Heavy Roses, Voulangis, France1914
Toned gelatin silver print
17.8 x 22.2 cms
Signed and dated in pencil (mount, recto)
Negative 1914 Print 1950s
"By using the term nature, we mean reality, and once we become consciously aware of reality and see with all our knowledge, experience and senses, not just our eyes, and feel with all our being, the grounds begins to open toward creativity. We can theorize and intellectualize to our heart's content in analyzing and soul-searching time, but if a photograph is to become alive, our instinct and intuition must be allowed to fire up our vision, our imagination and sensitivity, our awareness to the rushing, living compulsion that produces a fine photograph-perhaps a great one." Edward Steichen in a keynote speech he delivered at the Photojournalism Conference 1961. Heavy Roses, Voulangis, France is one of the icons of Modernist photography. This photograph is one of Steichen's most celebrated images, yet early prints of it are scarce. Heavy Roses, Voulangis is believed to be the last photograph that Steichen made before fleeing France at the outbreak of World War I and has an elegiac quality. A rose may symbolise romance, but its decay provides a memento-mori. After returning to Voulangis in 1923, Steichen gave up all aspirations of being a painter, burned all his canvases and concentrated solely on photography. Gone were the highly manipulated and pictorial photographs of his pre-war work and replaced by a more stark and modern approach to light and shadow. Heavy Roses bridges the gap between these two periods in Steichen's oeuvre. While romantic and painterly in feel, it is a precisely executed, straight print without his earlier darkroom manipulations. Steichen's lifelong passion for gardening spanned more than five decades and his love of nature is evident in the range of horticultural subjects he photographed, among them daisies, delphinium, foxgloves, geraniums, primroses, lotus, roses and sunflowers. In addition to his photographs, he proudly exhibited a live delphinium at the Museum of Modern Art in 1936. Very few lifetime prints of this image are known. There are at least two palladium prints, one of which is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, and a handful of silver gelatin or toned silver gelatin prints.
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