On Coburn’s Birthday, the Treat is Ours

Head Librarian Karen Schneider with Raymond Machesney, displaying a photogravure plate by Alvin Langdon Coburn.

Head Librarian Karen Schneider with Raymond Machesney, displaying a photogravure plate by Alvin Langdon Coburn called Portrait of Miss R- . Photos: Sarah Osborne Bender

On the 131st anniversary of the birth of photographer Alvin Langdon Coburn, we in the library had the pleasure of a visit from collector and donor Raymond Machesney, who also might be Coburn’s biggest fan. (Take a look at the abundant gifts he has given to the Phillips, nearly all somehow related to Coburn.) As always, Raymond brought his infectious enthusiasm for this influential and sensitive photographer and guided us, along with curators Elsa Smithgall and Eliza Rathbone, on a journey through his latest gift: a first edition of The Artistic Side of Photography in theory and practice, from 1910, by A.J. Anderson. Coburn assisted Anderson in the selection of images for the book and this edition includes beautiful tipped-in photogravures by Coburn, Alfred Stieglitz, and Holland Day, among others.

(left to right) Elsa Smithgall, Eliza Rathbone, Karen Schneider, and Raymond Machesney in the library.

(left to right) Elsa Smithgall, Eliza Rathbone, Karen Schneider, and Raymond Machesney in the library.

Raymond shows his inscribed copy of The Family of Man, purchased in D.C. in 1958.

Raymond shows his inscribed copy of The Family of Man, purchased in D.C. in 1958.

And, though not a gift, just as delightful was seeing a small volume Raymond brought with him, a pocket-sized edition of the catalogue for The Family of Man. Raymond bought the book in 1958 on a summer study trip to Washington, D.C., while on break from his full time studies in Ohio at the College of Wooster. A political science major at the time, he found the book appealed to his social interests rather than any artistic sensibility. What else happened on that trip to Washington? Raymond paid his first visit to the Phillips. We are glad he did.

A Grand Birthday for Alvin Langdon Coburn

In  honor of the great American photographer, born this day in 1882, his gelatin silver print The Great Temple, Grand Canyon (1911) is currently on view upstairs in the original Phillips house.

Alvin Langdon Coburn, The Great Temple, Grand Canyon, 1911. Gelatin silver print, 13 x 15 1/2 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Gift of the Phillips Contemporaries, 2006. Photo: Joshua Navarro

Alvin Langdon Coburn, The Great Temple, Grand Canyon, 1911. Gelatin silver print, 13 x 15 1/2 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Gift of the Phillips Contemporaries, 2006. Photo: Joshua Navarro

David Driskell at 80: Doorways, Passages, and Thresholds of Light

This is the second post in a series by Curator Elsa Smithgall to honor artist David Driskell‘s 80th birthday and celebrate Creative Spirit: The Art of David C. Driskell on view through December 16 at The David C. Driskell Center at the University of Maryland, College Park. Read part one here.

When their father died in the forest, his room became a room of refuge . . .

His was a time of sweetness, of crimson flowers, orange light . . .

David Driskell, Doorway, 2009, serigraph, 6 x 9 in., The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, Acquired 2010, From Doorway portfolio with poetry by Michael Albert, Cardinal Point Press

In my last post I looked back upon the days of David Driskell’s formative years at Howard and his early defining encounters with art at the Phillips and Barnett Aden Gallery.  Over the next fifty years, as his life brought him from Skowhegan to Talladega, Maine, Africa, and beyond, Driskell never lost sight of his “priestly calling” and abiding passion for “living with art.” In 2011 Driskell crossed into his 81st year—an important threshold for an artist who has come so far, accomplished so much, and opened the door for so many. In this vibrant multi-colored print by Driskell called Doorway from 2009, the artist represents the doorway as a passage between two worlds — interior and exterior, material and spiritual, real and imagined. As the colors and forms meld into one another like molten liquid, their fluid edges ebb and flow in undulating rhythms. Continue reading “David Driskell at 80: Doorways, Passages, and Thresholds of Light” »