Important Photographic Estate Rediscovered
Through the research and investigative efforts of Graham Howe, photography curator and director of the museum services company Curatorial Assistance, Inc. in Pasadena, California, the photographic life work of Emil Otto Hoppé, an important British-German art photographer of the Modern Era, has been rediscovered.
The majority of the collection was “excavated” from
the files of one of Britain’s oldest picture libraries
where it had sat dispersed in the subject files since the late
1940s. Howe subsequently acquired all other extant portions
of what would have been Hoppé’s estate collection
from the Hoppé family in Great Britain, Germany, and
the United States. “Then the real work began,” says
Howe. “We spent over ten years organizing, cataloging,
conserving, and analyzing the collection to help us truly understand
the important legacy Mr. Hoppé left us. As I can
now see, Hoppé’s achievements are nothing less
than astounding in photographic art history. The work is simultaneously
intelligent and elegant, intuitive and knowing."
Background on E.O. Hoppé
German-born British photographer Emil Otto Hoppé (1878-1972) was the most celebrated portrait and topographic photographer of the Modern era. Contemporaneous with Edward Steichen, Alfred Stieglitz, and Walker Evans, Hoppé was described by British photographer Cecil Beaton simply as “The Master.” His now rare photographic books from the 1920s and 30s on America, Great Britain, and Germany—classics in photographic literature—show Hoppé’s pioneering Modernist style that was largely formative and influential in the practice of photographic art in the first half of the twentieth century.
Hoppé studied portrait photography in Paris and Vienna before moving to live in London in 1900. In 1907, after winning first prize in a contest sponsored by the London newspaper the Daily Mail, Hoppé left banking to open a portrait studio in London’s Baron’s Court. His photographs of arts celebrities such as Thomas Hardy, George Bernard Shaw, A.A. Milne, T.S. Eliot, G.K. Chesterton, Leon Bakst, Vaslav Nijinsky and the dancers of the Ballets Russes quickly earned him the reputation as the top celebrity photographer in London. His passion for street photography and his pioneering efforts in photographic art, along with his naturalistic studies, were widely celebrated in the US, Britain, and Europe. In 1913 he expanded his studio to the Kensington house of the late painter Sir John Millais, occupying all thirty-three rooms with his burgeoning operation.
By 1919 Hoppé tired of his work and sought travel to foreign countries to photograph self-assigned subjects. His large-format gravure-printed photographic books about “Fair Women” (1922), Great Britain (1926), the United States (1927), Germany (1930 and 1932), Australia (1931), and India (1935) were likely to have influenced his contemporaries.
Much of the research on Hoppé is now being conducted by a team of leading photo-historians including Phillip Prodger (Lisette Model & Joseph G. Blum Fellow at the National Gallery of Canada), Colin Westerbeck (writer and curator-at-large, Los Angeles, and former curator of photography at the Art Institute of Chicago), with oversight by Mark Haworth-Booth (visiting Professor of Photography, University of the Arts London, and Honorary Research Fellow, Victoria and Albert Museum). A series of ten or more books and exhibitions are in production.
Ezra Pound, writer, USA, 1918
Fountain Abbey, Yorkshire, 1935
Ford Factory, Detroit, Michigan, 1926
Princess White Deer, USA, 1921
Rabindranath Tagore, poet and writer, India, 1929