Posts Tagged ‘Ernest Hemingway

20
Feb
22

Exhibition: ‘Man Ray: The Paris Years’ at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia

Exhibition dates: 30th October 2021 – 20th February 2022

Curator: Dr. Michael Taylor, VMFA’s Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Art and Education

 

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Self-Portrait with Camera' 1930

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Self-Portrait with Camera
1930
Solarised gelatin silver print
The Jewish Museum, New York, Photography Acquisitions Committee Fund, Horace W. Goldsmith Fund, and Judith and Jack Stern Gift
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

 

I remember many many years ago (2004) the National Gallery of Victoria held a major exhibition of the work of Man Ray, the first large-scale exhibition of Man Ray’s photography to have been presented in Australia. The exhibition was organised by the Art Gallery of New South Wales where it set an attendance record for photography exhibitions, with over 52,000 visitors, before travelling to Brisbane and Melbourne – which exhibitions did in those days between state capitals, alas no longer.

All these years later I still remember being impressed by the technical, almost scientific element – and elemental – aspect of Man Ray’s photography, the sheer intensity of his images, and their small, jewel-like size. I was less impressed by the lack of feeling the photographs gave me, as though the photographs were scientific experiments which emphasised “his techniques of framing, cropping, solarising and use of the photogram in order to present a new, ‘surreal’ way of seeing” and which, to my young photographic eyes, saw their lush and enigmatic beauty subsumed in an unemotional technical exercise.

Concentrating on his portrait photographs during his Paris years, this exhibition includes more than 100 portrait photographs made by the artist in Paris between 1921 and 1940. “In choosing portraits for the exhibit, the curator’s objective was to present the complete picture of Man Ray’s pantheon of cultural luminaries… “Since this exhibition is all about storytelling, we wanted to highlight the femme moderne and tell the public of their fierce individuality and creativity,” [Michael] Taylor says, explaining that the women’s inclusion makes for a more dynamic and meaningful exhibition. “These are musicians, models and performers whose contributions have been marginalized due to the legacy of colonialism and racism.” … The portraits chosen for “Man Ray: the Paris Years” reflect not only the staggering range of techniques Ray employed during his Parisian years, but also the fascinating people who inhabited his world. “Innovative, groundbreaking, experimental and completely original, Ray’s portraits are unlike the work of any of his contemporaries,” Taylor says.”1

But to my mind Man Ray’s other photography during this period, such as his 1922 album Champs Délicieux which contained 12 Dada inspired Rayographs (some of his first), his surreal photographic solarisations and his portfolio, Électricité (Electricity) (1931) are more expressive and revolutionary avant-garde statements of the creative power of photography than ever his portraits are.

And while his portrait photographs may be experimental and groundbreaking – all about technique – are they good portraits? That’s the key question. To my eyes his portraits have a “lumpy” quality to them, a kind of enigmatic blankness that never reveals much of the sitters personality. The doll-like beauty of Kiki de Montparnasse (c. 1924, below) becomes a later abstract wistfulness both photographs revealing nothing; a tough, shielded Gertrude Stein (at Home) (1922, below) is not a patch on Imogen Cunningham’s engaging, challenging portrait of 1934; and the portrait of Elsie Houston (1933, below) is just plain uncomfortable in its placement of the bandaged head and hand in the pictorial frame.

Apparently, Man Ray “was in league with the surrealists and, in even his most classical-seeming portraits, revealed a predilection for unexpected juxtapositions, visual rhymes and piercing expressions that can transport you instantaneously to the lip of a volcanic unconscious.” Allegedly.

A volcanic unconscious. Who writes this stuff? I often feel I am looking at different photographs than the ones other people are writing about. Again, “Man Ray’s photography doesn’t simply capture the image of a person, or the ghost that inhabits them. It captures the whole of creative expression – the surreal and sorrowful, the conflict and music, the desperation and freedom that comprise the human narrative.” No it doesn’t… I don’t even think he is a very good portrait photographer! Compared to a Weston, Sander or Lange, a Stieglitz, Arbus or Julia Margaret Cameron, Man Ray’s portraits are modestly proficient evocations at best.

“To be ‘done’ by Man Ray and Berenice Abbott meant that you rated as somebody,” wrote Sylvia Beach, owner of Shakespeare and Company, the legendary bookstore and lending library established in Paris after World War I by the American expatriate. You had made it… immortalised in the negative, promoted in the positive. There is the key. To be worthy, to be “fashion” able. After all, Man Ray was running a commercial photographic studio with Berenice Abbott as his assistant in order to make a living. After Man Ray fired her in 1926 Abbott set up her own studio and they became business rivals.

The two most enticing portrait photographs in the posting are both wistful visages of the female: the slightly out of focus, low depth of field beauty of the direct Lee Miller, an ex-lover of Man Ray, staring down the desiring male gaze, like the most glamorous and scientifically symmetrically perfect “mug shot” you have ever seen; and the soft sfumato (which translated literally from Italian means “vanished or evaporated”) background to the contemporary Mona Lisa that is the vulnerable, tender Berenice Abbott surrounded by vanished shadows and evaporated space. “Leonardo has studied the sky, the elements, the atmosphere, and the light. He takes the approach of a scientist, but translates it into the painting with superb delicacy and finesse. For him the painting doesn’t count. What counts is the knowledge,” observes Louvre Curator Jean-Pierre Cuzin.2

Science, knowledge and atmosphere. Only in this portrait of Berenice Abbott does Man Ray take his love of science and knowledge and approach what Preston Duncan observes: “It is through this aperture that we find the abiding sense that, in all the weight, the struggle, the limitations of our physical form, is an ongoing moment of release.”

A final thought emerges in my consciousness. I wondered whether there is a photograph of Man Ray by Berenice Abbott? Not that I can find…

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Karen Newton. “Storytelling Portraits,” on the Style Weekly website August 31, 2021 [Online] Cited 20/02/2022
  2. Anonymous text. “…Leonardo’s masterful technique,” on the PBS Treasures of the World website [Online] Cited 20/02/2022

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

 

 

“The story of Man Ray and Paris has been told, but it’s usually been told through the lens – pardon the pun, it’s a photography show – of Man Ray’s innovations; the Rayograph, Solarization, his friendships, and his network. But what about the subjects?” says Chief Curator, Dr. Michael Taylor. “We took inspiration from the photograph on the cover of this show. It’s the first work you see in the exhibition. This is actually Man Ray taking your portrait. In other words, […] even though it’s called a self-portrait, a camera is photographing him, but he is looking at you with his camera. So we started to think about not just telling Man Ray’s story, which is fascinating, but the story of the sitters, the subjects, the models. …

While the primary focus of the exhibit is on portraiture and the radical expressiveness of his subjects – from the vanguards of femme moderne culture to aerialists in drag – there are some detours into avant-garde Rayography and cinema. This diversity of expression is resonant with Man Ray’s professional dedication to dismantling boundaries – those of gender, race, and national identity, as well as artistic traditionalism and aesthetic philosophy. …

Man Ray’s photography doesn’t simply capture the image of a person, or the ghost that inhabits them. It captures the whole of creative expression – the surreal and sorrowful, the conflict and music, the desperation and freedom that comprise the human narrative. It is through this aperture that we find the abiding sense that, in all the weight, the struggle, the limitations of our physical form, is an ongoing moment of release. It confronts us with the fact we are all winging this strange dance, contributing our solitary note to an overture that is entirely improvised, sharing in the simple hope that we may, for an instant, hear the enormity of the score.”

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Preston Duncan. “The View From Paris,” on the RVA website November 3, 2021 [Online] Cited 02/02/2022

 

All the men of the age are there: Igor Stravinsky, James Joyce, Andre Breton, Picasso and Braque. Equally present are the era’s modern women, including Bernice Abbott, the rarely-as-well-photographed Gertrude Stein, Lee Miller and Virginia Woolf. The real stars, however, are the unknowns. Or rather, those unknown-to-us. “Man Ray used photography to challenge the artistic traditions and break boundaries, including fixed gender roles and racial barriers,” says Michael Taylor, the museum’s chief curator, who conceived the exhibition.

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Daniel Cassady. “‘Paris’s glowing milieu spills onto every corner’: Virginia show theatrically tells the story of Man Ray’s fruitful time in the City of Lights,” on The Art Newspaper website 11 November 2021 [Online] Cited 03/02/2022

 

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Kiki de Montparnasse' c. 1924

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Kiki de Montparnasse
c. 1924
Gelatin silver print
Francis M. Naumann Fine Art, New York
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Kiki de Montparnasse' c. 1929

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Kiki de Montparnasse
c. 1929
Gelatin silver print
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

 

Alice Ernestine Prin (French, 1901-1953)

Alice Ernestine Prin (2 October 1901 – 29 April 1953), nicknamed the Queen of Montparnasse, and often known as Kiki de Montparnasse, was a French artist’s model, literary muse, nightclub singer, actress, memoirist and painter. She flourished in, and helped define, the liberated culture of Paris in the 1920s.

Alice Prin was born in Châtillon-sur-Seine, Côte d’Or. An illegitimate child, she was raised in abject poverty by her grandmother. At age twelve, she was sent to live with her mother in Paris in order to find work. She first worked in shops and bakeries, but by the age of fourteen, she was posing nude for sculptors, which created discord with her mother.

Adopting a single name, “Kiki”, she became a fixture in the Montparnasse social scene and a popular artist’s model, posing for dozens of artists, including Sanyu, Chaïm Soutine, Julian Mandel, Tsuguharu Foujita, Constant Detré, Francis Picabia, Jean Cocteau, Arno Breker, Alexander Calder, Per Krohg, Hermine David, Pablo Gargallo, Mayo, and Tono Salazar. Moïse Kisling painted a portrait of Kiki titled Nu assis, one of his best known.

Her companion for most of the 1920s was Man Ray, who made hundreds of portraits of her. She can be considered his muse at the time and the subject of some of his best-known images, including the surrealist image Le violon d’Ingres and Noire et blanche (see below).

She appeared in nine short and frequently experimental films, including Fernand Léger’s Ballet mécanique without any credit.

A painter in her own right, in 1927 Prin had a sold-out exhibition of her paintings at the Galerie au Sacre du Printemps in Paris. Signing her work with her chosen single name, Kiki, she usually noted the year. Her drawings and paintings comprise portraits, self-portraits, social activities, fanciful animals, and dreamy landscapes composed in a light, slightly uneven, expressionist style that is a reflection of her easy-going manner and boundless optimism. …

A symbol of bohemian and creative Paris and of the possibility of being a woman and finding an artistic place, at the age of twenty-eight she was declared the Queen of Montparnasse. Even during difficult times, she maintained her positive attitude, saying “all I need is an onion, a bit of bread, and a bottle of red [wine]; and I will always find somebody to offer me that.”

She left Paris to avoid the occupying German army during World War II, which entered the city in June 1940. …

Prin died in 1953 after collapsing outside her flat in Montparnasse, at the age of fifty-one, apparently of complications of alcoholism or drug dependence. A large crowd of artists and fans attended her Paris funeral and followed the procession to her interment in the Cimetière parisien de Thiais. Her tomb identifies her as “Kiki, 1901-1953, singer, actress, painter, Queen of Montparnasse.” Tsuguharu Foujita has said that, with Kiki, the glorious days of Montparnasse were buried forever.

Long after her death, Prin remains the embodiment of the outspokenness, audacity, and creativity that marked that period of life in Montparnasse. She represents a strong artistic force in her own right as a woman. In 1989, biographers Billy Klüver and Julie Martin called her “one of the century’s first truly independent women.” In her honour, a daylily has been named Kiki de Montparnasse.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Man Ray. 'Noire et Blanche' 1926

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Noire et Blanche
1926
Gelatin silver print
6 7/8 x 8¼ in. (17.5 x 21cm)
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

As far as I know this photograph is NOT in the exhibition

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Gertrude Stein (at Home)' 1922

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Gertrude Stein (at Home)
1922
Gelatin silver print
7 15/16”H × 6 1/16”W (20.16 × 15.4cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Endowment
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976) 'Gertrude Stein, Writer' 1934

 

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976)
Gertrude Stein, Writer
1934
Gelatin silver print
Image: 7 9/16 × 6 11/16 in.
Frame: 22 5/8 x 16 5/8 x 1 3/8 in.
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Berenice Abbott' 1921, printed later

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Berenice Abbott
1921, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Endowment
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

 

In 1926 Peggy Guggenheim, who often lent her financial support to the Paris colony of artists and writers, telephoned Man Ray to arrange a studio appointment to have her portrait taken, not by Man Ray himself, but by Berenice. Afterwards Man Ray was livid, he now realised that Berenice had become a serious business rival, and the next day he fired her. Berenice immediately made plans to have a studio of her own and friends of Berenice stepped forward to help her. When she made arrangements to purchase a view camera – Peggy Guggenheim lent her the money to pay for it. As partial repayment, Berenice later photographed Peggy’s children. In 1926, she had her first solo exhibition (in the gallery “Au Sacre du Printemps”) and started her own studio on the rue du Bac.

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Wallis Simpson with Chinese Sculpture' 1936

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Wallis Simpson with Chinese Sculpture
1936
Gelatin silver print
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Endowment
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

Photographed during the year in which her liaison with Edward VIII became public and he abdicated the throne of the British Empire.

 

 

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts announces its upcoming exhibition, Man Ray: The Paris Years, on view in Richmond from October 30, 2021, through February 21, 2022. Organised by Dr. Michael Taylor, VMFA’s Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Art and Education, the exhibition includes more than 100 compelling portrait photographs made by the artist in Paris between 1921 and 1940, featuring cultural luminaries such as Barbette, André Breton, Jean Cocteau, Marcel Duchamp, Ernest Hemingway, Miriam Hopkins, James Joyce, Henri Matisse, Méret Oppenheim, Alice Prin (Kiki de Montparnasse), Elsa Schiaparelli, Erik Satie, Wallis Simpson and Gertrude Stein.

The son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, Emmanuel “Manny” Radnitzky grew up in New York and adopted the pseudonym Man Ray around 1912. A timely sale of paintings to Ferdinand Howald, an art collector from Columbus, Ohio, provided Man Ray with funds for a trip to Paris, and he arrived in the French capital on July 22, 1921. Although the artist worked in a variety of media over the next two decades, including assemblage, film, sculpture and painting, photography would be his primary means of artistic expression in Paris.

Shortly after moving to France, Man Ray embarked on a sustained campaign to document the international avant-garde in a series of remarkable portraits that established his reputation as one of the leading photographers of his era. Man Ray’s portraits often reflect a dialogue or negotiation between the artist’s vision and the self-fashioning of his subjects. Whether they had their portrait taken to promote their work, affirm their self-image, project their desires, fulfil their dreams or create a new identity, Man Ray’s sitters were not inanimate objects, like blocks of marble to be shaped and coerced, but were instead highly creative cultural and thought leaders who were active participants in the creative act. By telling the stories of his respective sitters and the innovative techniques he used to create their portraits, Man Ray: The Paris Years empowers the subjects portrayed in these photographs and gives them an agency and voice that is not typically realised in monographic accounts of modern artists.

“Timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the artist’s arrival in the French capital and, coincidentally, the near-centennial anniversary of the Spanish flu pandemic, Man Ray: The Paris Years will prove to be a visually provocative and especially relevant exhibition,” said Alex Nyerges, VMFA’s Director and CEO. “This is an opportunity to better understand the lives of his subjects and see Man Ray in a different light.”

“Man Ray used photography to challenge artistic traditions and break boundaries, including fixed gender roles and racial barriers,” said Taylor. “His portraits went beyond recording the mere outward appearance of the person depicted and aimed instead to capture the essence of his sitters as creative individuals, as well as the collective nature and character of Les Années folles (the crazy years) of Paris between the two world wars.”

Man Ray’s radical portraits also capture an important constituency of the avant-garde at this time, namely the femme moderne (modern woman). Adventurous, ambitious, assertive, daring, enterprising and self-assured modern women like American photographers Berenice Abbott and Lee Miller, French artist Suzanne Duchamp and American sculptor Janet Scudder took full advantage of their unprecedented freedom and access to educational and professional opportunities to participate as equals to their male counterparts in the Parisian avant-garde. Although these women came from different classes and economic backgrounds, they shared a collective goal in the 1920s and 1930s to be creatively, financially and intellectually independent.

“Rejecting traditional gender roles and expectations, modern women were interested in erasing sexual differences,” said Taylor. “They often embraced the symbolic trappings and autonomy of their male counterparts including wearing men’s clothes, driving fast cars, smoking cigarettes and sporting tightly cropped ‘bobbed’ haircuts.”

The exhibition also tells the important stories of Black subjects such as Henry Crowder, Adrienne Fidelin and Ruby Richards, whose contributions have often been unfairly relegated to the margins of modernism due to the legacy of colonialism and racism. The artist’s series of portraits of the dancer and singer Ruby Richards, who was born in St. Kitts in the British West Indies and grew up in Harlem, New York, brings to light an important performer whose work with Man Ray has never been acknowledged in previous accounts of his work. Richards moved to Paris in 1938 to replace the legendary African American performer Josephine Baker as the star attraction at the Folies Bergère, and the famous cabaret music hall commissioned Man Ray to help introduce her to French audiences through his portrait photographs.

Many of the subjects portrayed in Man Ray’s photographs were born in Spanish-speaking countries such as Argentina, El Salvador, Peru and Spain, including famous modern artists like Salvador Dalí and Pablo Picasso, as well as the flamenco dancer Prou del Pilar and the pianist Ricardo Viñes. As a state art museum that has free general admission and is open 365 days a year, VMFA is committed to representing the cultural and linguistic diversity of our community. According to recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 7 percent of Virginia’s 8.5 million residents speak Spanish at home. This data has informed the museum’s decision to incorporate dual-language labels throughout the Man Ray: The Paris Years exhibition, as well as the audio tour and gallery guide. Recognising that English is not the native language of everyone who visits the exhibition, VMFA is offering content in both Spanish and English to create a more accessible, inclusive and welcoming experience for all of our visitors.

Informed by extensive archival research, this exhibition and accompanying catalogue offers a more complete account of Man Ray’s Paris years by focusing not just on his achievement as a photographer and his superb gifts as a portraitist, but also on the friendships and exchange of ideas that took place between the artist and his subjects in Paris between the two world wars.

Press release from VMFA

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Nusch Éluard and Sonia Mossé' 1937

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Nusch Éluard and Sonia Mossé
1937
Gelatin silver print
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

 

Mossé was a surrealist artist and performer in a lesbian cabaret.

 

Ray’s double portraits are among his most spellbinding. Two feature Nusch Éluard, the actress, acrobat and hypnotist’s assistant who married the surrealist poet Paul Éluard. One shows Nusch with the openly bisexual actress, singer, surrealist and model Sonia Mossé. Taken in 1937, the photograph trembles with the intimacy and uncanniness of the culminating scenes in Ingmar Bergman’s “Persona,” where the face of Bibi Andersson begins to merge with that of Liv Ullmann. …

To try to square Man Ray’s magical, tender double portrait with Mossé’s subsequent life, as sketched in by Taylor in the catalogue, is to feel the 20th century – stretched to breaking point by the contrary forces of personal liberation and vicious repression – suddenly snap, like the shutter of a camera taking a photograph no one can bear to look at.

Mossé, writes Taylor, was romantically involved with the French dramatist Antonin Artaud. Best known for conceptualising the Theater of Cruelty movement, Artaud had tried to break off their relationship in 1939 “via handwritten malediction” (a letter in which he wrote curses – e.g., “You will live dead” – in an envelope containing drawings and burned holes).

But Mossé would never receive it. War had broken out. And on Feb. 11, 1943, Mossé and her stepsister Esther were denounced as Jews to the Gestapo. They were taken to the Drancy internment camp in a northeastern suburb of Paris and then to the Sobibór extermination camp in occupied Poland, where Mossé was murdered in a gas chamber.

Sebastian Smee. “Glamour, gossip, sex, scandal: Man Ray’s portraits captured Paris between the wars,” on The Washington Post website November 9, 2021 [Online] Cited 03/02/2022

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Igor Stravinsky' 1925

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Igor Stravinsky
1925
Gelatin silver print
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Picasso in His Studio on the rue de La Boëtie, Paris' 1922

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Picasso in His Studio on the rue de La Boëtie, Paris
1922
Gelatin silver print
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

 

The American Surrealist Man Ray made a number of portraits of Picasso over the years, beginning with this photograph that appeared in the July 1922 issue of Vanity Fair. It was taken on the second floor of Picasso’s apartment at 23 rue de La Boëtie in Paris, where he established a studio in November 1918 and completed many of the Cubist paintings that form the background of this portrait. Man Ray’s portrait brilliantly captures both sides of Picasso’s personality at this time, since the proud and successful artist is also shown to be emotionally distant and seemingly uncomfortable with his newfound wealth and fame.

Text from the Philadelphia Museum of Art website

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Constantin Brancusi' 1925

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Constantin Brancusi
1925
Gelatin silver print
9 1/4 x 10 1/4″ (23.5 x 26cm)
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Ruby Richards with Feathers' 1938

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Ruby Richards with Feathers (installation view)
1938
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Ruby Richards (aka The Black Pearl) was a singer and dancer born in Saint Christopher Island (Saint Kitts) in the West Indies.

In 1938 the dancer and singer moved to Paris to replace Josephine Baker as the star attraction at the Folies Bergère. The famous cabaret music hall commissioned Man Ray to help introduce Richards to French audiences through his innovative portrait photographs.

 

 

Louis Jordan Soundie: Fuzzy Wuzzy

Featuring Louis Jordan and His Tympany Band with dancer Ruby Richards (recorded on New Year’s Eve 1942).

 

Man Ray. 'Ruby Richards' 1938

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Ruby Richards (installation view)
1938
Gelatin silver print

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Ruby Richards with Diamonds' c. 1938

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Ruby Richards with Diamonds
c. 1938
Gelatin silver print
Collection of Michael and Jacky Ferro, Miami
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021)

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Self-Portrait With Adrienne Fidelin' 1937

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Self-Portrait With Adrienne Fidelin
1937
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society, New York/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

 

He called her his “little black sun.” Born in Guadeloupe, Adrienne Fidelin was the American artist’s partner in Paris before World War II tore them apart. She appears in almost 400 of the renowned artist’s photographs, and in 1937 became the first Black model to be featured in a leading U.S. fashion magazine. However, she was pushed to the sidelines of history. …

Man Ray himself only mentions Fidelin fleetingly in his autobiography. This marginalisation continues today, despite current efforts to recognise the stories of people of colour throughout history…

Adrienne Fidelin was born on March 4, 1915, in Pointe-à-Pitre. At the age of 13, she lost her mother in a hurricane that devastated Guadeloupe, and her father died a few years later. The orphaned teenager joined other members of her family living in Paris in the early 1930s. At the time, the French capital was under the thrall of the Colonial Exposition and obsessed with France’s far-flung colonies. At the Bal Blomet, a cabaret in the 15th arrondissement, the West Indian diaspora and the artistic avant-garde partied to the sounds of Creole biguine music, and Fidelin joined a Guadeloupean dance company.

This is most likely where she and Man Ray first set eyes on each other. She was 19, he was 44. In a diary entry dated December 29, 1934, the artist simply wrote “Ady.” Wendy Grossman discovered this valuable evidence of their first meeting in the Man Ray archives at the Getty Center in Los Angeles. The following year, he wrote down her number (“Odéon 79-95”) and photographed her wearing a simple white tank top. The artist and the dancer were inseparable. On May 13, 1937, Man Ray combined their names in a tender Surrealist pairing, writing “Manady” and “Adyman” in his diary. …

On September 15, 1937, a full-page portrait photo of Fidelin taken by Man Ray was published in the U.S. magazine Harper’s Bazaar – a first in segregated America. However, captured “wearing a tiger-tooth necklace, an ivory arm bracelet, and a Belgian Congo headdress, and adopting a seductive pose, Fidelin was presumed to represent the sensual African ‘native’ identified in the article’s title,” writes Wendy Grossman. “The article shows how the Surrealist movement exoticised ‘the other.'”

Man Ray found a partner in Fidelin, but their relationship was asymmetrical. “She stops me from sinking into pessimism,” he wrote. “She does everything: shining my shoes, making me breakfast, and painting the backdrops on my large canvases.” Fidelin also danced in the “negro clubs” on the Champs-Elysées and worked with photographers and directors looking for “exotic girls.” …

The couple was torn apart when the Wehrmacht entered Paris in June 1940. After trying – and failing – to flee to the Côte d’Azur together, Man Ray returned to the United States alone. The lovers continued writing each other for a few months, but the war severely impacted the postal service and Man Ray soon fell in love with another dancer in Hollywood. Fidelin remained in Paris, married another man in 1957, and died in a retirement home a few miles outside Albi in Southern France [February 5, 2004].

Clément Thiery. “Adrienne Fidelin, Man Ray’s Forgotten Muse,” on the Fance-Amérique website February 2, 2022 [Online] Cited 03/02/2022

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Adrienne Fidelin with washboard' 1937

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Adrienne Fidelin with washboard
1937
Gelatin silver print
29.8 x 23cm
Collection Musée Picasso
© Man Ray 2015 Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

As far as I know this photograph is NOT in the exhibition

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'James Joyce' 1922

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
James Joyce
1922
Gelatin silver print
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Endowment
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'James Joyce' (portrait for "Ulysses") 1922

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
James Joyce (portrait for “Ulysses”)
1922
Gelatin silver print
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Endowment
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

 

If, in the early 1920s, you happened to walk into Shakespeare and Company, the legendary bookstore and lending library established in Paris after World War I by the American expatriate Sylvia Beach, you would have noticed that the walls were covered with photographic portraits by Man Ray and Berenice Abbott.

“To be ‘done’ by Man Ray and Berenice Abbott meant that you rated as somebody,” wrote Beach. The habitues of Shakespeare and Company famously included such somebodies as Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Djuna Barnes, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Hilda Doolittle and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

In 1922, Beach commissioned Ray (1890-1976) to make a publicity photograph of James Joyce, the Irish novelist whose book “Ulysses” she was about to publish (to her everlasting glory). That same year, Ray photographed Marcel Proust on his deathbed (below).

Sebastian Smee. “Glamour, gossip, sex, scandal: Man Ray’s portraits captured Paris between the wars,” on The Washington Post website November 9, 2021 [Online] Cited 03/02/2022

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Marcel Proust on His Deathbed' 1922

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Marcel Proust on His Deathbed
1922
Gelatin silver print
Mark Kelman, New York
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

 

“It comes so soon, the moment when there is nothing left to wait for.” ~ Marcel Proust

 

Ravaged by bronchitis and pneumonia, Marcel Proust spent the last night of his life dictating manuscript changes for a section of his famous novel Remembrance of Things Past.

Man Ray did not know Proust, but he had become such an important photographer that mutual friends dispatched him to the celebrated French author’s bedside to make a final portrait two days after his death. The side view associates Man Ray’s photograph with a tradition of postmortem photography dating back to the inception of the medium.

Text from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

 

At the urging of his friend Jean Cocteau, Man Ray rushed to photograph the author of Remembrance of Things Past on his deathbed. In the October / November issue of Les Nouvelles Littéraires, Cocteau wrote:

Those who have seen this profile of calm, of order, of plenitude, will never forget the spectacle of an unbelievable recording device come to a stop, becoming an art object: a masterpiece of repose next to a heap of notebooks where our friend’s genius continues to live on like the wristwatch of a dead soldier.

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Elsie Houston' 1933

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Elsie Houston
1933
Gelatin silver print
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Endowment
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

 

“Houston sang Brazilian folk songs by candlelight in Paris. She moved to New York in 1939, where she performed as a possessed woman muttering “voodoo” incantations and playing the drums. She died in her home in 1943, an empty vial of sleeping pills by her bedside. In Ray’s photograph, her smile is soft. Her head tilts in line with her elongated hand. That hand is adorned with a piece of jewellery in the shape of a spotted disc, which rhymes with her hoop earring and the arches of her eyebrows. The cool, clean contrasts of her white turban and dark clothes make the portrait one of Ray’s finest.”

Sebastian Smee. “Glamour, gossip, sex, scandal: Man Ray’s portraits captured Paris between the wars,” on The Washington Post website November 9, 2021 [Online] Cited 03/02/2022

 

Elsie Houston (Brazilian, 1902-1943)

Elsie Houston (22 April 1902 – 20 February 1943) was a Brazilian singer.

Houston figured in the Brazilian literary/art/music scene during a critical time in its history. It was an era of tremendous creative energy. In addition to Mário de Andrade and Pagu, Houston knew others famous members of this artists movement, including the composer Heitor Villa-Lobos, the painters Flavio de Carvalho, Anita Malfatti and Tarsila do Amaral, and the leader of Brazilian modernism, Oswald de Andrade.

Houston moved to Germany and studied with Lilli Lehmann a renowned voice teacher. She then studied with another famed soprano, Ninon Vallin, first in Argentina and then in Paris. Houston’s relationship with Heitor Villa Lobos began in her teens. Houston was definitely a soloist at Villa Lobos’s 1927 Paris concerts. In 1928 she married Benjamin Péret, French surrealist poet, with whom she lived in Brazil from 1929 to 1931. Their son, Geyser, was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1931.

By the late 1930s, Houston had moved to New York City. She was a brilliant singer, particularly skilled in the interpretation of Brazilian songs. The New York Times during this era praised for her performances. She was also an active supporter of young Latin American composers, performing early pieces by composers such as Jayme Ovalle and Camargo Guarnieri.

She died in 1943. Her death was listed as an apparent suicide.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

 

Ravel – Sur l’herbe – Elsie Houston (1930s)

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Lee Miller' 1929

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Lee Miller
1929
Gelatin silver print
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Endowment
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

 

Ray learned from the history of painting as much as from other photographers. He borrowed from Rembrandt’s tenebrism (his dramatic use of engulfing shadow), the slanting light and perspectival structure in Vermeer’s interiors, and the directness of Hans Holbein (strong light on the face, minimal backgrounds). But of course, he was in league with the surrealists and, in even his most classical-seeming portraits, revealed a predilection for unexpected juxtapositions, visual rhymes and piercing expressions that can transport you instantaneously to the lip of a volcanic unconscious.

Ray’s 1929 portrait of Lee Miller is a good example – surely one of the most mesmerising photographic portraits ever taken. What is the source of its uncanny power? It’s not just that Miller – herself a great photographer who for several years was Ray’s lover – is so beautiful; or that her direct gaze is simultaneously so trusting and challenging; or even that her unblemished skin and the symmetry of the whole composition suggest something impossibly pristine and inviolate. It’s because the image is slightly out of focus. The effect of the blur is to slow one’s response, as smoke rings slow the mind – and to trigger a dream state.

Sebastian Smee. “Glamour, gossip, sex, scandal: Man Ray’s portraits captured Paris between the wars,” on The Washington Post website November 9, 2021 [Online] Cited 03/02/2022

 

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Emak Bakia (Leave Me Alone)
1926

 

 

But you may be less familiar with some of Ray’s other subjects, including Germaine Tailleferre, the female composer who changed her name from Taillefesse, Taylor writes, “partly to spite her father, who refused to support her musical studies, but also because she disliked the connotations of the name Taillefesse, which translates as buttock in English”; Janet Scudder, an American sculptor, whose partner was the children’s author and suffragist Marion Cothren; and Barbette (below), the high-wire performer who presented as a graceful woman, but at the end of her act removed her wig and revealed herself as a man.

Personae like these – and Ray’s always inventive approach to their portraits – make this show more than just a roll call of famous names. They make it revelatory. The show is further enhanced by the inclusion of Ray’s wonderful 1926 film, “Emak-Bakia” (he called it a “cinépoème”), and a portfolio of semiabstract photographs he made for a Paris Electricity Co. marketing campaign. Both are remarkable.

Sebastian Smee. “Glamour, gossip, sex, scandal: Man Ray’s portraits captured Paris between the wars,” on The Washington Post website November 9, 2021 [Online] Cited 03/02/2022

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Barbette' 1926

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Barbette
1926
Gelatin silver print
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Endowment
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society

 

 

Vander Clyde Broadway (American, 1899-1973)

Vander Clyde Broadway (December 19, 1899 – August 5, 1973), stage name Barbette, was an American female impersonator, high-wire performer, and trapeze artist born in Texas. Barbette attained great popularity throughout the United States but his greatest fame came in Europe and especially Paris, in the 1920s and 1930s.

Barbette began performing as an aerialist at around the age of 14 as one-half of a circus act called The Alfaretta Sisters. After a few years of circus work, Barbette went solo and adopted his exotic-sounding pseudonym. He performed in full drag, revealing himself as male only at the end of his act.

Following a career-ending illness or injury (the sources disagree on the cause), which left him in constant pain, Barbette returned to Texas but continued to work as a consultant for motion pictures as well as training and choreographing aerial acts for a number of circuses. After years of dealing with chronic pain, Barbette committed suicide on August 5, 1973. Both in life and following his death, Barbette served as an inspiration to a number of artists, including Jean Cocteau and Man Ray. …

“Barbette,” writes Cocteau,

“transforms effortlessly back and forth between man and woman. His female glamour and elegance Cocteau likens to a cloud of dust thrown into the eyes of the audience, blinding it to the masculinity of the movements he needs to perform his acrobatics. That blindness is so complete that at the end of his act, Barbette does not simply remove his wig but instead plays the part of a man. He rolls his shoulders, stretches his hands, swells his muscles… And after the fifteenth or so curtain call, he gives a mischievous wink, shifts from foot to foot, mimes a bit of an apology, and does a shuffling little street urchin dance – all of it to erase the fabulous, dying-swan impression left by the act.”

Cocteau calls upon his fellow artists to incorporate deliberately this effect that he believes for Barbette is instinctive.

Cocteau commissioned a series of photographs of Barbette by the Surrealist artist Man Ray, which captured not only aspects of Barbette’s performance but also his process of transformation into his female persona.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Ernest Hemingway' 1928

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Ernest Hemingway
1928
Gelatin silver print
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Aldous Huxley' 1934

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Aldous Huxley
1934
Gelatin silver print
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

This photograph was taken two years after the publication of Huxley’s novel Brave New World, a nightmarish vision of the future.

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'La Ville' (The City) 1931

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
La Ville (The City)
1931
From the portfolio Èlectricité
Photogravure, printed 1931
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

 

In 1931, Man Ray was commissioned by the Compagnie Parisienne de Distribution d’Electricite (CPDE) to produce a series of pictures promoting the private consumption of electricity. The resulting portfolio, Électricité (Electricity), comprises rayographs reproduced as photogravures. Le Monde (The World), a picture of the moon above an electrical cord, suggests that even celestial bodies rely on the CPDE for their illumination; the photogravure Électricité equates the electric charge of the electron with the erotic beauty of a nude female figure; and Le Souffle (Breeze) combines spinning fan blades with the weblike stimuli of electrical current.

Gallery label from The Shaping of New Visions: Photography, Film, Photobook, April 16, 2012 – April 29, 2013 on the MoMA website [Online] Cited 03/02/2022

 

Man Ray. 'Électricité' 1931

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Électricité
1931
From the portfolio Èlectricité
Photogravure, printed 1931
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

 

Man Ray’s innovations are not excluded. A whole section of the exhibition is devoted to his light-bending portfolio Électricité (1931), a commercial project commissioned by the Paris Electric Company to promote the use of electrically powered household appliances. Comprised of ten “Rayographs” (another name for photograms), the portfolio pulses with kinetic energy. Fans spin with an otherworldly force, a fowl is perfectly cooked as by magic rays, and the Eiffel Tower swims in hi-wattage advertisements.

Daniel Cassady. “‘Paris’s glowing milieu spills onto every corner’: Virginia show theatrically tells the story of Man Ray’s fruitful time in the City of Lights,” on The Art Newspaper website 11 November 2021 [Online] Cited 03/02/2022

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Le Souffle' (Breeze) 1931

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Le Souffle (Breeze)
1931
From the portfolio Èlectricité
Photogravure, printed 1931
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'Le Monde' (The World) 1931

 

Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Le Monde (The World)
1931
From the portfolio Èlectricité
Photogravure, printed 1931
© Man Ray 2015 Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY/ADAGP, Paris 2021

 

 

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
200 N. Boulevard
Richmond, Virginia USA

Opening hours:
Daily 10am – 5pm and until 9 pm Wed, Thu, Fri

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28
Oct
14

Exhibition: ‘Yousuf Karsh: American Portraits’ at the National Portrait Gallery, Washington

Exhibition dates: 2nd May – 2nd November 2014

Curator: National Portrait Gallery Senior Curator of Photographs Ann Shumard

 

 

Yousuf Karsh. 'Muhammad Ali' 1970

 

Yousuf Karsh (Armenian-Canadian, 1908-2002)
Muhammad Ali
1970
Gelatin silver print
Image/Sheet: 50.2 x 40.3cm (19 3/4 x 15 7/8″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
© Estate of Yousuf Karsh

 

 

Decisive exposure

Whether there was, or he understood there to be, a “decisive” moment when Eugène Atget took a photograph is unknown… but I think that what he was trying to achieve was something different. In Atget there is a decisive exposure – or (seemingly extended) time – of the image. In Cartier-Bresson this perception has shrunk to a millisecond but it is still there. Not so different, just this intensity – COMPRESSED.

In Yousuf Karsh I believe that there is more an EXPANSION of time in the portraits – the decisive exposure is drawn out over the length of his engagement and dialogue with his sitters (with out seeing the caption you KNOW that is Robert Oppenheimer – I had not seen the image before but I sensed it instinctively, intuitively, it could be nobody else). He seems to ‘draw out’ some magical element in all of his sitters = they never just ‘sit’ for him, but actively engage in a dialogue that evidences some sense of being that is unique and timeless… an expansion of consciousness? an expansion of decisive exposure. Decisive – immediate; exposure – time / representation.

These are thoughts still forming in my head, a new way of looking at photography that relies less on instant gratification and more on intensities – of feeling, of thinking, of time, of representation.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

In celebration of a major gift to its collection of more than 100 portraits created by renowned photographer Yousuf Karsh (1908-2002), this exhibition features iconic photographs of Americans who have distinguished themselves in fields as diverse as business, medicine, entertainment, politics and the arts. Among the portraits included are those of artist Georgia O’Keeffe, physician and virologist Jonas Salk, singer Marian Anderson, actress Grace Kelly, businesswoman Elizabeth Arden, architect I. M. Pei and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Yousuf Karsh: American Portraits is the museum’s first exhibition devoted entirely to the work of this internationally recognised portrait photographer, and it will be presented in two installations.

 

 

Yousuf Karsh. 'Grace Kelly' 1956

 

Yousuf Karsh (Armenian-Canadian, 1908-2002)
Grace Kelly
1956
Gelatin silver print
Image: 24 x 19.4cm (9 7/16 x 7 5/8″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
© Estate of Yousuf Karsh

 

 

A luminous beauty whose film career spanned just six years (1951-56), Grace Kelly left an indelible legacy with her performances in eleven motion pictures, many of which remain Hollywood classics. After her 1951 film debut in a minor role, she received wide notice for her performance opposite Gary Cooper in High Noon (1952). A year later, Kelly garnered her first Academy Award nomination for her work in Mogambo (1953). In 1954 she starred in four major releases, including the Alfred Hitchcock thrillers Dial M for Murder and Rear Window, and the drama The Country Girl, for which she won the Best Actress Oscar. Kelly scored additional hits with To Catch a Thief (1955) and the musical High Society (1956) before ending her Hollywood career to marry Monaco’s Prince Rainier in April 1956.

When Grace Kelly posed for Karsh’s camera, she was recently engaged and about to begin her new life as Monaco’s Princess Grace.

Text from the Smithsonian website

 

Yousuf Karsh. 'Ernest Hemingway' 1957

 

Yousuf Karsh (Armenian-Canadian, 1908-2002)
Ernest Hemingway
1957
Gelatin silver print
Image: 24 x 19.1cm (9 7/16 x 7 1/2″ )
Sheet: 33.8 x 26.2cm (13 5/16 x 10 5/16 in.)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
© Estate of Yousuf Karsh

 

 

In 1954, when Ernest Hemingway received the Nobel Prize in Literature, the committee cited his “mastery of the art of modern narration.” In fact, through his short stories and such novels as The Sun Also Rises (1926) and For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940), Hemingway had, with his terse, powerful prose, in large measure invented a new literary style as he chronicled the disillusionment of the post-World War I “lost generation.” Hemingway’s own experiences – reporting foreign wars, living the bohemian life in Paris, and adventuring in Africa, Spain, and Cuba – fuelled his imagination and helped foster his larger-than-life public persona.

When Karsh traveled to Cuba in 1957 to photograph Hemingway, he “expected to meet in the author a composite of the heroes of his novels.” Instead, the photographer recalled, “I found a man of peculiar gentleness, the shyest man I ever photographed – a man cruelly battered by life but seemingly invincible.”

Text from the Smithsonian website

 

Yousuf Karsh. 'Albert Einstein' 1948

 

Yousuf Karsh (Armenian-Canadian, 1908-2002)
Albert Einstein
1948
Gelatin silver print
Image: 27.3 x 26.1cm (10 3/4 x 10 1/4″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
© Estate of Yousuf Karsh

 

 

Albert Einstein transformed the world of physics with his groundbreaking theory of relativity, and in 1921 he received the Nobel Prize for “his services to theoretical physics” and “his discovery of the law of photoelectric effect.” The German-born physicist was visiting the United States when Hitler and the Nazis came to power in his homeland in 1933. Einstein never returned to Germany. Instead, he accepted a position at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey – the newly established academic institution that would become a major centre for research in theoretical physics. In residence at the institute for the remainder of his life, Einstein continued to publish, work on the interpretation of quantum theory, and wrestle without success on his unified field theory. He became a U.S. citizen in 1940.

Karsh relished the opportunity to photograph Einstein, whose face, “in all its rough grandeur, invited and challenged the camera.”

Text from the Smithsonian website

 

Yousuf Karsh. 'Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill' 1941

 

Yousuf Karsh (Armenian-Canadian, 1908-2002)
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill
1941
Gelatin silver print
Image/Sheet (Image/Sheet, Accurate): 34.3 x 26.8cm (13 1/2 x 10 9/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
© Estate of Yousuf Karsh

 

 

In 1941, as war raged in Europe and the Pacific, British prime minister Winston Churchill traveled to Washington for meetings with President Franklin Roosevelt before continuing on to Ottawa, where he delivered a rousing speech before the Canadian Parliament on December 30. Canada’s prime minister, Mackenzie King – an early admirer of Yousuf Karsh’s work – arranged for Karsh to attend Churchill’s address and to be in position to photograph the British leader as he later passed through the Speaker’s Chamber. Surprised to discover that he was to be photographed, Churchill grudgingly agreed to give Karsh two minutes for the shot but declined the photographer’s gentle entreaty to relinquish his freshly lit cigar. Undeterred, Karsh deftly removed the cigar from Churchill’s mouth and quickly made his exposure as Britain’s “roaring lion” glowered at the camera. The resulting image – one of the 20th century’s most iconic portraits – effectively launched Karsh’s international career.

In 1963, Churchill became the first foreign national to be granted honorary U.S. citizenship by the U.S. Congress.

Text from the Smithsonian website

 

Yousuf Karsh. 'I. M. Pei' 1979

 

Yousuf Karsh (Armenian-Canadian, 1908-2002)
I. M. Pei
1979
Gelatin silver print
Image: 28 x 21.5cm (11 x 8 7/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
© Estate of Yousuf Karsh

 

 

One of the most influential architects to emerge in the decades following World War II, I. M. Pei is recognised throughout the world for his striking, high-modernist designs. Drawn to the United States to study architecture in 1935, Pei earned his undergraduate degree from MIT and later completed graduate work at Harvard. After first directing the architectural division of a large real-estate concern, Pei founded his own architecture firm in 1955, one year after becoming a U.S. citizen. As his reputation grew, important projects – such as the 1964 commission for the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library – came his way. Pei went on to create such iconic structures as the critically acclaimed East Wing of the National Gallery of Art (1978) and the distinctive glass pyramid that forms the entrance to the Louvre (1988). He has received many major awards, including the coveted Pritzker Prize (1983).

Text from the Smithsonian website

 

Yousuf Karsh. 'Yousuf Karsh' c. 1946

 

Yousuf Karsh (Armenian-Canadian, 1908-2002)
Yousuf Karsh
c. 1946
Photo blow-up
Gelatin silver print
© Estate of Yousuf Karsh

 

 

In celebration of a major gift to its collection of more than 100 portraits created by master photographer Yousuf Karsh (1908-2002), the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery is installing a special exhibition on the first floor of the museum, Yousuf Karsh: American Portraits. This is the second of two installations and will run from May 2 through Nov. 2. Yousuf Karsh: American Portraits is the museum’s first exhibition devoted entirely to the work of this internationally recognised photographer. Each phase of the installation displays 27 photographs. The photographs were a gift to the museum by Estrellita Karsh.

“Yousuf Karsh created some of the most iconic photographic portraits of our time,” said Kim Sajet, director of the National Portrait Gallery. “He not only had the uncanny ability to amplify a person’s character, but also offered everyday people the opportunity to glimpse into the private lives of the men and women who shaped the 20th century in a way that feels both personal and real. I am thrilled to have his important work play an integral part in building the nation’s collection of portraits.”

A refugee from persecution in his native Armenia, Karsh immigrated to Canada in 1925. His uncle, a professional photographer, facilitated Karsh’s apprenticeship with the renowned Boston portrait photographer John H. Garo in 1928. By the time Karsh returned to Canada, he had “set [his] heart on photographing those men and women who leave their mark on the world.” In May 1933, he opened his portrait studio in Ottawa.

Karsh developed his distinctive portrait style by drawing inspiration from a variety of sources. Introduced to stage lighting techniques through his association with the Ottawa Drama League, he experimented with artificial lighting to achieve the dramatic effects that became the hallmark of his portraiture. Believing that “the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera,” Karsh also developed a genuine rapport with his sitters and partnered with them to fashion portraits that were both revealing and respectful.

During a distinguished career that spanned more than six decades, Karsh believed that “the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera,” and he developed a genuine rapport with his subjects to fashion evocative and revealing portraits. This installation features Americans who have distinguished themselves in fields as diverse as business, medicine, entertainment, politics and the arts. Among the portraits included are Martha Graham, Helen Keller, Jackie Kennedy, Andy Warhol, Ellie Wiesel, Muhammad Ali and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. The museum has previously collected seven photographs by Karsh, including one of the most famous photographs of Winston Churchill, which became known as the “roaring lion,” and a colour photograph of the beloved creator of Peanuts, Charles Schultz. While the photographer is known for his work in black and white, the museum is also showing several works in colour.

Press release from the National Portrait Gallery website

 

Yousuf Karsh. 'Eleanor Roosevelt' 1944

 

Yousuf Karsh (Armenian-Canadian, 1908-2002)
Eleanor Roosevelt
1944
Gelatin silver print
Image: 31.5 x 25.5cm (12 3/8 x 10 1/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
© Estate of Yousuf Karsh

 

 

As the nation’s first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt rapidly expanded her role from hostess to advocate and emerged as a vital force in her husband Franklin’s administration. She took public stands on issues ranging from exploitative labor practices to civil rights, but more important, she often urged her husband toward measures he might otherwise have avoided. When the challenges of World War II drew the president’s attention from domestic affairs, she continued to be a strong voice for the New Deal’s social welfare policies. The activism that characterised Eleanor Roosevelt’s years as first lady did not end with her departure from the White House. As a U.S. delegate to the United Nations (1945-53), she was instrumental in formulating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and securing its ratification by the General Assembly in 1948.

Eleanor Roosevelt’s hands were seldom still, and Karsh captured their expressive qualities in this portrait.

Text from the Smithsonian website

 

Yousuf Karsh. 'Ingrid Bergman' 1946

 

Yousuf Karsh (Armenian-Canadian, 1908-2002)
Ingrid Bergman
1946
Gelatin silver print
Image/Sheet: 33.7 x 26.3cm (13 1/4 x 10 3/8″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
© Estate of Yousuf Karsh

 

Yousuf Karsh. 'Humphrey Bogart' 1946

 

Yousuf Karsh (Armenian-Canadian, 1908-2002)
Humphrey Bogart
1946
Gelatin silver print
Image: 35.5 x 27.9cm (14 x 11″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
© Estate of Yousuf Karsh

 

Yousuf Karsh. 'Martha Graham' 1948

 

Yousuf Karsh (Armenian-Canadian, 1908-2002)
Martha Graham
1948
Gelatin silver print
Image: 28 x 21.6cm (11 x 8 1/2″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
© Estate of Yousuf Karsh

 

Yousuf Karsh. 'Isamu Noguchi' 1980

 

Yousuf Karsh (Armenian-Canadian, 1908-2002)
Isamu Noguchi
1980
Gelatin silver print
Image: 28 x 21.6cm (11 x 8 1/2″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
© Estate of Yousuf Karsh

 

Yousuf Karsh. 'Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis' 1957

 

Yousuf Karsh (Armenian-Canadian, 1908-2002)
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
1957
Gelatin silver print
Image: 24.1 x 19.1cm (9 1/2 x 7 1/2″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
© Estate of Yousuf Karsh

 

Yousuf Karsh. 'Robert Oppenheimer' 1956

 

Yousuf Karsh (Armenian-Canadian, 1908-2002)
Robert Oppenheimer
1956
Gelatin silver print
Image: 31.6 x 25.5cm (12 7/16 x 10 1/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
© Estate of Yousuf Karsh

 

Yousuf Karsh. 'Paul Robeson' 1941

 

Yousuf Karsh (Armenian-Canadian, 1908-2002)
Paul Robeson
1941
Gelatin silver print
Image: 49.2 x 39.5cm (19 3/8 x 15 9/16″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
© Estate of Yousuf Karsh

 

Yousuf Karsh. 'Elie Wiesel' 1991

 

Yousuf Karsh (Armenian-Canadian, 1908-2002)
Elie Wiesel
1991
Chromogenic print
Image: 34.2 x 24cm (13 7/16 x 9 7/16″)
Sheet: 35.5 x 27.9cm (14 x 11″)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
© Estate of Yousuf Karsh

 

 

Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery
8th and F Sts NW
Washington, DC 20001

Opening hours:
11.30am – 7.00pm daily

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25
Sep
11

Exhibition: ‘A Revolutionary Project: Cuba from Walker Evans to Now’ at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 17th May – 2nd October 2011

 

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.

 

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Mule, Wagon and Two Men, Havana' 1933

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Mule, Wagon and Two Men, Havana
1933
Gelatin silver print
13.8 x 21cm (5 7/16 x 8 1/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Spectacle, Capital Steps, Possibly Independence Day' May 20, 1933

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Spectacle, Capital Steps, Possibly Independence Day
May 20, 1933
Gelatin silver print
19.7 x 25.3cm (7 3/4 x 9 15/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Old Havana Housefronts' 1933

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Old Havana Housefronts
1933
Gelatin silver print
17.6 x 22.7cm (6 15/16 x 8 15/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Balcony Spectators' 1933

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Balcony Spectators
1933
Gelatin silver print
19.8 x 25.2cm (7 13/16 x 9 15/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

Exhibition Marks First Showing of Getty’s Walker Evan’s Cuban Photographs; Also on view are Cuban Revolutionary Photographs and Contemporary Work by Virginia Beahan, Alex Harris, and Alexey Titarenko

Cuba’s attempt to forge an independent state with an ambitious set of social goals, all the while moored to powerful political and economic interests, has been a source of fascination for nations, intellectuals, and artists alike. On display at the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Center, May 17 – October 2, 2011, A Revolutionary Project: Cuba from Walker Evans to Now, looks at three critical periods in the island nation’s history as witnessed by photographers before, during, and after the country’s 1959 Revolution.

A Revolutionary Project juxtaposes Walker Evans’s 1933 images from the end of the Gerardo Machado dictatorship with views by contemporary foreign photographers Virginia Beahan (American, b. 1946), Alex Harris (American, b. 1949), and Alexey Titarenko (Russian, b. 1962), who have explored Cuba since the withdrawal of Soviet support in the 1990s. A third section bridging these two eras presents pictures by Cuban photographers who participated in the country’s 1959 Revolution, including Alberto Korda, Perfecto Romero, and Osvaldo Salas.

“The Museum’s collection of Walker Evans prints is the largest in the U.S., but until now, we have not shown his photographs of Cuba,” explains Judith Keller, senior curator of photographs. “This exhibition allows us the opportunity to showcase this body of work, alongside newer work in the collection.”

 

1933: Evans in Havana

Walker Evans (1903-1975) is one of the photographers most responsible for the way we now imagine American life in the 1930s. His distinctive photographic style, which he declared “transcendent documentary,” was nurtured in New York in the late 1920s and fully formed by his experience in Cuba in 1933. In the spring of that year, Walker Evans was asked by publisher J. B. Lippincott to produce a body of work about Cuba to accompany a book by the radical journalist Carleton Beals (1893-1979). This book, The Crime of Cuba, would be a scathing indictment of the then-current regime of Cuban President Gerardo Machado. Leaving the country less than two months before Machado was forced out of office, Evans was able to capture Cuba at the start of the revolutionary movement but almost 30 years before the 1959 Revolution.

During Evans’s time in Cuba, he made substantial strides in his photographic practice. There he worked with different format cameras, large and small, one more deliberate and descriptive, the other more spontaneous and agile. He created both close-up and wide, inclusive compositions that he could then combine in intense sequences to best communicate his response to the poverty, the ferment, and the beauty of his environment. While in Havana, Evans met the American writer, Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961), whose acclaimed avant-garde work he knew and admired. Hemingway’s terse narrative style, which he was then applying to his own Harry Morgan stories set in Havana and Key West, no doubt influenced Evans’s approach to the subject of Cuba’s current political and economic struggles. Evans’s photographs also reflect the inspiration of French photographer Eugène Atget’s Parisian pictures that Evans critiqued for an arts journal in 1931. The series that comprised Atget’s thorough study of “Old Paris” seem to have provided additional motivation for Evans’s selection of Havana subjects: the signage of urban storefronts, the abundant street offerings of fresh produce, the decorative balconies of old houses, the many studies of archaic horse-drawn wagons and carriages, and the portraits of women, some of whom appear to be prostitutes.

 

1958-1966: Revolution

Machado’s fall from rule in 1933 resulted in a long power struggle that culminated in the country’s 1959 socialist revolution to overthrow dictator Fulgencio Batista, anchoring Cuba to the Soviet bloc for the next thirty years and defining a relationship with the United States that still exists today. Fidel Castro, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, and their new government harnessed photography as a means of keeping the project of the Revolution at the forefront of Cuba’s collective consciousness. As both genuine records of popular insurrection and propagandistic documents used for political purposes, pictures of the Revolution and its aftermath have shaped how both Cubans and Americans understand the significance of that revolutionary moment. Photographs in the second section of the exhibition are drawn from the work of nine Cuban photographers who participated in recording the political context and triumphs of the emerging state in the years surrounding 1959.

Included in the exhibition is an iconic image of the revolutionary hero Che Guevara by Alberto Korda titled Guerrillero Heroico (March 5, 1960). One of the world’s most reproduced images, it has been adopted for political causes, appearing on countless numbers of t-shirts, banners, and street art around the globe. The print on view in the exhibition is among the earliest versions of the photograph known to exist. Made as a press print, it was used as a source to reproduce the image in media outlets a year after Korda photographed Guevara at a rally in Havana.

Also on display in the exhibition is the well-known revolutionary photograph Patria o Muerte, Cuba (Negative, January 1959; print, 1984) by Osvaldo Salas, one of Cuba’s most important photographers. Salas effectively captures and conveys the populist fervour in Cuba shortly after the movement’s triumph with an image of a patriotic sign framed by a celebratory crowd.

The photographs included in this section of the exhibition are culled from the extensive holdings of Cuban photography assembled by the Austrian collector, Christian Skrein, including a number of recent acquisitions by the Museum.

 

Since 1991: The Special Period

After Soviet troops began to withdraw from Cuba in September of 1991, the troubled Cuban economy suffered severe internal shortages, and Fidel Castro declared what is known as the “Special Period” (período especial), marked by food rationing, energy conservation, and a decline of public services. In the nearly twenty years since the Soviet withdrawal, Cubans have managed to survive through perseverance, the forging of new political relationships, and the easing of socialist systems. This period of transition, which continues today with the recent transfer of power from Fidel Castro to his brother Raúl, has attracted the attention of photographers from around the world who are interested in exploring the relationship between Cuba’s revolutionary past and its uncertain future. The final section of the exhibition looks specifically at the work of three contemporary photographers with diverse approaches to documenting the island in recent decades: Virginia Beahan, Alex Harris, and Alexey Titarenko.

Virginia Beahan’s work concentrates on the landscape’s relationship to history and culture. In 2001, she began a multiyear project on Cuba, photographing its topography in search of remnants of the island’s diverse past. The work resulted in a publication in 2009 called Cuba: Singing with Bright Tears. Beahan’s Cuba is a land of contradictions, full of disappointments and hope, decay and rejuvenating beauty, simultaneously anchored to the past while looking beyond the present. Born and raised in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg), Russia, Alexey Titarenko became fascinated with Cuba in 2003, when he made his first trip to Havana. Titarenko’s goal was to represent the soul of the Cuban capital. In the artist’s photographs, the city is shown with little overt reference to its politics. Instead, Titarenko describes the conditions of life in the communist country, depicting people persevering amid varying states of ruin. Venturing out of the tourist zones of Havana into the network of dilapidated avenues beyond the old city walls, his images depict a grey metropolis whose inhabitants congregate on the streets to collect food rations, fix long-outmoded cars, and play baseball.

A former student of Walker Evans, Alex Harris made several trips to Cuba following the collapse of the eastern bloc and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, developing a powerful body of colour work that addresses the country’s cultural fabric during a period of difficult economic circumstances. His photographs focus on portraits of women whose lives are affected by the tourist-fuelled sex trade, landscapes made through the windshields of refurbished 1950s American cars, and monuments to the Cuban national hero José Martí. His study was published in the form of a book, The Idea of Cuba, in 2007. Through these distinct vantage points, Harris probed the country’s propensity for ingenuity as it underwent great transition.

Press release from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Citizen in Downtown Havana' 1933

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Citizen in Downtown Havana
1933
Gelatin silver print
22.2 x 11.7cm (8 3/4 x 4 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Woman on the Street, Havana' 1933

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Woman on the Street, Havana
1933
Gelatin silver print
24.6 x 14.6cm (9 11/16 x 5 3/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Woman in a Courtyard' 1933

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Woman in a Courtyard
1933
Gelatin silver print
25.3 x 16.2cm (9 15/16 x 6 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Coal Dockworkers, Havana' 1933

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Coal Dockworkers, Havana
1933
Gelatin silver print
15.6 × 21.1cm (6 1/8 × 8 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Coal Dockworkers, Havana' 1933

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Coal Dockworkers, Havana
1933
Gelatin silver print
12.7 × 17.7cm (5 × 6 15/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Coal Dockworker, Havana' 1933

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Coal Dockworker, Havana
1933
Gelatin silver print
9.7 × 13.7cm (3 13/16 × 5 3/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Coal Loader, Havana' 1933

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Coal Loader, Havana
1933
Gelatin silver print
17.1 × 12.2cm (6 3/4 × 4 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Coal Stevedore, Havana' 1933

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Coal Stevedore, Havana
1933
Gelatin silver print
20.2 x 15.2cm (7 15/16 x 6 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Stevedore' 1933

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Stevedore
1933
Gelatin silver print
20.1 x 15.1cm (7 15/16 x 5 15/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Negro Child, Havana' 1933

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Negro Child, Havana
1933
Gelatin silver print
19.5 x 14.8cm (7 11/16 x 5 13/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975) 'Negro Child, Havana' 1933

 

Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Negro Child, Havana
1933
Gelatin silver print
19.8 x 13.2cm (7 13/16 × 5 3/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum

 

 

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

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday, Sunday 10am – 5.30pm
Saturday 10am – 8pm
Monday Closed

The J. Paul Getty Museum 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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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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