Imogen Cunningham, American, 1883 - 1976


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negative 1920s; print 1970s

Gelatin silver print mounted on matboard

Sheet: 11 13/16 × 9 7/16 in. (30 × 24 cm)

Mount: 19 15/16 × 14 15/16 in. (50.7 × 37.9 cm)

Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth: Purchased through the Katharine T. and Merrill G. Beede 1929 Fund

© Imogen Cunningham Trust



Place Made: United States, North America


20th century

Object Name


Research Area


Not on view


Signed and dated, in graphite, on mount lower right: Imogen Cunningham 1920s [? illegible]; on reverse, on mount: photographer’s label with typewritten title and date and estate stamp


For Cunningham, the shadow takes center stage. In this way, the idea of photography—capturing a shadow on light-sensitive film—is echoed in the creation of her images. This shifts the meaning of a photograph like this away from the science of identifying the plant (taxonomy) and toward its role as a work of art, shaping the light and dark areas of the composition.

This close-up represents two important aspects of Cunningham’s photography: sharp focus and the celebration of plant forms. Both attributes link her with other West Coast photographers who praised the medium’s ability to create clear, concise studies of patterns in nature. In the 1930s, these artists adopted a name for their approach derived from the shutter speed setting on a camera that allowed for maximum detail: f/64. They relished the camera’s ability to create seemingly objective imagery, forcing themselves to emphasize the subject as an agent of self-expression.

Cunningham had started her photographic practice early in the new century and had focused at first on botanical subjects before making a name for herself in portraiture. Having studied chemistry at college allowed her to innovate with various processes, and she became a master of platinum printing.

From the 2019 exhibition Cubism and Its Aftershocks, curated by John R. Stomberg Ph.D, Virginia Rice Kelsey 1961s Director

Course History

ARTH 16.2, Women in Art, Kristin O'Rourke, Fall 2014

ARTH 71, The "American Century": Modern Art in the United States, Mary Coffey, Winter 2015

ARTH 71, The "American Century": Modern Art in the United States. Mary Coffey, Winter 2015

ARTH 48.02, History of Photography, Katie Hornstein, Winter 2020

Exhibition History

Citrin Family Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, April 24-July 22, 2019.


Estate of the artist (The Imogen Cunningham Trust); to Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, New York; sold to present collection, 2014.

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