This is a strange tale: Margaret Watkins, born in Canada in 1884, by 1920 was a full-time instructor at the Clarence H. White School of Photography in New York. Besides teaching such talented photographers as Doris Ulmann, Ralph Steiner and Paul Outerbridge, Ms. Watkins was a successful photographer who had commercial assignments from Macy's and J. Walter Thompson, a portfolio published in Vanity Fair and was recognized as a leader in the movement from soft- focus Pictorialism to a modernist idiom. Then in 1929, she went to Glasgow, Scotland, to care for two sick relatives and never came back; her career was over. She died in obscurity in 1969 and it was only because of the tenacity of a neighbor to whom she left a trunk of prints that her reputation has revived. The National Gallery of Canada had a retrospective exhibition in 2012 with an accompanying catalog.
Mann is showing 20 of her pictures and 10 by her students. Almost all of hers are platinum/palladium prints, including a 1925 portrait of composer Sergei Rachmaninov and a 1919 self- portrait that shows a certain hauteur and an elegant neck. There are nudes in the Clarence White mode, and wonderful still-lifes. "The Kitchen Sink" (1919) is a fine example of modernism with its emphasis on simple shapes: a milk bottle, a cup, a creamer, a bowl, a faucet, a teakettle spout, and their shadows on the sink's white enamel.