During the mid-1950s, Sommer began a series of camera-less photographs. While the practice of creating photographic prints without the use of a camera had been pioneered in the 1920s by Man Ray and László Mohology-Nagy, Sommer used his skills as a painter and draftsman to take the process in a completely new direction. To create these images, Sommer made a synthetic negative by painting on cellophane with oil paint, which was then place onto sensitized paper. The opacity of the oil, under surface tension, produced an image that when suspended between two plates of glass could be placed in an enlarger and used as a negative to print a photograph.
"Paracelsus," with its remarkable distribution of tones and textures, is suggestive of a gleaming, armored torso. Sommer titled this photograph after Philippus Aureolus Paracelsus (1493-1541), a noted figure in the realms of alchemy and medical science. Sommer was among those who sought the reintegration of physics and metaphysics.
- Artist Name: Frederick Sommer (American, 1905-1999)
- Title: Paracelsus (Paint on Cellophane)
- Date: 1959
- Medium: Gelatin silver print
- Dimensions: Image: 13-1/2 x 10-1/4 in. (34.3 x 26 cm)
- Credit Line: Norton Simon Museum, Gift of the Artist
- Accession Number: PH.1965.1.05
- Copyright: ©Frederick & Frances Sommer Foundation
- Armory Center for the Arts/Art Center College of Design, Radical Past: Contemporary Art & Music in Pasadena, 1960-1974, p. 29
- Gloria Williams, The Collectible Moment: Catalogue of Photographs in the Norton Simon Museum,2006, cat. 350 p. 243
Image reproduction permission may be granted for scholarly or arts related commercial use. All image requests, regardless of their intended purpose, should be submitted via the reproduction request form.
Images may be protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. Additional permission may be required.
Approved requests for the reproduction of an image will receive a contract detailing all fees and conditions of use of the image. Upon receipt of both the signed contract and full payment, the Office of Rights and Reproductions will provide the image. A complimentary copy of the published material must be provided to the Norton Simon Museum.