

Susan McClellan, 2000

Repository:

Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, The University of Texas at Austin


Alvin Langdon Coburn was born in Boston in 1882, and his interest in photography began eight years later. In addition to being a founding member of the Photo-Secession in 1902, he became a member of the Linked Ring in 1903. He was also associated with Wyndham Lewis and the Vorticist group in 1917-18. Having emigrated to England in 1912, he became a naturalized British citizen in 1932. He died in Colwyn Bay, Wales in 1966. He is known for the pictorial effects he achieved in his portraits and views, thus helping to confirm the medium's place as an art form.

The collection is subdivided into three lots: I. Portraits from Men of Mark, 1904-1913 (34 items), II. Loose Prints (subdivided into portraits, views, abstract), 1904-1950, n.d. (16 items), and III. Portraits of Helmut Gernsheim, 1963 (8 items). The items in the first lot make up a complete set, including one duplicate, of signed and mounted proof prints of photogravures produced by Coburn himself (cf. Gernsheim Inventory #6) for his Men of Mark series, published London: Duckworth & Co., 1913. Two printed advertisements for this series are included with these items. The subjects are mainly British and Irish authors and artists, such as G.K. Chesterton, H.G. Wells, and G. Bernard Shaw. Among the six portraits of Americans are Henry James, Mark Twain, and the photographer Clarence H. White. There are also portraits of two French artists, Auguste Rodin and Henri Matisse, as well as one of German sociologist Max Weber. The second lot contains six portraits, including one of Coburn himself by an unidentified photographer. There are also nine views and one abstract photograph. Among the views are scenes of Holland and Bavaria, Germany, as well as cityscapes of London and New York. The abstract photograph is one of Coburn's series of images which he called "vortographs."

The item list which follows gives the accession no., genre, title/description, date, format/process, dimensions in cm. and location of each item. Bracketed titles and dates have been taken either from Gernsheim Inventory #6 or from labels produced in-house. Two exceptions to this are the dates for the portraits of Moore (964:0428:0003) and Coburn, which have been estimated by the cataloger. Unless indicated otherwise, the photogravures are signed, mounted proof prints produced by Coburn himself. In the case of signed images, the dimensions include the border area in which the signature is located. The item list is followed by an index of names of the subjects of the portraits.