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George Henry Seeley


Gender: Male

Date of Birth: 1880

Date of Death: 1955

Birth Place: Stockbridge, MA

Death Place: Stockbridge, MA

George Henry Seeley - Photographer

George Henry Seeley

b. 1880 Stockbridge, Massachusetts,
d. 1955 Stockbridge, Massachusetts
American photographer

George Seeley was a student of painting and drawing in Boston when he met Frederick Holland Day, who introduced him to the pictorial possibilities of photography. His debut came in 1904, when Seeley exhibited fourteen photographs in the First American Photographic Salon in New York. A reviewer enthused: “Mr. Seeley is the new man for whom we are always on the lookout, and his advent among pictorialists will be the sensation of the year.” The statement proved true. Critical of the exhibition but supportive of Seeley’s work, Alfred Stieglitz invited Seeley to join the Photo-Secession, with which he remained for six years, exhibiting and publishing his photographs.

After the break with Stieglitz’s group, declining interest in the Pictorialist aesthetic and the increasing unavailability of platinum paper after World War I contributed to the demise of Seeley’s photographic career. He continued to exhibit his work into the 1930s, although he had practically ceased to make new work. An amateur ornithologist who was active in his church, Seeley took up oil painting in his later years and was a correspondent for the local Stockbridge, Massachusetts, newspaper.

From the Getty Museum

George Seeley first received attention as a photographer in 1904 a the First American Salon, when Alvin Langdon Coburn, one of the judges, introduced him to Alfred Stieglistz. A Photogravure is a hand- pulled print, similar to an etching, struck from a photoengraved plate that has been made either from the photographer’s original negative or from a print. “Camera Work” was the journal of pictorialism and the vanguard of America modernism. There were 50 numbers of the magazine published by Alfred Stieglitz between 1903 and 1917. Stieglitz personally inspected each gravure in each magazine before the issue was sent. At the height of the magazine’s circulation, about 1000 copies were printed; at times of lower circulation, only about 250 copies were printed. Of these, far fewer remain extant, making the gravures collectible.

George H. Seeley
American, 1880-1955

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. Seeley 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

Never-Before-Seen Photographs Of Stockbridge Area By Local Resident George Henry Seely Featured In Clark Exhibition

For Immediate Release
October 01, 2001

Photographer George Henry Seeley (1880-1955), an important artist of the American Pictorialist school, was a lifelong resident of Stockbridge, Massachusetts. During the World War I era he created a portfolio of 32 platinum prints celebrating the rural simplicity of life in the Berkshires. The works were in a private collection until earlier this year, when the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute purchased the portfolio. The photographs will be seen by the public for the first time in the exhibition Stockbridge Portfolio: Photographs by George Henry Seeley, on view at the Clark October 7, 2001 through January 6, 2002.

“These photographs demonstrate Seeley’s artistic sensibility, his technical virtuosity, and his love of the nature beauty of Stockbridge,” said James A. Ganz, curator of prints, drawings, and photographs at the Clark.

Seeley, a life-long resident of Stockbridge, was educated at Williams Academy before studying painting at the Massachusetts Normal Art School in Boston. He took up photography in the early 1900s. In 1904, he became an art instructor for the Stockbridge Public School System. In that same year, his photographs won critical acclaim at the First American Photographic Salon. Seeley was invited by prominent photographer Alfred Stieglitz to join the Photo Secession, a loose association of contemporary photographers who exhibited in New York. Although encouraged by Stieglitz to move to New York, Seeley chose to remain in Stockbridge, working in the modest house he share with his family. The prints he developed in his Stockbridge kitchen and basement won prizes in international exhibitions.

The photographs included in Stockbridge Portfolio, all taken around 1917, depict a variety of subjects: summer and winter landscapes, architecture, still lifes, and allegorical figures. Because the photographs were previously unidentified, exhibition organizer Paul Martineau, a Clark intern and student in the Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art, spent time in Stockbridge trying to locate the photographic subjects in the portfolio. The buildings Seeley photographed include Town Hall and Linwood, the summer residence of Charles Butler, for which Seeley’s father was the superintendent for many years. Photographs of farms, ponds, streams, and woodland area’s demonstrate Seeley’s affection for the area.

Martineau believes that the Stockbridge portfolio was made as a gift for the artist’s sister, Laura Seeley (1888-1979), who was his frequent model and appears in many of the photographs on view. The photographs were assembled into a marbled portfolio and remained in Seeley’s family until the Clark acquired them. The portfolio was purchased in January 2001 in honor of retiring staff member John H. Brooks. The entire contents of the portfolio, several other photographs by Seeley, and the diaries of George and Laura Seeley are included in the exhibition.

Stockbridge Portfolio will be on view through January 6. Also on view is the exhibition Goltzius and the Third Dimension, featuring the engravings of 16th-century Dutch printmaker Hendrick Goltzius and the bronzes of his countryman Willem Danielsz. van Tetrode.

Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
225 South Street, Williamstown, MA 01267 413.458.2303

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