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[The Bubble]

Alvin Langdon Coburn (British, Boston, Massachusetts 1882–1966 Wales)

ca. 1908
Gum bichromate over platinum print
Image: 28.3 x 21.9 cm (11 1/8 x 8 5/8 in.)
Credit Line:
Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933
Accession Number:
  • Description

    Coburn was introduced to photography by his distant cousin F. Holland Day and was so talented and precocious a photographer that he soon gave instruction on platinum printing to Day himself. He traveled to London and Paris with Day to assist with the 1900–1901 exhibition "The New School of American Photography" and there met Edward Steichen, Frederick Evans, Frank Eugene, and other photographers. In 1907, the year he had a one-man show at Stieglitz’s gallery, Coburn was invited by the American art collector Charles Lang Freer to photograph his collection of Asian art and prints by Whistler. That exposure to Japanese art and Japonism is evident in this portrait of Elsie "Toodles" Thomas dressed in a kimono and looking like a figure in a ukiyo-e print. Thomas is shown blowing a quivering bubble, a longstanding symbol of the transient nature of life frequently used by Pictorialist photographers.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Two Metropolitan Museum of Art stamps, verso C and BC: "THE ALFRED STIEGLITZ COLLECTION" and "THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART"; later inscriptions in pencil, verso CL

  • Provenance

    Alfred Stieglitz

  • Notes

    "The print is titled as assigned by Stieglitz, but no related title is found in the exhibition lists–surprising in light of its exhibitable subject" (Weston Naef, The Collection of Alfred Stieglitz, cat. 151); Another print is in the George Eastman House collection