• Beyond the Canvas

Spring in art part 7: Steichen does a van Gogh

Luxembourg-born Edward Steichen is one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century. He was one of the founders of the Photo-Secession, a movement that promoted the idea that photography was not just about accurately reproducing the world, but also about creating artistic imagery. Steichen and his peers adopted a more 'painterly' approach to photography using filters and soft focus to express their creativity and manipulate their images.


Steichen, who had trained as a painter, had spent years in Paris working and hanging out with other artists. There is no doubt in my mind that when he took this photo he was thinking of van Gogh's Almond Blossom. And it doesn't matter too much that this is a sepia print, a technique he often used to add drama to his iconic fashion and celebrity portraits, the similarities are obvious and the works share the same explosive vision of spring. Steichen wanted to reinvent photography so that it looked like painting, and that he most certainly achieved.


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Edward Steichen, Apple Blossoms (c.1935). Photo credit Art Institute Chicago


Vincent van Gogh, Almond Blossom (1890). Photo credit Van Gogh Museum

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