William Mortensen William Mortensen (January 27, 1897 – August 12, 1965) was an American photographic artist, who first gained acclaim for his Hollywood portraits in the 1920s in the Pictorialist style and later for viscerally manipulated photography, often touching on themes of the occult.

presented by

inquire for available works at romanostephen@gmail.com


WHM CXXV - a multi venue exhibtion celebrating the 125th birthday of America's greatest visionary photographic artist, January 2022.

Venues paying tribute:

Heritage Museum of Orange County, Santa Ana CA, will mount an ambitious installation of original works by William Mortensen in both the Maag Farmhouse and the historic Kellogg House. The exhibitions are curated by Annabella Pritchard, and exhibitions are designed by Jamie Hiber, Daniel Cooper, Jessica Bell, Alex Gonzalez and Eli Aguilar. William Mortensen's final resting place is also in Santa Ana.

The Buckland Museum of Witchcraft and Magick will mount an exhibition of original works curated by museum director Steven Intermill. This is the second exhibition of Mortensen's works the museum has undertaken.

The Gallery of Everything in London will present the series "A Pictorial Compendium of Witchcraft and Demonology" The Museum of Everything has custodianship of one of the most in depth collections of the works of William Mortensen.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston will highlight online their recent acquisition of the William Mortensen handmade book "The King of Kings" which was commissioned by director Cecil B. DeMille.

The Laguna Art Museum will present on William Mortensen's birthday a panel discussion moderated by Stephen Romano featuring Deborah Irmas, Michael Moynihan, Brian Chidester and Matthew Rolston. William Mortensen is also included in the museum's current exhibition "Sky Space Time Change" through April 25th 2022.

Stephen Romano Gallery in Brooklyn will announce a special event.


For the first time ever, the entire compendium of William Mortensen's KING OF KINGS has been documented and is available for viewing online. courtesy Stephen ROmano Gallery and Behold Auctions.

William Mortensen was born in 1897 in Park City, Utah. His family moved to Salt Lake City when he was 11 years old. He was interested in painting and was trained by his high school teacher, and possibly took lessons before that. He was inducted into the army in 1916 and discharged in 1918. Upon his release from the army, Mortensen spent 1919 and at least part of 1920 in New York City, possibly attending the Arts Students League while there. He traveled to Greece in 1920 and returned the same year. Traveling back to Utah, he took a job teaching art at his alma mater in Salt Lake City. By the end of the school year he left his job at East Side High School, and in 1921 traveled by train escorting a friend's sister to Hollywood. (The sister was Fay Wray.)

Mortensen evidently knew someone in Los Angeles who put him in contact with film director King Vidor. He worked in the burgeoning film industry alternately painting scenery, making masks, and engaging in various film art-related services. Simultaneously he began work at Western Costume Company photographing silent film stars in costume.

In 1924 he married Courtney Crawford, a librarian, and moved into her home on Hollywood Boulevard, where he maintained a studio from 1925-1931. Also, during this time, he began to enter and show in photographic salons both here and abroad. His work was published in various journals and newspapers, including Photograms of the Year, American Annual of Photography, Vanity Fair, and the Los Angeles Times.

Mortensen moved to Laguna Beach in 1931 and opened a studio on the Pacific Coast Highway (then called South Coast Highway)—the first of four spaces that he rented over the next thirty years. His school, the Mortensen School of Photography, officially opened in 1931 and always occupied the same address as his studio.

In 1933 Mortensen married Myrdith Monaghan and met George Dunham who became a friend and model. More importantly, 1933 is also the year when he began his long writing collaboration with Dunham, which didn't end until 1960 with an incomplete manuscript titled Composition. The 32-year collaboration yielded 9 books in multiple editions and printings, 4 pamphlets, and over 100 articles in magazines and newspapers. Both Myrdith and Dunham proved to be his most significant models, helping him to produce his most important body of work. The school remained open until a short time after his death from leukemia in 1965.

The essential introduction : "Monsters and Madonnas: the World of William Mortensen" 1963 . 35 minutes. Narrated by Vincent Price.

William Mortensen "The Galley Slave" 1927 featured on the cover of The Magazine Antiques July/August 2019, in a story about the collection of late collector Larry Dumont.

Recent Exhibition

Stephen Romano Gallery presents


March 8 - 11 2020

read full article

read full article

RAYMOND BUCKLAND'S MUSEUM OF WITCHCRAFT AND MAGICK and Stephen Romano Gallery are thrilled to announce they will be collaborating on an exhibition of vintage photographic works by WILLIAM MORTENSEN (1897 - 1965) entitled "WITCHES" at the Museum in Cleveland Ohio. The exhibition will feature many previously unseen works along with some of Mortensen's most well known iconic occult themed photographs, which Huffington Post declared as "Some of the most beautifully terrifying images ever made". The exhibition will open August 3 and continue through November 3, 2019.

Steven Intermill, Museum Director of the Buckland Museum of Witchcraft and Magick says: "One of the goals for the Buckland Museum moving locations was to have room for a rotating exhibit space, so when Stephen Romano approached us about a collaborative show we were naturally intrigued - so much we may have even howled a the moon! The Mortensen photos depict a supernatural world rarely seen, where witches not only exist in the shadow but radiate within the light. His genius techniques enhance reality, bringing to focus the liminal space that esoteric imagery needs for success."

Exhibition detail WILLIAM MORTENSEN'S WITCHES at the Buckland Museum of WItchcraft and Magick, Cleveland, through November 3 2019.

View full press release

Online and PDF catalog of WILLIAM MORTES'S WITCHES

William Mortensen’s Occult-Themed Photographs Subject of Exhibition


Mortensen’s WITCHES opens at the Raymond Buckland Museum

WITCHES: An exhibition of the photographs by William Mortensen

Recent Exhibition

The New York City Book and Ephemera Fair celebrates William Mortensen's golden Hollywood years with a special exhibition curated by Brian Chidester. The exhibition will feature works from William Mortensen's personal collection that have never been shown before, as well as works from the estate of his first wife Courtney Crawford that will also be exhibited for the first time ever.

March 9 & 10, 2019, Sheraton Central Park / Times Square 811 7th Avenue New York

"William Mortensen: Invisible House" exhibition at DARK MOFO festival, Tasmania

William Mortensen UNTITLED (Balphagor and the Lost Souls) 1926
William Mortensen The Old Hag and The Old Hag with Skull 1926
William Mortensen Study for La Chatte an Untitled circa 1926
William Mortensen Fay Wray with Masks circa 1926
William Mortensen "ISIS" circa 1924
William Mortensen "The Make Believe Lady" circa 1924
William Mortensen "A Tantric Priest" 1932
William Mortensen Untitled circa 1924
William Mortensen "L'Amour" c. 1930 sold
William Mortensen (1897 - 1965) "The Sorceress" circa 1926 photograph, Unique Print.
Willim Mortensen (1897 - 1965) Mary of Magdala (Dorothy Cumming) 1926. Manipulated photograph, Unique Print. please inquire for pricing and availability
William Mortensen (1897 - 1965) "Witch on Broom" c. 1928 - 1930 , Unique Print. private collection
William Mortensen was featured in the Museum Of Everything's exhibition at The Museum of Old and New in Tasmania 10 June 2017 – 2 April 2018.

continue to full article

The works of WILLIAM MORTENSEN were featured at

the 25th annual OUTSIDER ART FAIR in New York January 2017.

Stephen Romano, Joe Coleman and the works of William Mortensen at Morbid Anatomy Museum 2015

William Mortensen was featured in a one person exhibition at


read the review by Claire Voon in Hyperallergic

William Mortensen "The Initiation of a Young Witch" c. 1924 private collection.
William Mortensen "The Old Hag" c. 1924 private collection
William Mortensen "Myrdith Monaghan" circa 1926 please inquire for pricing and availability .
Willim Mortensen "Fra Junipero Serra" 1926 please inquire for pricing and availability .
William Mortensen "Asleep" circa 1945 photograph please inquire for pricing and availability .
William Mortensen "Untitled (Red Head in Feathered Hat)" circa 1959 p
William Mortensen "A Pirate and His Trove", circa 1930 please inquire for pricing and availability .
William Mortensen "Strenght, Wisdom and Fortitude", circa 1958 Vintage Metal Chrome print, please inquire for pricing and availability .
William Mortensen "Zaida" circa 1926 photograph please inquire for pricing and availability .
William Mortensen (1897 - 1923) "SAPPHO" circa 1924 - 26 please inquire for pricing and availability .
William Mortensen "Preparation for the Sabbath" 1928 photograph private collection.
William Mortensen (1897 - 1965) "Untitled Suite (Belphagor and the Lost Souls)" circa 1924 - 26 please inquire for pricing and availability .
William Mortensen "The Elemental" circa 1926 -28, please inquire for pricing and availability .
William Mortensen "Fragment Suite" circa 1926 - 1924
William Mortensen "Meditation Suite" series of of four photographs, please inquire for pricing and availability .
William Mortensen Untitled Suite (Saint Courtney) circa 1924 - 1926 please inquire for pricing and availability
William Mortensen "The Witch Lady Suite" (Courtney Crawford as Morgan le Fay) circa 1924 - 1926 please inquire for pricing and availability
William Mortensen "The Mirror Suite" (Courtney Crawford as Marie Antoinette) circa 1926 - 1928 please inquire for pricing and availability
William Mortensen Self Portrait with Courtney Crawford circa 1924 - 1926
William Mortensen "The Old Hag" circa 1928 please inquire for pricing and availability .

William Mortensen on Monsterbrains

William Mortensen on Dangerous Minds

Witches and Peasants by Eve Khan

William Mortensen's 20th Century Photos Are

Some Of The Most Beautifully Terrifying Images Ever Made

JUXTAPOZ "Monsters and Madonnas" August 2014

JUXTAPOZ "A Pictorial Compendium of Witchcraft" July 2014

William Mortensen: photographic master at the monster’s ball

William Mortensen (1897 - 1965) was an American Photographer, primarily known for his Hollywood portraits in the 1920s-1940s in the pictorialist style.

"Ansel Adams called him ‘the Antichrist’ and wanted him written out of history. But William Mortensen’s grotesque photographs of death, nudity and torture and are now having their day..

..Mortensen’s methods often made it hard to distinguish whether the results were photographs or not. He used traditional printmaking techniques, such as bromoiling, and developed many of his own. He would create composite images, scratch, scrape and draw on his prints, then apply a texture that made them look like etchings, thereby disguising his manipulations. Consequently, every print was unique. Ultimately, Mortensen’s aim was to create something that, for all intents and purposes, appeared to be a photograph, yet portrayed scenes so fantastic they caused wonder and astonishment in the viewer.

..His love of the fantastic and the grotesque was, then, partly an outward expression of his love to shock, but it had another purpose: by giving form to such emotions as fear and hatred, Mortensen, a Christian Scientist, believed “we are enabled to lessen their power over us”. He added: “When the world of the grotesque is known and appreciated, the real world becomes vastly more significant.”

..It was these kinds of ideas that so angered Adams and his Group f/64 brethren devoted to photography that depicted a pure, unmediated reality. This began a spirited debate with Mortensen within the pages of the magazine that became ever more vitriolic. However, Adams did not stop there, suggesting in a personal letter to Mortensen that he “negotiate oblivion”. When fellow photographer Edward Weston wrote telling of his excitement at photographing a “fresh corpse”, Adams replied: “My only regret is that the identity of said corpse is not our Laguna Beach colleague.”

..The critics Beaumont Newhall and his wife Nancy held the same view: Beaumont consciously excluded Mortensen from his grandiosely titled 1949 book The History of Photography, From 1839 to the Present Day. Their distaste would not even allow them to acknowledge Mortensen’s mastery of his craft. Ultimately though, for all the griping of Adams and f/64, it turns out that Mortensen was the true modernist all along, not them. For today, we are surrounded by images of the fantastic and unreal.


Created By
Stephen Romano