George Morris was born in Sydney and studied at East Sydney Technical College. He operated an engraving business and in 1920 travelled overseas to further his knowledge of engraving and photo-reproduction processes, visiting England, Germany and America where he spent time at the Eastman Kodak head office. A further overseas trip was made in 1936. In 1925 he became a member of the Sydney Camera Circle and began exhibiting regularly with the circle, as well as with the Photographic Society of New South Wales. He established a commercial studio in the late 1920s and later became a partner in Ramsay Photo Works.
This photograph of the New York skyline has a cinematic quality, suggestive of Fritz Lang’s 1927 film ‘Metropolis’. Morris exhibited some of his overseas pictures as enormous bromoil transfers (measuring 100 x 60 centimetres), probably the largest ever made in Australia. In ‘Untitled (New York City skyline)’ it is clear that he is concerned with conveying a sense of the scale of New York, that great symbol of modernity and progress. He manages this in a skilful, tonal way. The Empire State Building dissolves into the clouds. Alfred Stieglitz, early exponent and champion of pictorialism in America, had written:
atmosphere is the medium through which we see all things … Atmosphere softens all lines; it graduates the transition from light to shade; it is essential to the reproduction of the sense of distance. That dimness of outline which is characteristic for distant objects is due to atmosphere. Now, what ‘atmosphere’ is to Nature, tone is to a picture.1
1. Stieglitz A 1892, ‘A plea for art photography in America’, in Bunnell P C 1980, ‘A photographic vision: pictorial photography 1889–1923’, Peregrine Smith Inc, Salt Lake City p 24
© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007
24.8 x 31.3 cm image; 40.7 x 44.1 cm sheet
Signature & date
Signed l.r. sheet, pencil "George J. Morris". Not dated.
Gift of Mrs Eleanor Morris 1977
Not on display
Shown in 1 exhibition
Australian Pictorial Photography:
- S.H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney 12 Jun 1979–08 Jul 1979
- The Victorian College of the Arts Gallery, South Bank 08 Aug 1979–31 Aug 1979
- Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide 01 Dec 1979–30 Jan 1980
Referenced in 2 publications
Steven Miller, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'Australian pictorialism', pg.71-91, Sydney, 2007, 89 (illus.).
Gael Newton, Australian Pictorial Photography, Melbourne, 1979, 21. cat.no. 87