Helmut Newton, 1920-2004
- Helmut Newton
- '"Big Nude XI", Verina, Nice, 1993'
- 2000 by 1200mm
Acquired by the present owner from Galerie Vallois, Paris.
Helmut Newton's fascination with anthropometric photography has been well documented. Writing in the introduction to the catalogue for the Mes derniers nus exhibition, at which the print offered here was shown, the photographer explains how he drew inspiration from photographs taken at the turn of the twentieth century for the purposes of criminal investigation. For years Newton had collected press cuttings of such images without knowing in what capacity they would be of use to him. Eventually, they provided the inspiration for this series of nudes - photographed 'sans artifice', as Newton himself put it, against plain white backgrounds, with natural hair and make-up. The photographer's working title for the series was 'The Terrorists', a reference to the material that inspired him; he later changed this to 'Big Nudes'. Each large-format nude in the series is identified by a name and number.
The photographs were taken over a period of several years in the early 1990s. A simple lighting system was devised so that the equipment could be taken around the world, and the same conditions reconstructed for different models in different places. The use of a plain white background is unusual for works by Newton in this genre: for the most part, his fashion prints and large-format nudes are staged with meticulous attention to the 'story' of the photograph, with an often elaborate use of setting and props. In contrast it is his portraits that, more often, are taken against a simple background. The slippage engendered in the 'Big Nudes' between the genres of anthropometric photography, portraiture, fashion and nude studies signifies the photographer's aesthetic ambitions.
The 1994-95 exhibition at Galerie Vallois consisted of twenty-six prints, eleven of which were 'Big Nudes' of the size and edition offered here. Ten smaller format prints in the exhibition were titled 'Mutations', photographs of nudes at distorted angles - this variation on the theme was the suggestion of the photographer's wife, June. There was an additional series of five nudes, 1200 by 1200mm, each in an edition of six.