Photography spent the first few decades of its existence trying to find its rightful place among the other artistic practices. To achieve this objective, in terms of both subject matter and organisation, photographers tended towards an imitation of the painting medium, keeping within the sanctum of artists who were paving the way for what became known as photographic Pictorialism. Edward Steichen was founder member of the Photo-Secession movement created in 1902, the aim of which was to get photography accepted as fine art. From its first edition he made a significant contribution to the magazine Camera Work, a platform to spread the popularity of Pictorialist photography. This photogravure was included in an edition devoted exclusively to Steichen, published on the 2nd of April 1903. The dawn light plays on a scene in which an idealised, faceless female form and a vase of flowers are bathed in a diffuse atmosphere that enables the photographer to compose an image with a definite Pictorialist slant. Accompanying the photograph, and directly inspired by it, the critic and poet Carl Sadakichi Hartmann dedicated a poem of the same name to the Symbolist writer Maurice Maeterlinck, whose text on silence had previously influenced the photographer. Immersed in the Pictorialist trend, Steichen was heavily influenced by French Symbolism and its American equivalent, Tonalism, which alongside the inherent features of the photogravure process, lend the picture a soft monochrome tonality and a painterly texture.
Almudena Cruz Yábar