The papers of photographer and teacher Imogen Cunningham, date from 1903 to 1991. The collection measures 5.9 feet of material, including correspondence, business and financial records, writings, printed matter, and photographs, and provides a good overview of Cunningham's life and career.
Scope and Content Note:
The papers of photographer and teacher Imogen Cunningham, date from 1903 to 1991. The collection measures 5.9 feet of material, including correspondence, business and financial records, writings, printed matter, and photographs, and provides a good overview of Cunningham's life and career. 3.6 linear feet of correspondence comprise the bulk of the collection.
The collection is arranged into ten series according to material type:
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1907-1981, undated (box 1; 4 folders)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1909-1991, undated (boxes 1-4; 3.6 linear feet)
Series 3: Personal Business Records, 1944-1976 (box 4; 15 folders)
Series 4: Notes, 1959-1968 (box 4; 10 folders)
Series 5: Teaching Files, 1964-1971 (box 5; 4 folders)
Series 6: Writings, circa 1910-1976 (box 5; 21 folders)
Series 7: Interview Transcripts, 1951, undated (box 5; 2 folders)
Series 8: Printed Material, 1903-1991 (boxes 5-7; 1.2 linear feet)
Series 9: Photographs, 1916-1976 (box 7; 12 folders)
Series 10: Oversized Material, 1947-1948, 1967, undated
Born in Portland, Oregon on April 12, 1883, Cunningham's family moved to Seattle in 1889. Inspired by Gertrude Kasebier's work, she purchased her first camera in 1901. After studying chemistry and botany at the University of Washington, she worked for the Edward S. Curtis Studio, Seattle, from 1907 to 1909. Receiving a scholarship, Cunningham studied for a year at the Technische Hochschule, Dresden.
Upon her return to Seattle in 1910, she opened a studio and had the first major exhibition of her work at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences in 1912.
In 1915, Cunningham married printmaker Roi Partridge and gave birth to her first son, Gryffyd. Two years later, her family moved to California, where she gave birth to twin sons, Padraic and Rondal. In 1920, the family moved to Oakland, where her husband taught at Mills College. During the 1920s, she exhibited her art work and began photographing plant forms.
Along with Ansel Adams, John Paul Edwards, Sonya Noskowiak, Henry Swift, Willard Van Dyke, and Edward Weston, Cunningham formed the f/64 Group, a society of purist photographers in 1932. During the same year she began working for Vanity Fair and other magazines and began a career as a portrait photographer, including Martha Graham, Cary Grant, Morris Graves, Alfred Stieglitz, and Spencer Tracy as her subjects. She divorced her husband in 1934.
In 1947, Cunningham established a studio in her San Francisco home, and continued to exhibit extensively until her death on June 24, 1976.
The collection was donated to the Archives of American Art by Imogen Cunningham in 1974 and 1976, and by her son, Gryffyd Partridge, in 1991.
The collection is open for research. Patrons must use microfilm copy.
The Imogen Cunningham papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.