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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Frank Eugene

Other: Frank Eugene Smith 
Dates:  1865, 19 September - 1936, 16 December
Born:  US, NY, New York
Died:  Germany ?
Active:  Germany
American photographer and etcher of considerable talent. His best known works are those that were heavily influenced by Pictorialism. He merged the skills of a graphic artist with those of a photographer, Eugene etched his negatives to produce startling and beautiful prints. Influential in his day, but somewhat neglected since, his reputation is about to undergo a renaissance.
[Courtesy of Pam Roberts]

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for Frank Eugene
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)

Eugene was born Frank Eugene Smith on September 12, 1865, in New York, to German immigrant parents. He tended to use his shortened name while living in the United States and his full name when in Germany. He became recognized as both a portrait painter and a pictorial photographer in both countries.
After designing carpets in New York for a time as a young adult, Eugene enrolled in Munich’s Royal Bavarian Academy of Art in 1886. He studied painting and nature drawing there for eight years and began making photographs during this time, possibly using them as studies for his paintings. He returned to New York in 1894, secured success painting theater personalities and presented a one-person exhibition of them at the Blakeslee Galleries in 1897.
Eugene was a member of the Camera Club of New York by 1899, when he had a solo show of over seventy-five of his distinctive photographs, mostly nudes and portraits. He performed extensive handwork on his images, usually scratching expressive lines into his negatives and then printing them on tissue platinum paper. A month after the exhibition, the art critic Sadakichi Hartmann wrote an appreciative article on Eugene for the December 1899 issue of the Photographic Times, in which he termed the artist a "painter-photographer," indicative of his dual skills.
In 1900, Eugene was elected to membership in England’s Linked Ring Brotherhood, and F. Holland Day included his work in the important exhibition, the New School of American Photography, seen in London and Paris. He was further honored by Alfred Stieglitz, who featured photogravures by him in both the periodical Camera Notes and the 1901 portfolio, American Pictorial Photography II. In 1902, he became a founding fellow of Stieglitz’s exclusive group, the Photo-Secession, when his work was included in its inaugural show at New York’s National Arts Club. Other major Photo-Secession exhibitions in which his pictures appeared were those in 1904 at the Carnegie Institute (Pittsburgh) and the Corcoran Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), and in 1910 at the Albright Art Gallery (Buffalo).
Eugene traveled extensively for five years beginning in 1901, going to England, France, Italy, Holland, Greece, Bermuda, and the Caribbean. During this time, he managed to successfully send his photographs to salons in Brussels, Minneapolis, Paris, and San Francisco, and exhibitions in Berlin, Bradford, Cincinnati, Dresden, Glasgow, Hamburg, Leeds, London, Philadelphia, Rochester, St. Petersburg, Toronto, Turin, Vienna, and Wiesbaden.
The year 1907 was an eventful year for Eugene. He returned to Munich, where he was hired to teach advanced photography at the Lehr und Versuchsanstalt, an art academy. Among his eventual students there was Joseph Pécsi, who became a modernist advertising photographer in Hungary. That year, Eugene also presented a solo show in Munich that included many new photographic portraits of local male artists. And during the summer, he met up with Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen at a lakeside resort in Tutzing, to learn how to make Autochromes, the first viable color process, in the form of glass transparencies. Autochromes by Eugene were seen in that fall’s Photo-Secession members’ exhibition in New York and at exhibitions in Munich in 1908 and Budapest in 1910.
In 1910, Stieglitz devoted two entire issues of Camera Work to photogravures by Eugene, a major achievement. These twenty-four plates were among the most by anyone that appeared in the quarterly, and comprised mostly portraits and figure studies. About this time, Eugene was also photographing dancers, Germany royalty, and the villas of artist friends such as the painter Franz Von Stuck.
Eugene left Munich in 1913 for Leipzig, where, for the next fourteen years, he taught nature photography at the State Academy of Graphic Arts. In 1914, he published a portfolio of twelve photogravures of male nudes, classically posed and rendered with his typical markings. The next year, he became a German citizen, prompted by World War I, his American-accented German, and his foreign origin. Shortly before he retired, Eugene organized the Exhibition of Nature Photography, which included work by both him and his students and that traveled around Germany from 1924 to 1926.
In 1927, Frank Eugene Smith returned to Munich, but spent most of his remaining years in a spacious farmhouse in Taufkirchen, a small nearby village. He died on December 16, 1936, of heart disease. 
Christian A. Peterson Pictorial Photography at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Christian A. Peterson: Privately printed, 2012) 
This biography is courtesy and copyright of Christian Peterson and is included here with permission. 
Date last updated: 1 June 2013. 
We welcome institutions and scholars willing to test the sharing of biographies for the benefit of the photo-history community. The biography above is a part of this trial.
If you find any errors please email us details so they can be corrected as soon as possible.

Further research

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Frank Eugene
Family history 
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Visual indexes

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Internet biographies

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Getty Research, Los Angeles, USA has an ULAN (Union List of Artists Names Online) entry for this photographer. This is useful for checking names and they frequently provide a brief biography. Go to website
Grove Art Online ( has a biography of this artist. 
[NOTE: This is a subscription service and you will need to pay an annual fee to access the content.]
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Printed biographies

The following books are useful starting points to obtain brief biographies but they are not substitutes for the monographs on individual photographers.

• Auer, Michele & Michel 1985 Encyclopedie Internationale Des Photographes de 1839 a Nos Jours / Photographers Encylopaedia International 1839 to the present (Hermance, Editions Camera Obscura) 2 volumes [A classic reference work for biographical information on photographers.] 
• Beaton, Cecil & Buckland, Gail 1975 The Magic Eye: The Genius of Photography from 1839 to the Present Day (Boston and Toronto: Little, Brown & Company) p.119 [Useful short biographies with personal asides and one or more example images.] 
• Capa, Cornell (ed.) 1984 The International Center of Photography: Encyclopedia of Photography (New York, Crown Publishers, Inc. - A Pound Press Book) p.176-177 
• International Center of Photography 1999 Reflections in a Glass Eye: Works from the International Center of Photography Collection (New York: A Bulfinch Press Book) p.215 [Includes a well written short biography on Frank Eugene with example plate(s) earlier in book.] 
• Lenman, Robin (ed.) 2005 The Oxford Companion to the Photograph (Oxford: Oxford University Press)  [Includes a short biography on Frank Eugene.] 
• Witkin, Lee D. and Barbara London 1979 The Photograph Collector’s Guide (London: Secker and Warburg) p.133 [Long out of print but an essential reference work - the good news is that a new edition is in preparation.] 

Useful printed stuff

If there is an analysis of a single photograph or a useful self portrait I will highlight it here.

• Gruber, Renate and L. Fritz Gruber 1982 The Imaginary Photo Museum (New York: Harmony Books) p.247 
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