| July 17,
|December 9, 1991 (1991-12-10) (aged 93)
Monson, Maine, US
| Springfield, Ohio,
Does Berenice Abbott Dead or Alive?
As per our current Database, Berenice Abbott died on December 9, 1991 (1991-12-10) (aged 93)
Monson, Maine, US.
She attended Ohio State University for two semesters, but left in early 1918 when her professor was dismissed because he was a German teaching an English class. In Paris, she became an assistant to Man Ray, who wanted someone with no previous knowledge of photography. Abbott took revealing portraits of Ray’s fellow artists.
Her university studies included theater and sculpture. She spent two years studying sculpture in Paris and Berlin. She studied at the Académie de la Grande Chaumiere in Paris and the Prussian Academy of Arts in Berlin. During this time, she adopted the French spelling of her first name, “Berenice,” at the suggestion of Djuna Barnes. In addition to her work in the visual arts, Abbott published poetry in the experimental literary journal transition. Abbott first became involved with photography in 1923, when Man Ray hired her as a darkroom assistant at his portrait studio in Montparnasse. Later, she wrote: “I took to photography like a duck to water. I never wanted to do anything else.” Ray was impressed by her darkroom work and allowed her to use his studio to take her own photographs. In 1921 her first major works was in an exhibition in the Parisian gallery Le Sacre du Printemps. After a short time studying photography in Berlin, she returned to Paris in 1927 and started a second studio, on the rue Servandoni.
In 1925, Man Ray introduced her to Eugène Atget’s photographs. She became interested in Atget’s work, and managed to persuade him to sit for a portrait in 1927. He died shortly thereafter. She acquired the prints and negatives remaining in Eugène Atget’s studio at his death in 1927. While the government acquired much of Atget’s archive – Atget had sold 2,621 negatives in 1920, and his friend and executor André Calmettes sold 2,000 more immediately after his death — Abbott was able to buy the remainder in June 1928, and quickly started work on its promotion. An early tangible result was the 1930 book Atget, photographe de Paris, in which she is described as photo editor. Due to a lack of funding, Abbott sold a one-half interest in the collection to Julien Levy for $1,000. Abbott’s work on Atget’s behalf would continue until her sale of the archive to the Museum of Modern Art in 1968. In addition to her book The World of Atget (1964), she provided the photographs for A Vision of Paris (1963), published a portfolio, Twenty Photographs, and wrote essays. Her sustained efforts helped Atget gain international recognition.
Her first photographs of New York were taken with a hand-held Kurt-Bentzin camera, but soon she acquired a Century Universal camera, which produced 8 × 10-inch negatives. Using this large format camera, Abbott photographed the city with the diligence and attention to detail she had so admired in Eugène Atget. After Atget’s death in 1927, she and Julien Levy had acquired a large portion of his negatives and glass slides, which she then brought over to New York in 1929. Her subsequent work provides a historical chronicle of many now-destroyed buildings and neighborhoods in Manhattan. Abbott had her first exhibition in New York in 1937 entitled “Changing New York” at the Museum of the City of New York. A book under the same title was also published, depicting the city’s physical transformation, including changes to its neighborhoods and the replacing of low rise buildings with skyscrapers.
In early 1929, Abbott visited New York City, ostensibly with the goal of finding an American publisher for Atget’s photographs. Upon seeing the city again, Abbott recognized its photographic potential. She went back to Paris, closed up her studio, and returned to New York in September. There, over the next decade, she focused on documentary photography and on portraying the city as it underwent a transformation into a modern metropolis. During this period, Abbott became a central figure and important bridge between the photographic hubs and circles of Paris and New York City.
Abbott worked on her New York project independently for six years, unable to get financial support from organizations (such as the Museum of the City of New York), foundations (such as the Guggenheim Foundation), or individuals. She supported herself with commercial work and with teaching gigs at the New School of Social Research beginning in 1933.
In 1934, Henry-Russell Hitchcock asked Abbott to photograph two subjects: antebellum architecture and the architecture of H. H. Richardson. Two decades later, Abbott and McCausland traveled US 1 from Florida to Maine, where Abbott photographed small towns and growing automobile-related architecture. The project resulted in more than 2,500 negatives.
In 1935, Abbott was hired by the Federal Art Project (FAP) as a project supervisor for her “Changing New York” project. While she continued to take photographs of the city, she hired assistants to help her in the field and in the office. This arrangement allowed Abbott to devote all her time to producing, printing, and exhibiting her photographs. By the time she resigned from the FAP in 1939, she had produced 305 photographs that were then deposited at the Museum of the City of New York.
In 1935, Abbott moved into a Greenwich Village loft with art critic Elizabeth McCausland, with whom she lived until McCausland’s death in 1965. McCausland was an ardent supporter of Abbott, writing several articles for the Springfield Daily Republican, as well as for Trend and New Masses (the latter under the pseudonym Elizabeth Noble). In addition, McCausland contributed the captions for Changing New York which was published in 1939. In 1949, her photography book Greenwich Village Today and Yesterday was published by Harper & Brothers.
From 1958 to 1960, she produced a series of photographs for a high-school physics textbook, developed by the Physical Science Study Committee project based at MIT to improve secondary school physics teaching. Her work included images of wave patterns in water and stroboscopic images of moving objects, such as Bouncing ball in diminishing arcs, which was featured on the cover of the textbook. She contributed to the understanding of physical laws and properties of solids and liquids though her studies of light and motion.
Between 1958 and 1961, she made a series of photographs for Educational Services Inc., which were later published. They were subsequently presented by the Smithsonian Institution in an exhibition titled Image of Physics. In 2012, some of her work from this era was displayed at the MIT Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Shortly after the trip, Abbott underwent a lung operation. She was told she should move from New York City due to air pollution. She purchased a rundown home in Blanchard, Maine along the banks of the Piscataquis River for US$1,000. Later, she moved to nearby Monson and remained in Maine until her death in 1991. Most of her work is shown in the United States, but a number of photographs are shown in Europe.
Currently, Berenice Abbott is 124 years, 4 months and 16 days old. Berenice Abbott will celebrate 125th birthday on a Monday 17th of July 2023.
Find out about Berenice Abbott birthday activities in timeline view here.