|Born: George Henry Seeley |
Other: George Seeley
|Dates: ||1880 - 1955, 21 December|
|Born: ||US, MA, Stockbridge|
|Died: ||US, MA, Stockbridge|
Photographer and painter.
Approved biography for George H. Seeley
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)
In 1880, George H. Seeley was born in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where he spent most of his life. In 1897, he ventured to Boston, where he studied art at the Massachusetts Normal School for about three years. He reportedly turned down a teaching position at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute, and in 1902 returned to Stockbridge. From 1904 to 1912, he taught art and supervised drawing classes in the Stockbridge public schools. He also served as a correspondent for the Springfield Republican newspaper, contributing interviews and articles on art, golf, and other topics, beginning in 1905.
Seeley had made snapshots as a child, but became aware of the camera’s creative potential after spending time with the pictorialist F. Holland Day, while in Boston. Back in Stockbridge, he worked in earnest with a large-format camera, and in 1904 burst on the scene with a dozen photographs in the First American Photographic Salon. Seeley’s pictures were widely noticed in the photographic press for their almost excessive softness and refinement, showing the influence of Symbolist art. He made primarily landscapes and figure studies, printing them in platinum and gum-bichromate, sometimes quite large. Indicative of the photographer’s efforts and self- confidence, he priced his prints at fifty dollars each, far more than most other pictorialists.
Seeley’s artistic accomplishment prompted Stieglitz to quickly invite him into the fold, making Seeley the youngest member of the Photo-Secession. Subsequently, his work was seen at the group’s Little Galleries in New York on many occasions, including members’ shows, a two-person exhibition with Adolf de Meyer in 1907, and a solo show in February 1908. Stieglitz also included Seeley’s photographs in Secession exhibitions at Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1906, New York’s National Arts Club in 1909, and Buffalo’s Albright Art Gallery in 1910.
Seeley also showed his work in many other pictorial exhibitions. Between 1905 and 1915, it was seen in Budapest, Dresden, London, Marseille, Montreal, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Vienna. He presented solo shows at a variety of venues, such as "Linwood," the Stockbridge estate of a prominent Boston lawyer (where his father was the superintendent and the Seeley family lived) in 1904, the Photographic Society of Philadelphia in 1905, the Utica (New York) Public Library in 1912, the Buffalo studio of photographer Spencer Kellogg, Jr., in 1913, and the Boston Public Library in 1920.
Articles and pictures by Seeley appeared in many periodicals during the same period. He wrote on topics like portraiture and flower photography for Western Camera Notes in 1900 and 1903, Camera in 1904, and the Photographic Times in 1905. Reproductions of his work were run by Photo Era in 1905, Platinum Print in 1913 and 1914, American Photography in 1914, and Country Life in America in 1917. Most significantly, Stieglitz featured eighteen photogravures by Seeley in his exquisite quarterly Camera Work. Appearing in issues in 1906, 1907, and 1910, this was one of the best representations by a photographer in the magazine.
Seeley continued to have his work accepted in shows into the 1930s, long after most other Secessionists had forsaken pictorialism. Among them were the Fourth International Photographic Salon of Japan (Tokyo) in 1930, the Salon International de Photographie (Paris) in 1931, and the Second Philadelphia Salon of Photography in 1933.
By this time, Seeley was apparently not making photographs any more, simply sending out his earlier accomplishments. Instead, he was painting and practicing as an amateur ornithologist, reporting bird migrations to the Biological Survey, Washington, D.C. He also continued his lifelong involvement with the Stockbridge Congregational church, where he was chairman of the ushers. In 1920, after his father died, the Seeley family moved out of "Linwood," but still lived together. George H. Seeley died in Stockbridge, on December 21, 1955.
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.
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George H. Seeley
Known for the lyric quality of his outstanding pictorial photographs Seeley was brought to the attention of Alfred Stieglitz about 1906 by Alvin Langdon Coburn. As a member of the Photo-Secession, he was a leader along with Stieglitz, Clarence White, and Gertrude Kasebier in the battle to have photography recognized as an art form. Members of the Photo-Secession wrote numerous articles in defense of photography and published their work in fine gravures in Stieglitz's Camera Work, where a number of Seeley's photographs were published. Seeley also exhibited his work in Stieglitz's 291 gallery.
He frequently used his sisters as models for photographs with titles like: "Battering for the Soul" and "The Mourning Veil". The photographs are often dark and brooding and printed in soft and subtle tones on platinum paper. The photographs are softly focused and have a painterly feeling. Seeley was fond of photographing winter landscapes and was one of the first photographers to use abstractions of landscape in his photographs. He was a life long resident of Stockbridge, Massachusetts and became supervisor of art for the Stockbridge schools, and was recognized as an accomplished painter of still life.
Seeley's photographs are held in public collections at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, NY, University of Texas, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, New Orleans Museum of Art, Seattle Art Museum, and many others. For more information on George Seeley see Intimations & Imaginings: The Photographs of George H. Seeley published by The Berkshire Museum, or The Collection of Alfred Stieglitz: Fifty Pioneers of Modern Photography by Weston Naef.
[Contributed by Lee Gallery]
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