Lot 74
  • 74

El Lissitzky

25,000 - 35,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • El Lissitzky
  • Gelatin silver print
  • 7 x 9 3/8 inches
inscribed by Sophie Lissitzky-Küppers, the photographer's wife, in Cyrillic script in ink on the reverse, 1930


Collection of the photographer

By descent to Jen Lissitzky, the photographer's son

Collection of Barry Friedman, New York

Christie's New York, The Image as Object: Photographs from the Collection of Barry Friedman, 5 October 1998, Sale 9026, Lot 69


Hannover, Sprengel Museum, El Lissitzky: Jenseits der Abstraktion: Fotografie, Design, Kooperation, January - April 1999; and traveling thereafter to Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona, July - September 1999, and Fundação de Serralves, Portugal, September - November 1999


This print:

El Lissitzky: Experiments in Photography (Houk Friedman, 1991), pl. 22 

Margarita Tupitsyn, El Lissitzky: Beyond the Abstract Cabinet (Yale University Press, 1999), p. 215, fig. 10, cat. 95

Catalogue Note

The title of this photomontage comes from the Sergei Tretyakov play of the same name.  This controversial play centers on the character Milda, a woman who wants to have a model proletarian baby, but without a husband.  Intended to provoke a discussion on the topics of sex, eugenics, and the organization of society, the play was ultimately banned by the Russian authorities.  Prominent producer Vsevold Meyerhold tried for years to stage a performance of the play, and asked El Lissitzky to design the set.  Despite Meyerhold’s efforts, I Want a Child never opened. 

The present photomontage combines in the foreground an image of the photographer’s infant son, Jen (‘Boris’) Lissitzky and the Russian Communist newspaper, Pravda; in the background is an image of Lissitzky at work on his model set for the play.  On the reverse of the print, Lissitzky’s wife, Sophie, has captioned the photograph in Cyrillic script, which loosely translated, reads:  ‘Project for the play by Tretyakov ‘I Want a Baby.’ El Lissitzky and his son Boris. Photograph.’ 

Lissitzky was one of the great triumvirate of artist/designer/photographers, along with Moholy-Nagy and Alexander Rodchenko, who championed photography’s primacy in the making of the art of their time.  The three were alert to photography’s ‘plastic’ nature—its ability to achieve a vast array of artistic effects, through montage, collage, and the photogram technique, often in combination with text.  They understood its ability to function simultaneously as a tool for communication and for personal expression, as illustrated by the image offered here.