Inscribed LC: Starvation Signed LR: Bernard J. Steffen Stamped LL: Federal Art Project NYC WPA Addt'l markings: inscribed LRC: 19 Original NY FAP label in file, dated in ink: 4/3/39 Stamped: MAR 31 1939
This photogravure shows a hazy gray and black outdoor scene. There is a dark cloaked figure depicted in silhouette and a suggestion of trees and vegetation. In the background is a misty gray hillside and expansive sky.
In 1908, Edward Steichen received an invitation from Auguste Rodin (1840–1917) to photograph his controversial sculpture of the French writer Honoré de Balzac (1799–1850). Rodin’s plaster model for a monument to this celebrated author had been rejected by the society that commissioned it and ridiculed in the press when it was exhibited at the Salon of 1898. Ten years after the scandal he still hoped the Balzac might be understood by its critics and that Steichen, whose work he admired, could help to achieve this.
Rodin recommended that the plaster sculpture be photographed at night in moonlight and Steichen agreed. Photographing in the dark requires leaving the film exposed for long periods and Steichen experimented with times that ranged from fifteen minutes to an hour. Of the resulting images, this is one of three that Steichen thought the most successful. When Rodin finally saw a set of the prints a week or two later he said, “You will make the world understand my Balzac through these pictures. They are like Christ walking in the desert.”
An albumen print black and white image of a statue of the French novelist Balzac against an open sky. The statue is off-center in the photo and angled so it is facing to the right of the image. A faint light illuminates the backside of the statue and the empty space behind it.