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May 20, 2020

Francesca Woodman: The Feminist Avant-Garde of the 1970s

Born 1958 in Denver, Colorado from a family of artists, American photographer Francesca Woodman began her studies at the Rhode Island School of Design (Providence) in 1975, before a sojourn in Rome in 1977 and 1978.

Portrait photography by Francesca Woodman in the 1970s

Inspired by baroque sculptures, she developed an angelic theme in her photographic works On Being an Angel (1977–1978). Her first solo exhibition took place in 1978. At the end of her studies, she went to New York, working temporarily as a model and photographer’s assistant, as well as participating in various group shows. She became friends with the collector of surrealist art Timothy Baum. Her photographs bear close links to surrealist photography, such as the deformation of the female nude, the appeal for found objects, and the penchant for dilapidated interiors.

In late 1980, Woodman became depressed due to the failure of her work to attract attention and due to a broken relationship. She survived a suicide attempt in the autumn of 1980, after which she lived with her parents in Manhattan.

On January 19, 1981, Woodman died by suicide, aged twenty-two, jumping out of a loft window of a building on the East Side of New York City.

These stunning portrait photos are part of her work during the 1970s.

Self-portrait at thirteen, Antella, Italy, 1972

Untitled, Boulder, Colorado, 1972–75

Self-portrait, birch sleeves, 1975–1978

Untitled, 1975-80

Untitled, 1975

Untitled, Providence, Rhode Island, 1975-1976

Untitled, Providence, Rhode Island, 1975-1978

Untitled, Providence, Rhode Island, 1975-1978

Untitled, Providence, Rhode Island, 1975-1978

Untitled, Providence, Rhode Island, 1975-1978

“Polka Dots”, 1976

“Polka Dots”, 1976

House # 3, Providence, Rhode Island, 1976

House # 3, Providence, Rhode Island, 1976

House # 4, Providence, Rhode Island, 1976

Untitled, 1976-80

Untitled, Boulder, Colorado, 1976

Untitled, Providence, Rhode Island, 1976

Untitled, Providence, Rhode Island, 1976

From Angel Series, Rome, Italy, September 1977

“I could no longer play”, Providence, Rhode Island, 1977

Self-Deceit # 1, Rome, 1977-78

“Self-portrait talking to Vince”, Providence, Rhode Island, 1977

Space2, Providence, Rhode Island, 1977

Space2, Providence, Rhode Island, 1977

From Angel Series, 1977-78

From Angel Series, 1977

From Angel Series, Rome, 1977–78

Untitled, Antella, Italy, 19977-78

Untitled, Rome, 1977–78

Untitled, Rome, 1977–78

Untitled, Rome, 1977–78

Untitled, Rome, 1977–78

Untitled, Rome, 1977–78

Untitled, Rome, 1977–78

Untitled, Rome, 1977–78

From Eel series, Venice, Italy, 1978

“It must be time for lunch now”, New York, 1979

Untitled, New York, 1979-80

Untitled, New York, 1979-80

Untitled, New York, 1979-80

Untitled, New York, 1979-80

(Photo © Francesca Woodman)

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