BOO! Spoooooooky cat photos..

Vu, (photo by Martin Muckasci), “Chez les Anti-Superstitieux”, April 3, 1935 (2009.61.101)

Masaaki Miyazawa, Once Upon a White Night, September 15, 1981, (73.1985)

Alfred Gescheidt, City Cat (New York City), 1951 (365.1984)

Weegee, [Cat], ca. 1955 (5682.1993)

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Crazy Costumes

For some people Halloween isn’t the only time of year to get dressed up, actors, mascots and everyday folks put on costumes all year round.


 James VanDerZee, Dress Rehearsal, 1936, 874.1990

This photo by James VanDerZee depicts an actor dressed in Shakespearean garb, expressively stabbing himself in the chest. The actor’s name was Walter B. Smith, and the verso notes the address of a theater in Harlem. Smith was possibly part of the Negro Repertory Companies, or “Negro Units,” of the Federal Theater Project, a theater company that was very active in Harlem in the 1930’s.

Ernst Haas, Disneyworld, Florida, 1972, 75.1976

Some people may think Disney World is the “Greatest Place on Earth” but personally, I find this image terrifying. In addition to the Surrealist image of a man dressed as a cartoon character, imagining the social context for a young woman in 1972 makes this image even more sinister.

Unidentified photographer, [Two Unidentified Men Wearing Orphan Costumes], 1875, 83.2004

Finally, one of my favorite pictures in the collection: 2 Orphans. I don’t know the context of this image, and I never want to.

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Friendly ghosts, Frightening Fridays

In one week we will all be celebrating Halloween! I was browsing the ICP Collection looking for spirit photographs, but stumbled upon something much more spooky and mysterious:

 Unidentified Photographer, [Unidentified Invalid Girl with Woman and Cloaked Attendant], ca. 1865, 74.2004



 Unidentified Photographer, [Unidentified Invalid Girl in Wheelchair with Cloaked Attendant], ca. 1865, 75.2004


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A German Colossus in America


Wolf von dem Bussche, American Colossus, portfolio “Homage to Max Ernst”, 1969 (551.1982.a)


Wolf von dem Bussche, The Messenger, portfolio “Homage to Max Ernst”, 1971 (551.1982.i)


Wolf von dem Bussche, Reception Committee, portfolio “From the Peaceable Kingdom”, 1969 (551.1982.d)


Wolf von dem Bussche, The Flirt, portfolio “From the Peaceable Kingdom”, 1972 (551.1982.e)


Wolf von dem Bussche, Homage to Stieglitz, portfolio “N.Y., N.Y.”, 1976 (551.1982.b)


Wolf von dem Bussche, Trade Center Towers IV, portfolio “N.Y., N.Y.”, 1976 (551.1982.b)


Wolf von dem Bussche, Washington Square with Trade Center Towers, portfolio “N.Y., N.Y.”, 1976 (551.1982g)

Trained as a painter, Wolf von dem Bussche was inspired by his friend and neighbor André Kertész to explore the field of photography. Even though his father had always warned him that “Artists eat in the kitchen with the help”, Von dem Bussche became a highly skilled printer and photographer. His work covers a multitude of subjects ranging from humorous animal portraits to surrealistic characterizations of cacti and striking views of the Twin Towers and Washington Square Park in New York.

The portfolio “From the Peaceable Kingdom” reveals Von dem Bussche’s talent to capture and characterize individual animals in an instant moment: the cat who comes frolicking down the hill, playful and seemingly smiling to the photographer. In another image, three horses are framed through the car window. Through the composition the animals turn into protective and proud guards for the group of cows standing in the field behind them.

The otherworldly sensation of the series “Homage to Max Ernst” was put into words by French critic André Laude, a text that is included in the portfolio that is part of the ICP Collection: One will perhaps call to mind that striking image where one sees Max Ernst bent towards his wife, Dorothea Tanning, who sleeps, her eyes closed, watched over by the fabulous, hieratic sculptures of her genial spouse. This transpired in Arizona. Wolf VDB has captured an identical sense of mystery and an equal splendor in abandoning himself to the slow fascination –slow like the serpent in the fable- of the cactus in Mexico… Here is a mute and petrified nature, one all the more troubling. Reality becomes fiction, an upheaval of faces of wild, cruel and pitiless gods. (Emuseum: 551.1982.i)

Von dem Bussche’s photographs of New York, in particular the World Trade Center, show a distinct connection to the Pictorialist tradition and inspiration by Alfred Stieglitz. The grand and painterly scenes of the iconic buildings are indicative of the artist’s careful composition and the exquisite quality of the prints in the ICP Collection are a reflection of his skillful craftsmanship as a printer.

After devoting most of his professional career to photography, Von dem Bussche returned to painting later in life. On August 12, 2014 the photographer passed away. Wolf von dem Bussche was 80 years.

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Masks we wear, Frightening Fridays!

In celebration for everyone’s favorite holiday, for every Friday in October, we will be posting some spooky images from the ICP collection. This week:

Unidentified Photographer, [Unidentified Man Leading Man Wearing a Mask and Holding a Cane], ca. 1875, 2007.52.2

In addition to the spook factor, this mask is very mysterious: One of the men seems to be leading the man wearing the mask who also has a cane. Is the mask covering some heinous deformity? Burn marks? The mind reels…



Unidentified Photographer, [Two Cadets Wearing Masks in Mock Sword Fight], ca. 1875, 2008.81.48

Perhaps less frightening than the last, this image of two soldiers  is also mysterious. A theater troupe? Political commentary? Two friends goofing off?

Unidentified Photographer, [Four Hanging Heads], ca. 1880, 2007.54.6

Finally, this last image is the OPPOSITE of the photographs above, but these creepies are masking their bodies to create some spooky floating heads.

Happy Halloween!

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Robert Capa, [Henri Matisse with cat curled between his legs, working from his bed, (Cimiez) Nice, France.] August 1949, 3328.1992

Robert Capa, [Henri Matisse in bed working, his black cat at his feet, (Cimiez) Nice, France.] August 1949, 3329.1992

Far more interesting, both for Capa and for the viewer, are his pictures of Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. Every morning for a week in August 1948, while he was vacationing on the Riviera, Capa went with Picasso, Francoise Gilot, and their one-year-old son Claude to the beach at Golf-Juan, where he took some wonderful, playful pictures of the family. The following August he returned to Picasso’s unpretentious villa in Vallauris, near Atibes, with Gjon Mili, who wanted to photograph the artist drawing in the air with a flashlight. Working in a darkened room, Mili would be able to capture the ephemeral drawings on time exposures. [Mili's photo of Picasso painting with light can be seen here.] Picasso was intrigued by the idea – and delighted with the results. [Mili's photo of Matisse painting with light can be seen here.] Meanwhile, Capa went to Cimiez, a suburb of Nice, to photograph the seventy-nine-year old Matisse [Mili's photo of Matisse for LIFE can be seen here] in his apartment in the grand Victorian Hotel Regina, where he was working on decorations for the chapel [Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence] of the Dominican convent in Vence. Capa photographed the artist as he worked sitting up in bed, surrounded by art, books, and cats. But Matisse was far from bedridden; Capa’s most memorable picture shows him grasping one end of a seven-foot-long bamboo pole tipped with charcoal to draw on a huge sheet of paper tacked to the wall, a working method that must have demanded considerable strength and extraordinary control.

Robert Capa, [Henri Matisse], 1949

Robert Capa, [Henri Matisse], 1949

While they were on the Riviera, Capa and Mili stayed at the house in Antibes that Irwin Shaw and his wife had rented for the summer, but they were hardly ideal house guests. The Shaws never knew when the photographers were going to show up for meals or whom they might bring home, for they often picked up girls on the beach and brought them home to spend the night. In the morning Shaw would have to steal clothes from his wife’s closet for these girls to wear so that they could leave without creating a local scandal. When objections about any of his behavior were raised, Capa would apply his Hungarian charm – and, Shaw later wrote, you would not only forgive him but also “lend him the two hundred dollars he needed to replace the two hundred dollars you had just lent him the night before and which he had promptly lost at the casino in Cannes.” Finally, Marion Shaw gave her husband an ultimatum: as much as she liked Capa, he and Mili had to go.

Richard Whelan, Robert Capa, A Biography, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985, pp. 276-7

(Capa was a cut up and Mattise was making cut outs… More Mattiseterpieces: MoMA’s Henri Matisse The Cut-Outs website.)

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Discovery of the New World

















Attributed to Celestino Degoix, [Monument dedicated to Christopher Columbus. The navigator is portrayed in 15th century clothes with the left arm leaning on an anchor. At the foot of the statue stands an allegoric female figure, Genoa, Italy], 1862-ca. 1875 (640.1983.qq)


Unidentified Photographer, The Four Great Chief’s Now Living, 1909 (2006.20.383)


Morris Gordon, [Italian-American mothers carry flags to honor their sons who have served, Columbus Day ceremony, New York], 1942 (2013.112.138)

The Italian explorer Christopher Columbus first set foot in the “New World” when he discovered the Bahamas on October 12, 1492. An event that is celebrated in New York each year during Columbus Day on the second Monday of October. The Italian explorer never traveled that far North to reach North America, nevertheless was being commemorated in the United States since the 1700s, after the country gained independence from Great Britain.

The Italian-American community has been celebrating Columbus Day in honor of their heritage, roughly since the late nineteenth century. The first wave of Italian immigrants settled into the major cities during the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth century, during which they experienced severe and violent racism and discrimination. When in 1892 President Benjamin Harrison first called on the national commemoration of Columbus Day –in celebration of Columbus’ 400-year anniversary to discover the New World- the Italian-American community saw this celebration of the achievements of their Italian countryman as a way to be accepted by their fellow American citizens.

Over the years criticism about celebrating Columbus Day, and specifically Christopher Columbus for his accomplishments, has become increasingly loud. The celebratory biographies from the nineteenth century heralded Columbus as a generous and adventurous individual, who treated the native community with pride and respect. Today it is known among both academics and the public that the explorer was a greedy and racist man who tortured the indigenous population and sold them into slavery. Over the past decades more and more states have chosen to rename Columbus Day and refer to the holiday as Indigenous Peoples Day (Berkley, California), Native Americans Day (South Dakota) and Discovery Day (Hawaii).



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