In Photos: Remembering photographer Eva Watson-Schütze

September 16, 2015 /Photography News/ Born 148 years ago today, on 16 September 1867, in New Jersey, Eva Watson-Schütze was an American photographer and painter who was one of the founding members of the Photo-Secession, an early 20th century movement that promoted photography as a fine art in general and photographic pictorialism in particular.

In 1883, when she was sixteen, Watson-Schütze enrolled in the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, where she studied under well-known painter and photographer Thomas Eakins. Her interests at that time were watercolor and oil painting, and it’s unknown if she took any interests in Eakins’ photography. Between 1894 and 1896 she shared a photographic studio with Amelia Van Buren another Academy alumna in Philadelphia, and the following year she opened her own portrait studio. She quickly became known for her pictorialist style, and soon her studio was known as a gathering place for photographers who championed this aesthetic vision.

In 1897 she wrote to photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston about her belief in women’s future in photography: “There will be a new era, and women will fly into photography.”

In 1898 six of her photographs were chosen to be exhibited at the first Philadelphia Photographic Salon, where she exhibited under the name Eva Lawrence Watson. It was through this exhibition that she became acquainted with Alfred Stieglitz, who was one of the judges for the exhibit. One year later she was elected as a member of the Photographic Society of Philadelphia.

In 1902 she suggested the idea of forming an association of independent and like-minded photographers to Alfred Stieglitz. They corresponded several times about this idea, and by the end of the year she joined Stieglitz as one of the founding members of the famous Photo-Secession.

In 1929 Watson-Schütze became the director of The Renaissance Society, a non-collecting museum founded in 1915 at the University of Chicago.

Watson-Schütze died in Chicago in 1935. Later that year the Renaissance Society held a memorial exhibition of her work. It included 32 paintings and 2 drawings but none of her photographs.

Since Watson-Schütze's death there have been two retrospective exhibitions of her photographs: Eva Watson-Schütze, Chicago Photo-Secessionist, at the University of Chicago Library in 1985, and Eva Watson-Schütze, Photographer, at the Samuel Dorsky Museum Art at the State University of New York at New Paltz in 2009.

Nude woman on a rock, 1904

A Study Head, photogravure, 1900. Source: Camera Notes, Vol 4 No 3, January 1901

The Rose, 1905. Source: Camera Work, No 9, 1905

Head of a young girl, around 1900

Jane Byrd McCall Whitehead with Ralph Radcliffe-Whitehead, Jr.

Jane Whitehead and Lily, 1905

The storm, 1905


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