Lot 99
  • 99

Paul Outerbridge, Jr.

30,000 - 50,000 USD
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  • Paul Outerbridge, Jr.
color carbro print, mounted, a number stamp '702' on the reverse, overmatted, signed and dated in pencil on the overmat, 1937 (Singular Aesthetic, pl. 528, variant)


This early color carbro print has the rich, saturated colors and velvety matte surface that are the hallmarks of this sophisticated and exacting process. The photograph is in essentially excellent condition, and has great object quality and exceptional presence. When examined very closely in raking light, a faintly glossy 1.5-inch line can be seen in the upper left corner, possibly an accretion of adhesive. In the thigh, to the left of the sculpture head, is a cluster of faint spots that are slightly lighter in tone than the surrounding area. These spots can be typical of the color carbro process and are not, in the present print, particularly noticeable. There is a tiny loss of emulsion in the center of the left edge of the print, adjacent to the overmat. There is a small oval area of what appears to be silvering along the lower portion of the thigh on the right side of the picture. The photograph is overmatted with thick cream-colored board. Outerbridge has signed and dated this just under the right corner of the window. The photograph is mounted onto a thick piece of brown board to which is attached a protective brown paper overlay. The edges of the mount and overmat are rubbed, the corners are bumped, and there is age-darkening at the periphery. The overmat is somewhat soiled and worn.
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

 The nude study offered here is one of at least three photographs made by Outerbridge that incorporates an identical classical statue head.   The most often reproduced is 'Phoenix Rising,' in which the head is placed between the sitter's breasts (Singular Aesthetic, pl. 438); a second study shows the head beside the recumbent model, placed near her hip (ibid., pl. 439).  Both are exceedingly rare photographs within the Outerbridge oeuvre.  The present photograph may be the only extant print of the image offered here.  Dines reproduces what may be the uncropped version of this image, printed later from a glass plate in the Outerbridge Estate, in preparation for the photographer's catalogue raisonné in 1981 (ibid., pl. 528).  At the time of this writing, no other prints of the present image have been located. 

This series of nude studies with a statue head displays the characteristic wit and sensuousness of many of the photographer's best works.  The classical head becomes an actor in these private erotic tableaux, taking on the roles of both sexual partner and voyeur.  The head's rigid, upright shape, placed between the sitter's breasts in 'Phoenix Rising,' gives an electric charge of passion to the composition; in the second study referred to above, the head's sightless eyes seem to peer over the model's hip, a lover's eyes surveying his partner's elegant form; in the present image, the head discreetly covers the vortex of the model's crotch and her pubic hair, a taboo subject at the time.  In all of these, the cold whiteness of the plaster cast contrasts with the vivid, almost palpable, warm tones of the model's skin, a superb demonstration of Outerbridge's advice to photographers that 'opposing large with small, hard with soft, shiny with dull, hot with cold, often enhances dramatic effect . . . a nude posed beside rocks beside the sea; metal with velvet; cool colors against warm colors; a cold blue steel automatic lying beside a corsage of orchids on a pink satin couch . . .' (Photographing in Color, p. 55).  

As Paul Martineau observes, in his Paul Outerbridge: Command Performance (Los Angeles, 2009, p. 14), the risqué nature of these photographs ensured that none were published or exhibited in Outerbridge's lifetime.  Today, these works are regarded as among the photographer's best.  The classical head and the concealed identity of the sitter give all of the works a timeless quality, in keeping with the photographer's dictum that the best nudes are impersonal (Photographing in Color, p. 67).   Combining Outerbridge's unique brands of both eroticism and surrealism, the nudes with classical statue head appeal anew to an audience with more modern—and post-modern—sensibilities.

Martineau has pointed out that the classical head used in the series is a plaster cast from the statue Hermes Carrying the Infant Dionysus by Praxiteles, dating from 340-330 B. C. (p. 24, fn 74).  Rickie Richley, who was at one time married to Lois Weir's son (see note to Lot 90), remembers that the head was displayed in the Lois-Paul dress shop in Laguna Beach for many years, and has since disappeared.