STILLMAN, William J. (1828-1901)
The Acropolis of Athens, Illustrated Picturesquely and Architecturally in Photography
London: F.S. Ellis, 1870. Folio. Title page illustrated with a mounted photograph. 25 mounted carbon print photographs (images approx. 7 1/2 by 9 1/2 inches, or the reverse).
Publisher's green cloth, upper cover lettered in gilt, expertly rebacked to style with green morocco
The best 19th century photographs of the Acropolis: one of 100 copies printed.
Stillman's The Acropolis of Athens "may be considered a precursor of the twentieth-century modernist photobook in that self-expression is deemed as important as making a record. Stillman's title determines the book's tone -- the Acropolis is 'illustrated picturesquely and architecturally in photography', with the artistic side of the enterprise being placed before the documentary ... [Stillman's] work is nominally in a straightforward nineteenth century topographical mode, fulfilling the brief of documenting the Parthenon and Erecheum, but it also functions as a conscious vehicle for the photographer's artistic ambitions. Stillman takes us on a tour of the Acropolis in 25 well-executed and richly toned photographs that transport us from far to near, beginning with distant views that place the hill and its monuments in context, and ending with close-ups of statue fragments" (Parr and Badger).
Stillman, born in Schenectady, New York, trained as an artist under Frederic Church; travelling to England and Europe in the 1850s, he became an important member of the Pre-Raphaelite circle, befriending Rossetti, Millais and others. It was around this time that he also took up photography. Following the Civil War, Stillman was named U.S. Consul to Crete, but fled to Athens during the Cretan Revolt. In the winter and spring of 1869 he began photographing the Acropolis. Encouraged by others, he privately published his work, with the carbon print photographs printed by the Autotype Company of London. Contemporary advertisements reveal that only 100 copies were published at the price of $25 (with images subsequently offered for sale individually at $1).
The work is quite rare on the market, with only a single example in the auction records.
Truthful Lens 155; NYPL 223; Parr and Badger, The Photobook, I:p. 68; Frederick N. Bohrer, "Fixing the Acropolis: William J. Stillman and the Restoration of Athenian Antiquity" History Of Photography Vol. 40 , No. 3 (2016); Andrew Szegedy-Maszak, "An American on the Acropolis" in Antiquity in Photography , pp. 148-193 (Getty Publications: 2005).