George Kendall Warren
Biography | Bibliography
George Kendall Warren began making daguerreotypes in 1852 in Lowell, MA. He moved to Cambridgeport, MA, across the river from Boston, in 1858 or 1860. He began making photographs for college “class books” or yearbooks in 1858, probably starting with Dartmouth. From 1858 till his death in 1884 he traveled the north east making photographs at Harvard, Williams, Brown, Wesleyan, Yale, Princeton, Rutgers, Dartmouth, Union, and West Point. He was selected by the senior class at these schools year after year because of the high quality and strength of his portraits. At the same time he photographed the campus and surrounding area of each school. The quality of his printing is remarkable not only for the beautiful tonal range, but also the number of his prints that have survived without fading.
His body of northeastern landscape photography is the largest and perhaps the most important of the late 1850s and 1860s. No other early photographer working with a large format camera has painted the eastern landscape like Warren. He had a sharp eye for composition and developed compositional styles new to American painting and photography. He favored early morning or late afternoon winter light which emphasized the light and shadows of trees. Many compositions include a bold central form leading away from the camera, like a path, road, tree, or lamppost. He may have been aware of the luminist and Hudson River painters of his day. His view of East Rock, New Haven, Connecticut, is an almost identical composition as Frederick Church’s famous painting of West Rock.
Warren’s body of work is also unusual for including portraits of workers and African American workers in working clothes from the colleges he photographed. Photographs of African Americans and workers in general from this period are rare in early American photographs. His political views may have been influenced by his uncle, Nathaniel Prentice Banks, an abolitionist, Speaker of the House of Representatives during the tumultuous 1850s, and a Union general.
Warren’s portraiture was also well respected. Most of the country’s best schools hired him year after because of the strength of his portraits. Schools include Rutgers College, Amherst College, Brown University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, University of Michigan, Princeton University, and Wesleyan University. His studio also attracted President Franklin Pierce and most of the prominent actors, actresses, Civil War Generals and assorted celebrities that lived in Boston or visited. Warren died in an accident with a train in Medford, Ma. 1884.
Keith F. Davis, 2000 Acquisitions: The Hallmark Art Collection, The Hallmark Photographic Collection, Kansas City, MO: Hallmark Cards, Inc., 2000.
Susan Faxon, Addison Gallery of American Art: 65 Years, Andover, MA: The Addison Gallery, 1996.
Floyd Rinhart and Marion Rinhart, The American Daguerreotype, Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1981.
Merry A. Foresta, American Photographs: The First Century from the Isaacs Collection in the National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1997.
Sally Pierce and Temple D. Smith, Citizens in Conflict: Prints and Photographs of the American Civil War, Boston: The Boston Athenaeum, 1981.
Julia J. Norrell, Common Ground: Discovering Community in 150 Years of Art, London: Merrell, 2004.
John S. Craig, Craig’s Daguerreian Registry: Volume 1, The Overview, John S. Craig, 1994.
John S. Craig, Craig’s Daguerreian Registry: Volume 1, Pioneers and Progress – MacDonald to Zuky, John S. Craig, 1994.
Melissa Banta, A Curious and Ingenious Art: Reflections on Daguerreotypes at Harvard, Cambridge, MA and Iowa City, IA: Harvard University Press and University of Iowa Press, 2000.
Mary Panzer, Mike Weaver, and Anne Hammond, History of Photography Spring 2000, London: Taylor & Francis, 2000.
William Welling, Photography in America: The Formative Years 1839-1900, A Documentary History, New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1978.
Robert Taft, Photography and the American Scene, A Social History, 1839-1899, New York: The MacMillan Company, 1938.
Martha A. Sandweiss, ed., with essays by Alan Trachtenberg, Barbara McCandless, Keith F. Davis, Peter Bacon Hales, and Sarah Greenough, Photography in Nineteenth-Century America, New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1991.
Patricia Rodgers, Charles M. Sullivan, and the staff of the Cambridge Historical Commission, A Photographic History of Cambridge, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1984.
Stephen Binns, Smithsonian in Your Classroom: Final Farewells: Signing a Yearbook on the Eve of the Civil War, Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies, 2010.
Shannon Thomas Perich, The Changing Face of Portrait Photography: From Daguerreotype to Digital, Washington, D.C.: National Museum of American History, 2011.
Diane Waggoner, Russell Lord, and Jennifer Raab, East of the Mississippi: Nineteenth-Century American Landscape Photography, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2017.