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A Study in Curves

Date: 1931
Dimensions:
Overall: 251 × 341 mm
Display dimensions: 550 × 745 mm
Medium: gelatin silver photograph, chloro bromide, matt print
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Photographs
Object Name: Photograph
Object No: 00054649
Related Place:Circular Quay, Sydney Harbour, Sydney Harbour Bridge,

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    Description
    This photograph is part of a study Cazneaux made of the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge from 1926-32. A selection from this series was featured in two Ure Smith publications The Bridge Book, 1930 and the Second Bridge Book, 1931. The images reveal Cazneaux' pictorialist and modernist interests, through the dramatic geometry of the bridge, the ultimate symbol of modernism and the machine age then taking shape in Sydney, alongside those symbols of times past, visiting vessels of sail such as the Chilean naval trainign ship General Barquedano pictured here, and romantic and atmospheric constructions of landscapes and harbour-side communities of old.
    SignificanceWith its geometric composition and juxtaposition of the old and the new in the Sydney Harbour Bridge this photograph represents the enduring interests of Harold Cazneaux, Australia's most important pictorialist photographer in the 1930s. Cazneaux championed and romanticised the old yet also adopted some of the formal tenets of the modernist style of his younger contemporaries.
    HistoryHarold Cazneaux was working first as an artist-retoucher at Hammer Studio in Adelaide in the 1890s (He was born in 1878, was only 13 when his mother died in 1892) and had a low opinion of the formulaic studio portraiture. He was inspired to pursue art photography in the 1890s in Adelaide after seeing local work by John Kauffman and imported examples of the new impressionistic art photography movement known as Pictorial Photography.

    He moved to Sydney in 1904 and obtaining his own camera started taking photographs around Sydney in a Pictorial style stressing atmosphere and also nostalgia for the old Sydney world of the Rocks and local manual workers and residents. A parallel focus on Old Sydney was a feature of print makers at the turn of the century.
    His first one man show in 1909 included many harbour side city images often in soft focus taken early morning and after work on his way home to North Sydney and on weekend ferry excursions ot Watsons Bay and Mosman etc..

    From his arrival in Sydney Cazneaux was struck by the contrasts of old and new in the ‘big smoke’ of Sydney especially the harbourside shipping but treated these as atmospheric romantic images in a style well established by late Victorian era printmakers and painters. He was commissioned to photograph BHP plants in NSW and South Australian for the Company’s 1935 Jubilee. The industrial images combined both pictorialist atmosphere with the drama and scale of modernist celebrations of the machine age.

    From as early as 1915 with his art -deco striped child study The Bamboo Blind, Cazneaux developed a hybrid Pictorialist –Modernist style incorporating clearer geometric lines and brighter sunshine. In his work for The Home magazine Cazneaux most often worked in a sun-lit style although still exhibiting more impressionistic works in the Pictorialist Salons. In the late 1920s and1930s his modern style was the equal of his younger contemporaries like Max Dupain but always retained a human interest element and perspective even rather than the colder machine age aesthetic and distorting angles favoured by modernists.
    See http://www.photo-web.com.au/ShadesofLight/11-pictorial.htmFrom Gael newton
    Related People
    Photographer: Harold Cazneaux

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