Tag Archives: Siglo XX

Edmond Hamel, pictorialist photographer in Mexico 1903-1919

We just acquired a wonderful album of pictorialist photographs, most of them taken in and around Mexico City between 1908 and 1919. All the photographs are attributed to Edmond Hamel, a French national living in Mexico. As far as we know, all these prints are unique.

Monumento a Colon, Paseo de la Reforma, circa 1915

Little is known about Edmond Hamel. He probably learnt photography in France and settled in Mexico before 1903. Hamel is listed as a “carroceria” (a coachbuilder) in Mexico City in 1903. He stayed there until at least 1919. His whereabouts after that date are unknown.

Self portrait in photo lab, 1918

Those prints predate Hugo Brehme classic pictorialist views by at least a decade, and might even be earlier than Jose Maria Lupercio’s most bucolic views. The album contains 52 prints, in a variety of process : bromoil, silver gelatin and platinium. A few of them are signed and dated.

The album will be visible during the Paris Photo fair on boot D32. You can also follow us on instagram at : gregoryleroyphoto

Street beggar, Mexico, circa 1905

Street beggar, Mexico, circa 1905

Untitled, Mexico, circa 1905

Peasants and Iztaccihuatl, circa 1915

Xochimilco, 1913

Detail of Edmond Hamel signature

Mexican market, circa 1910

Untitled, circa 1910

Untitled, circa 1910

A Mexican beauty, circa 1915

Untitled, circa 1910

Untitled, circa 1915

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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