Lot 214
  • 214

Paul Outerbridge, Jr.

150,000 - 250,000 USD
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  • Paul Outerbridge, Jr.
  • kandinsky
color carbro print, mounted, notations in an unidentified hand in pencil on the mount, a 'Smithsonian Institution Exhibition, Washington, D. C.' label, stamped 'Mar 1959' and 'April 1959,' and a typed paper label with Studio Annual of Camera Art information on the reverse, matted, framed, 1937


Christie's New York, 17 April 1997, Sale 8624, Lot 240

G. Ray Hawkins Gallery, Los Angeles

Acquired by the present owner from the above


Washington, D. C., Paul Outerbridge, Jr., The Smithsonian Institution, March - April 1959


Possibly this print:

Graham Howe and G. Ray Hawkins, eds., Paul Outerbridge Jr.: Photographs (New York, 1980), p. 129

Elaine Dines and Graham Howe, Paul Outerbridge: A Singular Aesthetic, Photographs and Drawings 1921-1941 (Laguna Beach Museum of Art, 1981), pl. 80, p. 130

Manfred Heiting, ed., Paul Outerbridge (Köln, 1999), p. 195


This vivid color carbro print, mounted to heavy board, is in generally excellent condition. The mount has extensive adhesive remains, likely from original, early overmatting. Adhesive and paper remains are also in the margins of the print, but do not intrude into the image itself, except in the photographic color bar at the bottom edge of the print. It is not possible to make out the penciled notations at the lower left edge of the mount. The reverse of the mount is soiled and has a centered brown paper backing pasted down. There are various notations, including: '710' in an unidentified hand in pencil; '710' stamped at the right and left edges; 'o/no 58/B' (circled); '5 3/4" wide colour,' and 'POC199' in various unidentified hands in pencil. The edges are abraded and have adhesive remains scattered at the periphery. None of the mount's condition issues affect the print in any significant way. The typed label on the reverse of this print reads: 'This arrangement of unrelated objects appeared as the frontispiece of the 1938-9 edition of Studio Annual of Camera Art "Modern Photography," The Studio, Ltd., 44 Leicester Sq. London W. C. 2.'
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Paul Outerbridge, Jr., was among the most imaginative and technically-innovative photographers of his day, and Kandinsky is one of his most accomplished images.  The photograph synthesizes Outerbridge's technical abilities with his aesthetic talents.  Rendered in the demanding and expensive color carbro process, the photograph offered here was the only print of this image in the photographer's estate at the time of his death.  This print was included in the posthumous one-man exhibition of Outerbridge's work at the Smithsonian Institution in 1959. 

In the course of his development as a photographer, Outerbridge encountered many of the key figures in photography and art.  He studied under Clarence H. White at his school in New York City in 1921.  In the early 1920s in Paris, Outerbridge knew Man Ray and, through him, met Marcel Duchamp and other members of their circle.  He studied sculpture briefly under Alexander Archipenko.  As a commercial photographer, he maintained a friendly rivalry with Edward Steichen.

Kandinsky owes a compositional debt to its namesake, Vassily Kandinksy, the great abstract painter.  Kandinsky's distinctive use of color in his canvases is a probable inspiration for Outerbridge's composition, in which color plays such a critical role. Outerbridge constructed his image from a series of geometric shapes and quotidian objects, carefully positioning strong colors (the ball and yellow paper) with more neutral ones (the foil cone and gray background).  His elevated vantage point accentuates the strong diagonal aspect of the composition.  In the image, Outerbridge has also included objects which pertain specifically to photography: the darkroom timer, the sheets of yellow and gray seamless background paper, and--in the upper right corner--the edge of a Kodak gray-scale card.   With Kandinsky, Outerbridge has created an image that depends upon color for its impact, and simultaneously references both modern art and photography. 

Although the color carbro process was a complex and difficult method of making a color print, it was the only color process available that met Outerbridge's high standards for image quality.  A single print was made from three separate negatives, each sensitive to a different area of the color spectrum.  These negatives were then printed onto successive layers of micro-thin translucent carbro tissue that were applied to the final print.  Even someone unacquainted with the technical aspects of photography can appreciate the intricacies of the technique from the following statement, made by Outerbridge in 1955: 

'In spite of my considerable experience with photography, I wondered for quite a while if I'd ever be able to make a good carbro print.  Many of these pictures were made under considerable technical difficulties unknown to the present-day users of the newer, much easier color materials.  Each composition cost a minimum of $150 taking many man hours to produce.  Three separate exposures of different duration, through three different color filters were required.  Subsequently, three separate color images 1/10,000th of an inch thick had to be transferred IN REGISTER, one over another onto the paper you see' (quoted in Howe and Hawkins, Paul Outerbridge, Jr.: Photographs, p. 16).