Tag Archives: Photography

Edward Weston, Portraits of Jose Clemente Orozco, 1926

The following portraits of Mexican painter Jose Clemente Orozco are photoshop renditions of ten negatives found in the Anita Brenner collection in Mexico City. 

Portraits of Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco. 1926

Of these negatives, only one print is known to exist. That print was part of a Sotheby’s sale in Paris on November 19th, 2010, lot 28, and attributed at the time to Tina Modotti. I was the expert of the sale and I was wrong… Now I’ll explain why we can now attribute these images to Edward Weston. 

Portraits of Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco, 1926

We knew from Weston daybooks that on Sunday 4th 1926 Anita and Weston visited Jose Clemente Orozco studio, but Weston doesn’t mention taking photographs : « May 4. Sunday, Anita and I went to Coyoacan to visit with Orozco the painter. I had hardly known his work before, which I found fine and strong. His cartoons – splendid drawings, in which he spared no one, either capitalist or revolutionnary leader – were scathing satires, quite as helpful in destroying a « cause », heroes and villains alike, as a machine gun. I would place Orozco among the first four or five painters of Mexico, perhaps higher. » Edward Weston Daybook.

 

Portraits of Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco, 1926

While working on Brenner’s daybook, published after the Sotheby’s sale, we realized that Weston had indeed take a few portraits of Orozco that day (interestingly, Anita gets the date wrong, May 2d instead of 4th)… : « Sunday, May 2 (sic). Went out this morning to Orozco’s studio with Edward Weston. Edward made some portraits of him. Orozco showed us some of his old things and a few studies for the frescos he is doing. I got a beautiful complementation to my article on him. Some drawings, a small oil painting on paper, and a large one, head, perfectly first class. »

So we know for a fact that Weston made some portraits of Orozco, and probably to be used by Anita Brenner for an article. It would explain why he did not print more from these negatives, and why they were found in Anita Brenner estate.

Portraits of Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco, 1926

Portraits of Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco, 1926

Portraits of Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco, 1926

These portraits were not used in the article mentioned in Anita’s daybook (it is not clear what article she is talking about, but the portrait is not reproduce in Forma or Mexican Folkways, the two revistas she was involved with). She did published an article in New Masses in New York, in January 1927, but I have been unable to get a look at it. 

Portraits of Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco, 1926

Portraits of Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco, 1926

Portraits of Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco, 1926

Portraits of Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco, 1926

Anyway, I am glad I can finally attribute these remarquable portraits to Edward Weston. It is quite unusual to recover such a important body of work from one of the greatest photographer of the XXth century.

Anita Brenner’s Journal of the Roaring Twenties, edited by her daughter Susannah Glusker, is available from the University of Texas Press : it is an entertaining and fascinating account of the artistic and cultural life in Mexico City during the Mexican “renaissance”.

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Merille : photographer ? Publisher ? Pirate ?

We previously wrote about issues of authorship in early Mexican photography. But a set of cartes de visite, recently discovered, shed a new light on this complex subject.

Most of these carte de visite sized prints are mounted on board. On the verso, they are stamped with the name and address of “Merille, fotografo, 2da calle de San Francisco, n° 8, Mexico”. In itself, a wet stamp on the back of a carte de visite is unusual, as most studio photographers would have their cards printed by a typographical printer. Even more curious is the carte bellow.

mex-cdv335

 

Merille just stamped a Julio Amiel card ! On most of the other cards, the Julio Amiel name have been carefully erased, but is still visible…

 

mex-cdv336 mex-cdv337

Julio Amiel (certainly a French Jules Amiel) is known to have been active in Mexico city from 1860 to 1864. His studio was at n°7, 2da calle de San Francisco – so just next door or in front of the future studio or shop of Merille. It is believed that Amiel sold his studio in 1864 to François Aubert. Of Merille, we know almost nothing : only  the address of his studio. His first name is controversial : one source names him as Auguste, an other one as François. According to Palmquist and Kailbourn, in their hugely useful Pioneer Photographers from the Mississippi to the Continental Divide, he was active in Mexico city from 1864 to 1867. As we know with more certainty that François Aubert was active in Mexico from 1864 to 1869, that would place Merille and Aubert at the same time in Mexico city, facing each other, quite literally, in the calle de San Francisco…

But here is the rub : Merille is a well known name, and a lot of images bearing his stamp can be found in museum in the US or Mexico. But I have never personally seen a Merille photograph that was not actually by Aubert or an other photographer, including from now on Amiel. And all the photographs bellow, stamped on the back by Merille, fit pretty well in this theory : Merille was a publisher, not a photographer. (All titles are the original in Spanish inscribed in ink on the versos).

Indians

Indians

Tortilleras

Tortilleras

Emperatriz Carlota

Emperatriz Carlota (probably by Disderi, and dated 1868, after the death of the emperor).

Cocinera

Cocinera

Calle de Plateros

Calle de Plateros

Tortilleras

Tortilleras

Esquina de las calles Empedradillo, Escalerillas y Tacuba.

Esquina de las calles Empedradillo, Escalerillas y Tacuba.

Cupula de Santa Tereza à Vera Cruz

Cupula de Santa Tereza à Vera Cruz

Portail des marechaux

Portail des maréchaux

Catedral al Poniente

Catedral al Poniente

Chapultepec

Chapultepec

Templo de Santa Gertrudis en Orizaba

Templo de Santa Gertrudis en Orizaba

Cathedral

Cathedral

Calendario azteca

Calendario azteca

La Profesa

La Profesa

Looking forward to hear from my Mexican friends : do you know of any photographs that you can, without doubt, attribute to Merille ? Or is he an early and shameless photographic pirate ?

You can also follow us on instagram at gregoryleroyphoto.

San Angel Inn, circa 1920

San Angel Inn, circa 1920

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn, circa 1920, viewed from where is today the Casa Estudio de Diego Rivera

We just found in Paris these charming photographs of the beloved San Angel Inn, and are happy to share them, especially with our chilango friends. Apparently, the place has not changed much in the last hundred years…

At the beginning of the XXth century, San Angel was still a mostly rural community, away from the limits of the City of Mexico. The hacienda Goicochea, originally built as a monastery in 1692, was turned into a restaurant in 1906, under the patronage of a Madame Roux – another instance of a successful French-Mexican collaboration.

E. Portilla is (barely) known as a photographer and postcard seller in San Angel Inn as early as 1908. These prints seem to date from the late 1910’s or early 1920’s.

On a more personal note, I’ll warn our non-mexican readers that San Angel Inn serves the best margaritas in the world – hands down – but also the meanest…

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

View from the roof of San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

According to legend, Pancho Villa’s and Zapata’s horses drank in this fountain while the two generals were dividing the country’s territory into North (Villa) and South (Zapata), during their triumphant arrival to the nation’s capital with the Conventionalist Army in 1914.

San Angel Inn

San Angel Inn

Rare views of Caracas and Puerto Cabello, circa 1890

We just acquired these unusual views of Venezuela. Most of the prints are in pretty bad condition, but a few offer a glimpse of Old Venezuela. These photographs were part of a travel album dated 1890-1891, probably from a French traveller in the West Indies and the northern coast of South America. Especially interesting are the views of Puerto Cabello, a city way off the beaten track and seldom seen in photography of this era.

CALLE DEL COMERCIO EN PUERTO CABELLO, CIRCA 1890

CALLE DEL COMERCIO EN PUERTO CABELLO, CIRCA 1890

CAMPO DE SANTA CRUZ, PUERTO CABELLO, CIRCA 1890

CAMPO DE SANTA CRUZ, PUERTO CABELLO, CIRCA 1890

CAMPO CERCANO DE PUERTO CABELLO, PASO REAL, CIRCA 1890

CAMPO CERCANO DE PUERTO CABELLO, PASO REAL, CIRCA 1890

Caza el las cercanias de Puerto cabello, circa 1890

Caza el las cercanias de Puerto cabello, circa 1890

We have found precious few views of Puerto Cabello in public collections in Venezuela. The author of these photographs is unknown, and will probably remain so. It looks like the work of a skilled amateur…

The following photographs of Caracas are less rare, with the exception of an interesting view of la Pastora, one of the oldest “parroquias” of Caracas. The views of Plaza Bolivar are remarkably lively.

PARROQUIA LA PASTORA, CARACAS, CIRCA 1890

PARROQUIA DE ANTIMANO, CARACAS, CIRCA 1890

 

Pont Crespo, Caracas, Venezuela. Circa 1890.

Pont Crespo, Caracas, Venezuela. Circa 1890.

PLAZA BOLIVAR, CARACAS, CIRCA 1890

PLAZA BOLIVAR, CARACAS, CIRCA 1890

CASA PRESIDENCIAL, CASA AMARILLA, CARACAS, CIRCA 1890

CASA PRESIDENCIAL, CASA AMARILLA, CARACAS, CIRCA 1890

PLAZA BOLIVAR, PALACIO EPISCOPAL, CARACAS, CIRCA 1890

PLAZA BOLIVAR, PALACIO EPISCOPAL, CARACAS, CIRCA 1890

PLAZA BOLIVAR, PALACIO EPISCOPAL, CARACAS, CIRCA 1890

CLOSE UP OF PLAZA BOLIVAR, PALACIO EPISCOPAL, CARACAS, CIRCA 1890

We could not find anything on the photograph of Puente Crespo. The caption in French says “pont Crespo”, but there is no mention of such a bridge in Caracas. We will welcome any information on this view.

 

Ruins in Tonalá and Mitla, Mexico, circa 1900.

 

Tonala. Carved, granite boulder. Ruins above Tonala, State of Chiapas, Mexico.

Tonala. Carved, granite boulder. Ruins above Tonala, State of Chiapas, Mexico.

Last year we found these photographs of Mexican ruins. They are quite beautiful gelatin silver prints, on a semi-mat paper. Along with the captions taped on the back of each image there was a name: Nugent M. Clougher.

Who was he? What was he doing in Mexico? When were these photographs taken?

Pyramidal Formation. Ruins above Tonala, State of Chiapas, Mexico.

Pyramidal Formation. Ruins above Tonala, State of Chiapas, Mexico.

At first we had accredited the images to him, and even though we didn’t know who he was, it seemed evident he was the photographer. His name was right there.

That’s when a little research can change everything we thought we knew. A few months later we found a chapter written by him in the review, The wonders of the world : a popular and authentic account of the marvels of nature and of man as they exist to-day, published in (1911). The chapter on North America shows a mix of photographs of Mount Peléz in Martinique, the Great Fountain Geyser in Yellowstone Park, the Caves of Bellamar in Cuba, and different ruins in Mexico amongst other things. Clougher was a writer, not a photographer.

We believe the photographs we are showing you here have never been published before. It seems they were outtakes of the story and did not make it to the final layout of the book.

Based on the credit line on the publication we were able to trace back the images to the National Railway of Mexico.

It is known that photographers such as C.B. Waite, Winfield Scott, Abel Briquet and William Henry Jackson were contracted by the Mexican Central Railway to document the railway system in Mexico in the late XIX century in order to inform potential investors and tourists about the accessibility of a strange and different land, to record the victory of technology over a seemingly obdurate nature, and to celebrate “an American colonial power that would move to center stage in a few years”.

However, we don’t have any evidence pointing towards any of them being the creators of the photographs we’re showing you. We’ve yet to find out who the photographer was, so as of now the images are archived as anonymous.

For the moment we will leave you with this question: which other photographers were commissioned by the National Railway of Mexico? Especially those shooting around the states of Chiapas and Oaxaca.

For years the Mexican railroad companies produced an extensive amount of visual materials for a variety of pamphlets, brochures, timetables and guidebooks; these could be everywhere and anywhere, the challenge will be finding the right author.

Tonala, Mexico.

Tonala, Mexico.

Pyramidal formation, ruins above Tonala, State of Chiapas, Mexico.

Pyramidal formation, ruins above Tonala, State of Chiapas, Mexico.

Carved granite boulder ruins above Tonala, State of Chiapas, Mexico.

Carved granite boulder ruins above Tonala, State of Chiapas, Mexico.

Pyramidal formation, ruins above Tonala, State of Chiapas, Mexico.

Pyramidal formation, ruins above Tonala, State of Chiapas, Mexico.

Portion of stone terrace ruins above Tonala, State of Chiapas, Mexico.

Portion of stone terrace ruins above Tonala, State of Chiapas, Mexico.

Mitla, State of Oaxaca, Mexico.

Mitla, State of Oaxaca, Mexico.

MX1-61


Mraz, John. Looking for Mexico: Modern Visual Culture and National Identity. Durham: Duke UP, 2009. Print.