This project was a thorough aesthetic characterization of F. H. Evans prints. It is modeled on a catalog raisonne, but is restricted to prints in the George Eastman House Collection and includes photographs by other photographers that were reprinted and mounted by Evans.
Evan’s signature was found in three forms, all written in pencil, although he also used a blind stamp.
He described the 19-inch Zeiss lens for his 8X10 camera as his favorite, although he used seven lenses with the 8X10 camera and six lenses with his 4X5.
Evans shot with both gelatin dry plates and film. He highly recommended a double film, Cristoid, manufactured by Sandell and Sons in London. This film was a crude version of what would be produced by multiple emulsion coating today, to produce a film with both a fast and slow emulsion.
This project was ultimately submitted to the Wiki capstone project done by Luisa Casella, 2005 to 2007 ARP Fellow.
In this paper I introduce the results of my investigation of F. H. Evans collection in George Eastman House in terms of the project Fine Photographs Connoisseurship Resource.
Since March 2006 I have examined the collection of F.H.Evans prints. This was an essential part in a group project of establishing a web-based Fine Photographs Connoisseurship Resource. The GEH has a significant collection of Frederick Evans’s prints, one of the best and largest collections of this author. This is the reason the Evans’s collection was chosen for the research. The goal was to define and illustrate the key attributes (see endnotei) and characterization categories which reflects our understanding of fine photographs.
During my sessions I reviewed 144 prints by F. H. Evans. I have also interlinked this with the examination of the F. Holland Day prints collection, because some of his work was reprinted and mounted by Frederick Evans. I have examined 40 objects – the whole collection of F. Holland Day at the GEH, 1 print by G. Kasebier, and a collection of portraits of A. L. Coburn, made by different pictorial photographers, including Evans. The major focuses of examination were significant marks, photographic techniques and conservation issues related with prints from GEH collection.
F. H. Evans usually signed his prints in pencil on the mount under the right lower corner of the print, above the decorative frame (if this frame exists). Here are the different types of signatures that have been found on his prints:
More often he signed prints with his full name: "Frederick H. Evans". On "Durham Cathedral: Nave", GEH1981:1198:0039, the name was written differently: "FHEvans". This type of signature is more infrequent.
He used a pencil and, if the decorative frame was made with water-colors, he repeated his signature with water-colors over the pencil, very lightly and delicately. Rarely did he put his signature on verso, usually only his initials, and usually he did this to finish his note on the particular print.
Example of full name signature and of blind stamp published in a book “The Collection of Alfred Stieglitz” by Weston J. Naef.
Inscriptions that was found on F.H.Evans prints from GEH collection:
Notes about number of prints made from the negative can be found also. For example, on verso of "Berberis", (platinum print ca. 1905, GEH GEH 1981:1198:0026) we see: "only two prints made in platinotype - FHE". On verso of "Kelmscott Manor: Attics" (ca.1897, GEH GEH 1981:1198:0005): "brown silver, negative lost".
On portraits of A.L.Coburn can be seen inscriptions in pencil by Coburn. For example: on "Portrait of Coburn, sitting" (platinum print, ca.1904, GEH GEH 1967:0099:0020) in pencil written: "by Frederick H. Evans".
Like many other pictorial photographers, F.H. Evans had his blind stamp. It depicts his initials FHE in cartouche form, very likely inspired by oriental art. In GEH collection there are 19 prints with stamp.
Very often it is possible to see a pencil mark on the left side of the mount, right under the print. This sort of marking related with the process of mounting the print, and usually found under the print’s left edge, like on picture on the right.
F. H. Evans usually placed his significant marks in particular locations. For example, as mentioned before, his signature always placed on the mount, under the bottom right corner of the print and above the decorative frame. This made possible to create the scheme of typical locations of different markings on Evans prints, such as: signature, title, stamp, additional inscriptions. What's more, top and right edges of the last layer of the mounts are commonly deckled.
Although sometimes he did it differently. For example, on portrait of A. L.Coburn (GEH 1981:2878:0001), he places the blind stamp on lower left corner of the print, not on the right. Deckled edge also usually located on the right and top edges of the mount; or only on one edge.
I have created an Microsoft Access database of F.H. Evans prints, which calculates quantities of different mounts, signatures, photographic technique and other material characteristics. For example, the diagram below shows that most of the prints from the collection has signature, and much less prints has a blind stamp.
In a series of articles entitled "Some notes on interior work" published in Amateur Photographer no. 1021, vol. 39, 1903, Evans described the equipment he used for his architectural works. It was an 8 X 10 inch camera with base-board focal extension 30 inches, and a sky-shade made from a sheet of stout vulcanite (lens hood) in front of the camera. This camera was builted specially for his needs. He preferred Zeiss Protar lens (10 “) or Dallmeyer-Bergheim portrait lens.
For this 10 X 8” camera he used the series of Zeiss lenses' with following focal length: 7”, 8”, 9”, 10”, 12”, 14”, and 19"--the last one he names as his favorite lens. His aperture was f.32, f.45, or f.64.
For a smaller 5 X 4” camera he had a set of Zeiss Protar lenses (4 1/2", 5 4/3", 7", 9", 11 1/2", and 14"). They all fitted to "Volute" shutter.
The George Eastman House does not have any of his negatives, except one. This is a nitrate negative with portrait of A.L.Coburn. Most of his negatives that were stored in his house were destroyed after Evans` death by his wife, on June 24, 1943. From his publications, we know that he used silver gelatin dry-plate negatives as well as transparent film negatives. Evans pointed out that glass negatives need to have a very precise exposure, comparing to film negatives. He also used double film negatives. In his articles he highly recommended a specific brand - "Cristoid". It was manufactured by Sandell & Sons, in London, ca. 1899-1914. It was a roll film negative without support (comparing with usual roll film negatives that have a black paper support). On the back such negative has film with “slow” emulsion, and on top - film with “rapid” emulsion; all together they produce stout film. Evans suggested that such negatives give a better print.
Evans printed his photographs both by contact and by enlargement. For example, the George Eastman House possesses two prints with English landscape made from one negative: one by contact, another by enlargement. The silver gelatin print (GEH 1966:0030:0012), made by contact. The platinum print (GEH 1981:1198:0012) made by enlarging the same negative. On the back of the platinum print is a note by Evans, that he made only 3 such prints. On the smaller silver gelatin print little retouching was necessary. But the larger platinum print has retouchings all over – because after enlargement the imperfections of the negative became much more evident. This is very interesting because retouchings on the platinum print covers almost the entire image. Although F.H.Evans was very often described as an adept of "pure" photography, "straight prints", which means that he was against any alteration of negatives or during printing, we still find very surprising examples like this print. He was a perfectionist in his work and always intended to get a perfect negative and print. But he accepted unavoidable retouching in case of small technical defects.
His favorite medium was platinum. "Platinotype, properly treated, is the printing process that suits all negatives of good gradation". The printing process requires accurate timing. For warming-up coldish black color of platinotype he added few drops of saturated mercuric chloride to Platinotype Co`s normal developer. He also noted that developing bath should be at 120 Fahrenheit.
The platinum prints at the George Eastman House collection widely present his cathedrals and portraits, as well as by microphotography. In his articles he references using Platinotype Company`s paper; C.C., K.K., or T.T. - black variety.
There are not many silver gelatin prints in the collection – 8 landscape and portraits, 4 photomicrographs mounted separately (GEH has his album of photomicrographs), as listed in the museum catalog system. During examination more silver gelatin prints were identified. For example, GEH 1966:0030:0012 – On the road to Watendlath was listed as platinotype, and GEH 1981:1198:0061 Durham Cathedral: Nave, was not identified. Both of these prints after close examination were found to be silver gelatin. One of the most famous photographs by Evans, “Sea of Steps”, is a silver gelatin print also.
Most of the silver gelatin papers are not specified. Hanako Murata in her research describes five Evan’s prints on Gevaluxe Velarous paper: These prints are: “Life Mask of Beethoven” (GEH 1966:030:13), “Rheims Cathedral: West Front: before the War” (GEH 1981:1198:32), “On a French River” GEH 1981:1198:0014), “In Deerleep Woods: Surrey” (GEH 1966:03011), and “A Mountain Shoulder: Great Gable” (GEH 1981:1198:9). A marking of “Kodak Velox Bromesco” is found on two silver gelatin prints from the GEH collection: on "Ely Cathedral: Across the Transept" ( GEH GEH 1981:1198:0063, printed ca. 1910, negative ca.1910; note on verso: not platinotype but Kodak Bromesco FHE for Conn collection), and on "Maison Jeanne D'Arc: Rouen" (GEH GEH 1981:1198:0103, verso in pencil: "Kodak Bromesco" platinotype being defunct-. ; ""This street was full of traffic, road + foot paths, all the time of exposure"). Kodak Velox Bromesco was Kodak product on British market at that time. The word "Velox" here is a part of a brand name but also it can tell more about the photographic process. Velox papers are slow developing-out papers, made with an unwashed emulsion of silver chloride. Velox papers are known as gaslight papers. They were printed by contact . In the collection we have three photogravures, including a famous profile portrait of Aubrey Beardsley, with drawings on the decorative border made by Beardsley.
GEH does not have Evans` lantern slides, but this was one of his favorite’s techniques. He was making lantern slides for his presentations and lectures.
Interesting details about the printing technique that Evans used can be found in the article "The Handling of Textures" by D. Blount, published in Amateur Photographer no. 1024, vol. 39, May 19th, 1904. The author compares two portraits by Evans, one is a platinotype, and another – a gum bichromate print ("Portrait of the Dean of Ely"). This shows that Evans was not completely rejecting the pictorial techniques.
One of the essential attributes of a photograph is it’s finishing.
An important characteristic of F. H. Evans’s prints are his mounts. In 1908 F.H.Evans made an exhibition at the Royal Photography Society of good and bad multilayer mounts. He also made a demonstration, and after published an article on this subject in The Photographic Journal (February, 1908).
F. H. Evans often used the multilayer mounting system, which he probably adopts from his friend F. Holland Day. This mounting system with several layers of different paper is often called “American style of mounting”. The GEH collection represents wonderful examples of his works. Mounts that exist in the George Eastman House collection have different number of layers, from 1 to 5.
The types of mounts with different decorative elements in the GEH collection:
Most of his prints have pencil ruled line frame or water-color ruled lines and wash-band frame. Several prints with tissue paper, four in passé-partout mounts and one photogravure has India-tint mount.
The decorative frame on photographic prints has a long tradition. It comes from mounting lithographs and drawings. The parallel ruler lines around prints were in fashion in the 18 century, but they appeared much before. In early photography history such ruler lines were used by Talbot, in some of his photo books (“The Pencil of Nature”). Decorative frames with water-color ruled lines and wash-band frame also come from the tradition of mounting drawings and engravings, as well as striking bronze color borders. Mounts with a layer of Japanese tissue paper under the print were introduced in mid-19 century. India-tint mount evaluated from mounts with Japanese tissues and has a lithographic wide decorative border around the image.
His ability to create perfect and beautiful mounts was well known. Group of prints “7 Last Words” by F. Holland Day were reprinted and mounted by Evans. F. Holland Day was very cautious about finishing his photographs. He could even refuse to participate in an exhibition if he would not be able to mount his prints the way he wanted.
From my observations, there are even more connections in this subject. During my survey of Holland Day’s collection of 26 prints I found only one signature with the author`s name on the recto (“FHE at 40”, GEH 1981:1166:0001, platinum print ca. 1893). I believe that it is probably Evans` hand. The mount of this print is similar to other mounts that Evans used for his prints and the inscription looks very much like his hand. On pictures below we can compare the signature on this print with signature on F. H. Evans print (“FHE at 40” and “Isa”).
Comparing the style of letters F and H, we can see that on print “FHE at 40” they look very much like Evans handwriting.
We know that F. H. Evans and F. Holland Day were friends and Evans could mount prints of his friend. F.H.Evans reprinted Day’s series of photographs “7 Last Words” and mounted them. Holland Day was very happy with results and even “he indeed thought them finer in every way than the old originals”.
The same situation with another print from GEH collection – by Gertrude Kasebier “FHE at 45” (on the left).
Report by Karina Kashina ARP Fellow.
February, 7, 2006.
Prints are stored in a cool storage, in Solander boxes. Almost all prints have original mounts with different numbers of layers. Few prints, mostly portraits of A. L. Coburn, do not have the original mount. In this case they are stored in Mylar sleeves. Some of the prints have archival passé-partout mount with paper corners, with tissue paper or Mylar interlayer. Part of the collection is fixed on a board with paper or thin board corners and protected with Mylar sleeve.
Generally the prints are in good condition, but some prints have minor deterioration. The most common problems that were found on Evans prints are: soiled mounts, worn edges of the mount, failed corners of prints; abrasion of the image layer. Less common deterioration are discoloration of the platinum prints (“Portrait of Coburn” GEH 1967:0099:0021, “Height and Light in Bourge Cathedral” GEH 1981:1198:0099). Some of the prints have minor cockling or planar distortion of the mount or of the print (“Portrait of Alvin Langdon Coburn, in oriental costume” GEH 1967:0099:0025).
The most important issue for condition of Evans` prints are their archival enclosures. Silver gelatin prints which he usually made on one-layer papers, without baryta layer or any coating, are very vulnerable to any physical contact (although one silver gelatin print in the collection has a glossy surface – “Copy of the painting by Minna Keene” GEH 1966:0030:0023). It is extremely important to store such prints in proper housing. Most of the collection stored in Mylar sleeves, or has a Mylar protective layer over the print. Mylar is inert material, but somewhat hard, so it can damage the delicate surface of the print. Some of the prints already show abrasions or burnished areas due to contact with Mylar and by pressure from other prints in the stack.
Prints found in not satisfactory condition are:
To improve condition of this significant collection and to prevent further damage it is important to find resources and time to:
Karina Kashina-Beeman was an ARP fellow from 2005 to 2007. This project comprised her contribution to a Wiki-type on-line connoisseurship resource. Karina is currently a conservator with Paul Messier Conservation, LLC in Boston, Massachusettes.