Erwin Blumenfeld, from Dada to Vogue

Today is the last day of the office in Cavendish Square, with the advantage of the Mayfair galleries just a short step away. So very glad to have caught a great exhibition of work by Erwin Blumenfeld this lunchtime at Osborne Samuel on Bruton Street – Erwin Blumenfeld: From Dada to Vogue.

The exhibition includes some of his brilliant early work in collage as well as a wonderful selection of his experimental photography.

Erwin Blumenfeld: From Dada to Vogue

Nude, Paris, 1938

Above, Left: Nude, Paris, 1938

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Above: Hitlerfresse, Amsterdam, 1933

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Above: Shadow of the Eiffel Tower, Paris

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Born in Berlin in 1897 Blumenfeld left Germany after the First World War, settling first in Holland, where he established a Dutch arm of the Dadaist movement, then Paris, where he made some of his most famous images, including Nude Under Wet Silk (1937).

Fleeing France in 1941 he settled in New York where he became one of the most internationally sought-after portrait and fashion photographers in the 1940s and 1950s. Remember his iconic Vogue cover of 1950 (not in the exhibition):

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For more information see http://www.erwinblumenfeld.com/

From Dada to Vogue until 29th October 2016: www.osbornesamuel.com

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William Eggleston at The NPG

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I wish I could say I had known all about and studied ‘legendary Memphis photographer’ William Eggleston before I read about the current exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. But, I don’t think I had ever heard of him. And that’s a big omission because his work is extraordinary. An education for the eye.

The pin sharp focus and vivd colour of his portraits give them a stunning presence, combined with a certain mystery and, in some cases, dread. Like the shot of his friend, the strange Memphis dentist TC Boring (though on this evidence boring he most certainly wasn’t; except perhaps in his day job), standing nude in his graffitied, black and red bedroom; it’s as if the image prefigures the violent death of its subject – Boring was later murdered by locals and his house set on fire.

And this strange picture (above) of Marcia Hare in Memphis, lying on the grass and yet almost floating above the surface – an effect created by the sharp focus on just the small area of the buttons on her dress, her outstretched arm and the camera. Hanging alongside this image is another portrait of Marcia, this time dancing (as if no one’s watching) – with a very similar body configuration, as this photo of the exhibition shows, taken before I discovered no photography was allowed:

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The portraits are not portraits in the traditional sense; frozen moments in time but not character studies. Most are ‘Untitled’, the name of the subject in some of the photos revealed for the first time in this exhibition.

Another stand out image, printed in grand scale, of the artist’s uncle with his assistant who unconsciously mimics his employer’s pose; the one open door lends a strange, uneasy air to the image.

eggleston 3Whatever your knowledge or interest in photography, if you possibly can do go see this exhibition. It’s a glimpse of the work of a master.

William Eggleston, Portraits. National Portrait Gallery, 21 July – 23 October 2016.

Irving Penn – Flowers

Very glad to have caught the Irving Penn Flowers exhibition at Hamiltons Gallery yesterday. This is, apparently, the first time all the pictures in Penn’s flower series have been shown together and it makes for a brilliant exhibition.

The fabulously rich colours blaze off the walls of the gallery space, each flower revealed in exquisite detail against a plain white backdrop.

Flowers by Irving Penn

 

The images capture the sensual beauty of the form, pattern and colour of each flower and, by choosing to photograph specimens that “have passed the point of perfection, when they have already begun spotting and browning and twisting on their way back to the earth” Penn also imbues each image with a sense of time passing – Life, sex and death; it’s all here.

There is an intense physicality about some of the flowers, with their petals spread wide to expose the stamens and ovaries – pollination as aching desire. Nevertheless the photographs I would really love to hang on my wall are the almost monochrome Dandelion and Single Oriental Poppy, the taut delicacy of each tiny filament caught in thrilling detail.

Irving Penn Flowers

About the Flower series

From the catalogue:

Penn’s Flowers series was initiated from an assignment by American Vogue for the 1967 Christmas edition. This became the first of seven annual assignments that Penn would photograph flowers for Vogue, each year devoting himself to one class of flower. The photographs were collectively published as a book Flowers in 1980: 1967, Tulips; 1968, Poppies; 1968, Peonies; 1969, Orchids; 1970, Roses; 1971, Lilies; 1973, Begonias (Penn also photographed wildflowers in 1973 which appeared in Vogue’s 1974 Christmas edition but were excluded from the Flowers book). Thereafter, Penn returned to the subject right up until his death in 2009.

Irving Penn Flowers