Roger Fenton

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Roger Fenton: A Family Collection features previously unknown photographs by one of the most accomplished British photographers of the nineteenth century. Hans P. Kraus Jr. Fine Photographs presents selections from this collection of one hundred Fenton photographs: views of Russia (1852), the Crimean War (1855), British architecture and landscape (1854-1859), family portraits (1850s) and also features one of his extremely rare treasured still lifes, Fruit and Flowers (1860). Mr. Kraus describes the collection as "a discovery introducing fresh masterpieces, straight from the attic of Roger Fenton's descendants." The exhibition is on view from April 26th through June 10th, scheduled to coincide with the traveling retrospective All the Mighty World: The Photography of Roger Fenton, 1852-1860, which opens at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in May.

Roger Fenton (1819-1869) had an extraordinary career as a photographer for one brief decade, yet he became one of Britain's most influential photographers. Although trained in law, he was an aspiring painter seduced by the new art of photography. His trained eye and exquisite technique quickly established Fenton as the most exhibited photographer of his day. He was a founder of the organization that became the Royal Photographic Society. By 1858, the Journal of the Photographic Society asserted, "No one can touch Fenton in landscape: he seems to be to photography what Turner was to painting."

The year Fenton turned to photography, 1852, he traveled to Russia and amid rugged conditions made some of the first photographs of that country. Framed with precariously angled columns, Post House, Kief (1852) depicts the provocative architecture Fenton encountered on his journey.

Continuing to refine his photographic technique after his return to England, Fenton gravitated to the familiar and picturesque countryside where he made sophisticated landscapes. His sumptuous salt print, Pool below the Strid, Bolton Abbey (1854) illustrates gentlemen at one with the natural world. The rushing water of the River Wharf parallels the gracefully composed foliage that surrounds the contemplative fishermen in top hats.

Some of the most significant portraits Fenton made throughout the 1850s were of his family. From figures in the landscape to traditional seated portraits, these photographs are an intimate glimpse into Fenton's personal life. John Fenton, Father of the Artist, depicts an elderly gentleman with a tender expression full of vitality and wisdom. An equally formal portrait of Fenton's wife, Grace Elizabeth Fenton, reflects her strength as a wife and mother sustaining the family at home during Fenton's travels.

In 1855, Fenton sailed to the Black Sea where he photographed the Crimean War, the first extensive photographic documentation of war. Among over 350 glass negatives taken of officers from the allied British, French and Turkish armies, harbor views, barren landscapes and camp scenes, A quiet day in the Mortar Battery captures a moment of calm in the midst of a tumultuous conflict.

Towards the end of Fenton's photographic career, he produced incredibly modern images, most notably The Lily House, Botanic Garden, Oxford (1859). This richly toned albumen print, framed with precision and infused with spectacular sunlight, showcases a variety of exotic lily plants teeming in the refuge of a greenhouse. The long-established tradition of the classic still life was also an alluring subject to Fenton's progressive vision. His rare Fruit and Flowers (1860) is unique to the market. This exquisite print with plump grapes and flowers in full bloom, lush and meticulously composed, serves as a testament to Fenton's consummate abilities.

The accompanying catalogue, Roger Fenton: A Family Collection, illustrates the entire collection of 100 photographs.


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