Three of a kind: Modernism

Three of a Kind: Modernist Photography

By Sotheby's
This distinguished private collection represents a celebration of modernist photography through 12 prints of exceptional quality, rarity and provenance.

O ne of the main figures of modernity in photography is Edward Steichen, whose image of the George Washington Bridge demonstrates an incredible audacity in its use of angles and framing. Another figure of the early 20th century avant-garde, Man Ray, created surrealist portraits of his close friends and artists, such as this astonishing portrait of Giacometti. One cannot forget the social and constructivist vision of modernity that is apparent in the group of gymnasts captured by Rodchenko.

The contexts, careers and personal stories of these artists reflect the diversity of modernism in this collection of prints. It shows us how the different genres (abstraction, portrait, nude, landscape) have been reinvented, and have contributed to change our view of the world.

1. Edward Steichen (1879 – 1973), George Washington Bridge, 1931. Vintage silver print on the reverse, titled in pencil matted and framed.

First made on assignment for Vanity Fair magazine for its January 1932 issue, Steichen focuses on the subject of modern architecture from the 1930s. When it opened in 1931, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world. The choice of the angle emphasises the scale of the bridge while giving it depth. The subject of the bridge was also celebrated by the impressionists as a symbol of modernity.

2. Man Ray, Alberto Giacometti, 1934.

Man Ray solarised this print, a technique carried out in the lab to highlight the outlines of the face on the background and in this way give it a sculptural and surrealistic form.

3. Alexander Rodchenko (1891 - 1956), Na Krasnoi Ploshchadi ritmicheskaia gimnasti[ika] (On Red Square Rhythmic Gymnastics), 1936.

Using close crops, extreme angles and close-ups , the innovative compositions of Rodchenko were usedto document the rapid changes occurring in contemporary life. He is considered one of the most influential and modern photographers of 1920s Post-Revolutionary Russia.

This print is a beautiful, large exhibition-size work was exhibited at the Society of Cultural relations between the USSR and abroad. It comes initially from the collection of Alexander Rodchenko and his wife Varvara Rodchenko.

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