Frederick Sommer At Philadelphia Museum of Art

In Art Museum, Black and White Photography, Books, Exhibits on January 4, 2010 at 12:46 pm


2004-2010. All rights reserved. Frederick and Frances Sommer Foundation.

This weekend we managed to make it under the wire for the closing day of Fredrick Sommer Photographs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Sommer (American, 1905 – 1999) made gelatin silver print Black & White photographs in 5 decades.

In this exhibit we saw a large sampling from his early landscapes and emerging Surrealistic period in the 30’s and 40’s, as well as selected later works.  His architectural background provided him with a keen eye for composition and detail. As he is quoted, ” There is no room for accident”.

Whether it was a one off study, series or assemblage … during one period all were based on chicken parts. And Sommers certainly kept the local butcher busy. The fascination with physicality permeates his work. Close ups  of desiccated animals are featured in a number of his images.

The exhibit also had portraits such as Livia, 1947 (below) which portrays a little girl placed against roughhewn surfaces and peeling paint, incorporating eerie, darkened skin tones contrasting  with a stark white checkered dress.

A 1946 portrait of Max Ernst is a double negative composition with Ernst humorously merged into  the ridged pavement.

As with a number of Surrealist artists, the photography is often beautiful and repulsive at the same time. Fredrick Sommers achieved the effect that, no doubt, was his objective.

A 2005 Yale Press photo book  provides a meticulous survey of his work in a high quality edition. For more: Fredrick Sommer Foundation

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