“Walker Evans Polaroids…”


I came across this Polaroid by Evans on the ASX web site a couple of days ago. It is not the kind of photo that would make me think of Evans, Terry Richardson perhaps, but surely not Evans. What really interested me about this photo is that I think it is of Lady Caroline Blackwood, who was Lucian Freud’s first wife, and was later also married to Robert Lowell. [Correction – it now appears that this is a photo of Gay Burke-see comments below.] My interest in all of this started when I bought the book Lucian Freud by Sebastian Smee. Freud’s paintings intrigue me. I am not sure they appeal to me, but I wanted to take a closer look at the man and his work. So, in going through the available material I noticed that our Library had a copy of Dangerous Muse: The Life Of Lady Caroline Blackwood. At first I had no idea as to why this book came up when I searched for Lucian Freud. Then I realized that it was a biography of his first wife, and I was intrigued enough to check it out. Caroline Blackwood, it turns out, is a fascinating figure of Anglo-Irish descent. The book goes into the history of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy, of which I knew next to nothing, and touches on the many contemporaries of Freud, Blackwood and Lowell. At one point Lady Blackwood had a relationship with Walker Evans, whom the book describes, quoting his biographer, Belinda Rathbone, as lacking “confidence about his masculinity. His sex drive was inverted into purely visual lust.”  Years ago I had read Rathbone’s biography of Evans, but I did not remember this titillating quote.

Well, it is still summer, and perhaps some of you have holes in your summer reading list. I would encourage you to pick up any of these books for some very enlightening art reading!

About christian harkness

Photographer and printmaker; living and working in north Florida.
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11 Responses to “Walker Evans Polaroids…”

  1. I think I agree with you, Chris, about the appeal of Freud’s painting, at least in general. But he was certainly an interesting if not fascinating character, worthy of attention.

    One thing that does endear me to him: he loved whippets. His partner owned a whippet, and several of Freud’s works include the dog, which he painted with great sensitivity.. Of course, I’m biased, being the owner of a beautiful whippet myself (you can see him here, if you like: http://www.flickr.com/photos/martynoliver/sets/72157627641650419/; apologies for the blatant publicity!).

  2. PS: That’s a gorgeous Polaroid by Walker Evans!

  3. I am an avid admirer of Lucien Freud’s painting and I think his work has a strong relation to photography. Wonderful Polaroid. I had a whole wall of Polaroids in my studio underneath the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in the 80’s and it never came with me when I moved. Too much drink and drugs at that period of my life to remember the Polaroids. I’ve lost nearly all my early work.

    • Hi Roger, I thought this might resonate with you. I am surprised the Polaroids look this good – although they are obviously faded. Some of mine from that time and later look horrible now, but they can be photoshopped, and perhaps these have been too.

  4. drawandshoot says:

    Great reading suggestions. Lucien Freud’s work certainly is fascinating.

  5. Thanks Karen! – I found myself reading these really trashy adventure books, so I just absolutely had to have a change of reading ‘scenery.’

  6. Meghan says:

    I know this is old but just in case anyone come across it, but I don’t believe this photo is of Caroline Blackwood. There is a Walker Evans Polaroid on the ASX site and here: http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/282829?rpp=20&pg=1&ao=on&ft=Caroline+Blackwood&pos=2

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