Tag Archives: XX Century

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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The adventurous and tragic life of Jacob Granat

We just found in Paris around twenty nice Mexican photographs, mostly tipos and views
of the City of Mexico, titled and signed « J. Granat » – a name unknown to us. We quickly discovered that these photographs were widely produced as offset post card – but the
original photographic prints are rare. Included in the lot of prints was an unsigned street
view of calle San Francisco in Mexico City, with a Granat shop in the foreground, its likely
owner in the doorway. As good a clue as it gets.

Jacob Granat was born in 1871 in Lemberg (today Lviv), a city in Western Ukraine, at the
time part of the Austrian empire. In 1900, at the invitation of his uncle Jacob Kalt, he
moved to Veracruz in Mexico, and a year later in Mexico City. We know that he had an uncle
or a cousin working at the casa Boker, one of the most successful German owned business
in Mexico. Interestingly, Guillermo Kahlo worked at casa Boker during the last years of
the 19th century, and probably took his first photographs during the construction of the
new Boker shop in 1898-1899.

We also know that Jacob Granat became rapidly the « curio king » of the capital, selling luggages, post cards and other souvenirs from his shop in calle San Francisco, in the
Historical center. But the bulk of the business was apparently luggages, and we are
inclined to think that Jacob Granat was not the photographer, but the distributor of
these images, either in photographic prints or in post cards.

Guillermo Kahlo and Jacob Granat were born the same year (1871), were both German
speaking and both had strong connections with the Boker family. It is therefore almost
certain that they knew each other. It is tempting to speculate that when Granat opened
his « curio shop » he asked Kahlo for some tipos photographs. We will need further
research to validate this hypothesis.

Jacob Granat credits

Tipos Mexicanos

Calendario Azteca

Evangelista, Mexico

Tortillera, Mexico

Su Chata

Mercado

Los Consentidos de la casa

Ruinas de Mitla

Indias Amatecas

In 1906, Jacob Granat sold his shop to purchase the old Borda palace, where he opened
the first movie theater of the city, the famous Salon Rojo. Salon Rojo rapidly became the
most luxurious and successful theater in the city, and a center of night life for Mexico rich
and famous. It attracted politicians, notably Francisco Madero, who used to hold political meetings in Salon Rojo, and became a friend for Granat. In 1911, Madero was elected
president, and did probably reward Granat for his support.

In June 1912, Jacob Granat was one of the founder and the first president of Alianza Beneficencia Monte Sinai, the first Jewish charitable organization in Mexico.

in the mid 1920’s, Granat sold the salon Rojo and moved back to Europe, settling in Austria.
The reason of this exile are unknown. Some of Granat descendants speculate that he could
not deal with the grief from his friend Madero’s assassination.

Little is know of Jacob’s whereabout in Austria. Some of his relatives still living in Mexico
wrote recently that he tried to move back to Mexico after the Nazi invasion of Austria,
but could not, or was not allowed, to travel.

Jacob Granat was murdered by the Nazi regime at Auschwitz in 1943.

So let’s go back to the photograph of the Granat shop, and zoom in : here is the moving
image of a man I like to think is Jacob, the « curio king » in the doorway of his shop,
his face sadly in the shade of his straw boater.

Jacob Granat, Calle San Francisco, circa 1903

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http://www.enlacejudio.com/2012/10/25/la-historia-de-jacobo-granat-amigo-de-presidentes-pionero-de-la-comunidad-judia/

http://www.boker.net/html/edificio_boker.html

https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casa_Borda

http://msinai.mx/nosotros/historia

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