Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883–1976) was a photographer born in Portland, OR. She attended the University of Washington in Seattle, where she developed an interest in photography, and was inspired by the work of Alfred Stieglitz and Gertrude Käsebier. Cunningham worked as a professional photo technician at the Edward Curtis Studio from 1907 until 1909, and earned a scholarship to study at the Technische Hochschule in Dresden. There, she worked with Robert Luther, and studied art history, life drawing, and platinum printing from 1909 until 1910. Cunningham returned to Seattle upon completing her studies, and started her own portrait studio.

In addition to commercial portraiture, Cunningham created a series of Symbolist works, inspired by the writing of William Morris, that depict her friends dressed as mythical figures in outdoor settings. In 1917, she moved to San Francisco and began working with Francis Joseph Bruguière. By the 1920s, she was most interested in photographing details of natural forms, plants, and animals, and was experimenting with double exposures and light abstraction. For a short time during the early 1930s, Cunningham worked as a photographer for Vanity Fair in New York, before returning to California.

In addition to her artistic achievements, Cunningham was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and an honorary doctorate by the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland. Her photographs have been displayed at the Dallas Art Museum, the E. B. Crocker Art Gallery in Sacramento, CA, and the Witkin Gallery in New York City, among many other venues.

Timeline

1883
Born in Portland, OR
1903–1907
Studied chemistry at the University of Washington, Seattle, WA
1907
Worked as a phototechnician in the studio of Edward Curtis, Seattle, WA
1909–1910
Studied at the Technische Hochschule on a graduate scholarship, Dresden, Germany
1910
Established her own portrait studio in Seattle, WA
1932
Joined the West coast photographers known as Group f.64, which included Ansel Adams, Henry Swift, and Edward Weston
1947
Instructor, San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, CA
1967
Elected a Fellow of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences
1968
Recipient, Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from the California College of Arts and Crafts, Oakland, CA
1970
Recipient, Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship
1973
Recipient, Artist of the Year, San Francisco Art Commission, San Francisco, CA
1976
Died in San Francisco, CA

Exhibitions

2009–2010
Everything Under the Sun: Photographs by Imogen Cunningham, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA (solo)
2003
Natural Inspiration, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia (solo)
2002
Imogen Cunningham: Her Family and Friends, Jan Kesner Gallery, Los Angeles, CA (solo)
1999
Imogen Cunningham: Pictorialism - Modernism, Jan Kesner Gallery, Los Angeles, CA (solo)
1998
Imogen Cunningham, Fay Gold Gallery, Atlanta, GA (solo)
1994
Imogen Cunningham: Magical Realism, Jan Kesner Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
1993
Die Poesie der Form, Fotografie Forum international, Frankfurt, Germany
1991
Imogen Cunningham, Hasselblad Center, Göteborg, Sweden (solo)
1983
The Photographs of Imogen Cunningham: A Centennial Selection, Blaffer Gallery, The Art Museum of the University of Houston, Houston, TX and Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, WA (solo)
Imogen Cunningham: A 75-Year Photographic Survey, Presentation House Gallery, North Vancouver, Canada (solo)
1974
Imogen, Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, WA (solo)
1973
Imogen Cunningham, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY (solo)
Witkin Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
1972
Group f.64 Exhibition, Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley, CA
1970
Witkin Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
1964
Photographs by Imogen Cunningham, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL (solo)
1941
Golden Gate International Exposition, Treasure Island, San Francisco, CA
1936
E. B. Crocker Art Gallery, Sacramento, CA (solo)
1935
Dallas Art Museum, Dallas, TX (solo)
1932
Group f.64 Exhibition, M.H. de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco, CA
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA (solo)
1931
M.H. de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco, CA
1929
Film and Foto Exhibtion, Stuttgart, Germany
Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley, CA
1921
Pictorial Photographic Society Exhibition, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, CA
1914
Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, Brooklyn, NY (solo)

Public Collections

The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
The Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI
Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, CA
Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Oklahoma City, OK
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA
Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, WA
Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA
The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, Japan
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Canada

Literature

2001
Taschen, Angelika. Imogen Cunningham 1883 - 1976. New York: Taschen, 2001.