Walt Whitman "Laughing Philosopher" Portrait

Walt Whitman "Laughing Philosopher" Portrait. Walt Whitman, George C. Cox.
Walt Whitman "Laughing Philosopher" Portrait
Iconic image of arguably the greatest American poet of the 19th century.
Walt Whitman "Laughing Philosopher" Portrait

New York: George C. Cox, 1887. First edition. Original print (223 x 184 mm) on a grey cardboard mat (355 x 297 mm), signed and dated “Walt Whitman Sept: '87" and stamped "COPYRIGHT 1887 BY GEORGE C. COX." Minor wear to cardboard edges a few small stains, mostly on the cardboard margin, but a few on the print as well, and three faint lines in what looks like chalk. Verso of the cardboard has written in pencil: "No mat #122 - clean margin with care 11 x 14." (High resolution images available). Very Good condition.

From the Charles E. Feinberg Collection, Library of Congress: "On the morning of April 15th, 1887, George Cox took several photographs of Whitman, who was celebrating the success of his New York lecture on Lincoln, delivered the day before. Whitman recalls that "six or seven" photos were made during the session, but Whitman's friend Jeannette Gilder, an observer of the session, said there were many more than that: 'He must have had twenty pictures taken, yet he never posed for a moment. He simply sat in the big revolving chair and swung himself to the right or to the left, as Mr. Cox directed, or took his hat off or put it on again, his expression and attitude remaining so natural that no one would have supposed he was sitting for a photograph.' A few months later, Whitman was angry that Cox apparently was selling copies of the photos with forged signatures and was refusing to send Whitman copies of the proofs to allow Whitman to decide which ones should be printed, but the problem was straightened out and Cox began sending Whitman modest payments for the sale of photos. By October 1888, Whitman was calling Cox "the premier exception" among photographers and claimed to have received around one hundred dollars in royalties. Cox copyrighted two of the photos from this sitting, the only time he ever did so, apparently to protect Whitman's financial interest in them, and he sold the photos only to aid Whitman. This was Whitman's favorite photograph from the Cox session ('it seems to me so excellent— so to stand out from all the others'), a photo he began referring to as 'the Laughing Philosopher:' 'Do you think the name I have given it justified? do you see the laugh in it? I'm not wholly sure: yet I call it that. I can say honestly that I like it better than any other picture of that set: Cox made six or seven of them: yet I am conscious of something foreign in it— something not just right in that place.' Still, Whitman believed the picture was 'like a total— like a whole story,' and he was proud that Tennyson— to whom Whitman sent the photo— admired it: 'liked it much— oh! so much.'"

George C. Cox of New York was, in his day, considered one of the finest portrait photographers in America. He opened his studio in 1883, and photographed the wealthy and famous for over a decade, among them the leading artists, politicians, writers and editors, and beauties of the time. One of his most reproduced works was this portrait of Walt Whitman offered here.
(Item #780)

Out of stock