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Photograph - Arizona Landscape
  • Arizona Landscape
    Sommer, Frederick, born 1905 - died 1999
  • Enlarge image

Arizona Landscape

  • Object:

    Photograph

  • Place of origin:

    Arizona (photographed)

  • Date:

    1943 (photographed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Sommer, Frederick, born 1905 - died 1999 (photographer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Gelatin-silver print

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the photographer 1993

  • Museum number:

    E.999-1993

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case X, shelf 989, box B

Frederick Sommer started photographing landscape around 1939, having bought a large-format camera the previous year. With their flattened compositions and meticulous detail, his desert scenes suggest the plans and maps he would have made when working as a landscape architect. Their patterning, minimal shadow and omitted horizon also have much in common with the ‘all-over’ field paintings of American Abstract Expressionist artists in the 1940s and 1950s. Sommer’s atomised landscapes, devoid of human presence, can be seen to share with Abstract Expressionism a sense of existential unease in the face of global war.

Physical description

Photograph

Place of Origin

Arizona (photographed)

Date

1943 (photographed)

Artist/maker

Sommer, Frederick, born 1905 - died 1999 (photographer)

Materials and Techniques

Gelatin-silver print

Dimensions

Height: 19.2 cm, Width: 24.3 cm

Historical context note

Frederick Sommer’s photographs marry a surrealist imagination with brilliant photographic technique: the airless Arizona Landscapes are his most famous and personal creation. Devoid of markers of scale or distance, these panoramic views seem like endless expanses of space, immeasurable and sublime. In 1939 he created a series of grotesque still-lifes, depicting the heads and entrails of chickens with perfect precision. Sommer’s images are often akin to surrealist paintings, mysterious, tense or foreboding in mood, and suggesting as he said, that "something metaphysical is happening".

Descriptive line

'Arizona Landscape, 1943', photograph by Frederick Sommer (1905-1999)

Labels and date

Near and far

Sommer started photographing landscape around 1939, having bought a large-format camera the previous year. With their flattened compositions and meticulous detail, his desert scenes suggest the plans and maps he would have made when working as a landscape architect. Their patterning, minimal shadow and omitted horizon also have much in common with the 'all-over' field paintings of American Abstract Expressionist painters. Perhaps, like those paintings, these atomised landscapes devoid of human presence speak of existential unease in the wake of world war.

About the same time, Sommer also made a series of photographs of decaying animals he encountered on desert walks. Like the rabbit pictured here, which is returning to the earth as it decomposes, these photographs suggest a meditation on the cycle of life and death.

[130]

Jack Rabbit
1939
Gelatin-silver print
Given by the photographer
Museum no. E.996-1993

Arizona Landscape
1943
Gelatin-silver print
Given by the photographer
Museum no. E.998-1993

Arizona Landscape
1943
Gelatin-silver print
Given by the photographer
Museum no. E.999-1993

Arizona Landscape
1945
Gelatin-silver print
Given by the photographer
Museum no. E.1000-1993

Arizona Landscape
1943
Gelatin-silver print
Given by the photographer
Museum no. E.1001-1993 [20/01/2005 - 03/04/2005]
"The infinitely near
is as far
as the infinitely far
all things linger
where time
builds eternity "
Frederick Sommer

"Sommer started photographing the Arizona landscape around 1939, having bought a large format camera the previous year. With their flattened compositions and meticulous detail, Sommer's desert landscapes are suggestive of the plans and maps he would have made when working as a landscape architect. Their patterning, minimal shadow and omitted horizon also have much in common with the 'all-over' field paintings of American Abstract Expressionist painters. Perhaps, like those paintings, these atomised, horizonless landscapes devoid of human presence speak of existential unease in the wake of World War." - Kate Best [11/09/2007-28/06/2008]

Techniques

Photography

Categories

Photographs

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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