More Men of Mark. Alvin Langdon Coburn.
More Men of Mark.
More Men of Mark.

More Men of Mark.

London: Duckworth & Co, [1922]. Hardcover. Small folio, tan cloth spine with beige cloth, title and author gilt-stamped on upper cover. [8]–23 pp., 33 collotypes on 33 leaves.

First edition of Coburn’s second volume of portraits of eminent men of the early twentieth century. Among the subjects included are Ezra Pound, Joseph Conrad, Thomas Hardy, Anatole France, Augustus John, Georges Clemenceau, and Coburn himself.

Coburn’s work as a portrait photographer was initially spurred in 1904 by Perriton Maxwell, editor of the Metropolitan Magazine, who—“Out of the kindness of his heart, or, perhaps, more to get rid of me than anything else”—gave Coburn a list of prominent people to photograph in Britain. The photographer first reached out to George Bernard Shaw (whose portrait opens the book), and through his friendship with Shaw met many other important figures. It became a long-term undertaking, undoubtedly both satisfying and exciting Coburn’s self-described “urge” to photograph those artists whom he admired: “I have always been deeply interested in consummation in the arts, and I think this was the chief reason why I began making photographic portraits. If I admired the writings or expressed vision of any person, I was impelled by the desire to meet and photograph him…My portraits are a recording of my appreciation of the artistic achievement of the times in which I have lived” (Coburn). Among the subjects included are Ezra Pound, Joseph Conrad, Thomas Hardy, Anatole France, Edmund Dulac, Augustus John, Georges Clemenceau, and Coburn himself.

After receiving his first Kodak at the age of eight, Coburn rose to prominence in his late teens and by his mid-twenties had established a friendship with George Bernard Shaw, who introduced the catalogue of his solo show at the Royal Photographic Society in 1907 by calling him “one of the most accomplished and sensitive artist-photographers now living.” Coburn traveled extensively in America and Europe, and was granted membership in the British Linked Ring as well as the American Photo-Secession, both groups at the forefront of establishing and exploring photography as a fine art and including such giants as Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen. He collaborated with several literary figures (including Henry James), pioneered high-elevation view points, was one of the first to experiment in semi-abstract and abstract photography (Ezra Pound called Coburn’s technique of using mirrors to fracture and duplicate images “vortography,” alluding to its Vorticist inspiration), and had important shows throughout the United States and Britain (including two solo-exhibitions at Stieglitz’s New York gallery) into the 1920s. In 1930 he was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, although by that time Coburn’s interest in mysticism, druidism, metaphysics, and freemasonry (ignited years earlier by a friendship with photographer George Davison) had come to supersede his fascination with photography.

REFERENCES: Foster, Sheila J., et al. Imagining Paradise : The Richard and Ronay Menschel Library at George Eastman House, Rochester, p. 237.

CONDITION: Good, lower cover slightly bowed, lower left corner of back cover bumped, touch of foxing at edge of text block, minimal wear, occasional touch of foxing to tissue guards and margins, with effect on images; a generally clean, attractive copy.

Item #4060


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