Amelia Bergner (1853-1923) came from a prominent Philadelphia family. The daughter of a wealthy Philadelphia brewer, Bergner was active in musical and cultural circles. It is likely that her interest in art, rather than an urge to classify the region's flora, prompted her to produce the botanical album from which this print is drawn. Bergner placed fern fronds and leaves directly on paper coated with light-sensitive chemicals and pigments, which she then exposed to the sun.
Bergner's work was part of a popular practice in the 19th century. Placing leaves on to a sensitized support to achieve a print was one of the first moves towards photography. In January 1839, William Henry Fox Talbot, who invented the process of photography on paper, acknowledged that: "Flowers and leaves were among the first objects I tried to reproduce". Following his lead, several British woman photographers who were keen on botany tried their hand at it: Thereza Llewelyn, Anna Dixon and most notably Anna Atkins. But Bergner's photogenic drawings reveal a taste for arrangement that distinguishes her from Anna Atkins who, in the early days at least, was more concerned with faithful reproduction than with composition.
Studious and delicate, Bergner's approach is more reminiscent of the cyanotype compositions of plants, produced around 1906 by Bertha Jacques, an engraver and photographer from Chicago, but are earlier and use the gum dichromate process.
Came from an album that was dated and had the photographer's name. This relatively early gum print probably used a chromium oxide pigment. Some very professionally repaired tears, which affected most of these prints from this series.
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Medium Gum dichromate print
Photo Date 1877c Print Date 1877c
Dimensions 11-1/2 x 9 in. (292 x 229 mm)
Photo Country United States (USA)
Photographer Country United States (USA)
Contemporary Works / Vintage Works, Ltd.