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ERWIN BLUMENFELD (1897-1969)
PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE COLLECTOR, SWITZERLAND Erwin Blumenfeld is probably best known for his elegant and original studies for the covers of Harper's Bazaar and American Vogue in the 1940s and 1950s. He was, however, an accomplished and innovative photographer of the female form by the time he arrived in New York in 1941 after an extremely arduous, circuitous flight from Nazi Europe. A member of the Dada inner circle in Berlin, Amsterdam and Paris, Blumenfeld was influenced by artists such as Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and Man Ray. Their unorthodox 'new visionary' perspectives, subject-matter, solarized and multiple-exposed images all shaped his mature style. Cecil Beaton, Blumenfeld's champion at Paris Vogue in the later 1930s, regarded him as the ultimate darkroom magician. And Blumenfeld's imagery and tireless darkroom experimentation really was tantamount to sorcery, a response to his belief that beauty was something profound and opaque. It was the artist's role to uncover and distill its essence: 'Veils, mirrors, models, mannequins, classical busts, and modern sculptures were utilized in Blumenfeld's quest for beauty. Faces and bodies were stretched, squeezed, minimalized, multiplied, dematerialized, etherealized. The full panoply of his darkroom alchemy was brought to bear on the elusive subject. Negative/positive hybrids, reticulated negatives (obtained by freezing them while still wet), solarizations, multiple exposures and sandwiched negatives, the masking and bleaching of prints, even chemical blotches and blemishes were employed to bring his ideal to life.' (Ewing, Erwin Blumenfeld, A Fetish for Beauty, pp. 85-86) Lots 33 and 34, both made in the 1940s, are indicative of Blumenfeld's technical wizardry (here using a larger format paper than was customary after 1941 and characteristically leaving them unsigned or stamped). They also are telling examples of his treatment of the female nude - otherworldly, beautiful creatures, the 'Eternal Feminine'. Their unconsciousness is an important recurring motif. Blumenfeld considered his own dreams to be inspirational and an escape from reality. For Blumenfeld, photography was a means both of capturing these dreams and of possessing symbolically his universal woman. To the extent that Blumenfeld is known today, it is more or less within the narrow confines of his fashion photography. Although his work for Paris Vogue in the 1930s and American Vogue and Harper's Bazaar in the 1940s and 1950s was superbly inventive, unlike successors Richard Avedon and Irving Penn, he was unable to establish a distinct market for his 'art photography'. Yet it is in this highly personal, still unexplored repertory of images that Blumenfeld's real legacy lies. The sale of lots 33 and 34, both so typical of his core vision, may help to redress the balance.
ERWIN BLUMENFELD (1897-1969)

The Dream, c. 1946

Details
ERWIN BLUMENFELD (1897-1969)
The Dream, c. 1946
gelatin silver print
collection annotation in ink and Estate stamp (on the verso)
19 3/8 x 15 7/8in. (49.3 x 40.3cm.)
Provenance
From the artist;
to the present owner

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