Caramoor House Museum

Katonah, New York



Arnold Genthe: The Greek Series


From the shadowy alleys of Chinatown and the society circles of New York, to rustic, romantic landscapes of Japan and Greece, photographer Amold Genthe achieved a depth and breadth that few artists of the 20th century can claim. Genthe mastered portraiture, landscape, and architectural photography in a uniquely pictorialist style - his haunting photographs influenced by his early desire to be a painter. He attempted to avoid conventional formulae and to achieve, almost at any cost, a startling result.

Opening October 3, 1998 at Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts, Arnold Genthe: The Greek Series offers a rare opportunity to view two dozen photographs by this master photographer. The works come from Caramoor's permanent collection, and were amassed in the 1930s by Lucie and Waiter Rosen, Caramoor's founders, who were personal friends of Mr. Genthe. (Caramoor also possesses several stunning portraits of Mrs. Rosen taken by the photographer, and close to 200 other prints). Some of the images in the exhibition appear in As I Remember, Genthe's autobiography. Nancy Hall-Duncan, Curator of the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut is guest curator of the show. The Caramoor House Museum will publish a small catalogue featuring the curator's essay and a checklist of the exhibition.

According to Ms. Hall-Duncan, the photographs in the Greek Series are not just compelling works of art, they serve as historic documents. "These images of Greece represent the fulfillment of a life-long dream of Genthe's, which was to explore the land of Homer and follow the trail of the Odyssey," she notes. "But he also wanted to study the castles and Byzantine monasteries, and the peasants and shepherds, who, in the solitude and protection of the mountains and islands, preserved much of the ancient tradition."

Included in the show is the well known image Abbot and Deacons at the Mt. Athos Monastery of Zographou, a superb example of Genthe's ethereal, soft-focus style. "Genthe captured his subjects in a beautiful, half-flickering light in a striking context," Ms. Hall-Duncan says. "Intense shadows contrast with luminous accents where light touches the hands and faces of the Abbot and Deacons, just beneath the portraits of four saints. He caught an extraordinary moment."

Photos Capture Great Drama

It was a moment that only an observant, persistent photographer would notice. Wrote Genthe: "I had attended a service at the monastery. When it was over and the monks were filing out, the abbot and three deacons happened to be standing in front of a wall covered with a Byzantine fresco of four saints. I asked the abbot if I might take a picture of this group.'Not today' was the reply given with a quiet finality, which I felt meant 'Never.' I asked if he minded if I looked into my camera to see how I might take the photograph the next day. There was no objection, so I rapidly made the necessary adjustments for taking the picture then and there. Though the light was scarcely strong enough for an exposure without a tripod, I took a picture of the group, raising my voice so that the noise of the released shutter should not be heard."

Other images in the exhibition include View from Delphi Toward Itea and Meteora Rocks and Monastery-Thessaly, in which Genthe captures the bold rhythm of Greece's mountains and valleys. The organization of the photographs is such that the subject matter appears stunningly three-dimensional. "The languorous movement of the clouds as seen through filtered sunlight create an extraordinary effect; the depth and drama Genthe achieves are unequaled," Hall-Duncan points out. "His landscape photography has the unique ability to give the viewer a true sense of place."

For Genthe, the views were thrilling: "One could spend many months tracing the charm of the Greek islands, and every day come upon some new adventure in an old beauty," he wrote. "The awesome cliffs, volcanic tufa, bays that are so deep no ships can anchor there, the terraces that look out over the sea - enchanting beauty at every step."

Amold Genthe's photographs are found in many important collections throughout the country - the George Eastman House in Rochester, The Library of Congress and the Smithsonian in Washington D.C., and the Art Institute of Chicago, among others. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has 4,000 of his prints in their permanent collection; Caramoor has 200. Some of Genthe's photographs appeared in the Photography in America exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1974.

The exhibition may be viewed during regular Museum hours: Wednesday through Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. (last tour at 3 p.m.), October 3 through November 1, 1998. From November 2 through December 16, Monday through Friday, by appointment. Closed Thanksgiving. Cost: $6 per person; children 16 and under, free.

Caramoor's House Museum is a large, rambling Mediterranean-style villa,which was once the summer home of financier Waiter Rosen and his wife Lucie Bigelow Dodge Rosen, Caramoor's founders. The couple furnished the house with treasures from abroad, sometimes importing entire rooms from European palaces. The House Museum is built around a large stone courtyard--the Spanish Courtyard--which features small perennial gardens, cloistered walkways, and an old baptismal font. Outdoor concerts are held here during the summer months. On many weekends during the fall and spring seasons, concerts, holiday programs, and opera performances are held indoors to the Museum's Music Room, an elegant, intimate space. On weekdays, Caramoor also presents lectures, art outings, teas, mid-week recitals, and wine tastings.

Caramoor is easily accessible by car and by the Harlem Division of the Metro-North Railroad operating out of Grand Central Terminal. To get to Caramoor by car, take exit 6 off I-684, go east 1/4 mile on Route 35 to Route 22, then south two miles to Girdle Ridge Road. Follow the signs to Caramoor.

From top to bottom: View from Delphi Toward Itea; Byzantine Church of Orchomenos; Abbot and Deacons at the Mt. Athos Monastery of Zographou; Meteroa Rocks and Monastory -- Thessaly; Street of the Knights in Rhodes.

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