Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Woman on the (Cutting) Edge Photographer Gertrude Kasebier's Beautiful Photos Were Avant-Garde for Their Time

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Woman on the (Cutting) Edge Photographer Gertrude Kasebier's Beautiful Photos Were Avant-Garde for Their Time

Article excerpt

Gertrude Kasebier, Photographer

Where: Cohen Gallery, St. Louis Art Museum

When: Through Jan. 1

Hours: 1:30 - 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday

MANY PEOPLE will be familiar with at least one photograph by Gertrude Kasebier. A detail of her photograph, "A Maiden at Prayer" (1899), graces the cover of the popular compact disc recording of Henryk Gorecki's "Symphony No. 3."

The exhibition of Kasebier's photographs at the St. Louis Art Museum includes her most well-known works, photographs made during a time when it was avant-garde to make a photograph as beautiful as possible.

Born in Iowa, Kasebier belonged - with Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, and others - to the Photo-Secessionists, a New York group of artists experimenting in photography at the turn of the century. Their journal, "Camera Work," which featured Kasebier's photographs in its first issue, was dedicated to elevating photography to the status of art.

Remarkable for its expressive painterly detail, Kasebier's work is full of nuanced white tones and diffuse light. Photographs such as "Blessed Art Thou Among All Women," "The Manger" and "The Heritage" can be read as allegories of motherhood - one of Kasebier's favorite themes. Yet even "The Manger," appreciated by her contemporaries for its obvious religious reference, is a technically brilliant study of white form against white background.

Printed on Japanese vellum, the photograph is all softness - depicting a young mother and infant enveloped in delicate folds of white cloth posed against an illuminated, almost burnished indoor wall of a barn.

Equally beautiful are the portraits of young models brought to her studio by their benefactor, architect Stanford White. The photograph of model and showgirl Evelyn Nesbit, for example, depicts the young beauty sensuously leaning forward toward the camera, as if about to kiss the viewer.

The cumulative effect of seeing so many of Kasebier's photographs in this exhibition is that her expressive use of detail and bold composition draw our attention away from Nesbit's full lips, to the tiny pitcher she holds and the rings she wears on her hands. …

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