Girl among hollyhocks, ca. 1910

Eva Watson-Schütze :: [Portrait of an unknown woman among hollyhocks], ca. 1910. [detail] | src Rijksmuseum
Eva Watson-Schütze :: [Portrait of an unknown woman among hollyhocks], ca. 1910. [detail] | src Rijksmuseum
Eva Watson-Schütze :: Portret van een onbekend meisje tussen bloemen [Unknown woman among hollyhocks], ca. 1910. Gelatin silver print on baryta paper. [Public domain] | src Rijksmuseum
Eva Watson-Schütze :: Portret van een onbekend meisje tussen bloemen [Portrait of an unknown woman among hollyhocks], ca. 1910. Gelatin silver print on baryta paper. [Public domain] | src Rijksmuseum

Bloemen by Eva L. Watson

Eva Watson-Schütze :: Bloemen, ca. 1895 - in or before 1900. From: Camera notes / The Camera Club of New York | Rijksmuseum
Eva Watson-Schütze :: Bloemen, ca. 1895 – in or before 1900. From: Camera notes / The Camera Club of New York | Rijksmuseum
Camera notes / The Official Organ of the Camera Club of New York, 1900-1901. Published quarterly. | src Rijksmuseum
Camera notes / The Official Organ of the Camera Club of New York, 1900-1901. Published quarterly. | src Rijksmuseum

Eva Watson-Schütze (born, Eva Lawrence Watson) (1867–1935)

In 1883, when Eva Watson was sixteen, she enrolled in the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, where she studied under well-known painter and photographer Thomas Eakins. Her interests at that time were watercolor and oil painting, and it’s unknown if she took any interests in Eakins’ photography.

Around the 1890s Watson began to develop a passion for photography, and soon she decided to make it her career. Between 1894 and 1896 she shared a photographic studio with Amelia Van Buren, another Academy alumna, in Philadelphia, and the following year she opened her own portrait studio. She quickly became known for her pictorialist style, and soon her studio was known as a gathering place for photographers who championed this aesthetic vision.

In 1897 she wrote to photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston about her belief in women’s future in photography: “There will be a new era, and women will fly into photography.”

In 1898 six of her photographs were chosen to be exhibited at the first Philadelphia Photographic Salon, where she exhibited under the name Eva Lawrence Watson. It was through this exhibition that she became acquainted with Alfred Stieglitz, who was one of the judges for the exhibit.

In 1899 she was elected as a member of the Photographic Society of Philadelphia. Photographer and critic Joseph Keiley praised the work she exhibited that year, saying she showed “delicate taste and artistic originality”.

The following year she was a member of the jury for the Philadelphia Photographic Salon. A sign of her stature as a photographer at that time may be seen by looking at the other members of the jury, who were Alfred Stieglitz, Gertrude Kasebier, Frank Eugene and Clarence H. White.

In 1900 Johnston asked her to submit work for a groundbreaking exhibition of American women photographers in Paris. Watson objected at first, saying “It has been one of my special hobbies – and one I have been very emphatic about, not to have my work represented as ‘women’s work’. I want [my work] judged by only one standard irrespective of sex.” Johnston persisted, however, and Watson had twelve prints – the largest number of any photographer – in the show that took place in 1901.

In 1901 she married Professor Martin Schütze, a German-born trained lawyer who had received his Ph.D. in German literature from the University of Pennsylvania in 1899. He took a teaching position in Chicago, where the couple soon moved.

That same year she was elected a member of The Linked Ring. She found the ability to correspond with some of the most progressive photographers of the day very invigorating, and she began to look for similar connections in the U.S.

In 1902 she suggested the idea of forming an association of independent and like-minded photographers to Alfred Stieglitz. They corresponded several times about this idea, and by the end of the year she joined Stieglitz as one of the founding members of the famous Photo-Secession.

Since Watson-Schütze’s death there have been two retrospective exhibitions of her photographs: Eva Watson-Schütze, Chicago Photo-Secessionist, at the University of Chicago Library in 1985, and Eva Watson-Schütze, Photographer, at the Samuel Dorsky Museum Art at the State University of New York at New Paltz in 2009.

Her works were also included in exhibits at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC. [quoted from Wikipedia website]

A Lily and a Butterfly, 1905-1910

Eva Watson-Schütze (1867-1935) :: Woman with Lily [Jane McCall Whitehead], 1905. Truth beauty: pictorialism and the photograph as art, 1845-1945 (George Eastman House, 2009) | src Phillips Collection
Eva Watson-Schütze (1867-1935) :: Woman with Lily [Jane McCall Whitehead], 1905. Truth beauty: pictorialism and the photograph as art, 1845-1945 (George Eastman House, 2009) | src Phillips Collection

Photographic pictorialism, an international movement, a philosophy, and a style, developed toward the end of the 19th century. The introduction of the dry-plate process, in the late 1870s, and of the Kodak camera, in 1888, made taking photographs relatively easy, and photography became widely practiced. Pictorialist photographers set themselves apart from the ranks of new hobbyist photographers by demonstrating that photography was capable of far more than literal description of a subject. Through the efforts of pictorialist organizations, publications, and exhibitions, photography came to be recognized as an art form, and the idea of the print as a carefully hand-crafted, unique object equal to a painting gained acceptance.

The forerunners of pictorialism were early photographers like Henry Peach Robinson and Julia Margaret Cameron. Robinson found inspiration in genre painting; Cameron’s fuzzy portraits and allegories were inspired by literature. Like Robinson and Cameron, the pictorialists made photographs that were more like paintings and drawings than the work of commercial portraitists or hobbyists. Pictorialist images were heavily dependent on the craft of nuanced printing. Some photographers, like Frederick H. Evans, a master of the platinum print, presented their work like drawings or watercolors, decorating their mounts with ruled borders filled with watercolor wash, or printing on textured watercolor paper, like Austrian photographer Heinrich Kühn. Kühn achieved painterly effects by using an artist’s brush to manipulate watercolor pigment, instead of silver or platinum, mixed with light-sensitized gum arabic.

The idea that the primary purpose of photography was personal expression lay behind pictorialism’s “Secessionist” movement. Alfred Stieglitz’s “Photo-Secession” was the best-known secessionist group. Stieglitz and his magazine, Camera Work, with its high-quality photogravure illustrations, advocated for the acceptance of photography as a fine art.

Eva Watson Schütze (American, 1867-1935) :: Young girl seated on bench, ca. 1910. | src Phillips Collection
Eva Watson Schütze (American, 1867-1935) :: Young girl seated on bench, ca. 1910. George Eastman Coll. | src Phillips Collection

Early in the 20th century, pictorialism began losing ground to modernism: in 1911, Camera Work published drawings by Rodin and Picasso, and its final issue, in 1917, featured Paul Strand’s modernist photographs. Nevertheless, pictorialism lived on. A second wave of pictorialists included Clarence H. White, whose students included such photographers as Margaret Bourke-White, Paul Outerbridge, and Dorothy Lange. White’s colleague, Paul Anderson, continued the pictorial tradition until his death in 1956. Five prints of his Vine in Sunlight, 1944, display five different printing techniques, demonstrating how each process subtly shapes the viewer’s response to the image.

Exhibition organized by George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film, and Vancouver Art Gallery. [Quoted from source]

Head of a Young Girl, 1905

Eva Watson-Schütze :: Head of a Young Girl (photogravure from original negative). Published in Camera Work, issue 9, 1905. | src Universitåts-Bibliothek Heidelberg, also George Eastman museum
Eva Watson-Schütze :: Head of a Young Girl (photogravure from original negative). Published in Camera Work, issue 9, 1905. | src Universitåts-Bibliothek Heidelberg, also George Eastman museum

The Rose, 1905

Eva Watson-Schütze :: The Rose, 1905; Gum bichromate print. National Museum of Women in the Arts
Eva Watson-Schütze :: The Rose, 1905; Gum bichromate print. National Museum of Women in the Arts

The Rose demonstrates Eva Watson-Schütze’s talent for creating dramatic photographs with pictorial qualities.

Here she posed the young woman against a plain studio backdrop, emphasizing the irregular outline of her dress. Positioned in the center of the composition, the sitter faces the camera directly. Watson-Schütz heightened the feeling of flatness by emphasizing the outline of the model’s body against the background.

Watson-Schütze chose an unusual format for this photograph: a narrow rectangle, which the figure nearly fills. Virtually every element in this composition emphasizes its verticality. For instance, the embroidered panels on the woman’s dress narrow to a point as they descend toward the hem.

The woman holds a fully opened rose, the stem of which is so long it reaches from her throat to her knees. The stem forms a narrow dark line that echoes model’s slender proportions and the center part of her hair. Watson-Schütze placed her monogram in the upper left corner, a device favored by many photographers of the time. [quoted from National Museum of Women in the Arts]

Eva Watson-Schütze :: The Rose, halftone reproduction from original gum print. Published in Camera Work, issue 9, 1905. | src Universitåts-Bibliothek Heidelberg
Eva Watson-Schütze :: The Rose, halftone reproduction from original gum print. Published in Camera Work, issue 9, 1905. | src Universitåts-Bibliothek Heidelberg
Eva Watson-Schütze :: The Rose, 1905. Gravure. Musée d'Orsay, RMN
Eva Watson-Schütze :: The Rose, 1905. Gravure. Musée d’Orsay, RMN

Admiring a print, ca. 1910

Eva Watson-Schütze :: Woman Admiring a Print, ca. 1910. Bromoil print. | src V&A museum
Eva Watson-Schütze :: Woman Admiring a Print, ca. 1910. Bromoil print. | src V&A museum

The image shows a woman in full length, wearing a long dress and standing at a table in profile against a blank pale wall, holding the edges of a print which is resting on the table. Bright light from a window in the top left of the photograph lights the front of the woman and the tabletop.

This is an example of the bromoil process invented around 1907, in which a bleached image is re-developed with pigment applied with brushes. ‘Pictorialist’ photographers favoured its broad tonal effects and diffuse detail. The print being ‘admired’ in the image is likely to have been a finely crafted photograph much like this one. [Gallery 100, ‘History of photography’, 2012-2013]

quoted from V&A Museum