Archive for the 'fashion photography' Category

21
Jul
16

Exhibition: ‘Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 15th March – 31st July 2016

 

The Perfect Moment, The Perfect Medium and … Mapplethorpe, that seminal exhibition for Australia that I saw at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) in Sydney in 1995.

The technical brilliance, ravishing platinum prints (even though he never printed them himself), formalism, beauty, sensuality and, dare I say it, morality – of his work … fair bowled me over. His was an eye with a innate sensibility – “a quick sense of the right and wrong, in all human actions. And other objects considered in every view of morality and taste.”

I have never forgotten that exhibition, yet until recently there was hardly a sentence online about Mapplethorpe at the MCA. Now, thankfully, there are a some installation photographs and a few lines of text. The exhibition and the lack of information about it was one of the driving forces behind the setting up of this website.

Museums spend inordinate amounts of money putting on these exhibitions and after they are finished and the art work packed up, the catalogue shelved in a bookcase, that’s it. I wanted this website to be a form of cultural memory, where I could record the exhibition objects, installation photos and my thoughts about them so that they could live online.

I had great fun sequencing these images from the Getty (part of a double exhibition with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) second posting to follow): self-portraits in chronological order; portraits of the body as flesh and stone spliced by sculptural grapes; Lily and Lisa Lyon’s leg; the cross-over between tulips and white curtain; the sinuousness of Poppy and fabric of Lisa Lyon’s gown; Hermes/Moody/Sherman; and the blindness of all three men – the perfect Ken Moody, the darker (in both psychological and bodily sense) Ajitto, and the roughest, Jim, Sausalito.

I doubt that Mapplethorpe would have ever have sequenced them thus, but I hope it gives insight and a different perspective into his work.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the J. Paul Getty Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“I don’t understand the way my pictures are. It’s all about the relationship I have with the subject that’s unique to me. Taking a picture and sexuality are parallels. They’re both unknowns. And that’s what excites me most.”

.
Robert Mapplethorpe

 

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Self-portrait of Robert Mapplethorpe with trip cable in hand' 1974

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Self-portrait of Robert Mapplethorpe with trip cable in hand
1974
Gelatin silver print
Sheet (each): 9.3 x 11.6 cm (3 11/16 x 4 9/16 in.)
Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Self-Portrait' 1975

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Self-Portrait
1975
Gelatin silver print
35.4 x 35.7 cm (13 15/16 x 14 1/16 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Self-Portrait' 1980

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Self-Portrait
1980
Gelatin silver print
35.6 x 35.6 cm (14 x 14 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; partial gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation; partial purchase with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Self-Portrait' 1985

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Self-Portrait
1985
Gelatin silver print
38.7 x 38.6 cm (15 1/4 x 15 3/16 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Self-Portrait' 1988

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Self-Portrait
1988
Platinum print
58.7 x 48.3 cm (23 1/8 x 19 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; partial gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation; partial purchase with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Sam Wagstaff' 1977

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Sam Wagstaff
1977
Gelatin silver print
35.2 x 35.3 cm (13 7/8 x 13 7/8 in.)
Promised Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Andy Warhol' 1983

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Andy Warhol
1983
Gelatin silver print
39.1 x 38.5 cm (15 3/8 x 15 3/16 in.)
Promised Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Wrestler' 1988

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Wrestler
1988
Gelatin silver print
49 x 49 cm (19 5/16 x 19 5/16 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; partial gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation; partial purchase with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Derrick Cross' 1983

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Derrick Cross
1983
Gelatin silver print
48.5 x 38.2 cm (19 1/8 x 15 1/16 in.)
Promised Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Grapes' 1985

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Grapes
1985
Gelatin silver print
38.5 x 38 cm (15 3/16 x 14 15/16 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Lydia Cheng' 1987

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Lydia Cheng
1987
Gelatin silver print
59 x 49.1 cm (23 1/4 x 19 5/16 in.)
Promised Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Melody (Shoe)' 1987

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Melody (Shoe)
1987
Gelatin silver print
48.9 x 49.2 cm (19 1/4 x 19 3/8 in.)
Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

 

“Since his death in 1989, Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) has become recognized as one of the most significant artists of the late 20th century. He is best known for his perfectly composed photographs that explore gender, race, and sexuality, which became hallmarks of the period and exerted a powerful influence on his contemporaries. The J. Paul Getty Museum will present one half of Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium, a major retrospective exhibition of Mapplethorpe’s work, on view March 15-July 31, 2016 at the Getty Center. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) will host the other half of the exhibition March 20-July 31, 2016. The two exhibitions are drawn from the landmark joint acquisition and gift of art and archival materials made in 2011 by the J. Paul Getty Trust and LACMA from the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation.

“The historic acquisition of Mapplethorpe’s art and archival materials in 2011 has enabled our institutions’ curators and other scholars to study and assess Mapplethorpe’s achievement in greater depth than ever before,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “The rich photographic holdings in the Getty Museum and LACMA, together with the artist’s archive housed at the Getty Research Institute, make Los Angeles an essential destination for anyone with a serious interest in the late 20th-century photography scene in New York. These exhibitions will provide the most comprehensive and intimate survey of Mapplethorpe’s work ever seen.”

The Getty’s exhibition features the full range of Mapplethorpe’s photographs from his portraits, self-portraits, and figure studies to his floral still lifes. It includes some of Mapplethorpe’s best-known images alongside work that has been seldom exhibited. Key themes include Mapplethorpe’s studio practice, the controversy provoked by the inclusion of his sexually explicit pictures in the 1988-90 retrospective exhibition The Perfect Moment, and the legacy he left behind after his death from AIDS-related complications in 1989.

The exhibition begins with a survey of some of Mapplethorpe’s most familiar portraits, including those of his long-time benefactor and lover Samuel J. Wagstaff Jr., poet-musician Patti Smith, and fashion designer Carolina Herrera, among others. It also includes a number of intimate self-portraits, images of artists, and a rarely exhibited series of portraits of the eleven dealers who dominated the downtown New York City art scene during the late 1970s.

Mapplethorpe searched for well-proportioned models and underscored their powerful physical presence through obsessive attention to detail, the precision of their statuesque poses, and sophisticated lighting. This interest becomes evident in examples of the sculptural bodies he enlisted as subjects through the years. In particular, Mapplethorpe was attracted to the color of black skin (he liked to refer to it as “bronze”), and the exhibition includes a number of photographs of African-American models such as Ajitto and Thomas, whom he frequently used to evoke classical themes. Mapplethorpe’s Ken and Lydia and Tyler (1985) suggests the ancient trope of the Three Graces through three models of different racial backgrounds, while select photographs of model Lydia Cheng were further idealized through the application of a shimmering bronze powder on her skin.

One of Mapplethorpe’s frequent subjects was Lisa Lyon, a bodybuilding champion who considered herself a performance artist or sculptor whose body was her medium. After meeting Lyon at a party in 1979, Mapplethorpe and his new model embarked on a six-year collaboration that resulted in 184 editioned portraits. A selection of these images in the exhibition shows her dressed, undressed, and in various guises, ranging from ingénue to dominatrix. In his art Mapplethorpe was a perfectionist who preferred to make photographs in the highly controlled environment of his New York City studio loft. His style was predominately directorial – during a shoot he used short verbal commands and gestures to communicate the poses he wanted his models to strike. Afterwards, he would spend hours reviewing his contact sheets and hired master printer Tom Baril to make finely crafted gelatin silver prints.

“Mapplethorpe was more sophisticated than most people realize,” says Paul Martineau, associate curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum and curator of the exhibition. “He was an artist who understood the value of his own intuition and eye, who taught himself the history of photography, how to network, how to run a studio, and how to keep the public interested in him.”

The exhibition includes a selection of Mapplethorpe’s floral still lifes, which further demonstrate his skill in the studio. In these photographs he imbued orchids, calla lilies, poppies, and irises with an erotic charge through carefully orchestrated compositions and meticulous lighting. The Getty’s installation also features Mapplethorpe’s X Portfolio, which depicts the gay s&m community of which he was not just an observer, but a participant. It comprises 13 photographs of sex acts that Mapplethorpe staged for the camera with particular attention to the harmonious arrangement of forms. The careful selection, sizing, sequencing, and packaging of these prints in a luxurious portfolio case wrapped in black silk help to blur the line between fine art and pornography.

The exhibition directly addresses Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Moment, a retrospective exhibition that opened in 1988 at the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia before beginning an eight-venue tour. After the exhibition caught the attention of conservative politicians, it was canceled at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., two weeks before its scheduled opening. When it was later shown at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, director Dennis Barrie was arrested and charged with pandering obscenity – a charge of which he was acquitted. The exhibition also traveled to the Washington Project for the Arts (WPA), where it had record-breaking attendance. The Getty exhibition documents the media uproar surrounding The Perfect Moment through items that include a 1989 cover of ArtForum International featuring a protest that took place outside the Corcoran, exhibition catalogues that include images that were considered “obscene,” by some and Mapplethorpe’s photograph of an American flag.

“When planning this exhibition, I wanted the focus to be on Mapplethorpe’s work and not on the sensationalism that accompanied The Perfect Moment. I’ve included it in a small way because that exhibition not only represents a highpoint in Mapplethorpe’s career, but the controversy it engendered puts his sex pictures in a historical context,” says Paul Martineau. “I’m afraid that the first thing that comes to people’s minds when they think of Mapplethorpe is that controversy. There is so much more to discover about Mapplethorpe and his work than that. He continues to have an enormous impact on the photographic scene.”

The exhibition also emphasizes the care that Mapplethorpe took to craft his legacy. After being diagnosed with AIDS in 1986, Mapplethorpe continued to work more ardently than ever. In 1988 he established the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to steward his own work into the future, provide support for photography at the institutional level, and help fund AIDS research. A 1988 self-portrait on view shows Mapplethorpe’s face revealing signs of illness, his hand gripping a skull-topped cane, a symbol of his impending death. The simple composition and brutal honesty combine to make this photograph one of his most visually and psychologically powerful images.

The two complementary presentations at the Getty and LACMA highlight different aspects of the artist’s complex personality. LACMA’s exhibition underscores the artist’s relationship to New York’s underground, as well as his experimentation with a variety of media. Following its Los Angeles debut, the exhibition will go on an international tour, traveling to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in Montreal, Canada (8/29/16-1/22/17), the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia (10/28/17-2/4/18), and another international venue. The Getty and LACMA will be the exhibition’s sole U.S. venues, and the exhibitions will be combined and toured as one for the international locations. The LACMA exhibition is curated by Britt Salvesen, Department Head and Curator, Wallis Annenberg Photography Department and the Department of Prints and Drawings at LACMA.

Two books will be published in conjunction with the Mapplethorpe exhibition: Robert Mapplethorpe: The Photographs by Paul Martineau and Britt Salvesen with an essay by Eugenia Parry and an introduction by Weston Naef, and Robert Mapplethorpe: The Archive by Frances Terpak and Michelle Brunnick, with essays by Patti Smith and Jonathan Weinberg.”

Press release from the J. Paul Getty Museum

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Orchid' 1987

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Orchid
1987
Gelatin silver print
49.1 x 49.2 cm (19 5/16 x 19 3/8 in.)
Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Calla Lily' 1988

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Calla Lily
1988
Gelatin silver print
49 x 49 cm (19 5/16 x 19 5/16 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; partial gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation; partial purchase with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Lisa Lyon' 1981

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Lisa Lyon
1981
Gelatin silver print
45.1 x 35 cm (17 3/4 x 13 3/4 in.)
Promised Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Tulips' 1988

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Tulips
1988
Gelatin silver print
49.1 x 49 cm (19 5/16 x 19 5/16 in.)
Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Phillip Prioleau' 1982

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Phillip Prioleau
1982
Gelatin silver print
38.8 x 38.8 cm (15 1/4 x 15 1/4 in.)
Promised Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Tulips' 1978

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Tulips
1978
Gelatin silver print
35.4 x 35.4 cm (13 15/16 x 13 15/16 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Flower Arrangement' 1986

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Flower Arrangement
1986
Gelatin silver print
49 x 49 cm (19 5/16 x 19 5/16 in.)
Promised Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Flower With Knife' 1985

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Flower With Knife
1985
Platinum print
49.2 x 49.5 cm (19 3/8 x 19 1/2 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Poppy' 1988

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Poppy
1988
Gelatin silver print
49.1 x 49.2 cm (19 5/16 x 19 3/8 in.)
Promised Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Lisa Lyon' 1982

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Lisa Lyon
1982
Gelatin silver print
38.4 x 38.4 cm (15 1/8 x 15 1/8 in.)
Promised Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Lisa Lyon' 1982

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Lisa Lyon
1982
Gelatin silver print
40 x 38.5 cm (15 3/4 x 15 3/16 in.)
Promised Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Calla Lily' 1986

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Calla Lily
1986
Gelatin silver print
48.6 x 48.6 cm (19 1/8 x 19 1/8 in.)
Promised Gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation to the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

 

Text

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Thomas' 1987

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Thomas
1987
Gelatin silver print
48.8 x 48.8 cm (19 3/16 x 19 3/16 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Ken and Lydia and Tyler' 1985

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Ken and Lydia and Tyler
1985
Gelatin silver print
38.4 x 38.2 cm (15 1/8 x 15 1/16 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Ken Moody and Robert Sherman' 1984

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Ken Moody and Robert Sherman
1984
Platinum print
49.4 x 50.2 cm (19 7/16 x 19 3/4 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Hermes' 1988

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Hermes
1988
Gelatin silver print
49 x 49 cm (19 5/16 x 19 5/16 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; partial gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation; partial purchase with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Ken Moody' 1983

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Ken Moody
1983
Gelatin silver print
38.5 x 38.7 cm (15 3/16 x 15 1/4 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Ajitto' 1981

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Ajitto
1981
Gelatin silver print
45.4 x 35.5 cm (17 7/8 x 14 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Jim, Sausalito' 1977

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Jim, Sausalito
1977
from The X Portfolio
Selenium toned gelatin silver print mounted on black board
19.5 x 19.5 cm (7 11/16 x 7 11/16 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; partial gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation; partial purchase with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989) 'Patrice, N.Y.C.' 1977

 

Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Patrice, N.Y.C.
1977
from The X Portfolio
Selenium toned gelatin silver print mounted on black board
19.5 x 19.5 cm (7 11/16 x 7 11/16 in.)
Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; partial gift of The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation; partial purchase with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation
Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

 

 

 

The J. Paul Getty Museum
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles, California 90049

Opening hours:
Tues – Friday 10 am – 5.30 pm
Saturday 10 am – 9 pm
Sunday 10 am – 5.30 pm
Monday closed

The J. Paul Getty Museum website

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19
May
16

Exhibition: ‘Capa in Color’ at Jeu de Paume – Château de Tours

Exhibition dates: 21st November 2015 – 29th May 2016

Curator: Cynthia Young, curator at Robert Capa archives

 

 

To be honest, Robert Capa was not the most natural colour photographer, especially when you compare him to the likes of Paul Outerbridge and Saul Leiter who were working at around the same time. Even the official text from Jeu de Paume that accompanies the exhibition is littered with descriptions like “uninspired”, “the color photographs lack focus”, or worse, “Fleur Cowles at Look and Len Spooner at Illustrated were disappointed with the color images.”

His work in this medium is what I would call “observational” colour photography. The images are best when the subject is intimate, human and ‘on set’, preferably using a limited palette with splashes of subdued colour – such as in the gorgeous Model wearing Dior on the banks of the Seine, Paris, France (1948), the delicate Woman on the beach, Biarritz, France (1951), and the simpatico duo of Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre on the set of ‘Beat the Devil’, Ravello, Italy (April 1953) and Truman Capote and Jennifer Jones on the set of ‘Beat the Devil’, Ravello, Italy (April 1953). The photographs of Ava Gardner on set are also cracking images for their vitality and overall balance, as is the almost monochromatic Gen X girl, Colette Laurent, at the Chantilly racetrack, France (1952). Other ensemble tableaux might as well have been shot in black and white, such as Spectators at the Longchamp Racecourse, Paris, France (c. 1952).

Capa too often resorts to one or two strong primary colours for effect, as in Capucine, French model and actress, on a balcony, Rome, Italy (August 1951), Rambaugh Family Circus, Indiana, USA (1949) or American Judith Stanton, Zermatt, Switzerland (1950). In the the former two images the composition doesn’t work with the colour; only in the latter does it become a vigorous and joyous structural element. Sometimes I think that Capa didn’t exactly know what to do with colour – Woman at an ice bar, Zürs, Austria (1949-1950) and Party, Rome, Italy (August 1951) are not very good at all – but here we must acknowledge an artist experimenting with a relatively new commercial medium, even as he seeks to sell these images to his clients.

Capa in Color is at his best when he employs subtlety, constructing strong human compositions with nuanced placement of shades and hues. One of the most complex images in the posting is Anna Magnani on the set of Luchino Visconti’s ‘Bellissima’ (Rome, 1951-52). Just look at this image: your eye plays over the surface, investigating every nook and cranny, every modular plane. The blue of the skirt, the brown of the top, the patterns of the two bikinis and the earthiness of tree and earth. I am reminded of the paintings of Paul Cézanne.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

.
Many thankx to Jeu de Paume for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

The first exhibition dedicated to Capa’s fourteen years of color photographs, Capa in Color has an ambition to evaluate and place these photographs in the timeline of his career and of their period. Capa in Color shows how color photography renewed his vision and how his work gained from a new sensibility after the war, by readapting his compositions in color, but also to a public attracted to entertainment and to the discovery of new types of images.

 

 

Robert Capa et la couleur – Portrait filmé/videoportrait from Jeu de Paume / magazine on Vimeo.

 

Robert Capa (1913 - 1954) 'Regata, Lofoten Island, Hankoe' Norway, 1951

 

Robert Capa (1913 – 1954)
Regata, Lofoten Island, Hankoe
Norway, 1951
International Center of Photography, New York
© Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos

 

 

“Recently presented at the International Center of Photography and now available for travel, Capa in Color presents Robert Capa’s color photographs to the European public for the first time. Although he is recognized almost exclusively as a master of black-and-white photography, Capa began working regularly with color film in 1941 and used it until his death in 1954. While some of this work was published in the magazines of the day, the majority of these images have never been printed or seen in any form.

Capa in Color includes over 150 contemporary color prints by Capa, as well as personal papers and tearsheets from the magazines in which the images originally appeared. Organized by Cynthia Young, curator of Capa Collections at ICP, the exhibition presents an unexpected aspect of Capa’s career that has been previously edited out of posthumous books and exhibitions, and show how he embraced color photography and integrated it into his work as a photojournalist in the 1940s and 1950s.

Robert Capa’s (1913-1954) reputation as one of history’s most notable photojournalists is well established. Born Endre Ernö Friedmann in Budapest and naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1946, he was deemed “The Greatest War Photographer in the World” by Picture Post in a late 1938 publication of his Spanish Civil War photographs. During World War II, he worked for such magazines as Collier’s and Life, extensively portraying preparation for war as well as its devastating aftermath. His best-known images symbolized for many the brutality and valor of war and changed the public perception of, and set new standards for, war photography.

July 27, 1938, while in China for eight months covering the Sino-Japanese war, Robert Capa wrote to a friend at his New York agency, “… send 12 rolls of Kodachrome with all instructions; … Send it “Via Clipper” because I have an idea for Life“. Although no color film from China survives except for four prints published in the October 17, 1938, issue of Life, Capa was clearly interested in working with color photography even before it was widely used by many other photojournalists.

In 1941, he photographed Ernest Hemingway at his home in Sun Valley, Idaho, in color, and used color for a story about crossing the Atlantic on a freighter with an Allied convoy, published in the Saturday Evening Post. While Capa is best known for the black-and-white images of D-Day, he also used color film sporadically during World War II, most notably to photograph American troops and the French Camel Corps in Tunisia in 1943.

Capa’s use of color film exploded in his postwar stories for magazines such as Holiday (USA ), Ladies’ Home Journal (USA ), Illustrated (UK), and Epoca (Italy). These photographs, which until now have been seen only in magazine spreads, brought the lives of ordinary and exotic people from around the world to American and European readers alike, and were markedly different from the war reportage that had dominated Capa’s early career. Capa’s technical ability coupled with his engagement with human emotion in his prewar black-andwhite stories enabled him to move back and forth between black and white and color film and integrate color to complement the subjects he photographed. These early stories include photographs of Moscow’s Red Square from a 1947 trip to the USS R with writer John Steinbeck and refugees and the lives of new settlers in Israel in 1949-50. For the Generation X project, Capa traveled to Oslo and northern Norway, Essen, and Paris to capture the lives and dreams of youth born before the war.

Capa’s photographs also provided readers a glimpse into more glamorous lifestyles that depended on the allure and seduction of color photography. In 1950, he covered fashionable ski resorts in the Swiss, Austrian, and French Alps, and the stylish French resorts of Biarritz and Deauville for the burgeoning travel market capitalized on by Holiday magazine. He even tried fashion photography by the banks of the Seine and on the Place Vendôme. Capa also photographed actors and directors on European film sets, including Ingrid Bergman in Roberto Rossellini’s Viaggio in Italia, Orson Welles in Black Rose, and John Huston’s Moulin Rouge. Additional portraiture in this period included striking images of Picasso, on the beach near Vallauris, France with his young son Claude.

Capa carried at least two cameras for all of his postwar stories: one with black-and-white film and one with color, using a combination of 35mm and 4 x 5 Kodachrome and medium-format Ektachrome film, emphasizing the importance of this new medium in his development as a photographer. He continued to work with color until the end of his life, including in Indochina, where he was killed in May 1954. His color photographs of Indochina presage the color images that dominated the coverage from Vietnam in the 1960s.

Capa in Color is the first museum exhibition to explore Capa’s fourteen-year engagement with color photography and to assess this work in relation to his career and period in which he worked. His talent with black-andwhite composition was prodigious, and using color film halfway through his career required a new discipline. Capa in Color explores how he started to see anew with color film and how his work adapted to a new postwar sensibility. The new medium required him to readjust to color compositions, but also to a postwar audience, interested in being entertained and transported to new places.”

Press release from Jeu de Paume

 

Robert Capa (1913 - 1954) 'A crewman signals another ship of an Allied convoy across the Atlantic from the US to England' 1942

 

Robert Capa (1913 – 1954)
A crewman signals another ship of an Allied convoy across the Atlantic from the US to England
1942
International Center of Photography, New York
© Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos

 

 

It is surprising, even shocking to some, that famous photojournalist Robert Capa (born Budapest 1913, died Indochina 1954) photographed in color, and not just occasionally, but regularly after 1941. His colored work is essentially unknown. Capa is considered a master of black-and-white war photography, a man who documented some of the most important political events of Western Europe in the mid-twentieth century. His photographs of 1930s Paris, the Spanish Civil War, World War II, postwar Europe, and his last images in Indochina are known to us in black-and-white. None of the posthumous retrospective projects of his work have included color, with a few rare exceptions..

Capa first experimented with color in 1938, two years after Kodak developed Kodachrome, the first color roll film. While in China covering the Sino-Japanese War, he wrote to a friend at his New York agency, Pix, “Please immediately send 12 rolls of Kodachrome with all instructions; whether special filters are needed, etc. – in short, all I should know. Send it ‘Via Clipper’, because I have an idea for Life“. Only four color images from China were published, but Capa’s enthusiasm for color was born. He photographed with color film again in 1941 and for the next two years he fought hard to persuade editors to buy his color images in addition to the black-and-white. After the war, the magazines were eager to include color and his color assignments increased. For the rest of his life, he almost always carried at least two cameras: one for black-and-white and one for color film.

 

Robert Capa (1913 - 1954) 'American Captain Jay F. Shelley stands in front of "The Goon," a B-17 bomber, before a raid over Italy, Tunisia, 1943' 1943

 

Robert Capa (1913 – 1954)
American Captain Jay F. Shelley stands in front of “The Goon,” a B-17 bomber, before a raid over Italy, Tunisia, 1943
1943
International Center of Photography, New York
© Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos

 

 

Jay F. Shelley, Sr., 88, of Yuma,formerly of Scottsdale, Arizona, entered Eternity on June 6, 2004. Jay was born May 16, 1916, in Long Beach, California. He was a decorated B-17 Bomber Pilot during WWII and flew 54 combat missions. He received a degree in business administration with a major in accounting from University of Montana. Jay worked as an accountant until 1979 when he retired with his wife to Scottsdale, Arizona. Capt. Jay F Shelley was assigned to the 301st BG 32nd Squadron.

 

Robert Capa (1913 - 1954) 'Damaged plane hosed down with chemicals after landing on belly following a raid over Occupied France, England, July 1941' 1941

 

Robert Capa (1913 – 1954)
Damaged plane hosed down with chemicals after landing on belly following a raid over Occupied France, England, July 1941
1941
International Center of Photography, New York
© Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos

 

The plane is a Bristol Blenheim.

 

Robert Capa (1913 - 1954) 'American crewmen stand in front of a B-17 bomber' England 1942

 

Robert Capa (1913 – 1954)
American crewmen stand in front of a B-17 bomber that is being prepared to take off from a Royal Air Force base for a daylight bombing raid over occupied France. This B-17 was one of the first 300 to be brought overseas by the US Army Air Forces
England, 1942
International Center of Photography, New York
© Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos

 

Robert Capa (1913 - 1954) 'An American B-17 gunner awaits take off from a Royal Air Force base for a daylight bombing raid over occupied France' England, 1942

 

Robert Capa (1913 – 1954)
An American B-17 gunner awaits take off from a Royal Air Force base for a daylight bombing raid over occupied France
England, 1942
International Center of Photography, New York
© Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos

 

 

World War II

In 1941, Capa produced his first color film story for the Saturday Evening Post, about crossing the Atlantic from new york on a convoy. Once in England, he was also able to sell these images to the English magazine Illustrated, because the two magazines did not have the same readerships.

He made the crossing again the next year, carrying a larger format camera that made bigger, more spectacular portraits of the ship’s crew. The turnaround time for Kodachrome film was several weeks. As Kodak maintained secrecy surrounding the formula, the undeveloped film had to go to a special Kodak processing plant and then returned to the photographer. It was not ideal for timely news. The magazines published few of Capa’s color images from the UK, but he persisted in using it. In 1943, he entered the battlefields of World War II in North Africa, first traveling on a troop ship from England to Casablanca. His last color images from the war were taken on a boat from Tunisia to Sicily in July 1943, where he debarked and moved up to Naples with America soldiers over the following months. It appears that for the rest of the war he did not use color film, apparently discouraged by a combination of the slow shutter speed of the film, long processing times, and the uneven commitment to his color images by the magazines.

 

Robert Capa (1913 - 1954) 'Rambaugh Family Circus, Indiana, USA' 1949

 

Robert Capa (1913 – 1954)
Rambaugh Family Circus, Indiana, USA
1949
International Center of Photography, New York
© Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos

 

 

USA

Soon after his return from England, in the fall of 1941, Capa traveled to Sun Valley, Idaho, to do a story for life on his friends, the writers Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn, whom he had met during the Spanish Civil War. After World War II, Capa sought out new relationships with magazines and holiday became one of his most important supporters.

A glamorous travel magazine that featured New Yorker – caliber writers, Holiday was launched in 1946 by the Philadelphia-based Curtis Publishing Company, which also carried The Saturday Evening Post and Ladies’ Home Journal. Born in full color, it was a peacetime publication catering to an ideal of American postwar prosperity. Holiday covered American cities, but immediately assigned stories on stylish international hot spots, places readers could dream of visiting with the advent in 1947 of nonstop transatlantic flights. In 1950, Holiday sent Capa to Indianapolis, and while his pictures of a nuclear family of five exploring the city are uninspired, he also photographed a family-run traveling circus. Despite Capa’s lukewarm attitude toward American culture, the color images present a strong vision of American small-town life.

 

Robert Capa (1913 - 1954) 'Young visitors waiting to see Lenin's Tomb at Red Square' Moscow 1947

 

Robert Capa (1913 – 1954)
Young visitors waiting to see Lenin’s Tomb at Red Square
Moscow, 1947
International Center of Photography, New York
© Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos

 

 

USSR

The year 1947 was a turning point in Capa’s life. He founded Magnum, the photographers cooperative agency he had dreamed of since 1938. The same year, he traveled to the Soviet Union, a trip that he had wanted to make in 1937 and then in 1941, both times unable to obtain a visa or magazine support for the trip.

He teamed up with writer John Steinbeck to report on the lives and opinions of ordinary Russians in opposition to Cold War rhetoric. Their adventures were published in the book A Russian Journal the following year and syndicated in newspapers and international picture magazines. Although the color images were well represented in the magazines and on the cover of Illustrated for a special issue, Capa did not shoot much color film in the Soviet Union, and no color was included in A Russian Journal, except for the cover. Either he deemed only a few places worthy of the new medium format Ektachrome color film that did not require special processing – chiefly Moscow and collective farms in the Ukraine and Georgia – or he had only a limited amount of film and used it sparingly. The images of Red Square take full advantage of color film.

 

Robert Capa (1913 - 1954) 'Pablo Picasso playing in the water with his son Claude, near Vallauris, France' 1948

 

Robert Capa (1913 – 1954)
Pablo Picasso playing in the water with his son Claude, near Vallauris, France
1948
International Center of Photography, New York
© Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos

 

 

Picasso

Some of Capa’s color works were considerably less successful than his black-and-white photographs. This was the case with his 1948 feature on Picasso, originally sold to look as a story about the artist’s pottery, but as Capa failed to take pictures of the pottery, it became a story about Picasso and his family.

He instructed his Magnum colleague Maria Eisner: “Look gave me a definite assignment but no price so you have to insist on $200 pro black and white and $300 pro colored page, and $250 for expenses. If they are not willing to pay a reasonable sum, you can withdraw, but Madame Fleurs Cowles was so positive on this matter and the pictures are so exclusive that I could be very surprise[d] if this doesn’t work”. Both Fleur Cowles at Look and Len Spooner at Illustrated were disappointed with the color images, although delighted with the story, which included Capa’s now famous picture of Picasso holding a sun umbrella over his ravishing young artist girlfriend, Françoise Gilot, parading on the beach.

 

Hungary

In 1948, Holiday sent Capa to his native Budapest and commissioned him to write the accompanying article. Capa had been widely praised for the hilarious and self-deprecating 1947 book about his wartime exploits, slightly out of focus, so the editors were hardly taking risk by asking him to write a long article.

Holiday used four color images in the November 1949 issue. Unlike the glamorous destinations the magazine usually covered or that Capa would later cover for them, the images and accompanying article, one of the strongest texts he wrote about a place, functioned more as a letter from Budapest. He observes with fascination and humor the clashing end of one empire with the start of another, bittersweet against the reality of what his childhood city had become. While he seemed to have had more color film on this assignment than in Russia, it was expensive to buy and process, so he still conserved, and there are many more black-and-white negatives of similar scenes than in color.

 

Morocco

Capa’s 1949 trip to Morocco was one of the few postwar stories he made concerning a political subject, but it was a complicated sell and failed as an international news story.

The assignment was muddled from the start, as it combined Moroccan politics, lead mines, and the filming of The Black Rose with Orson Welles. Paris Match first published some of the pictures in a piece about the annual tour of the country by the Moroccan leader Sultan Sidi Mohammed. Illustrated published a story with only black-and-white images about the strange effects of the Marshall Plan, in which as a French colony Morocco received American aid through France, although the French General was not recognized as the leader in charge by the U.S. State Department. Some of the best images are portraits of the Moroccan people.

 

Robert Capa (1913 - 1954) 'Construction of the new settlements for workers, Neguev Desert, outside Be'er Sheva, Israel' 1949-1950

 

Robert Capa (1913 – 1954)
Construction of the new settlements for workers, Neguev Desert, outside Be’er Sheva, Israel
1949-1950
International Center of Photography, New York
© Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos

 

Robert Capa (1913 - 1954) 'Former shop near Jaffa gate, Jerusalem, Israel' 1949

 

Robert Capa (1913 – 1954)
Former shop near Jaffa gate, Jerusalem, Israel
1949
International Center of Photography, New York
© Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos

 

 

Israel

Capa’s big geopolitical assignment of the late 1940s took him to Israel. He first traveled there in 1948 to cover the Arab-Israeli war, then returned in 1949, for Holiday and Illustrated, with writer Irwin Shaw.

He came back in 1950 to continue photographing the new nation in transition, focusing on the influx of refugees arriving from Europe and neighboring Arab countries, the ongoing repair of the physical destruction, portraits of immigrants, agricultural work, kibbutzim, and various Jewish festivities. While there is only one color image from the 1948 trip, of the Altalena ship burning in the water off the beach in Tel Aviv – a result of the conflict between extreme right-wing Irgunists and the Israeli government – by the time Capa arrived in 1949, he seemed to have all the color film he needed. His Israel stories were picked up by all the major international picture news magazines, spurred by the 1950 publication Report on Israel, with text by Shaw and photos by Capa.

 

Robert Capa (1913 - 1954) 'Jetty, Socoa, near Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France' August 1951

 

Robert Capa (1913 – 1954)
Jetty, Socoa, near Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France
August 1951
International Center of Photography, New York
© Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos

 

Robert Capa (1913 - 1954) 'Woman on the beach, Biarritz, France' August 1951

 

Robert Capa (1913 – 1954)
Woman on the beach, Biarritz, France
August 1951
International Center of Photography, New York
© Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos

 

 

Deauville and Biarritz

Following the success of his skiing story, Capa proposed a piece on French seaside resorts. In the summer of 1950, he traveled to Deauville in Normandy, with its racetrack and casino, photographing only in black-and-white (all that appeared in Illustrated).

He knew he could do more with the story and pitched it to Holiday as a double feature with Biarritz, in Basque Country. A year later, he returned to Deauville with color film to photograph the scene, capturing the mix of social classes at the horse races. He then traveled to Biarritz, covering the beach, nightlife, and traditional folklore. For this story, the black-andwhite and color images complement each other – the color adding details to the black-and-white, which set the stage. The layout, not published until September 1953, balances the color and black-and-white with Capa’s humorous, self-deprecating text about his time in each resort.

 

Robert Capa (1913 - 1954) 'Capucine, French model and actress, on a balcony, Rome, Italy' August 1951

 

Robert Capa (1913 – 1954)
Capucine, French model and actress, on a balcony, Rome, Italy
August 1951
International Center of Photography, New York
© Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos

 

 

Capucine (6 January 1928 – 17 March 1990) was a French fashion model and actress known for her comedic roles in The Pink Panther (1963) and What’s New Pussycat? (1965). She appeared in 36 films and 17 television productions between 1948 and 1990. At age 17, while riding in a carriage in Paris, she was noticed by a commercial photographer. She became a fashion model, working for fashion houses Givenchy and Christian Dior. She adopted the name, “Capucine” (French for nasturtium). She met Audrey Hepburn while modeling for Givenchy in Paris. The two would remain close friends for the rest of Capucine’s life.

In 1957, film producer Charles K. Feldman spotted Capucine while she was modeling in New York City. Feldman brought her to Hollywood to learn English and study acting under Gregory Ratoff. She was signed to a contract with Columbia Pictures in 1958 and landed her first English-speaking role in the film Song Without End (1960) for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe Award. Over the next few years, Capucine made six more major motion pictures. They included North to Alaska (1960), a comedy, as a prostitute who becomes the love interest of John Wayne, and Walk on the Wild Side (1962), in which she portrayed a redeemed hooker, before moving to Switzerland in 1962.

Much of 1963’s hit film The Pink Panther was shot in Europe. A crime comedy that led to a number of sequels, the film starred David Niven and Peter Sellers along with Capucine. The risqué comedy What’s New Pussycat? (1965), which co-starred Sellers and Peter O’Toole, was filmed entirely in France. She continued making films in Europe until her death. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Robert Capa (1913 - 1954) 'Party, Rome, Italy' August 1951

 

Robert Capa (1913 – 1954)
Party, Rome, Italy
August 1951
International Center of Photography, New York
© Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos

 

 

Rome

In his article on norway for Holiday, Capa wrote: “I have revisited Budapest because i happen to have been born there, and because the place offered only a short season for revisiting. I even got to Moscow, which usually offers no revisiting at all. I kept on revisiting Paris because I used to live there before the war; London, because I lived there during the war; and Rome, because I was sorry that I had never lived there at all.”

Capa traveled to Rome for Holiday in 1951 and his pictures were published in April 1952, with a text authored by Alan Moorehead. A writer for The New Yorker at the time of the Rome assignment, Moorehead had been a correspondent for the Daily Express of London during World War II, and he and Capa had been together in North Africa, Sicily, and Normandy. Capa’s accompanying color photographs pursued a glamorous city filled with beautiful people engaged in endless partying, reflecting a Rome removed from postwar destruction and entering the period of La Dolce Vita.

 

Robert Capa (1913 - 1954) 'American Judith Stanton, Zermatt, Switzerland' 1950

 

Robert Capa (1913 – 1954)
American Judith Stanton, Zermatt, Switzerland
1950
International Center of Photography, New York
© Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos

 

Robert Capa (1913 - 1954) 'Woman at an ice bar, Zürs, Austria' 1949-1950

 

Robert Capa (1913 – 1954)
Woman at an ice bar, Zürs, Austria
1949-1950
International Center of Photography, New York
© Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos

 

 

Skiing

Skiing was one of Capa’s favorite pastimes and he vacationed annually in Klosters, Switzerland, to relax and recuperate. In 1948, he and a Magnum colleague were trying to drum up a story on Megève, France, a popular ski resort for Parisians, on its “dual personality . . . simple peasant life and gay, café society set.”

Capa photographed in Zürs, Austria, in early 1949, for a Life story, although the magazine ultimately killed it. Holiday pulled in after Life dropped out and, in late 1949, signed on to a feature about the great skiing resorts of Austria, Switzerland, and France, which would become one of Capa’s most joyous and successful color stories. In fact, it was arguably better in color, which provided the additional elements of glitter and humor that black-and-white often missed. For two months, he traveled from the Austrian resorts of Kitzbühel, St. Anton, Zürs, and Lech, to the Swiss towns of Davos, Klosters, and Zermatt, then over the French border to Val d’Isère. In each place, he found a glamorous circle to depict: director Billy Wilder and writer Peter Viertel from Hollywood, young international ski champions, and current and ex-European royalty, including the Queen and Prince of Holland. Everyone was healthy and the mood festive. Capa found a relaxed, casual confidence in his subjects.

 

Robert Capa (1913 - 1954) 'Spectators at the Longchamp Racecourse, Paris, France' c. 1952

 

Robert Capa (1913 – 1954)
Spectators at the Longchamp Racecourse, Paris, France
c. 1952
International Center of Photography, New York
© Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos

 

Robert Capa (1913 - 1954) 'Model wearing Dior on the banks of the Seine, Paris, France' 1948

 

Robert Capa (1913 – 1954)
Model wearing Dior on the banks of the Seine, Paris, France
1948
International Center of Photography, New York
© Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos

 

 

Paris

Paris was Capa’s de facto home from 1933 to 1939 and then as his postwar base, usually in a back room of the elegant Hotel Lancaster off the Champs-Élysées, where he was friend with the owner.

Holiday‘s editor Ted Patrick commissioned Capa to provide photographs for a special issue on Paris in 1952, and Capa brought in other Magnum colleagues – Henri Cartier-Bresson, Chim, and the young Dennis Stock. The magazine included texts by Irwin Shaw, Paul Bowles, Ludwig Bemelmans, Art Buchwald, and Colette, among others, and is a romantic paean to the city, almost a stage set for romance, gastronomy, and history. Some of Capa’s best images from this story are the quirkiest ones and play with the contrasts that he seemed to revel in, between the young and old, human and animal, high-life and low-life, particularly at the horse races, about which he noted: “The sport of kings is also the sport of concierges”. For his photographs of plein air painters, Capa wrote: “Place du Tertre is a painter’s paradise. A few stops from Sacré Coeur we find an old gentleman in beard and beret looking like an American movie producer’s idea of the kind of French painter found in Montmartre”.

 

Robert Capa (1913 - 1954) 'Gen X girl, Colette Laurent, at the Chantilly racetrack, France' 1952

 

Robert Capa (1913 – 1954)
Gen X girl, Colette Laurent, at the Chantilly racetrack, France
1952
International Center of Photography, New York
© Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos

 

 

Generation X

Capa developed Generation X, also known as Gen X, for Magnum on the mark of the half century in late 1949. McCall’s was originally behind the project, but had pulled out by 1951, when Capa insisted on injecting more political content.

Holiday filled the void and supported the project all the way to a three-part series published in early 1953. Capa observed, “it was one of those projects, of which many are born in the minds of people who have big ideas and little money. The funny thing about this project is that it was accomplished.” He assigned the photographers, including Chim, Cartier-Bresson, and Eve Arnold, to each create a portrait of a boy and/or girl in countries where they were already working or had worked. Each subject answered a detailed questionnaire about his or her life, family, personal beliefs, and goals. The project eventually included twenty-four individuals in fourteen countries on five continents. Capa photographed all his subjects – a French girl, a German boy, and Norwegian boy and girl – in color and black-and-white, but only the Norwegian photos were published in color. Capa’s biographer Richard Whelan suggested that Capa’s depiction of the French girl, Colette Laurent, was an oblique portrait of himself at the time: “Her life is superficial, artificial on the surface and holds none of the good things except the material ones.”

 

Robert Capa (1913 - 1954) 'Ava Gardner on the set of 'The Barefoot Contessa', Tivoli, Italy' 1954

 

Robert Capa (1913 – 1954)
Ava Gardner on the set of ‘The Barefoot Contessa’, Tivoli, Italy
1954
International Center of Photography, New York
© Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos

 

Robert Capa (1913 - 1954) 'Ava Gardner on the set of The Barefoot Contessa, Tivoli, Italy' 1954

 

Robert Capa (1913 – 1954)
Ava Gardner on the set of ‘The Barefoot Contessa’, Tivoli, Italy
1954
International Center of Photography, New York
© Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos

 

Robert Capa (1913 - 1954) 'Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre on the set of Beat the Devil, Ravello, Italy' April 1953

 

Robert Capa (1913 – 1954)
Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre on the set of ‘Beat the Devil’, Ravello, Italy
April 1953
International Center of Photography, New York
© Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos

 

Robert Capa (1913 - 1954) 'Truman Capote and Jennifer Jones on the set of Beat the Devil, Ravello, Italy' April 1953

 

Robert Capa (1913 – 1954)
Truman Capote and Jennifer Jones on the set of ‘Beat the Devil’, Ravello, Italy
April 1953
International Center of Photography, New York
© Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos

 

Robert Capa (1913 - 1954) 'Jeffrey Hunter on the set of 'Single-Handed (Sailor of the King)'' Malta, 1952

 

Robert Capa (1913 – 1954)
Jeffrey Hunter on the set of ‘Single-Handed (Sailor of the King)’
Malta, 1952
International Center of Photography, New York
© Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos

 

Robert Capa (1913 - 1954) 'John Huston at the café Les Deux Magots during the filming of 'Moulin Rouge'' Paris, 1952

 

Robert Capa (1913 – 1954)
John Huston at the café Les Deux Magots during the filming of ‘Moulin Rouge’
Paris, 1952
International Center of Photography, New York
© Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos

 

Robert Capa (1913 - 1954) 'Anna Magnani on the set of Luchino Visconti's 'Bellissima'' Rome, 1951-52

 

Robert Capa (1913 – 1954)
Anna Magnani on the set of Luchino Visconti’s ‘Bellissima’
Rome, 1951-52
International Center of Photography, New York
© Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos

 

Robert Capa (1913 - 1954) 'Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders on the set of 'Viaggio in Italia'' Naples, April 1953

 

Robert Capa (1913 – 1954)
Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders on the set of ‘Viaggio in Italia’
Naples, April 1953
International Center of Photography, New York
© Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos

 

 

On the set

Capa was friends with a number of movie stars and directors and incorporated them into his professional work. He met John Huston in Naples in 1944, while Huston was making films for the Army Signal Corps, and Ingrid Bergman in 1945 when she was filming in Paris, before beginning a one-year love affair.

As part of his 1948 trip to Morocco, he included a story on The Black Rose and its star Orson Welles. He photographed the set of Huston’s Beat the Devil, written by Truman Capote and filmed in the hillside town of Ravello, Italy. The cast visited the set of Viaggio in Italia in nearby Almalfi with Bergman, Roberto Rossellini, and George Sanders and Capa also dipped down to Paestum with his friend Martha Gellhorn, casting her as a caryatid in the ancient ruins. Capa covered another Huston film, Moulin Rouge, about the life of painter Toulouse Lautrec, shot in Paris and at Shepperton Studios near London. Capa’s color portraits of the actors eschew traditional head shots and capture the varied pace and playful moments on the set.

 

Robert Capa (1913 - 1954) 'Spectators along the procession route in Piccadilly Circus before the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, London, England' February 6, 1953

 

Robert Capa (1913 – 1954)
Spectators along the procession route in Piccadilly Circus before the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, London, England
February 6, 1953
International Center of Photography, New York
© Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos

 

 

London and Japan

In 1953, Capa traveled to London to cover the coronation of the young Elizabeth II with friends Humphrey Bogart and John Huston. His color images of crowds waiting for the parade of guests before the coronation, for which he used 35mm Kodachrome, suggest a new interest in color for color’s sake.

In 1954, he received an invitation from Mainichi Press to travel to Japan for six weeks with Japanese cameras and an unrestricted amount of film to shoot what he liked in return for images they could publish. The trip was an easy one, but the color photographs lack focus. He wandered around markets, documented foreign signs, watched people visiting temples and shrines, and photographed Children’s Day in Osaka, but they are little better than tourist snaps. Only a few images of a May Day workers’ celebration in Tokyo, in bright colors, show some engagement, reminiscent of his 1930s images of workers in France and Spain.

 

Robert Capa (1913 - 1954) 'On the road from Namdinh to Thaibinh, Indochina (Vietnam)' May 1954

 

Robert Capa (1913 – 1954)
On the road from Namdinh to Thaibinh, Indochina (Vietnam)
May 1954
International Center of Photography, New York
© Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos

 

Robert Capa (1913 - 1954) 'West of Namdinh, Indochina (Vietnam)' May 1954

 

Robert Capa (1913 – 1954)
West of Namdinh, Indochina (Vietnam)
May 1954
International Center of Photography, New York
© Robert Capa/International Center of Photography/Magnum Photos

 

 

Indochina

In 1953, Capa expressed his readiness “to get back to real work, and soon. What and where I do not know, but the Deauville and Biarritz and motley movie period is over.”

In the same letter, he writes of his desire to go to “Indochina, or any other proposition which would get me back to reporting on my own type of territory”. While in Japan the next year, Capa received a cable from Life asking him to cover for their photographer in Indochina. The assignment was only for a few weeks and would bring in some needed money. He reached Hanoi on May 9 and on May 25, with Time reporter John Mecklin and Scripps-Howard correspondent John Lucas, left Mandihn with two cameras, a Contax with black-and-white film, and a Nikon with color film. Their convoy traveled along a dirt road lined by rice paddies. Moving toward Thaibinh, Capa left the convoy and walked on by himself. He photographed the soldiers advancing through the fields, and as he climbed the dike along the road, he stepped on a land mine and was killed. While the color images are some of the strongest war pictures he made, none were used in the press at the time, probably in part because of the extra time required to process the color film.

 

 

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13
May
16

Exhibition: ‘François Kollar. A Working Eye’ at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Exhibition dates: 9th February – 22nd May 2016

Curators: Matthieu Rivallin, collections officer, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine, Paris, and Pia Viewing, curator – researcher at the Jeu de Paume, Paris.

 

 

François Kollar is a magnificent photographer. He produced strong images that possess few histrionics, even less ego. They simply just are.

People quoted in this posting comment that in his photographs “human measure is omnipresent”; that you never loose the sense of scale; that there are “frequent contrasts between near and far, the intimate and the monumental”; that his photographs are “an anthropological investigation into the behaviour, gestures and postures of people at work”; that “Men and women and their functions and roles in the production process are recurrent elements.”

All these statements are true.

Further, his images are sensitive, beautiful, show no traces of any social movements, and little sign of emotion. As Dominique Vautrin observes, “François Kollar is a photographer who resembles his images: somewhat mysterious, beautiful, and discreet…” And as the text from Jeu de Paume states, “He revealed himself to be a temperate photographer, somewhere between the barebones modernism of Bauhaus and a humanist approach to photography.” Other photographers who could fit into this playlist could be Bill Brandt in England, Walker Evans in America and Wolfgang Sievers in Australia.

But what a splendid description – a “temperate photographer”. Showing moderation and self-restraint… there is far too little of that in contemporary photography. A humanist with an avant-garde edge, a photographer whose vision was clear and consistent throughout his oeuvre, who could turn his hand to anything: advertising, fashion, avant-garde, double exposures, solarisation, photomontage, documentary reportage, surrealism, constructivism, modernism.

Joseph Nechvatal comments that Kollar’s work is poignant. This is an incorrect word to describe the work, for the photographs never evoke a keen sense of sadness or regret. They are of a different order altogether. Let me explain.

There is a wonderful stoicism about the people who Kollar chooses to photograph, who inhabit his world of work. The endurance of work without the display of feelings and without complaint. Labour is not represented in any glorified way, not as a noble undertaking, and certainly not heroic (although the worker can be represented as intimate and monumental). The workers are represented as an adjunct to the machine but not in a cyborg fashion. In his photographs there is a distinctness about the worker which sets the human apart from the machine, even as he is “deeply embedded within their functions and roles in the production process.” I don’t believe that people understand this separation, preferring instead to comment on the embedding of the human within machine processes. But something was bothering me when I looked at these images and I have pondered long and hard over how to interpret them. There was something I could not put my finger on and it is this…

In the work of Lewis Hine, the workers are in the present looking to the future. In the work of François Kollar there is no justification for the work it is just work… being there in the present. No ego, no elevation of experience or emotion, and the photographs are just so. Just being in the world. The thing itself. Nothing more, nothing less. It seems simple when you say it like that, but the concept is very complex – to allow the photograph to materialise from consciousness, as a sort of previsualisation of experience – of being a poor, working class immigrant (which Kollar was) picturing his own.

That he achieved such photographs “with his 5 x 7 large-format camera and cumbersome lighting equipment” is a testament to the dedication to his craft, to his work, and to his roots – a connection to the working man and woman. These are honest and forthright photographs of what most humans do for most of their life: work at a job they may not like – to pay the bills, to put food on the table. The lighting is superb, the compositions eloquent, the characters in his images unforgettable (Kollar particularly likes portraits of men shot from below with their arms folded) but it is the balance between the subjective and objective which is so finely honed in his work. The dispationate nature of humans when at work is balanced by the aesthetics of the artist and the humanity of the individual.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

.
Many thankx to Jeu de Paume for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

View an interesting video of the exhibition and the work of François Kollar on Vimeo. More photographs from La France travaille.

 

This retrospective features an ensemble of 130 vintage prints, some of which are previously unseen, as well as others from the photographer’s family’s bequest to the state. It puts Kollar’s work in the spotlight and shows how he managed to lift the veil on the working world in the 20th century. As visitors discover the documentary, artistic and historical qualities of the material on show, they will be able to observe how individuals found their place in society by the means of their occupation and realise the profound changes that took place in industry between the 1930s and the 1960s.

 

“Without falling into hammy Socialist Realism style, Kollar rendered French working class heroes in beautiful, discreet, lush black-and-white tones. These images of the working person endow them with qualities of excellence, nobility, and respect, and evoked in me mixed sensations of hard materialistic capability and human tenderness. These images of men and women, such as “Nettoyage des lampes. Société des mines de Lens, Lens (Pas-de-Calais)” (1931-34, below), show people deeply embedded within their functions and roles in the production process. In that sense, they contrast with Dorothea Lange’s famous and beautiful Migrant Mother series and the uninhabited, rigorously stark industrial scenes photographed by Bernd and Hilla Becher…

Kollar’s distinctive aesthetic provides a strong, sweet spot amid the sour struggles for employment taking place today in economies shaped by histories of slavery, colonialism, union-busting, sexual exploitation, and corporate capitalism. His artistic style, one that colorlessly abstracts, unifies, and embeds the worker within his or her technological environment, broadens the social politics of employment beyond the heroic human. Rather, he depicts through his unifying, ashen tones the conjunction of laborer and machine. In these photographs, the human worker is bound up with non-human apparatuses in cyborg fashion, depicting a complex technological laborer who is no less real and worthy of our aesthetic delectation.”

.
Joseph Nechvatal. “A Photographer Who Captured Workers Without Romanticizing Them,” on the Hyperallergic website May 4, 2016 [Online] Cited 11/05/2016

 

 

François Kollar. Courtesy Jeu de Paume

 

François Kollar. Courtesy Jeu de Paume

 

François Kollar. 'Porteur de rails. Arles' 1933

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Porteur de rails. Arles
1933
Reproduction d’après négatif original sur plaque de verre
Print from the original glass plate negative
13 x 18 cm
Bibliothèque Forney. Ville de Paris
© François Kollar / Bibliothèque Forney / Roger-Viollet

 

François Kollar. 'Nettoyage des lampes. Société des mines de Lens. Lens (Pas-de-Calais)' 1931-1934

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Nettoyage des lampes. Société des mines de Lens. Lens (Pas-de-Calais)
Cleaning lamps. The mining company of Lens. Lens (Pas-de-Calais)
1931-1934
From the booklets La France travaille
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
18 x 24 cm
Bibliothèque Forney. Ville de Paris
© François Kollar / Bibliothèque Forney / Roger-Viollet

 

François Kollar. 'Construction des grands paquebots, Rivetage de tôles d‘un pont de navire, chantier et ateliers de Saint-Nazaire à Penhoët' 1931-1932

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Construction des grands paquebots, Rivetage de tôles d’un pont de navire, chantier et ateliers de Saint-Nazaire à Penhoët
Construction of large ships, riveting the sheets of a ships deck, site workshops of Saint Nazaire Penhoët
1931-1932
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
28.9 x 23.5 cm.
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar. 'Dans le port, à bord. Super Ile de France: cisaillage au chalumeau oxhydrique' 1931

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Dans le port, à bord. Super Ile de France: cisaillage au chalumeau oxhydrique. Société des chantiers et ateliers de Saint-Nazaire à Penhoët
In port, on board. Super Ile de France: cutting using the welding torch. Company building sites and workshops of Saint Nazaire Penhoët

1931
Vintage silver gelatin photograph

 

François Kollar. 'Dans le port, à bord. Champlain : grattage du pont' 1931

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Dans le port, à bord. Champlain: grattage du pont. Société des chantiers et ateliers de Saint-Nazaire à Penhoët
In port, on board. Champlain: scraping the bridge. Company building sites and workshops of Saint Nazaire Penhoët

1931
Vintage silver gelatin photograph

 

François Kollar. 'Dans le port, à bord. "Negre" soutier, Bordeaux (Gironde)' 1931

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Dans le port, à bord. “Negre” soutier, Bordeaux (Gironde)
In port, on board. “Negro” help, Bordeaux (Gironde)
1931
Vintage silver gelatin photograph

 

 

“François Kollar was born in Szenc, Hungary in 1904 (now the Slovakian town of Senec) and died in Créteil, France in 1979. He was first employed on the railways in his native country and then worked as a lathe operator at Renault’s Boulogne-Billancourt factory, before becoming a professional photographer at the age of 24 after gaining solid experience as a studio manager at the Parisian printer’s, Draeger. His in-depth knowledge of the world of work, in sectors as diverse as advertising, fashion, industry, handicrafts and agriculture, allowed him to portray tools, materials and gestures with exceptional professional expertise.

This retrospective features an ensemble of 130 vintage prints, some of which are previously unseen, as well as others from the photographer’s family’s bequest to the state. It puts Kollar’s work in the spotlight and shows how he managed to lift the veil on the working world in the 20th century. As visitors discover the documentary, artistic and historical qualities of the material on show, they will be able to observe how individuals found their place in society by the means of their occupation and realise the profound changes that took place in industry between the 1930s and the 1960s.

In 1930 Kollar got married and set up his own studio in Paris. His wife, who was his first model, worked faithfully by his side throughout his life. He worked for advertising agencies and famous luxury brands and excelled in showcasing the qualities of his models, forms and fabrics thanks to his feeling for light and texture. François Kollar worked with several fashion magazines, notably Harper’s Bazaar for which, over the course of more than fifteen years, he produced many photographic series, particularly images shot on location. Whether he was photographing the period’s fashion celebrities (Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli, Pierre Balmain) or models and adverts for the major fashion houses (Hermès, Molyneux, Oméga, Christofle and Worth et Coty perfumes…), he experimented with a wide variety of modern photographic techniques, freely creating original compositions using backlighting, double exposures, overprinting and solarisation…

In 1930, after exhibiting at “Das Lichtbild”, an international photography exhibition in Munich alongside Florence Henri, André Kertész, Germaine Krull and Ergy Landau, François Kollar received a major commission from a publishing company, Horizons de France entitled La France travail (1931-1934) that would establish his reputation as one of the period’s greatest industrial reporters. During the war he refused to collaborate with the powers that be during the German occupation and left the public eye, moving with his wife and three children to the Poitou-Charentes region and only returning to photography in 1945 on his return to Paris. In the 1950s and 1960s, Kollar covered numerous industrial subjects in France and abroad.”

Text from the Jeu de Paume website

 

François Kollar. 'La Tour Eiffel' 1930

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
La Tour Eiffel (The Eiffel Tower)
1930
Montage of a negative and interpositive, period photomontage
18 x 24 cm
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar. 'Aux sources de l‘énergie. Enseignes lumineuses. Paris' 1931

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Aux sources de l’énergie. Enseignes lumineuses. Paris
The sources of energy. Neon signs. Paris
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
18 x 24 cm
Bibliothèque Forney. Ville de Paris
© François Kollar / Bibliothèque Forney / Roger-Viollet

 

François Kollar. 'Bouche du tunnel Sainte-Catherine, Sotteville-lés-Rouen' 1931-1932

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Bouche du tunnel Sainte-Catherine, Sotteville-lés-Rouen
St. Catherine tunnel mouth, Sotteville-lés-Rouen
1931-1932
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar. 'Étude publicitaire pour Magic Phono, portrait de Marie Bell en photomontage' 1930

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Étude publicitaire pour Magic Phono, portrait de Marie Bell en photomontage
Advertising study for Magic Photo, Marie Bell portrait photomontage

1930
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar. 'Publicité pour machine à écrire Hermès' 1930

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Publicité pour machine à écrire Hermès
Advertising for the Hermes typewriter
1930
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
30.1 x 23.7 cm.
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar. 'Escalier chez Chanel' 1937

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Escalier chez Chanel
Staircase at Chanel

1937
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar (1904 - 1979) 'Gabrielle Chanel' 1938

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Gabrielle Chanel
1938
Silver gelatin photograph

 

François Kollar. 'Le mannequin Muth, Balenciaga' 1930

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Le mannequin Muth, Balenciaga
The model Muth, Balenciaga
1930
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar. 'Haute couturière Elsa Schiaparelli in a window of her showroom at 21 Place Vendôme in Paris' 1938

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Haute couturière Elsa Schiaparelli in a window of her showroom at 21 Place Vendôme in Paris
1938
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
Courtesy Jeu de Paume

 

 

“The design of the three large exhibition halls, which sometimes suffers from inadequate lighting, is completed by numerous documents (leaflets, magazines, personal albums) and an extensive slide show. The rooms are color-coded: white, blue-grey, and light beige, corresponding to the curators’ pedagogical intention. The beige in the last room is particularly interesting because it nearly blends in with the wooden frames, thereby intensifying the magical black-and-white tones in François Kollar’s work.

In addition to the documentary dimension of his work, the power of this photographer lies in his evocation of a “journey”: hence the exhibition walls are brimming with gems such as Les enseignes lumineuses (“Illuminated signs”, above), La bouche du tunnel (“The entrance of the tunnel”, above), or La fabrique à papier (“Paper factory”), advertisements for Hermès or Chanel (above), and many other photographs which, I have no doubt, will resonate with the visitor.

François Kollar is a photographer who resembles his images: somewhat mysterious, beautiful, and discreet, such as his small picture of a river outside the city of Abidjan. A Working Eye which conveys the nobility of men who, one day, had to travel far from home to earn their living.”

Dominique Vautrin. “Paris : Francois Kollar, A Working Eye,” on The Eye of Photography website February 18, 2016 [Online] Cited 12/05/2016.

 

François Kollar. 'Alsthom: assemblage des volants alternateurs de Kembs. Société Alsthom. Belfort (Territoire de Belfort)' 1931-1934

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Alsthom: assemblage des volants alternateurs de Kembs. Société Alsthom. Belfort (Territoire de Belfort)
Alsthom: assembly of alternator flywheels at Kembs. Société Alsthom. Belfort
1931-1934
Reproduction d’après négatif original sur plaque de verre
Print from the original glass plate negative
13 x 18 cm
Bibliothèque Forney. Ville de Paris
© François Kollar / Bibliothèque Forney / Roger-Viollet

 

François Kollar. 'Automobiles Renault. D'une main l'ouvrier fait tomber le sable. Billancourt (Hauts-de-Seine)' 1931-1934

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Automobiles Renault. D’une main l’ouvrier fait tomber le sable. Billancourt (Hauts-de-Seine)
Renault automobiles. Using his hand the worker brings down the sand. Billancourt (Hauts-de-Seine)
1931-1934
Reproduction d’après négatif original sur plaque de verre
Print from the original glass plate negative
13 x 18 cm
Bibliothèque Forney. Ville de Paris
© François Kollar / Bibliothèque Forney / Roger-Viollet

 

François Kollar. 'Untitled' 1931-1934

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Untitled
1931-1934
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
Courtesy Jeu de Paume
© Photo Éric Simon

 

 

LA FRANCE TRAVAILLE, 1931-1934

François Kollar was commissioned by the publishers Horizons de France for a major documentary investigation into the world of work. He took a large number of photos, a part of which were published in a work that has since become famous: La France travaille. This ensemble comprises the main part of the exhibition. The photographer criss-crossed the whole of France, observing the country through the prism of work. Kollar delivered more than 2,000 images covering agricultural and industrial activity in twenty regions of France, including Paris and its suburbs. Horizons de France published La France travaille between 1932 and 1934 in the form of fifteen separate booklets, which are presented in the exhibition in relation to a selection of around sixty prints. The images are organised by theme. Each theme corresponds to a type of raw material used in industry: coal, iron, products of the sea, glass, textiles etc. Slideshows are used to underline the extent of this archive and the variety of photos it contains, as well as analysing it from a contemporary point of view.

The fifteen booklets that comprise La France Travaille constitute “an anthropological investigation into the behaviour, gestures and postures of people at work” (Jean-François Chevrier, ‘La France travaille: les vertus de l’illustration’, Jeu de Paume, Editions de La Martinière). These fifteen volumes touch on the revolutions taking place across the country – factories, hydroelectric installations etc – as well as the place of the workers in these infrastructures. Apart from the recognition that he had earned in the world of fashion and luxury products, it was through his work to fulfil this commission, the most important in France in the 1930s, that Kollar distinguished himself as a photographer and an ‘industrial reporter’.

Text from Jeu de Paume

 

François Kollar. 'La trieuse reste coquette. Lens, Pas-de-Calais. Société des mines de Lens' 1931-1934

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
La trieuse reste coquette. Lens, Pas-de-Calais. Société des mines de Lens
The sorter remains coquette. Lens, Pas-de-Calais. Mining company of Lens
1931-1934
Reproduction d’après négatif original sur plaque de verre
Print from the original glass plate negative
13 x 18 cm
Bibliothèque Forney. Ville de Paris
© François Kollar / Bibliothèque Forney / Roger-Viollet

 

François Kollar (1904 - 1979) 'Untitled [mine worker]' 1931-1934

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Untitled [mine worker]
1931-1934
Reproduction d’après négatif original sur plaque de verre
Print from the original glass plate negative
13 x 18 cm
Bibliothèque Forney. Ville de Paris
© François Kollar / Bibliothèque Forney / Roger-Viollet

 

François Kollar. 'Pêcheurs, femme de pêcheurs Sardinier Breton, Audiernes' 1931

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Pêcheurs. Femme de pêcheurs, Sardinier Breton. Audiernes
Fishermen. Woman fishing, sardine canner Breton. Audiernes

1931
Reproduction d’après négatif original sur plaque de verre
Print from the original glass plate negative
13 x 18 cm
Courtesy Jeu de Paume
© Photo Éric Simon

 

 

From 1931 to 1934, just before the major protests led by the Popular Front, François Kollar (1904 – 1979) traveled across France meeting its working population. This wide-ranging survey of the working world, which featured 1400 illustrations, was published in 1934 in booklets entitled La France Travaille (France at Work). With his 5 x 7 large-format camera and cumbersome lighting equipment, this Slovak immigrant of humble origins convinced miners, winemakers, boatmen and railroad men to pose for him during their daily routines. The images from La France Travaille, negatives and positives, are preserved at the Bibliothèque Forney and distributed exclusively by the Agence Roger-Viollet. (Text from The Eye of Photography website)

 

François Kollar. 'Le bâtiment. Pose des ardoises. Paris. Entreprise Ch. Lavillauguet' 1931

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Le bâtiment. Pose des ardoises. Paris. Entreprise Ch. Lavillauguet
Building. Laying slate. Paris. Company Ch. Lavillaugouet

1931
Reproduction d’après négatif original sur plaque de verre
Print from the original glass plate negative
13 x 18 cm
Bibliothèque Forney. Ville de Paris
© François Kollar / Bibliothèque Forney / Roger-Viollet

 

François Kollar. 'Vignerons. Porteurs de bénatons. Bourgogne, Morey-Saint-Denis (Côte- d'Or)' 1931

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Vignerons. Porteurs de bénatons. Bourgogne, Morey-Saint-Denis (Côte- d’Or)
Winemakers. Carriers of grapes. Burgundy Morey-Saint-Denis (Côte- d’Or)

1931
Reproduction d’après négatif original sur plaque de verre
Print from the original glass plate negative
13 x 18 cm
Bibliothèque Forney. Ville de Paris
© François Kollar / Bibliothèque Forney / Roger-Viollet

 

 

François Kollar’s body of work covers two major periods in photographic history and the history of the 20th century: the 1930s and the 1950s-1960s. This retrospective at the Jeu de Paume is part of a cycle of exhibitions devoted to the emblematic photographers of the period, such as Laure Albin Guillot, André Kertész, Claude Cahun and Germaine Krull. The exhibition gives pride of place to the photographer’s three children’s bequest of negatives, prints, magazines, press cuttings and advertising pamphlets that was accepted by the French state in 1987.

The exhibition is organised chronologically following the photographer’s life and career, starting with his experimentations in the 1930s (self-portraits and photomontages) with his wife and close collaborator, Fernande. Right from the start of his photographic work in the field of advertising and fashion, François Kollar asserted his talent with photo shoots for Oméga, Christofle, Hermès and Worth et Coty perfumes. For many years he worked with such magazines as Harper’s Bazaar, L’Illustration, VUVoilà, Le Figaro Illustré and Plaisir de France. Following his coverage of the transformation of the working world in the 1930s, during the 1950s and 60s industrial reports in French West Africa and in France set the tempo for the later years of his career.

Thanks to his experience as a manual worker in Renault, François Kollar’s photography demonstrates his awareness of the world of industry and industrial spaces. ‘Un ouvrier du regard’ bears witness to his high level of technical expertise, both in the studio and on location and his deep-seated interest for industrial trades. It highlights the wide variety of subjects photographed by François Kollar throughout his career, a variety that is mirrored in the techniques he used, as well as the evolutions in the working world as it transitioned from handicrafts and cottage industries to industrial production.

The central part of the exhibition is devoted to the high point of François Kollar’s career, La France travaille. This commission from the publishing company Horizons de France comprises some fifteen booklets produced between 1931 and 1934. The reports, indexed by sector – from agriculture to the steel industry, including the maritime industry and electricity production – were produced with the aim of showcasing France’s leading companies and the figure of the working man, contributing in this way to idealising the image of men and women at work. Taken as a whole, these reports constitute a unique chronicle in images of the world of work and French society from the beginning of the 1930s up until the 1960s. During this entire period, François Kollar endeavoured to photograph the mechanised world of serial production, standardisation and the rationalisation of production.

Through a play with light, transparency and chiaroscuro effects, as well as compositions that highlighted different textures, François Kollar managed to reveal a sensitive side to industrial landscapes. He revealed himself to be a temperate photographer, somewhere between the barebones modernism of Bauhaus and a humanist approach to photography. At the beginning of his career, François Kollar had immortalised dresses, jewellery and objets d’art for Harper‘s Bazaar in a manner that demonstrated his attention to the gesture and the ‘intelligence of the hand’. Kollar’s work is characterised by an approach that is simultaneously sensitive and distant: sensitive to shape and light in the situations in which objects and human bodies are portrayed; distant because of this lens between him and the general population. The camera’s lens distanced him from the ordinary men and women and their demands, which explains why his work shows no traces of any social movements, although they were frequent at the time (1929 and 1931-1936).

The retrospective provides the means to fully-apprehend the diversity of a photographer who was himself a ‘worker’ (ouvrier) at the service of his clients – whether advertising companies, clients from the world of fashion and the media, or industrialists – but who nevertheless managed to preserve a strong photographic identity and a unique view on his times. Throughout his body of work, François Kollar bears witness to the ideology of progress that drives the capitalist economy, whilst preserving his characteristic objectivity.

First part

The first part of the exhibition features Kollar’s experimental period including self-portraits taken in his Parisian studio, as well as his work for advertising firms and the fashion industry. This section is made up of photos that reflect the spirit of the modern world he lived in and bear witness to Kollar’s desire to develop an experimental and expressive style of photography through an almost playful approach to his models, objects, lighting and composition. Detailed documentary resources enable visitors to understand the context of his advertising work and the photos for the blossoming illustrated magazine sector, which were published in L’Illustration, Vu, Voilà, Art et Médecine and Plaisir de France, amongst others.

Second part

The central part of the exhibition, devoted to La France travaille (1931-1934), features vintage prints and slideshows, as well as archives and publications. This photographic commission constitutes a unique record of the world of work in the 1930s. Kollar photographed every sector of activity: industry, agriculture, aviation, handicrafts, as well as the automobile, maritime and railway industries. Men and women and their functions and roles in the production process are recurrent elements in François Kollar’s images. Published in the form of fifteen themed booklets, printed in photogravure by Editions Horizons de France, Kollar’s photographs were used to illustrate texts by popular authors from the period (Paul Valéry, Pierre Hamp, Lucien Favre…) dealing with the main professions in French industry.

Third part

The third part of the exhibition presents works by Kollar from the period following on from La France travaille, notably fashion photography and commissions for industrial reporting assignments. Thanks to his reputation as a talented advertising photographer, François Kollar was much in demand for portrait work and he notably photographed Coco Chanel, Elisa Schiaparelli and the Duchess of Windsor. Although his collaboration with Harper’s Bazaar came to an end in 1955, Kollar continued to enjoy a successful career in industrial photography. Amongst his numerous photographic series, the Jeu de Paume has chosen to show in particular the 1951 commission from the French State for a report on French West Africa (now Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Mali and Senegal), as well as a series of photos showing the workshops of the Union Aéromaritime de Transport. In this way, the exhibition highlights the transformations in the world of work during the 20th century and the place occupied by men and women at a time when the world was in a state of upheaval because of global conflicts, as well as in the midst of rebuilding itself.

Text from Jeu de Paume

 

François Kollar. 'Untitled' 1930

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Untitled
1930

 

François Kollar (1904 - 1979) 'Untitled' 1930

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Untitled
1930

 

François Kollar. 'Ciel' 1931

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Ciel (Sky)
1931
Courtesy Jeu de Paume
© Photo Éric Simon

 

François Kollar. 'Fleur d'ail' (Garlic flower) 1930

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Fleur d’ail (Garlic flower)
1930
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
29.4 x 22.6 cm
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar (1904 - 1979) 'Untitled' Nd

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Untitled
Nd
Silver gelatin photograph
Courtesy Jeu de Paume
© Photo Éric Simon

 

François Kollar (1904 - 1979) 'Untitled' Nd

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Untitled
Nd
Silver gelatin photograph
Courtesy Jeu de Paume
© Photo Éric Simon

 

Portrait of François Kollar

 

Portrait of François Kollar

 

 

FRENCH WEST AFRICA (A.O. F.) COMMISSION ED BY THE FRENCH STATE, 1951

When France invested massively in the 1950s in the construction of infrastructures in French West Africa, Kollar went to document this milestone in the relationship between France and its colonies, notably today’s Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Mali and Senegal. His photos were published in the magazines of French West Africa to portray France’s initiatives in a positive light. Continuing to play his part in the ‘manufacture’ of consensual, positive images, Kollar continued his career by taking photos of men and women at work in factories, building roads or on ships plying their trade… “What François Kollar wants to portray is a sort of gradual disengagement of the colonial power, (…) but also how behind the ‘modernity’ (which is the subject of his remit) lies a form of tradition, rather as if he wanted to show how the two aspects are in contradiction with each other” (Pascal Blanchard, ‘Francois Kollar. Afrique 50. Dans l’oeil de la propagande’, Jeu de Paume, Editions de La Martinière).

Text from Jeu de Paume

 

INDUSTRIAL REPORTS 1950-1960

Back in Paris in 1945, François Kollar re-established his contacts and started receiving commissions from French industry once more. His photos powerfully document the relationship between the human body, the machine and the working environment. “In Kollar’s images, the human measure is omnipresent; one almost never loses the sense of scale […] with frequent contrasts between near and far, the intimate and the monumental”. (Jean-François Chevrier, ‘La France travaille: les vertus de l’illustration’, Jeu de Paume, Editions de La Martinière). Indeed the design of new industrial buildings took the question of ergonomics into account, which went hand-in-hand with the evolutions in the roles and tasks of factory workers. Amongst others, François Kollar worked for the Union Aéromaritime de Transport, (an airline that mainly served Africa, and French West Africa in particular, later to become UTA); the potash mines of Alsace; Moulinex; Christofle; and Poliet-et-Chausson. Kollar, who learnt how to use colour photography techniques early on, used this new medium for some of these reports.

Text from Jeu de Paume

 

François Kollar. 'Chaussures Bata, Rufisque, Senegal' 1951

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Chaussures Bata, Rufisque, Senegal
Bata Shoes, Rufisque, Senegal
1951
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
22.6 x 24.8 cm
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar. 'Poliet et Chausson, Gargenville' 1957-1958

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Poliet et Chausson, Gargenville
1957-1958
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
29.7 x 21.6 cm
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar. 'Untitled [Emplacement de traverses, usine Cima, Croix]' c. 1954

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Untitled [Emplacement de traverses, usine Cima, Croix] [Replacement of sleepers, Cima factory, Croix]
c. 1954
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
29.7 x 21.6 cm
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar. 'Type de laiterie dans une ferme Normande' 1950

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Type de laiterie dans une ferme Normande
Type of dairy farm in Normandy
1950
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
15.5 x 11.5 cm
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar. 'Fabrication de corps de chauffe de chauffe-eau, usine Brandt, France' 1950

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Fabrication de corps de chauffe de chauffe-eau, usine Brandt, France
Manufacturing water heater, heater factory Brandt, France
1950
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
13.6 x 8.9 cm
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar. 'Untitled [Fabrication des moulins à légumes, usine Moulinex, Alençon]' 1950

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Untitled [Fabrication des moulins à légumes, usine Moulinex, Alençon] [Production of vegetable mills, Moulinex factory, Alençon]
1950
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
29.6 x 21.6 cm
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

François Kollar. 'Untitled [Emboutissage des couverts, Christofle, France]' 1957-1958

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Untitled [Emboutissage des couverts, Christofle, France] [Stamping cutlery, Christofle, France]
1957-1958
Vintage silver gelatin photograph
30 x 21.6 cm
Donation François Kollar, Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine

 

 

Other François Kollar photographs

 

François Kollar. 'Untitled' 1931

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Untitled
1931
Silver gelatin photograph

 

François Kollar. 'Untitled' 1936

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Untitled
1936
Silver gelatin photograph

 

François Kollar. 'Construction' 1936

 

François Kollar (1904 – 1979)
Construction
1936
Silver gelatin photograph

 

 

Jeu de Paume
1, Place de la Concorde
75008 Paris
métro Concorde
Tel: 01 47 03 12 50

Opening hours:
Tuesday: 11.00 – 21.00
Wednesday – Sunday: 11.00 – 19.00
Closed Monday

Jeu de Paume website

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08
Apr
16

Exhibitions: ‘Werner Bischof: Point of View’ and ‘Helvetica’ at the Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne

Exhibition dates: 27th January – 1st May 2016

Curators: Marco Bischof, Werner Bischof Estate, for the exhibition Point of View and Daniel Girardin, Musée de l’Elysée, for the exhibition Helvetica.

 

 

After seven years of constructing this website, finally I can talk about an exhibition on one of my favourite humanist/social documentary photographers. This fact alone shows how rare it is to get to see his photographs in an exhibition, let alone display them online, such is the control that agencies have over the artist’s work.

Personally, I prefer the earlier, more avant-garde work around the time of the Second World War which has more bite, more of a cutting edge. But then again how can you argue against the sheer beauty and formalism of Harbour of Kowloon (1952, below) or the “atmosphere” of that wondrous photograph Courtyard of the Meiji shrine (below) where the snow has been falling since 1951. I remember starting out as an artist, seeing this image and staring in disbelief at this vision.

Perhaps that is a good metaphor for Bischof’s work: that of a visionary, for you never sense the presence of the photographer in his work (unless he wants you to!) but always know that it is a Bischof photograph. The photographs are almost ego-less, which is one reason I suppose that they are so damn good. The artist gets physically close to the subject matter (as in Stallion Remus, 1944 and On the road to Cuzco, 1954) and then lets the subject reveal itself. This is such an art, to be present and absent in the work at the same time.

It is a great sadness that Bischof died so young (at age 38, when the jeep in which he was travelling plunged off  a cliff in the area of Peña de Águila, in the Peruvian Andes) and that the work of such a sympathetic photographer is not as well known as the work of that other Swiss photographer, Robert Frank. Bischof’s work lives and breathes in the top echelons of photography but somehow, you never hear of him. In my humble opinion, one of the great photographers of all time.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Musée de l’Elysée for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Werner Bischof, Point de vue et Helvetica

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Werner Bischof: Point of View' and 'Helvetica' at the Musée de l'Elysée, Lausanne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Werner Bischof: Point of View' and 'Helvetica' at the Musée de l'Elysée, Lausanne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Werner Bischof: Point of View' and 'Helvetica' at the Musée de l'Elysée, Lausanne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Werner Bischof: Point of View' and 'Helvetica' at the Musée de l'Elysée, Lausanne

Installation view of the exhibition 'Werner Bischof: Point of View' and 'Helvetica' at the Musée de l'Elysée, Lausanne

 

Installation views of the exhibition Werner Bischof: Point of View and Helvetica at the Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne
Photo: © Yannick Lüthy / Musée de l’Elysée

 

Werner Bischof (1916 - 1954) 'Plants' Zürich c. 1941

 

Werner Bischof (1916 – 1954)
Plants
Zurich, c. 1941
© Werner Bischof/Magnum Photos

 

Werner Bischof (1916 - 1954) 'Oak Tree' Switzerland, c. 1941

 

 

Werner Bischof (1916 – 1954)
Oak Tree
Switzerland, c. 941
© Werner Bischof/Magnum Photos

 

Werner Bischof (1916 - 1954) 'Demonstration on the Piazza del Duomo' Milan, Italy 1946

 

Werner Bischof (1916 – 1954)
Demonstration on the Piazza del Duomo
Milan, Italy, 1946
© Werner Bischof / Magnum Photos

 

Werner Bischof (1916 - 1954) 'Enfants des rues (Street children)' Naples, Italy 1946

 

Werner Bischof (1916 – 1954)
Enfants des rues (Street children)

Naples, Italy, 1946
© Werner Bischof/Magnum Photos

 

Werner Bischof (1916 - 1954) 'The Swiss Worker at the steelworks of Winterthur' 1943

 

Werner Bischof (1916 – 1954)
The Swiss Worker at the steelworks of Winterthur
1943
© Werner Bischof/Magnum Photos

 

Werner Bischof (1916 - 1954) 'Stallion Remus' Avenches, Switzerland 1944

 

Werner Bischof (1916 – 1954)
Stallion Remus
Avenches, Switzerland, 1944
© Werner Bischof/Magnum Photos

 

Werner Bischof (1916 - 1954) 'Brandenburg Gate' Berlin 1946

 

Werner Bischof (1916 – 1954)
Brandenburg Gate
Berlin, 1946
© Werner Bischof/Magnum Photos

 

Werner Bischof 'Streams' (darkroom drawing), 1941

 

Werner Bischof (1916 – 1954)
Streams (darkroom drawing)
1941
© Werner Bischof/Magnum Photos

 

Werner Bischof (1916 - 1954) 'Zebra Woman' 1942

 

Werner Bischof (1916 – 1954)
Zebra Woman
1942
© Werner Bischof/Magnum Photos

 

Werner Bischof (1916 - 1954) 'Breast with grid' Zurich, Switzerland 1941

 

Werner Bischof (1916 – 1954)
Breast with grid
Zurich, Switzerland, 1941
© Werner Bischof / Magnum Photos

 

Werner Bischof (1916 - 1954) 'Army Boot' Zürich, Switzerland c. 1941

 

Werner Bischof (1916 – 1954)
Army Boot
Zurich, Switzerland, c. 1941
© Werner Bischof/Magnum Photos
From the exhibition Helvetica

 

 

To mark the centenary of the birth of Swiss photographer Werner Bischof (1916-1954), the Musée de l’Elysée is presenting a retrospective of his work entitled Point of View, produced by Magnum Photos (Paris). The exhibition offers almost 200 original and sometimes unpublished prints selected from the Werner Bischof Estate (Zurich). The exhibition will also display contact sheets, books, magazines and private letters. Several projections will give a contemporary approach to his work. The exhibition will present his work in Switzerland (1934-1944), Europe (1945-1950), Asia (1951-1952), and North and South America (1953-1954).

A second exhibition, produced by the Musée de l’Elysée and entitled Helvetica focuses exclusively on Bischof’s Swiss years, the period of training, studio work fashion and advertising and then the war years in Switzerland during which he became a press photographer working for the magazine DU. The exhibition Helvetica is the subject of the first publication of the “Collection – Musée de l’Elysée”.

Text from the Musée de l’Elysée website

 

“The Swiss genius is an exceptional photographer possessing tremendous technical knowledge and experience for his age (he’s only 32 years old), being able to make great pictures, both inside studio (a sphere in which she gets superb results thanks to his lighting mastery, the control on the depth of field, etc) and with persons in outdoor assignments, where by means of his great humanistic sensitiveness, intuition, precision in the timing on pressing the release shutter button of his cameras, outstanding grasping to capture the most representative moments and passion for his trade, also creates very powerful and meaningful images once and again, taking care of the most minute details, even when working under the most extreme contexts, since he’s a great perfectionist… Throughout all of his career as a professional photographer, Bischof proved to be an accomplished master of medium format made using a 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 (6 x 6 cm) Rolleiflex medium format cameras. He also used a rangefinder 35 mm Leica IIIc camera with Leitz Elmar 5 cm f/3.5 lens with which he likewise got great photographs.”

Extract from José Manuel Serrano Esparza. “Werner Bischof: A Master of Photography whose work goes on being very alive,” 23rd July 2013 [Online] Cited 07/04/2016.

 

Werner Bischof (1916 - 1954) 'Americana, USA' 1954

 

Werner Bischof (1916 – 1954)
Americana, USA
1954
© Werner Bischof/Magnum Photos

 

Werner Bischof (1916 - 1954) 'Aerial view of New York City' 1953

 

Werner Bischof (1916 – 1954)
Aerial view of New York City
1953
© Werner Bischof/Magnum Photos

 

Werner Bischof (1916 - 1954) 'Penguins of Edinburgh Zoo on a walk' 1950

 

Werner Bischof (1916 – 1954)
Penguins of Edinburgh Zoo on a walk
1950
© Werner Bischof/Magnum Photos

 

Werner Bischof (1916 - 1954) 'Harbour of Kowloon' Hong Kong, China 1952

 

Werner Bischof (1916 – 1954)
Harbour of Kowloon
Hong Kong, China, 1952
© Werner Bischof/Magnum Photos

 

Werner Bischof (1916 - 1954) 'On the road to Cuzco' Valle Sagrado, Peru 1954

 

Werner Bischof (1916 – 1954)
On the road to Cuzco
Valle Sagrado, Peru, 1954
© Werner Bischof/Magnum Photos

 

“Another timeless photographic icon in which stands out the lavish level of detail in the garment of the boy and his typical hat, along with the intricate texture of the sack he is wearing on his back, the impression of volume of his right hand, the fibrous musculature in his calves, the soft bokeh in the mountainous area which can be seen in the background and above all a millenary synergy between man and nature that Werner Bischof realized was endangered.”  – José Manuel Serrano Esparza

 

Werner Bischof (1916 - 1954) 'A pleasant sleeping' Island of Kau Sai 1952

 

Werner Bischof (1916 – 1954)
A pleasant sleeping
Island of Kau Sai, 1952
© Werner Bischof/Magnum Photos

 

Werner Bischof (1916 - 1954) 'Courtyard of the Meiji shrine' Tokyo, Japan 1951

 

Werner Bischof (1916 – 1954)
Courtyard of the Meiji shrine
Tokyo, Japan, 1951
© Werner Bischof/Magnum Photos

 

“Bischof creates a kind of living landscape highlighted by its unmatched formal and compositive precision, masterfully using the natural light, obtaining plentiful details and exceedingly delicate transitions and hues of gray scales, exploiting the capacities of square medium format to the utmost. The very pure whites of the snow on the ground, the temple roof and the tree tops are likewise worth being mentioned.” – José Manuel Serrano Esparza

 

Werner Bischof (1916 - 1954) 'Famine stricken area' State of Bihar, India, April 1951

 

Werner Bischof (1916 – 1954)
Famine stricken area
State of Bihar, India, April 1951
© Werner Bischof/Magnum Photos

 

 

The Musée de l’Elysée
18, avenue de l’Elysée
CH - 1014 Lausanne
T: + 41 21 316 99 11

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday, 11am – 6pm
Closed Monday, except for bank holidays

The Musée de l’Elysée website

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02
Nov
15

Exhibition: ‘Herb Ritts’ at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Exhibition dates: 14th March – 8th November, 2015

 

Another artist lost too soon to HIV/AIDS. At least we have these fine classics to remember him by. The portrait of Nelson Mandela is especially powerful – tightly cropped, the photographer portrays a man of immense strength and intensity through the hand and the finger, but above all the single eye which contains ageless wisdom.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the Museum of Fine Arts Boston for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Herb Ritts. 'Stephanie, Cindy, Christy, Tatjana, Naomi, Hollywood' 1989

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Stephanie, Cindy, Christy, Tatjana, Naomi, Hollywood, 1989
1989
Gelatin silver print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gift of Herb Ritts Foundation
© Herb Ritts Foundation
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Herb Ritts. 'Sylvester Stallone and Brigitte Nielsen, Long Island' 1987

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Sylvester Stallone and Brigitte Nielsen, Long Island
1987
Gelatin silver print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gift of Herb Ritts Foundation in honor of Malcolm Rogers
© Herb Ritts Foundation
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Herb Ritts. 'Madonna, Tokyo' 1987

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Madonna, Tokyo
1987
Gelatin silver print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gift of Herb Ritts
© Herb Ritts Foundation
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Herb Ritts. 'Versace Veiled Dress, El Mirage' 1990

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Versace Veiled Dress, El Mirage
1990
Gelatin silver print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gift of Herb Ritts
© Herb Ritts Foundation
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Herb Ritts. 'Versace Dress, Back View, El Mirage' 1990

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Versace Dress, Back View, El Mirage
1990
Gelatin silver print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gift of Herb Ritts
© Herb Ritts Foundation
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Herb Ritts. 'Tatjana Veiled Head, Tight View, Joshua Tree' 1988

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Tatjana Veiled Head, Tight View, Joshua Tree
1988
Gelatin silver print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gift of Herb Ritts
© Herb Ritts Foundation
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Herb Ritts. 'Backflip, Paradise Cove' 1987

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Backflip, Paradise Cove
1987
Gelatin silver print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gift of Herb Ritts Foundation
© Herb Ritts Foundation
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Herb Ritts. 'Pants (Back View), Los Angeles' 1988

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Pants (Back View), Los Angeles
1988
Gelatin silver print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gift of Herb Ritts Foundation
© Herb Ritts Foundation
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Herb Ritts. 'Richard Gere, San Bernardino' 1987

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Richard Gere, San Bernardino
1978
Gelatin silver print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gift of Herb Ritts Foundation in honor of Malcolm Rogers
© Herb Ritts Foundation
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), flashes back to the ’90s this spring with an evocative exhibition dedicated to the photography of Herb Ritts (1952-2002). Known for his beautifully printed, formally bold and sensual black-and-white images of celebrities and supermodels such as Cindy Crawford and Naomi Campbell, his works often blurred the line between art and commerce. Throughout the ’90s, his photography was inescapable in popular culture – appearing everywhere from magazine covers to music videos and commercials. This exhibition revisits the artist, whose groundbreaking 1996 retrospective at the MFA, Herb Ritts: WORK, remains one of the most highly attended exhibitions in Museum history. Nearly 20 years later, the MFA is taking a second look at his career, which was cut short in 2002 with his death from complications related to AIDS. Along with a selection of music videos and commercials, the exhibition features 52 black-and-white photographs that celebrate the sculpted body and the variable beauty of the human face. Ritts’ expert use of natural light results in dramatic images full of high-contrast lights and darks, as well as softer effects, such as light reflecting off water. Of the works on view, 15 are from a recent gift from the Herb Ritts Foundation – acquired by the MFA in December in honor of Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director at the MFA. This, and previous gifts from Ritts and the Foundation dating back to 2000, allow the Museum to tell the full story of Ritts’ career, and comprise the largest museum holdings of Ritts photographs in the world (248 in total). The exhibition is on view in the MFA gallery named in honor of a gift from the Ritts Foundation – the Museum’s first dedicated solely to photography – and the adjacent Clementine Brown Gallery…

The exhibition explores every aspect of the photographer’s career, and is divided into two sections: one dedicated to the human body and one dedicated to his photographs of celebrity personalities. His approach to the nude pushed the confines of convention. Ritts captured not only beautiful bodies, but also the environment and elements surrounding his set: the Pacific Ocean, desert landscapes, and mountains. Whether photographing a Versace dress, a basketball star, or interpreting classical sculpture through dried, cracked clay on skin – as in Tony with Black Face, Profile, Los Angeles (1986) – Ritts and his photography embody the era. The predominant aesthetic in Ritts’s images is one of strong lines, bold contours and striking shadows. Today, his work appears in museum exhibitions around the globe.

Preferring to shoot during the golden hours of the day – when the sun is at a low angle – Ritts created works that demonstrate not only an expert use of natural light, but the ability to immortalize the subjects in front of his camera. In addition to photography, he also directed 13 music videos and more than 50 commercials throughout his career.  Exploration of the human figure in its idealized form is a recurring theme in his video work, a selection of which is also included in the exhibition on three video screens. Lent by the Herb Ritts Foundation are videos of Madonna’s Cherish (1989), Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game (1991) and commercials dating from 1990-2002. A special MFA playlist on Spotify allows visitors to listen to music as they explore the gallery, and a case of archival materials includes a marked-up contact sheet and magazine spread that shed light on Ritts’ process.

During his career, Ritts forged strong connections with his subjects, many of whom became close friends. Throughout the exhibition visitors can find quotes from some of his sitters, including Cindy Crawford, who said of the artist: “There was something magical about when you stepped in front of his camera and what happened then. This give-and-take, and that’s what makes it fun. I’ve had the opportunity to work with Helmut Newton to Avedon to Penn but probably the images that are the most timeless of me, most of them, were shot by Herb and are some of my favorite images of myself.”

Crawford appears in one of Ritts’ most famous images, Stephanie, Cindy, Christy, Tatjana, Naomi, Hollywood (1989). Taken at the end of a long day photographing a fashion editorial assignment for Rolling Stone, the image also includes Stephanie Seymour, Tatjana Patitz, Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington. Ritts also worked with Turlington on a Gianni Versace advertising campaign, which took them to the dry Mojave Desert lakebed known as El Mirage, where the vast open space gave him a sense of creative freedom. He used the gusts of a rising storm to coax a swath of fabric into an arch over the model’s head in Versace Dress, Back View, El Mirage (1990). Ritts’ photographs of celebrities and models appeared on magazine covers including Vanity Fair, Vogue, Interview, Playboy, TIME, Rolling Stone, and Allure.

Ritts had a particular affinity for photographing actors, musicians and cultural icons. The artist that he collaborated with most frequently was Madonna, whose whimsical Madonna, Tokyo (1987) was taken in her hotel when the Who’s That Girl World Tour opened in Japan. Generally, Ritts preferred to capture his subjects in spontaneous, playful moments such as these. “I think that with her, and with other people as well, the big word is trust,” Ritts said. “A person feels they can trust you because they know your reputation and what you’re about. Or they can feel it because over the years a tight relationship develops, as it did with Madonna. You work together and it clicks; you evolve.”

Press release from the Museum of Fine Arts Boston website

 

Herb Ritts. 'Michael Jordan, Chicago' 1993

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Michael Jordan, Chicago
1993
Gelatin silver print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gift of Herb Ritts
© Herb Ritts Foundation
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Herb Ritts. 'Tony with Black Face, Profile, Los Angeles' 1986

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Tony with Black Face, Profile, Los Angeles 
1986
Gelatin silver print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gift of Herb Ritts
© Herb Ritts Foundation
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Herb Ritts. 'Claudia Schiffer, Palmdale' 1992

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Claudia Schiffer, Palmdale
1992
Gelatin silver print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gift of Herb Ritts Foundation
© Herb Ritts Foundation
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Herb Ritts. 'Christy Turlington, Hollywood' 1988

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Christy Turlington, Hollywood
1988
Gelatin silver print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gift of Herb Ritts Foundation
© Herb Ritts Foundation
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Herb Ritts. 'Mick Jagger, London' 1987

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Mick Jagger, London
1987
Gelatin silver print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gift of Herb Ritts Foundation
© Herb Ritts Foundation
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Herb Ritts. 'Wrapped Torso, Los Angeles' 1989

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Wrapped Torso, Los Angeles 
1989
Platinum print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gift of Herb Ritts
© Herb Ritts Foundation
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Herb Ritts. 'Naomi Campbell, Face in Hand, Hollywood' 1990

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Naomi Campbell, Face in Hand, Hollywood
1990
Gelatin silver print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gift of Herb Ritts Foundation in honor of Malcolm Rogers
© Herb Ritts Foundation
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Herb Ritts. 'Dizzy Gillespie, Paris' 1989

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Dizzy Gillespie, Paris 
1989
Gelatin silver print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gift of Herb Ritts
© Herb Ritts Foundation
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Herb Ritts. 'Nelson Mandela, Johannesburg' 1994

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Nelson Mandela, Johannesburg 
1994
Gelatin silver print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gift of Herb Ritts Foundation
© Herb Ritts Foundation
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

Herb Ritts. 'Bruce Springsteen (Detail II), New York' 1992

 

Herb Ritts (American, 1952-2002)
Bruce Springsteen (Detail II), New York 
1992
Gelatin silver print
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gift of Herb Ritts Foundation
© Herb Ritts Foundation
Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 

 

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Avenue of the Arts
465 Huntington Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts

Opening hours:
Monday and Tuesday 10am – 4.45 pm
Wednesday – Friday 10am – 9.45 pm
Saturday and Sunday 10am – 4.45 pm

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston website

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15
Oct
15

Text / exhibition: ‘David Bowie is’ at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 16th July – 1st November 2015

Melbourne Winter Masterpieces

 

 

This text was written for a special LGBTQI themed edition of the peer reviewed journal Fashion, Style and Popular Culture. At short notice, the co-editor asked me to write, and I quote, “a queer focussed review of the Bowie exhibition at ACMI.” When I delivered the piece below, it was rejected as not being academic enough. Apparently they wanted a deconstruction of the exhibition, its layout, construction, themes, lighting, and good and bad points. No mention of LGBTQI issues mind you. What the kind of review they wanted has to do with a LGBTQI themed issue, I have absolutely no idea. If they had known anything about my writing, they would have known they would not get academic speak, but something a little more interesting. Their loss, our gain.

The text focuses on Bowie’s impact on me at the time, as a gay man. Bowie is tight. Singing my all time favourite track of his, Young Americans, Bowie is a vocalist like no other. What a voice. Team that with charisma, soul, style, and all the moves … hands on hips, guitar slung backwards, padded shoulders to die for, cheekbones that you could cut with a knife and a presence that is just luminous. No wonder I loved him as an adolescent, he was my Hero. As someone commented on the YouTube live performance of the song (below), “ain’t there 1 goddam song that can make me breakdown + cry*”

This is a flawed but mesmerising exhibition. Allow three to fours hours at least. If you are a Bowie fan it’s a 100% must see; and if you are an aficionado of contemporary culture, you will be amazed at the sources Bowie draws from to create his art, his personas. It did no harm, either, that Bowie had access to some of the most creative designers in the world for his costumes and sets, but he was the inventive force. What a man, what an artist, not just a man who feel to earth, but a man who changed the world.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

.
Many thankx to ACMI for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. Download the text Reflections on David: In a galaxy all of his own (kb pdf)

 

 

Bowie performing on Dick Cavett Show (4 of December 1974)

 

 

Reflections on David: In a galaxy all of his own

.
The year was 1975. In London, six years after that seminal event of early gay liberation, the Stonewall Riots, six years after the landing on the moon, and six years after the release of David Bowie’s single, Space Oddity, I came out as a gay man age 17. At the time I felt a bit of a space oddity myself, troubled by my hidden identity and the double life I was leading. My first act of rebellion was to walk into a newsagent at Notting Hill Gate underground station, pick up a copy of Gay Times, fling the money at the store attendant and run from the place as red as a beetroot. I was so embarrassed.

Things quickly changed. I had been listening to Bowie’s music since my early days in boarding school – The Man Who Sold the World, Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane – and now, after outing myself, I rocked up to the Royal College of Music with silver hair, wearing the most outrageous satin pink and white bomber jacket, with rings on every finger. I walked down St. Albans high street on a Saturday morning through the market in fake white fur coat and eye shadow. It’s only now, forty years later, that I realise I was channelling my inner Bowie.

This was the era of Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE) in England, where we had to gather in people’s lounge rooms to meet other gay men, or once a month at a disco in country Hertfordshire. Or we went to the Pan Club in Luton where drag queens peered imperiously down at us through a grill before they allowed us through the door. The best thing was going to Scandals or Adams night clubs in London, where we danced on illuminated glass dance floors (like in Saturday Night Fever) and wore our army uniforms. We could be whoever we wanted to be. And this was all influenced by the multiple persona of Bowie.

Like an intelligent bower bird, Bowie constructed his different personae through bricolage, building them from cultural signifiers such as German Expressionism, Marlene Dietrich, Sonia Delaunay, Metropolis, Hollywood, Japanese film, JG Ballard and Clockwork Orange, to name just a few. My gay friends and I did much the same. Like Bowie, for us it wasn’t so much about sexuality but about androgyny and the public play of gender (although the two are obviously interlinked). We adored David, a self-educated lad from a poor working class family, initially a Mod, who created his own universe of creatures and characters. Glam yes, but so much more than just putting on a costume like Kiss, David lived and breathed his worlds and we, his fans, believed in him. Not so much gender bender as cultural gender blender.

Critical to this time in my life was the period that followed Ziggy: Young Americans and the Thin White Duke. I got heavily into soul music, going to a basement nightclub behind Bang on Tottenham Court Road, where they played reggae, Barry White and the Love Unlimited Orchestra… and David Bowie. I used to pretend to be one of the back up singers on the song Young Americans: “Young American, young American, she wants the young American.” Bowie is tight. Singing my all time favourite track of his, Young Americans, Bowie is a vocalist like no other. What a voice. Team that with charisma, soul, style, and all the moves … hands on hips, guitar slung backwards, padded shoulders to die for, cheekbones that you could cut with a knife and a presence that is just luminous. No wonder I loved him as an adolescent, he was my Hero. As someone commented on the YouTube live performance of the song, “ain’t there 1 goddam song that can make me breakdown + cry*”. From talking to other gay men, I know that the Young Americans album was also critical for them – all cinched waist, high cheekbones, eye shadow, padded shoulders, flaming hair and soul music.

Australian disc jockey Stephen Allkins observed the same phenomena in Sydney. In a recent interview with me he commented, “My first introduction to the world of David Bowie was in 1975 when I was a 14 year old gay boy hanging out with my gay cousin, coming out unknowingly together. Young Americans was so damn funky and classy and totally different to anything that was happening in the white music world at the time. I couldn’t quite get my head around the way Bowie had gone from Ziggy and Aladdin Sane to the Thin White Duke and funk in one swoop, but I loved it. It’s hard to put into words how, as everyone else was glamming up, Bowie starting wearing suits and playing with the hottest funk band on the planet. No one else at that time moved or evolved with such speed and ease and he made me believe every look and note. He didn’t copy or just follow a trend to get noticed, he created and influenced several generations of people with his music and visual ideas. I say ideas because what he created visually was more than mere fashion, it became art. Looking back on all he’s done now, all that he did was art – musically, visually and sensually.”

Which leads me on to David Bowie is, an exhibition at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) in Melbourne. This is a fascinating but flawed exploration of the life of one of the world’s great artists. To see his early life, influences, and upbringing, and to have access to his personal archives – especially the wonderful sketches and storyboards showing his creative process – is invaluable. One of the strongest elements of the performance is how the exhibition links his art to the many cultural signifiers he used to construct it: from collage to construction. The costumes are magnificent including the additional Australian content, like the Pierrot costume from Ashes to Ashes. To see artefacts such as the original handwritten stanzas of Ziggy Stardust and Fame is as close as many of us will get to the source of greatness.

Much less successful was the thematic layout of the exhibition. Sections on film stars, 1930s, and Berlin cabaret (to name but a few), in non-chronological order, made it difficult to comprehend the development of each character and their place in the flow of time and space. While this assemblage of ideas might mimic how Bowie actually constructed his characters, quickly moving from one to another, and then reviving the same character many years later (for example, Space Oddity‘s Major Tom of 1969 and then creating a sequel in Ashes to Ashes in 1980), the imitative representation, or mimesis, of Bowie’s process in the layout of the exhibition simply did not work. Knowing how important Young Americans was to my own gay history, I searched for about 15 minutes with a guide from the exhibition looking for references to Young Americans and the influence of soul music on Bowie. We eventually found just two Thin White Duke suits tucked away right at the end of the show. In the bowels of the dark, subterranean bunker that is ACMI too many artefacts were crammed into too small a location. The artefacts, the ideas and the art have little room to breathe.

Having said that, this is still a mesmerising exhibition. Allow three to fours hours at least. If you are a Bowie fan it’s a 100% must see; and if you are an aficionado of contemporary culture, you will be amazed at the sources Bowie draws from to create his art, his personas. It did no harm, either, that Bowie had access to some of the most creative designers in the world for his costumes and sets, but he was the inventive force. What a man, what an artist, not just a man who feel to earth, but a man who changed the world. He was REAL, his personae were REAL, his art was REAL. He was an astronaut of inner space and when he looked down the barrel of the lens he spoke to young rebels in an authentic voice. He was our hero and no one else’s. As the singer Sylvester would later say: “You make me feel mighty real.” Chimerical, pansexual David, we love you!

.
Dr Marcus Bunyan
October 2015

Word count: 1,390

 

Roy Ainsworth. 'David Bowie in The Kon-rads' 1963

 

Roy Ainsworth
Publicity photograph for The Kon-rads
1963
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive
© Victoria and Albert Museum

 

 

David or ‘Davie’ Jones, as he was then known, became heavily involved in London’s burgeoning music scene at a young age. Before leaving school at the age of 16, he had already joined the band The Kon-rads, playing saxophone and singing vocals. Demonstrating the experimental energy that has driven his solo career, Bowie spent the 1960s trying out different musical, artistic and sartorial styles and performing with several different bands. In 1965 he changed his stage name to David Bowie. The exhibition features several objects from Bowie’s early career including sketches of set, costume and poster designs created for his first bands and footage of early performances.

 

Freddie Burretti (designer) 'Quilted two‐piece suit' 1972

 

Freddie Burretti (designer)
Quilted two‐piece suit
1972
Designed by Freddie Burretti for the ‘Ziggy Stardust’ tour
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive
© Victoria and Albert Museum

 

 

On 6 July 1972 David Bowie performed Starman, the first single from his album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, on BBC One’s Top of the Pops. This pivotal performance was crucial in making Bowie a music star and is acclaimed as a watershed moment which changed rock music and youth culture forever. Appearing on national television with flame-orange hair, make-up, multi-coloured clothing and red patent boots, Ziggy’s otherworldly look and sexual ambiguity created a seismic shift in pop culture. The exhibition features the original suit and boots created by Freddie Burretti and designed in collaboration with Bowie, who took inspiration from the costumes worn by the ‘droogs’ street gang in Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of A Clockwork Orange (1971).

 

Ziggy Stardust | David Bowie

 

Kansai Yamamoto. 'Striped bodysuit for the Aladdin Sane tour' 1973

 

Kansai Yamamoto (designer)
Masayoshi Sukita (photographer)
Striped bodysuit for the Aladdin Sane tour
1973
© Sukita / The David Bowie Archive

 

 

Bowie first saw the work of Japanese fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto at the exhibition Kansai in London in 1971. He could not afford the original designs so copied the look instead, recruiting friends such as Natasha Korniloff and Freddie Burretti to create cheaper versions of Yamamoto’s signature bodysuits and platform boots. After the success of Ziggy Stardust, Bowie approached Yamamoto and commissioned a set of even more flamboyant stage costumes for the Aladdin Sane tour in 1973. These outfits, inspired by the style of Japanese samurai and kabuki actors, are outrageous, sculptural and eye-catching. The exhibition features several Kansai Yamamoto costumes including the black and white striped bodysuit and a white cloak with Japanese kanji lettering spelling out ‘David Bowie’. A flamboyant suit from Yamamoto’s 1971 exhibition which he gifted to the V&A at the time is also on display.

 

'Red platform boots for the 1973 'Aladdin Sane' tour' 1973

 

Red platform boots for the 1973 ‘Aladdin Sane’ tour
1973
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive
© Victoria and Albert Museum

 

Kansai Yamamoto (designer) 'Metallic bodysuit' 1973

 

Kansai Yamamoto (designer)
Metallic bodysuit
1973
Designed by Kansai Yamamoto for the ‘Aladdin Sane’ tour
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive
© Victoria and Albert Museum

 

Brian Duffy. 'Album cover shoot for Aladdin Sane' 1973

 

Brian Duffy
Album cover shoot for Aladdin Sane
1973
© Duffy Archive & The David Bowie Archive

 

 

“The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) today launched the critically acclaimed exhibition celebrating one of the most influential artists in music, film and video, fashion and performance. David Bowie is comes to ACMI from London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) for a strictly limited season from 16 July 2015 as part of the Victorian Government’s Melbourne Winter Masterpieces series.

Seen by over 1 million people worldwide at sell-out shows in London, Chicago, Sao Paolo, Paris, and Berlin, David Bowie is was conceived by the prestigious V&A in London, where it premiered in March 2013 before quickly becoming V&A’s fastest selling show. This once-in-a-lifetime experience, now in its only Australasian season, is set to take Melbourne by storm.

Drawing upon unprecedented access to objects from the David Bowie Archive, the exhibition charts the extraordinary career of the boy from London who became an iconic artist and cultural innovator. David Bowie is features over 50 legendary costumes, original stage set designs, handwritten lyric sheets, album artwork, rare film, video and photographs, and interviews with key collaborators. Special displays explore the artistic chameleon’s continuing influences as a musician, stage performer, writer and actor.

ACMI Director and CEO, Katrina Sedgwick, says the groundbreaking exhibition is testament to Bowie’s profound and everlasting impact as a true pioneer in music, fashion and culture. “We are thrilled to be hosting the Australian incarnation of David Bowie is… It is an exhibition that not only illuminates the extraordinary breadth of Bowie’s creative genius and his enormous impact over the decades – but it is also a beautifully curated and staged experience that will delight the many thousands of people who will see it in the coming weeks and months.”

The V&A’s curators, Victoria Broackes and Geoffrey Marsh, from the Museum’s Department of Theatre and Performance, selected more than 300 objects and films for the show. Of the exhibition they said; “We are absolutely delighted to see David Bowie is travel to ACMI. Bowie himself has a long-standing relationship with Australia, including creating the music videos for Let’s Dance and China Girl there. We hope that the exhibition meets the expectations of his extensive Australian fan base.”

The exhibition offers insight into Bowie’s early years and his first steps musical greatness. The creative aspiration of the young David Robert Jones are showcased by early photographs and Bowie’s sketches for stage sets and costumes created for his bands The Kon-rads and The Delta Lemons in the 1960s. Bowie’s first major hit Space Oddity (1969) and the introduction of the fictional character Major Tom inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey granted him critical and commercial success as an established solo artist. His cinematic influences abound with his elaborate storyboards and set design for the Diamond Dogs tour (1974) inspired by Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis (1927).

Excerpts and props from Bowie’s on-screen performance in films including The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), Labyrinth (1986), Basquiat (1996) and The Prestige (2006) show how Bowie has continually explored different notions of character and drawn together the numerous cultural influences that feed into his work. On display is the original multi-coloured suit worn for the pivotal performance of Starman on Top of the Pops in July 1972. An interactive audio-visual display presents some of Bowie’s most ambitious music videos including DJ (1979) and The Hearts Filthy Lesson (1995). Immersive, large-scale projections show recently uncovered footage of Bowie performing Jean Genie on Top of the Pops in 1973 and excerpts from D.A. Pennebaker’s film Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: The Motion Picture (1973).

Bowie’s collaborations with artists and designers in the fields of fashion, sound, graphics, theatre, art and film are explored throughout the exhibition. On display are more than 50 stage costumes including Ziggy Stardust bodysuits (1972) designed by Freddie Burretti, Kansai Yamamoto’s flamboyant creations for the Aladdin Sane tour (1973), and the Union Jack coat designed by Bowie and Alexander McQueen for the Earthling album cover (1997). An area has been dedicated to the monochrome theatricality of Bowie’s Berlin period and the creation of the Thin White Duke persona identified with the Station to Station album and tour (1976). It also investigates the series of experimental records he produced between 1977 and 1979 whilst living in Germany, known as the Berlin Trilogy.

More personal items such as never-before-seen storyboards, handwritten set lists and lyrics are also featured in the exhibition as well as some of Bowie’s own sketches, musical scores and diary entries, revealing the evolution of his creative ideas. ACMI is the exclusive Australasian venue for a strictly limited season of David Bowie is. The ACMI season includes a curated program of talks and special events, late night programs, film screenings and live performances.”

Press release from ACMI

 

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Installation photographs of the exhibition David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne

 

Ziggy Stardust jumpsuit designed by Freddie Burretti (1972)

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne

Installation photographs of the exhibition David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne

 

Alexander McQueen Union Jack coat designed in collaboration with David Bowie for the Earthling album cover

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne

 

David Bowie and Freddie Burretti (designer)
Bodysuit with graphic print (replica)
‘Ziggy Stardust’ tour and album cover
1972

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne

 

Kansai Yamamoto striped bodysuit for the Aladdin Sane tour (1973)

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition David Bowie is at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne
Photographer: Mark Gambino

 

 

Exhibition overview

The exhibition offers insight into Bowie’s early years and his first steps towards musical success. Tracing the creative aspirations of the young David Robert Jones (born 1947 in Brixton, London), it shows how he was inspired by innovations in art, theatre, music, technology and youth culture in Britain during the aftermath of the Second World War. Pursuing a professional career in music and acting, he officially adopted the stage name ‘David Bowie’ in 1965 and went through a series of self-styled changes from Mod to mime artist and folk singer to R&B musician in anticipation of the shifting nature of his future career. On display are early photographs and Bowie’s sketches for stage sets and costumes created for his bands The Kon-rads and The Delta Lemons in the 1960s.

This opening section concludes with a focus on Bowie’s first major hit Space Oddity (1969) and the introduction of the fictional character Major Tom, who would be revisited by Bowie in both Ashes to Ashes (1980) and Hallo Spaceboy (1995). Inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, the single was released to coincide with the first moon landing and was Bowie’s breakthrough moment, granting him critical and commercial success as an established solo artist.

The exhibition moves on to examine Bowie’s creative processes from song writing, recording and producing to his collaborations on costume designs, stage sets and album artwork. Showing how Bowie works within both established art forms and new artistic movements, this section reveals the scope of his inspirations and cultural references from Surrealism, Brechtian theatre and avant-garde mime to West End musicals, German Expressionism and Japanese Kabuki performance. This section traces the influence of these movements on Bowie’s own work, including the evolution of the lavishly produced Diamond Dogs tour (1974), the design of which was inspired by Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis (1927) and George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949). The tour combined exuberant choreography and a colossal set design, taking the combination of rock music and theatre to new heights. On display are previously unseen storyboards for the proposed musical that Bowie would eventually transform into the Diamond Dogs album and touring show.

In addition, this section chronicles Bowie’s innovative approach to creating albums and touring shows around fictionalised stage personas and narratives. 1972 marked the birth of his most famous creation; Ziggy Stardust, a human manifestation of an alien being. Ziggy’s daringly androgynous and otherworldly appearance has had a powerful and continuous influence on pop culture, signaling a challenge of social conventions and inspiring people to shape their own identities. On display is the original multi-coloured suit worn for the pivotal performance of Starman on Top of the Pops in July 1972, as well as outfits designed for stage characters Aladdin Sane and The Thin White Duke. Costumes from The 1980 Floor Show (1973), album cover sleeves for The Man Who Sold the World (1970) and Hunky Dory (1971), alongside fan material, highlight Bowie’s fluid stylistic transformations and his impact on social mobility and gay liberation.

Excerpts from Bowie’s on-screen performances in films including The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), Labyrinth (1986), Basquiat (1996) and The Prestige (2006) show how Bowie has continually explored different notions of character and drawn together the numerous cultural influences that feed into his work. Footage and photography of recording sessions for Outside (1995) and ‘Hours…’ (1999) as well as handwritten lyrics and word collages inspired by William Burroughs’ ‘cut up’ method of writing that have never previously been publicly displayed, reveal Bowie’s working processes from writing to recording.

This expansive retrospective also celebrates David Bowie as a pioneering performer concentrating on key performances throughout his career. An interactive audio-visual display presents some of Bowie’s most ambitious music videos including DJ (1979) and The Hearts Filthy Lesson (1995). Immersive, large-scale projections show recently uncovered footage of Bowie performing Jean Genie on Top of the Pops in 1973 and excerpts from D.A. Pennebaker’s film Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: The Motion Picture (1973).

An area has been dedicated to the monochrome theatricality of Bowie’s Berlin period and the creation of the stylish Thin White Duke persona identified with the Station to Station album and tour (1976). It also investigates the series of experimental and pioneering records he produced between 1977 and 1979 whilst living in Germany, known as the Berlin Trilogy. Finally, David Bowie is features a display of striking performance and fashion photography taken by photographers including Helmut Newton, Herb Ritts and John Rowlands. These professional portraits are juxtaposed with a collage of visual projections illustrating Bowie’s immense creative influence and ubiquitous presence in music, fashion and contemporary visual and virtual culture.

 

Freddie Burretti (designer) 'Ice-blue suit' 1972

 

Freddie Burretti (designer)
Ice-blue suit
1972
Designed for the ‘Life on Mars?’ video
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive
© Victoria and Albert Museum

 

Music video by David Bowie performing Life On Mars? Taken from the album Heroes

 

Kansai Yamamoto (designer) 'Asymmetric knitted bodysuit' 1973

 

Kansai Yamamoto (designer)
Asymmetric knitted bodysuit
1973
Designed for the ‘Aladdin Sane’ tour
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive
© Victoria and Albert Museum

 

Masayoshi Sukita. 'David Bowie' 1973

 

Masayoshi Sukita
David Bowie
1973
© Sukita / The David Bowie Archive

 

Photograph by Terry O'Neill with colour by David Bowie. 'David Bowie with William Burroughs, February 1974' 1974

 

Photograph by Terry O’Neill with colour by David Bowie
David Bowie with William Burroughs, February 1974
1974
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive
© Victoria and Albert Museum

 

Terry O'Neill. 'Promotional photograph of David Bowie for 'Diamond Dogs'' 1974

 

Terry O’Neill
Promotional photograph of David Bowie for ‘Diamond Dogs’
1974
© Victoria and Albert Museum

 

David Bowie – BBC Live – Diamond Dogs & John, I’m Only Dancing (January 1975)

 

David Bowie. 'Photo-collage by David Bowie of manipulated film stills from The Man Who Fell to Earth' 1975-6

 

David Bowie
Photo-collage by David Bowie of manipulated film stills from The Man Who Fell to Earth
1975-6
Film stills by David James
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive, Film stills
© STUDIOCANAL Films Ltd., Image
© Victoria and Albert Museum

 

'Cut up lyrics for 'Blackout' from "Heroes"' 1977

 

Cut up lyrics for ‘Blackout’ from “Heroes”
1977
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive
© Victoria and Albert Museum

 

'Print after a self‐portrait by David Bowie' 1978

 

Print after a self‐portrait by David Bowie
1978
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive
© Victoria and Albert Museum

 

Brian Duffy. 'David Bowie during the filming of the 'Ashes to Ashes' video' 1980

 

Brian Duffy
David Bowie during the filming of the ‘Ashes to Ashes’ video
1980
© Duffy Archive & The David Bowie Archive

 

'Original storyboards by David Bowie for the 'Ashes to Ashes' video' 1980

 

Original storyboards by David Bowie for the ‘Ashes to Ashes’ video
1980
Courtesy of The David Bowie Archive
© Victoria and Albert Museum

 

David Bowie – Ashes To Ashes

 

 

Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI)
Federation Square, Melbourne, Australia

Opening hours:
Open daily, 10am – 5pm (Closed Christmas Day)

ACMI website

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05
Aug
15

Exhibition: ‘The EY Exhibition: Sonia Delaunay’ at Tate Modern, London

Exhibition dates: 15th April – 9th August 2015

Curators: curated at Tate Modern by Juliet Bingham, Curator International Art, with Juliette Rizzi, Assistant Curator.

 

 

One of my favourite female artists of all time. Up there with Georgia O’Keeffe, Lee Krasner, Agnes Martin and Louise Bourgeois.

The early portrait paintings are a revelation. And then, how avant-garde her Electric Prisms paintings, fashion designs, theatre costumes, embroidering poetry onto fabric, turning her apartment into a three-dimensional collage… the very epitome of a “progressive woman synonymous with modernity.”

I have always loved her creativity, vibrancy, colours and asymmetric, musical rhythm – her photogeneity, in the sense of her works producing or emitting light, like an organism does. They seem to grab you, like a jolt of electricity, saying “Wake up!” and “Look at me!”

Perhaps I’m a little bit in love with this very wonderful women.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

.
Many thankx to the Tate Modern for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“In this case, the pram in the hall was not the enemy of promise. (In any case, surely poverty is the more likely candidate.) It is still rare, however, for a cradle cover to be given gallery space and acknowledged as an important artwork. The little blanket Sonia stitched for her son, Charles, in 1911 [see image below] is to be exhibited, and it seems to have been a breakthrough piece which moved her from figurative work to abstract. The coverlet is a patchwork medley of pinks, creams and greens with hints of maroon and black. It shows how Sonia melded Russian folk-craft with Parisian avant garde, and anticipated the experiments with colour and shape that would become the Delaunay hallmark style, simultané.

As well as the baby quilt, there is on display the child’s painted toy box, and the outfit Sonia made in the same manner, the one in the photograph mentioned above: by 1913 the Delaunays had found a babysitter and were setting off to the dancehall, the Bal Bullier. As well as making clothing for herself and her friends, Sonia still painted. Next to the dress, which is composed of swatches of fabric in different textures, is her large canvas Bal Bullier. A flow of colour and rhythm, it shows several couples (or one couple twirling) under a new Parisian sensation: coloured electric lights.”

Kathleen Jamie. “Sonia Delaunay: the avant-garde queen of loud, wearable art,” on the Guardian website, Saturday 28 March 2015

 

 

Sonia Delaunay. 'Quilt cover' 1911

 

Sonia Delaunay
Quilt cover
1911

 

Sonia Delaunay exhibition at Tate Modern

 

The EY Exhibition: Sonia Delaunay at Tate Modern

 

Sonia Delaunay. 'Syncopated rhythm, so-called The Black Snake' 1967

 

Sonia Delaunay
Syncopated rhythm, so-called The Black Snake
1967
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nantes, France
© Pracusa 2014083

 

Sonia Delaunay. 'Propeller (Air Pavilion)' 1937

 

Sonia Delaunay
Propeller (Air Pavilion)
1937
Skissernas Museum, Lund, Sweden
© Pracusa 2014083
Photo: Emma Krantz

 

Sonia Delaunay. 'Propeller (Air Pavilion)' 1937 (detail)

 

Sonia Delaunay
Propeller (Air Pavilion) (detail)
1937
Skissernas Museum, Lund, Sweden
© Pracusa 2014083
Photo: Emma Krantz

 

Sonia Delaunay. 'Rhythm Colour no. 1076' 1939

 

Sonia Delaunay
Rhythm Colour no. 1076
1939
Centre National des Arts Plastiques/Fonds National d’Art Contemporain, Paris, on loan to Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille
© Pracusa 2014083

 

Sonia Delaunay. 'Court shoes' 1925

 

Sonia Delaunay
Court shoes
1925

 

Sonia Delaunay (right) and two friends in Robert Delaunay’s studio, rue des Grands-Augustins, Paris 1924

 

Unknown photographer
Sonia Delaunay (right) and two friends in Robert Delaunay’s studio, rue des Grands-Augustins, Paris
1924
Image courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris

 

 

Sonia Delaunay (1885-1979) was a key figure in the Parisian avant-garde, whose vivid and colourful work spanned painting, fashion and design. Tate Modern presents the first UK retrospective to assess the breadth of her vibrant artistic career, from her early figurative painting in the 1900s to her energetic abstract work in the 1960s. This exhibition offers a radical reassessment of Delaunay’s importance as an artist, showcasing her originality and creativity across the twentieth century.

Born in Odessaand trained in Germany, Sonia Delaunay (née Stern, then Terk) came to Parisin 1906 to join the emerging avant-garde. She met and married the artist Robert Delaunay, with whom she developed ‘Simultaneism’ – abstract compositions of dynamic contrasting colours and shapes. Many iconic examples of these works are brought together at Tate Modern, including Bal Bullier 1913 and Electric Prisms 1914. Her work expressed the energy of modern urban life, celebrating the birth of electric street lighting and the excitement of contemporary ballets and ballrooms.

The EY Exhibition: Sonia Delaunay shows how the artist dedicated her life to experimenting with colour and abstraction, bringing her ideas off the canvas and into the world through tapestry, textiles, mosaic and fashion. Delaunay premiered her first ‘simultaneous dress’ of bright patchwork colours in 1913 and opened a boutique in Madrid in 1918. Her Atelier Simultané in Paris went on to produce radical and progressive designs for scarves, umbrellas, hats, shoes and swimming costumes throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Clients included the Hollywood star Gloria Swanson and the architect Erno Goldfinger, as well department stores like Metz & Co and Liberty. The exhibition reveals how Delaunay’s designs presented her as a progressive woman synonymous with modernity: embroidering poetry onto fabric, turning her apartment into a three-dimensional collage, and creating daring costumes for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes.

The diverse inspirations behind Delaunay’s work are also explored, from the highly personal approach to colour which harked back to her childhood in Russia, to the impact of her years in Spain and Portugal where she painted The Orange Seller 1915 and Flamenco Singers 1915-16. The show also reveals the inspiration provided by modern technology throughout Delaunay’s career, from the Trans-Siberian Railway to the aeroplane, and from the Eiffel Tower to the electric light bulb. It also includes her vast seven-metre murals Motor, Dashboard and Propeller, created for the 1937 International Exposition in Paris and never before shown in the UK.

Following her husband’s death in 1941, Sonia Delaunay’s work took on more formal freedom, including rhythmic compositions in angular forms and harlequin colours, which in turn inspired geometric tapestries, carpets and mosaics. Delaunay continued to experiment with abstraction in the post-war era, just as she had done since its birth in the 1910s, becoming a champion for a new generation of artists and an inspiring figure for creative practitioners to this day.

The EY Exhibition: Sonia Delaunay is curated at Tate Modern by Juliet Bingham, Curator International Art, with Juliette Rizzi, Assistant Curator. It was organised by the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris-Musées and Tate Modern, and was realised with the exceptional help of Bibliothèque nationale de France and Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Pompidou.”

Text from the Tate Modern website

 

Sonia Delaunay. 'Finnish woman' 1908

 

Sonia Delaunay
Finnish woman
1908

 

Sonia Delaunay. 'Yellow Nude' 1908

 

Sonia Delaunay
Yellow Nude
1908
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes, Nantes
© Pracusa 2014083

 

Sonia Delaunay. 'Sleeping girl' 1907

 

Sonia Delaunay
Sleeping girl
1907

 

Sonia Delaunay. 'Philomene' 1907

 

Sonia Delaunay
Philomene
1907

 

Sonia Delaunay. 'Electric Prisms' 1913

 

Sonia Delaunay
Electric Prisms
1913
Davis Museum at Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA, Gift of Mr. Theodore Racoosin
© Pracusa

 

Sonia Delaunay. 'Electric Prisms' 1913-14

 

Sonia Delaunay
Electric Prisms
1913-14

 

Sonia Delaunay. 'Prismes electrique' 1914

 

Sonia Delaunay
Prismes electrique
1914
© Pracusa 2013057
© CNAP

 

Sonia Delaunay. 'Prismes electrique' (detail) 1914

 

Sonia Delaunay
Prismes electrique (detail)
1914
© Pracusa 2013057
© CNAP

 

Who is Sonia Delaunay?

Who is she?

Sonia Delaunay was a multi-disciplinary abstract artist and key figure in the Parisian avant-garde. Alongside her husband, Robert Delaunay, she pioneered the movement Simultanism. Her exploration of the interaction between colours has created a sense of depth and movement throughout her oeuvre.
.

What is her background?

She was born Sonia Illinitchna Stern to a Jewish Ukrainian family. At the age of seven she went to live with her comparatively wealthy uncle Henri Terk and his wife, Anna, in St Petersburg, Russia. The Terk’s offered her a privileged and cultured upbringing in St Petersburg. Nevertheless, her childhood memories of Ukraine remained with her and she often referred back to the ‘pure’ colour and bright costumes of the Ukrainian peasant weddings.
.

How did she start her career as an abstract artist?

“About 1911 I had the idea of making for my son, who had just been born, a blanket composed of bits of fabric like those I had seen in the houses of Russian peasants. When it was finished, the arrangement of the pieces of material seemed to me to evoke cubist conceptions and we then tried to apply the same process to other objects and paintings.”
.

What does she do?

“I always changed everything around me… I made my first white walls so our paintings would look better. I designed my furniture; I have done everything. I have lived my art.”

Delaunay’s creativity expanded beyond painting to include many other outlets such as Casa Sonia, an interiors and fashion boutique that she set up 1918; The entire set and costume design of Tristan Tzara’s 1923 play Le Cœur à Gaz; An illustration for the cover of Vogue in 1926; Costumes for the films Le Vertige directed by Marcel L’Herbier and Le p’tit Parigot, directed by René Le Somptier; Furniture for the set of the 1929 film Parce que je t’aime; And her textiles label Tissus Delaunay, which sold her designs worldwide.
.

What is Orphism?

Orphism is a term originating from 1912 when French poet and art critic Guillaume Appollinaire identified the new style of Cubist painting. Appollinaire was inspired by the work of František Kupka and the Delaunays, who, although channelling the Cubist vision, prioritised colour in their work. Appollinaire felt this use of colour brought movement, light and musical qualities to the artwork and therefore referenced the legendary poet and singer of ancient Greek mythology, Orpheus, when naming the movement.
.

What is Simultanism?

Simultanism is the strand of Orphism practised by the Delaunays. The name comes from the work of French scientist Michel Eugène Chevreul who identified the phenomenon of ‘simultaneous contrast’, in which colours look different depending on the colours around them. For example, a grey will look lighter on a dark background than it does on a light one. The Delaunays dispensed with form and aimed to created rhythm, motion and depth through overlapping patches of vibrant hues.
.

What are her key artworks?

Prismes électriques (Electric Prisms), 1914, displays Delaunay’s trademark concentric circles at their best. Interpreted as an ode to modernity, Delaunay refracts the lights and bustle of Boulevard Saint Michel into almost complete abstraction. Everything disintegrates into colour except two figures, which remain discernible in the lower centre of the piece.

Nu jaune, 1908, juxtaposes the models’ warm yellow skin against lashings of cool emerald. This is one of Delaunay’s most striking uses of tone. The bright colours are frequently offset by black marks. These create a bold and heavy outline which is primitivist in its intention. The face of the model is mask like, suggesting melancholy. Delaunay makes no attempt to depict her as attractive, giving the artwork a brusque, modern feel.
.

What are her thoughts on colour?

“Colour is the skin of the world.”
“Colour was the hue of number.”

9 April 2015 on the Tate Modern website

 

Wearing the Pierrot-Éclair costume designed by Sonia Delaunay, on the set of René Le Somptier's film 'Le P’tit Parigot' 1926

 

Unknown photographer
Lizica Codreanu wearing the Pierrot-Éclair costume designed by Sonia Delaunay, on the set of René Le Somptier’s 1926 film ‘Le P’tit Parigot’
1926
Still photo from the film Le P’tit Parigot, written by Paul Cartoux, Directed by René Le Somptier, 1926, collection of Antoine Blanchette
© L & M SERVICES B.V. The Hague 20100623

 

'Sonia Delaunay in front of her door-poem in the Delaunays’ apartment, Boulevard Malesherbes, Paris' 1924 

 

Unknown photographer
Sonia Delaunay in front of her door-poem in the Delaunays’ apartment, Boulevard Malesherbes, Paris
1924
© Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris

 

Germaine Krull. 'Sonia Delaunay in her studio at boulevard Malesherbes, Paris, France' 1925

 

Germaine Krull (German, 1897-1985)
Sonia Delaunay in her studio at boulevard Malesherbes, Paris, France
1925
Bibliothèque Nationale de France, © L & M SERVICES B.V. The Hague 20100623

 

Sonia Delaunay in Simultaneous dress c. 1913

 

Unknown photographer
Sonia Delaunay in Simultaneous dress
c. 1913

 

Bathing suits designed by Delaunay, c. 1920s

 

Unknown photographer
Bathing suits designed by Delaunay
c. 1920s

 

 

“It was extremely inspiring to see a woman working with different disciplines – design, painting, textiles. Her reach was enviable. She was part of a tradition of Russian artists such as Liubov Popova and Varvara Stepanova who combined their knowledge of artisanal techniques with their beaux arts training as a way into the world of fashion. And her designs were outstanding. Look at her marvellous knitted bathing suit or patterned overcoat. If you were to walk into an exhibition and saw a woman dressed in that overcoat, she would steal the show.

Of course in Paris there were other powerful women designers, such as Madame Grès and Coco Chanel. The former’s designs were very sinuous, and Chanel was cutting back to the bone, whereas Sonia seemed to work on a frontal level. I like the powerful geometry of her designs – encasing a curvilinear body, contained and boxed-in like a walking cubist form. They were definitely not cute; they were harsh designs for husky women. I would have loved to see Gertrude Stein dressed in Sonia Delaunay’s clothes.

I admire her early paintings, especially Yellow Nude from 1908. You can’t really tell if the reclining figure that she has painted is male or female. It is coy, seductive, androgynous, as if she didn’t seem to care whether it was either. And if you read her biography, you find that she had a rather open attitude to sexuality – her first marriage was to a homosexual, and later to Robert. It was probably part of her shrewdness too – in making things work for her.

Has her work influenced mine? I came out of the Josef Albers camp, where colour was more magical and less obvious than Delaunay. I tend to go for unexpected nuanced colour combinations. So I would say not, but her workaholic attitude and willingness to experiment and try out things in different ways has. She was fearless, so why shouldn’t we be fearless. And I am very influenced by her teamwork – the big mural paintings she did for Palais de l’Air in 1937. I love those. She would have had teams of people working on them. They are such powerful works, so present and timeless. They send out a strong message – pronouncing a new world. They are not domestic works done at the easel. They are out in space. They are universal.”

Sheila Hicks. “The multi-talented Delaunay. Sonia Delaunay: The Fortune of Colour,” Tate Etc. issue 34: Summer 2015 on the Tate Modern website, 8 June 2015

 

Sonia Delaunay. Illustration for cover of 'Vogue' 1926

 

Sonia Delaunay
Illustration for cover of Vogue
1926

 

Sonia Delaunay. 'Simultané playing cards' 1964

 

Sonia Delaunay
Simultané playing cards
1964

 

Sonia Delaunay. 'Coat made for Gloria Swanson' 1923-24

 

Sonia Delaunay
Coat made for Gloria Swanson
1923-24
Private Collection
© Pracusa 2014083

 

Sonia Delaunay. 'Simultaneous Dresses (The three women)' 1925

 

Sonia Delaunay
Simultaneous Dresses (The three women)
1925
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
© Pracusa 2014083

 

Sonia Delaunay. 'Rythme' 1938

 

Sonia Delaunay
Rythme
1938

 

Sonia Delaunay. 'Rythme' 1945

 

Sonia Delaunay
Rythme
1945
Grey Art Gallery, New York
© Pracusa 2014083

 

 

Tate Modern
Bankside
London SE1 9TG
United Kingdom

Opening hours:
Sunday – Thursday 10.00 – 18.00
Friday – Saturday 10.00 – 22.00

Tate Modern website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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