Lot 10
  • 10

Imogen Cunningham 1883-1976

bidding is closed


  • Imogen Cunningham
  • 'magnolia blossom'
signed by the photographer in pencil in the margin, matted, framed, 1925


Paul M. Hertzmann, Inc., San Francisco

Acquired by the present owners from the above, 1992


Other prints of this image:

Richard Lorenz, Imogen Cunningham: Flora (New York, 1996), pl. 11

Richard Lorenz, Imogen Cunningham: Ideas without End (San Francisco, 1993), pl. 38

Richard Lorenz, Imogen Cunningham: the Modernist Years (Tokyo, 1993), unpaginated

Richard Lorenz and Manfred Heiting, Imogen Cunningham: 1883-1976 (Cologne, 2001) p. 200

Margery Mann, Imogen Cunningham: Photographs (Seattle, 1970),  pl. 11

Imogen Cunningham, Frontiers: Photographs 1906-1976 (Berkeley: The Imogen Cunningham Trust, 1978), table 4, image C; and pl. 34

William A. Ewing, Flora Photographica: Masterpieces of Flower Photography (New York, 1991), pl. 77

Margery Mann and John Humphrey, Women of Photography: An Historical Survey (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1975), unpaginated

William S. Lieberman, Art of the Twenties (The Museum of Modern Art, 1979), p. 85

Barbara Haskell, The American Century: Art and Culture 1900-1950 (Whitney Museum of American Art, 1999), pl. 390

Therese Mulligan and David Wooters, Photography from 1839 to Today: George Eastman House (Cologne, 2000), p. 501

Catalogue Note

Imogen Cunningham began focusing her camera on plants and flowers in the early 1920s, and the image offered here, Magnolia Blossom, is one of the best-known images from this series.  Cunningham turned to botanical studies, in part, for practical reasons: as a mother of small children, her mobility was limited, and she was forced to find subject matter in and around her house.  Her garden provided the initial material for these studies.  As her interest increased, and her knowledge of botany grew, she looked further afield for subject matter.  From 1923 to 1925, she concentrated on photographing magnolia flowers.  Toward the end of this period she produced the image offered here, and a close-up view of the same flower’s interior, entitled Tower of Jewels. 

The print of Magnolia Blossom offered here is on matte-surface paper, as is appropriate for Cunningham’s prints made in the 1920s.  Early in the 1930s, Cunningham made the switch – with Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, and other proponents of ‘straight photography’ -- to paper with a glossy finish.  For an example of a 1920s Cunningham botanical study printed in the 1930s on glossy paper, see Lot 8.