Image: Magnolia Blossom, Tower of Jewels
(Portland, Oregon, 1883 - 1976, San Francisco, California)

Magnolia Blossom, Tower of Jewels , 1925

Gelatin silver print
13 5/8 in. x 10 1/2 in. (34.61 cm x 26.67 cm)
Gift of The Imogen Cunningham Trust
Botanical imagery looms large in Cunningham’s work of the 1920s. Creation of this personal work was relegated to spare moments between sittings for portrait commissions and the duties of raising three sons. Cunningham shot specimens found around her home in Oakland.  “The reason I really turned to plants,” she later admitted, “was because I couldn’t get out of my own backyard when my children were small.”

Between 1923 and 1925 Cunningham undertook an extended study of magnolias.  This image of the flower of the magnolia grandiflora received its title “Tower of Jewels” from its resemblance to an ornate tower at San Francisco’s 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition.
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Online Collection paid for with a grant from
John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

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