H. R. Cremer’s Mysterious Nymphs

In the times when Photography was still a nouvelle and somehow eccentric art, Harry Richardson Cremer was lucky to be born in a family of photographers. He was the grandson of James Cremer (1821-93),  a pioneering photographer from Philadelphia, where he worked for 40 years. Already at the outset of his career, James worked with photography as an art form, and in 1876 his photos were exhibited as part of the Centennial Exposition, held in Fairmont Park, Philadelphia. Harry’s father, Frank R., was a photographer as well, and young Harry was undoubtedly influenced and inspired by both of them.

Beautiful kneeling nude woman, 1920

Shortly after graduating from high school, he attended Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts for two years. In the infancy of photography, almost all photographers had other occupations to support themselves. They might be engineers, painters, merchants, or any number of other professions. This, too, was the case of H.R. Cremer. Photography was his passion, but he made a living as a business analyst, specializing in import-export.

Hands and Feet, 1930

H.R. Cremer first exhibited his photos in 1924 and, over the course of his career, he participated in well over 100 exhibitions and art saloons.

In retrospect, the 1920s-30s, with the Art Deco spirit celebrating aesthetics and elegance, drawing upon ancient history such as the Aztec, the Mayans, as well as Roman and Greek mythology, H.R. Cremer’s photography stands a unique snapshot of the era that came to be known as The Roaring Twenties.

H.R. Cremer served as a charter member of Photographic Society of America, as well as a President of Brooklyn Institute of Arts, Photography Department (now Brooklyn Museum).

Nude Woman under a Waterfall, undated

H.R. Cremer loved photographing women as Greek and Roman goddesses, elves, and sprites.

In these images, the beauty of his models becomes something more than plain eroticism, it is definitely more mysterious than simply entertaining or pleasant for the eye.

Mystical Women Dancing, 1920s. Blue Cyanotype
The Woman and the Grapes #1

Following the overall “trend” of his time and showing what was fashionable and requested by at the moment, H.R. Cremer still remained original and authentic in his art.

Nude Woman, back to camera, 1920s
Nu sous voile 1920

Looking at old photographs it’s important to remember – what seems to be absolutely classic and “normal” nowadays, was often a bold experiment in the 1920s and 30s. Giving the models a certain freedom in their movements, creating purely minimalistic scenarios or arranging a model’s body in the environment to the point of its almost complete “mixing” with nature – these and many others are artistic instruments widely used in photography in our days, and it’s exciting to see some beautiful examples of how all these basics were born and formed many years ago. Harry Richardson Cremer’s legacy gives us this wonderful opportunity.

Jade hands, 1930
Nu au cerceau, 1930

Many of Cremer’s works can be considered interesting and important, especially for those who want to study the history of Photography. Yet, there is one of them which I can definitely call my absolute favorite and sharing it is a special pleasure for me.

Looking at this truly artistic photograph makes me think about “Master and Margarita”, Bulgakov’s mysterious and famous masterpiece and inspires me to admire the magic and the power of true femininity:


This original photogravure on paper, labeled by the artist’s name, composed and printed in 1928 and shown for the first time at the Salon International d’Art Photographique, Paris on the same year, is currently available on controforma.it for a special price.

Contact info@controforma.it for any question.

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