Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object

Towing the Reed

Artist:
Peter Henry Emerson (British, born Cuba, 1856–1936)
Printer:
Valentine of Dundee
Date:
1887–88
Medium:
Platinum print
Dimensions:
20.8 x 25.8 cm (8 3/16 x 10 3/16 in.)
Classification:
Photographs
Credit Line:
Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1994
Accession Number:
1994.520.1
Not on view
In late-nineteenth-century Britain P.H. Emerson was the most important figure to espouse a theory of how the eye sees--focusing on only one part of the visual field at any moment--and to propose an approach to photography that imitated this selective focus through camera optics. In addition Emerson took natural activities and settings as his subject and was thus in direct opposition to the sentimental and artificial "high art" photography of H.P. Robinson, O.G. Rejlander, and William Lake Price (whose work is shown at the left.)
Towing the Reed is from Emerson's most influential publication, Life and Landscape on the Norfolk Broads, with text by T.F. Goodall, which aimed to present provincial East Anglia more in the manner of sociological investigation than poetic evocation. Reed, harvested from late December to early April and towed in boats along the narrow arteries that intersected the marshes and gave access to the beds, was the most valuable product of this region. The reed--measuring as long as nine feet--was used extensively by local builders for interior walls, ceilings, and thatched roofs.
[Christie's, London, May 12, 1994, lot 161]; [Charles Isaacs]

Plate 26 from Life and Landscape on the Norfolk Broads.
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