Sep 2, 2004

Black and White Lilies III

Black and White Lilies III

c. 1928

Imogen Cunningham

(American, 1883-1976)

Gelatin silver print

Image: 23.7 x 19 cm (9 5/16 x 7 1/2 in.); Paper: 30.1 x 24.6 cm (11 7/8 x 9 11/16 in.); Matted: 55.9 x 45.7 cm (22 x 18 in.)

Severance and Greta Millikin Purchase Fund 2001.90



In the early 1920s, Cunningham combined the clarity and directness of modernism with her long-held interest in botanical imagery. For two decades she created a remarkable group of close-up studies of plants and flowers that identified her as one of the most sophisticated and experimental photographers working in America. In this dramatic, tightly cropped composition, Cunningham isolated two lilies against a simple velvet backdrop. A black calla (arum palaestium) was rhythmically placed in front of a white calla (zantedeschia aethiopica). The expanded scale of the black flower, with its partially visible spadix diagonally positioned, dominates the picture. The sculptural shapes and rich textures were emphasized by the combination of daylight and blue tungsten photofloods and the copious detail provided by the 8x10-inch negative. This sensuous print also encompasses a luxurious range of tones, from velvety black to milky white.

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