St. John

St. John

St. John, depicting one of Christ’s Apostles often portrayed in art looking to heaven and dictating his Gospel to his disciple, was a signature portrait dating to around 1910 by Arthur Hammond. Dated 1912, this vintage print was included within a personal album held by this archive of nearly 100 photographs attributed to the artist dating ca. 1910-1940.

Born in London, photographer Arthur Hammond (1880-1962) arrived in America at Ellis Island on July 31, 1909 and had established himself with his own studio in Natick, MA outside Boston by 1912. In 1920, he authored the foundational book “Pictorial Composition in Photography” and became a leading voice for pictorialism in America through his position as associate editor of American Photography magazine from 1918-1949.


 1910: May: American Photography magazine. For his article The Line of Beauty in this issue, St. John was published as a halftone along with two other portraits while expounding on photographic composition:

In dealing with the problem of composition, the two chief elements to be considered are line and mass.

Other quotes:

Straight is the line of duty, Curved is the line of beauty.

 …while in the “St. John” picture we can trace both these curves and the leading lines here form a figure 8. (p. 250, illustrated on p. 252)

1920: As the frontis illustration for his best-selling volume Pictorial Composition in Photography: American Photographic Publishing Co., Boston.

1920: (not illustrated) In a critical yet not entirely dismissive review of the above volume, The Amateur Photographer & Photography journal of London for their August 25th issue very nearly sums up:

Whether any sort of guide can be of much use may be doubted. The principles of composition are far more elusive than those who write about them see to realize.”  The editors also comment on St. John, included as the frontis:

…of forty-nine of his photographs, which show that he is a great admirer of the uncorrected lens, and prefers to make his prints in a flat dull key. We take it that he is an admirer of the work of Mr. Cadby, although there is all the difference between a real Cadby with its delicate gradations and silvery tones and such a picture as the frontispiece to this book, in which a boy, apparently taking off his shirt while being photographed, has had a circle drawn round his head, and is entitled “St. John.” Some of the pictures are certainly much better than this one, and are free from its absurdity; but we fear that the reader who looks through the illustrations first will not be disposed to put much trust in their producer as a pictorial guide.  (p. 161)

Print notes verso: signed in graphite by the artist in lower right corner of print: Arthur Hammond 1912; fold to print lengthwise at shoulder of model and minor surface abrasions.

Provenance: Acquired by this archive in March, 2018 from Memphis, TN dealer who stated it came from a Memphis estate ca. late 1990’s.

St. John

Image Dimensions20.8 x 15.6 corner-glued to leaf

Support Dimensions25.0 x 32.7 cm Black album leaf