George Bernard Shaw in the Pose of "The Thinker"

Alvin Langdon Coburn (1882 -1966)


Carbon print on platinotype

H. 29.2 cm ; W. 23 cm


Inscribed in pencil, lower right : "To M. Auguste Rodin from Alvin Langdon Coburn September 15th 1906".

George Bernard Shaw opened numerous doors for the young photographer Alvin Langdon Coburn, when he arrived in England in 1904 with the ambitious idea of making photographic portraits of all the celebrities of the day. Shaw introduced Coburn to Rodin, whom he knew well, having posed for a bust modelled by the sculptor. In 1906, the photographer and the writer attended the unveiling of The Thinker . On the way home, Shaw suggested that Coburn make a nude portrait of him, in the same pose as the sculpture, thereby launching a genre that would become popular in the 20th century. Joining a gallery of hundreds of conventional photographic portraits – which always showed a face emerging from a garment – was, in fact, an idea he found extremely tedious.


Coburn thought it was a narcissistic suggestion, but produced this provocative portrait.“ I beg you to accept a photograph I am sending you that I call The Thinker,” he wrote in a letter accompanying a print addressed to Rodin. When the infamous portrait, which nobody had seen while Shaw was alive, was first published, several journalists asked for confirmation of the model’s name.

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