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Emily Pitchford, (1878–1954)
Portrait Of Adelaide Hanscom, c. 1900
Vintage silver print
4 1/8 in. x 6 1/2 in. (10.41 cm x 16.43 cm)

Object Type: Photography
Credit Line: Gift of C. Jane Hurley Wilson '64 and Michael G. Wilson, Wilson Centre for Photography, London, UK
Accession Number: 2008.4.25

Adelaide Hanscom (1875—1931) and Emily Pitchford were active in the photography communities in San Francisco and Berkeley. The two were classmates at the Mark Hopkins Art Institute in San Francisco in the 1890s and shared studio space in San Francisco and Berkeley. Not only did Pitchford, Hanscom, and other women photographers offer aesthetic and conceptual contributions to photographic history but were also able to support themselves through their art production at a time when women had few career offerings. 1 Pitchford made a number of portraits of Hanscom, and several are known from this series, in which Hanscom wears a smock and poses with a set of photographic prints. In this image, Pitchford’s strong focus on form is somewhat of a departure from her usual style. Instead of using light and texture to create visual interest, Pitchford explores the relationship between various shapes: the furniture, the flattened surface created by Hanscom’s solid-colored smock. The table and chest strongly frame Hanscom, creating both a spatial and tonal enclosure that underscores the inherent dignity in her sturdy pose. The shape created by Hanscom’s smock and the contrast between the black trim at the neck and sleeves and the white blouse underneath give the photograph a greater sense of weight and depth. The photograph also stresses the significance of women photographers in California’s art community at the turn of the twentieth century. Hanscom poses with a set of photographic prints, and like much portraiture, the work serves to identify and dignify her profession and, by extension, Pitchford’s as well. Pitchford exhibited and published her work widely in esteemed journals. Hanscom achieved particular success for her highly praised photographic illustrations for the Rubaiyát, a suite of medieval Persian poems attributed to Omar Khayyám. Hanscom’s illustrations, a selection of which are included in this exhibition, were published in a popular 1905 edition of the Rubaiyát.

Footnote: 1 Michael G. Wilson, “Northern California: The Heart of the Storm,” in Pictorialism in California: Photographs 1900-1940, Michael G. Wilson and Dennis Reed (Malibu, CA and San Marino, CA: The J. Paul Getty Museum and the Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery), 13. Heather Waldroup Associate Professor, Art History Appalachian State University

Object Description
"Woman standing, arms resting on a table, hands near photographic prints. Signed in ink recto. Mounted on card. Credit in ink on reverse"

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