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Horse Eugene, Frank  (American, 1865-1936)

Eugene was uniquely labeled in 1889 by art critic Sadakichi Hartmann the “painter-photographer.” Charles Caffin, who’s landmark book Photography as a Fine Art (1901), saw in Eugene and argued that “only a trained and gifted photographer was in the position to create such delicate images and alter their power of expression so masterfully by manipulating them” Eugene’s unorthodox technique of scratching the negative with an etcher’s needle struck a nerve in the ‘photography as art’ movement at the turn of the century amplifying the ongoing debate over whether manipulating a photograph to make it artful is acceptable in the ‘photography as art’ arena. He attributes a very special quality to the photograph “The Horse” characterizing in the following way… This is Eugene’s Quintessential landmark image. “What made Eugene so attractive not only to his contemporaries but also to Stieglitz was his totally unorthodox method of rubbing oil onto the negatives and adding cross hatching with an etching needle sometimes leaving only small portions of a picture recognizably photographic. p. 96 Naef

“It has often been said that the photograph was reminiscent of an etching. But that was in no way intended. The banal surroundings which were inessential and disruptive to the photograph as a whole were removed from the negative with a retouching knife, but nothing else was changed, neither the light nor the shadows, nor the form and line of the animal’s body.” Or more succinctly “The aim is to express the inessential in favor of the essential” Frank Eugene p. 241 Very little of Eugene’s work survives today – a typical fate of much that has to do with the history of photography and an indication of how little is known about the medium and how low esteem that part of our cultural heritage is held.

Reproduced / Exhibited

Frank, Waldo D. America and Alfred Stieglitz: A Collective Portrait. New York: Aperture, 1979. pl. 3

Frizot, Michael. New History of Photography. Place of publication not identified: Pajerski, 1999. Print p. 297

Harker, Margaret F. The Linked Ring: The Secession Movement in Photography in Britain, 1892-1910. London: Heinemann, 1979. pl 3.14

Kruse, Margret. Kunstphotographie Um 1900: D. Sammlung Ernst Juhl; Hamburg: Museum für Kunst u. Gewerbe, 1989 pl. 857

Roberts, Pam. Photohistorica: Landmarks in Photography : Rare Images from the Collection of the Royal Photographic Society. New York: Artisan, 2000. p. 199

Taylor, John. Pictorial Photography in Britain, 1900-1920. Cambridge, England: Chadwyck-Healey, 1900. (plate 20).


Eugene, Frank, and Ulrich Pohlmann. Frank Eugene, the Dream of Beauty. Munich: Nazraeli Press, 1995