Ruth Bernhard: The Ginny Williams Collection
Selling Exhibition: 21 September–1 October 2020 • New York

S otheby’s is pleased to present a selection of 28 photographs by Ruth Bernhard–from The Collection of Ginny Williams.

When she opened her Denver gallery in 1984, Ginny Williams hung her favorite photograph for the first time. To her, Ruth Bernhard’s Classic Torso was indicative not only of “the best” that the photography world had to offer, but it also resonated on a personal level: not only was it Williams’ first gallery acquisition, but the image also hung in the entry hall of her home throughout her life.

Over the years, Williams amassed an extensive collection of Bernhard’s photographs, with a particular focus on images from her pioneering bodies of work The Gift of the Commonplace and The Eternal Body.

“Bringing together the Bernhard Collection has been a labor of love for me and one of the finest efforts in my career. The range of Ruth’s vision never varies in its excellence or commonality of form, light, and simple elegance. These elements, to me, are the crux of Ruth’s art. She is the last of that group who paved the way for photographers to be recognized as artists—seeing rather than recording.”
Ginny Williams, Ruth Bernhard: The Collection of Ginny Williams (Denver, 1993)

Bernhard, who was born in Berlin and became a resident of the United States at age twenty-two, spent her life exploring the qualities of light and composition in photography. A chance meeting with photographer Edward Weston left an indelible impression on Bernhard that she later likened to the experience of witnessing lighting as it strikes through darkness. Her encounter with Weston inspired her to move to California, where she joined the epicenter of the West Coast photography movement and began her own visual explorations of shells in the late 1930s and early 1940s, influenced by Weston’s work. In the 1950s Bernhard conceived her most iconic body of work -- her reverential study of the female nude.

“What she has called ‘the eternal body’ is the body sacred, a communication with the divine. For Bernhard, eros and art are the same.”
Peter C. Bunnell, Ruth Bernhard: The Collection of Ginny Williams (Denver, 1993)

The selection of photographs represented here encompasses Bernhard’s entire career, and with it, Ginny Williams’ view of “the best of Bernhard”.

Please contact the Photographs department for more information about scheduling a private viewing or to enquire about the prints in the exhibition.

Aimee Pflieger
Assistant Vice President
+1 212 894 1149

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