Photography is a medium that inherently lends itself to play. It is relatively easy to master the technical aspects of producing pictures and as an instantaneous plastic medium it is still unrivaled in its satisfaction. Both the tinkerer and the tailor can find ways to alter the process to their own needs. Whether it is in the choice of print medium or the way images are recorded and presented, the photographer can be as creative as any chef in whipping up the oddest concoctions from the most exotic spices. Photographic print methods are as varied as ice cream flavors but it is the rare genius that brings clarity to the effort. André Kertész was no innovator in printmaking. He was simply the best Modern designer with a sheet of photographic paper the history has ever known.
After moving to Paris in 1925 and with limited resources, Kertész made the most of the least expensive and popular photographic stock, the intrinsically democratic carte postale. This tiny sheet of sensitized paper, with the imprint that allowed it to be posted once processed, measured no more than the length of a lady's hand but the gems the expatriate Hungarian artist was able to produce on it still rank today as some of the most revered of 20th century photography. More often than not, Kertész exploited the dimensions of the sheet by printing asymmetrically on it, or producing slivers of images horizontally and vertically (e.g., see: Christie's, New York, 17 April 1997, An Important Collection of André Kertész Vintage Photographs, lot 182, Pipes and Chimneys, Paris, 1926 and Phillips, Travis and Naef, Of Paris and New York, cat. no. 26, p. 139, Magda Forstner). While this may have been an economic concern at first, Kertész clearly did what any artist would do with his materials. At the time, he had been in Paris for about a year and a half but had already established himself with picture magazines in France and Germany (Phillips, Of Paris and New York, p. 30). Perhaps it was the experience of working with the newly established industry that relied so heavily on the printed photograph or it could have been just his pure artistic talent but Kertész turned the editor's cropping technique into abstraction. He was, without a doubt, the first photographer to make this a signature of his work, a pictorial device within the realm of otherwise "straight" photography.
When Kertész held his first exhibition at Jean Slivinsky's gallery Au Sacre du Printemps in 1927 he incorporated both prints on carte postale and enlargements made on paper with a similar matte surface, both mounted to sheets of vellum and unglazed (see: An Important Collection of André Kertész Vintage Photographs, lot 175). Although it is not known if the print offered here was exhibited at Slivinsky's gallery, it is of the same presentation as other works from the period including the vellum mount.
Cello Study is perhaps Kertész's most radical and successful use of extreme cropping. It also resonates with the photographer's own practical application of his unique vision. The picture was from a commission, as Dr. Sandra Phillips describes in Of Paris and New York: "Cello Study, [for instance], cut down from a close-up to form an extreme abstraction, even in its now purified state resonates with the human spirit, the touch of the bow, and the warm glow of the wooden instrument. Its companion piece, Quartet (cat. no. 24) was also severely cropped from a large, full-length photograph. The violinist Feri Róth, who had just assembled a new quartet, asked Kertész to make some photographs that could be used for publicity. Róth got what he desired, while Kertész the artist drew from one of these photographs the abstract composition he envisioned. True to his sense of the medium he never interfered with its process except through cropping." (op. cit., p. 31).
Kertész was enamored of this particular print, holding onto it until very late in his life. In the Catalogue section in Of Paris and New York its exhibition history is listed as probably including the important 1929 "Fotografie der Gegenwart" exhibition in Essen and the seminal "Film und Foto" exhibition in Stuttgart from the same year but this cannot be adequately supported. The photographer's archives have recorded a print being sent to the Essen exhibition but there are no indications on the print's mount that it might have been included in an international exhibition. Another similar print of this image, in a private collection, does bear a pencil or grease pencil mark that would imply an exhibition history.