Imogen Cunningham


"Triangles," 1928

Gelatin silver print on paper mounted to a thin board mount
Printed later, circa 1960
Signed and dated in pencil on the mount, at right: Imogen Cunningham; the artist's Green Street label with the printed signature and typed title and date, affixed to the mount, verso
Image/Sheet: 3.875" H x 2.875" W; Mount: 11.5" H x 8.625" W

  • Provenance: The Artist
    Gifted to Tom Eckstrom (Cunningham's photographic assistant), circa 1975, gifted from the above
    Private Collection, Bay Area, CA, acquired from the above
  • Literature: Christina Berding, "Imogen Cunningham and the Straight Approach," "Modern Photography" 15, no. 5 (May 1951): 39.
    Louis Stettner, "The History of the Nude in American Photography: 1840 to the Present" (Greenwich, CT: Whitestone, 1966), 84.
    Margery Mann, "Imogen Cunningham: Photographs" (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1970), cover and plate 12.
    Ed Houk, "Vintage Photographs by Women of the 20's and 30's" (Chicago: Edwynn Houk Gallery, 1988), title page.
    Constance Sullivan, ed., "Women Photographers" (New York: Narry N. Abrams, 1990), plate 36.
    "Watkins to Weston: 101 Years of California Photography 1849-1950" (Santa Barbara: Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1992), 139.
    Richard Lorenz, "Imogen Cunningham: Ideas Without End, A Life in Photographs" (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1993), plate 53.
    Richard Lorenz, "Imogen Cunningham: The Modernist Years" (Tokyo: Treville Publishing, 1993).
    Imogen Cunningham, "Imogen Cunningham: Die Poesie der Form" (Schaffhausen: Fotografie Forum Frankfurt, 1993), 40.
    Christian A. Peterson, "After the Photo-Secession: American Pictorial Photography, 1910-1955" (Minneapolis: The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1997), plate 61.
    Naomi Rosenblum, "A World History of Photography" (New York: Abbeville Press Inc., 1997), 431.
    Richard Lorenz, "Imogen Cunningham: On the Body" (Boston: Bulfinch, 1998), plate 44.
    Karen Sinsheimer, "An Eclectic Focus: Photographs from the Vernon Collection" (Santa Barbara: Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1999), 86.
    Manfred Heiting, ed., "Imogen Cunningham: 1883-1976" (Cologne: Taschen, 2001), 46.
    Marianne Karabelnik, ed., "Stripped Bare: The Body Revealed in Contemporary Art" (New York: Merrel, 2004), 52.
    Nissan N. Perez, "A Rare Gift: The Noel and Harriette Levine Collection of Photographs" (Jerusalem: The Israel Museum, 2010), 113.
    Karen Haas, et al., "An Enduring Vision: Photographs from the Lane Collection" (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 2011), plate 56.
    "Imogen Cunningham" (Madrid: Fundacion Mapfre, 2012), 230, plate 182.
    Robert B. Menschel, "The Shape of Things: Photographs from Robert B. Menschel" (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2016), 107.
    Noam Gal, "A Modern Love: Photographs from The Israel Museum" (Jerusalem: The Israel Museum, 2019), 69.
    Paul Martineau, "Imogen Cunningham: A Retrospective" (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2020), plate 42.
  • Notes: We are grateful to Susan Ehrens for her assistance in cataloguing this work and providing the lot notes and essay.

    "Triangles" is the best-known and most celebrated of Cunningham's many nude photographs. In the 1920s, Imogen Cunningham creatively embraced rhythmic patterns and intricate compositions in her botanical photographs and nude studies. Her 1923 photograph titled "Torso," a striking close-up of a woman's breasts framed by a man's arm, unmistakably paved the way for her modernist masterpiece, "Triangles."

    This photograph was selected as the cover image for Imogen Cunningham's inaugural monograph in 1970, and it continues to be her most revered nude study even after many decades.

    In the 2020 exhibition catalogue, "Imogen Cunningham: A Retrospective," published by the J. Paul Getty Museum, Susan Ehrens observed: "'Triangles," a Cubist-inspired close-up study, stands as the crowning jewel among Cunningham's numerous nude works. Its fusion of sharp lines and contours, subtly bathed in gradients of light, beckons our gaze toward the heart of the composition. The triangular shape formed by the overlapping arms and legs mirrors the triangular space between the breasts, forming an intricate interplay of three interlocking triangles." (Page 39)
    Cunningham always printed this image this size, less than four by three inches, to accentuate its intimacy and draw us into its compositional nuances.
  • Condition: Overall good condition. The mount is affixed to the back mat with four paper archival corners.

    Framed under Plexiglas: 17.5" H x 14.75" W x 1" D

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