Posts Tagged ‘Futurism


Exhibition: ‘Moholy-Nagy: Future Present’ at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Exhibition dates: 12th February – 18th June 2017


László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'F in Field' 1920


László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
F in Field
Gouache and collage on paper
8 11/16 × 6 15/16 in.
Private collection, courtesy of Kunsthandel Wolfgang Werner, Bremen/Berlin
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn



“To meet the manifold requirements of this age with a definite program of human values, there must come a new mentality and a new type of personality. The common denominator is the fundamental acknowledgment of human needs; the task is to recognise the moral obligation in satisfying these needs, and the aim is to produce for human needs, not for profit.”

László Moholy-Nagy in Vision in Motion, published posthumously in 1947



New vision

One of the most creative human beings of the 20th century, and one of its most persuasive artists … “pioneering painter, photographer, sculptor, and filmmaker as well as graphic, exhibition, and stage designer, who was also an influential teacher at the Bauhaus, a prolific writer, and later the founder of Chicago’s Institute of Design.”

New visual creations, new combinations of technology and art: immersive installations featuring photographic reproductions, films, slides, posters, and examples of architecture, theatre, and industrial design that attempted to achieve a Gesamtwerk (total work) that would unify art and technology with life itself. Moholy’s “belief in the power of images and the various means by which to disseminate them” presages our current technological revolution.

It’s time another of his idioms – the moral obligation to satisfy human values by producing for human needs, not for profit – is acted upon.

The aim is to produce for human needs, not for profit.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Many thankx to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.


The first comprehensive retrospective of the work of László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) in the United States in nearly 50 years, this long overdue presentation reveals a utopian artist who believed that art could work hand-in-hand with technology for the betterment of humanity. Moholy-Nagy: Future Present examines the career of this pioneering painter, photographer, sculptor, and filmmaker as well as graphic, exhibition, and stage designer, who was also an influential teacher at the Bauhaus, a prolific writer, and later the founder of Chicago’s Institute of Design. The exhibition includes more than 250 works in all media from public and private collections across Europe and the United States, some of which have never before been shown publicly in the U.S. Also on display is a large-scale installation, the Room of the Present, a contemporary construction of an exhibition space originally conceived by Moholy-Nagy in 1930. Though never realised during his lifetime, the Room of the Present illustrates Moholy’s belief in the power of images and the various means by which to disseminate them – a highly relevant paradigm in today’s constantly shifting and evolving technological world.





Moholy-Nagy: Future Present at LACMA

An exhibition walkthrough of Moholy-Nagy: Future Present at LACMA. Mark Lee, Principal of Johnston Marklee and Carol S. Eliel, Curator of Modern Art at LACMA discuss how Johnston Marklee’s design of the exhibition dialogues with the multiple mediums that constitute Moholy-Nagy’s vast body of work.


László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Title unknown' 1920/1921


László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Title unknown
Gouache, collage, and graphite on paper
9 5/8 × 6 3/8 in.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Gift of Kate Steinitz
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo © Museum Associates/LACMA


László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Photogram' 1941


László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946
Gelatin silver photogram
28 x 36cm
The Art Institute of Chicago, Gift of Sally Petrilli, 1985
© 2016 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) '19' 1921


László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Oil on canvas
44 × 36 1/2 in.
Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, Gift of Sibyl Moholy-Nagy
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College


László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Red Cross and White Balls' 1921


László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Red Cross and White Balls
Collage, ink, graphite, and watercolour on paper
8 7/16 × 11 7⁄16 in.
Museum Kunstpalast Düsseldorf
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, photo © Museum Kunstpalast – Horst Kolberg – ARTOTHEK


László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Construction' 1922


László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Oil and graphite on panel
21 3/8 × 17 15/16 in.
Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, Gift of Lydia Dorner in memory of Dr. Alexander Dorner
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College


László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Q' 1922/23


László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Collage, watercolour, ink, and graphite on paper attached to carbon paper
23 3⁄16 × 18 1⁄4 in.
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn



The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) presents Moholy-Nagy: Future Present, the first comprehensive retrospective of the pioneering artist and educator László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) to be seen in the United States in nearly 50 years. Organised by LACMA, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, and the Art Institute of Chicago, this exhibition examines the rich and varied career of the Hungarian-born modernist. One of the most versatile figures of the twentieth century avant-garde, Moholy (as he is often called) believed in the potential of art as a vehicle for social transformation and in the value of new technologies in harnessing that potential. He was a pathbreaking painter, photographer, sculptor, designer, and filmmaker as well as a prolific writer and an influential teacher in both Germany and the United States. Among his innovations were experiments with cameraless photography; the use of industrial materials in painting and sculpture; research with light, transparency, and movement; work at the forefront of abstraction; fluidity in moving between the fine and applied arts; and the conception of creative production as a multimedia endeavour. Radical for the time, these are now all firmly part of contemporary art practice.

The exhibition includes approximately 300 works, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, collages, photographs, photograms, photomontages, films, and examples of graphic, exhibition, and theatre design. A highlight is the full-scale realisation of the Room of the Present, an immersive installation that is a hybrid of exhibition space and work of art, seen here for the first time in the United States. This work – which includes photographic reproductions, films, images of architectural and theatre design, and examples of industrial design – was conceived by Moholy around 1930 but realised only in 2009. The exhibition is installed chronologically with sections following Moholy’s career from his earliest days in Hungary through his time at the Bauhuas (1923-1928), his post-Bauhaus period in Europe, and ending with his final years in Chicago (1937-1946).

Moholy-Nagy: Future Present is co-organised by Carol S. Eliel, Curator of Modern Art, LACMA; Karole P. B. Vail, Curator, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; and Matthew S. Witkovsky, Richard and Ellen Sandor Chair and Curator, Department of Photography, Art Institute of Chicago. The exhibition’s tour began at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, continued at the Art Institute of Chicago, and concludes at LACMA.

“Moholy-Nagy is considered one of the earliest modern artists actively to engage with new materials and technologies. This spirit of experimentation connects to LACMA’s longstanding interest in and support of the relationship between art and technology, starting with its 1967-1971 Art and Technology Program and continuing with the museum’s current Art + Technology Lab,” according to Michael Govan, LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director. “This exhibition’s integrated view of Moholy’s work in numerous mediums reveals his relevance to contemporary art in our multi- and new media age.”

Moholy’s goal throughout his life was to integrate art, technology, and education for the betterment of humanity; he believed art should serve a public purpose. These goals defined the artist’s utopian vision, a vision that remained as constant as his fascination with light, throughout the many material changes in his oeuvre,” comments Carol S. Eliel, exhibition curator. “Light was Moholy’s ‘dream medium,’ and his experimentation employed both light itself and a range of industrial materials that take advantage of light.”


László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Photogram' 1925/28, printed 1929


László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
1925/28, printed 1929
Gelatin silver print (enlargement from photogram) from the Giedion Portfolio
15 3/4 × 11 13/16 in.
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, museum purchase funded by the Mary Kathryn Lynch Kurtz Charitable Lead Trust, The Manfred Heiting Collection
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn


László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Photograph (Self-Portrait with Hand)' 1925/1929, printed 1940/1949


László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Photograph (Self-Portrait with Hand)
1925/1929, printed 1940/1949
Gelatin silver print
9 5/16 × 7 in.
Galerie Berinson, Berlin
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn


László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Photogram' 1925/1926


László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Gelatin silver photogram
7 3/16 × 9 1/2 in.
Museum Folkwang, Essen
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo © Museum Folkwang Essen – ARTOTHEK


László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Photogram' 1926


László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Gelatin silver print
9 3/8 x 7 in.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Ralph M. Parsons Fund
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo © Museum Associates/LACMA



Photogram (1926): In the 1920s Moholy was among the first artists to make photograms by placing objects – including coins, lightbulbs, flowers, even his own hand – directly onto the surface of light-sensitive paper. He described the resulting images, simultaneously identifiable and elusive, as “a bridge leading to a new visual creation for which canvas, paintbrush, and pigment cannot serve.”


László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Cover and design for Malerei Photographie Film (Painting Photography Film)' 1925


László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Cover and design for Malerei Photographie Film (Painting Photography Film)
1st ed., Bauhausbücher (Bauhaus Books) 8 (Albert Langen Verlag, 1925), bound volume
9 1/16 × 7 1/16 in.
Collection of Richard S. Frary
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn


László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Once a Chicken, Always a Chicken' 1925


László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Once a Chicken, Always a Chicken
Photomontage (halftone reproductions, paper, watercolor, and grapite) on paper
15 × 19 in.
Alice Adam, Chicago
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn



About the artist

László Moholy-Nagy was born in Hungary in 1895. He enrolled as a law student at the University of Budapest in 1915, leaving two years later to serve as an artillery officer in the Austro-Hungarian army during World War I. He began drawing while on the war front; after his discharge in 1918 Moholy convalesced in Budapest, where he focused on painting. He was soon drawn to the cutting-edge art movements of the period, including Cubism and Futurism. Moholy moved to Vienna in 1919 before settling in Berlin in 1920, where he served as a correspondent for the progressive Hungarian magazine MA (Today).

The letters and glyphs of Dada informed Moholy’s visual art around 1920 while the hard edged geometries and utopian goals of Russian Constructivism influenced his initial forays into abstraction shortly thereafter, particularly works that explored the interaction among coloured planes, diagonals, circles, and other geometric forms. By the early 1920s Moholy had gained a reputation as an innovative artist and perceptive theorist through exhibitions at Berlin’s radical Galerie Der Sturm as well as his writings. His lifelong engagement with industrial materials and processes – including the use of metal plating, sandpaper, and various metals and plastics then newly-developed for commercial use – began at this time.

In 1923 Moholy began teaching at the Bauhaus, an avant-garde school that sought to integrate the fine and applied arts, where his colleagues included Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and other path breaking modernists. Architect Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus, invited Moholy to expand its progressive curriculum, particularly by incorporating contemporary technology into more traditional methods and materials. He also had a part in Bauhaus graphic design achievements, collaborating with Herbert Bayer on stationery, announcements, and advertising materials.

Photography was of special significance for Moholy, who believed that “a knowledge of photography is just as important as that of the alphabet. The illiterates of the future will be ignorant of the use of the camera and pen alike.” In the 1920s he was among the earliest artists to make photograms by placing objects directly onto the surface of light-sensitive paper. He also made photographs using a traditional camera, often employing exaggerated angles and plunging perspectives to capture contemporary technological marvels as well as the post-Victorian freedom of the human body in the modern world. His photographs are documentary as well as observations of texture, captured in fine gradations of light and shadow. Moholy likewise made photomontages, combining assorted elements, typically newspaper and magazine clippings, resulting in what he called a “compressed interpenetration of visual and verbal wit; weird combinations of the most realistic, imitative means which pass into imaginary spheres.” Moholy-Nagy includes the largest grouping of the artist’s photomontages ever assembled.

After leaving the Bauhaus in 1928, Moholy turned to commercial, theatre, and exhibition design as his primary means of income. This work, which reached a broad audience, was frequently collaborative and interdisciplinary by its very nature and followed from the artist’s dictum “New creative experiments are an enduring necessity.”

Even as his commercial practice was expanding, Moholy’s artistic innovations and prominence in the avant-garde persisted unabated. He continued to bring new industrial materials into his painting practice, while his research into light, transparency, and movement led to his 35 mm films documenting life in the modern city, his early involvement with colour photography for advertising, and his remarkable kinetic Light Prop for an Electric Stage of 1930. An extension of his exhibition design work, Moholy’s Room of the Present was conceived to showcase art that embodied his “new vision” – endlessly reproducible photographs, films, posters, and examples of industrial design.

Forced by the rise of Nazism to leave Germany, in 1934 Moholy moved with his family to Amsterdam, where he continued to work on commercial design and to collaborate on art and architecture projects. Within a year of arriving the family was forced to move again, this time to London. Moholy’s employment there centred around graphic design, including prominent advertising campaigns for the London Underground, Imperial Airways, and Isokon furniture. He also received commissions for a number of short, documentary influenced films while in England. In 1937, the artist accepted the invitation (arranged through his former Bauhaus colleague Walter Gropius) of the Association of Arts and Industries to found a design school in Chicago, which he called the New Bauhaus – American School of Design. Financial difficulties led to its closure the following year, but Moholy reopened it in 1939 as the School of Design (subsequently the Institute of Design, today part of the Illinois Institute of Technology). Moholy transmitted his populist ethos to the students, asking that they “see themselves as designers and craftsmen who will make a living by furnishing the community with new ideas and useful products.”

Despite working full-time as an educator and administrator, Moholy continued his artistic practice in Chicago. His interest in light and shadow found a new outlet in Plexiglas hybrids of painting and sculpture, which he often called Space Modulators and intended as “vehicles for choreographed luminosity.” His paintings increasingly involved biomorphic forms and, while still abstract, were given explicitly autobiographical or narrative titles – the Nuclear paintings allude to the horror of the atomic bomb, while the Leuk paintings refer to the cancer that would take his life in 1946. Moholy’s goal throughout his life was to integrate art, technology, and education for the betterment of humanity. “To meet the manifold requirements of this age with a definite program of human values, there must come a new mentality,” he wrote in Vision in Motion, published posthumously in 1947. “The common denominator is the fundamental acknowledgment of human needs; the task is to recognise the moral obligation in satisfying these needs, and the aim is to produce for human needs, not for profit.”


László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'AL 3' 1926


László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
AL 3
Oil, industrial paint, and graphite on aluminium
15 3/4 × 15 3/4 in.
Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California, The Blue Four Galka Scheyer Collection
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn


László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Photograph (Berlin Radio Tower)' 1928/1929


László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Photograph (Berlin Radio Tower)
Gelatin silver print
14 3/16 × 10 in.
The Art Institute of Chicago, Julien Levy Collection, Special Photography Acquisition Fund
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Digital image © The Art Institute of Chicago



Photograph (Berlin Radio Tower) (1928/29): Moholy used a traditional camera to take photos that often employ exaggerated angles and plunging perspectives to capture contemporary technological marvels such as the Berlin Radio Tower, which was completed in 1926. This photograph epitomises Moholy’s concept of art working hand-in-hand with technology to create new ways of seeing the world – his “new vision.”


László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Photograph (Light Prop)' 1930


László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Photograph (Light Prop for an Electric Stage)
Gelatin silver print
9 7/16 × 7 1/8 in.
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn



A short documentation from the replica of Moholy-Nagy’s Light Space Modulator in Van Abbe Museum in Eindhoven, Holland



Làslò Moholy Nagy film


László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Photograph (Light Prop)' c. 1930


László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Photograph (Light Prop for an Electric Stage)
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print
14 3/4 × 10 3/4 in.
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Gift of the artist
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Digital image © The Museum of Modern Art / licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY


Installation view of Room 2, designed by László Moholy-Nagy, of the German section of the annual salon of the Society of Decorative Artists, Paris, May 14-July 13, 1930


Installation view of Room 2, designed by László Moholy-Nagy, of the German section of the annual salon of the Society of Decorative Artists, Paris, May 14-July 13, 1930
Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo: Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin


László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Room of the Present' 1930, constructed 2009


László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Room of the Present
Constructed 2009 from plans and other documentation, dated 1930
Mixed media
Inner dimensions: 137 3/4 x 218 7/8 x 318 3/4 in.
Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, 2953
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photography by Peter Cox, Eindhoven, The Netherlands



The Room of the Present is an immersive installation featuring photographic reproductions, films, slides, posters, and examples of architecture, theatre, and industrial design, including an exhibition copy of Moholy’s kinetic Light Prop for an Electric Stage (1930). The Room exemplifies Moholy’s desire to achieve a Gesamtwerk (total work) that would unify art and technology with life itself. A hybrid between exhibition space and work of art, it was originally conceived around 1930 but realised only in 2009, based on the few existing plans, drawings, and related correspondence Moholy left behind.


László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Construction AL6 (Konstruktion AL6)' 1933-1934


László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Construction AL6 (Konstruktion AL6)
Oil and incised lines on aluminum
60 × 50cm
IVAM, Institut Valencià d’Art Modern, Generalitat
© 2016 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'CH BEATA I' 1939


László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Oil and graphite on canvas
46 7/8 × 47 1/8 in.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photo © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York, photography by Kristopher McKay


László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Photograph (Light Modulator in Motion)' 1943


László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Photograph (Light Modulator in Motion)
Gelatin silver print
6 9/16 x 4 7/16 in.
George Eastman Museum, Rochester, New York, purchase with funds provided by Eastman Kodak Company
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn


László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Photograph (Light Modulator in Repose)' 1943


László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Photograph (Light Modulator in Repose)
Gelatin silver print
6 7/16 x 4 1/2 in.
George Eastman Museum, Purchased with funds provided by Eastman Kodak Company
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn


László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Vertical Black, Red, Blue' 1945


László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Vertical Black, Red, Blue
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Alice and Nahum Lainer, the Ducommun and Gross Acquisition Fund, the Fannie and Alan Leslie Bequest, and the Modern and Contemporary Art Council, as installed in Moholy-Nagy: Future Present at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, photo
© 2017 Museum Associates/LACMA


László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) 'Space Modulator CH for R1' 1942


László Moholy-Nagy (Hungarian, 1895-1946)
Space Modulator CH for R1
Oil and incised lines on Formica
62 3/16 × 25 9/16 in.
Hattula Moholy-Nagy, Ann Arbor, Michigan
© 2017 Hattula Moholy-Nagy/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Photography by Peter Schälchli



Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
5905 Wilshire Boulevard (at Fairfax Avenue)
Los Angeles, CA, 90036
Phone: 323 857 6000

Opening hours:
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday: 11am – 5 pm
Friday: 11am – 8pm
Saturday, Sunday: 10am – 7pm
Closed Wednesday

LACMA website


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Exhibition: ‘Intersections: Photographs and Videos from the National Gallery of Art and the Corcoran Gallery of Art’ at the National Gallery of Art, Washington

Exhibition dates: 29th May 2016 – 2nd January 2017

Curators: Sarah Greenough, senior curator, department of photographs, and Philip Brookman, consulting curator, department of photographs, both National Gallery of Art, are the exhibition curators.



Louis Stettner. 'Times Square, New York City' 1952-1954


Louis Stettner (American, 1922-2016)
Times Square, New York City
Gelatin silver print
Sheet (trimmed to image): 42.1 x 27.5cm (16 9/16 x 10 13/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund



The last posting of a fruitful year for Art Blart. I wish all the readers of Art Blart a happy and safe New Year!

The exhibition is organised around five themes – movement, sequence, narrative, studio, and identity – found in the work of Muybridge and Stieglitz, themes then developed in the work of other artists. While there is some interesting work in the posting, the conceptual rationale and stand alone nature of the themes and the work within them is a curatorial ordering of ideas that, in reality, cannot be contained within any one boundary, the single point of view.

Movement can be contained in sequences; narrative can be unfolded in a sequence (as in the work of Duane Michals); narrative and identity have a complex association which can also be told through studio work (eg. Gregory Crewdson), etc… What does Roger Mayne’s Goalie, Street Football, Brindley Road (1956, below) not have to do with identity, the young lad with his dirty hands, playing in his socks, in a poverty stricken area of London; why has Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Oscar Wilde (1999, below) been included in the studio section when it has much more to do with the construction of identity through photography – “Triply removing his portrait from reality – from Oscar Wilde himself to a portrait photograph to a wax sculpture and back to a photograph” – which confounds our expectations of the nature of photography. Photography is nefariously unstable in its depiction of an always, constructed reality, through representation(s) which reject simple causality.

To isolate and embolden the centre is to disclaim and disavow the periphery, work which crosses boundaries, is multifaceted and multitudinous; work which forms a nexus for networks of association beyond borders, beyond de/lineation – the line from here to there. The self-contained themes within this exhibition are purely illusory.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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.



“We can no longer accept that the identity of a man can be adequately established by preserving and fixing what he looks like from a single viewpoint in one place.”

John Berger. “No More Portraits,” in New Society August 1967



“Intersections: Photographs and Videos from the National Gallery of Art and the Corcoran Gallery of Art explores the connections between the two newly joined photography collections. On view from May 29, 2016, through January 2, 2017, the exhibition is organised around themes found in the work of the two pioneers of each collection: Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) and Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946). Inspired by these two seminal artists, Intersections brings together more than 100 highlights of the recently merged collections by a range of artists from the 1840s to today.

Just as the nearly 700 photographs from Muybridge’s groundbreaking publication Animal Locomotion, acquired by the Corcoran Gallery of Art in 1887, became the foundation for the institution’s early interest in photography, the Key Set of more than 1,600 works by Stieglitz, donated by Georgia O’Keeffe and the Alfred Stieglitz Estate, launched the photography collection at the National Gallery of Art in 1949.”

Press release from the National Gallery of Art


Exhibition highlights

The exhibition is organised around five themes – movement, sequence, narrative, studio, and identity – found in the work of Muybridge and Stieglitz.



Works by Muybridge, who is best known for creating photographic technologies to stop and record motion, anchor the opening section devoted to movement. Photographs by Berenice Abbott and Harold Eugene Edgerton, which study how objects move through space, are included, as are works by Roger Mayne, Alexey Brodovitch, and other who employed the camera to isolate an instant from the flux of time.


Wall text

Intersections wall text


Eadweard Muybridge. 'Horses. Running. Phyrne L. No. 40, from The Attitudes of Animals in Motion' 1879


Eadweard Muybridge (English, 1830-1904)
Horses. Running. Phyrne L. No. 40, from The Attitudes of Animals in Motion
Albumen print
Image: 16 x 22.4cm (6 5/16 x 8 13/16 in.)
Sheet: 25.7 x 32.4cm (10 1/8 x 12 3/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mary and Dan Solomon



In order to analyse the movement of racehorses, farm animals, and acrobats, Muybridge pioneered new and innovative ways to stop motion with photography. In 1878, he started making pictures at railroad magnate Leland Stanford’s horse farm in Palo Alto, California, where he developed an electronic shutter that enabled exposures as fast as one-thousandth of a second. In this print from Muybridge’s 1881 album The Attitudes of Animals in Motion, Stanford’s prized racehorse Phryne L is shown running in a sequential grid of pictures made by 24 different cameras with electromagnetic shutters tripped by wires as the animal ran across the track. These pictures are now considered a critical step in the development of cinema.


Eadweard Muybridge. 'Internegative for Horses. Trotting. Abe Edgington. No. 28, from The Attitudes of Animals in Motion' 1878


Eadweard Muybridge (English, 1830-1904)
Internegative for Horses. Trotting. Abe Edgington. No. 28, from The Attitudes of Animals in Motion
Collodion negative
Overall (glass plate): 15.3 x 25.4cm (6 x 10 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mary and Dan Solomon and Patrons’ Permanent Fund



This glass negative shows the sequence of Leland Stanford’s horse Abe Edgington trotting across a racetrack in Palo Alto, California – a revolutionary record of the changes in the horse’s gait in about one second. Muybridge composed the negative from photographs made by eight different cameras lined up to capture the horse’s movements. Used to print the whole sequence together onto albumen paper, this internegative served as an intermediary step in the production of Muybridge’s 1881 album The Attitudes of Animals in Motion.


Étienne Jules Marey. 'Chronophotograph of a Man on a Bicycle' c. 1885-1890


Étienne Jules Marey (French, 1830-1904)
Chronophotograph of a Man on a Bicycle
c. 1885-1890
Glass lantern slide
Image: 4 x 7.5cm (1 9/16 x 2 15/16 in.)
Plate: 8.8 x 10.2cm (3 7/16 x 4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mary and David Robinson



A scientist and physiologist, Marey became fascinated with movement in the 1870s. Unlike Muybridge, who had already made separate pictures of animals in motion, Marey developed in 1882 a means to record several phases of movement onto one photographic plate using a rotating shutter with slots cut into it. He called this process “chronophotography,” meaning photography of time. His photographs, which he published in books and showed in lantern slide presentations, influenced 20th-century cubist, futurist, and Dada artists who examined the interdependence of time and space.


William Henry Fox Talbot. 'The Boulevards of Paris' 1843


William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800-1877)
The Boulevards of Paris
Salted paper print
Image: 16.6 × 17.1cm (6 9/16 × 6 3/4 in.)
Sheet: 19 × 23.2cm (7 1/2 × 9 1/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, New Century Fund



As soon as Talbot announced his invention of photography in 1839, he realised that its ability to freeze time enabled him to present the visual spectacle of the world in an entirely new way. By capturing something as mundane as a fleeting moment on a busy street, he could transform life into art, creating a picture that could be savoured long after the event had transpired.


David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson. 'Colinton Manse and weir, with part of the old mill on the right' 1843-1847


David Octavius Hill (Scottish, 1802-1870) and Robert Adamson (Scottish, 1821-1848)
Colinton Manse and weir, with part of the old mill on the right
Salted paper print
Image: 20.7 x 14.6cm (8 1/8 x 5 3/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Paul Mellon Fund



In 1843, only four years after Talbot announced his negative / positive process of photography, painter David Octavius Hill teamed up with engineer Robert Adamson. Working in Scotland, they created important early portraits of the local populace and photographed Scottish architecture, rustic landscapes, and city scenes. Today a suburb southwest of Edinburgh, 19th-century Colinton was a mill town beside a river known as the Water of Leith. Because of the long exposure time required to make this photograph, the water rushing over a small dam appears as a glassy blur.


Thomas Annan. 'Old Vennel, Off High Street' 1868-1871


Thomas Annan (Scottish, 1829-1887)
Old Vennel, Off High Street
Carbon print
Image: 26.9 x 22.3cm (10 9/16 x 8 3/4 in.)
Sheet: 50.8 x 37.9cm (20 x 14 15/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund



In 1868, Glasgow’s City Improvements Trust hired Annan to photograph the “old closes and streets of Glasgow” before the city’s tenements were demolished. Annan’s pictures constitute one of the first commissioned photographic records of living conditions in urban slums. The collodion process Annan used to make his large, glass negatives required a long exposure time. In the dim light of this narrow passage, it was impossible for the photographer to stop the motion of the restless children, who appear as ghostly blurs moving barefoot across the cobblestones.


Thomas Annan. 'Old Vennel, Off High Street' 1868-1871 (detail)


Thomas Annan (Scottish, 1829-1887)
Old Vennel, Off High Street (detail)
Carbon print
Image: 26.9 x 22.3cm (10 9/16 x 8 3/4 in.)
Sheet: 50.8 x 37.9cm (20 x 14 15/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund


Alfred Stieglitz. 'Going to the Post, Morris Park' 1904


Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Going to the Post, Morris Park
Image: 30.8 x 26.4cm (12 1/8 x 10 3/8 in.)
Sheet: 38.5 x 30.3cm (15 3/16 x 11 15/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred Stieglitz Collection



In the 1880s and 1890s, improvements in photographic processes enabled manufacturers to produce small, handheld cameras that did not need to be mounted on tripods. Faster film and shutter speeds also allowed practitioners to capture rapidly moving objects. Stieglitz was one of the first fine art photographers to exploit the aesthetic potential of these new cameras and films. Around the turn of the century, he made many photographs of rapidly moving trains, horse-drawn carriages, and racetracks that capture the pace of the increasingly modern city.


Harold Eugene Edgerton. 'Wes Fesler Kicking a Football' 1934


Harold Eugene Edgerton (American, 1903-1990)
Wes Fesler Kicking a Football
Gelatin silver print
Image: 11 1/2 x 9 5/8 in.
Sheet: 13 15/16 x 11 in.
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Corcoran Collection (Museum Purchase with the aid of funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, Washington, D.C., a Federal Agency, and The Polaroid Corporation)



A professor of electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Edgerton in the early 1930s invited the stroboscope, a tube filled with gas that produced high-intensity bursts of light at regular and very brief intervals. He used it to illuminate objects in motion so that they could be captured by a camera. At first he was hired by industrial clients to reveal flaws in their production of materials, but by the mid-1930s he began to photography everyday events… Edgerton captured phenomena moving too fast for the naked eye to see, and revealed the beauty of people and objects in motion.


Alexey Brodovitch. 'Untitled from "Ballet" series' 1938


Alexey Brodovitch (American born Russia, 1898-1971)
Untitled from “Ballet” series
Gelatin silver print
Overall: 20.4 x 27.5cm (8 1/16 x 10 13/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Diana and Mallory Walker Fund



A graphic artist, Russian-born Brodovitch moved to the United States from Paris in 1930. Known for his innovative use of photographs, illustrations, and type on the printed page, he became art director for Harper’s Bazaar in 1934, and photographed the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo during their American tours from 1935 to 1939. Using a small-format, 35 mm camera, Brodovitch worked in the backstage shadows and glaring light of the theatre to produce a series of rough, grainy pictures that convey the drama and action of the performance. This photograph employs figures in motion, a narrow field of focus, and high-contrast effects to express the stylised movements of Léonide Massine’s 1938 choreography for Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony.


Harry Callahan. 'Detroit' 1943


Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999)
c. 1943
Dye imbibition print, printed c. 1980
Overall (image): 18 x 26.7cm (7 1/16 x 10 1/2 in.)
Sheet: 27.31 x 36.83cm (10 3/4 x 14 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of the Callahan Family


Harry Callahan. 'Camera Movement on Neon Lights at Night' 1946


Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999)
Camera Movement on Neon Lights at Night
Dye imbibition print, printed 1979
Image: 8 3/4 x 13 5/8 in.
Sheet: 10 3/8 x 13 15/16 in.
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Corcoran Collection (Gift of Richard W. and Susan R. Gessner)


Frank Horvat. 'Paris, Gare Saint-Lazare' 1959


Frank Horvat (Italian, 1928-2020)
Paris, Gare Saint-Lazare
Gelatin silver print
Overall: 39.3 x 26.2cm (15 1/2 x 10 5/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund



Gare Saint-Lazare is one of the principal railway stations in Paris. Because of its industrial appearance, steaming locomotives, and teeming crowds, it was a frequent subject for 19th-century French painters – including Claude Monet, Édouard Manet, and Gustave Caillebotte – who used it to express the vitality of modern life. 20th-century artists such as Horvat also depicted it to address the pace and anonymity that defined their time. Using a telephoto lens and long exposure, he captured the rushing movement of travellers scattered beneath giant destination signs.


Roger Mayne. 'Goalie, Street Football, Brindley Road' 1956


Roger Mayne (English, 1929-2014)
Goalie, Street Football, Brindley Road
Gelatin silver print
Image: 34.7 × 29.1cm (13 11/16 × 11 7/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund



From 1956 to 1961, Mayne photographed London’s North Kensington neighbourhood to record its emergence from the devastation and poverty caused by World War II. This dramatic photograph of a young goalie lunging for the ball during an after-school soccer game relies on the camera’s ability to freeze the fast-paced and unpredictable action. Because the boy’s daring lunge is forever suspended in time, we will never know its outcome.


Shōmei Tōmatsu. 'Rush Hour, Tokyo' (detail) 1981


Shōmei Tōmatsu (Japanese, 1930-2012)
Rush Hour, Tokyo (detail)
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 11 5/16 x 9 7/16 in. (28.73 x 23.97 cm)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Corcoran Collection (Gift of Michael D. Abrams)



Best known for his expressive documentation of World War II’s impact on Japanese culture, Tomatsu was one of Japan’s most creative and influential photographers. Starting in the early 1960s, he documented the country’s dramatic economic, political, and cultural transformation. This photograph – a long exposure made with his camera mounted on a tripod – conveys the chaotic rush of commuters on their way through downtown Tokyo. Tomatsu used this graphic description of movement, which distorts the faceless bodies of commuters dashing down a flight of stairs, to symbolise the dehumanising nature of work in the fast-paced city of the early 1980s.



Muybridge set up banks of cameras and used electronic shutters triggered in sequence to analyse the motion of people and animals. Like a storyteller, he sometimes adjusted the order of images for visual and sequential impact. Other photographers have also investigated the medium’s capacity to record change over time, express variations on a theme, or connect seemingly disparate pictures. In the early 1920s, Stieglitz began to create poetic sequences of cloud photographs meant to evoke distinct emotional experiences. These works (later known as Equivalents) influenced Ansel Adams and Minor White – both artists created specific sequences to evoke the rhythms of nature or the poetry of time passing.


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Intersections wall text


Alfred Stieglitz. 'From My Window at An American Place, Southwest' March 1932


Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
From My Window at An American Place, Southwest
March 1932
Gelatin silver print
Sheet (trimmed to image): 23.8 x 18.4cm (9 3/8 x 7 1/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred Stieglitz Collection


Alfred Stieglitz. 'From My Window at An American Place, Southwest' April 1932


Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
From My Window at An American Place, Southwest
April 1932
Gelatin silver print
Sheet (trimmed to image): 23.8 x 18.8cm (9 3/8 x 7 3/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred Stieglitz Collection


Alfred Stieglitz. 'Water Tower and Radio City, New York' 1933


Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Water Tower and Radio City, New York
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 23.7 x 18.6cm (9 5/16 x 7 5/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred Stieglitz Collection



Whenever Stieglitz exhibited his photographs of New York City made in the late 1920s and early 1930s, he grouped them into series that record views from the windows of his gallery, An American Place, or his apartment at the Shelton Hotel, showing the gradual growth of the buildings under construction in the background. Although he delighted in the formal beauty of the visual spectacle, he lamented that these buildings, planned in the exuberance of the late 1920s, continued to be built in the depths of the Depression, while “artists starved,” as he said at the time, and museums were “threatened with closure.”


Ed Ruscha. 'Every Building on Sunset Strip' 1966

Ed Ruscha. 'Every Building on Sunset Strip' 1966

Ed Ruscha. 'Every Building on Sunset Strip' 1966


Ed Ruscha (American, b. 1937)
Every Building on the Sunset Strip
Offset lithography book: 7 x 5 3/4 in. (17.78 x 14.61cm)
Unfolded (open flat): 7 x 276 in.
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Corcoran Collection (Gift of Philip Brookman and Amy Brookman)


Vito Acconci. 'Step Piece' 1970


Vito Acconci (American, 1940-2017)
Step Piece
Five gelatin silver prints and four sheets of type-written paper, mounted on board with annotations in black ink
Sheet: 76.2 x 101.6cm (30 x 40 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection



Acconci’s Step Piece is made up of equal parts photography, drawing, performance, and quantitative analysis. It documents a test of endurance: stepping on and off a stool for as long as possible every day. This performance-based conceptual work is rooted in the idea that the body itself can be a medium for making art. To record his activity, Acconci made a series of five photographs spanning one complete action. Like the background grid in many of Muybridge’s motion studies, vertical panels in Acconci’s studio help delineate the space. His handwritten notes and sketches suggest the patterns of order and chaos associated with the performance, while typewritten sheets, which record his daily progress, were given to people who were invited to observe.



The exhibition also explores the narrative possibilities of photography found in the interplay of image and text in the work of Robert Frank, Larry Sultan, and Jim Goldberg; the emotional drama of personal crisis in Nan Goldin’s image grids; or the expansion of photographic description into experimental video and film by Victor Burgin and Judy Fiskin.


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Intersections wall text


Alfred Stieglitz. 'Judith Being Carted from Oaklawn to the Hill. The Way Art Moves' 1920


Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Judith Being Carted from Oaklawn to the Hill. The Way Art Moves
Gelatin silver print
Image: 24.1 x 18.8cm (9 1/2 x 7 3/8 in.)
Sheet: 25.2 x 20.1cm (9 15/16 x 7 15/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred Stieglitz Collection



In 1920, Stieglitz’s family sold their Victorian summerhouse on the shore of Lake George, New York, and moved to a farmhouse on a hill above it. This photograph shows three sculptures his father had collected – two 19th-century replicas of ancient statues and a circa 1880 bust by Moses Ezekiel depicting the Old Testament heroine Judith – as they were being moved in a wooden cart from one house to another. Stieglitz titled it The Way Art Moves, wryly commenting on the low status of art in American society. With her masculine face and bared breast, Judith was much maligned by Georgia O’Keeffe and other younger family members. In a playful summer prank, they later buried her somewhere near the farmhouse, where she remained lost, despite many subsequent efforts by the perpetrators themselves to find her.


Dan Graham. 'Homes for America' 1966-1967


Dan Graham (American, b. 1942)
Homes for America
Two chromogenic prints
Image (top): 23 x 34cm (9 1/16 x 13 3/8 in.)
Image (bottom): 27.8 x 34cm (10 15/16 x 13 3/8 in.)
Mount: 101 x 75cm (39 3/4 x 29 1/2 in.)
Framed: 102 x 76.2 x 2.8cm (40 3/16 x 30 x 1 1/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Glenstone in honour of Eileen and Michael Cohen



Beginning in the mid-1960s, conceptual artist Dan Graham created several works of art for magazine pages and slide shows. When Homes for America was designed for Arts magazine in 1966, his accompanying text critiqued the mass production of cookie-cutter homes, while his photographs – made with an inexpensive Kodak Instamatic camera – described a suburban world of offices, houses, restaurants, highways, and truck stops. With their haphazard composition and amateur technique, Graham’s pictures ironically scrutinised the aesthetics of America’s postwar housing and inspired other conceptual artists to incorporate photographs into their work. Together, these two photographs link a middle-class family at the opening of a Jersey City highway restaurant with the soulless industrial landscape seen through the window.


Larry Sultan. 'Thanksgiving Turkey' 1985

Larry Sultan. 'Business Page' from the series 'Pictures from Home' 1985


Larry Sultan (American, 1946-2009)
Thanksgiving Turkey/Newspaper (detail)
Two plexiglass panels with screen printing
Framed (Thanksgiving Turkey): 76 × 91cm (29 15/16 × 35 13/16 in.)
Framed (Newspaper): 76 × 91cm (29 15/16 × 35 13/16 in.)
Other (2 text panels): 50.8 × 76.2cm (20 × 30 in.)
Overall: 30 x 117 in.
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Corcoran Collection (Gift of the FRIENDS of the Corcoran Gallery of Art)



From 1983 to 1992, Sultan photographed his parents in retirement at their Southern California house. His innovative book, Pictures from Home, combines his photographs and text with family album snapshots and stills from home movies, mining the family’s memories and archives to create a universal narrative about the American dream of work, home, and family. Thanksgiving Turkey/Newspaper juxtaposes photographs of his mother and father, each with their face hidden and with adjacent texts where they complain about each other’s shortcomings. “I realise that beyond the rolls of film and the few good pictures … is the wish to take photography literally,” Sultan wrote. “To stop time. I want my parents to live forever.”


Shimon Attie. 'Mulackstrasse 32: Slide Projections of Former Jewish Residents and Hebrew Reading Room, 1932, Berlin' 1992


Shimon Attie (American, b. 1957)
Mulackstrasse 32: Slide Projections of Former Jewish Residents and Hebrew Reading Room, 1932, Berlin
Chromogenic print
Unframed: 20 x 24 in. (50.8 x 60.96cm)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Corcoran Collection (Gift of Julia J. Norrell in honor of Hilary Allard and Lauren Harry)



Attie projected historical photographs made in 1932 onto the sides of a building at Mulackstrasse 32, the site of a Hebrew reading room in a Jewish neighbourhood in Berlin during the 1930s. Fusing pictures made before Jews were removed from their homes and killed during World War II with photographs of the same dark, empty street made in 1992, Attie has created a haunting picture of wartime loss.


Nan Goldin. 'Relapse/Detox Grid' 1998-2000


Nan Goldin (American, b. 1953)
Relapse/Detox Grid
Nine silver dye bleach prints
Overall: 42 1/2 x 62 1/8 in. (107.95 x 157.8cm)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Corcoran Collection (Museum Purchase with funds donated by the FRIENDS of the Corcoran Gallery of Art)



Goldin has unsparingly chronicled her own community of friends by photographing their struggles, hopes, and dreams through years of camaraderie, abuse, addiction, illness, loss, and redemption. Relapse/Detox Grid presents nine colourful yet plaintive pictures in a slide show-like narrative, offering glimpses of a life rooted in struggle, along with Goldin’s own recovery at a detox center, seen in the bottom row.


Nan Goldin. 'Relapse/Detox Grid' 1998-2000 (detail)


Nan Goldin (American, b. 1953)
Relapse/Detox Grid (detail)
Nine silver dye bleach prints
Overall: 42 1/2 x 62 1/8 in. (107.95 x 157.8cm)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Corcoran Collection (Museum Purchase with funds donated by the FRIENDS of the Corcoran Gallery of Art)


Victor Burgin. 'Watergate' 2000


Victor Burgin (British, b. 1941)
Video with sound, 9:58 minutes
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Corcoran Collection (Museum Purchase, with funds from the bequest of Betty Battle to the Women’s Committee of the Corcoran Gallery of Art)



An early advocate of conceptual art, Burgin is an artist and writer whose work spans photographs, text, and video. Watergate shows how the meaning of art can change depending on the context in which it is seen. Burgin animated digital, 160-degree panoramic photographs of nineteenth-century American art hanging in the Corcoran Gallery of Art and in a hotel room. While the camera circles the gallery, an actor reads from Jean-Paul Satre’s Being and Nothingness, which questions the relationship between presence and absence. Then a dreamlike pan around a hotel room overlooking the nearby Watergate complex mysteriously reveals Niagara, the Corcoran’s 1859 landscape by Frederic Church, having on the wall. In 1859, Niagara Falls was seen as a symbol of the glory and promise of the American nation, yet when Church’s painting is placed in the context of the Watergate, an icon of the scandal that led to Richard Nixon’s resignation, it assumes a different meaning and suggests an ominous sense of disillusionment.



Intersections also examines the studio as a locus of creativity, from Stieglitz’s photographs of his gallery, 291, and James Van Der Zee’s commercial studio portraits, to the manipulated images of Wallace Berman, Robert Heinecken, and Martha Rosler. Works by Laurie Simmons, David Levinthal, and Vik Muniz also highlight the postmodern strategy of staging images created in the studio.


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Intersections wall text


Nadar. 'Self-Portrait with Wife Ernestine in a Balloon Gondola' c. 1865


Nadar (Gaspard-Félix Tournachon) (French, 1820-1910)
Self-Portrait with Wife Ernestine in a Balloon Gondola
c. 1865
Gelatin silver print, printed c. 1890
8.6 × 7.7cm (3 3/8 × 3 1/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation through Robert and Joyce Menschel



Nadar (a pseudonym for Gaspard-Félix Tournachon) was not only a celebrated portrait photographer, but also a journalist, caricaturist, and early proponent of manned flight. In 1863, he commissioned a prominent balloonist to build an enormous balloon 196 feet high, which he named The Giant. The ascents he made from 1863 to 1867 were widely covered in the press and celebrated by the cartoonist Honoré Daumier, who depicted Nadar soaring above Paris, its buildings festooned with signs for photography studios. Nadar made and sold small prints like this self-portrait to promote his ballooning ventures. The obviously artificial construction of this picture – Nadar and his wife sit in a basket far too small for a real ascent and are posed in front of a painted backdrop – and its untrimmed edges showing assistants at either side make it less of the self-aggrandising statement that Nadar wished and more of an amusing behind-the-scenes look at studio practice.


Alfred Stieglitz. 'Self-portrait' 1907, printed 1930


Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
probably 1911
Platinum print
Image: 24.2 x 19.3cm (9 1/2 x 7 5/8 in.)
Sheet: 25.3 x 20.3cm (9 15/16 x 8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred Stieglitz Collection



Unlike many other photographers, Stieglitz made few self-portraits. He created this one shortly before he embarked on a series of portraits of the artists who frequented his New York gallery, 291. Focusing only on his face and leaving all else in shadow, he presents himself not as an artist at work or play, but as a charismatic leader who would guide American art and culture into the 20th century.


Alfred Stieglitz. '291 - Picasso-Braque Exhibition' 1915


Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
291 – Picasso-Braque Exhibition
Platinum print
Image: 18.5 x 23.6 cm (7 5/16 x 9 5/16 in.)
Sheet: 20.1 x 25.3 cm (7 15/16 x 9 15/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred Stieglitz Collection



291 was Stieglitz’s legendary gallery in New York City (its name derived from its address on Fifth Avenue), where he introduced modern European and American art and photography to the American public. He also used 291 as a studio, frequently photographing friends and colleagues there, as well as the views from its windows. This picture records what Stieglitz called a “demonstration” – a short display of no more than a few days designed to prompt a focused discussion. Including two works by Picasso, an African mask from the Kota people, a wasps’ nest, and 291’s signature brass bowl, the photograph calls into question the relationship between nature and culture, Western and African art.


James Van Der Zee. 'Sisters' 1926


James Van Der Zee (American, 1886-1983)
Gelatin silver print
Sheet (trimmed to image): 17.6 x 12.5cm (6 15/16 x 4 15/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation through Robert and Joyce Menschel



James Van Der Zee was a prolific studio photographer in Harlem during a period known as the Harlem Renaissance, from the end of World War I to the middle of the 1930s. He photographed many of Harlem’s celebrities, middle-class residents, and community organisations, establishing a visual archive that remains one of the best records of the era. He stands out for his playful use of props and retouching, thereby personalising each picture and enhancing the sitter’s appearance. In this portrait of three sisters, clasped hands show the tender bond of the two youngest, one of whom holds a celebrity portrait, revealing her enthusiasm for popular culture.


Wallace Berman. 'Silence Series #7' 1965-1968


Wallace Berman (American, 1926-1976)
Silence Series #7
Verifax (wet process photocopy) collage
Actual: 24 1/2 x 26 1/2 in. (62.23 x 67.31cm)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Corcoran Collection (Museum Purchase, William A. Clark Fund)



An influential artist of California’s Beat Generation during the 1950s and 1960s, Berman was a visionary thinker and publisher of the underground magazine Semina. His mysterious and playful juxtapositions of divers objects, images, and texts were often inspired by Dada and surrealist art. Silence Series #7 presents a cinematic sequence of his trademark transistor radios, each displaying military, religious, or mechanical images along with those of athletes and cultural icons, such as Andy Warhol. Appropriated from mass media, reversed in tone, and printed backward using an early version of a photocopy machine, these found images, pieced together and recopied as photomontages, replace then ew transmitted through the radios. Beat poet Robert Duncan once called Berman’s Verify collages a “series of magic ‘TV’ lantern shows.”


Mike and Doug Starn. 'Double Rembrandt with Steps' 1987-1991


Doug and Mike Starn (American)
Double Rembrandt (with steps)
Gelatin silver prints, ortho film, tape, wood, plexiglass, glue and silicone
2 interlocking parts:
Part 1 overall: 26 1/2 x 13 7/8 in.
Part  2 overall: 26 3/8 x 13 3/4 in.
Overall: 26 1/2 x 27 3/4 in.
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Susan and Peter MacGill



Doug and Mike Starn, identical twins who have worked collaboratively since they were thirteen, have a reputation for creating unorthodox works. Using take, wood, and glue, the brothers assembles sheets of photographic film and paper to create a dynamic composition that includes an appropriated image of Rembrandt van Rijn’s Old Man with a Gold Chain (1631). Double Rembrandt (with steps) challenges the authority of the austere fine art print, as well as the aura of the original painting, while playfully invoking the twins’ own double identity.


Martha Rosler. 'Cleaning the Drapes', from the series, 'House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home' 1967-1972


Martha Rosler (American, b. 1943)
Cleaning the Drapes, from the series, House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home
Inkjet print, printed 2007
Framed: 53.5 × 63.3cm (21 1/16 × 24 15/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of the Collectors Committee and the Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund



A painter, photographer, video artist, feminist, activist writer, and teacher, Martha Rosler made this photomontage while she was a graduate student in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Frustrated by the portrayal of the Vietnam War on television and in other media, she wrote: “The images were always very far away and of a place we couldn’t imagine.” To bring “the war home,” as she announced in her title, she cut out images from Life magazine and House Beautiful to make powerfully layered collages that contrast American middle-class life with the realities of the war. She selected colour pictures of the idealised American life rich in the trappings of consumer society, and used black-and-white pictures of troops in Vietnam to heighten the contrast between here and there, while also calling attention to stereotypical views of men and women.


Sally Mann. 'Self-Portrait' 1974


Sally Mann (American, b. 1951)
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17 × 14.9cm (6 11/16 × 5 7/8 in.)
Sheet: 35 × 27.2cm (13 3/4 × 10 11/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Corcoran Collection (Gift of Olga Hirshhorn)



Sally Mann, who is best known for the pictures of her children she made in the 1980s and 1990s, began to photograph when she was a teenager. In this rare, early, and intimate self-portrait, the artist is reflected in a mirror, clasping her loose shirt as she stands in a friend’s bathroom. Her thoughtful, expectant expression, coupled with her finger pointing directly at the lens of the large view camera that towers above her, foreshadows the commanding presence photography would have in her life.


David Levinthal. 'Untitled (from the series Hitler Moves East)' 1975


David Levinthal (American, b. 1949)
Untitled (from the series Hitler Moves East)
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 15 15/16 x 20 in. (40.48 x 50.8cm)
Image: 10 9/16 x 13 7/16 in. (26.83 x 34.13cm)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Corcoran Collection (Gift of the artist)



Levinthal’s series of photographs Hitler Moves East was made not during World War II, but in 1975, when the news media was saturated with images of the end of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. In this series, he appropriates the grainy look of photojournalism and uses toy soldiers and fabricated environments to stage scenes from Germany’s brutal campaign on the Eastern Front during World War II. His pictures are often based on scenes found in television and movies, further distancing them from the actual events. A small stick was used to prop up the falling soldier and the explosion was made with puffs of flour. Hitler Moves East casts doubt on the implied authenticity of photojournalism and calls attention to the power of the media to define public understanding of events.


Hiroshi Sugimoto. 'Oscar Wilde' 1999


Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, b. 1948)
Oscar Wilde
Gelatin silver print
Image: 148.59 × 119.6cm (58 1/2 × 47 1/16 in.)
Framed: 182.25 × 152.4cm (71 3/4 × 60 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Corcoran Collection (Gift of The Heather and Tony Podesta Collection)


Hiroshi Sugimoto. 'Oscar Wilde' 1999 (detail)


Hiroshi Sugimoto (Japanese, b. 1948)
Oscar Wilde (detail)
Gelatin silver print
Image: 148.59 × 119.6cm (58 1/2 × 47 1/16 in.)
Framed: 182.25 × 152.4cm (71 3/4 × 60 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Corcoran Collection (Gift of The Heather and Tony Podesta Collection)



While most traditional portrait photographers worked in studios, Sugimoto upended this practice in a series of pictures he made at Madame Tussaud’s wax museums in London and Amsterdam, where lifelike wax figures, based on paintings or photographs, as is the case with Oscar Wilde, are displayed in staged vignettes. By isolating the figure from its setting, posing it in a three-quarter-length view, illuminating it to convey the impression of a carefully lit studio portrait, and making his final print almost six feet tall, Sugimoto renders the artificial as real. Triply removing his portrait from reality – from Oscar Wilde himself to a portrait photograph to a wax sculpture and back to a photograph – Sugimoto collapses time and confounds our expectations of the nature of photography.


Vik Muniz. 'Alfred Stieglitz (from the series Pictures of Ink)' 2000


Vik Muniz (Brazilian, b. 1961)
Alfred Stieglitz (from the series Pictures of Ink)
Silver dye bleach print
Image: 152.4 × 121.92cm (60 × 48 in.)
Framed: 161.29 × 130.81 × 5.08cm (63 1/2 × 51 1/2 × 2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Corcoran Collection (Museum Purchase with funds provided by the FRIENDS of the Corcoran Gallery of Art)



Muniz has spent his career remaking works of art by artists as varied as Botticelli and Warhol using unusual materials – sugar, diamonds, and even junk. He has been especially interested in Stieglitz and has re-created his photographs using chocolate syrup and cotton. Here, he refashioned Stieglitz’s celebrated self-portrait using wet ink and mimicking the dot matrix of a halftone reproduction. He then photographed his drawing and greatly enlarged it so that the dot matrix itself becomes as important as the picture it replicates.



Historic and contemporary works by August Sander, Diane Arbus, Lorna Simpson, and Hank Willis Thomas, among others, make up the final section, which explores the role of photography in the construction of identity.”


Wall text

Intersections wall text


Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz. 'Self-Portrait (Collapse by the Lamp/Kolaps przy lampie)' c. 1913


Witkacy (Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz) (Polish, 1885-1939)
Self-Portrait (Collapse by the Lamp/Kolaps przy lampie)
c. 1913
Gelatin silver print
12.86 x 17.78cm (5 1/16 x 7 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Foto Fund and Robert Menschel and the Vital Projects Fund



A writer, painter, and philosopher, Witkiewicz began to photograph while he was a teenager. From 1911 to 1914, while undergoing psychoanalysis and involved in two tumultuous relationships (one ending when his pregnant fiancée killed herself in 1914), he made a series of startling self-portraits. Close-up, confrontational, and searching, they are pictures in which the artist seems to seek understanding of himself by scrutinising his visage.


August Sander. 'The Bricklayer' 1929


August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
The Bricklayer
1929, printed c. 1950
Gelatin silver print
Sheet (trimmed to image): 50.4 x 37.5cm (19 13/16 x 14 3/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Gerhard and Christine Sander, in honour of the 50th Anniversary of the National Gallery of Art



In 1911, Sander began a massive project to document “people of the twentieth century.” Identifying them by their professions, not their names, he aimed to create a typological record of citizens of the Weimar Republic. He photographed people from all walks of life – from bakers, bankers, and businessmen to soldiers, students, and tradesmen, as well as gypsies, the unemployed, and the homeless. The Nazis banned his project in the 1930s because his pictures did not conform to the ideal Aryan type. Although he stopped working after World War II, he made this rare enlargement of a bricklayer for an exhibition of his photographs in the early 1950s.


Walker Evans. 'Photographer's Display Window, Birmingham, Alabama' 1936


Walker Evans (American, 1903-1975)
Photographer’s Display Window, Birmingham, Alabama
Gelatin silver print
Image: 24.1 x 19.3cm (9 1/2 x 7 5/8 in.)
Sheet: 25.2 x 20.3cm (9 15/16 x 8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Harry H. Lunn, Jr. in honor of Jacob Kainen and in Honor of the 50th Anniversary of the National Gallery of Art


Diane Arbus. 'Triplets in their Bedroom, N.J.,' 1963


Diane Arbus (American, 1923-1971)
Triplets in their Bedroom, N.J.,
Gelatin silver print
Image: 37.7 x 37.8cm (14 13/16 x 14 7/8 in.)
Sheet: 50.4 x 40.4cm (19 13/16 x 15 7/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, R. K. Mellon Family Foundation



Celebrated for her portraits of people traditionally on the margins of society – dwarfs and giants – as well as those on the inside – society matrons and crying babies – Arbus was fascinated with the relationship between appearance and identity. Many of her subjects, such as these triplets, face the camera, tacitly aware of their collaboration in her art. Rendering the familiar strange and the strange familiar, her carefully composed pictures compel us to look at the world in new ways. “We’ve all got an identity,” she said. “You can’t avoid it. It’s what’s left when you take away everything else.”


Lorna Simpson. 'Untitled (Two Necklines)' 1989


Lorna Simpson (American, b. 1960)
Untitled (Two Necklines)
Two gelatin silver prints with 11 plastic plaques
Overall: 101.6 x 254 cm (40 x 100 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of the Collectors Committee



From the mid-1980s to the present, Simpson has created provocative works that question stereotypes of gender, identity, history, and culture, often by combining photographs and words. Two Necklines shows two circular and identical photographs of an African American woman’s mouth, chin, neck, and collarbone, as well as the bodice of her simple shift. Set in between are black plaques, each inscribed with a single word: “ring, surround, lasso, noose, eye, areola, halo, cuffs, collar, loop.” The words connote things that bind and conjure a sense of menace, yet when placed between the two calm, elegant photographs, their meaning is at first uncertain. But when we read the red plaque inscribed “feel the ground sliding from under you” and note the location of the word “noose” adjacent to the two necklines, we realise that Simpson is quietly but chillingly referring to the act of lynching.


Hank Willis Thomas. 'And One' 2011


Hank Willis Thomas (American, b. 1976)
And One
Digital chromogenic print
Framed: 248.29 × 125.73 × 6.35cm (97 3/4 × 49 1/2 × 2 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Corcoran Collection (Gift of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York)



And One is from Thomas’s Strange Fruit series, which explores the concepts of spectacle and display as they relate to modern African American identity. Popularised by singer Billie Holiday, the series title Strange Fruit comes from a poem by Abel Meeropol, who wrote the infamous words “Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze; Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees” after seeing a photograph of a lynching in 1936. In And One, a contemporary African American artist reflects on how black bodies have been represented in two different contexts: lynching and professional sports. Thomas ponders the connections between these disparate forms through his dramatic photograph of two basketball players frozen in midair, one dunking a ball through a hanging noose.



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Exhibition: ‘Australian Women Artists Between the Wars’ at Lauraine Diggins Fine Art, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 3rd March – 30th April 2015

Artists: Clarice Beckett, Dorrit Black, Bessie Davidson, Ethel Carrick Fox, Joy Hester, Nora Heysen, Hilda Rix Nicholas, Margaret Preston, Jane Price, Thea Proctor, Kathleen Sauerbier, Grace Cossington Smith, Clara Southern and others.



Clarice Beckett. 'Winter Morning, Beaumaris' c. 1927-31


Clarice Beckett (Australian, 1887-1935)
Winter Morning, Beaumaris
c. 1927-1931
Oil on canvas
39.3 x 55cm



A delightful exhibition on a subject I freely admit that I knew very little about. An intelligent opening speech from Associate Professor Alison Inglis from The University of Melbourne helped me to be more informed about this fascinating period in Australian art history.

The hero for me in this posting is the work of Clarice Beckett. The atmosphere of her paintings when seen in the flesh is incredible, perfectly capturing the suffused light of the bayside suburbs of Melbourne where she painted. Her impressions are so purposeful and vivid; no extraneous flourish is necessary. Look at the painting The Red Bus for example (below) … the brief almost cartoonish outline of the bus hugs the right hand side of the composition, the red picked up by one of the two people walking in the middle of a road that runs behind the tea-trees that shield the beach from view. Every Australian would understand the symbolic quality of this mythic road.

Shadows are delineated by a few patches of darkness, telegraph poles by four swiftly drawn lines balanced on the left-hand side of the painting by a faint sign post that is almost not there, reinforced spatially by a ghostly white figure further up the painting in the middle of the road. We can almost hear the cicadas song, feel the heat rising from the tarmac, a little breeze rolling in from the sea every now and then. These cultural memories, as annotated by Beckett, will last forever.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Many thankx to Lauraine Diggins Fine Art for allowing me to publish the text and art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the art.



Clarice Beckett. 'Morning Ride' Nd


Clarice Beckett (Australian, 1887-1935)
Morning Ride
Oil on canvas on pulp board
29.5 x 35cm



Clarice Beckett (Australian, 1887-1935)

Clarice Majoribanks Beckett (21 March 1887-7 July 1935) was an Australian painter whose works are featured in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Victoria and the Art Gallery of South Australia.

Beckett is recognised as one of Australia’s most important modernist artists. Despite a talent for portraiture and a keen public appreciation for her still lifes, Beckett preferred the solo, outdoor process of painting landscapes. She relentlessly painted sea and beachscapes, rural and suburban scenes, often enveloped in the atmospheric effects of early mornings or evening. Her subjects were often drawn from the Beaumaris area, where she lived for the latter part of her life. She was one of the first of her group to use a painting trolley, or mobile easel to make it easier to paint outdoors in different locations..


Australian Tonalism

Australian Tonalism is characterised by a particular “misty” or atmospheric quality created by the Meldrum painting method of building “tone on tone”. Tonalism developed from Meldrum’s “Scientific theory of Impressions”; claiming that social decadence had given artists an exaggerated interest in colour and, to their detriment, were paying less attention to tone and proportion. Art, he said, should be a pure science based on optical analysis; its sole purpose being to place on the canvas the first ordered tonal impressions that the eye received. All adornments and narrative and literary references should be rejected.

Tonalism opposed Post-Impressionism and Modernism, and is now regarded as a precursor to Minimalism and Conceptualism. The whole movement had been under fierce controversy and they were without doubt the most unpopular group of artists, in the eyes of most other artists, in the history of Australian art. Influential Melbourne artist and teacher George Bell described Australian Tonalism as a “cult which muffles everything in a pall of opaque density”.

While painting the wild sea off Beaumaris during a big storm in 1935, Beckett developed pneumonia and died four days later in a hospital at Sandringham. She was buried in the Cheltenham Memorial Park (Wangara Road) not far from another noted female artist, Mary Vale. She was only 48 when she died, the year after her mother’s death.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Clarice Beckett. 'The Red Bus' Nd


Clarice Beckett (Australian, 1887-1935)
The Red Bus
Oil on canvas on composition board
36.5 x 44cm


Dorrit Black. 'The Parish Hall' 1937


Dorrit Black (Australian, 1891-1951)
The Parish Hall
Coloured linocut
23 x 36cm


Family archive image of Dorrit Black



“It is the artist’s business to reveal to mankind a new outlook on life and the world.”

Dorrit Black, 1946


It should come as no surprise that Dorothea Foster (Dorrit) Black, like other women artists, would be scorned by the sexist, conservative Australian art establishment during her lifetime. When her life was tragically cut short by a car accident in Adelaide in 1951, artist and critic Ivor Francis’s obituary declared Black was that city’s first and, perhaps least understood “modern” artist.

“She has so consistently been artistically cold-shouldered and ignored since her return here about 20 years ago that it is amazing how she maintained the courage to fight on against so much prejudice and misunderstanding,” he wrote. “… It will be many years before her exceptional talent can be properly appreciated in its right perspective, as it most certainly will be.” …

Black was part of a generation of women, alongside Margaret Preston, Grace Cossington-Smith and Grace Cowley, who took risks by travelling overseas, painting in modernist styles and pursuing artistic careers often against the wishes of their family.

“What decided me to throw in my hand altogether the other day was your declaration that I ought to consider my time as belonging to the family first, leaving my painting for my spare time …” Black wrote in a letter to her brother in 1938. “After more than 20 years of struggling to make an artist of myself, I cannot give it all up and settle down to being nothing but a good sister and daughter.”

“She was a very modern woman which meant she belonged to an age when educated women started to break out of Victorian traditions and become independent and self-determined,” Lock-Weir says.

Black travelled to Europe on three occasions, including a two-year stint beginning in from September 1927 when she studied with printmaker Claude Flight at London’s Grosvenor School of Art, and cubists Andre Lhote and Albert Gleizes in Paris. In the summer of 1928, she travelled to the south of France with Crowley and Anne Dangar, where each painted views of the medieval hillside town of Mirmande. Black returned to Adelaide in 1935 to care for her ailing mother, building a studio-house on the city’s edge at Magill where she mainly painted landscapes of the Adelaide Hills and south coast. She also continued to advocate modern art and taught at the South Australian School of Art, influencing a generation of artists led by Jeffrey Smart and Ruth Tuck.

“Plump, dignified, black-haired and well-groomed, she was regarded as a mother-figure by younger artists,” wrote Ian North in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Black’s untimely death in 1951 at the age of 59 left a small legacy of around 130 oil paintings, 159 watercolours, 50 linocuts and a handful of drawings, according to art consultant John Cruthers. “Some painters paint a lot, some paint a little, and then there’s Dorrit.”

Andrew Taylor. “Rescuing the reputation of early Australian modernist Dorrit Black,” on The Sydney Morning Herald website, June 6th 2015 [Online] Cited 24/04/2015


Miriam Moxham. 'Country Morning' c.1940


Miriam Moxham (Australian, 1885-1971)
Country Morning
c. 1940
Oil on composition board
94 x 182cm


Bessie Davidson. 'Autumn Table at Villeneuve' 1935


Bessie Davidson (Australian, 1879-1965)
Autumn Table at Villeneuve
Oil on plywood
44 x 82cm



Bessie Davidson (Australian, 1879-1965)

Bessie Davidson (1879-1965) was an Australian painter known for her impressionist, light-filled landscapes and interiors.

Davidson traveled to Australia to visit family in 1914 and was there when World War I began. She returned to France immediately, where she joined the French Red Cross and served in various military hospitals. During the war, she met the woman who would be her companion for the next two decades, Marguerite Leroy (d. 1938), whose nickname was “Dauphine”.

The postwar period between 1918 and 1920 saw Davidson producing quiet, intimate, loosely impressionistic paintings – mostly interiors, still lives, and portraits – in muted tones. Her style evolved in a more vigorous direction in the 1920s and 1930s, with rich, vibrant, often dramatic colours laid on with a palette knife. In this period her work sold well and was well-received by critics. She traveled around Europe, Russia, and Morocco making outdoor sketches that she used as the basis for paintings later produced in her studio. Her landscapes are notable for their quality of light and sense of atmosphere.

In 1930 Davidson was a founding vice-president of La Société Femmes Artistes Modernes. She was a founding member of the Société Nationale Indépendentes and a member of the Salon d’Automne. In 1931 she was appointed to the French Legion of Honor, in part for her cofounding of the Salon des Tuileries, the only Australian woman to receive that honour up to that time. She exhibited widely with such artists as Mary Cassatt, Tamara de Lempicka, Camille Claudel, and Suzanne Valadon.

Although still a citizen of the British Commonwealth, Davidson decided to stay in France during World War II. She lived with friends in Grenoble, and some sources say that she was a member of the French Resistance. Her paintings from this period are strong, bright, and lively. In 1945, she returned to her old studio in Paris, occasionally spending time at a farm she bought near Rouen. In the postwar period, she painted mostly outdoors on small wood panels. She died at Montparnasse in France in 1965. She was buried in Saint-Saëns, Seine-Maritime.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Bessie Davidson. 'Still Life with Flowers and Pears' Nd


Bessie Davidson (Australian, 1879-1965)
Still Life with Flowers and Pears
Oil on cardboard
61 x 46cm



In the period between the wars, Australian women artists were leading the way by challenging traditions and exploring new ideas in art with a focus on colour, form and design, and subjects such as urban culture.

Role models like Jane Price, Jane Sutherland and Clara Southern had provided women with a basis to seriously pursue art as a profession. Circumstances and opportunity1 saw a flourishing of female artists establish a career through dedicated studies at a growing number of art schools, combined with travel overseas and, quite often, financial independence.

Painting en plein air was continued but rather than romanticised landscapes concerned with effects of light, the rise of the modern woman artist painted the landscape familiar to them with an adventurous attitude towards colour: from the buses and telegraph poles of Beckett’s Melbourne bayside suburbs; to the South Australian landscapes of Sauerbier; urban scenes such as Tempe Manning’s Princes Street and the intimate depictions of home or studio as seen in Gurdon’s Under the Window and as favoured by Cossington Smith.

Whilst there was no overall identifying modernist movement, a common experience of nearly all the women represented in this exhibition was travel and studies overseas, particularly to Paris and London,2 where the exposure to influences such as postimpressionism, modernism, futurism, cubism shaped each individual artist’s subsequent style.

Seemingly traditional and feminine subjects such as still life, flowers, intimate interior and leisure scenes and were invigorated through the work of artists such as Proctor (The Sewing Basket); Preston (Flowers) and Davidson, who maintained her career in France.3 Women artists were also exploring more modern and urban subjects, such as Craig’s HMAS Cerberus and the iconic renditions of the building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Women artists tackled a wide variety of subjects, including those more accepted in the male domain, and which modern women now inhabited. Rix Nicholas ventured out to capture Australians in remote rural areas as seen in the well-known Fair Musterer (1935, QAG) and as in Boy on a Horse. Nora Heysen was the first woman awarded the Archibald Prize4 and appointed as an official war artist in 1943, as was Sybil Craig in 1945. Printmaking was also a key to the rise of modernism, most effectively by Dorrit Black as seen in The Parish Hall and also by Mabel Pye and Lisette Kohlhagen. Greater commercial and domestic design opportunities were a further important influence, including murals as undertaken by Haxton5 and the frieze-like Country Morning by Moxham.

There is an ever-growing understanding and appreciation of women artists and their influence in shaping Australian art, from ‘lost’ moderns6 to the household names such as Preston and Cossington Smith.

Text from the catalogue to the exhibition



1/ For example, the massive impact of the First World War allowed a shift away from the role of women simply as wife and mother and the economic affluence post-war, prior to the Depression, facilitated the ability to travel and contributed to opportunities for commercial art; the growth of art schools; the rise of domestic decoration.

2/ For example, Black studied in London with Claude Flight 1927 and with Andre Lhote and Albert Gleizes 1927-29 in Paris; Proctor studied in London with George Lambert in 1903; Sauerbier studied at the Central School of Art in London 1925-27; Cossington Smith attended the Winchester School of Art in 1912; Crowley studied in Paris 1926-29; Davidson attended the Academie de la Chaumiere in Paris as did Syme and Rix Nicholas, among other studies in Paris and London; Heysen travelled to England, Paris and Italy; Carrick Fox travelled extensively throughout her life including London, Paris, Spain, Italy, Northern Africa, Australia, Tahiti; Preston travelled to Europe and her work was hung in the Old Salon in 1905.

3/ Davidson was appointed Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur for Art and Humanity by the French Government in 1931.

4/ Portrait of Madame Elink Schuurman, 1938.

5/ Elaine Haxton was awarded the Sulman Prize (AGNSW) in 1943 for her mural designs.

6/ See Dessmann, J. and Edwards, D., ‘The lost moderns: Tempe Manning, Niel A Gren and Norah Simpson’, Sydney Moderns: Art for a New World, Art Gallery of NSW, 2013.



Sybil Craig. (HMVS Cerberus, Half Moon Bay, Melbourne) Nd


Sybil Craig (Australian, 1901-1989)
HMVS Cerberus, Half Moon Bay, Melbourne
c. 1927-1928
Oil on paper
44.8 x 49.3cm



HMVS Cerberus (Her Majesty’s Victorian Ship) is a breastwork monitor that served in the Victoria Naval Forces, the Commonwealth Naval Forces (CNF), and the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) between 1871 and 1924. Built for the colony of Victoria under the supervision of Charles Pasley, Cerberus was completed in 1870, and arrived in Port Phillip in 1871, where she spent the rest of her career. In 1924, the monitor was sold for scrap, and was sunk as a breakwater off Half Moon Bay. The wreck became a popular site for scuba diving and picnics over the years, but there was a structural collapse in 1993. Cerberus was sold to the Melbourne Salvage Company for £409 on 23 April 1924, with the buyer to break her up for scrap. The warship was towed from Corio Bay to Williamstown Naval Dockyard on 14 May for disassembly. After the salvage company removed what they could, she was then sold on to the Sandringham council for £150. The monitor was scuttled on 26 September 1926 at Half Moon Bay to serve as a breakwater for the Black Rock Yacht Club.

Sybil Craig studied privately with John Shirlow before attending art school at the National Gallery of Victoria (1924-1931) with Bernard Hall, William McInnes and Charles Wheeler. She also took private classes with George Bell and held her first solo exhibition in 1932 and as well as painting (in oils, watercolours and pastels) she also undertook more graphic work, including prints.

Craig was a founding member of the New Melbourne Art Club and was appointed an official war artist in 1945 (the third woman to be appointed after Nora Heysen and Stella Bowen) and depicted women workers at the munitions factory at Maribyrnong. Her paintings are particularly characterised by her use of colour and strong design. She is represented in key texts covering modern women artists.


Nora Gurdon. 'Under the Window' 1922


Nora Gurdon (Australian, c. 1881-1974)
Under the Window
Oil on canvas
44.5 x 54.5cm



Nora Gurdon is well known for her late impressionist landscapes and is also associated with the Heidelberg School with Streeton a frequent guest at her country property. In 1914 Gurdon went to England and during the war nursed for two years at the Le Croisic, France. Streeton was also in Europe working as an official war artist often painting hospital scenes. In 1920 Gurdon returned to Australia and from that time added scenes from domestic life to her painting oeuvre (Peers p. 149). However she remained independent, did not marry, and made further trips to Europe in 1927 and 1937.

She was a member of the Australian Art Association and the Melbourne Society of Women Painters and Sculptors, (MESWAPS) joining as early as 1923. From her country property, Gurdon welcomed many fellow painters. For the members of the MESWAPS ‘successful outdoor painting days were held at the studio of Nora Gurdon in Mount Dandenong’.


Nora Heysen. '(Self Portrait)' 1936


Nora Heysen (Australian, 1911-2003)
Self Portrait
Charcoal on paper
35 x 25cm


Thea Proctor. 'The Sewing Basket' c. 1926


Thea Proctor (Australian, 1879-1966)
The Sewing Basket
c. 1926
13.5 x 14cm


May and Mina Moore. 'Thea Proctor' 1912


May Moore (New Zealand, Australia 1881-1931)
Mina Moore (New Zealand, Australia 1882-1957)
Thea Proctor
Gelatin silver photograph, brown tone
18.5 x 10.0cm



“… the portrait of Thea Proctor is brown-toned, although the minimal studio background and the very direct gaze of the subject signals change. Jack Cato wrote of May and Mina that: ‘these enterprising young women were unable to afford the great studio premises filled with light from glass roofs and glass walls that were then the order of the day. By necessity they devised a method of portraiture by using the meagre light from an ordinary window in an ordinary room. It made their work so distinctive.’1 Despite the strong chiaroscuro, Proctor’s face is clear and her gaze direct. Her very upright pose, with her hand on her hip and no props to lean against, is that of a modern woman. Proctor’s dress was made by herself for the going-away party of her relative John Peter Russell in 1912. Other photographs from this shoot were published in The Lone Hand in July 1913 where it was noted that ‘she is singularly free from feminine tremors concerning her own work’.”2


  1. Cato J. (1955), The story of the camera in Australia, Georgian House, Melbourne p. 136
  2. Engledow, S. (2005), ‘The world of Thea Proctor’, The world of Thea Proctor, S. Engledow, A. Sayers and B. Humphries, National Portrait Gallery, Canberra p. 37

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007


Mabel Pye. 'Blue Vase' c. 1936


Mabel Pye (Australian, 1894-1982)
Blue Vase
c. 1936
Coloured linocut
22.7 x 18.7cm



Mabel Pye was a printmaker and painter from Melbourne who studied with Adelaide Perry and Napier Waller under Bernard Hall at the National Gallery School. Mabel introduced the use of linocuts into her work in the early 1930’s with bold colors and lines. Her work encompassed the use of the everyday including landscapes, portraits and still life. Mabel was a member of both the Victorian Art Society from 1918-1941 and also the Melbourne Society of Women Painters and Sculptures from 1920-1950.


Ethel Carrick Fox (1872-1952)


Ethel Carrick Fox (Australian, 1872-1952)


Ethel Carrick. (Arabs Walking Down a Street) Nd


Ethel Carrick Fox (Australian, 1872-1952)
Arabs Walking Down a Street
Oil on canvas
45.7 x 37.9cm



Ethel Carrick Fox (Australian, 1872-1952)

Ethel Carrick Fox (1872-1951) was the wife of painter Emanuel Phillips Fox and a major artist in her own right. Carrick studied at the Slade School. She married E. Phillips Fox in 1905 and moved to Paris. She exhibited at the Salon D’Automne, Royal Academy London, Australian Art Association, Melbourne Society of Women Painters and Sculptors, as well as at solo exhibitions and dual shows with her husband’s work.

She travelled extensively from 1920-1940, and lobbied Australian public gallery directors and curators to buy her husband’s works. During the 1920s she was recommended by the Atelier Grande Chaumiere as a private teacher of still life painting in Paris, and included a number of Australians and Americans in Paris amongst her students. Carrick died in Melbourne in 1951.

Text from the Wikipedia website



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Boonwurrung Country
5 Malakoff Street
North Caulfield
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 3161
Phone: (61 3) 9509 9855

Opening hours:
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Exhibition: ‘Italian Futurism, 1909-1944: Reconstructing the Universe’ at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

Exhibition dates: 21st February – 1st September 2014

Many thankx to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the art.



Giacomo Balla. 'The Hand of the Violinist (The Rhythms of the Bow)' (La mano del violinista [I ritmi dell’archetto]) 1912


Giacomo Balla (Italian, 1871-1958)
The Hand of the Violinist (The Rhythms of the Bow) (La mano del violinista [I ritmi dell’archetto])
Oil on canvas
56 x 78.3cm
Estorick Collection, London
© 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome



Giacomo Balla

Around 1902, [Balla] taught Divisionist techniques to Umberto Boccioni and Gino Severini. Influenced by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Giacomo Balla adopted the Futurism style, creating a pictorial depiction of light, movement and speed. He was a signatory of the Futurist Manifesto in 1910. Typical for his new style of painting is Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash (1912) and his 1914 work Abstract Speed + Sound (Velocità astratta + rumore) (below). In 1914, he began to design Futurist furniture, as well as so-called Futurist “antineutral” clothing. Balla also began working as a sculptor, creating, in 1915, the well-known work titled Boccioni’s Fist, based on ‘lines of force’ (Linee di forza del pugno di Boccioni).

During World War I, Balla’s studio became a meeting place for young artists.

Balla’s most famous works, such as his 1912 Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash where efforts to express movement – and thus the passage of time – through the medium of painting. One of Balla’s main inspirations was the chronophotography of Étienne-Jules Marey. Balla’s 1912 The Hand of the Violinist (above) depicts the frenetic motion of a musician playing, and draws on inspiration from Cubism and the photographic experiments of Marey and Eadweard Muybridge.

In his abstract 1912-1914 series Iridescent Interpenetration, Balla attempts to separate the experience of light from the perception of objects as such. Abstract Speed + Sound (1913-14, below) is a study of speed symbolised by the automobile. Originally, it may have been part of a triptych.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Giacomo Balla. 'Abstract Speed + Sound' (Velocità astratta + rumore) 1913-14


Giacomo Balla (Italian, 1871-1958)
Abstract Speed + Sound (Velocità astratta + rumore)
Oil on unvarnished millboard in artist’s painted frame
54.5 x 76.5cm
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice 76.2553.31
© 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome
Photo: Courtesy Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York


Francesco Cangiullo. 'Large Crowd in the Piazza del Popolo' (Grande folla in Piazza del Popolo) 1914


Francesco Cangiullo (italian, 1884-1977)
Large Crowd in the Piazza del Popolo (Grande folla in Piazza del Popolo)
Watercolor, gouache, and pencil on paper
58 x 74cm
Private collection
© 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome



Francesco Cangiullo

Neapolitan writer and painter who made an important contribution to Futurism’s experiments in poetry and drama.

The Napolitano artist was born on January 27th, 1884 and was largely self-taught. He joined the Futurist movement in 1910 and took part in the important Futurist exhibition in Rome in 1914, creating art collaboratively with both Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and Giacomo Balla. Cangiullo created his best-known artwork in 1915; in Café-Concert: Unexpected Alphabet he playfully portrays a lively evening at the theatre in his hometown of Naples in which the singers, dancers, acrobats, and comedians are composed of letters, numbers, and mathematical sings. In 1924 he distanced himself form the Futurists, but still continued a friendship with Marinetti. Fondly reminiscing on his experiences with the art movement, Cangiullo published Futurist Evenings recounting his memories with the group.


Filippo Masoero. 'Descending over Saint Peter' (Scendendo su San Pietro) c. 1927-37 (possibly 1930-33)


Filippo Masoero (Italian, 1894-1969)
Descending over Saint Peter (Scendendo su San Pietro)
c. 1927-1937 (possibly 1930-1933)
Gelatin silver print
24 x 31.5cm
Touring Club Italiano Archive


Ivo Pannaggi. 'Speeding Train' (Treno in corsa) 1922


Ivo Pannaggi (Italian, 1901-1981)
Speeding Train (Treno in corsa)
Oil on canvas
100 x 120cm
Fondazione Carima – Museo Palazzo Ricci, Macerata, Italy
Photo: Courtesy Fondazione Cassa di risparmio della Provincia di Macerata



Ivo Pannaggi


Pannaggi joined the Futurist movement in 1918, but left soon after because of disagreements with Fillippo Marinetti. In 1922, he and Vinicio Paladini [it] published their “Manifesto of Futurist Mechanical Art.” The manifesto emphasised the importance of machine aesthetics (arte meccanica), which became one of the dominant strands of Futurism in the 1920s. He and Paladini also staged the Mechanical Futurist Ballet (Ballo meccano futurista) at Anton Giulio Bragaglia’s Casa d’Arte.

Around the same time he painted Speeding Train (Treno in corsa), perhaps his most famous work (above). He also created many photomontage works. In Postal Collages (1925), Pannaggi created a series of unfinished photomontages that would be completed through the inevitable addition of stamps and seals by postal workers – an early instance of mail art.


Germany and the Bauhaus

In 1927, Pannaggi traveled to Berlin, where he would live until 1929. He became friends with Kurt Schwitters and Walter Benjamin and published photomontage works in German newspapers. Between 1932 and 1933, Pannaggi attended the Bauhaus, the only Futurist other than Nicolaj Diugheroff to do so.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Bruno Munari and Torido Mazzotti. 'Antipasti Service' (Piatti Servizio Antipasti) 1929-1930


Bruno Munari (Italian, 1907-1998) and Torido Mazzotti (Italian, 1895-1988)
Antipasti Service (Piatti Servizio Antipasti)
Glazed earthenware (manufactured by Casa Giuseppe Mazzotti, Albisola Marina)
Six plates: 21.6 x 21.6cm diameter each; one vase: 11.7 x 7.6cm
The Wolfsonian-Florida International University, Miami Beach, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection
© Bruno Munari, courtesy Corraini Edizioni
Photo: Lynton Gardiner



From February 21 through September 1, 2014, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum presents Italian Futurism, 1909-1944: Reconstructing the Universe, the first comprehensive overview in the United States of one of Europe’s most important 20th-century avant-garde movements. Featuring over 360 works by more than 80 artists, architects, designers, photographers, and writers, this multidisciplinary exhibition examines the full historical breadth of Futurism, from its 1909 inception with the publication of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s first Futurist manifesto through its demise at the end of World War II. The exhibition includes many rarely seen works, some of which have never traveled outside of Italy. It encompasses not only painting and sculpture, but also the advertising, architecture, ceramics, design, fashion, film, free-form poetry, photography, performance, publications, music, and theatre of this dynamic and often contentious movement that championed modernity and insurgency.


About Futurism

Futurism was launched in 1909 against a background of growing economic and social upheaval. In Marinetti’s “The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism,” published in Le Figaro, he outlined the movement’s key aims, among them: to abolish the past, to champion modernisation, and to extol aggression. Although it began as a literary movement, Futurism soon embraced the visual arts as well as advertising, fashion, music and theatre, and it spread throughout Italy and beyond. The Futurists rejected stasis and tradition and drew inspiration from the emerging industry, machinery, and speed of the modern metropolis. The first generation of artists created works characterised by dynamic movement and fractured forms, aspiring to break with existing notions of space and time to place the viewer at the centre of the artwork. Extending into many mediums, Futurism was intended to be not just an artistic idiom but an entirely new way of life. Central to the movement was the concept of the opera d’arte totale or “total work of art,” in which the viewer is surrounded by a completely Futurist environment.

More than two thousand individuals were associated with the movement over its duration. In addition to Marinetti, central figures include: artists Giacomo Balla, Benedetta (Benedetta Cappa Marinetti), Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, Fortunato Depero, and Enrico Prampolini; poets and writers Francesco Cangiullo and Rosa Rosà; architect Antonio Sant’Elia; composer Luigi Russolo; photographers Anton Giulio Bragaglia and Tato (Guglielmo Sansoni); dancer Giannina Censi; and ceramicist Tullio d’Albisola. These figures and other lesser-known ones are represented in the exhibition.

Futurism is commonly understood to have had two phases: “heroic” Futurism, which lasted until around 1916, and a later incarnation that arose after World War I and remained active until the early 1940s. Investigations of “heroic” Futurism have predominated and comparatively few exhibitions have explored the subsequent life of the movement; until now, a comprehensive overview of Italian Futurism had yet to be presented in the U.S. Italian art of the 1920s and ’30s is little known outside of its home country, due in part to a taint from Futurism’s sometime association with Fascism. This association complicates the narrative of this avant-garde and makes it all the more necessary to delve into and clarify its full history.


Exhibition overview

Italian Futurism unfolds chronologically, juxtaposing works in different mediums as it traces the myriad artistic languages the Futurists employed as their practice evolved over a 35-year period. The exhibition begins with an exploration of the manifesto as an art form, and proceeds to the Futurists’ catalytic encounter with Cubism in 1911, their exploration of near-abstract compositions, and their early efforts in photography. Ascending the rotunda levels of the museum, visitors follow the movement’s progression as it expanded to include architecture, clothing, design, dinnerware, experimental poetry, and toys.

Along the way, it gained new practitioners and underwent several stylistic evolutions – shifting from the fractured spaces of the 1910s to the machine aesthetics (or arte meccanica) of the ’20s, and then to the softer, lyrical forms of the ’30s. Aviation’s popularity and nationalist significance in 1930s Italy led to the swirling, often abstracted, aerial imagery of Futurism’s final incarnation, aeropittura. This novel painting approach united the Futurist interest in nationalism, speed, technology, and war with new and dizzying visual perspectives. The fascination with the aerial spread to other mediums, including ceramics, dance, and experimental aerial photography.

The exhibition is enlivened by three films commissioned from documentary filmmaker Jen Sachs, which use archival film footage, documentary photographs, printed matter, writings, recorded declamations, and musical compositions to represent the Futurists’ more ephemeral work and to bring to life their words-in-freedom poems. One film addresses the Futurists’ evening performances and events, called serate, which merged “high” and “low” culture in radical ways and broke down barriers between spectator and performer. Mise-en-scène installations evoke the Futurists’ opera d’arte totale interior ensembles, from those executed for the private sphere to those realized under Fascism.

Italian Futurism concludes with the five monumental canvases that compose the Syntheses of Communications (1933-1934) by Benedetta (Benedetta Cappa Marinetti), which are being shown for the first time outside of their original location. One of few public commissions awarded to a Futurist in the 1930s, the series of paintings was created for the Palazzo delle Poste (Post Office) in Palermo, Sicily. The paintings celebrate multiple modes of communication, many enabled by technological innovations, and correspond with the themes of modernity and the “total work of art” concept that underpinned the Futurist ethos.

Text from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum website


Tullio Crali. 'Before the Parachute Opens' (Prima che si apra il paracadute) 1939


Tullio Crali (Italian, 1910-2000)
Before the Parachute Opens (Prima che si apra il paracadute)
Oil on panel
141 x 151cm
Casa Cavazzini, Museo d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Udine, Italy
© 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SIAE, Rome
Photo: Claudio Marcon, Udine, Civici Musei e Gallerie di Storia e Arte



Tullio Crali


In 1928 Crali flew for the first time. His enthusiasm for flying and his experience as a pilot influenced his art. In 1929, through Sofronio Pocarini, he made contact with Marinetti, the founder of Futurism, and joined the movement. In the same year aeropittura was launched in the manifesto, Perspectives of Flight, signed by Benedetta, Depero, Dottori, Fillia, Marinetti, Prampolini, Somenzi and Guglielmo Sansoni (Tato). The manifesto stated that “The changing perspectives of flight constitute an absolutely new reality that has nothing in common with the reality traditionally constituted by a terrestrial perspective” and that “Painting from this new reality requires a profound contempt for detail and a need to synthesise and transfigure everything.”

Despite his relative youth, Crali played a significant part in aeropittura. His earliest aeropitture represent military planes, Aerial Squadron and Aerial Duel (both 1929). In the 1930s, his paintings became realistic, intending to communicate the experience of flight to the viewer. His best-known work, Nose Dive on the City (1939), shows an aerial dive from the pilot’s point of view, the buildings below drawn in dizzying perspective.

Crali exhibited in Trieste and Padua. In 1932 Marinetti invited him to exhibit in Paris in the first aeropittura exhibition there. He participated in the Rome Quadrennial in 1935, 1939 and 1943 and the Venice Biennale of 1940. At that time Crali was researching signs and scenery, leading in 1933 to his participation in the film exhibition Futuristi Scenotecnica in Rome. In 1936 he exhibited with Dottori and Prampolini in the International Exhibition of Sports Art at the Berlin Olympics.

Crali’s declamatory abilities and his friendship with Marinetti led him to organise Futurist evenings at Gorizia, Udine and Trieste, where he read the manifesto Plastic Illusionism of War and Protecting the Earth which he had co-authored with Marinetti. He also published a Manifesto of Musical Words – Alphabet in Freedom.


After the Second World War

Crali lived in Turin after the war, where he continued to promote Futurist events. Despite the ending of the Futurist movement with the death of Marinetti in 1944 and its Fascist reputation, Crali remained attached to its ideals and aesthetic.

Between 1950 and 1958 he lived in Paris, making occasional visits to Britain. He moved to Milan in 1958 where he remained (apart from a five-year period teaching at the Italian Academy of Fine Arts, Cairo) for the rest of his life. In Milan he began to collect and catalogue documents relating to his life and work. He donated his archive and several of his works to the Museo di arte moderna e contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Fortunato Depero. 'Little Black and White Devils, Dance of Devils' (Diavoletti neri e bianchi, Danza di diavoli) 1922-23


Fortunato Depero (Italian, 1892-1960)
Little Black and White Devils, Dance of Devils (Diavoletti neri e bianchi, Danza di diavoli)
Pieced wool on cotton backing
184 x 181cm
MART, Museo di arte moderna e contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto, Italy
© 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome
Photo: © MART, Archivio fotografico


Gerardo Dottori. 'Cimino Home Dining Room Set' (Sala da pranzo di casa Cimino) early 1930s


Gerardo Dottori (Italian, 1884-1977)
Cimino Home Dining Room Set (Sala da pranzo di casa Cimino)
early 1930s
Table, chairs, buffet, lamp, and sideboard; wood, glass, crystal, copper with chrome plating, leather, dimensions variable
Private collection
© 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice
Photo: Daniele Paparelli, courtesy Archivi Gerardo Dottori, Perugia, Italy



Gerardo Dottori

Gerardo Dottori (11 November 1884 – 13 June 1977) was an Italian Futurist painter. He signed the Futurist Manifesto of Aeropainting in 1929. He was associated with the city of Perugia most of his life, living in Milan for six months as a student and in Rome from 1926-39. Dottori’s’ principal output was the representation of landscapes and visions of Umbria, mostly viewed from a great height. Among the most famous of these are Umbrian Spring and Fire in the City, both from the early 1920s; this last one is now housed in the Museo civico di Palazzo della Penna in Perugia, with many of Dottori’s other works. His work was part of the art competitions at the 1932 Summer Olympics and the 1936 Summer Olympics.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Umberto Boccioni. 'Elasticity (Elasticità)' 1912


Umberto Boccioni (Italian, 1882-1916)
Elasticity (Elasticità)
Oil on canvas
100 x 100cm
Museo del Novecento, Milan
© Museo del Novecento, Comune di Milano (all legal rights reserved)
Photo: Luca Carrà



Umberto Boccioni

Umberto Boccioni (19 October 1882 – 17 August 1916) was an influential Italian painter and sculptor. He helped shape the revolutionary aesthetic of the Futurism movement as one of its principal figures. Despite his short life, his approach to the dynamism of form and the deconstruction of solid mass guided artists long after his death. His works are held by many public art museums, and in 1988 the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City organised a major retrospective of 100 pieces. …

Boccioni moved to Milan in 1907. There, early in 1908, he met the Divisionist painter Gaetano Previati. In early 1910 he met Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, who had already published his Manifesto del Futurismo (“Manifesto of Futurism”) in the previous year. On 11 February 1910 Boccioni, with Balla, Carlo Carrà, Luigi Russolo and Severini, signed the Manifesto dei pittori futuristi (“Manifesto of Futurist painters”), and on 8 March he read the manifesto at the Politeama Chiarella theatre in Turin.

Boccioni became the main theorist of the artistic movement. “Only when Boccioni, Balla, Severini and a few other Futurists traveled to Paris toward the end of 1911 and saw what Braque and Picasso had been doing did the movement begin to take real shape.” He also decided to be a sculptor after he visited various studios in Paris, in 1912, including those of Georges Braque, Alexander Archipenko, Constantin Brâncuși, Raymond Duchamp-Villon, August Agero and, probably, Medardo Rosso. In 1912 he exhibited some paintings together with other Italian futurists at the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, and the following year returned to show his sculptures at the Galerie La Boétie: all related to the elaboration of what Boccioni had seen in Paris, where he had visited the studios of Cubist sculptors, including those of Constantin Brâncuși, Raymond Duchamp-Villon and Alexander Archipenko to further his knowledge of avant-garde sculpture.

In 1914 he published Pittura e scultura futuriste (dinamismo plastico) explaining the aesthetics of the group:

“While the impressionists paint a picture to give one particular moment and subordinate the life of the picture to its resemblance to this moment, we synthesise every moment (time, place, form, colour-tone) and thus paint the picture.”


Development of Futurism

Boccioni worked for nearly a year on La città sale or The City Rises, 1910, a huge (2m by 3m) painting, which is considered his turning point into Futurism. “I attempted a great synthesis of labor, light and movement” he wrote to a friend. Upon its exhibition in Milan in May 1911, the painting attracted numerous reviews, mostly admiring. By 1912 it had become a headline painting for the exhibition traveling Europe, the introduction to Futurism. It was sold to the great pianist, Ferruccio Busoni for 4,000 lire that year, and today is frequently on prominent display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, at the entrance to the paintings department.

La risata (1911, The Laugh) is considered Boccioni’s first truly Futurist work. He had fully parted with Divisionism, and now focused on the sensations derived from his observation of modern life. Its public reception was quite negative, compared unfavourably with Three Women, and it was defaced by a visitor, running his fingers through the still fresh paint. Subsequent criticism became more positive, with some considering the painting a response to Cubism. It was purchased by Albert Borchardt, a German collector who acquired 20 Futurist works exhibited in Berlin, including The Street Enters the House (1911) which depicts a woman on a balcony overlooking a busy street. Today the former also is owned by the Museum of Modern Art, and the latter by the Sprengel Museum in Hanover.

Boccioni spent much of 1911 working on a trilogy of paintings titled “Stati d’animo” (“States of Mind”), which he said expressed departure and arrival at a railroad station – The Farewells, Those Who Go, and Those Who Stay. All three paintings were originally purchased by Marinetti, until Nelson Rockefeller acquired them from his widow and later donated them to the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Beginning in 1912, with Elasticità or Elasticity (above), depicting the pure energy of a horse, captured with intense chromaticism, he completed a series of Dynamist paintings: Dinamismo di un corpo umano (Human Body), ciclista (Cyclist), Foot-baller, and by 1914 Dinamismo plastico: cavallo + caseggiato (Plastic Dynamism: Horse + Houses). While continuing this focus, he revived his previous interest in portraiture. Beginning with L’antigrazioso (The antigraceful) in 1912 and continuing with I selciatori (The Street Pavers) and Il bevitore (The Drinker) both in 1914.

In 1914 Boccioni published his book, Pittura, scultura futuriste (Futurist Painting and Sculpture), which caused a rift between himself and some of his Futurist comrades. As a result, perhaps, he abandoned his exploration of Dynamism, and instead sought further decomposition of a subject by means of colour. With Horizontal Volumes in 1915 and the Portrait of Ferruccio Busoni in 1916, he completed a full return to figurative painting. Perhaps fittingly, this last painting was a portrait of the maestro who purchased his first Futurist work, The City Rises.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Enrico Prampolini and Maria Ricotti, with cover by Enrico Prampolini. 'Program for the Theater of Futurist Pantomime' (Théâtre de la Pantomine Futuriste) Illustrated leaflet (Paris: M. et J. De Brunn, 1927)


Enrico Prampolini and Maria Ricotti, with cover by Enrico Prampolini
Program for the Theater of Futurist Pantomime (Théâtre de la Pantomine Futuriste)
Illustrated leaflet (Paris: M. et J. De Brunn, 1927)
27.5 x 22.7cm
Fonds Alberto Sartoris, Archives de la Construction Moderne-Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland
By permission of heirs of the artist
Photo: Jean-Daniel Chavan


Carlo Carrà. 'Interventionist Demonstration' (Manifestazione Interventista) 1914


Carlo Carrà (Italian, 1881-1966)
Interventionist Demonstration (Manifestazione Interventista)
Tempera, pen, mica powder, paper glued on cardboard
38.5 x 30cm
Gianni Mattioli Collection, on long-term loan to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice
© 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome
Photo: Courtesy Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York



Carlo Carrà

Carlo Carrà (Italian, February 11, 1881 – April 13, 1966) was an Italian painter and a leading figure of the Futurist movement that flourished in Italy during the beginning of the 20th century. In addition to his many paintings, he wrote a number of books concerning art. He taught for many years in the city of Milan.

In 1899-1900, Carrà was in Paris decorating pavilions at the Exposition Universelle, where he became acquainted with contemporary French art. He then spent a few months in London in contact with exiled Italian anarchists, and returned to Milan in 1901. In 1906, he enrolled at Brera Academy (Accademia di Brera) in the city, and studied under Cesare Tallone. In 1910 he signed, along with Umberto Boccioni, Luigi Russolo and Giacomo Balla the Manifesto of Futurist Painters, and began a phase of painting that became his most popular and influential.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Luigi Russolo. "The Art of Noises: Futurist Manifesto" ("L'arte dei rumori: Manifesto futurista") Leaflet (Milan: Direzione del Movimento Futurista, 1913)


Luigi Russolo (Italian, 1885-1947)
“The Art of Noises: Futurist Manifesto” (“L’arte dei rumori: Manifesto futurista”)
Leaflet (Milan: Direzione del Movimento Futurista, 1913)
29.2 x 23cm
Wolfsoniana – Fondazione regionale per la Cultura e lo Spettacolo, Genoa
By permission of heirs of the artist
Photo: Courtesy Wolfsoniana – Fondazione regionale per la Cultura e lo Spettacolo, Genoa



Luigi Russolo

Luigi Carlo Filippo Russolo (30 April 1885 – 6 February 1947) was an Italian Futurist painter, composer, builder of experimental musical instruments, and the author of the manifesto The Art of Noises (1913). He is often regarded as one of the first noise music experimental composers with his performances of noise music concerts in 1913–14 and then again after World War I, notably in Paris in 1921. He designed and constructed a number of noise-generating devices called Intonarumori.

Luigi Russolo was perhaps the first noise artist. His 1913 manifesto, L’Arte dei Rumori (The Art of Noises), stated that the industrial revolution had given modern men a greater capacity to appreciate more complex sounds. Russolo found traditional melodic music confining, and he envisioned noise music as its future replacement.

Russolo designed and constructed a number of noise-generating devices called Intonarumori, and assembled a noise orchestra to perform with them. A performance of his Gran Concerto Futuristico (1917) was met with strong disapproval and violence from the audience, as Russolo himself had predicted.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Mino Somenzi, ed., with words-in-freedom image Airplanes (Aeroplani) by Pino Masnata. 'Futurismo 2, no. 32' (Apr. 16, 1933) Journal (Rome, 1933)


Mino Somenzi, ed., with words-in-freedom image Airplanes (Aeroplani) by Pino Masnata
Futurismo 2, no. 32 (Apr. 16, 1933)
Journal (Rome, 1933)
64 x 44cm
Fonds Alberto Sartoris, Archives de la Construction Moderne–Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne EPFL), Switzerland
Photo: Jean-Daniel Chavan


Fortunato Depero. 'Heart Eaters' (Mangiatori di cuori) 1923


Fortunato Depero (Italian, 1892-1960)
Heart Eaters (Mangiatori di cuori)
Painted wood
36.5 x 23 x 10cm
Private collection
© 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome
Photo: Vittorio Calore


Umberto Boccioni. 'Unique Forms of Continuity in Space' (Forme uniche della continuità nello spazio) 1913 (cast 1949)


Umberto Boccioni (Italian, 1882-1916)
Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (Forme uniche della continuità nello spazio)
1913 (cast 1949)
121.3 x 88.9 x 40cm
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Bequest of Lydia Winston Malbin, 1989
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Image Source: Art Resource, New York


Benedetta (Cappa Marinetti). 'Synthesis of Aerial Communications' (Sintesi delle comunicazioni aeree) 1933-34


Benedetta (Cappa Marinetti) (Italian,
Synthesis of Aerial Communications (Sintesi delle comunicazioni aeree)
Tempera and encaustic on canvas
324.5 x 199cm
Il Palazzo delle Poste di Palermo, Sicily, Poste Italiane
© Benedetta Cappa Marinetti, used by permission of Vittoria Marinetti and Luce Marinetti’s heirs
Photo: AGR/Riccardi/Paoloni



Benedetta Cappa

Benedetta Cappa (14 August 1897 – 15 May 1977) was an Italian futurist artist who has had retrospectives at the Walker Art Center and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Her work fits within the second phase of Italian Futurism.

Though she was an artist active in Futurist circles, Cappa felt labels were restrictive and initially rejected the designation. In a 1918 correspondence with F.T. Marinetti she writes, “I am too free and rebellious – I do not want to be restricted. I want only to be me.” Despite entering her marriage with such determined independence, the considerable contributions made by Cappa are often overshadowed by the figure of Marinetti and the vociferous manner with which he directed the movement. Cappa’s body of work spanned a range of media that included pen, paper, paint, metal and textiles. She wrote poetry and prose, signed, and spoke as an individual, but only recently has she garnered independent recognition.

In 1919, Cappa published Spicologia di 1 Uomo, a collection of poetry which incorporates “unusual word placement, typographic experimentation, and visual and auditory correspondences.” Subsequently published in 1924, Le Forze Umane: Romanzo Astratto con Sintesi Grafiche (Human Forces: Abstract Novel with Graphic Synthesis), has a similar structure presented in an extrapolated form. Two images from this novel provide an interesting conceptual contrast. The first, Forze Feminile: Spirale di Dolcezza + Serpe di Fascino (Feminine Forces: Spiral of Sweetness + Serpent of Charm) consists simply of three curved lines, one of which provides a central axis for the other two. The linear composition of the second drawing, Forze Maschili: Armi e Piume (Masculine Forces: Weapons and Feathers), has numerous straight lines and arcs arranged in an impenetrable tangle.

Cappa’s publication of Le Forze Umane was one of three books she has written. The release of her book made many futurists question her allegiance with Futurism, for her book seemed to align more with Neo-Plasticism at the time by many male Futurists who have written reviews on Cappa’s book. Cappa collected all of the reviews in her Librone which can be found at the Getty Research Institute. It was a decision made from many reviewers that Cappa’s first book represents the unwillingness from the reviewers to accept a women’s work as part of Futurism.

The action and aesthetic of the machine age is a trope within Futurism that appears frequently in Cappa’s artwork. One early abstract painting, Velocità di Motoscafo, (Velocity of a Motorboat), (1923-24), contains many of the elements that would come to mark Cappa’s painting style. Well defined, curvilinear shapes, painted in gradient tones are compositionally arranged to imply objects in motion: “… the interplay of ‘force lines,’ become the subject.” The artist’s exploration of the machine continued with Luci + Rumori di un Treno Notturno, (Lights + Sounds of a Night Train), (c. 1924) and with Aeropittura (1925). A trip to Latin America in 1926 was followed by a series of abstract paintings done in gouache on paper.

As Cappa developed her artistic practice, her influence within the Futurist Movement expanded. Between the end of World War I and the early 1930s, there was an ideological transformation which led to the period commonly known as Second Wave Futurism. The notably misogynistic tone of the foundation texts was largely muted as the number of female Futurists increased. Several other themes, such as Technology, Speed, and Mechanisation carried over into this new incarnation of Futurism. For this reason, Cappa’s oil painting Il Grande X (1931) is considered the culmination of one era and the prelude to another. In the two decades since F.T. Marinetti’s manifesto, the brash avant-garde movement had largely become the establishment.

It was the Futurists’ affiliation with the state establishment that would lead to one of Cappa’s most recognisable paintings, her mural series for the Conference Room at the Palazzo delle Poste in Palermo, Sicily. The building is an amalgam of works by several Futurist artists. Designed by the Rationalist architect, Angiolo Mazzoni, the Poste Italiane houses tile wall mosaics by Luigi Colombo Filìa and Enrico Prampolini in addition to the murals by Benendetta. The shared themes of synthesis and communication are critical to the aesthetic program of the Futurist structure. Completed between 1933 and 1934, each painting depicts a form of information transfer, including terrestrial, maritime, aerial, radio, telegraphic and telephonic communication. The pale blue and green colour palette, along with the use of tempera and encaustic media, were designed to invoke resonances with Pompeian frescos. The collection represents the idealised speed and efficiency of message delivery in the modern world.

Text from the Wikipedia website



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Exhibition: ‘Flesh and Metal: Body and Machine in Early 20th­-Century Art’ at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University

Exhibition dates: 13th November 2013 – 16th March 2014

Featured artists include Margaret Bourke-White, Constantin Brancusi, Giorgio de Chirico, Salvador Dalí, Marcel Duchamp, Germaine Krull, Fernand Léger, Wyndham Lewis, László Moholy-Nagy, Piet Mondrian, Man Ray, Alexander Rodchenko, and Charles Sheeler, among others.



Man Ray. 'Untitled (Rayograph)' 1922


Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Untitled (Rayograph)
Gelatin silver print
11 15/16 x 9 3/8 in. (30.32 x 23.81cm)
Collection SFMOMA, purchase
© Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris



“I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. I see how peoples are set against one another, and in silence, unknowingly, foolishly, obediently, innocently slay one another. I see that the keenest brains of the world invent weapons and words to make it yet more refined and enduring. And all men of my age, here and over there, throughout the whole world see these things; all my generation is experiencing these things with me. What would our fathers do if we suddenly stood up and came before them and proffered our account? What do they expect of us if a time ever comes when the war is over? Through the years our business has been killing; – it was our first calling in life. Our knowledge of life is limited to death. What will happen afterwards? And what shall come out of us?”

Erich Maria Remarque. All Quiet on the Western Front, 1929



Many thankx to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) and the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the art work for a larger version of the image.



Germaine Krull. 'Portrait of Joris Ivens, Amsterdam' c. 1928


Germaine Krull (1897-1985)
Portrait of Joris Ivens, Amsterdam
c. 1928
Gelatin silver print
7 3/8 x 6 1/4 in. (18.77 x 15.88cm)
Collection SFMOMA, gift of Simon Lowinsky
© Germaine Krull Estate



Germaine Krull (29 November 1897 – 31 July 1985), was a photographer, political activist, and hotel owner. Her nationality has been categorised as German, Polish, French, and Dutch, but she spent years in Brazil, Republic of the Congo, Thailand, and India. Described as “an especially outspoken example” of a group of early 20th-century female photographers who “could lead lives free from convention”, she is best known for photographically-illustrated books such as her 1928 portfolio Métal...

Having met Dutch filmmaker and communist Joris Ivens in 1923, she moved to Amsterdam in 1925. After Krull returned to Paris in 1926, Ivens and Krull entered into a marriage of convenience between 1927 and 1943 so that Krull could hold a Dutch passport and could have a “veneer of married respectability without sacrificing her autonomy.”

In Paris between 1926 and 1928, Krull became friends with Sonia DelaunayRobert DelaunayEli LotarAndré MalrauxColetteJean CocteauAndré Gide and others; her commercial work consisted of fashion photography, nudes, and portraits. During this period she published the portfolio Métal (1928) which concerned “the essentially masculine subject of the industrial landscape.” Krull shot the portfolio’s 64 black-and-white photographs in Paris, Marseille, and Holland during approximately the same period as Ivens was creating his film De Brug (“The Bridge”) in Rotterdam, and the two artists may have influenced each other. The portfolio’s subjects range from bridges, buildings and ships to bicycle wheels; it can be read as either a celebration of machines or a criticism of them. Many of the photographs were taken from dramatic angles, and overall the work has been compared to that of László Moholy-Nagy and Alexander Rodchenko. In 1999-2004 the portfolio was selected as one of the most important photobooks in history.

By 1928 Krull was considered one of the best photographers in Paris, along with André Kertész and Man Ray. Between 1928 and 1933, her photographic work consisted primarily of photojournalism, such as her photographs for Vu, a French magazine. Also in the early 1930s, she also made a pioneering study of employment black spots in Britain for Weekly Illustrated (most of her ground-breaking reportage work from this period remains immured in press archives and she has never received the credit which is her due for this work). Her book Études de Nu (“Studies of Nudes”) published in 1930 is still well-known today.

Text from the Wikipedia website


El Lissitzky. 'Untitled' c. 1923


El Lissitzky (Russian, 1890-1941)
c. 1923
Gelatin silver print
9 1/2 x 7 1/4 in. (24.13 x 18.42cm)
Collection SFMOMA, gift of anonymous donors
© Estate of El Lissitzky / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn



Lazar Markovich Lissitzky (November 23, 1890 – December 30, 1941), better known as El Lissitzky, was a Russian artist, designer, photographer, typographer, polemicist and architect. He was an important figure of the Russian avant garde, helping develop suprematism with his mentor, Kazimir Malevich, and designing numerous exhibition displays and propaganda works for the Soviet Union. His work greatly influenced the Bauhaus and constructivist movements, and he experimented with production techniques and stylistic devices that would go on to dominate 20th-century graphic design.

Lissitzky’s entire career was laced with the belief that the artist could be an agent for change, later summarised with his edict, “das zielbewußte Schaffen” (goal-oriented creation). Lissitzky, of Jewish origin, began his career illustrating Yiddish children’s books in an effort to promote Jewish culture in Russia, a country that was undergoing massive change at the time and that had just repealed its antisemitic laws. When only 15 he started teaching; a duty he would stay with for most of his life. Over the years, he taught in a variety of positions, schools, and artistic media, spreading and exchanging ideas. He took this ethic with him when he worked with Malevich in heading the suprematist art groupUNOVIS, when he developed a variant suprematist series of his own, Proun, and further still in 1921, when he took up a job as the Russian cultural ambassador to Weimar Germany, working with and influencing important figures of the Bauhaus and De Stijl movements during his stay. In his remaining years he brought significant innovation and change to typography, exhibition design, photomontage, and book design, producing critically respected works and winning international acclaim for his exhibition design. This continued until his deathbed, where in 1941 he produced one of his last works – a Soviet propaganda poster rallying the people to construct more tanks for the fight against Nazi Germany. In 2014, the heirs of the artist, in collaboration with Van abbemuseum and the leading worldwide scholars, the Lissitzky foundation was established, to preserve the artist’s legacy and prepare a catalogue raisonné of the artists oeuvre.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Alexander Rodchenko. 'Pozharnaia lestnitsa' from the series 'Dom na Miasnitskoi' (Fire Escape, from the series House Building on Miasnitskaia Street) 1925


Alexander Rodchenko (Russian, 1891-1956)
Pozharnaia lestnitsa from the series Dom na Miasnitskoi (Fire Escape, from the series House Building on Miasnitskaia Street)
Gelatin silver print
9 x 6 in. (22.86 x 15.24cm)
Collection SFMOMA, Accessions Committee Fund: gift of Frances and John Bowes, Evelyn Haas, Mimi and Peter Haas, Pam and Dick Kramlich, and Judy and John Webb
© Estate of Alexander Rodchenko / RAO, Moscow / VAGA, New York


Raoul Ubac. 'Penthésilée' 1937


Raoul Ubac (French, 1910-1985)
Gelatin silver print
15 1/2 x 11 1/4 in. (39.37 x 28.58cm)
Collection SFMOMA, gift of Robert Miller
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris



Raoul Ubac (31 August 1910, Cologne – 24 March 1985, Dieudonne, Oise) was a French painter, sculptor, photographer and engraver. Ubac’s mother’s family ran a tannery and his father was a magistrate. In his early years he traveled through some parts of Europe on foot. He originally intended to become a waterways and forestry inspector. His interest in art was aroused when he made his first visit to Paris in 1928 and met several artists, including Otto Freundlich.

After returning to Malmédy he read the Manifeste du Surréalisme (1924) by André Breton. He met that document’s author André Breton and other leading Surrealists in 1930, and dedicated himself to capturing the movement’s dream aesthetic in photography after settling in Paris, attending the first showing of Luis Buñuel’s film L’Age d’or (1931). He attended the Faculté des Lettres of the Sorbonne briefly but soon left to frequent the studios of Montparnasse. About 1933-34 he attended the Ecole des Arts Appliqués for more than a year, studying mainly drawing and photography. In the course of a visit to Austria and the Dalmatian coast in 1933, he visited the island of Hvar where he made some assemblages of stones, which he drew and photographed, for example Dalmatian Stone (1933). Disillusioned with Surrealism, Ubac abandoned photography after the Second World War in favour of painting and sculpture, and died in France in 1985.

Text from various sources



Co-organised by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) and the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University, Flesh and Metal: Body and Machine in Early 20th­-Century Art presents more than 70 artworks that explore a central dynamic of art making in Europe and the Americas between the 1910s and the early 1950s. On view from November 13, 2013 to March 16, 2014 at the Cantor Arts Center, the exhibition includes a rich group of paintings, sculptures, photographs, drawings, prints, and illustrated books from the collection of SFMOMA. Taken together, the works offer a fresh view of how artists negotiated the terrain between the mechanical and the bodily – two oppositional yet inextricably bound forces – to produce a wide range of imagery responding to the complexity of modern experience.

The exhibition is part of the collaborative museum shows and extensive off-site programming presented by SFMOMA while its building is temporarily closed for expansion construction. From the summer of 2013 to early 2016, SFMOMA is on the go, presenting a dynamic slate of jointly organised and traveling exhibitions, public art displays and site-specific installations, and newly created education programs throughout the Bay Area.

“We are thrilled to pair SFMOMA’s world-class collection with Stanford’s renowned academic resources,” said Connie Wolf, the John and Jill Freidenrich Director of the Cantor Arts Center. “Cantor curators and the distinguished chair of the Department of Art and Art History guided seminars specifically for this exhibition, with students examining art of the period, investigating themes, studying design and display issues, and developing writing skills. The students gained immeasurably by this amazing experience and added new research and fresh perspectives to the artwork and to the exhibition. We are proud of the results and delighted to present a unique and invaluable partnership that will enrich the Stanford community, our museum members, and our visitors.”

SFMOMA’s Curator of Photography Corey Keller concurred: “The opportunity to work with our colleagues at Stanford has been a remarkable experience both in the galleries and in the classroom. We couldn’t be prouder of the exhibition’s unique perspective on a particularly rich area of SFMOMA’s collection that resulted from our collaboration.”


Exhibition overview

The exhibition is organised into four thematic sections dealing with the human figure, the imagination, the urban landscape, and the object, which together reveal a range of artists’ responses to the conditions of modernity. At the beginning of the 20th century, many hailed the machine as a symbol of progress. “Speed” and “efficiency” entered the vocabularies of art movements such as Futurism (in Italy), Purism (in France), Vorticism (in England), and Constructivism (in Russia), all of which adapted the subject matter and formal characteristics of the machine. Factories and labourers were presented positively as emblems of modernity, and mechanisation became synonymous with mobility and the possibility of social improvement. Countering this utopian position were proponents of the Dada and Surrealist movements (based largely in Germany and France), who found mechanical production problematic. For many of these artists who had lived through the chaos and destruction of World War I, the machine was perceived as a threat not only to the body, but to the uniquely human qualities of the mind as well. These artists embraced chance, accident, dream, and desire as new paths to freedom and creativity, in contrast to their counterparts who maintained their faith in an industrially enhanced future.

Though art from the first half of the 20th century is often viewed as representing an opposition between the rational, impersonal world of the machine and the uncontrollable, often troubling realm of the human psyche, the work in this exhibition suggests a more nuanced tension. In fact, artists regularly perceived these polarities in tandem. The codes of the bodily and the industrial coalesce in Fernand Léger’s machine aesthetic, on view in his 1927 painting Two Women on a Blue Backgound and an untitled collage from 1925. For his “rayographs,” Man Ray made use of mass-produced objects, but deployed them in a lyrical and imaginative manner – placing them on photosensitised paper and exposing it to light. Constantin Brancusi’s The Blond Negress (1927) and Jacques Lipchitz’s Draped Woman (1919) update the tradition of the cast bronze figure by introducing impersonal geometries. And even the seemingly formulaic surfaces of Piet Mondrian’s abstract paintings eventually reveal the artist’s sensitive hand.”

Press release from SFMOMA and the Cantor Arts Center


Hans Bellmer. 'La mitrailleuse en état de grâce' (The Machine Gun[neress] in a State of Grace) 1937


Hans Bellmer (German, 1902-1975)
La mitrailleuse en état de grâce (The Machine Gun[neress] in a State of Grace)
Gelatin silver print with oil and watercolour
26 x 26 in. (66.04 x 66.04cm)
Collection SFMOMA, gift of Foto Forum
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris



Hans Bellmer (13 March 1902 – 23 February 1975) was a German artist, best known for the life sized pubescent female dolls he produced in the mid-1930s. Historians of art and photography also consider him a Surrealist photographer.

Bellmer was born in the city of Kattowitz, then part of the German Empire (now Katowice, Poland). Up until 1926, he’d been working as a draftsman for his own advertising company. He initiated his doll project to oppose the fascism of the Nazi Party by declaring that he would make no work that would support the new German state. Represented by mutated forms and unconventional poses, his dolls were directed specifically at the cult of the perfect body then prominent in Germany. Bellmer was influenced in his choice of art form by reading the published letters of Oskar Kokoschka (Der Fetisch, 1925).

Bellmer’s doll project is also said to have been catalysed by a series of events in his personal life. Hans Bellmer takes credit for provoking a physical crisis in his father and brings his own artistic creativity into association with childhood insubordination and resentment toward a severe and humourless paternal authority. Perhaps this is one reason for the nearly universal, unquestioning acceptance in the literature of Bellmer’s promotion of his art as a struggle against his father, the police, and ultimately, fascism and the state. Events of his personal life also including meeting a beautiful teenage cousin in 1932 (and perhaps other unattainable beauties), attending a performance of Jacques Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann (in which a man falls tragically in love with an automaton), and receiving a box of his old toys. After these events, he began to actually construct his first dolls. In his works, Bellmer explicitly sexualised the doll as a young girl. The dolls incorporated the principle of “ball joint”, which was inspired by a pair of sixteenth-century articulated wooden dolls in the Kaiser Friedrich Museum.

Bellmer produced the first doll in Berlin in 1933. Long since lost, the assemblage can nevertheless be correctly described thanks to approximately two dozen photographs Bellmer took at the time of its construction. Standing about fifty-six inches tall, the doll consisted of a modelled torso made of flax fibre, glue, and plaster; a mask-like head of the same material with glass eyes and a long, unkempt wig; and a pair of legs made from broomsticks or dowel rods. One of these legs terminated in a wooden, club-like foot; the other was encased in a more naturalistic plaster shell, jointed at the knee and ankle. As the project progressed, Bellmer made a second set of hollow plaster legs, with wooden ball joints for the doll’s hips and knees. There were no arms to the first sculpture, but Bellmer did fashion or find a single wooden hand, which appears among the assortment of doll parts the artist documented in an untitled photograph of 1934, as well as in several photographs of later work.

Bellmer’s 1934 anonymous book, The Doll (Die Puppe), produced and published privately in Germany, contains 10 black-and-white photographs of Bellmer’s first doll arranged in a series of “tableaux vivants” (living pictures). The book was not credited to him, as he worked in isolation, and his photographs remained almost unknown in Germany. Yet Bellmer’s work was eventually declared “degenerate” by the Nazi Party, and he was forced to flee Germany to France in 1938. Bellmer’s work was welcomed in the Parisian art culture of the time, especially the Surrealists around André Breton, because of the references to female beauty and the sexualization of the youthful form. His photographs were published in the Surrealist journal Minotaure, 5 December 1934 under the title “Poupée, variations sur le montage d’une mineure articulée” (The Doll, Variations on the Assemblage of an Articulated Minor).

He aided the French Resistance during the war by making fake passports. He was imprisoned in the Camp des Milles prison at Aix-en-Provence, a brickworks camp for German nationals, from September 1939 until the end of the Phoney War in May 1940. After the war, Bellmer lived the rest of his life in Paris. Bellmer gave up doll-making and spent the following decades creating erotic drawings, etchings, sexually explicit photographs, paintings, and prints of pubescent girls… Of his own work, Bellmer said, “What is at stake here is a totally new unity of form, meaning and feeling: language-images that cannot simply be thought up or written up … They constitute new, multifaceted objects, resembling polyplanes made of mirrors … As if the illogical was relaxation, as if laughter was permitted while thinking, as if error was a way and chance, a proof of eternity.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Salvador Dalí. 'Objet Surréaliste à fonctionnement symbolique - le soulier de Gala' (Surrealist object that functions symbolically - Gala's Shoe) 1932/1975


Salvador Dalí (Spanish, 1904-1989)
Objet Surréaliste à fonctionnement symbolique – le soulier de Gala (Surrealist object that functions symbolically – Gala’s Shoe)
Shoe, marble, photographs, clay, and mixed media
48 x 28 x 14 in. (121.92 x 71.12 x 35.56 cm)
Collection SFMOMA, purchase, by exchange, through a gift of Norah and Norman Stone
© Salvador Dalí, Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


Marcel Jean. 'Le Spectre du Gardenia' (The Specter of the Gardenia) 1936/1972


Marcel Jean (French, 1900-1993)
Le Spectre du Gardenia (The Specter of the Gardenia)
Wool powder over plaster, zippers, celluloid film, and suede over wood
13 1/2 x 7 x 9 in. (34.29 x 17.78 x 22.86 cm)
Collection SFMOMA
Purchase through a gift of Dr. and Mrs. Allan Roos
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris



With zippers for eyes and a filmstrip collar around its neck, this figure composes an anxious portrait, but its tactile surface of black cloth, faded red velvet, and zippers is charged with the eroticism of imagined touch. Jean originally called this work Secret of the Gardenia after an old movie reel he discovered, along with the velvet stand, at a Paris flea market. As the artist later recalled, Surrealism’s leader André Breton “always pressed his friends to center their interest on Surrealist objects,” and “he made a certain number himself.” Chance discoveries like the movie reel and velvet stand that inspired this work provided a trove of uncanny items for Surrealists to include, combine, and transform in their works.

Text from the MoMA website [Online] Cited 01/03/2014


Max Ernst. 'La famille nombreuse' (The Numerous Family) 1926


Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976)
La famille nombreuse (The Numerous Family)
Oil on canvas
32 1/8 x 25 5/8 in. (81.61 x 65.1cm)
Collection SFMOMA, gift of Peggy Guggenheim
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris


Giorgio de Chirico. 'Les contrariétés du penseur' (The Vexations of the Thinker) 1915


Giorgio de Chirico (Italian, 1888-1978)
Les contrariétés du penseur (The Vexations of the Thinker)
Oil on canvas
18 1/4 x 15 in. (46.36 x 38.1cm)
Collection SFMOMA, Templeton Crocker Fund purchase
© 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome


Fernand Léger. 'Deux femmes sur fond bleu' (Two Women on a Blue Background) 1927


Fernand Léger (French, 1881-1955)
Deux femmes sur fond bleu (Two Women on a Blue Background)
Oil on canvas
36 1/2 x 23 5/8 in. (92.71 x 59.94cm)
Collection SFMOMA, fractional gift of Helen and Charles Schwab
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris


Constantin Brancusi. 'La Négresse blonde' (The Blond Negress) 1926


Constantin Brancusi (Romanian, 1876-1957)
La Négresse blonde (The Blond Negress)
Bronze with marble and limestone base
70 3/4 x 10 3/4 x 10 3/4 in. (179.71 x 27.31 x 27.31 cm)
Collection SFMOMA, gift of Agnes E. Meyer and Elise S. Haas
© Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris



Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University
328 Lomita Drive at Museum Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5060
Phone: 650-723-4177

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Sunday 11am – 5pm
Closed Monday and Tuesday

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Exhibition: ‘Max Ernst’ at Fondation Beyeler, Riehen, Switzerland

Exhibition dates: 26th May – 8th September 2013


Many thankx to the Fondation Beyeler for allowing me to publish the images in the posting. Please click on the images for a larger version of the art.



Max Ernst. The Entire City La ville entière 1935/36


Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976)
The Entire City
La ville entière
Oil on canvas
60 x 81cm
Kunsthaus Zurich
© 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo: Kunsthaus Zurich


Max Ernst. Nature at Dawn (Evensong) La nature à l’aurore (Chant du soir) 1938


Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976)
Nature at Dawn (Evensong)
La nature à l’aurore (Chant du soir)

Oil on canvas
81 x 100cm
Private collection
© 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich


Max Ernst. 'Painting for Young People' 1943


Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976)
Painting for Young People
Oil on canvas
60.5 x 76.5cm
The Ulla and Heiner Pietzsch Collection, Berlin
© 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo: Jochen Littkemann, Berlin


Max Ernst. Woman, Old Man, and Flower Weib, Greis und Blume 1924


Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976)
Woman, Old Man, and Flower
Weib, Greis und Blume
Oil on canvas
97 x 130cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
© 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo: © 2013, Digital image, The Museum of Modern Art, New York / Scala, Florence


Max Ernst. 'Oedipus Rex' 1922


Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976)
Oedipus Rex
Oil on canvas
93 x 102cm
Private collection
© 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich



This work is innately Freudian just in name, let alone in content. The Oedipus complex is one of the most well recognised components of Freudian theory and it is seen in this work names after it in many ways. The first is through the process of condensation. This can be seen as the bird headed man, which shows up in many of Ernst’s images: the association in this image between the man and the bird is the desire of man to be free from the inhibitions imposed upon him by society, and despite the fact that these two still retain their separate identities, they are consistent with Freud’s ideas. In the case of this work, the head is removed from the body, showing a detachment from true feeling and true understanding of life. Another Freudian idea is the use of the joke, which is seen in the treatment of several of the objects in this work. Such as the contrast and juxtaposition of the wall, the over-sized fingers, upside down eyes on the birds, and the balloon in the aft of the painted collage. Several other associations relating this work to Freud can be drawn as well.

This work has intense sexual undercurrents. The nut represents the female and the crack in the nut is a symbol for the vulva. The cracking of the nut by the hands of a male is a metaphor for sexual intercourse and also gender roles in traditional patriarchal cultures. The idea of the treatment of woman and of her place within society is also visible in another piece by Ernst, The Tottering Woman. In this piece, he addresses the constraints in which woman are held in the world and the patriarchy that she must deal with on a daily basis. It also touches upon the objectification of woman as well. Hoffman also theorises that the squeezing of the nut has implications of sadomasochistic roles as the nut is being dominated and crushed, the spike is punishing the hand equally and finally, once forced open, the “nut” could always snap back shut, injuring the index finger and thereby is a signifier of neurotic sexual attachment. The bird head towards the back of the picture plane is tethered by some sort of rope, which could be seen as societal restrictions on deviant sexuality and possibly is a reaction to the taboo associated with incest. Additionally, the arrow as it pierces the shell of the nut could be seen as a phallic signifier or also as a representation for the idea of love and then a refutation of the existence of love within the constraints of sexual desire and sexuality. The imagery in this piece by Ernst is intensely psychosexual in nature and content and can be seen mostly in those terms.

In defence of picking Oedipus Rex to write about in the context of collage, it is true that it is an oil painting, but its imagery was taken from print sources and then was transposed into the work by the act of painting them. The nut squeezing image was taken from an article entitled “Experience sur l’elasticite, faite avec une noix,” from the popular 19th century French Magazine La Nature.

Anonymous. “Ernst: Chance, Collage and the Study of Freud,” on the Center for Biological Computing, Indiana State University Department of Life Sciences website [Online] Cited 12/12/2020


Max Ernst. The Fireside Angel (The Triumph of Surrealism) L’ange du foyer (Le triomphe du surréalisme) 1937


Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976)
The Fireside Angel (The Triumph of Surrealism)
L’ange du foyer (Le triomphe du surréalisme)
Oil on canvas
114 x 146cm
Private collection
© 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich



This is one of the rare pictures by Max Ernst which refer directly to a political incident. He commented on this: “The Fireside Angel is a picture I painted after the defeat of the Republicans in Spain. This is, of course, an ironical title for a kind of clumsy oaf which destroys everything that gets in the way. That was my impression in those days of the things that might happen in the world. And I was right.” The Fireside Angel is depicted as an avenging character from the Bible. Its destructive potential is stressed by its aggressive colouring. In the figure of the angel, blind traumatising force is expressed, against which mankind is defenceless. Since there is no hope for negotiations with an inhuman force, the blind aggressor seems even more frightening.



With the exhibition of over 160 of his works at the Fondation Beyeler in cooperation with the Albertina, Vienna, the “artist of the century” Max Ernst (1891-1976) will be given the first comprehensive retrospective in Switzerland since his death as well as the first held in a German-speaking country since 1999.

Max Ernst is one of Modernism’s most versatile artists. After his beginnings as a rebellious Dadaist in Cologne, he moved to Paris in 1922, where he soon became one of the pioneers of Surrealism. He was interned twice as an enemy alien during the Second World but was released thanks to the intervention of the poet Paul Éluard, who was his friend. In 1941 Max Ernst fled to the USA, where he found new stimuli for his work as well as providing new impulses for the generation of young American artists. A decade later he returned to a Europe that had been devastated by the war and where the once highly esteemed Max Ernst seemed to have been forgotten, only to be rediscovered as one of the 20th century’s most multifaceted artists. In 1958, having renounced his German nationality in 1948 in order to take US citizenship, Max Ernst eventually became a French citizen.

Ernst was indeed one of the “artists of the century” – not only because of the high quality and wide range of his oeuvre but also because of the length of his creative career, which lasted around 60 years from 1915 to 1975. Active at a time of tremendous artistic, social, political and technical upheaval, he knew how to integrate these changes into his oeuvre, which therefore reflects key characteristics of the 20th century. The pleasure Max Ernst took in experimenting with different techniques made him a pioneer of multimedia expression. With no apparent effort, he combined in his work the themes, styles and techniques that were important to successive generations. His ceaseless quest for new forms of expression, questions and subjects is emblematic of modern man. Max Ernst appears to us as the artist who never wanted to find himself, as he once said: “A painter is lost when he finds himself”.

With his early Dadaist experience, his key position among the Surrealists and his prelude to action painting, Max Ernst travelled between worlds and cultures, moving to Paris from Cologne and from New York back to France. At a time of political unrest, he maintained his critical, creative gaze, seeking refuge in a country, the USA, which he scarcely knew but to which he nonetheless responded with curiosity and which provided him with important impulses for his late work. With exhibitions in New York, projects in Arizona and Touraine, participation in the Venice Biennale and Documenta, Max Ernst was an early 20th century example of the kind of “cultural and artistic nomad” who only later became a customary figure.



As early as 1919, Max Ernst started working with the technique of collage, which he used to design or simulate new pictorial realities. He created his collages from illustrations taken from various novels, textbook catalogues, natural science journals and 19th century sales catalogues. He excised the fragments from wood engravings, using a scalpel in order to achieve cut edges that were perfectly exact and smooth. In around 1929/30 Max Ernst created his most famous collage novels La femme 100 têtes (Hundred-Headed Woman / Headless Woman) and Rêve d’une petite fille qui voulut entrer au Carmel (A little Girl dreams of taking the Veil), which are among Surrealism’s most fascinating, enigmatic works.



In around 1925, Max Ernst began his Natural History series, in which he used the technique of frottage for the first time (the French word frotter means “to rub”) as a semi-automatic procedure. He placed objets trouvés he found outdoors, such as leaves and wood, under a sheet of paper and rubbed over them with a pencil. Then he took the structures that emerged and transformed them into fantastic pictures. In his frottages, Ernst breathes new life into lifeless objects, giving them another, to some extent uncustomary, significance. Max Ernst developed frottage while he was staying in Brittany. In his essay Beyond Painting he describes a kind of visionary revelation that caused him to use the wooden floor and other objects in his guest-house room as objects for his frottages.



Grattage is an artistic technique used by Max Ernst in painting that he developed in around 1927 as an extension of frottage. In a first phase, he applied several superimposed layers of paint to a canvas. Underneath the painting ground that he prepared in that way, he placed objects such as metal grids, wooden boards and string, the relief of which could be seen through the canvas. In order to transfer those structures to the picture, he scratched away the top layers of paint (gratter is the French word for “to scratch”). In a subsequent phase, he reworked the patterns that had become visible, transforming them into forests, shellflowers, birds and petrified cities.



Decalcomania is a transfer technique in which the damp pigment on a piece of glass or a sheet of paper is pressed against a canvas, leaving behind fine streaks, bubbles or marbled traces of paint when they are removed. In a subsequent phase, the artist reworks the complex surface structure. This artistic technique had already been developed in the 18th century and was used by other Surrealist artists too. Max Ernst adopted the technique in the late 1930s, using it to represent mysterious landscapes peopled by eery faces, figures and animals hiding in the thickets of nature.



In around 1942, while an exile in the USA, Max Ernst started developing the technique of oscillation. He let paint drip out of a tin perforated with a number of holes, which he attached to a long string and swung to and fro over the canvas. This largely uncontrollable and, once again, semi-automatic procedure created reticulated compositions of circles, lines and points on the surface that were reminiscent of planets’ orbits. Oscillation was an innovative technique that not only extended the range of Surrealism’s artistic repertoire but also heralded Jackson Pollock’s Drip Painting.

Press release from the Fondation Beyeler website


Max Ernst. At the First Limpid Word Au premier mot limpide 1923


Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976)
At the First Limpid Word
Au premier mot limpide
Oil on plaster, transferred to canvas
232 x 167cm
Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf
© 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo: Walter Klein, Düsseldorf



At the First Limpid Word is one such puzzle. A monumental work, it formed part of the decoration of the house that Max Ernst shared with Paul Éluard and his wife Gala (who later became Dalí’s muse). It was only in the 1960s that the wall painting, which had been painted over, was rediscovered. This painting, “an allegory of seduction,” is such a simple composition but is filled with symbolism in colour and subject.


Max Ernst. 'Ubu Imperator' 1923


Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976)
Ubu Imperator
Oil on canvas
100 x 81cm
Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris
© 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Philippe Migeat



Like many of Ernst’s paintings during his Paris period (1922-1941), Ubu Imperator resembles a collage in painted form. The artist’s knowledge of Freudian theories, familiarity with myth and extreme wit are reflected in this early painting, which is now considered proto-Surrealist due to its strange juxtapositions.

In Ubu Imperator (1923), an anthropomorphic top dances in a vast, empty landscape. Such works captured early on the surrealist notion of estrangement and commitment to the subconscious, but also they seem surprisingly contemporary. The red Ubu Imperator marked the entry of Ernst in the articulated stage of surrealism by his use of a literary narrative that was sometimes personal, sometimes political. In this seminal work a spinning top, a red carcass with iron reinforcement, and human hands express an astonishing image of the Ubu Father, a grotesque symbol of authority invented by Alfred Jarry. Other paintings suggest Ernst’s impressions of ancient Buddhist temples (à la Angkor Wat) as inspired from his trip to Asia following the breakup of his famous ménage à trois with Gala and Paul Eluard. This structure and thickly overgrown plants appear in many of his engravings and grattage [Grattage is a surrealist painting technique that involves laying a canvas prepared with a layer of oil paint over a textured object and then scraping the paint off to create an interesting and unexpected surface (Tate)] oil paintings, such as The Entire City (1935-1936) and The Petrified City (1935).

Valery Oisteanu. “Max Ernst: A Retrospective,” on the The Brooklyn Rail website, May 2005 [Online] Cited 12/12/2020


Max Ernst. Approaching Puberty… (The Pleiades) La puberté proche... (les pléiades) 1921


Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976)
Approaching Puberty… (The Pleiades)
La puberté proche… (les pléiades)
Collage, gouache, and oil on paper, mounted on cardboard
24.5 x 16.5cm
Private collection
© 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich



The Pleiades, companions of Artemis, were the seven daughters of the titan Atlas and the sea-nymph Pleione born on Mount Cyllene. They are the sisters of Calypso, Hyas, the Hyades, and the Hesperides. The Pleiades were nymphs in the train of Artemis, and together with the seven Hyades were called the Atlantides, Dodonides, or Nysiades, nursemaids and teachers to the infant Bacchus. There is some debate as to the origin of the name Pleiades. Previously, it was accepted the name is derived from the name of their mother, Pleione. However, the name Pleiades may derive from πλεῖν(to sail) because of their importance in delimiting the sailing season in the Mediterranean Sea. (Wikipedia)

For Ernst eroticism was another way of entering the unconscious, of escaping from convention, and possibly of tweaking bourgeois taste. But he was aware that adult sexuality had its limits, as is apparent in the exquisite Approaching Puberty… (1921). A photograph of a nude, faceless girl floats in a blue space stratified by horizontal lines, suggesting water or the sky. A few strangely disparate forms surround the girl, and the short text at the bottom ends, “The gravitation of the undulations does not yet exist.” The title, this line, and the fact that the girl floats in space rather than standing on the ground – as most of Ernst’s figures do – suggests that he sees in pubescence a kind of weightless freedom. In a related but nonsexual image, an Untitled c. 1921 collage, four schoolboys peer out of their classroom (from which a wall is missing) at a vast blue sky in which a hot-air balloon floats. A schoolmaster stands alone and ignored at his desk; next to him one of the boys balances a giant pencil on a pointer. What’s learned in school, Ernst seems to say, is far less important than visions of the sky.

Fred Camper. “Max Ernst’s Theater of Reveries,” on the Chicago Reader website, November 1993 [Online] Cited 12/12/2020


Max Ernst. 'Napoleon in the Wilderness' 1941


Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976)
Napoleon in the Wilderness
Oil on canvas
46.3 x 38cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
© 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo: © 2013, Digital image, The Museum of Modern Art, New York / Scala, Florence



In Max Ernst’s painting Napoleon in the Wilderness (1941), a strange whimsical trumpet appears in the hand of a female figure that seems to have sprung from the sinister rock and coral formations of a world in ruin. This painting formed part of suite of decalcomania [A transfer technique, developed in the 18th century, in which ink, paint, or another medium is spread onto a surface and, while still wet, covered with material such as paper, glass, or aluminium foil, which, when removed, transfers a pattern that may be further embellished upon. The technique was adopted by the Surrealists to create imagery by chance rather than through conscious control (MoMA)] works, in which Carrington’s semi-naked figure haunts a series of eerie landscapes, richly textured and abundant with mythological hybrid forms. Between periods of internment during the war, Ernst had managed to continue painting, producing haunting images of his abandoned lover in works that evoke his own sense of loss and grief in macabre scenes that promise both decay and renewal.

Text from Natalya Lusty, Surrealism, Feminism, Psychoanalysis. Ashgate Publishing, 2007.



The exhibition is a chronological presentation of all the major creative phases and groups of themes in Max Ernst’s work, opening with Capricorn, his most important sculpture. Max Ernst, who was born on 2 April 1891 in Brühl (Germany), first learnt about painting from his father. He had a conservative, middle-class upbringing, against which he soon rebelled. Starting in 1910, he studied art history as well as psychology, Romance languages and philosophy. Initially influenced by Expressionism and Futurism, he soon came in contact with other artists and art movements.

His early work City with Animals demonstrates this unique combination of different styles, displaying both Cubist and Futurist features. His encounter with Hans Arp (also represented in the Beyeler Collection along with the Surrealists Dalí, Giacometti and Miró) came at a time full of turmoil. Dada is born; the years after the First World War are a time of radical change, protest and experimentation.

Dada brings Max Ernst into contact with Surrealist artists. He ceases to be just a German artist and becomes a leading figure in the Surrealist art movement in Paris. There his works begin to acquire enigmatic qualities, for the unconscious and dreams are important elements of Surrealism, which it took over from psychoanalysis. Max Ernst remains an innovator, experimenting with frottage from the mid-1920s onwards. Hybrid creatures are created from different natural species; his interest in the natural sciences finds expression in his works.

At the First Limpid Word is one such puzzle. A monumental work, it formed part of the decoration of the house that Max Ernst shared with Paul Éluard and his wife Gala (who later became Dalí’s muse). It was only in the 1960s that the wall painting, which had been painted over, was rediscovered. The Blessed Virgin Chastising the Infant Jesus is an equally spectacular work, a scandal-provoking painting with blasphemous elements that deconstructs the traditional sacred image of the Madonna, representing a radical liberation from Ernst’s middle class roots. One whole room in the exhibition is developed to the theme of the forest, with a number of masterpieces from that series. Considerable importance is also attached to the series of Horde paintings from the late 1920s; the metamorphosed figures convey the theme of transformation. With the Flowers and Cities series (which focus on the antitheses of nature and culture), other important groups of themes are also presented.

Room 11 will contain a number of key works with the jungle paintings from the second half of the 1930s including Nature at Dawn with its dark, sinister character. Different traditions are echoed here, ranging from borrowings from Henri Rousseau to the Romanticism of a painter like Caspar David Friedrich. With The Robing of the Bride there is not only an obvious reference to Renaissance art but also a more differentiated context. The transformation of a woman into an animal and vice versa is an erotic motif that the painting conveys through a number of details. The Fireside Angel, on the other hand, thematises the Spanish Civil War of the late 1930s, with which many artists and intellectuals concerned themselves. With the brightly coloured, mask-like, terrifying dimension of its figure, which seems to fly towards the viewer as an unstoppable whirlwind between aggression and mockery, Max Ernst prefigures the political catastrophe that was to befall Europe.

Ernst’s late work displays thematic caesura – on the one hand, a poetical and sensuous contemplation using over-painting in the refined, technically innovative work The Garden of France and, on the other, Birth of a Galaxy, a splendid late work in which air, water, earth and light all rise into a starry firmament. As a free spirit – ironical, elegant and rebellious – and a man of many different facets, Max Ernst today remains an artist whose work is both accessible and complex. His works speak to us, evoking uncharted depths and hidden mysteries, as well as prompting reflection. Like mercury – which continuously changes shape in a fascinating way, hence being impossible to grasp – Max Ernst is still an exceptional artist almost forty years after his death, exemplary in his artistic independence and possessing an urge for freedom and a bold readiness for innovation in his work and life that preserve his oeuvre from stylistic opportunism and conventionality.

Max Ernst’s creativity in handling sources of imagery and inspiration, the breaks between his many phases and types of subject matter, are still capable of astonishing viewers today. Like a revolutionary of vision, he rearranged images and elements, and as a Surrealist established links between pictures and the viewer’s unconscious mind. What remained a constant was the persistence of Ernst’s rebellion. Like his life, he once said, his work was “not harmonious in the sense of classical composers.” A master of metamorphosis, Ernst was a searcher and discoverer, an honorary doctor of philosophy who increasingly expanded his range of investigation to include astronomy, ethnology, ornithology, mathematics and psychoanalysis, following up his love of the natural sciences and creative chance.

Press release from the Fondation Beyeler website


Max Ernst. The Robing of the Bride L'habillement de l’épousée / de la mariée 1940


Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976)
The Robing of the Bride
L’habillement de l’épousée / de la mariée
Oil on canvas
129.6 x 96.3cm
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice (Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York)
© 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo: Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice (Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York)


The Robing of the Bride (1939-1941; Venice, Guggenheim) employs Renaissance perspective devices and Cranach-like figures to represent a pagan marriage.


Max Ernst. The Blessed Virgin Chastising the Infant Jesus before Three Witnesses: André Breton, Paul Éluard and the Artist La Vierge corrigeant l’enfant Jésus devant trois témoins: André Breton, Paul Éluard et le peintre 1926


Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976)
The Blessed Virgin Chastising the Infant Jesus before Three Witnesses: André Breton, Paul Éluard and the Artist
La Vierge corrigeant l’enfant Jésus devant trois témoins: André Breton, Paul Éluard et le peintre
Oil on canvas
196 x 130cm
Museum Ludwig, Cologne
© 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo: Peter Willi / ARTOTHEK


Max Ernst. The Immaculate Conception L'immaculée conception 1929


Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976)
The Immaculate Conception
L’immaculée conception
Master illustration for La femme 100 têtes, chapter 1, plate 12
Collage on paper
14.2 x 14.5cm
Private collection
© 2013, ProLitteris, Zurich



La Femme 100 Têtes 1967 with English Subtitles


'Dorothea Tanning and Max Ernst with the cement sculpture Capricorne (Capricorn), Sedona, Arizona' 1948


Dorothea Tanning and Max Ernst with the cement sculpture Capricorne (Capricorn), Sedona, Arizona
2013, ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo: Max Ernst Documentation, Deutsches Forum für Kunstgeschichte, Paris / John Kasnetsis



Dorothea Margaret Tanning (August 25, 1910 – January 31, 2012) was an American painter, printmaker, sculptor and writer. She created ballet sets and costumes for George Balanchine’s Night Shadow, at the Metropolitan Opera House and others. She also appeared in Hans Richter’s avant-garde films. As an artist she was influenced by Dada and Surrealism and married fellow Surrealist Max Ernst.

As she recounts in her memoirs, Birthday and Between Lives, when Ernst visited her studio in 1942, they played chess, fell in love, and embarked on a life together that soon took them to Sedona, Arizona, and later to France. They met at a party in 1942 and after he would drop by Dorothea’s studio where she painted for a Surrealist movement exhibition of art by women for Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century. In that exhibition, Tanning’s work showed along with the work of Louise Nevelson and Gypsy Rose Lee. Soon after this encounter Ernst moved in with her.

They married in 1946, in a double wedding with Man Ray and Juliet Browner in Hollywood, after Ernst’s divorce from Peggy Guggenheim. They remained married for 30 years until his death. In 1949, Tanning and Ernst moved to France, where they divided their time between Paris, Touraine and later Provence. They would often host guest such as Balanchine, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Marcel Duchamp, Pavel Tchelitchew and Dylan Thomas. In 1957 Tanning and Ernst moved to France again because Max Ernst was denied citizenship as a German during the McCarthy era. When speaking on her relationship with Ernst in an interview, Tanning said: “I was a loner, am a loner, good Lord, it’s the only way I can imagine working. And then when I hooked up with Max Ernst, he was clearly the only person I needed and, I assure you, we never, never talked art. Never.”

After Max Ernst died in 1979 Dorothea Tanning returned to the United States.

Text from the Wikipedia website


'Max Ernst with rocking horse, Paris' 1938


Max Ernst with rocking horse, Paris
2013, ProLitteris, Zurich
Photo: Max Ernst Museum Brühl des LVR, Stiftung Max Ernst



Fondation Beyeler
Beyeler Museum AG
Baselstrasse 77, CH-4125
Riehen, Switzerland

Opening hours:
10 am – 6 pm daily, Wednesdays until 8 pm

Fondation Beyeler website


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Exhibition: ‘ “Our Future Is In The Air”: Photographs from the 1910s’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Exhibition dates: 10th November 2010 – 10th April 2011


What an eclectic group of photographs in this posting as well as a great title for an exhibition!


Many thankx to the The Metropolitan Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photograph for a larger version of the image.



Anton Giulio Bragaglia (Italian, 1890–1960) 'Change of Position' 1911


Anton Giulio Bragaglia (Italian, 1890-1960)
Change of Position
Gelatin silver print
12.8 x 17.9cm (5 1/16 x 7 1/16 in)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection
Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005


Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz (Polish, 1885-1939) 'Tadeus Langier, Zakopane' 1912-1913


Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz (Polish, 1885-1939)
Tadeus Langier, Zakopane
Gelatin silver print
12.6 x 17.6cm (4 15/16 x 6 15/16 in)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection
Purchase, Denise and Andrew Saul Gift, 2005


Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986) 'Le Grand Prix A.C.F.' 1913


Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Le Grand Prix A.C.F.
Gelatin silver print
11.5 x 17.1cm (4 1/2 x 6 3/4 in)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection
Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gift, 2005
© Ministère de la Culture-France/AAJHL


Unknown Artist, American School. '(Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks Selling Liberty Loans during the Third Loan Campaign at the Sub Treasury Building on Wall Street, New York City)' 1918


Unknown artist (American School)
(Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks Selling Liberty Loans during the Third Loan Campaign at the Sub Treasury Building on Wall Street, New York City)
Gelatin silver print
19.4 x 24.1cm (7 5/8 x 9 1/2 in)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1996



The twentieth century was truly born during the 1910s. This exhibition, which accompanies Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand, surveys the range of uses to which photography was put as its most advanced practitioners and theorists were redefining the medium as an art. The title “Our Future Is in the Air is taken from a military aviation pamphlet that figures prominently (in French) in a 1912 Cubist tabletop still life by Picasso; it suggests the twinned senses of exhilarating optimism and lingering dread that accompanied the dissolution of the old order.

Photography was handmaiden and witness to the upheavals that revolutionised perception and consciousness during this tumultuous era. Space and time were overcome by motorcars and airplanes, radio and wireless, and man seemed liberated from the bounds of gravity and geography. This seemingly limitless expanse was mirrored by a new understanding of the unconscious as infinitely deep, complex, and varied – a continent ripe for discovery. The camera was seen as the conduit between these two states of self and world, and “straight photography” – stripped of the gauzy blur of Pictorialist reverie – was espoused by Alfred Stieglitz and Paul Strand among others.

This turn was not accidental: since handheld cameras became available in the late 1880s, anyone could be a photographer; similarly, photography had snaked its way into every corner of the culture. Elevated perception would distinguish the new artists from the amateur and the tradesman. The exhibition casts the widest possible net in order to show the foundations upon which the medium staked its claim as an independent art.

The 1910s – a period remembered for “The Great War,” Einstein’s theory of relativity, the Russian Revolution, and the birth of Hollywood – was a dynamic and tumultuous decade that ushered in the modern era. This new age – as it was captured by the quintessentially modern art of photography – will be the subject of the exhibition “Our Future Is In The Air”: Photographs from the 1910s, on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from November 10, 2010, through April 10, 2011.

An eclectic centennial exhibition devoted to photography of the 1910s, “Our Future Is In The Air” provides a fascinating look at the birth of modern life through 58 photographs by some 30 artists, including Eugène Atget, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Eugène Druet, Lewis Hine, Jacques-Henri Lartigue, Adolph de Meyer, Christian Schad, Morton Schamberg, Charles Sheeler, and Stanislaw Witkiewicz, among others. Drawn exclusively from the Museum’s collection, the exhibition also features anonymous snapshots, séance photographs, and a family album made by Russian nobility on the eve of revolution. “Our Future Is In The Air” complements the Museum’s concurrent presentation of groundbreaking photographs by Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, and Paul Strand in the exhibition Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand. The exhibition’s title is taken from a pamphlet for military aviation that figures prominently (in French) in a 1912 Cubist tabletop still-life by Picasso, but is used here because of its double meaning: the feelings of excitement and anxiety that accompanied such radical change.

“Our Future Is In The Air” opens in dramatic fashion with a series of photographs showing moments in the funeral procession and burial of Leo Tolstoy on November 9, 1910. The great Russian novelist passed away just after walking away from his great wealth and literary fame to lead a life of Christian charity. Certain details that can be seen in the photo-postcards – such as whether or not to kneel by the grave – represented a long simmering struggle between old and new, spiritual and secular, that would lead to revolution seven years later.

As cameras became smaller, faster, and easier to operate, amateur photographers such as the child prodigy Jacques-Henri Lartigue pushed the medium in directions that trained photographers shied away from. Since Lartigue was only recognised much later as a key figure in photography, prints such as the ones included here – showing speeding motorcars – are exceedingly rare. Lartigue made one of his most memorable photographs, Le Grand Prix A.C.F. (1913), by swinging his camera in the same direction as the car, as it sped by.

The camera also afforded access to the previously invisible, whether capturing a broken leg bone, revealed in an X-ray from 1916 or the trajectory created by a simple change in body position, in a 1911 motion study by the Futurist artist Anton Giulio Bragaglia.

At the same time, photography became an agent of democratic communication, and documentary photographers used its growing influence to expose degrading conditions of workers, the injustice of child labor, and the devastation of war. Beginning in 1908, Lewis Hine made 5,000 photographs of children working in mills, sweatshops, factories, and street trades; six of his photographs will be featured in this exhibition, including Newsboy asleep on stairs with papers, Jersey City, New Jersey, February 1912. Hine’s reports and slide lectures were meant to trigger a profound, empathetic response in the viewer.

During World War I, photography was utilised to document the mass casualties of mechanised warfare; in the exhibition, an affecting image from 1916, by an unknown artist, shows wounded French soldiers performing drills in the nave of the Grand Palais in Paris as part of their rehabilitation.

Also in the exhibition is an evocative 1918 photograph, again by an unknown artist, of Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks entertaining a huge crowd at a war bonds rally on Wall Street.

“Our Future Is In The Air” accompanies the exhibition Stieglitz, Steichen, Strand, which focuses on contemporaneous works by three modernist masters of American photography: Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, and Paul Strand. It includes photographs by several friends and compatriots of Alfred Stieglitz, from Adolph de Meyer, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Paul Haviland, and Karl Struss to Morton Schamberg and Charles Sheeler, in whose works one can trace the transition from soft focus Pictorialism to a harder-edged, more detached “straight photography.”

Press release from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website


Charles Sheeler (American, 1883-1965) 'Doylestown House - Stairs from Below' 1917


Charles Sheeler (American, 1883-1965)
Doylestown House – Stairs from Below
Gelatin silver print
21 x 15cm (8 1/4 x 5 15/16 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1933
© The Lane Collection


Lewis Hine (American, 1874-1940) 'Newsboy asleep on stairs with papers, Jersey City, New Jersey' February 1912


Lewis Hine (American, 1874-1940)
Newsboy asleep on stairs with papers, Jersey City, New Jersey
February 1912
Gelatin silver print
Image: 11.5 x 16.8cm (4 1/2 x 6 5/8 in)
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gift, 2005


Lewis Hine (American, 1874-1940) 'Addie Card, 12 years' 1910


Lewis Hine (American, 1874-1940)
Addie Card, 12 years. Spinner in North Pownal Cotton Mill. Girls in mill say she is ten years. She admitted to me she was twelve; that she started during school vacation and now would “stay”. Location: Vermont, August 1910
Gelatin silver print
24.4 x 19.3cm (9 5/8 x 7 5/8 in)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection
Purchase, Anonymous Gifts, by exchange, 2005


Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927) 'Boulevard de Strasbourg' 1912


Eugène Atget (French, 1857-1927)
Boulevard de Strasbourg
Albumen silver print from glass negative
22.4 x 17.5cm (8 13/16 x 6 7/8 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection
Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gift, 2005


Unknown Artist, American School. '(Man Holding Baseball in Catcher’s Mitt)' 1910


Unknown artist (American School)
(Man Holding Baseball in Catcher’s Mitt)
Gelatin silver print
13.8 x 8.7cm (5 7/16 x 3 7/16 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Funds from various donors, 1998



The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street
New York, New York 10028-0198
Information: 212-535-7710

Opening hours:
Sunday – Tuesday and Thursday: 10am – 5pm
Friday and Saturday: 10am – 9pm
Closed Wednesday

The Metropolitan Museum of Art website


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Exhibition: ‘Hyper’ by Denis Darzacq at Australian Centre for Photography (ACP), Sydney

Exhibition dates: Friday 13th March – Sunday 12th April 2009


Denis Darzacq. 'Hyper #4' 2007


Denis Darzacq (French, b. 1961)
Hyper #4



These images form an interesting body of work: levitating bodies suspended between heaven and earth, neither here nor there, form a hyper-real image grounded in the context of the fluorescent isles of French supermarkets. The mainly anonymous humans look like mannequins in their inertness, frozen at the moment of throwing themselves/being thrown into the consumer environment. After his brilliant series La Chute (The Fall) Darzacq has taken people gathered in a casting call from around the town of Rouen and made their frozen bodies complicit in the mass production of the supermarket and the mass consumption of the image as tableaux vivant: the mise en scène directed by the photographer to limited effect. There is something unsettling about these images but ultimately they are unrewarding, as surface as the environment the bodies are suspended in, and perhaps this is the point.

Suspension of bodies is not a new idea in photography. Jacques Henri Lartigue used the freeze frame to good effect long before Henri Cartier-Bresson came up with his ‘decisive moment’: playing with the effect of speed and gravity in an era of Futurism, Lartigue used the arrested movement of instant photography then afforded by smaller cameras and faster film to capture the spirit of liberation in the ‘Belle Epoque’ period before the First World War.

“All the jumping and flying in Lartigue’s photographs, it looks like the whole world at the turn of the century is on springs or something. There’s a kind of spirit of liberation that’s happening at the time and Lartigue matches that up with what stop action photography can do at the time, so you get these really dynamic pictures. And for Lartigue part of the joke, most of the time, is that these people look elegant but they are doing these crazy stunts.”1

One of the greatest, if not the greatest ever, series of photographs of levitating bodies is that by American photographer Aaron Siskind. Called Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation (sometimes reversed as Terrors and Pleasures of Levitation as on the George Eastman House website) the images feature divers suspended in mid-air with the sky as their blank, background canvas. The images formal construction makes the viewer concentrate on the state of the body, its positioning in the air, and the look on the face of some of the divers caught between joy and fear.

“Highly formal, yet concerned with their subject as well as the idea they communicate, the ‘Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation’ photographs depict the dark shapes of divers suspended mid-leap against a blank white sky. Shot with a hand-held twin-lens reflex camera at the edge of Lake Michigan in Chicago, the balance and conflict suggested by the series’ title is evident in the divers’ sublime contortions.”2

Perhaps because of their air of balance and conflict we can return to these vibrant images again and again and they never loose their freshness, intensity and wonder. The same cannot be said of Denis Darzacq’s Hyper photographs. Slick and surface like the consumer society on which they comment the somnambulistic bodies are more like floating helium balloons, perhaps even tortured souls leaving the earth. Reminiscent of the magicians trick where the girl is suspended and a hoop passed around her body to prove the suspension is real these photographs really are more smoke and mirrors than any comment on the binary between being and having as some commentators (such as Amy Barrett-Lennard, Director Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts) have suggested. There is no spirit of liberation here, no sublime revelation as the seemingly lifeless bodies are trapped between the supermarket shelves, as oblivious to and as anonymous as the products that surround them. The well shot images perhaps possess a sense of fun, if I am being generous, as Darzacq plays with our understanding of reality… but are they more than that or is the Emperor just wearing very thin consumer clothing?

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Many thankx to the Australian Centre for Photography for allowing me to publish the Darzacq photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All other images are used under “fair use” for the purpose of education, research and critical discourse.


  1. Kevin Moore (Lartigue biographer) quoted in “Genius of Photography,” on the BBC website [Online] Cited 15/03/2009
  2. Text from the Museum of Contemporary Photography website [Online] Cited 15/03/2009 (no longer available)



Denis Darzacq. 'Hyper #8' 2007


Denis Darzacq (French, b. 1961)
Hyper #8



“The astonishing photographs that make up Hyper involve no digital manipulation, just close collaboration between young dancers and sportspeople as they jump for the camera to form strange, exaggerated poses and body gestures. Denis Darzacq was drawn to the trashy, consumerist nature of the French Hypermarkets (the equivalent of our supermarkets) and the hyper coloured backgrounds they provided. These supermarkets offered a sharp juxtaposition to the sublime, almost-spiritual bodies that appear to float in their aisles.

Hyper is the latest series of works by French photographer Denis Darzacq, who continues to explore the place of the individual in society, a theme which has been crucial to his work in the last few years.”

Text from the ACP website [Online] Cited 15/03/2009 (no longer available online)


Jacques-Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) 'L'envol de Bichonnade' 1905


Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Bichonnade, 40, Rue Cortambert, Paris
Gelatin silver print


Jacques Henri Lartigue. 'Mr Folletete (Plitt) et Tupy, Paris, March 1912'


Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Mr Folletete (Plitt) et Tupy, Paris, March 1912
Gelatin silver print


Jacques Henri Lartigue. 'Fuborg' 1929


Jacques Henri Lartigue (French, 1894-1986)
Gelatin silver print


Herni Cartier-Bresson. 'Behind Saint Lazare Station, Paris, France' 1932


Herni Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908-2004)
Behind Saint Lazare Station, Paris, France
Gelatin silver print


Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991) 'Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation #37' 1954


Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991)
Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation #37
Gelatin silver print


Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991) 'Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation #47' 1954


Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991)
Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation #47
Gelatin silver print


Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991) 'Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation #93' 1961


Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991)
Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation #93
Gelatin silver print


Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991) 'Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation #99' 1953


Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991)
Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation #99
Gelatin silver print


Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991) 'Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation #491' 1954


Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991)
Pleasures and Terrors of Levitation #491
Gelatin silver print


Denis Darzacq (French, b. 1961) 'Hyper #3' 2007


Denis Darzacq (French, b. 1961)
Hyper #3



Hyper picks up on La Chute while explicitly focusing the artist’s message on the consumerism which hovered in the background of several previous series. In Casques de Thouars Darzacq explored the connecting power and the limits of a consumer product; here the critique is more biting. Hyper opposes bodies in movement and the saturated, standardised space of mass distribution outlets. In this totally commercial setting, the body’s leap expresses the freedom and unhampered choice of its movement. It is a clear challenge to the marketing strategies which seek to control our behaviour. Some of the figures, glowing with an aura, impose glory and give off a sense of spirituality in total contrast with the temples of consumption in which they are found.

“Hyper 1, 2007-2010,” on the Denis Darzacq website Nd [Online] Cited 13/06/2022


Denis Darzacq. 'Hyper #14' 2007


Denis Darzacq (French, b. 1961)
Hyper #14



Australian Centre for Photography

This gallery has now closed.

Australian Centre for Photography (ACP) website

Denis Darzacq website

Denis Darzacq Hyper images


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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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