Francesca Woodman

©Francesca Woodman

The works of American Photographer Francesca Woodman were ahead of their time. Her photographs had a contrary effect of being both elusive and voyeuristic at the same time. Francesca’s creativity seemed borne of an innate curiosity and avid attention to the world around her.

She studied at Abbot Academy (now Phillips Andover), Rhode Island School of Design & in 1980 was artist in residence at MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire. She spent summers with her family in an old farmhouse in the Italian countryside.

©Francesca Woodman

Although she may have honed her skills to some degree at art schools, I believe her greatest artistic inspiration and development came from her family, who place a high value on art as a way of life. For the Woodman’s, art is a very serious business, whether or not it is recognized, championed or not does not alter their devotion to it. Her mother Betty is a ceramicist & sculptor, her father George, a ceramicist, painter & photographer, and her brother Charles a video installation artist and professor.

Francesca’s photographs, usually black & white, are quite unique to her. Many of the photographs of her have the face obscured or blurred, others she appears to be dissolving into objects. In one amazing photograph she is nude in the water beside a beautiful tree, her arm reaching up slightly into the roots becoming one with it.

©Francesca Woodman

Some of the photographs have motion, and life; others have an eerie ghostlike quality to them. It might be too simplistic a view to see that she was always drifting away – a preparing of sorts to disappear from the earth and although there may be some truth to that, you can also make the case that she was just an original artist, always thinking, always seeing something new.

Francesca moved to New York in the hope of gaining recognition for her work but people were not receptive, unable to see the unique value of her vision. She became depressed and with the help of her parents sought treatment. But after a series of disappointments, a broken relationship, a stolen bicycle and being turned down for an endowment, sadly, she jumped from a building to her death on January 19, 1981 at the age of 22.

The Woodman’s – A documentary film by C. Scott Willis


3 thoughts on “Francesca Woodman

  1. A compelling post. Wonderful to see the work of an artist before the era of digital photography with those beautiful, rich film prints. A reminder, too, of how serious depression can be. Tragic for the Woodmans for sure, but they must derive some comfort from Francesca’s prodigious and prolific work. Thanks for sharing.

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