Pushing the aesthetic potential of photography, Heinrich Kuehn was "photoshopping" images long before the invention of the main frame. He used an intricate printing process called gum bichromate to create photographic images with rich tonal variations. By coating art paper with color pigments, gum arabic, and photo-sensitive chromate, Kuehn produced color images through multiple light exposures. He was a founder of
, a photographic style in which the photographer manipulates the shot to create an image rather than to simply capture its existence. Study in Tonal Values III is one such photographic image that, at first glance, looks like a Secessionist painting. Study in Tonal Values III was used on the banner to promote the Neue Galerie’s exhibition, Heinrich Kuehn and His American Circle: Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen.
In the early 1900s, Heinrich Kuehn shifted his photographic attention from the expansive mountain landscape enjoyed by the mountain climber that he was, to the more intimidate focus of family and close friends. He would dress his four children and English nanny, Mary Warner, in clothing hand-picked for their drape and color contrast. Then they’d spend hours, even days, waiting for Kuehn to find just the right light to photograph them.
In 1906, American photographer Alfred Stieglitz organized an exhibition of photographs by Kuehn and his colleagues from Vienna. Stieglitz was a fellow Pictorialist who championed photography as an art form in its own right. In 1907, the two friends along with Edward Steichen travelled together in Europe to take pictures and discuss new color techniques.
Heinrich Kuehn and His American Circle: Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen was the second photography exhibition ever held at the Neue Galerie. It featured more than 100 photographs taken by Kuehn between 1900 and 1920, as well as work by Stieglitz and Steichen. One feature was a recreation of a wall from Stieglitz’s 1906 exhibition showing the same Kuehn photographs amidst period lamps and drapery. Also of note is that the Neue held a concurrent exhibition of Gustav Klimt's work. Many of Kuehn’s photographs bear a resemblance to Klimt's paintings due to the creative shooting and processing by the photographer.
Mary Warner came to care for Kuehn's children after his wife died of tuberculosis and soon became his lover and muse. She posed for a series of shots, Study in Tonal Values, where she is shrouded by the brim of a large hat. The photograph shows shades of brown and pale pink due to his creative printing techniques. The banner used to promote the exhibition includes Study in Tonal Values III. The bottom of the banner includes the Neue Galerine logo and the words "Heinrich Kuehn and His American Circle/Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen/April 26-August 27, 2012/www.neuegalerie.org" appear in all capital letters in white against a black background. Both sides of this banner are identical.