Posts Tagged ‘John Cage


Exhibition: ‘Marion Kalter. Deep Time’ at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Austria

Exhibition dates: 26th February – 22nd May, 2022

Curators: Barbara Herzog, Kerstin Stremmel



Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Arles' 1975


Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the artist
© Bildrecht, Vienna, 2022



The blink of an eye

To my great chagrin I have to admit that after 30 years of studying photography I had never come across the work of the the Austrian artist Marion Kalter. No longer. While it is difficult, nah impossible, to portray the lifetime’s work of an artist in so few photographs, I hope this posting gives some insight into Kalter’s portrayal of her own mortality and the absence / presence of her family … and through her portraits of notable human beings reflect on how, when looking at photographs, we “participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability.” (Sontag)

Kalter is a storyteller. In one section of the exhibition Deep Time the artist extrapolates the concept – in 1788 Scottish geologist James Hutton “posited that geological features were shaped by cycles of sedimentation and erosion, a process of lifting up then grinding down rocks that required timescales much grander than those of prevailing Biblical narratives” – by plunging into the abyss of time to create photographs that transcend yet somehow affirm humanity.

While the Roman Catholic theologian Thomas Berry (1914-2009) explored the spiritual implications of the concept of Deep Time by proposing “that a deep understanding of the history and functioning of the evolving universe is a necessary inspiration and guide for our own effective functioning as individuals and as a species,”2 Kalter applies this understanding of the macrocosm of the universe to the microcosm of her family history as a guide to her own effective functioning. As the press release states, the photographs are “an investigation of how she has tried to gain a better understanding of her origins and family history and an exploration of how she has tried to reconstruct them visually. There are historical photographs on display, as well as images of objects that she liberated from suitcases and documented after the death of her parents. These sensitively staged photographs, which capture different layers of time, bring Kalter’s complex family history to life.” The complex history of an intimate deep time.

The highlight of the exhibition are the exceptional portrait photographs. Kalter is really good at taking portraits. And I mean really really good: i.e. one of the best portrait photographers I have seen in a very long time. Unlike the scientific, experimental and lumpy portraits by Man Ray (“I don’t even think he is a very good portrait photographer”), Kalter’s portraits just sing with music and energy, with spontaneity and consequence. What do I mean by consequence? I mean that these photographic portraits are an important testament to the existence of these human beings – they serve as a sign, or evidence, of the quality of these people’s lives, their presence and their aura. Here is Kalter’s joy at “picturing” these human beings: such a sharp eye, such a responsive, intuitive blink of an eye – the shutter is essentially a blink as it opens and closes – which reveals something of the spirit of these people, made up as they are of atoms of the cosmos and linked as they are to the deep time of the universe. Atoms to atoms, dust to dust.

Heidegger states. “We stand at once within the realm of that which hides itself from us, and hides itself just in approaching us. That which shows itself and at the same time withdraws is the essential trait of what we call the mystery… Releasement towards things and openness to the mystery belong together. They grant us the possibility of dwelling in the world in a totally different way…”3

Now and then, the photographer artist has entered this room: a room full of wonder and mystery, of happenstance and previsualisation – just look at the spontaneity of the photograph being taken by Henri Cartier-Bresson of Jean Paul Riopelle, not even looking through the camera, and Katler’s instantaneous response – the trained eye of the artist approaching the mystery of life with aware and unblinkered eyes.

Through a slight pause in motion (the blink of an eye), dwelling in the world in a totally different way.

Dr Marcus Bunyan


  1. David Farrier and Aeon. “How the Concept of Deep Time Is Changing,” on The Atlantic website November 1, 2016 [Online] Cited 03/04/2022
  2. Anonymous. “Deep Time,” on the Wikipedia website Nd [Online] Cited 03/04/2022
  3. Martin Heidegger. Discourse on Thinking. New York: Harper & Row, 1966, pp. 55-56

Many thankx to the Museum der Moderne Salzburg for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.


Marion Kalter’s (Salzburg, AT, 1951) photographs are always about human beings – they already captured the artist’s interest when she launched her career as a journalist. Celebrated writers including Anaïs Nin and Susan Sontag as well as visual artists like Joan Mitchell and Meret Oppenheim and the filmmaker Agnès Varda were among her sitters. The jazz poet Ted Joans also played an important role for her. They met in 1974, and it was through him that Kalter came into contact with the jazz scene and Surrealism. Kalter met photographers mostly at the Rencontres de la Photographie in Arles in the mid-1970s.

Deep Time is a search for the traces of Kalter’s childhood. Exhibited here are historical photographs and images of objects that she liberated from suitcases and documented after the death of her parents. Kalter’s sensitively staged photographs allow the different chronologies of these images to bring her complex family history vividly to life. Her unconditional way of experimenting with coincidence has enabled her to create a dense fabric of images over the years. It ends here with a series from 2017: a journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway.

Hartmann Books of Stuttgart has brought out a publication in German and English to accompany this exhibition.



Installation view of the exhibition 'Marion Kalter. Deep Time' at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Installation view of the exhibition 'Marion Kalter. Deep Time' at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Installation view of the exhibition 'Marion Kalter. Deep Time' at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Installation view of the exhibition 'Marion Kalter. Deep Time' at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg

At left: Arles, 1975; and at second left, Bank Pietrasanta, 1974

Installation view of the exhibition 'Marion Kalter. Deep Time' at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Installation view of the exhibition 'Marion Kalter. Deep Time' at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Installation view of the exhibition 'Marion Kalter. Deep Time' at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg

Installation view of the exhibition 'Marion Kalter. Deep Time' at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg

At left: private photos of my father’s life, 1933-1948; and at right, private photos of my mother’s life, 1939-1945

Installation view of the exhibition 'Marion Kalter. Deep Time' at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg

at left: Armoire; at second left bottom, self-portrait; and at centre right, self-portrait – all from the Different Trains 2019

Installation view of the exhibition 'Marion Kalter. Deep Time' at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg

At left: Andy Warhol signs the shirt of Alain Pacadis, Paris 1977; and at third left, Pol Bury at home watches television in Paris, 1975

Installation view of the exhibition 'Marion Kalter. Deep Time' at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg


Installation views of Marion Kalter. Deep Time at Museum der Moderne Salzburg, 2022
© Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Foto: Rainer Iglar



The photographs of Marion Kalter (Salzburg, AT, 1951) are always about people. As a young journalist, she was already interested in human subjects, such as the authors Anaïs Nin and Susan Sontag and the artists Joan Mitchell and Meret Oppenheim. Kalter’s encounter with the artist, musician, and performer Ted Joans proved to be decisive for her life and career as a photographer – Joans was an important figure in the American Beat Generation, which was centered around Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, and was a charismatic jazz poet. Kalter got to know Joans in Paris in 1974, where she was attending courses at the Académie des Beaux-Arts after having studied painting and art history in the United States. Kalter became close friends with Joans and accompanied him through Paris with her camera, going to the American Cultural Center and to galleries and readings at the bookshop Shakespeare and Company. She also went with him on trips to North Africa.

This immersion in the art, literature, and music worlds of Paris could be described as Kalter’s artistic awakening: she developed participatory observation into an intuitive artistic strategy – the art of being there and capturing the zeitgeist. Her photographs of well-known personalities in the Parisian art and culture scene testify to an open, curious photographic eye, aware of both what was “staged” and the game of chance involved in the pictorial exploration of unintentional events and situations.

It is thus no coincidence that one chapter of this exhibition, and of its accompanying publication, is entitled “Cadavre exquis.” With this title (which translates to “exquisite corpse”), Kalter refers to a famous parlour game that the Surrealists developed, in 1925, with the purpose of testing new ways of associative thinking. A sentence or drawing is created by several people on a piece of paper, which is folded so that no one sees what those before them have contributed. The resulting unpredictable combination of words, ideas, and images evokes a strangely hybrid, dreamlike visual world in which chance and collective authorship are united. Kalter refers to the law of chance as a creative concept, and assembled an impressive gallery of personalities whom she encountered at the time: Berenice Abbott, Gisèle Freund, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Agnès Varda, Michel Leiris, Francis Bacon, Annette Messager, John Cage, Chantal Akerman, Claude LéviStrauss, Marguerite Duras, Meret Oppenheim, and many more.

Kalter became acquainted with other photographers, including David Hurn, Mary Ellen Mark, Marc Riboud, and Ralph Gibson at the legendary Rencontres de la photographie in Arles in the mid-1970s and, at times, also acted as their translator. She saw photography no longer as solely a medium for recording reality but as a pictorial means of expression, interpretation, enactment, and personal memory.

The exhibition Deep Time is also a search through Kalter’s childhood: an investigation of how she has tried to gain a better understanding of her origins and family history and an exploration of how she has tried to reconstruct them visually. There are historical photographs on display, as well as images of objects that she liberated from suitcases and documented after the death of her parents. These sensitively staged photographs, which capture different layers of time, bring Kalter’s complex family history to life. Her parents met and married in Salzburg after the Second World War and moved to the United States after Marion Kalter was born. The family returned to Europe a few years later, and Kalter grew up in France, which remains her primary place of residence. In the late 1970s, when she was still a budding photographer, Kalter began a series of staged self-portraits at her family home in Chabenet, in the heart of France. They are characterised by a melancholic longing to reclaim the physical place, the time that had lapsed, and the life story of her late mother, all through the medium of her deceased mother’s papers and belongings – that is, through the poetics of things. It was at this time that Kalter was given her first commissions by the magazine Le Monde de la musique. This work regularly took Kalter back to her native city and made her a sought-after chronicler of the Salzburg Festival.

Kalter’s uninhibited delight in experimenting with the coincidences of life has over the years created a dense meshwork of images. It finds a provisional final chord in the present exhibition with her documentation of a journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway in 2017. She traveled to Beijing in the footsteps of her great-uncle Oscar Aaron, who had been compelled to make that same journey in 1940 to escape being murdered in Germany. Once again, a memory that must not be lost was what prompted Kalter’s journey – this time along the route taken by a man escaping persecution.

Press release from the Museum der Moderne Salzburg


Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Chabenet' 1975



Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Chabenet' 1978



Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Chasseneuil' 1976



Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Chabenet' France, 1978



Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Chabenet' France, 1979



Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Chabenet' France 1978



Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Armoire' Nd



Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Chabenet' 1983




My father and my mother’s father in a frame, France 1983


Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'HERSTORY' 1953-2015





My mother in Washington DC 1953


Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Private photos of my father's life' 1933-1948


Private photos of my father’s life 1933-1948


Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Private photos of my mother's life' 1939-1945




Most of these self-portraits were taken after my mother’s premature death (I was 16) in the family house in France where I grew up. It took me years to find out that both of my parents had kept their during-the-war-memories hidden, each in their own wardrobe. They had taken “different trains” during WWII. While my father had fled Germany with his mother and sister, my mother started a career as an actress first in Vienna, then in Berlin and Warsaw. She played in the “German Theater” as well as with the KdF (“Kraft durch Freude” or Strength through Joy) organisation for the entertainment of German troops.

Directly after the war, my father came back to Europe as an American and began work as an assistant at the Nürenberg “IG Farben” trial. Just like the plot of the film by Axel Corti and George Stefan Troller Welcome in Vienna, my parents met in Salzburg. The “meet-cute”: the German Jew returning to work for the American Army meets the Austrian actress entwined in post-Nazi Germany.

I have chosen to show family photographs and documents from that period along with my self-portraits.

Marion Kalter artist statement on her website 2019 [Online] Cited 12/03/2022


Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Untitled (self-portrait)' Nd



Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Bank Pietrasanta' 1974



Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Agnès Varda' Paris, 1977




Agnès Varda (French, born Arlette Varda, 30 May 1928 – 29 March 2019) was a Belgian-born French film director, screenwriter, photographer, and artist. Her pioneering work was central to the development of the widely influential French New Wave film movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Her films focused on achieving documentary realism, addressing women’s issues, and other social commentary, with a distinctive experimental style.

Varda’s work employed location shooting in an era when the limitations of sound technology made it easier and more common to film indoors, with constructed sets and painted backdrops of landscapes, rather than outdoors, on location. Her use of non-professional actors was also unconventional for 1950s French cinema. Varda’s feature film debut was La Pointe Courte (1955), followed by Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962), one of her most notable film narrative films, Vagabond (1985), and Kung Fu Master (1988). Varda was also known for her work as a documentarian with such works as Black Panthers (1968), The Gleaners and I (2000), The Beaches of Agnès (2008), Faces Places (2017), and her final film, Varda by Agnès (2019).

Director Martin Scorsese described Varda as “one of the Gods of Cinema”. Among several other accolades, Varda received an Honorary Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, an Academy Honorary Award, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. She was the first female director to be feted with an honorary Oscar.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Elvin Jones' Juan-les-Pins, 1975




Elvin Ray Jones (September 9, 1927 – May 18, 2004) was an American jazz drummer of the post-bop era.

Most famously a member of John Coltrane’s quartet, with whom he recorded from late 1960 to late 1965, Jones appeared on such widely celebrated albums as My Favorite Things, A Love Supreme, Ascension and Live at Birdland. After 1966, Jones led his own trio, and later larger groups under the name The Elvin Jones Jazz Machine. His brothers Hank and Thad were also celebrated jazz musicians with whom he occasionally recorded. Elvin was inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 1995. In his The History of Jazz, jazz historian and critic Ted Goia calls Jones “one of the most influential drummers in the history of jazz.”

Text from the Wikipedia website


Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Pol Bury at home watches television in Paris' 1975




Pol Bury (1922-2005) was a Belgian artist involved with the CoBrA group. He is primarily known for his kinetic sculptures, though he also produced collages and paintings. “I am searching for the point which exists between the moving and the non-moving,” the artist said of his practice. Born on April 26, 1922 in La Louvière, Belgium, Bury studied at the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Mons from 1938 to 1939, where he became influenced by the work of René Magritte and Yves Tanguy. In 1952, after seeing the mobile sculptures of Alexander Calder for the first time, Bury began creating motor-propelled weathervane-like sculptures. In the late 1960s, the artist created his first public work, a fountain on the campus of the University of Iowa Museum of Art in Iowa City. Bury died on September 28, 2005 in Paris, France.


Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Annette Messager at her studio in Paris 1977' Paris, 1977


Annette Messager at her studio in Paris 1977
Paris, 1977



Annette Messager (born 30 November 1943 in Berck, France) is a French visual artist. Messager is known mainly for her installation work which often incorporates photographs, prints and drawings, and various materials. Her work rejects traditional methods in visual arts such as painting in favour of “bricolage” works that combine media and subvert value systems, often making experimental use of methods traditionally designated to a “so-called feminine sensibility.” “I found my voice as an artist when I stepped on a dead sparrow on a street in Paris in 1971. I didn’t know why, but I was sure this sparrow was important because it was something very fragile that was near me and my life,” states Messager. The sparrow was soon joined by others and became the exhibit The Boarders, which launched her career in 1972.

In 2005, she represented France at the Venice Biennale, where she won the Golden Lion for her Pinocchio-inspired installation that transformed the French pavilion into a casino. One of her most famous pieces is her exhibition The Messengers, which showcases an installation of rooms that include a series of photographs and toy-like, hand knit animals in costumes. For example, some of the animals’ heads were replaced by heads of other stuffed animals to reflect the ways in which humans disguise themselves or transform their identities with costume.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'John Cage in the house of Dorothea Tanning' Paris 1979



Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Meret Oppenheim' Paris 1977




Surrealist artist Méret Oppenheim (Swiss, 1913-1985) catapulted to fame in 1936 with Object, a fur-covered tea set that became her most iconic work. Alongside her contemporaries Man Ray, André Breton, Dora Maar, and Max Ernst, Oppenheim developed an expansive multidisciplinary practice that embraced the uncanny and psychosexual. Throughout her paintings, drawings, jewellery, and mixed-media work, she riffed on everyday objects and explored themes of femininity, fantasy, dreams, identity, and the erotic. Oppenheim has been the subject of retrospectives at the Kunsthalle Bern, Moderna Museet, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts, among other institutions. In addition to her studio practice, Oppenheim collaborated with avant-garde Italian designer Elsa Schiaperelli on accessories and famously posed for Man Ray’s Erotique voilée (1933). Object now belongs in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art.

Text from the Artsy website


Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Karlheinz Stockhausen, Salzburg' 1995



Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Karl Kalter, Fasching' Munich 1995




Karl Kalter: My father in 1995 two weeks before his death in Munich during Carneval


Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Michel Leiris' Paris, 1979




Julien Michel Leiris (French, 20 April 1901 in Paris – 30 September 1990 in Saint-Hilaire, Essonne) was a French surrealist writer and ethnographer. Part of the Surrealist group in Paris, Leiris became a key member of the College of Sociology with Georges Bataille and head of research in ethnography at the CNRS.


Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'James Baldwin, Ted Joans' Paris 1976




James Arthur Baldwin (August 2, 1924 – December 1, 1987) was an American writer and activist. As a writer, he garnered acclaim across various mediums, including essays, novels, plays, and poems. His first novel, Go Tell It On The Mountain, was published in 1953; decades later, Time Magazine included the novel on its list of the 100 best English-language novels released from 1923 to 2005. His first essay collection, Notes of a Native Son, was published in 1955.

Baldwin’s work fictionalises fundamental personal questions and dilemmas amid complex social and psychological pressures. Themes of masculinity, sexuality, race, and class intertwine to create intricate narratives that run parallel with some of the major political movements toward social change in mid-twentieth century America, such as the civil rights movement and the gay liberation movement. Baldwin’s protagonists are often but not exclusively African American, and gay and bisexual men frequently feature prominently in his literature. These characters often face internal and external obstacles in their search for social and self-acceptance. Such dynamics are prominent in Baldwin’s second novel, Giovanni’s Room, which was written in 1956, well before the gay liberation movement.

His reputation has endured since his death and his work has been adapted for the screen to great acclaim. An unfinished manuscript, Remember This House, was expanded and adapted for cinema as the documentary film I Am Not Your Negro (2016), which was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 89th Academy Awards. One of his novels, If Beale Street Could Talk, was adapted into the Academy Award-winning film of the same name in 2018, directed and produced by Barry Jenkins.

In addition to writing, Baldwin was also a well-known, and controversial, public figure and orator, especially during the civil rights movement in the United States.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Theodore Joans (July 4, 1928 – April 25, 2003) was an American jazz poet, surrealist, trumpeter, and painter. His work stands at the intersection of several avant-garde streams and some have seen in it a precursor to the orality of the spoken-word movement. However he criticised the competitive aspect of “slam” poetry. Joans is known for his motto: “Jazz is my religion, and Surrealism is my point of view”.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Andy Warhol signs the shirt of Alain Pacadis' Paris 1977


Andy Warhol signs the shirt of Alain Pacadis
Paris 1977


Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Berenice Abbott and Gisèle Freund' Paris, 1977


Berenice Abbott and Gisèle Freund
Paris, 1977


Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Susan Sontag' Paris, 1979




I am especially moved by two portraits in this series. The first is of Susan Sontag, author of the famous essays collected in On photography (1973-1977), who was so devoted both to Paris, where she is buried, and to photography. She described herself as an “eternal photographic virgin,” but in fact she loved the camera and understood composition, as we see here and see so often in the photographs taken by her friend Annie Leibovitz, reflecting a state of both relaxed affection and that “density of abandonment” that her friend Barthes spoke of in connection with Robert Mapplethorpe’s Young Man with his Arm Extended (1975). And lastly there is Roland Barthes, standing at his window, lost in thought, expressionless – neither happy nor sad, neither present nor absent, drifting but not vague, the man who wrote such beautiful things about photography in Camera Lucida (1980). But one of his most astonishingly banal remarks is to be found in Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes (1977). In the margin of a photo of himself as a toddler, he wrote: “Contemporaries? I was learning to walk, Proust was still alive, and finishing La Recherche (1913-1927).” Sontag sees it differently: “To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.” To conclude: in that blink of an eye – the shutter is essentially a blink as it opens and closes – the photographer artist has entered this room; she, too, is in that bed, sitting beneath a framed picture, or covered by a white cloth, in a (fortuitous) echo of photographs by Duane Michals and Hervé Guibert, a phantom image hidden under the white sheet of the darkroom.

Extract from Renaud Machart. “The frame and the void,” on the Marion Kalter website November 2013 [Online] Cited 04/04/2022


Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Roland Barthes' Paris, 1979


Roland Barthes
Paris, 1979


Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Marguerite Duras, Yann Andréa' Paris, 1981




Marguerite Germaine Marie Donnadieu (French, 4 April 1914 – 3 March 1996), known as Marguerite Duras, was a French novelist, playwright, screenwriter, essayist, and experimental filmmaker. Her script for the film Hiroshima mon amour (1959) earned her a nomination for Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards.

Yann Andréa was born on December 24, 1952 in Guingamp, Brittany, France. He was an actor and writer, known for Cet amour-là (2001), I Want to Talk About Duras (2021) and L’homme atlantique (1981). He died on July 10, 2014 in Paris, France.


Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Pierre Boulez rehearses a work by Luciano Berio with the Ensemble Intercontemporain' Paris, 1989


Pierre Boulez rehearses a work by Luciano Berio with the Ensemble Intercontemporain
Paris, 1989


Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Henri Cartier-Bresson photographs Jean Paul Riopelle' Tanlay 1989


Henri Cartier-Bresson photographs Jean Paul Riopelle
Tanlay 1989


Marion Kalter (Austrian, b. 1951) 'Daido Moriyama in Paris' 2018




Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Mönchsberg 32
5020 Salzburg, Austria
Phone: +43 662 842220

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday: 10am – 6pm
Wednesday: 10am – 8pm
Monday: closed

Museum der Moderne Salzburg website


Back to top


Exhibition: ‘Face to Face: Portraits of Artists’ at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Exhibition dates: 26th June – 14th October 2018


Arnold Newman (American, 1918-2006) 'Isamu Noguchi' c. 1941-1945


Arnold Newman (American, 1918-2006)
Isamu Noguchi
c. 1941-1945
Gelatin silver print
Image: 7 7/16 × 9 1/2 inches
Sheet: 7 15/16 × 10 inches, mount (primary): 9 × 11 inches
Mount (secondary): 16 15/16 × 13 7/8 inches
Philadelphia Museum of Art: Gift of R. Sturgis and Marion B. F. Ingersoll, 1945



Isamu Noguchi (野口 勇 Noguchi Isamu, November 17, 1904-December 30, 1988) was a Japanese American artist and landscape architect whose artistic career spanned six decades, from the 1920s onward. Known for his sculpture and public works, Noguchi also designed stage sets for various Martha Graham productions, and several mass-produced lamps and furniture pieces, some of which are still manufactured and sold.

In 1947, Noguchi began a collaboration with the Herman Miller company, when he joined with George Nelson, Paul László and Charles Eames to produce a catalog containing what is often considered to be the most influential body of modern furniture ever produced, including the iconic Noguchi table which remains in production today. His work lives on around the world and at the Noguchi Museum in New York City. …

Upon his return to New York, Noguchi took a new studio in Greenwich Village. Throughout the 1940s, Noguchi’s sculpture drew from the ongoing surrealist movement; these works include not only various mixed-media constructions and landscape reliefs, but lunars – self-illuminating reliefs – and a series of biomorphic sculptures made of interlocking slabs. The most famous of these assembled-slab works, Kouros, was first shown in a September 1946 exhibition, helping to cement his place in the New York art scene.

Text from the Wikipedia website



No much to see here. A couple of interesting images but other than that the images are stylised and static, offering little insight into the “public personas of their creative subjects.” I have added biographical information to the posting to add some context to the photographs.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Many thankx to the Philadelphia 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.


Billie Holiday with her pit bull. Jacob Lawrence in his Coast Guard uniform. Georgia O’Keeffe with her Model A Ford. See how photographers helped craft the public personas of their creative subjects in this stunning collection of rare photographs from the Museum’s collection. The exhibition features works by Dorothy Norman, Man Ray, Richard Avedon, Alice O’Malley, and many others who captured some of the most fascinating artists and performers of the past 150 years.



Arnold Newman (American, 1918-2006) 'Jacob Lawrence' 1944


Arnold Newman (American, 1918-2006)
Jacob Lawrence
Gelatin silver print
Image and sheet: 9 1/2 × 4 inches
Sheet: 16 9/16 × 13 11/16 inches
Philadelphia Museum of Art: Gift of R. Sturgis and Marion B. F. Ingersoll, 1945



Jacob Lawrence (September 7, 1917 – June 9, 2000) was an African-American painter known for his portrayal of African-American life. As well as a painter, storyteller, and interpreter, he was an educator. Lawrence referred to his style as “dynamic cubism”, though by his own account the primary influence was not so much French art as the shapes and colours of Harlem. He brought the African-American experience to life using blacks and browns juxtaposed with vivid colours. He also taught and spent 15 years as a professor at the University of Washington.

Lawrence is among the best-known 20th-century African-American painters. He was 25 years old when he gained national recognition with his 60-panel Migration Series, painted on cardboard. The series depicted the Great Migration of African-Americans from the rural South to the urban North. A part of this series was featured in a 1941 issue of Fortune. The collection is now held by two museums: the odd-numbered paintings are on exhibit in the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., and the even-numbered are on display at MoMA in New York. Lawrence’s works are in the permanent collections of numerous museums, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, the Phillips Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and Reynolda House Museum of American Art. He is widely known for his modernist illustrations of everyday life as well as epic narratives of African American history and historical figures

Text from the Wikipedia website


Arnold Newman (1918-2006) 'Milton Avery' 1944


Arnold Newman (American, 1918-2006)
Milton Avery
Gelatin silver print
Image and sheet: 7 11/16 × 9 11/16 inches
Mount: 16 15/16 × 14 inches
Philadelphia Museum of Art: Gift of R. Sturgis and Marion B. F. Ingersoll, 1945



Milton Clark Avery (March 7, 1885 – January 3, 1965) was an American modern painter. Born in Altmar, New York, he moved to Connecticut in 1898 and later to New York City. According to painter Mark Rothko,

“What was Avery’s repertoire? His living room, Central Park, his wife Sally, his daughter March, the beaches and mountains where they summered; cows, fish heads, the flight of birds; his friends and whatever world strayed through his studio: a domestic, unheroic cast. But from these there have been fashioned great canvases, that far from the casual and transitory implications of the subjects, have always a gripping lyricism, and often achieve the permanence and monumentality of Egypt.”

Art critic Hilton Kramer said, “He was, without question, our greatest colourist… Among his European contemporaries, only Matisse – to whose art he owed much, of course – produced a greater achievement in this respect.”

Text from the Wikipedia website


Arnold Abner Newman (3 March 1918 – June 6, 2006) was an American photographer, noted for his “environmental portraits” of artists and politicians. He was also known for his carefully composed abstract still life images. …

Newman found his vision in the empathy he felt for artists and their work. Although he photographed many personalities – Marlene Dietrich, John F. Kennedy, Harry S. Truman, Piet Mondrian, Pablo Picasso, Arthur Miller, Marilyn Monroe, Ronald Reagan, Mickey Mantle, and Audrey Hepburn – he maintained that even if the subject is not known, or is already forgotten, the photograph itself must still excite and interest the viewer.

Newman is often credited with being the first photographer to use so-called environmental portraiture, in which the photographer places the subject in a carefully controlled setting to capture the essence of the individual’s life and work. Newman normally captured his subjects in their most familiar surroundings with representative visual elements showing their professions and personalities. A musician for instance might be photographed in their recording studio or on stage, a Senator or other politician in their office or a representative building. Using a large-format camera and tripod, he worked to record every detail of a scene.

“I didn’t just want to make a photograph with some things in the background,” Newman told American Photo magazine in an interview. “The surroundings had to add to the composition and the understanding of the person. No matter who the subject was, it had to be an interesting photograph. Just to simply do a portrait of a famous person doesn’t mean a thing.”

Text from the Wikipedia website



This summer, the Philadelphia Museum of Art presents a unique selection of photographic portraits of artists, from the French painter Henri Matisse to American writer Eudora Welty and the great jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald as well as many other figures in the world of the visual, literary, performing arts. Ranging in date from the late nineteenth century to the present, the compelling images in Face to Face reveal the expressive ways in which artists have used photography not only to portray their subjects but also to promote or shape their own celebrity. Many of the photographs in this exhibition represent artists whose work can be seen in Modern Times: American Art 1910-1950, on view concurrently at the Museum. Among these are portraits of Berenice Abbott, George Biddle, Arthur B. Carles, Jacob Lawrence, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Alfred Stieglitz.

Of special note are several groups of pictures of artists, such as Marcel Duchamp, Thomas Eakins, Frida Kahlo, O’Keeffe and Stieglitz, who skilfully crafted their public personae through photography. Stieglitz and O’Keeffe realised the power of photographs to shape their public reputation, and over time were the subjects of many portraits. By contrast, most of the images of Kahlo in the Museum’s collection are from a single session with her art dealer and friend Julien Levy, who produced what appears to be a collaborative and intimate exploration of her artistic identity. Another photograph from this same session, recently discovered, shows Levy’s future wife, Muriel Streeter, wearing some of Kahlo’s clothes, adding another dimension to this intriguing series.

Consisting of over one hundred works, the exhibition is centred around two groups of portraits by Arnold Newman and Carl Van Vechten that are foundational to the Museum’s photography collection. Newman’s portraits were featured in the Museum’s inaugural photography exhibition in 1945, titled Artists Look Like This. Among the subjects depicted are such well-known figures as cartoonist Saul Steinberg and painter Piet Mondrian, as well as illustrator Peggy Bacon and painter Robert Gwathmey. The sitters captured by Van Vechten – a novelist and artistic patron who photographed those he knew well – include Ella Fitzgerald and Zora Neale Hurston, Bessie Smith and Ethel Waters. Writer James Baldwin, sculptor Richmond Barthé and painter Aaron Douglas are also highlights of this group.

Peter Barberie, The Brodsky Curator of Photographs, Alfred Stieglitz Center, said: “We are delighted to share these portraits of some of the most creative people of the past century and to take this opportunity to explore an important aspect of our collection.”

Press release from the Philadelphia Museum of Art website


Carl Van Vechten (American, 1880-1964) 'Zora Neale Hurston' April 3, 1935


Carl Van Vechten (American, 1880-1964)
Zora Neale Hurston
April 3, 1935
Gelatin silver print
Image and sheet: 9 5/8 × 7 1/8 inches
Philadelphia Museum of Art: Gift of John Mark Lutz, 1965



Zora Neale Hurston (January 7, 1891 – January 28, 1960) was an influential author of African-American literature and anthropologist, who portrayed racial struggles in the early 20th century American South, and published research on Haitian voodoo. Of Hurston’s four novels and more than 50 published short stories, plays, and essays, her most popular is the 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Hurston was born in Notasulga, Alabama, and moved to Eatonville, Florida, with her family in 1894. Eatonville would become the setting for many of her stories and is now the site of the Zora! Festival, held each year in Hurston’s honour. In her early career, Hurston conducted anthropological and ethnographic research while attending Barnard College. While in New York she became a central figure of the Harlem Renaissance. Her short satires, drawing from the African-American experience and racial division, were published in anthologies such as The New Negro and Fire!! After moving back to Florida, Hurston published her literary anthropology on African-American folklore in North Florida, Mules and Men (1935) and her first three novels: Jonah’s Gourd Vine (1934); Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937); and Moses, Man of the Mountain (1939). Also published during this time was Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica (1938), documenting her research on rituals in Jamaica and Haiti.

Hurston’s works touched on the African-American experience and her struggles as an African-American woman. Her novels went relatively unrecognised by the literary world for decades, but interest revived after author Alice Walker published “In Search of Zora Neale Hurston” in the March 1975 issue of Ms. Magazine. Hurston’s manuscript Every Tongue Got to Confess (2001), a collection of folktales gathered in the 1920s, was published posthumously after being discovered in the Smithsonian archives. Her nonfiction book Barracoon was published posthumously in 2018.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Carl Van Vechten (American, 1880-1964) 'Ella Fitzgerald' January 19, 1940


Carl Van Vechten (American, 1880-1964)
Ella Fitzgerald
January 19, 1940
Gelatin silver print
Image and sheet: 9 15/16 × 7 15/16 inches
Philadelphia Museum of Art: Gift of John Mark Lutz, 1965



Carl Van Vechten (June 17, 1880 – December 21, 1964) was an American writer and artistic photographer who was a patron of the Harlem Renaissance and the literary executor of Gertrude Stein. He gained fame as a writer, and notoriety as well, for his novel Nigger Heaven. In his later years, he took up photography and took many portraits of notable people. Although he was married to women for most of his adult life, Van Vechten engaged in numerous homosexual affairs over his lifetime.

By the start of the 1930s and at age 50, Van Vechten was finished with writing and took up photography, using his apartment at 150 West 55th Street as a studio, where he photographed many notable persons.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946) 'Georgia O'Keeffe - After Return from New Mexico' 1929


Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Georgia O’Keeffe – After Return from New Mexico
Gelatin silver print
Image/Sheet/Mount: 3 1/16 × 4 11/16 inches
Mount (secondary): 13 1/2 × 10 11/16 inches
125th Anniversary Acquisition
The Alfred Stieglitz Collection, purchased with the gift (by exchange) of Dr. and Mrs. Paul Todd Makler, the Lynne and Harold Honickman Fund for Photography, the Alice Newton Osborn Fund, and the Lola Downin Peck Fund, with funds contributed by Mr. and Mrs. John J. F. Sherrerd, Lynne and Harold Honickman, John J. Medveckis, and M. Todd Cooke, and gift of The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation, 1997


Peter A. Juley & Son (American) 'Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo with Lucile and Arnold Blanch at Coyoacán' c. 1930


Peter A. Juley & Son (American)
Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo with Lucile and Arnold Blanch at Coyoacán
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print
Image and sheet: 9 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches
Philadelphia Museum of Art: Gift of Carl Zigrosser, 1975



Peter A. Juley & Son collection at The Smithsonian

The Juleys photographed the work of turn-of-the-century painters such as Childe Hassam, Thomas Eakins, and Albert Pinkham Ryder; ash can school artists such as Robert Henri and John Sloan; the avant-garde group associated with Alfred Stieglitz; regionalists of the 1930 and 1940s such as Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood; abstract expressionists such as Hans Hoffman and Robert Motherwell; and sculptors such as Daniel Chester French and William Zorach.

The Juley collection also holds some 4,700 photographic portraits of artists. These images capture some of the best-known artists of the twentieth century, including Thomas Hart Benton, Alexander Calder, Stuart Davis, Edward Hopper, Frida Kahlo, Jacob Lawrence, Barnett Newman, Diego Rivera, and Grant Wood. Many of the portraits depict artists at work in their studios or at home with their families and offer glimpses into the artistic and social climate of the period.

Group photography by the Juley firm records the histories of the National Academy of Design and Art Students League and documents important summer art colonies at Provincetown, Massachusetts; Woodstock, New York; Old Lyme, Connecticut; and Ogunquit, Maine. In addition to the negatives produced by the Juley’s, the firm also acquired valuable negatives from other fine arts photographers, including Myra Albert, A. B. Bogart, George C. Cox, Walter Russell, A. E. Sproul, and De Witt Ward, to broaden its holdings.

Text from The Smithsonian Institution website


Man Ray (American, 1890-1976) 'George Biddle Painting a Portrait of Man Ray' 1941


Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
George Biddle Painting a Portrait of Man Ray
Gelatin silver print
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Gift of C. K. Williams, II, 2003
© Man Ray Trust / Arts Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris



George Biddle (January 24, 1885 – November 6, 1973) was an American painter, muralist and lithographer, best known for his social realism and combat art. A childhood friend of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, he played a major role in establishing the Federal Art Project (1935-1943), which employed artists under the Works Progress Administration. …

Some factors that contributed to Biddle’s artwork are the many art movements that he was involved in. Biddle was involved in “French Impressionism; the American Ashcan School; the School of Paris and Cubism during those early and exciting days when it first exploded on the world; Regionalism, the Mexican Mural Movement, and the New Deal Subsidy of Art”. He also was involved in the “post war currents of contemporary art”. Many of his works of art were contemporary. Another factor that contributed to Biddle’s artwork were his friendships with many great “painters, sculptors, and critics of the past generation and his life-long activity in behalf of fellow artists”. He borrowed many of the other artists’ styles and turned them into his own by using different techniques and images to get a different effect. Biddle believed that everyone’s life should be influenced by every “fact with which one comes in contact, until one ceases to grow or is, actually dead”. This is the reason why Biddle became such a successful American artist; he had his own style, and expressed real actual events.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Irving Penn (American, 1917-2009) 'Elsa Schiaparelli' 1948 (negative), c. 1948 (print)


Irving Penn (American, 1917-2009)
Elsa Schiaparelli
1948 (negative), c. 1948 (print)
Gelatin silver print
Image and sheet: 10 1/8 × 8 1/8 inches
Philadelphia Museum of Art: Gift of the artist, 2005



Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973) was an Italian fashion designer. Along with Coco Chanel, her greatest rival, she is regarded as one of the most prominent figures in fashion between the two World Wars. Starting with knitwear, Schiaparelli’s designs were heavily influenced by Surrealists like her collaborators Salvador Dalí and Jean Cocteau. Her clients included the heiress Daisy Fellowes and actress Mae West. Schiaparelli did not adapt to the changes in fashion following World War II and her couture house closed in 1954.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Sonia Katchian (American, born Lebanon, 1947) 'Muhammed Ali' 1974


Sonia Katchian (American born Lebanon, b. 1947)
Muhammed Ali
Gelatin silver print
Image: 11 7/8 x 8 inches
Sheet: 13 15/16 x 11 inches
Philadelphia Museum of Art: 125th Anniversary Acquisition. The Lynne and Harold Honickman Gift of the Julien Levy Collection, 2001



Sonia Katchian immigrated to the U.S. from Beirut, Lebanon, where she was born to Armenian parents. She is a Barnard College graduate. A New Yorker for 23 years, she was the first woman photographer hired by The N.Y. Post, was affiliated with Black Star photo agency, and was a founding member of the Soho Photo Gallery. She worked for W. Eugene Smith. In 1982 she established Photo Shuttle: Japan, moving her photo business to Tokyo, where she shuttled between NY and Tokyo for 12 years. She is currently based outside Chapel Hill, NC, where she produces fine-art portfolios, consults and shoots documentary and commercial projects – both still and video.


Dorothy Norman (American, 1905-1997) 'John Cage' 1970s


Dorothy Norman (American, 1905-1997)
John Cage
Gelatin silver print
2 15/16 × 2 3/4 inches (7.4 × 7cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
From the Collection of Dorothy Norman, 1984



Dorothy Norman (28 March 1905-12 April 1997) was an American photographer, writer, editor, arts patron and advocate for social change. …

Norman never worked as a professional photographer, instead capturing images of friends, loved ones and prominent figures in the arts and in politics. People she photographed include Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Thomas Mann (with his wife Katia, or Katy), John Cage, Marcel Duchamp, Bernard Berenson, Albert Einstein, Theodore Dreiser, Elia Kazan, Lewis Mumford and Sherwood Anderson. She also photographed special sites, special trees, special harbours, special churches and buildings. She detailed the interior of An American Place, Stieglitz’s last gallery. She created an extended portrait study of Stieglitz (he returned the favour by creating a similar study of Norman).

Norman’s photographic work is noted for its clarity of vision, masterful mix of light and shading, and professional-quality printing techniques. Norman chose provocative aphorisms by contemporary and historical writers, male and female, and from various cultures, to accompany the thematic groups of photographs in sections of MoMA’s world-touring exhibition The Family of Man for its curator Edward Steichen, a long-term associate of Alfred Stieglitz.

Text from the Wikipedia website


John Milton Cage Jr. (September 5, 1912 – August 12, 1992) was an American composer and music theorist. A pioneer of indeterminacy in music, electroacoustic music, and non-standard use of musical instruments, Cage was one of the leading figures of the post-war avant-garde. Critics have lauded him as one of the most influential composers of the 20th century. He was also instrumental in the development of modern dance, mostly through his association with choreographer Merce Cunningham, who was also Cage’s romantic partner for most of their lives.

Cage is perhaps best known for his 1952 composition 4’33”, which is performed in the absence of deliberate sound; musicians who present the work do nothing aside from being present for the duration specified by the title. The content of the composition is not “four minutes and 33 seconds of silence,” as is often assumed, but rather the sounds of the environment heard by the audience during performance. The work’s challenge to assumed definitions about musicianship and musical experience made it a popular and controversial topic both in musicology and the broader aesthetics of art and performance. Cage was also a pioneer of the prepared piano (a piano with its sound altered by objects placed between or on its strings or hammers), for which he wrote numerous dance-related works and a few concert pieces. The best known of these is Sonatas and Interludes (1946-1948).

Text from the Wikipedia website


Henry Horenstein (American, b. 1947) 'Mother Maybelle Carter, Lone Star Ranch, Reeds Ferry, NH' 1973


Henry Horenstein (American, b. 1947)
Mother Maybelle Carter, Lone Star Ranch, Reeds Ferry, NH
Gelatin silver print
9 × 5 15/16 inches (22.9 × 15.1cm)
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Purchased with funds contributed in memory of Judith Taylor, 2013



Henry Horenstein (born 1947, New Bedford, Massachusetts) is an American artist / photographer. He studied history at the University of Chicago and earned his BFA and MFA at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where he is now professor of photography. He has worked as a professional photographer, teacher, and author since the early 1970s. A student of photographers / teachers Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind, and Minor White, Horenstein is the author of over 30 books, including a series of instructional textbooks that have been used by hundreds of thousands of photography students over the past 40 years.

“Mother” Maybelle Carter (born Maybelle Addington; May 10, 1909 – October 23, 1978) was an American country musician. She is best known as a member of the historic Carter Family act in the 1920s and 1930s and also as a member of Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters.

Texts from the Wikipedia website



Philadelphia Museum of Art
26th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia, PA 19130

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday: 10am – 5pm

Philadelphia Museum of Art website


Back to top


Exhibition: ‘Alexander Calder: Avant-Garde in Motion’ at the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf

Exhibition dates: 7th September 2013 – 12th January 2014


Many thankx to the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.



'Alexander Calder: Avant-Garde in Motion' Installation photographs

'Alexander Calder: Avant-Garde in Motion' Installation photographs

'Alexander Calder: Avant-Garde in Motion' Installation photographs

'Alexander Calder: Avant-Garde in Motion' Installation photographs


Alexander Calder: Avant-Garde in Motion
Installation photographs
Fotos: Achim Kukulies, © Calder Foundation, New York / Artists’ Rights Society (ARS), New York
© Kunstsammlung NRW



“These hesitations and resumptions, gropings and fumblings, sudden decisions and, most especially, marvellous swan-like nobility make Calder’s mobiles strange creatures, mid-way between matter and life.”

Jean-Paul Sartre, 1946



For the first time in 20 years, a German museum is presenting a major selection of works by the American sculptor Alexander Calder (1898-1976). With the exhibition Alexander Calder: Avant-Garde in Motion, the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen invites art lovers to reevaluate Calder as an astonishingly multifaceted member of the twentieth century avant-garde. Never before has the artistic oeuvre of this pioneer of Kineticism been presented in its surprising proximity and intimate interplay with the experimental film and music of its time. This approach highlights the intellectual universality of an artist whose mobiles are familiar worldwide today.

The focus of the exhibition at the K20 Grabbeplatz is the 1930s and 1940s, documenting Calder’s path toward abstraction and his lifelong friendships with members of the European avant-garde. On view in two exhibition halls are approximately 70 works, ranging from small-scale works in wood and sheet metal to the monumental steel stabile Le Tamanoir (1963), weighing 2300 kilograms, on loan from Rotterdam. A special architectural feature of this presentation is the long, accessible catwalk in the Kleehalle, which will offer visitors unexpected perspectives of the suspended mobiles.

For the Düsseldorf exhibition, Calder’s first solo show of abstract works at the Galerie Percier in Paris in 1931, has been partially documented as a crucial station on the path toward his singular formal language. His artistic friendships during his time in Paris are highlighted by important individual paintings by Piet Mondrian, Joan Miró, and Hans Arp that are found today in the collection of the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen. The impulse that initiated this major exhibition project was modest in proportions: in 2008, the sculpture Untitled, dating from 1936, was acquired by the Federal State of North-Rhine Westphalia, and hence and came into the possession of the Kunstsammlung. This work is among Calder’s relatively unknown “noise-mobiles,” which generate sound through the gentle pendular movement of a ball that hangs from a wire. A complex work, Untitled connects various phases of Calder’s career, pointing toward the beginning of the wire sculptures of the 1920s and also the “sonorous” mobiles of the later period, which are set in motion by air currents. The forms of the individual elements signal Calder’s turn toward abstraction, but also resemble the organic language typical of the works of Arp and Miró.

Like no other American artist, and in a way comparable only with his friend Man Ray, Calder was a consistent member of Parisian avant-garde circles between 1926 and 1933. He was recognised by the main representatives of a range of artistic tendencies, yet never allowed himself to be drawn into the rivalry between abstraction and Surrealism. During these years, Calder moved uninhibitedly between various orientations, positioning his work in the field of tension residing between Mondrian’s cool geometric compositional structures and the biomorphic, playful abstractions of Miró and Arp. The exhibition features in particular the abstract works Calder produced after a legendary and pivotal experience in Paris: in the fall of 1930, he visited Mondrian’s studio and was deeply impressed by the space’s total composition, in particular by the black-and-white structuring of a wall on which coloured rectangles were mounted for study purposes. In his autobiography, Calder characterises his visit to this environment as a “shock” that prompted him to reevaluate his artistic production to date.

During the ensuing weeks, he produced abstract paintings exclusively – a brief intermezzo. Subsequently, he developed his first nonobjective, spatial wire constructions. In the autumn of 1931, the influences of the preceding years found a more distinct expression in Calder’s art when he produced the first moving sculptures by a system of motors or cranks. Marcel Duchamp gave them the name “mobile,” a word that means both “motion” and “motive” in French. The mechanics were abandoned as Calder developed hanging kinetic sculptures, which are linked together by wires and joints and held in a state of equilibrium; through the principle of contingent and dynamic rotation, the individual parts continually form new and unanticipated constellations. As a counterpart to the mobiles, Calder developed immobile constructions, which Hans Arp dubbed “stabiles” in 1932.

Contributing to our understanding of Calder’s works are experimental films, likely seen by Calder during his time in Paris, in which movement and rotation are thematised in their most various facets. During the 1920s, many artists in Calder’s intimate circle were preoccupied with the medium of cinema and the moving image, for example Fernand Léger with Ballet Mechanique (1924), Marcel Duchamp with Anémic Cinéma (1926), and Man Ray with Le Retour à la Raison (1923). In the exhibition, these experimental films will be screened as part of the broader context of Calder’s studies of movement and space. Indispensable to a comprehensive presentation of Calder’s involvement in the historic avant-garde is a consideration of the experimental music of the time: Calder cultivated friendships with the composers Edgard Varèse, Virgil Thomson, and John Cage, among others. Calder was intensively preoccupied with contemporary music, which is also incorporated into the exhibition. And it seems likely that it also exerted an influence on the “noise-mobiles,” for which the randomness of sound events plays an important role.”

Alexander Calder: Avant-Garde in Motion is on show at the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, in two large exhibition halls at the K20 Grabbeplatz in Düsseldorf. In the Klee Hall the visitor will experience Calder’s early sculptures – set against works by trend-setting fellow artists, such as Mondrian, Miró and Arp, as well as artistic and documentary films. In the high Grabbehall, by contrast, the large mobiles and stabiles will be exhibited to impressive effect by allowing the individual shapes to move freely. Here the visitor can experience how the artist makes playful use of space and proportions. At various points throughout the exhibition, Calder’s mobiles enter into a dialogue with experimental music dating from the 1920s onwards, ranging from compositions by Edgar Varèse to those of John Cage. This illustrates how Calder constantly sought inspiration from other branches of the arts and broadened his own horizons.

Press release from the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen website


Alexander Calder. 'Quatre systèmes rouges' (mobile) 1960


Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
Quatre systèmes rouges (mobile)
Iron, steel wire, colour
155 x 200 x 200cm
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Dänemark, Donation: The New Carlsberg Foundation
© 2013 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Foto: Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Dänemark
Foto: © 2013 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
© Kunstsammlung NRW


Alexander Calder. 'Araignée d'oignon' (Onion peeler) c. 1940


Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
Araignée d’oignon (Onion peeler)
c. 1940
21.8 × 35 × 36.5cm
Moderna Museet, Stockholm
© 2013 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, Foto: Moderna Museet, Stockholm
Foto: © 2013 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Foto: Moderna Museet, Stockholm
© Kunstsammlung NRW


Alexander Calder. 'Constellation with Red Object' 1943


Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
Constellation with Red Object
Wood, steel wire, colour
62.2 x 38.7 x 24.1cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, James Thrall Soby Fund, 1943
© 2013 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Foto: © 2012 Digital image, The Museum of Modern Art, New York/ Scala, Florence
© Kunstsammlung NRW


Alexander Calder. 'Little Spider' c. 1940


Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
Little Spider
c. 1940
Sheet metal, steel wire, colour
111.1 x 127 x 139.7cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Klaus G. Perls
© 2013 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Foto: Image courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington
Foto: © 2013 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Foto: Image courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington
© Kunstsammlung NRW


Alexander Calder. 'Performing Seal' 1950


Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
Performing Seal
83.8 × 58.4 × 91.4cm
Sheet metal, steel wire, colour
Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. The Leonard and Ruth Horwich Family Loan
© 2013 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Foto: Nathan Keay, © Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
Foto: © 2013 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Foto: Nathan Keay, © Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
© Kunstsammlung NRW


Alexander Calder. 'Portrait of a Man' c. 1928


Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
Portrait of a Man
c. 1928
32.5 x 22.2 x 34.2cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the artist, 1966
© 2013 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Foto: © 2012 Digital image, The Museum of Modern Art, New York/ Scala, Florence
© Kunstsammlung NRW


Alexander Calder. 'Upstanding T' 1944


Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
Upstanding T
78 x 37 x 25cm
Calder Foundation, New York
© 2013 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Foto: Courtesy Calder Foundation, New York / Art Resource, New York
Foto: © 2013 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Foto: Courtesy Calder Foundation, New York / Art Resource, New York
© Kunstsammlung NRW


Alexander Calder. 'Ohne Titel' (Untitled) 1936


Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
Ohne Titel (Untitled)
Standing Mobile (stehendes Mobile)
Steel sheets, steel wire, wooden ball, black, gray, red, blue and yellow painted
75.5 x 32.8 x 41cm
Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, Leihgabe des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen
© 2013 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Foto: Achim Kukulies, Düsseldorf
Foto: © 2013 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Foto: Achim Kukulies, Düsseldorf
© Kunstsammlung NRW


Alexander Calder. 'Untitled' c. 1934


Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
c. 1934
Steel tube, round bar, wood, wire, paint, string
114.5 x 94cm
Calder Foundation, New York
© 2013 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Foto: Courtesy Calder Foundation, New York / Art Resource, New York
Foto: © 2013 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Foto: Courtesy Calder Foundation, New York / Art Resource, New York
© Kunstsammlung NRW


Alexander Calder. 'Cello on a spindle' 1936


Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
Cello on a spindle
158 × 118 × 90cm
Metal, wood, lead, colour
Kunsthaus Zürich
© 2013 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Foto: Kunsthaus Zürich
Foto: © 2013 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Foto: Kunsthaus Zürich
© Kunstsammlung NRW



Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen
Grabbeplatz 5
D-40213 Düsseldorf

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday 10am – 6pm
Saturdays, Sundays, holidays 11am – 6pm
Mondays closed

Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen website


Back to top

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.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. If you would like to unsubscribe from the email list please email me at and I will remove you asap. Thank you.

Join 2,831 other followers

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

Follow Art_Blart on Twitter
Art Blart on Pinterest

Blog Stats

  • 11,964,034 hits

Lastest tweets

May 2022



If you would like to unsubscribe from the email list please email me at and I will remove you asap. Thank you.

Join 2,831 other followers