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Between and Mortarboard


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Balzac, Towards the Light, Midnight

Accession Number
2012/1.217

Title
Balzac, Towards the Light, Midnight

Artist(s)
Edward Steichen

Artist Nationality
American (North American)

Object Creation Date
1908

Medium & Support
photogravure on paper

Dimensions
8 1/4 in x 11 3/4 in (20.96 cm x 29.85 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of Maxine and Lawrence K. Snider

Subject matter
Edward Steichen's photographs of Balzac's sculpture transform a static figure into a ghostly silhouette emerging from a hazy landscape. The images are evocative and brooding. Rodin had been commissioned for his statue of Balzac by the Société des Gens de Lettres in 1891; however, in 1898, the group refused it. Ten years later Rodin invited Steichen to photograph the sculpture in hopes of realizing his vision for the sculpture. After Steichen noted that the plaster statue appeared harsh and chalky in the daylight, Rodin moved the sculpture out of the studio and into the open air set on a rotating platform in the garden. Steichen spent two nights, from sunset to sunrise photographing by the light of the moon. He moved around the sculpture to find the best angle and moved his camera according to the trajectory of the moon. Exposures lasted up to an hour each. Rodin responded to the photographs, “You will make the world understand my Balzac through these pictures. They are like Christ walking in the desert.” The photographs were exhibited in the Photo-Secession Gallery in 1909, Steichen’s last show with Stieglitz, and then three were published in Camera Work in 1911. In 1939, the statue was cast in bronze and placed in the streets of Paris.

Physical Description
This photogravure is one of a series of photographs by Edward Steichen commissioned by Auguste Rodin of his statue of the French writer Honoré de Balzac. Created at 4:00 a.m., a cloaked and silhouetted figure stands in a misty landscape.

Primary Object Classification
Photograph

Collection Area
Photography

Rights
If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.

Keywords
figures (representations)
landscapes (representations)
men (male humans)
night
silhouettes
sky
statues

2 Related Resources

Surreal Photography
(Part of 2 Learning Collections)
 W19 Perlove - HISTART 210 History of Photography Study Case 
(Part of: FFW Lower Level Study Cases     )

& Author Notes

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