The Art of Frederick Sommer


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Photography, Drawing, Collage

Essay by Keith F. Davis; Interview by Michael Torosian; Chronology by April M. Watson

View Inside Format: Cloth
Price: $70.00
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"In total acceptance, almost everything becomes a revelation."--Frederick Sommer

This stunning book—published in the artist’s centenary—chronicles the extraordinary life and work of Frederick Sommer (1905–1999). One of the great masters and key innovators in the history of art photography, Sommer was a complex and highly creative individual. His work in photography is unconventional and fascinating for its wide range of methodologies and techniques. He also explored making images with other media, creating masterful drawings, collages, and musical scores.

Arriving in Arizona in 1931, Sommer abandoned his original profession, landscape architecture, and began painting and drawing. After meeting Alfred Stieglitz in 1935 and Edward Weston in 1936, Sommer embraced and quickly mastered photography. Other artists who later proved inspirational to Sommer included Precisionist painter and photographer Charles Sheeler, Surrealist artist Max Ernst, and photographer Aaron Siskind.

With an essay by photo historian Keith F. Davis, exquisite reproductions of Sommer’s diverse works, and a detailed chronology of his life by April Watson, The Art of Frederick Sommer describesand documents the full extent of the artist’s achievement as a twentieth-century visionary. The book is a revelation for scholars, artists, students, and everyone who admires and appreciates creative genius.

Distributed for the Frederick and Frances Sommer Foundation

Exhibition Schedule:

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City (May 14 – July 31, 2005)

Snite Museum of Art, Notre Dame, Indiana (September 11 - November 27, 2005)

The J. Paul Getty Museum (May 10 – September 4, 2005) 

Keith F. Davis is Hallmark Fine Art Programs director and visiting research professor of art history, University of Missouri, Kansas City. Michael Torosian is proprietor of Lumiere Press, Canada. April M. Watson is research associate and adjunct professor, Department of Art and Art History, University of Missouri, Kansas City.


Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City (May 14 – July 31, 2005)

Snite Museum of Art, Notre Dame, Indiana (September 11 - November 27, 2005)

The J. Paul Getty Museum (May 10 – September 4, 2005) 

"With powerful images and eloquent text, The Art of Frederick Sommer presents the life’s work of our greatest visual poet. This is a book for the ages and a celebration of one hundred years, and it confirms how Sommer’s ideas and sources link him to a profound belief in aesthetics as a way of life. To all who now hold this book in their hands: your life may never be the same. "—Emmet Gowin, Princeton University

"The Brazilian-born Sommer gets the royal treatment, with sumptuous reproductions, a detailed and strenuously interpretive essay from photo historian Keith Davis, and an Arbus-like chronology."—Art on Paper

“The Art of Frederic Sommer is a sumptuous affair. . . . A stunning book.”—Art Times

“Frederick Sommer, a once-celebrated yet also underrated and misunderstood artist, is overdue for a revival, and this illuminating and sumptuous book will be the catalyst. . . . Heretofore an artist’s artist, Sommer deserves greater appreciation for the ‘mysterious, crystalline precision’ of his evocative work, and his uncanny ability to discern beauty in every manifestation and phase of life.”—Booklist

“This monograph—the first to focus exclusively on Sommer—offers absorbing, little-known details of his life, literary and philosophical influences, and development as an artist. . . . Recommended for all collections focusing on photography and surrealism.”—Library Journal


“The Art of Frederic Sommer is a sumptuous affair. . . . A stunning book.”—Art Times

“This weighty new compendium is a real knockout. Beautifully designed, and with a masterly essay by Keith F. Davis, this book is the summation that Sommer’s work has deserved but never received.”—

"The book's sequencing of images wholly succeeds in creating a powerful contemplative experience, and the enticing arguments Davis offers in his introductory remarks incite a hunger for fresh, detailed scholarship about each of Sommer's works."—Publishers Weekly



“Sommer has been the subject of books before. . . . But now, this new book supplants the previous ones. Lush, well written by essayist Keith F. Davis and impeccably footnoted and researched, it also gives us the best reproductions, nearly perfect, which provide the kind of visual clarity Sommer’s work requires.”—Richard Nilsen, The Arizona Republic

"[a] superb catalogue... collecting the largest selection to date of Sommer's art... Any art or photography library and its patrons would be enriched by this beautiful presentation of the American photographer [Frederick Sommer]."---The Art Book

Winner of the 2006 Independent Publisher Book Awards in the Fine Arts category.

Winner of Honorable Mention for the 2005 George Wittenborn Memorial Award sponsored by the Art Libraries Society of North America.


Winner of 2005 Golden Light Award, Book of the Year

Selected by Camera Arts as one of the 10 Commendable Photograph Books of the Year
ISBN: 9780300107838
Publication Date: May 10, 2005
Publishing Partner: Distributed for the Frederick and Frances Sommer Foundation
252 pages, 11 1/4 x 12 3/4
133 tritones + 28 duotones + 52 color illus.

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