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Andre Kertesz (1894-1985)
Property from a Private New York Collection
Andre Kertesz (1894-1985)

Alone, Paris, 1930

Andre Kertesz (1894-1985)
Alone, Paris, 1930
gelatin silver print, printed 1940s
'5. Paris. 1930' typed on label affixed (on the mount)
image/sheet: 7 1/2 x 9 3/8in. (19 x 23.8cm.)
mount: 18 x 14in. (45.7 x 35.6cm.)
From the artist's Estate;
With Bruce Silverstein Gallery, New York

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Darius Himes
Darius Himes

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Lot Essay

André Kertész’s earliest professional involvement in photography dates to his military service during World War I. Wishing to pursue his passion, following the war Kertész joined his native Hungary’s Amateur Photographers’ Association, where he continued to develop his eye. However, in keeping with the general European zeitgeist, as embodied by the Linked Ring Brotherhood in England (the European equivalent of Alfred Stieglitz’s Photo-Secession), the Association favored Pictorialism as the de rigeur aesthetic mode, which Kertész repudiated. Indeed, after winning the Association’s silver medal in 1923, the young photographer declined the award to express his disapproval at their desire that he print his image in bromoil. Kertész found the tenets of Pictorialism unexciting, and instead favored of the crisp lines and hard edges of Modernism. Wishing to pursue his newfound artistic predilection, in 1925 he left for Paris, already the home of Man Ray, Brassaï and Robert Capa, among many other avant garde thinkers.

Kertész relished the new Modernist enclosure and his engagement with a host of like minded groundbreaking thinkers, among whom were Piet Mondrian, Alexander Calder and Pablo Picasso. Like them, Kertész tapped into the milieu’s freedom and encouragement to reinvent the visual language in the arts. Roaming the streets of his beloved new home, Kertész explored the character and spirit of Paris with the excitement and novelty of an émigré but with the astute and unpredictable perception of a critical artist. That is, in lieu of saccharine vistas and cheerful atmospheric scenes, Kertész chose to turn his lens on the unseen and overlooked, thereby turning seemingly mundane scenes into exacting studies in line, space and light.

In Alone, taken in 1930, Kertész captured a solitary figure amidst a vast, seemingly empty cobblestone street. The unusual bird’s-eye angle precludes a horizon and collapses the tension between foreground and background. Subsequently, there is an exciting sense of disorientation, allowing a banal scene to be transformed into a fresh study of texture and form. The man is seen walking in one direction but looking in another, hinting the unexpected turns that he could take. Arguably, the man is a surrogate for Kertész himself, who also savored his solitary exploration of Paris with no predetermined direction.

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