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.