Margrethe Mather’s gorgeous depiction of the pianist Richard Buhlig is a deeply sensitive portrait of masculine beauty bowed in thought, made the same year as Imogen Cunningham’s famous portrait of Mather with her artistic collaborator and studio mate Edward Weston (lot 37). It has been said that the freethinking Mather was the initial inspiration for Weston’s transition from a conventional studio portrait photographer (when she met him in 1913) to an experimental artist. Indeed, by 1917, both photographers began to use the drama of shadows to artistically intensify their images.
In this portrait of Buhlig, who performed the American premiere of Arnold Schoenberg's Opus 11 as well as works by other European modernists including Béla Bartók and Claude Debussy, Mather alludes to the depth of her subject’s personal talent through her up-close composition and her emotionally dramatic use of light and shadow. Buhling and his lover Henry Cowell (the American modernist composer) were introduced to Mather by a mutual friend Billy Justema, whom Mather worked with closely. Her last great photographs were portraits she made of Justema and his circle of artistic friends.
—Courtesy of Phillips
Signature: Signed, dated in pencil and inscribed in ink on the mount.
Paul Kopeikin Gallery, Los Angeles