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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Frederick H. Evans

Names:
Born: Frederick Henry Evans 
Dates:  1853, 26 June - 1943, 24 June
Born:  Great Britain, London
Died:  Great Britain, London
Active:  England
 
  
Evans, a former bookseller turned photographer, was a perfectionist, whose photography, both architectural and portrait, is remarkable for the purity of line and mastery of light, space and composition. His platinum prints of English and French cathedrals are quite outstanding. When platinum became scarce after 1914, he stopped printing altogether rather than use an inferior product. He supported his own photography by working as a freelance photographer for Country Life.
 
[Courtesy of Pam Roberts]
According to the Getty rights and reproductions may be held by Mrs. Janet M. Stenner, sole granddaughter of Frederick H. Evans. [Accessed: 2 Nov 2010]

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for Frederick H. Evans
Courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum (London, UK)

 
  
Frederick Evans began experimenting with photography in the mid-1880s while running a bookshop in Cheapside, London. He placed great emphasis, from the beginning, on producing technically brilliant and unmanipulated images. In 1898 he took up photography professionally, concentrating on architectural subject matter. He produced exquisitely unfettered images of the play of light on architectural forms. He was elected to the Linked Ring, an organisation dedicated to the promotion of photography as an art, in 1894. He was the first photographer to have his work reproduced in Camera Work and had his photographs shown by Stieglitz in the ‘291’ Gallery in New York. He continued to produce architectural photography in the 1900s, working for Country Life, but had completed his photographic career by 1913. 
  
This biography is courtesy and copyright of the Victoria & Albert Museum and is included here with permission. 
  
Date last updated: 11 Nov 2011. 
  
SHARED BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION PROJECT 
  
We welcome institutions and scholars willing to test the sharing of biographies for the benefit of the photo-history community. The biography above is a part of this trial.
 
If you find any errors please email us details so they can be corrected as soon as possible.
 
  

Approved biography for Frederick H. Evans
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)

 
  
Born in London on June 26, 1853, Frederick H. Evans would become one of England’s greatest artistic photographers active around 1900. He started working in a London bookstore in 1890 and shortly thereafter bought out the owner. Due to his profession, Evans met authors like George Bernard Shaw and artists such as Aubrey Beardsley, who later designed a bookplate for him. However, after eight years as a bookseller, Evans sold his shop in order to devote more time to photography and family.
 
Evans became seriously interested in photography by 1883, when he was making photomicrographs. Four years later, he received a medal for his lantern slides from what would soon be the Royal Photographic Society (RPS). His first solo exhibition occurred in 1897 in the United States (a country he never visited), comprising 120 prints hung at the Architectural Club of Boston. Three years later, the RPS honored him similarly in London.
 
In 1900, Evans was elected to the Linked Ring Brotherhood, England’s exclusive cadre of pictorialists. He quickly revolutionized the group’s annual exhibitions, by installing them in a clean and understated fashion, discarding the heavy drapery and other distracting decorations typical of art exhibitions at the time. In this country, Alfred Stieglitz noticed Evans and selected his work for inclusion in the fourth issue of the exquisite quarterly Camera Work. The magazine, appearing in October 1903, featured six rich photogravures by Evans, with written appreciations by Stieglitz and Shaw. Three years later, Stieglitz also featured Evans’s pictures at the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession in New York, in a three-person exhibition of work by British photographers.
 
Most of the images Stieglitz presented were Evans’s accomplished photographs of cathedral interiors. Influenced by J. M. W. Tuner’s watercolors, Evans captured the light and atmosphere of his uninhabited subjects with great sensitivity. His photographs were always meditative and highly refined; he printed them on platinum paper, which emphasized subtle gradations of tone, and then affixed them to mounts with delicate hand-ruled borders. Evans went so far as to present an exhibition at the RPS of both good and bad mountings, along with a demonstration. Unlike most other early pictorialists, Evans was largely a purist, making straight prints from his negatives, with little alteration of the image in the darkroom. He, nonetheless, sometimes used a soft-focus lens and had catholic collecting tastes, acquiring work by Robert Demachy, who was known for his highly manipulated gum-bichromate prints.
 
Evans was able to support himself as a photographer thanks to the magazine Country Life, which hired him in 1904 on a roving commission to document country parishes and French chateaux. Over the next fifteen years, many of his pictures appeared in the magazine and in 1917 it published the book Twenty-Five Great Houses of France with his illustrations. Evans was also a prolific writer on photography, sharing his ideas and techniques with a wide readership. He wrote about one hundred articles and columns between 1886 and 1928, appearing in such English periodicals as Amateur Photographer, Photographic Journal, Photography, and Practical Photographer. America’s Camera Work regularly included text by him from 1903 to 1909.
 
Around World War I, Evans significantly reduced his personal photographic activity, due to compromised health and the difficulty of obtaining platinum paper, which he highly preferred. He did, however, put together one-person exhibitions of his creative work at the Hampshire House (London) in 1917 and 1932, at the RPS in 1922, and at the Manchester Amateur Photographic Society in 1932. The Royal Photographic Society additionally recognized him, when it gave him an honorary fellowship (FRPS) in 1928. Frederick H. Evans died on June 24, 1943, in London. 
  
Christian A. Peterson Pictorial Photography at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Christian A. Peterson: Privately printed, 2012) 
  
This biography is courtesy and copyright of Christian Peterson and is included here with permission. 
  
Date last updated: 1 June 2013. 
  
SHARED BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION PROJECT 
  
We welcome institutions and scholars willing to test the sharing of biographies for the benefit of the photo-history community. The biography above is a part of this trial.
 
If you find any errors please email us details so they can be corrected as soon as possible.
 
  

Biography provided by Focal Press 
  
Best known for his delicately toned and unmanipulated platinum photographs of English and French cathedrals which were recognized for their atmospheric effects and handling of depth, height, and mass. Also took many fine portraits of his artistic and literary friends. Promoted by Stieglitz, who devoted an entire issue of Camera Work to Evans in 1903 as "the greatest exponent of architectural photography." A member of the Linked Ring and a purist who did not believe in retouching, Evans gave up photography when platinum paper became unaffordable after World War I. 
  
(Author: Robert Hirsch - Independent scholar and writer) 
  
Michael Peres (Editor-in-Chief), 2007, Focal Encyclopedia of Photography, 4th edition, (Focal Press) [ISBN-10: 0240807405, ISBN-13: 978-0240807409] 
(Used with permission) 
  

Further research

 
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Thumbnail
Gertrude Käsebier
Portrait of Frederick H. Evans 
1907 (ca)
 
  
Family history 
  
If you are related to this photographer and interested in tracking down your extended family we can place a note here for you to help. It is free and you would be amazed who gets in touch. 
  
alan@luminous-lint.com
 
  
 
  

Exhibitions on this website

ThumbnailFrederick H. Evans: Cathedrals 
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Visual indexes

 
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Supplemental information

 

Frederick H. Evans
English, 1853-1943

Frederick Evans is best known for his breathtaking platinum prints of architectural interiors. Before devoting his time solely to the art of photography, Evans owned a small bookshop in London where many artists and writers, including George Bernard Shaw and Aubrey Beardsley, came together. Evans did take some portraits of these friends, but his photographic mastery can be found in his images of English and French cathedrals. Evans worked tirelessly to use the effects of light and shade to create images with harmonized values and he achieved these masterful works of art without manipulating the negative or the print. He wrote several articles for publications including Amateur Photographer and Photogram and exhibited his work widely. He contributed many prints to Alfred Stieglitz's Camera Work and exhibited at Stieglitz's gallery "291". Evans was a member of The Linked Ring and was named an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society. In the 1920s platinum paper became scarce and Evans found he could not achieve the same rich tonal quality using silver paper so he stopped making photographs. Today he is considered one of the masters of pictorial photography.
 
[Contributed by Lee Gallery] 
  
 

Internet biographies

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Getty Research, Los Angeles, USA has an ULAN (Union List of Artists Names Online) entry for this photographer. This is useful for checking names and they frequently provide a brief biography. Go to website
Grove Art Online (www.groveart.com) has a biography of this artist. 
[NOTE: This is a subscription service and you will need to pay an annual fee to access the content.]
Show on this siteGo to website
The Cleveland Museum of Art, USA has a biography on this photographer. [Scroll down the page on this website as the biography may not be immediately visible.]Show on this siteGo to website
 

Printed biographies

The following books are useful starting points to obtain brief biographies but they are not substitutes for the monographs on individual photographers.

 
• Auer, Michele & Michel 1985 Encyclopedie Internationale Des Photographes de 1839 a Nos Jours / Photographers Encylopaedia International 1839 to the present (Hermance, Editions Camera Obscura) 2 volumes [A classic reference work for biographical information on photographers.] 
  
• Beaton, Cecil & Buckland, Gail 1975 The Magic Eye: The Genius of Photography from 1839 to the Present Day (Boston and Toronto: Little, Brown & Company) p.89 [Useful short biographies with personal asides and one or more example images.] 
  
• Capa, Cornell (ed.) 1984 The International Center of Photography: Encyclopedia of Photography (New York, Crown Publishers, Inc. - A Pound Press Book) p.177-178 
  
• Lenman, Robin (ed.) 2005 The Oxford Companion to the Photograph (Oxford: Oxford University Press)  [Includes a short biography on Frederick H. Evans.] 
  
• Weaver, Mike (ed.) 1989 The Art of Photography 1839-1989 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press) p.456 [This exhibition catalogue is for the travelling exhibition that went to Houston, Canberra and London in 1989.] 
  
• Witkin, Lee D. and Barbara London 1979 The Photograph Collector’s Guide (London: Secker and Warburg) p.133-134 [Long out of print but an essential reference work - the good news is that a new edition is in preparation.] 
  
 

Useful printed stuff

If there is an analysis of a single photograph or a useful self portrait I will highlight it here.

 
• Gruber, Renate and L. Fritz Gruber 1982 The Imaginary Photo Museum (New York: Harmony Books) p.247 
  
• Naef, Weston 1995 The J. Paul Getty Museum - Handbook of the Photographic Collection (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum) p.114 
  
• Newhall, Beaumont 1982 The History of Photography - Fifth Edition (London: Secker & Warburg) [One or more photographs by Frederick H. Evans are included in this classic history.] 
  
• Sobieszek, Robert A. and Deborah Irmas 1994 the camera i: Photographic Self-Portraits (Los Angeles: LACMA - Los Angeles County Museum of Art) p.215, Plate 13 [When the Audrey and Sydney Irmas collection was donated to LACMA - Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1992 the museum gained a remarkable collection of self portraits of notable photographers. If you need a portrait of Frederick H. Evans this is a useful starting point.] 
  
• Szarkowski, John 1973 Looking at Photographs: 100 Pictures from the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art (New York: The Museum of Modern Art) p.46 [Analyzes a single photograph by Frederick H. Evans.] 
  

Collections

Photographic collections are a useful means of examining large numbers of photographs by a single photographer on-line. 
  

 
In the 1990 survey of 535 American photographic collections Frederick H. Evans was represented in 56 of the collections. Source: Andrew H. Eskind & Greg Drake (eds.) 1990 Index to American Photographic Collections [Second Enlarged Edition] (Boston, Massachusetts: G.K. Hall & Co.) 
  
 

Quotations

The wit and wisdom.

 
"Photography is Photography; And in it‘s purity and innocence is far too uniquely, valuable and beautiful to be spoilt by making it imitate something else."
 
  
 
  
 
  
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