Medium

One of the first professional female photographers in America, Imogen Cunningham is best known for her botanical photography, though she also produced images of nudes, industrial landscapes, and street scenes. After studying photography in Germany, Cunningham opened a portrait studio in Seattle, producing soft-focus allegorical prints in the tradition of Pictorialism—a style of photography influenced by academic painting from the turn of the century—as well as portraiture. From the early 1920s she began to take close-up, sharply detailed studies of plant life and other natural forms, including a two-year-long, in-depth study of the magnolia flower. In 1932 she joined an association of West Coast modernist photographers known as f64, rejecting sentimental soft-focus subjects in favor of greater sensuousness. Cunningham was also interested in human subjects and frequently took pictures of the hands of musicians and artists. Edward Weston was a supporter of her work, and she associated at various times with other iconic 20th-century photographers, including Ansel Adams, Minor White, and Dorothea Lange.

Collected by major museums
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)
Selected exhibitions
2019
Mythos, Psyche, Eros: Jess and CaliforniaSan Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)
2016
The Pritzker Center for PhotographySan Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)
Making Modern: Kahlo and Her CircleMuseum of Fine Arts, Boston
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Martha Graham 2, 1931

Gelatin silver print
9 3/4 × 7 1/4 in
24.8 × 18.4 cm
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Location
Sonoma
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Medium

One of the first professional female photographers in America, Imogen Cunningham is best known for her botanical photography, though she also produced images of nudes, industrial landscapes, and street scenes. After studying photography in Germany, Cunningham opened a portrait studio in Seattle, producing soft-focus allegorical prints in the tradition of Pictorialism—a style of photography influenced by academic painting from the turn of the century—as well as portraiture. From the early 1920s she began to take close-up, sharply detailed studies of plant life and other natural forms, including a two-year-long, in-depth study of the magnolia flower. In 1932 she joined an association of West Coast modernist photographers known as f64, rejecting sentimental soft-focus subjects in favor of greater sensuousness. Cunningham was also interested in human subjects and frequently took pictures of the hands of musicians and artists. Edward Weston was a supporter of her work, and she associated at various times with other iconic 20th-century photographers, including Ansel Adams, Minor White, and Dorothea Lange.

Collected by major museums
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)
Selected exhibitions (3)
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