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The Soul of the Matter: Maurice Maeterlinck, Alvin Langdon Coburn and The Intelligence of the Flowers

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posted on 2021-06-08, 10:01 authored by Marissa Potvin

The holiday edition of Maurice Maeterlinck’s essay The Intelligence of the Flowers, published in 1907 by Dodd, Mead and Company and illustrated with four photogravures from photographs by Alvin Langdon Coburn (1882 – 1966), is analyzed in order to address the means by which Coburn’s illustrations reflects his antimodernist desire to escape the materialism of early twentieth century society, as this is exemplified through his photographic use of mysticism and floral symbolism. Through an examination of Coburn’s publications (notably his 1906 collaboration with the American novelist Henry James) and personal correspondence prior to 1907, as well as secondary sources detailing the history and context of Maeterlinck’s publication, it is argued that Coburn was interested in mysticism from the onset of his photographic career, leading to an interest in floral symbolism including its use by the early twentieth century homosexual community, and that all of these factors variously affected his use of symbolic illustrations in Maeterlinck’s publication.





Master of Arts


Photographic Preservation and Collections Management

Granting Institution

Ryerson University

LAC Thesis Type