Edmund Teske

Edmund Teske (1911-1996) Silver Print Untitled

Regular price $1,500.00

Spirit Into Matter was the title of the Getty's 2004 exhibit of Teske's photographs and this image certainly bears that out: complex, even trippy, it is a quintessential work of the post-war ferment in California, and Teske is one of the giants of its photographic expression.

The name De Mille is pencilled in at the bottom. It is probably a gift to or at least a signifying reference to Richard De Mille, the adopted son of Cecil B De Mille, who formed part of the intimate group of artists that Edmund Teske was part of in the fifties and sixties in Topanga Canyon. Based on a strong resemblance to known portraits, the beautiful model is Janet Lawrence-Smith, avant-garde actress and wife of the great sculptor Tony Smith, who was a frequent subject of Teske's. We are dealing here with a Mount Olympus of sorts of mid-century modern art up in the canyon. Every one of these names is worthy of study.

8 1/2 x 13 1/2 in excellent condition.


Born in Chicago, Edmund Teske began taking photographs at age seven with his mother's Kodak Scout 2-C camera. In 1931, while attending evening classes at the Huttle Art Studio, he installed a photographic studio in his family's basement. Soon he purchased a view camera and started photographing the streets of his hometown.
After working for a commercial studio in Chicago, Teske was awarded a photographic fellowship in 1936 that enabled him to study under the guidance of the architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Teske taught in the late 1930s at Chicago's New Bauhaus (later the Institute of Design), then moved to New York to work as Berenice Abbott's assistant.
In 1943 Teske settled in Los Angeles, where he became interested in cinema, and in the early 1950s he was active with several small theater groups. During this period Teske refined the experimental photographic processes that he had begun to explore in the 1930s, such as solarization, combination printing, and chemical toning, and began to regularly exhibit and publish his work. In the 1960s, Teske was an influential visitng professor of photography at UCLA and other schools.
Phillips, Christopher, and Vanessa Rocco, eds. Modernist Photography: Selections from the Daniel Cowin Collection. New York: International Center of Photography and Göttingen, Germany: Steidl, 2005, p. 114.
Cox, Julia. Spirit into Matter: The Photographs of Edmund Teske. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2004.
Images from Within: The Photographs of Edmund Teske. Carmel, CA: Friends of Photography, 1980.

More from this collection