The largest photograph of Whitman that we have seen
(WHITMAN, WALT.) George C. Cox. An enormous platinum or bromide photograph after the original portrait photograph by George C. Cox
New York, 1887, printed ca. 1890s-1910s
Platinum or bromide photographic enlargement (23 ¾ x 19 ¼ in.), mounted on board. Matted, glazed and framed.
A SPECTACULAR PHOTOGRAPH OF WHITMAN IN OLD AGE. This famous portrait was taken in George Cox’s New York studio in April 1887. Whitman was celebrating the success of his lecture on Lincoln, delivered on the same visit to the city. His friend and editor Jeanette Gilder was present and later wrote in The Critic, “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.”
Gilder observed that Whitman “was not sitting to an ordinary photographer. Mr. Cox’s photographs are no more like the conventional photographs than an oil painting is like a chromo. One of their beauties is that the sitter’s head is not made stiff and unnatural looking by being held in a vise; and the negatives are never retouched. All the lines and wrinkles show in the finished picture.” She added, “Mr. Cox thinks the Whitman photographs will be his masterpieces, and I shouldn’t be surprised if they were, for he never had a better subject.”
George C. Cox, one of the great American portrait photographers of the late nineteenth century, “was a friend of many artists, including Saint-Gaudens, who had plans to make a bust of Whitman, and who probably arranged for Whitman’s photographic sitting with Cox so that he could have photos to work from for the bust (which was never completed). … [Whitman] considered Cox the ‘premier exception’ among photographers because he paid him royalties for the sale of his photographs.” (Folsom, “Notes on the Major Whitman Photographers”).
This is easily the largest and most visually impressive photograph of Walt Whitman that we have ever seen.