WHITMAN, WALT (1819-1892, American poet)
PORTRAIT BY GEORGE COLLINS COX (1851-1903), AMERICAN PHOTOGRAPHER, vintage photograph, photogravure, three-quarter length, seated and wearing his hat, in profile facing right, turned back and slightly looking away from the camera to the left, his right hand extended to the camera, with the copyright notice of Cox dated 1887 printed in the upper margin to the right, and 'Cox Photo' and 'Photo-Gravure & Color Co. N' printed in the lower margin, framed and glazed, size of image 9 x 7 inches (24 x 18 cm), overall size 14 x 12 inches (37 x 31.5 cm), 15 April 1887
THIS PHOTOGRAVURE IS APPARENTLY UNIQUE: no reference to any other copy has been found. The photograph is well-known, but no record of it being produced in photogravure appears to be recorded. It is believed that the Photogravure Company was run by Karl Avidson and Charles Furth.
The Walt Whitman Archive (on-line) notes the following about Cox's photographs of Whitman: '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 present image being one of them], 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.' Twelve photographs from the session are now known.
REFERENCE: Walt Whitman Archive.