In Bacino di San Marco, Venezia
Gum dichromate print on structured water colour paper. 50.8 x 65.7 cm. Signed in Indian ink upper left. Titled in pencil on the verso.
The town of Venice pertained to those travel destinations that Heinrich Kühn repeatedly visited in order to capture them in his photographs. It might have been the town's atmosphere and in particular the light that attracted the photographer, since these elements fit perfectly into his cosmos of pictures. His large-format gum bichromates, created in the late 1890s, resemble impressionistic studies rather than conventional photographs. The focus lies not on the faithful reproduction of what has been seen, but on the atmosphere and the mood perceived by the photographer at that moment.
The gaze wanders across the softly rippling water, reflecting the boats that dominate the foreground of the picture in the gentle waves, and then continues to the Bacino di San Marco to the Doge's Palace and the campanile of St. Mark's Basilica. Their delicate silhouettes separate the water from the sky, which constitutes a greater part of the picture as an immobile, uniform surface forming an exciting contrast to the dynamic surface of the water. Kühn sets strong accents with the dark contrast of the barque with the two oars on the left and the sailing boat on the right, whose diagonal lines of oars and masts cause the composition to oscillate as if in interaction with the curved reflections on the waves. Kühn positions himself entirely in the tradition of 19th century veduta painting, which focused less on the exact depiction of architecture but rather on the reproduction of idyllic attractions and genre-like details.
In 1911, the publisher Alfred Stieglitz dedicated an issue of the journal Camera Work to his colleague and friend Heinrich Kühn. The fact that this view of Venice was also included in the journal testifies to the particular esteem in which both photographers held this motif, which is now presented here as a representative rubber print.
Collection of George Eastman House, Rochester, New York; collection of Harvey Shipley and Randall Plummer; Christie's New York, The Miller-Plummer Collection, October 8, 2009, lot 609; private collection, USA
Alfred Stieglitz (ed.), Camera Work, issue 33, New York 1911 (half tone reproduction of the image, here titled: Venice); Simone Philippi/Ute Kieseyer (ed.), Camera Work. The Complete Illustrations 1903 - 1907, Cologne i.a. 1997, ill. p. 554; Particulars: Selections from the Miller-Plummer Collection of Photography, Rochester 1983, plate 132 (this print); Monika Faber (ed.), Heinrich Kuehn and his American Circle. Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen, exhib.cat. Neue Galerie, New York, Munich i.a. 2012, ill. p. 20 (here dated and titled: Fishermen on the Canal, 1908)
Rochester 1983 (International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House) i.a., Particulars: Selections from the Miller-Plummer Collection of Photography; Houston 2011 (The Museum of Fine Arts), Heinrich Kühn: The Perfect Photograph