Posts Tagged ‘anti-Nazi photomontages


Exhibition: ‘Erwin Blumenfeld (1897-1969) Photographs, drawings and photomontages’ at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Exhibition dates: 15th October 2013 – 26th January 2014


Erwin Blumenfeld. 'Grauenfresse / Hitler, Holland, 1933' 1933


Erwin Blumenfeld (American-German, 1897-1969)
Grauenfresse / Hitler, Holland, 1933
Collage and ink on photomontage (gelatin silver print, double-exposition). Printed later
Collection Helaine and Yorick Blumenfeld, Courtesy of Modernism Inc., San Francisco
© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld



Considering the nature of Blumenfeld’s collages such as Grauenfresse / Hitler, Holland, 1933 and Minotaur / Dictator I would say that the artist was very, very lucky to escape to America in 1941. Let us remember all those that were not so fortunate…

“In 1940 he was interned as a German Jew in France, first in Montbard, then in Loriol, Le Vernet, and Catus. He made a daring escape with his family in 1941, returning via Casablanca to New York, where he subsequently lived and worked until his death.” (press release)

“After Blumenfeld returned to France, during World War II, Blumenfeld and his family spent time in Vézelay with Le Corbusier and Romain Rolland. He was incarcerated at Camp Vernet and other concentration camps. His daughter Lisette (who had just turned 18) was incarcerated at the Gurs internment camp. Luckily Blumenfeld was bunked next to the husband of the woman Lisette was bunked next to. Through postcards and letters the Blumenfeld family of five managed to reunite. In 1941 they obtained a visa and escaped to North Africa and then New York.”

Text from the Wikipedia website



Erwin Blumenfeld. 'Minotaur / Dictator' [Minotaure / Dictateur] The Minotaur or The Dictator Paris, c. 1937


Erwin Blumenfeld (American-German, 1897-1969)
Minotaur / Dictator [Minotaure / Dictateur]
The Minotaur or The Dictator
Paris, c. 1937
Vintage gelatin silver print
Collection Yvette Blumenfeld Georges Deeton / Art+Commerce, New York, Gallery Kicken Berlin, Berlin



The Vichy Policy on Jewish Deportation

Paul Webster


Jewish Statute

Despite autonomy from German policies, Pétain brought in legislation setting up a Jewish Statute in October 1940. By then about 150,000 Jews had crossed what was known as the Demarcation Line to seek protection from Vichy in the south – only to find they were subjected to fierce discrimination along lines practised by the Germans in the north.

Jews were eventually banned from the professions, show business, teaching, the civil service and journalism. After an intense propaganda campaign, Jewish businesses were ‘aryanised’ by Vichy’s Commission for Jewish Affairs and their property was confiscated. More than 40,000 refugee Jews were held in concentration camps under French control, and 3,000 died of poor treatment during the winters of 1940 and 1941. The writer Arthur Koestler, who was held at Le Vernet near the Spanish frontier, said conditions were worse than in the notorious German camp, Dachau.

During 1941 anti-Semitic legislation, applicable in both zones, was tightened. French police carried out the first mass arrests in Paris in May 1941when 3,747 men were interned. Two more sweeps took place before the first deportation train provided by French state railways left for Germany under French guard on 12 March 1942. On 16 July 1942, French police arrested 12,884 Jews, including 4,501 children and 5,802 women, in Paris during what became known as La Grande Rafle (‘the big round-up’). Most were temporarily interned in a sports stadium, in conditions witnessed by a Paris lawyer, Georges Wellers.

‘All those wretched people lived five horrifying days in the enormous interior filled with deafening noise … among the screams and cries of people who had gone mad, or the injured who tried to kill themselves’, he recalled. Within days, detainees were being sent to Germany in cattle-wagons, and some became the first Jews to die in the gas chambers at Auschwitz.


Vichy crimes

Many historians consider that an even worse crime was committed in Vichy-controlled southern France, where the Germans had no say. In August 1942, gendarmes were sent to hunt down foreign refugees. Families were seized in their houses or captured after manhunts across the countryside. About 11,000 Jews were transported to Drancy in the Paris suburbs, the main transit centre for Auschwitz. Children as young as three were separated from their mothers – gendarmes used batons and hoses – before being sent to Germany under French guard, after weeks of maltreatment.

During 1942, officials sent 41,951 Jews to Germany, although the deportations came to a temporary halt when some religious leaders warned Vichy against possible public reaction. Afterwards, arrests were carried out more discreetly. In 1943 and 1944, the regime deported 31,899 people – the last train left in August 1944, as Allied troops entered Paris. Out of the total of 75,721 deportees, contained in a register drawn up by a Jewish organisation, fewer than 2,000 survived.

Revolt and aftermath

The number of dead would have been far higher if the Italian fascist leader, Benito Mussolini, had not ordered troops in France to defy German-French plans for mass round ups in Italian-occupied south-eastern France. Thousands were smuggled into Italy after Italian generals said that ‘no country can ask Italy, cradle of Christianity and law, to be associated with these (Nazi) acts’. After the Italian surrender in September 1943, arrests in the area restarted, but by then French public opinion had changed. Escape lines to Switzerland and Spain had been set up, and thousands of families risked death to shelter Jews. Since the war, Israel has given medals to 2,000 French people, including several priests, in recognition of this, and of the fact that about 250,000 Jews survived in France.

Post-war indifference to anti-Semitic persecution pushed the issue into the background until Serge Klarsfield, a Jewish lawyer whose Romanian father died in Germany, reawakened the national conscience. He tracked down the German chief of the Secret Service in Lyon, Klaus Barbie, who was hiding in Bolivia but was subsequently jailed for life in 1987. His case threw light on Vichy’s complicity in the Holocaust. Klarsfeld’s efforts were frustrated by the Socialist president of France at this time, Francois Mitterrand, who had been an official at Vichy and was decorated by Pétain. It was not until 1992 that one of Barbie’s French aides, Paul Touvier, who had been a minor figure in wartime France, was jailed for life for his crimes.

Facing facts

French courts, responding to Mitterrand’s warnings that trials would cause civil unrest, blocked other prosecutions, including that of the Vichy police chief, René Bousquet, who organised the Paris and Vichy zone mass arrests. He was assassinated by a lone gunman in June 1993. It was not until Mitterrand retired in 1995 that France began to face up to its responsibility in the persecution of Jews. When the new right-wing president, Jacques Chirac, came to power, he immediately condemned Vichy as a criminal regime and two years later the Catholic Church publicly asked for forgiveness for its failure to protect the Jews.

But the most significant step forward was the trial in 1997 of Maurice Papon, 89, for crimes concerning the deportation of Jews from Bordeaux. He had served as a cabinet minister after the war, before losing a 16-year legal battle to avoid trial. He was released from jail because of poor health, but his ten-year prison sentence has been interpreted as official recognition of French complicity in the Holocaust, although there are still those who continue to defend his actions.

Since the trial, France has opened up hidden archives and offered compensation to survivors – and ensured that schools, where history manuals used not to mention France’s part in the deportations, now have compulsory lessons on Vichy persecution. While anti-Semitism is still a social problem in France, there is no official discrimination, and today’s 600,000-strong Jewish community is represented at every level of the establishment, including in the Catholic Church, where the Archbishop of Paris is Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger.

Extract from Paul Webster. “The Vichy Policy on Jewish Deportation,” on the BBC History website, 17/02/2011 [Online] Cited 23/01/2021

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.



Erwin Blumenfeld. 'Mode-Montage' c. 1950


Erwin Blumenfeld (American-German, 1897-1969)
c. 1950
Vintage gelatin silver print
Collection Helaine et Yorick Blumenfeld
Courtesy of Modernism Inc., San Francisco
© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld


Erwin Blumenfeld. 'Marguerite von Sivers sur le toit du studio 9, rue Delambre' [Marguerite von Sivers on the roof of Blumenfeld’s studio at 9, rue Delambre] Paris, 1937


Erwin Blumenfeld (American-German, 1897-1969)
Marguerite von Sivers sur le toit du studio 9, rue Delambre [Marguerite von Sivers on the roof of Blumenfeld’s studio at 9, rue Delambre]
Paris, 1937
Vintage gelatin silver print
Collection Yvette Blumenfeld Georges Deeton / Art+Commerce, New York, Gallery Kicken Berlin, Berlin
© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld


Erwin Blumenfeld. 'Untitled [Natalia Pasco]' 1942


Erwin Blumenfeld (American-German, 1897-1969)
Untitled [Natalia Pasco]
Vintage gelatin silver print
Collection Henry Blumenfeld
© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld


Erwin Blumenfeld. 'Voile mouillé' [Wet veil] Paris, 1937


Erwin Blumenfeld (American-German, 1897-1969)
Voile mouillé [Wet Veil]
Paris, 1937
Vintage gelatin silver print
Collection particulière, Suisse
© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld


Erwin Blumenfeld. 'Cecil Beaton' 1946


Erwin Blumenfeld (American-German, 1897-1969)
Cecil Beaton
Vintage silver gelatin print
Collection particulière, Suisse
© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld


Erwin Blumenfeld. 'Self-Portrait' Paris, c. 1937


Erwin Blumenfeld (American-German, 1897-1969)
Paris, c. 1937
Gelatin silver print. Printed later
Collection Helaine and Yorick Blumenfeld
© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld


Erwin Blumenfeld. 'Untitled (Self-Portrait)' 1945


Erwin Blumenfeld (American-German, 1897-1969)
Untitled (Self-Portrait)



Erwin Blumenfeld’s life and work impressively document the socio-political context of artistic development between the two World Wars, while highlighting the individual consequences of emigration. The exhibition devoted to Erwin Blumenfeld’s multi-layered œuvre brings together over 300 works and documents from the late 1910s to the 1960s, and encompasses the various media explored by the artist throughout his career: drawings, photographs, montages and collages.

This exhibition traces his visual creativity and encompasses the early drawings, the collages and montages, which mostly stem from the early 1920s, the beginnings of his portrait art in Holland, the first black and white fashion photographs of the Paris period, the masterful colour photography created in New York and the urban photos taken toward the end of his life.

The retrospective also showcases his drawings, many of which have never been shown before, as well as his early collages and photomontages, shedding fascinating light on the evolution of his photographic oeuvre and revealing the full extent of his creative genius. The now classic motifs of his experimental black-and-white photographs can be seen alongside his numerous self-portraits and portraits of famous and little-known people, as well as his fashion and advertising work.

In the first years of his career, he worked only in black and white, but as soon as it became technically possible he enthusiastically used colour. He transferred his experiences with black-and-white photography to colour; applying them to the field of fashion, he developed a particularly original repertoire of forms. The female body became Erwin Blumenfeld’s principal subject. In his initial portrait work, then the nudes he produced while living in Paris and, later on, his fashion photography, he sought to bring out the unknown, hidden nature of his subjects; the object of his quest was not realism, but the mystery of reality

Blumenfeld’s work was showcased most recently in France in a 1981 show at the Centre Pompidou, which focused on his fashion photography, in 1998 at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, as well as more recently in the exhibition Blumenfeld Studio, Colour, New York, 1941-1960 (Chalon-sur-Saône, Essen, London).

Press release from the Jeu de Paume website


“Bringing together over three hundred works and documents dating from the late 1910s to the 1960s, this exhibition, the first in France to showcase the multilayered aspects of Erwin Blumenfeld’s oeuvre, encompasses the various media explored by the artist throughout his career: drawing, photography, montage, and collage.

The life and work of Erwin Blumenfeld (Berlin, 1897 – Rome, 1969) provides an impressive record of the socio-political context of artistic development between the two World Wars, while highlighting the individual consequences of emigration. Erwin Blumenfeld, a German Jew, only spent a few years in his country of birth. It was only in 1919, when he was in self-imposed exile in the Netherlands, that Blumenfeld began to take a deeper interest in photography, particularly the photographic process and above all the artistic possibilities offered by darkroom experiments. For a short while, he ran an Amsterdam-based portrait studio that doubled as an exhibition space, before moving to Paris in 1936, where the art dealer Walter Feilchenfeldt helped him rent a studio in the rue Delambre. That same year, his photographs were exhibited at the Galerie Billiet, while the following year saw his first beauty cover, for Votre Beauté magazine. In 1938 he received a visit from leading fashion photographer Cecil Beaton, who helped him to obtain a contract with the French Vogue. Blumenfeld travelled to New York, returning in 1939, shortly before the outbreak of war, to become Harper’s Bazaar’s fashion correspondent in Paris.

In 1940 he was interned as a German Jew in France, first in Montbard, then in Loriol, Le Vernet, and Catus. He made a daring escape with his family in 1941, returning via Casablanca to New York, where he subsequently lived and worked until his death. It was in New York that Blumenfeld’s astonishing career as a much sought after, highly paid fashion photographer really took off, first of all in the studio he shared with Martin Munkácsi, then from 1943 in his own premises. The contract he signed with the publishers Condé Nast in 1944 marked the beginning of ten years of remarkable photography and cover shots for various magazines in the company’s stable. Following on from his experimental black-and-white shots of the 1930s, he began playing with colour. The present exhibition includes, besides photographs, both magazine work and early experimental films made for the Dayton department store in Minneapolis, his leading advertising customer.

Not until 1960 did Blumenfeld return to Berlin for a visit. He devoted the following years to finishing his autobiography, begun in the 1950s. The work was completed in 1969 with the help of his assistant Marina Schinz, but was only published in 1975, initially in French translation, then in the original German in 1976. His book My One Hundred Best Photos was also released posthumously, in 1979.


Drawings, Montages, and Collages

Between 1916 and 1933 Erwin Blumenfeld produced a fairly limited number of drawings and montages. As a young man he was very interested in literature, writing poems and short stories. And as early as 1915 he mentioned that he was interested in writing an autobiography. Almost all of his montages and collages include drawings and snippets of language. He plays with written and printed words and typography, juxtaposing names, concepts, and places to create ironic commentaries and provocative titles. His collages typically combine drawing, language, and cut-outs of original or printed photographs. He also often used letter stationery to form a background, leaving bare spaces. In 1918 Blumenfeld made the acquaintance of the Dadaist George Grosz; two years later he and Paul Citroen wrote to Francis Picabia in the name of the Hollandse Dadacentrale, but neither was present at the First International Dada Fair in Berlin in 1920. That same year, Blumenfeld began using the pseudonyms Erwin Bloomfeld and Jan Bloomfield, as documented in his Dadaist publications and in some of his collages. The drawings in the present exhibition, most of which have never been shown in public, were produced in Berlin and the Netherlands. Only a handful of them are dated. They are quick sketches from life or from imagination, rough cartoons and acid caricatures, in pencil, ink, watercolour, or coloured pencil – whatever was to hand. Blumenfeld was clearly fascinated by the quality and immediacy of drawing as a medium, and, as these works reveal, it certainly stimulated his playful side.



Blumenfeld took his first photographs as a schoolboy, using himself as one of his first subjects. The earliest date from the 1910s, but he continued taking self-portraits to the end of his life. The young man with the dreamy gaze turned into the louche bohemian with a cigarette, then the carefully staged photographer experimenting with his camera. His self-portraits are not the product of excessive vanity, but rather playful experiments, with and without masks, models, and other grotesque objects such as a calf’s head, all used to create witty images.



Blumenfeld’s first steps in professional photography were in portraiture. He started “learning by doing” in the early 1920s in Amsterdam, where he had opened the ladies handbag store Fox Leather Company. This is where he took portraits of customers, using a darkroom in the back of the store. Comparison of the contact sheets from the time with the blow-ups taken from them clearly shows, right from the outset, the importance in Blumenfeld’s work of the finishing in the lab. The final images display extremely tight framing, high levels of contrast, and lighting that creates dramatic, even devilish, effects. When he arrived in Paris in 1936 his first photographs were portraits, featuring among others Henri Matisse and Georges Rouault. Although he quickly entered the Paris fashion scene, he retained a strong interest in portraiture throughout the remainder of his life.



Blumenfeld’s earliest, highly narrative nudes date from his time in the Netherlands, but the subject only became a passion during his Paris years from 1936 on, when he discovered the work of French avant-garde photographers. His admiration for them is particularly evident in his nude photographs, as is the influence of Man Ray’s work. The bodies of the women in these images were surfaces onto which he projected his artistic imagination. He cut them up, solarised them, and transformed them into abstract imagery through the play of light and shadow. The faces of his nudes from the 1930s are only rarely visible, the women remaining somewhat mysterious entities. The nudes Blumenfeld produced in the 1950s after he had settled in New York tended to be more concrete, illustrative works.



The black-and-white architectural photographs that Erwin Blumenfeld took in the 1930s feature buildings and urban spaces from various experimental and abstract perspectives. The Eiffel Tower, for instance, is captured in sharp reliefs of light and shade, while the photographs of Rouen Cathedral are intended to draw the viewer’s visual attention to the building’s specific forms. Blumenfeld expresses his artistic vision and his knowledge of Gothic architecture by focusing on the abstraction of details. During the 1950s and 1960s Blumenfeld used a 35mm camera for cityscapes. The exhibition showcases three of these colour slide projects for the first time. They feature New York, Paris, and Berlin – three places that made a mark on his art and also shaped his career.


The Dictator

In 1933, according to his autobiography, Blumenfeld reacted to Hitler’s rise to power in Germany with a photomontage. This outstanding piece of work, probably his most famous photograph, symbolises and anticipates the dictator’s dehumanisation. Following on from the political themes in some of his early collages, he here combined different negatives – a skull and a portrait of Hitler – to make a single print. In one of these montages he included a swastika, while in a different portrait “bleeding eyes” were added later on the surface. Later on, in Paris, he photographed a calf’s head, using this subject to compose different images. One in which he placed the animal’s head on a woman’s torso was titled The Minotaure or The Dictator. This image, which does not refer to a specific figure, is obviously intended to be allegorical. In 1941 Blumenfeld was able to escape from the Nazis with his family to New York.



Blumenfeld’s move to Paris in 1936 marked the beginning of his career as a fashion photographer, although he had already had contacts with magazines in Paris while living in Amsterdam. The work that appeared in French publications in the late 1930s raised Blumenfeld’s profile as a modernist photographer and brought him to the attention of the famous British photographer Cecil Beaton, who visited him in his studio in 1938 and helped him sign his first contract with the French edition of Vogue. When Blumenfeld made his first trip to New York following his sensational set of fashion photographs on the Eiffel Tower, he came home with a new contract as Paris fashion correspondent for Harper’s Bazaar. He was only able to file his reports for a year before he was interned in various prison camps across France. In 1941 he was able to escape from German-occupied France to New York with his family. In the first half of the 1950s, he drew on his experiments in black-and-white photography to develop an exceptionally original artistic repertoire, reflected in his use of colour and his fashion work.

Ute Eskildsen
Curator of the exhibition
Translated from German by Susan Pickford


Erwin Blumenfeld. 'Three Graces (1947), New York' 1947


Erwin Blumenfeld (American-German, 1897-1969)
Three Graces (1947), New York



Leslie Petersen appears here in a triple variation inspired by Botticelli’s Primavera. The photograph, was intended to show off a gown by Cadwallader. The final image is made of two shots. The two on the right are similar but with different degrees of sharpness. The pose on the left is different.

Text from Phaidon


Erwin Blumenfeld. 'Nude (Lisette)' Paris, 1937


Erwin Blumenfeld (American-German, 1897-1969)
Nude (Lisette)
Paris, 1937
Gelatin silver print, negative print, solarisation. Vintage print
Collection Yvette Blumenfeld Georges Deeton / Art + Commerce, New York, Gallery Kicken Berlin, Berlin
© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld


Erwin Blumenfeld. 'Charlie' 1920


Erwin Blumenfeld (American-German, 1897-1969)
Collage, Indian ink, watercolour and pencil on paper
Collection Helaine and Yorick Blumenfeld
© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld


Erwin Blumenfeld. 'Untitled, New York, 1944' 1944


Erwin Blumenfeld (American-German, 1897-1969)
Untitled, New York, 1944
Gelatin silver print. Vintage print
Collection Henry Blumenfeld
© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld


Erwin Blumenfeld. 'In hoc signo vinces [in this sign you will conquer]' 1967


Erwin Blumenfeld (American-German, 1897-1969)
In hoc signo vinces [in this sign you will conquer]
Gelatin silver print. Vintage print
Private collection, Switzerland
© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld


Erwin Blumenfeld. 'Audrey Hepburn' New York, 1950


Erwin Blumenfeld (American-German, 1897-1969)
Audrey Hepburn
New York, 1950
Vintage silver gelatin print
Collection particulière, Suisse.
© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld



Audrey Hepburn is wearing a hat designed by Blumenfeld and made by Mister Fred, one of New York’s most talented milliners. Blumenfeld here uses a system of mirrors showing the front and back of the hat and allowing infinite repetition of the motif.

Text from Phaidon


Erwin Blumenfeld. 'Untitled [Homme agenouillé avec tour]' [Kneeling man with tower] 1920


Erwin Blumenfeld (American-German, 1897-1969)
Untitled [Homme agenouillé avec tour] [Kneeling man with tower]
Indian ink, ink, watercolor and collage on paper
Collection Henry Blumenfeld.
© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld


Erwin Blumenfeld. 'Group with Chaplin' Early 1920's


Erwin Blumenfeld (American-German, 1897-1969)
Group with Chaplin
Early 1920’s
Gouache and pencil on paper
Collection Henry Blumenfeld
© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld


Erwin Blumenfeld. 'Untitled (Green dress)' 1946


Erwin Blumenfeld (American-German, 1897-1969)
Untitled (Green dress)


Erwin Blumenfeld. 'Do your part for the Red Cross' [Soutenez la Croix-Rouge] 1945


Erwin Blumenfeld (American-German, 1897-1969)
Do your part for the Red Cross [Soutenez la Croix-Rouge]
Variante de la photographie de couverture de Vogue US, 15 mars 1945
Variant of a cover photograph of Vogue, “Do your part for the Red Cross”, New York, March 15th, 1945
Impression jet d’encre sur papier Canson baryta, tirage posthume (2012).
Collection Henry Blumenfeld.
© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld



A model, a red cross: fashion and current affairs superimposed. The background to this humanitarian appeal is the liberation of the concentration camps and the aid brought to prisoners of war. Blumenfeld reinterprets these humanitarian signs just as he blurs those of fashion.

Text from Phaidon


Erwin Blumenfeld. Variant of the photograph published in Life Magazine entitled "The Picasso Girl" [The young woman of Picasso] (model: Lisette) c. 1941-1942


Erwin Blumenfeld (American-German, 1897-1969)
Variante de la photographie parue dans Life Magazine et intitulée “The Picasso Girl” [La jeune femme Picasso]
Variant of the photograph published in Life Magazine entitled “The Picasso Girl” [The young woman of Picasso]
(model: Lisette)
c. 1941-1942
Inkjet printing on Canson baryta paper, posthumous print (2012)
Collection Henry Blumenfeld
© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld


Erwin Blumenfeld. Three profiles. Variant of the photograph published in the article "Color and lighting" Photograph Annual of 1952


Erwin Blumenfeld (American-German, 1897-1969)
The young woman of Picasso
Trois profils. Variante de la photographie parue dans l’article “Color and lighting” [Couleur et éclairage], de Photograph Annual 1952
Three profiles. Variant of the photograph published in the article “Color and lighting” Photograph Annual of 1952
Inkjet printing on Canson baryta paper, posthumous print (2012)
Collection Henry Blumenfeld
© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld



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Exhibition: ‘Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop’ at The National Gallery of Art, Washington

Exhibition dates: 17th February – 5th May 2013


Unknown photographer (American). 'He Lost His Head' Nd


Unknown photographer (American)
He Lost His Head



Further images from this impressive exhibition devoted to the art of photographic manipulation before the advent of digital imagery from its second stop, at The National Gallery of Art, Washington.


Many thankx to the National Gallery of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.


Edward Steichen. 
'The Pond - Moonrise' 1904


Edward Steichen (American, 1879-1973)

The Pond – Moonrise
Platinum print with applied colour
39.7 x 48.2cm (15 5/8 x 19 in.)
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art/ Permission Estate of Edward Steichen. All rights reserved



Using a painstaking technique of multiple printing, Steichen achieved prints of such painterly seductiveness they have never been equaled. This view of a pond in the woods at Mamaroneck, New York is subtly coloured as Whistler’s Nocturnes, and like them, is a tone poem of twilight, in-distinction, and suggestiveness. Commenting on such pictures in 1910, Charles Caffin wrote in Camera Work: “It is in the penumbra, between the clear visibility of things and their total extinction into darkness, when the concreteness of appearances becomes merged in half-realised, half-baffled vision, that spirit seems to disengage itself from matter to envelop it with a mystery of soul-suggestion.”

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website


Henry Peach Robinson (British, 1830-1901) 'She Never Told Her Love' 1857


Henry Peach Robinson (British, 1830-1901)
She Never Told Her Love
Albumen silver print from glass negative
18 x 23.2cm (7 1/16 x 9 1/8in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Jennifer and Joseph Duke Gift, 2005



Consumed by the passion of unrequited love, a young woman lies suspended in the dark space of her unrealised dreams in Henry Peach Robinson’s illustration of the Shakespearean verse “She never told her love, / But let concealment, like a worm i’ the bud, / Feed on her damask cheek” (Twelfth Night II, iv, 111-13). Although this picture was exhibited by Robinson as a discrete work, it also served as a study for the central figure in his most famous photograph, Fading Away, of 1858.

Purportedly showing a young consumptive surrounded by family in her final moments, Fading Away was hotly debated for years. On the one hand, Robinson was criticised for the presumed indelicacy of having invaded the death chamber at the most private of moments. On the other, those who recognised the scene as having been staged and who understood that Robinson had created the picture through combination printing (a technique that utilised several negatives to create a single printed image) accused him of dishonestly using a medium whose chief virtue was its truthfulness.

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website


Frederick Sommer. 'Max Ernst' 1946


Frederick Sommer (American, 1905-1999)
Max Ernst
Gelatin silver print
19.2 x 23.97cm (7 9/16 x 9 7/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Frederick and Frances Sommer Foundation


Wm. Notman & Son, Montreal, Eugène L'Africain, William Notman. 'Red Cap Snow Shoe Club, Halifax, Nova Scotia' c. 1888


Wm. Notman & Son, Montreal, Eugène L’Africain, William Notman
Red Cap Snow Shoe Club, Halifax, Nova Scotia
c. 1888
Collage of albumen prints with applied media
71.1 x 83.8cm (28 x 33 in.)
McCord Museum, Montreal



Notman established his first photography studio in Montreal in 1856 and relentlessly expanded his operations over the next two decades. At its peak, his company had twenty-four branches throughout Canada and New England, making it the most successful photographic enterprise in North America at the time. Notman specialised in composite portraits of large groups, including sporting clubs, trade associations, family gatherings, clergymen, and college graduates, some featuring more than four hundred figures. Each figure in a group was photographed separately in the studio then printed at the proper scale and pasted onto a painted background, as in this portrait of a Nova Scotia snowshoe club. The entire collage was then re-photographed. The final, relatively seamless tableau could then be printed and sold in a variety of sizes and formats.

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website



The National Gallery of Art presents the first major exhibition devoted to the art of photographic manipulation before the advent of digital imagery. Faking It: Manipulated Photography before Photoshop will be on view in the West Building’s Ground Floor galleries from February 17 through May 5, 2013, following its debut at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (from October 11, 2012, through January 27, 2013). In June it travels to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

“Following in its tradition of exhibiting and collecting the finest examples of photography, the Gallery is pleased to present some 200 photographs from the 1840s through the 1980s demonstrating the medium’s complicated relationship to truth in representation,” said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. “We are grateful to the many lenders, both public and private, who have generously shared works from their collections – especially the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the largest lender and the organiser of this fascinating exhibition.”


The Exhibition

This is the first major exhibition devoted to the history of manipulated photography before the digital age. While the widespread use of Adobe® Photoshop® software has brought about an increased awareness of the degree to which photographs can be doctored, photographers – including such major artists as Gustave Le Gray, Edward Steichen, Weegee, and Richard Avedon – have been fabricating, modifying, and otherwise manipulating camera images since the medium was first invented. This exhibition demonstrates that today’s digitally manipulated images are part of a continuum that extends back to photography’s first decades. Through visually captivating pictures created in the service of art, politics, news, entertainment, and commerce, Faking It not only traces the medium’s complex and changing relationship to visual truth, but also significantly revises our understanding of photographic history.

Organised thematically, the exhibition begins with some of the earliest instances of photographic manipulation – those attempting to compensate for the new medium’s technical limitations. In the 19th century, many photographers hand tinted portraits to make them appear more vivid and lifelike. Others composed large group portraits by photographing individuals separately in the studio and creating a collage by pasting them onto painted backgrounds depicting outdoor scenes. As the art and craft of photography grew increasingly sophisticated, photographers devised a staggering array of techniques with which to manipulate their images, including combination printing, photomontage, overpainting, ink and airbrush retouching, sandwiched negatives, multiple exposures, and other darkroom magic.

The exhibition presents a superb selection of manually altered photographs created under the mantle of art, including 19th-century genre scenes composed of multiple negatives, stunning Pictorialist landscapes from the turn of the 19th century, and the pre-digital dreamscapes of surrealist photographers in the 1920s and 1930s. A section of doctored images made for political or ideological ends includes faked composite photographs of the 1871 Paris Commune massacres, anti-Nazi photomontages by John Heartfield, and falsified images from Stalin-era Soviet Russia. The show also explores popular uses of photographic manipulation such as spirit photography, tall-tale and fantasy postcards, advertising and fashion spreads, and doctored news images.

The final section features the work of contemporary artists – including Duane Michals, Jerry Uelsmann, and Yves Klein – who have reclaimed earlier techniques of image manipulation to creatively question photography’s presumed objectivity. By tracing the history of photographic manipulation from the 1840s to the present, Faking It vividly demonstrates that photography is – and always has been – a medium of fabricated truths and artful lies.

Press release from the National Gallery of Art website


Arthur Felig - Weegee (American, born Hungary, 1899-1968) 'Times Square, New York' 1952-59


Weegee (Arthur Felig) (American born Hungary, 1899-1968)
Times Square, New York
Gelatin silver print
20.3 x 17.8cm (8 x 7 in.)
© International Center of Photography, Bequest of Wilma Wilcox, 1993



Famous for his gritty tabloid crime photographs, Weegee devoted the last twenty years of his life to what he called his “creative work.” He experimented prolifically with distorting lenses and comparable darkroom techniques, producing photo caricatures of politicians and Hollywood celebrities, novel variations on the man-in-the-bottle motif, and uncanny doublings and reflections, such as this striking image, which he described as “Times Square under 10 feet of water on a sunny afternoon.”


Kathy Grove (American, b. 1948) 'The Other Series (After Kertész)' 1989-90


Kathy Grove (American, b. 1948)
The Other Series (After Kertész)
Gelatin silver print
19.7 x 15.2cm (7 3/4 x 6 in.)
Purchase, Charina Foundation Inc. Gift, 2010
© Kathy Grove



In the late 1980s Grove, an artist who supports herself as a professional photo retoucher, began seamlessly altering images of famous works of art, using bleach, dyes, and airbrush to remove the female figure from each image and leaving the rest of the scene intact. Her cunning excisions mimic the process by which art historians, echoing the culture at large, have erased the achievements of actual women while enshrining Woman as a blank screen upon which the ideas and desires of both artist and viewer are projected. If photographs are presumed to represent the truth, Grove’s pictures remind us to ask: Whose truth?


Unknown, American. '[Decapitated Man with Head on a Platter]' c. 1865


Unknown (American)
[Decapitated Man with Head on a Platter]
c. 1865
Tintype with applied colour
8.4 x 6cm (3 5/16 x 2 3/8 in.)
© International Center of Photography, Gift of Steven Kasher and Susan Spungen Kasher, 2008


Carleton E. Watkins (American, 1829-1916) 'Cape Horn, Columbia River, Oregon' 1867


Carleton E. Watkins (American, 1829-1916)
Cape Horn, Columbia River, Oregon
1867, printed 1880-1890
Albumen silver print from glass negatives
52.3 x 40.4cm (20 9/16 x 15 7/8 in.)
© George Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film, Rochester



Watkins, the consummate photographer of the American West, combined a virtuoso mastery of the difficult wet plate negative process with a rigorous sense of pictorial structure. For large-format landscape work such as Watkins produced along the Columbia River in Oregon, the physical demands were great. Since there was as yet no practical means of enlarging, Watkins’s glass negatives had to be as large as he wished the prints to be, and his camera large enough to accommodate them. Furthermore, the glass negatives had to be coated, exposed, and developed while the collodion remained tacky, requiring the photographer to transport a traveling darkroom as he explored the rugged virgin terrain of the American West. The crystalline clarity of Watkins’s remarkable “mammoth” prints is unmatched in the work of any of his contemporaries and is approached by few artists working today. (Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website). Here the clouds have been printed in (compare to the work on the Metropolitan Museum of Art website)


Dora Maar (French, 1907-1997) 'The Simulator' 1936


Dora Maar (French, 1907-1997)
Le simulateur
Gelatin silver print
29.2 x 22.9cm (11 1/2 x 9 in.)
Collection of The Sack Photographic Trust for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art



Maar’s haunting photomontages of the mid-1930s evoke a mood of oneiric ambiguity. Here, the world is turned literally upside-down: a boy bends sharply backward, echoing the curve of the vaulted ceiling on which he stands. On the print, Maar scratched out the figure’s eyes, exploiting Surrealism’s strong association of blindness with inner sight.


Albert Sands Southworth, Josiah Johnson Hawes. 'Seated man with Brattle Street Church seen through window' 1850s


Albert Sands Southworth (American, 1811-1894) and Josiah Johnson Hawes (American, 1808-1901)
Seated man with Brattle Street Church seen through window
21.6 x 16.5cm (8 1/2 x 6 1/2 in.)
The Isenburg Collection at AMC Toronto


J.C. Higgins and Son. 'Man in bottle' c. 1888


J.C. Higgins and Son (American)
Man in bottle
c. 1888
Albumen print
13.5 x 10cm (5 5/16 x 3 15/16 in.)
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Susan and Thomas Dunn Gift, 2011


Jerry N. Uelsmann. 'Untitled' 1976


Jerry N. Uelsmann (American, b. 1934)
Gelatin silver print
49.3 x 36cm (19 7/16 x 14 3/16 in.)
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, David Hunter McAlpin Fund, 1981
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art/ © Jerry N. Uelsmann


Unknown Photographer, German. 'Ein kräftiger Zusammenstoss (A Powerfull Collision)' 1914


Unknown Photographer (German)
Ein kräftiger Zusammenstoss (A Powerfull Collision)
Gelatin silver print
8.7 x 13.7cm (3 7/16 x 5 3/8 in.)
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Twentieth-Century Photography Fund, 2010



National Gallery of Art
National Mall between 3rd and 7th Streets
Constitution Avenue NW, Washington

Opening hours:
Daily 10am – 5pm

National Gallery of Art website


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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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