Tag Archives: Siglo XX

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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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

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.

Rare Panorama of Caracas, circa 1900

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We would like to share with you this rare panorama of Caracas taken by an anonymous photographer circa 1900. As far as we know this is a unique print.

(Click on the image below to see it full size)

This photograph was taken from El Calvario and it is almost a 360° view of the valley. Over a meter long it is a striking and highly detailed view of the city. It’s especially interesting to see the whole Avila almost barren – way before the mountain was replanted.

It is a 5-plate panorama, on printing out paper and it measures 18 x 116 cms.

Next, we are showing you plate by plate starting from left to right.

Panorama of Caracas, Venezuela circa 1900.

Panorama of Caracas – Plate #1

Panorama of Caracas, Venezuela circa 1900.

Panorama of Caracas – Plate #2

Panorama of Caracas, Venezuela circa 1900.

Panorama of Caracas – Plate #3

Panorama of Caracas, Venezuela circa 1900.

Panorama of Caracas – Plate #4

Panorama of Caracas, Venezuela circa 1900.

Panorama of Caracas – Plate #5

These close ups help us have an idea of the day-to-day life in the city.

Panorama of Caracas, Venezuela circa 1900.

Panorama of Caracas – Close up #1

Panorama of Caracas, Venezuela circa 1900.

Panorama of Caracas – Close up #2

Panorama of Caracas, Venezuela circa 1900.

Panorama of Caracas – Close up #3

 

DiGiovanni – Beer Expedition (1938-1940)

Indio Guahibo, Tuparro (Vichada)

Indio Guahibo, Tuparro (Vichada)

Indios Guajiros, Manaure - Guajira

Indios Guajiros, Manaure – Guajira

Loza de Indios Piapocos - Vichada

Loza de Indios Piapocos – Vichada.

Durante la última década hemos coleccionado más de 50 fotografías poco comunes de Paul Beer hechas en sus viajes a la Orinoquia colombiana entre 1938 y 1940.

Beer fue un fotógrafo alemán que emigró a Colombia en 1928, donde desarrolló todo un trabajo fotográfico muy importante para la cultura colombiana y donde vivió hasta su muerte en 1979.

Su trabajo e interés por la fotografía documental lo hacen un testigo excepcional del siglo XX en estas tierras. Con su obra fotográfica logró registrar dos momentos extraordinarios muy representativos de la historia de Colombia: por un lado, una mirada al mundo indígena casi en las condiciones de un viaje al pasado, retrocediendo siglos en el tiempo; y por el otro, una mirada al futuro con su obra más conocida que representa las grandes transformaciones de la arquitectura y la ciudad de la modernización. Beer dejó un enorme legado de más de 9000 negativos de los cuales 2000 de ellos son de sus expediciones a la Orinoquia y Amazonia.

Vegetación tropical - Río Imírida.

Vegetación tropical – Río Imírida.

Famille d’indiens devant une hutte, 1938.

Familia de indígenas delante una choza, 1938. 

An indian warrior in front of his hut, 1938.

Un guerrero indígena delante su choza, 1938.

Indio Piapoco en cacería. Río Cadá - Vichada.

Indio Piapoco en cacería. Río Cadá – Vichada.

Su trabajo con los indígenas es bastante desconocido y ha sido en los últimos años cuando se ha empezado a publicar. Las fotografías en este post fueron tomadas en dos viajes realizados a la Orinoquia y Amazonia colombianas entre 1938 y 1942 aproximadamente. Son imágenes de registros detallistas sobre la vida diaria de comunidades indígenas de los hoy departamentos del Vichada, Guainía, Guaviare, Meta y Vaupés. En este último vivió durante al menos dos años en una comunidad Guahiba.

Para dar contexto al viaje de Beer a la Orinoquia y Amazonia debemos tomar en cuenta la participación de Felix V. DiGiovanni, un norteamericano de origen italiano que llegó al país a mediados de la década del treinta. Se piensa que fue él el que organizó la expedición, invitando a Beer, quien pudo ver el viaje como una oportunidad única de conocer el país inexplorado.

Existe un registro más preciso sobre el primer viaje a la Orinoquia, compuesto por la gran mayoría de fotografías etnográficas, un manuscrito descriptivo de Giovanni titulado “The Call of the Curassow and the Land of the Guahibo Indians” e incluso un mapa con la ruta del viaje dibujada por Beer. Se trataba entonces de dos viajeros, buscando suerte en un país extraño y con la firme decisión de conocerlo mejor que los propios colombianos. Todavía existen muchos interrogantes sobre la naturaleza del viaje, pues duró al menos dos o tres años, para el cual debió haber una cierta logística y financiación. Como se puede ver en algunas fotos de registro de la expedición, se trataba de un grupo de personas coordinadas, guías, interpretes, cargadores y un peso considerable de equipos de fotografía, negativos, provisiones y productos para intercambiar con las comunidades.

DiGiovanni no formó parte del segundo viaje.

Indio Guahibo, cogiendo raya en un barbasquero - Vichada

Indio Guahibo, cogiendo raya en un barbasquero – Vichada

Navegación en el Río Vaupés.

Navegación en el Río Vaupés.

De las fotografías de estas expediciones vale la pena destacar las series completas hechas a partir de un seguimiento detallado de las actividades de la vida diaria de los indígenas. Hay registros sobre la construcción de una maloca, la preparación de la yuca brava, escenas de caza y pesca, elaboración de vasijas, pintura facial, ceremonias indígenas, etc. También podemos encontrar una serie de retratos muy naturales de los indígenas en su entorno natural y documentación del registro del viaje como fueron las dificultades del terreno, una canoa atascada en unos rápidos de uno de los ríos y retratos de los viajeros con su equipo.

Indios Guahibos, haciendo casa - Vichada

Indios Guahibos, haciendo casa – Vichada

Según la ruta que podemos ver pareciera que parte del viaje consistió en tratar de contactar una comunidad en las mayores condiciones de aislamiento posible para poder registrar un grupo virgen, no contaminado por la civilización occidental.

Este trabajo es en realidad un completo y detallado estudio etnográfico visual sobre viarias comunidades de los indígenas de los Llanos Orientales de Colombia.

Luego de estas expediciones Beer nunca volvió a retratar personas sino que se enfocó en la fotografía arquitectónica, su trabajo más conocido.

Pueblo de Indios Puinabos - Río Guaviare

Pueblo de Indios Puinabos – Río Guaviare

Indios Guananos - Río Vaupés

Indios Guananos – Río Vaupés

Indio Guahibo tomando moñoco - Vichada

Indio Guahibo tomando moñoco – Vichada

Una de las preguntas más importantes que tenemos sobre Beer es: ¿por qué tantas de estás imágenes han aparecido en París?

 


Literatura consultada: Paul Beer, Luis Carlos Colón, Santiago Rueda, and Juan Pablo Fajardo. Paul Beer. Bogotá, Colombia: La Silueta Ediciones, 2009. Print.