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Photographs of Mexico

  • Object:

    Photograph

  • Place of origin:

    Mexico (photographed)

  • Date:

    1932 (photographed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Strand, Paul, born 1890 - died 1976 (photographer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Hand-pulled photogravure

  • Credit Line:

    Purchase funded by the Photographs Acquisition Group

  • Museum number:

    E.2643:20-2016

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case X, shelf 998, box C

Paul Strand is one of the most important photographers of the 20th century, whose breakthrough experiments in the 1910s heralded photography’s importance as a modern art form. Early in his career he broke with the soft-focus and Impressionist-inspired ‘Pictorialist’ style of photography, and produced among the first abstract pictures made with a camera. However, it was his portraits of ordinary people that increased his popular appeal. His questioning attitude led him to radically change his work at several points in his career, always with the highest ambitions for the quality of photographic prints and books at the forefront of his thinking. Strand was a committed Marxist with a keen interest in geo-politics. The political climate of American in the 1950s meant that he was inevitably caught up in Senator McCarthy's anti-Communist investigations and was forced to travel, leaving America to live in France. He embarked on a series of book projects, collaborating with various authors, focused around the theme of ancient cultures facing monumental transformations and the heroic endurance of the human spirit.

In 1932, Paul Strand was invited to Mexico by Carlos Chavez, the director of the fine arts department at the Secretariat of Public Education in Mexico. At this time, the Mexican government was concerned with demonstrating a national culture that was reflective of a more modern, twentieth-century Mexico, with its changing social and physical landscapes. The invitation extended to Strand was to document this new environment, and over the next two years he travelled around Mexico photographing churches, religious imagery, local communities and the land. Strand became absorbed in Mexican culture and even had an exhibition of his photographs in Mexico City, which was free of charge and visited by many local people. By the end of this trip, he had made over 175 negatives and 60 platinum prints. Strand selected 20 of these images for a portfolio, which he published in 1940 as Photographs of Mexico. Produced in an edition of 250, it contains hand-pulled photogravures, which were printed by The New York Photogravure and Colour Company of NYC, who were highly skilled press printers of the day. After printing, a varnish was applied by hand, giving the prints a smooth sheen. Twenty-seven years later Strand re-released the portfolio, under the revised name The Mexican Portfolio, in an edition of 1000. The portfolio being proposed for acquisition here is a first edition version from 1940, rarer and of better quality than the later reprint.

Physical description

Black and white photograph depicting a statue of Christ wearing a crown of thorns, a velvet robe and a rope around his neck.

Place of Origin

Mexico (photographed)

Date

1932 (photographed)

Artist/maker

Strand, Paul, born 1890 - died 1976 (photographer)

Materials and Techniques

Hand-pulled photogravure

Dimensions

Height: 404 mm paper, Width: 317 mm paper, Height: 261 mm image, Width: 207 mm image

Object history note

This portfolio was published by Virginia Stevens (New York), 1940, in an edition of 250. It contains 20 hand-pulled photogravures of varying sizes. The portfolio was re-published in 1967 by Da Capo Press (New York) in an edition of 1000.

Descriptive line

Hand-pulled photogravure by Paul Strand, 'Cristo with Thorns, Huexotla', 1932 from the 'Photographs of Mexico' portfolio. 1st edition, published 1940 as an edition of 250.

Materials

Paper

Techniques

Photogravure

Subjects depicted

Crown of thorns

Categories

Photographs

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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