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William Mortensen 1897 - 1965

William Mortensen (January 27, 1897 – August 12, 1965) was an American photographic artist, primarily known for his Hollywood portraits in the 1920s-1940s in the Pictorialist style and visceral manipulated photography, often touching on themes of the occult and women's sexual empowerment.

The essential introduction : "Monsters and Madonnas: the World of William Mortensen" 1963 . 35 minutes. Narrated by Vincent Price.

William Mortensen "The Galley Slave" 1927 featured on the cover of The Magazine Antiques July/August 2019, in a story about the collection of late collector Larry Dumont.

Current Exhibition

RAYMOND BUCKLAND'S MUSEUM OF WITCHCRAFT AND MAGICK and Stephen Romano Gallery are thrilled to announce they will be collaborating on an exhibition of vintage photographic works by WILLIAM MORTENSEN (1897 - 1965) entitled "WITCHES" at the Museum in Cleveland Ohio. The exhibition will feature many previously unseen works along with some of Mortensen's most well known iconic occult themed photographs, which Huffington Post declared as "Some of the most beautifully terrifying images ever made". The exhibition will open August 3 and continue through November 3, 2019.

Steven Intermill, Museum Director of the Buckland Museum of Witchcraft and Magick says: "One of the goals for the Buckland Museum moving locations was to have room for a rotating exhibit space, so when Stephen Romano approached us about a collaborative show we were naturally intrigued - so much we may have even howled a the moon! The Mortensen photos depict a supernatural world rarely seen, where witches not only exist in the shadow but radiate within the light. His genius techniques enhance reality, bringing to focus the liminal space that esoteric imagery needs for success."

Exhibition detail WILLIAM MORTENSEN'S WITCHES at the Buckland Museum of WItchcraft and Magick, Cleveland, through November 3 2019.

View full press release

Online and PDF catalog of WILLIAM MORTES'S WITCHES

William Mortensen’s Occult-Themed Photographs Subject of Exhibition

ZeroEqualsTwo WILLIAM MORTENSEN EXHIBITION @ WITCHES MUSEUM

Mortensen’s WITCHES opens at the Raymond Buckland Museum

WITCHES: An exhibition of the photographs by William Mortensen

Recent Exhibitions

The New York City Book and Ephemera Fair celebrates William Mortensen's golden Hollywood years with a special exhibition curated by Brian Chidester. The exhibition will feature works from William Mortensen's personal collection that have never been shown before, as well as works from the estate of his first wife Courtney Crawford that will also be exhibited for the first time ever.

March 9 & 10, 2019, Sheraton Central Park / Times Square 811 7th Avenue New York

"William Mortensen: Invisible House" exhibition at DARK MOFO festival, Tasmania

Curated by Brenden Walls for the DARK MOFO Festival in Tasmania Salamanca Arts Centre, Hogarth, Tasmania, Australia.
William Mortensen UNTITLED (Balphagor and the Lost Souls) 1926
William Mortensen The Old Hag and The Old Hag with Skull 1926
William Mortensen Study for La Chatte an Untitled circa 1926
William Mortensen Fay Wray with Masks circa 1926
William Mortensen "ISIS" circa 1924
William Mortensen "The Make Believe Lady" circa 1924
William Mortensen "A Tantric Priest" 1932
William Mortensen Untitled circa 1924
William Mortensen "L'Amour" c. 1930 sold
William Mortensen (1897 - 1965) "The Sorceress" circa 1926 photograph, Unique Print.
Willim Mortensen (1897 - 1965) Mary of Magdala (Dorothy Cumming) 1926. Manipulated photograph, Unique Print. please inquire for pricing and availability
William Mortensen (1897 - 1965) "Witch on Broom" c. 1928 - 1930 , Unique Print. private collection
William Mortensen was featured in the Museum Of Everything's exhibition at The Museum of Old and New in Tasmania 10 June 2017 – 2 April 2018.
THE WORKS OF WILLIAM MORTENSEN WERE FEATURED AT SCOPE ART FAIR NEW YORK MARCH 2 - 5 2017 AT THE METROPOLITAN PAVILION

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The works of WILLIAM MORTENSEN were featured at

the 25th annual OUTSIDER ART FAIR in New York January 2017.

Stephen Romano, Joe Coleman and the works of William Mortensen at Morbid Anatomy Museum 2015

William Mortensen was featured in a one person exhibition at

STEPHEN ROMANO GALLERY BROOKLYN NY OCTOBER 15 - DECEMBER 30, 2014 .

read the review by Claire Voon in Hyperallergic

William Mortensen "The Initiation of a Young Witch" c. 1924 private collection.
William Mortensen "The Old Hag" c. 1924 private collection
William Mortensen "Myrdith Monaghan" circa 1926 please inquire for pricing and availability .
Willim Mortensen "Fra Junipero Serra" 1926 please inquire for pricing and availability .
William Mortensen "Asleep" circa 1945 photograph please inquire for pricing and availability .
William Mortensen "Untitled (Red Head in Feathered Hat)" circa 1959 p
William Mortensen "Fragment" circa 1928 photograph please inquire for pricing and availability .
William Mortensen "A Pirate and His Trove", circa 1930 please inquire for pricing and availability .
William Mortensen "Strenght, Wisdom and Fortitude", circa 1958 Vintage Metal Chrome print, please inquire for pricing and availability .
William Mortensen "Zaida" circa 1926 photograph please inquire for pricing and availability .
William Mortensen (1897 - 1923) "SAPPHO" circa 1924 - 26 please inquire for pricing and availability .
William Mortensen "Preparation for the Sabbath" 1928 photograph please inquire for pricing and availability .
William Mortensen (1897 - 1965) "Untitled Suite (Belphagor and the Lost Souls)" circa 1924 - 26 please inquire for pricing and availability .
William Mortensen "A Hindoo Woman" circa 1926 -28, please inquire for pricing and availability .
William Mortensen "Mediation" series of of four photographs, please inquire for pricing and availability .
William Mortensen Self Portrait with Courtney Crawford circa 1924 - 1926
William Mortensen "The Old Hag" circa 1928 please inquire for pricing and availability .

William Mortensen on Monsterbrains

William Mortensen on Dangerous Minds

Witches and Peasants by Eve Khan

William Mortensen's 20th Century Photos Are

Some Of The Most Beautifully Terrifying Images Ever Made

JUXTAPOZ "Monsters and Madonnas" August 2014

JUXTAPOZ "A Pictorial Compendium of Witchcraft" July 2014

William Mortensen: photographic master at the monster’s ball

William Mortensen (1897 - 1965) was an American Photographer, primarily known for his Hollywood portraits in the 1920s-1940s in the pictorialist style.

"Ansel Adams called him ‘the Antichrist’ and wanted him written out of history. But William Mortensen’s grotesque photographs of death, nudity and torture and are now having their day..

..Mortensen’s methods often made it hard to distinguish whether the results were photographs or not. He used traditional printmaking techniques, such as bromoiling, and developed many of his own. He would create composite images, scratch, scrape and draw on his prints, then apply a texture that made them look like etchings, thereby disguising his manipulations. Consequently, every print was unique. Ultimately, Mortensen’s aim was to create something that, for all intents and purposes, appeared to be a photograph, yet portrayed scenes so fantastic they caused wonder and astonishment in the viewer.

..His love of the fantastic and the grotesque was, then, partly an outward expression of his love to shock, but it had another purpose: by giving form to such emotions as fear and hatred, Mortensen, a Christian Scientist, believed “we are enabled to lessen their power over us”. He added: “When the world of the grotesque is known and appreciated, the real world becomes vastly more significant.”

..It was these kinds of ideas that so angered Adams and his Group f/64 brethren devoted to photography that depicted a pure, unmediated reality. This began a spirited debate with Mortensen within the pages of the magazine that became ever more vitriolic. However, Adams did not stop there, suggesting in a personal letter to Mortensen that he “negotiate oblivion”. When fellow photographer Edward Weston wrote telling of his excitement at photographing a “fresh corpse”, Adams replied: “My only regret is that the identity of said corpse is not our Laguna Beach colleague.”

..The critics Beaumont Newhall and his wife Nancy held the same view: Beaumont consciously excluded Mortensen from his grandiosely titled 1949 book The History of Photography, From 1839 to the Present Day. Their distaste would not even allow them to acknowledge Mortensen’s mastery of his craft. Ultimately though, for all the griping of Adams and f/64, it turns out that Mortensen was the true modernist all along, not them. For today, we are surrounded by images of the fantastic and unreal.

Created By
Stephen Romano
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