Frederick Sommer  (American/Italian, 1905-1999) 

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Frederick Sommer (American, September 7, 1905–January 23, 1999) was an American photographer, painter, and sculptor considered by many as one of the true masters of this genre of art. Sommer was born in Angri, Italy, but raised in Brazil. He attended Cornell University and graduated with an MA in Landscape Architecture in 1927. Sommer met Elisabeth Watson at the institution, and they married in 1928. The couple did not have any children. In 1931, the two moved to Tuscon, AZ, before moving to Prescott, AZ, four years later. In 1939, Sommer became a naturalized American citizen.

In 1930, Sommer was diagnosed with tuberculosis, and, a year later, he began to experiment with photography. Initially, Sommer was mainly interested in working on paper with watercolors, but he later moved to pen and ink or brush. As Sommer was working on paper drawings, he was also starting to gain interest in photography as an art. In 1938, he got an 8×10 Century Universal Camera that allowed him to experiment with still-life photographs, horizonless landscapes, nudes, cliché-verre negatives, and jarred subjects, among others. Some of the artists Sommer has related with artistically include Max Ernst (German, 1891–1976), Richard Nickel (American, 1928–1972), and Edward Weston (American, 1886–1958). When the Center for Creative Photography, Tucson, AZ, was opened in 1975, Sommer, Harry Callahan (American, 1912?1999), and Aaron Siskind (American, 1903?1991) were some of the few artists whose works were archived at the center. Examples of Sommer's photographs include Arizona Landscape (1945), Flower and Frog (1947), and Smoke on Glass (1965).

From 1957 to 1958, Sommer substituted for Harry Callahan at IIT Institute of Design, and he also lectured briefly at Prescott College in the late 1960s. Sommer received many awards for his work, including the Friends of Photography Distinguished Career Award, Arizona State University's College of Fine Arts Award, and Arizona Governor's Arts Award. Like other artists of his time, Sommer held a number of exhibitions in different places. His solo exhibitions were held in places like Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA (1946) and Light Gallery, New York, NY (1972). Examples of Sommer's group exhibitions include Drawings, Paintings and Photographs, at the Institute of Design, Chicago, IL, (1957) and Museum of Photography, Tokyo, Japan (1995). Sommer died in Prescott, AZ.

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Frederick Sommer, Untitled

 

Frederick Sommer
Untitled
1997

Bruce Silverstein
Frederick Sommer, Untitled

 

Frederick Sommer
Untitled
1941

Bruce Silverstein
Frederick Sommer, Untitled

 

Frederick Sommer
Untitled
1990

Bruce Silverstein
Frederick Sommer, Arizona Landscape

 

Frederick Sommer
Arizona Landscape
1943

Etherton Gallery
Frederick Sommer, Untitled

 

Frederick Sommer
Untitled
circa 1967

Bruce Silverstein
Frederick Sommer, Glass

 

Frederick Sommer
Glass
Etherton Gallery
Frederick Sommer, Arizona Landscape

 

Frederick Sommer
Arizona Landscape
1945

Etherton Gallery
Frederick Sommer, Three Musicians (Smoke on Glass)

 

Frederick Sommer
Three Musicians (Smoke on Glass)
1962

Etherton Gallery
Frederick Sommer, The Pontine Marshes

 

Frederick Sommer
The Pontine Marshes
1950

Etherton Gallery
Past auction results (188)  View All
Frederick Sommer, Collage

 

Frederick Sommer
Collage, 1996
collage of colored offsets, mntd

 

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Frederick Sommer, Coyotes

 

Frederick Sommer
Coyotes, 1945
gelatin silver print, mntd

 

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Frederick Sommer, Livia

 

Frederick Sommer
Livia, 1948
gelatin silver print, mntd

 

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1927   MA, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., Landscape Architecture
1974   Guggenheim Fellowship
1979   Honorary PhD from the University of Arizona
1982   Friends of Photography Distinguished Career Award
1985   Arizona State University’s College of Fine Arts Award
1985   Artist of the Year by the University of Bridgeport, Conn.
1987   Arizona Governor’s Arts Award
  Solo exhibitions
  1937 Howard Putzel Gallery
  1946 Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA
  1949 Charles Egan Gallery
  1963 Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
  1965 Pasadena Art Museum, Pasadena, CA
  1967 Museum of Northern Arizona
  1968 Philadelphia College of Art, Philadelphia, PA
  1972 Light Gallery, New York, NY
  1973 Light Gallery, New York, NY
  1977 Light Gallery, New York, NY
  1979 Light Gallery, New York, NY
  1979 Art Museum at Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
  1980 Art Museum at California State University, Long Beach, CA (traveling)
  1980 Delaware Art Museum, DE
  1981 Serpentine Gallery, London, UK
  1985 High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA
  1986 Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York, NY
  1988 University of Michigan Museum of Art, MI
  1992 Turner/Krull Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
  1992 Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York, NY
  1992 Photo Gallery International
  1994 Center for Creative Photography, Tucson, AZ
  1994 The Art Museum at Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
  1994 J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, CA
  1994 Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York, NY
  1995 Center for Photographic Art, Carmel, CA
  1996 Pace/MacGill Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
  1997 Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York, NY
  1999 Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD
  1999 Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York, NY
  2000 Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie d’Arles, France
  2002 Yavapai Community College, Prescott, AZ
  2004 Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
  2005 Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK
  2005 J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, CA
  2005 Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
  2005 Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
  2005 Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York, NY
  2005 University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM
  2005 Terry Etherton Gallery, Tucson, AZ
  2005 Snite Museum at Notre Dame
  Selected group exhibitions
  1941 Images of Freedom, Museum of Modern Art, NY
  1946 New Photographers, Museum of Modern Art, NY
  1948 In and Out of Focus: A Survey of Today’s Photography,
  1948 Museum of Modern Art, NY
  1949 Realism in Photography, Museum of Modern Art, NY
  1952 Diogenes with a Camera I, Museum of Modern Art, NY
  1957 Drawings, Paintings and Photographs, Institute of Design, Chicago, IL
  1959 Photography in the Fine Arts: An Exhibition of Great Contemporary Photographs,
  1959 Institute of Design, Chicago, IL
  1965 Photography in America 1850-1965, Yale University Art Gallery, CT
  1971 Thirteen Photographers, Light Gallery, NY
  1972 Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University, Boston, MA
  1974 Photography in America, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
  1975 From the Center for Creative Photography, Center for Creative Photography,
  1975 University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ
  1975 Picture Puzzles, Museum of Modern Art, NY
  1977 Arizona: Ansel Adams and Frederick Sommer, Arizona Bank Galleria, Phoenix, AZ
  1978 Photographs from the Sam Wagstaff Collection, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC (traveling)
  1980 Light Abstractions, University of Missouri, St. Louis, MI (traveling)
  1983 Two Men, Two Visions, Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, CA
  1988 Where Images Come From, Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO (traveling)
  1990 Elective Affinities, George Eastman House
  1995 Language of Light: Masterworks from the Collection, Tokyo Metropolitan
  1995 Museum of Photography, Tokyo, Japan
  1998 Photography at Princeton, Princeton University, NJ
  2005 Consent to Gravity, RISD, Providence, RI
   The Art of Frederick Sommer: Photography, Drawing, Collage, Keith Davis (published by FFSF and distributed by Yale University Press, 2005)
   Frederick Sommer: Selected Texts and Bibliography,Sheryl Conkelton (Oxford: Clio Press, 1995)
   Words/Images, Frederick Sommer (Center of Creative Photography, University of Arizona, 1984)
   Frederick Sommer at Seventy-Five,A Retrospective, Constance W. Glenn and Jane K. Bledsoe, Introduction by Leland Rice (Long Beach: The Art Museum and Galleries, CSU, 1980)
   Venus, Jupiter and Mars: The Photographs of Frederick Sommer, John Weiss, Barbara Wendel, Charles Metzger and Ed Mitchell (Wilmington: Delaware Art Museum, 1980)
   Frederick Sommer, Gerald Nordland (Philadelphia: Philadelphia College of Art, 1968)
   “Emmet Gowin on Frederick Sommer” contained within the Books on Photography III(1999) sales catalog by Roth Horowitz Booksellers
   “Death Imagery in the Work of Four Twentieth-Century Artists: Kathe Kollwitz, Mauricio Lasansky, Frederick Sommer and Jerome Liebling,” by Susan Von Glahn, Master of Fine Arts thesis paper (University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, 1985)
   “Frederick Sommer: Photographic and Philosophical Development,” by Mary Ann Fittipaldi, Master of Arts thesis paper (East Texas State University, 1981)
   Creative Camera No. 204, Articles by Mark Haworth-Booth and Dawn Ades
   Philadelphia Photo Review, Vol. 5 No.1 Spring/Summer 1980, Article by Stephen Perloff
   Linguistic & Pictorial Logic of General Aesthetics: A Discussion of the Ornamental Sense of Ideas (A transcription of the Princeton seminars, taught by Frederick Sommer