About This Artwork

Edward Steichen
American, born Luxembourg, 1879–1973

Rodin, Le Penseur, 1902

Gum bichromate print
26.2 x 32.6 cm (image/paper/mount)
Inscribed recto, lower left, in white pencil: "Steichen / MDCCCCII"; inscribed verso, on mount, upper right, sideways, in graphite: "[ROD]IN "LE PENSEUR / BY / STEICHEN"; verso, on mount, center, sideways, in graphite: "[?]roden [?/crossed out]"; verso, on mount, upper left, diagonally, in graphite: "1/4 101 Brush / Aluminum Brz [?] tone / oak b[illegible] 131 / color / 3/8 101 Brush Aluminum Brz / tone"; verso, on mount, upper left, in graphite: "[drawing]"; verso, on mount, lower left, sideways, in graphite: "[drawing of matting instructions]"; verso, on mount, lower left, sideways, in graphite: "Steichen / if A as diag / Sr 10 1/4 x 12 3/4"

Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1949.825

© 2018 The Estate of Edward Steichen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

“What is true of the oil or watercolor is equally true of the photograph,” Edward Steichen once said, aptly expressing the overt pictorial intent of Rodin, Le Penseur. This romantic silhouette portrait depicts Auguste Rodin seated in his studio opposite his famous work Le Penseur, with his sculpture of Victor Hugo in the background. In 1902, the year he made this photograph, Steichen believed he would become a painter, and he visited Rodin and his circle of artists and admirers often. But as a founding member of Alfred Stieglitz’s Photo-Secession group, Steichen increasingly created photographs that were the artistic equivalents of his paintings, in the hope of winning artistic credibility for the newer art form. Here the artist expertly manipulated the elastic and expressive gum-bichromate method, in which the application of water and brushwork in the printing process can soften or omit details, reduce dark spaces, and even change light into dark (and vice versa). The result is a combination of two separate images, both dramatically posed and lit, into a striking, painterly photograph. For more on Edward Steichen’s work in the Art Institute’s collection visit the website: Edward Steichen's World War I Years. For more on the Alfred Stieglitz collection at the Art Institute, along with in-depth object information, please visit the website: The Alfred Stieglitz Collection.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, "The Portrait Photograph," January 1-March 2, 1975.

Chicago, Illinois, Art Institute of Chicago, "A History of Photography from Chicago Collection," April 24–June 6, 1982.

Minneapolis, Minnesota, The Minneapolis Museum of Art, "Camera Work: Process and Image," August 31-November 3, 1985; traveled to Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, November 22, 1985-February 2, 1986.

Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, "Photographs by the Score: Personal Visions Twenty-some Years Apart," October 7, 2006–January 14, 2007. (David Travis)

Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, "Sharp, Clear Pictures: Edward Steichen’s World War I and Condé Nast Years," June 28–September 28, 2014. (Michal Raz-Russo)

Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, "Alfred Stieglitz and the 19th Century," October 31, 2015-March 27, 2016.

Publication History

Smith, Joel. 1999. “Edward Steichen : the early years.” Princeton University Press, Princeton N.J. p. 20, fig 13.

Sharp, Robert V., Elizabeth Stepina and Susan E. Weidemeyer. 2009. "The Art Institute of Chicago: The Essential Guide." p. 272.

Fineman, Mia. 2012. "Faking It: Manipulated Photography before Photoshop." Exh. cat. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. p. 30, cat. 19.

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