1947 HORACE BRISTOL MASSIVE 16 X 20 JAPANESE NOH THEATRICAL MASK PHOTO #7 For Sale
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1947 HORACE BRISTOL MASSIVE 16 X 20 JAPANESE NOH THEATRICAL MASK PHOTO #7:
HORACE BRISTOL (1908 - 1997)
(Untitled) Image of a Japanese Noh Mask (1947)
Gelatin silver print (original vintage print)
Photographer pencil signed and dated mat
Image/sheet: 16.0 in. x 20.0 in (actual image less whitespace is 15.375 in x 15.50 in)
Mount / mat: 22.0 in x 28.0 in. (15.0 in x 15.5 in viewing window) (rear part of folding mat lost which would have likely had a title label)
This large, striking important image is the largest we've yet encountered in any of Bristol's work. We know Bristol went to Japan in 1946 after visting Australia and Virginia and the boys (following him later) brought the military CMP truck (that appears in another of our photos) with them to Japan from Sydney. Bristol sought despite the monumental damage caused by the war, to document traditional and cultural Japanese life as much as possible. Among the several subjects he investigated, Japanese theater was one he focused on. In the process of documenting the various aspects of the theater, Bristol took photos of various Noh masks. This mask although not one exactly matching those in other holdings (such as Corbis) closely matches another and the background cloth is identical in addition to others in the Bristol collection. We believe this image must have been a favorite of Bristol or perhaps one of his son's as it print size suggests.
The print was framed under glass and an old wood backing which we have since removed. The tape on the rear of the photo has failed many times over the last 66 years but we have yet again added another minor dose of cello tape to keep it steady in the mount. There are also some small moisture flaws in the image (see close ups) which although not distracting and easily overlooked, we feel compelled to mention.
All in all, a marvelous image representing Bristol at the height of his photographic powers. In less than 9 years, Bristol would give up his craft effectively for the rest of his life.
A museum quality piece worthy of the attention of collectors and institutions alike.
Please view our other sales for several other scarce, original Horace Bristol images and other examples of fine and historical photography.
Photographer Horace Bristol is best known for his images of Depression era migrant families that inspired Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, compelling battle scenes of World War II, and portraits of post-war Japan and Southeast Asia.
Bristol was born in 1908. He was raised in Whittier, California, attended the Art Center of Los Angeles, and began to teach himself photography while studying architecture in Munich and travelling through Europe with his wife, Virginia. In 1933 Bristol moved to San Francisco with his wife and two sons to pursue a career in photojournalism. His studio was close to a gallery run by Ansel Adams, and through Adams he came to know many photographers, including Edward Weston, Peter Stackpole, and Willard Van Dyke, and also became close friends with Imogene Cunningham and Dorothea Lange.
Horace Bristol’s photographic career began to thrive in the late 1930s. After several assignments for Time, Sunset, and Fortune magazines he became one of the original staff photographers for Life magazine, joining such luminaries as Margaret Bourke-White, Alfred Eisenstaedt, and Peter Stackpole. After accompanying FSA photographer Dorothea Lange on many trips to California’s Central Valley, Bristol’s interest and concern for the plight of the migrant farm workers led him to propose a collaborative project to John Steinbeck to document life in and around Visalia during the Great Depression. Bristol’s idea was that Steinbeck would provide the text for Bristol’s photographs, which would be published as a book. After many weekends spent meeting, interviewing, and photographing the people who inspired the novel, The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck bowed out of the collaboration.
Shortly after Pearl Harbor, Edward Steichen recruited Bristol to be one of five photographers to document World War II naval warfare. Following World War II Bristol spent 25 years in Asia, where he founded the East-West Photo Agency and sold his photographs to magazines in the United States and Europe. He and his wife also began designing and building houses. When Bristol’s wife died in 1956 he burned his negatives, packed away his photographs, and retired from photography.
Bristol married Masako Yamashita in 1957 and they had two children. After leaving Japan and living for some years in Mexico, designing and building houses, he retired with his family to Ojai, California. It wasn’t until 1985, when his son Henri came home from school with a copy of the book The Grapes of Wrath and asked his father if he’d ever read it, that Bristol’s past as a photographer was revealed to his family, and his photographs came out of storage. Horace
Bristol died in 1997.