Blumenfeld Studio: New York, 1941–1960

A new exhibition opened today at Somerset House, Blumenfeld Studio: New York, 1941–1960, celebrating the career of portrait and fashion photographer Erwin Blumenfeld (1897–1969) most known for his work for the leading fashion magazines of the 1940s and 1950s including Vogue and Harpers Bazaar. The show focuses on the little-known history of his photography studio at 222 Central Park South in New York and showcases around 100 colour photographs from his archive. I can’t wait to visit soon. An in-depth feature was recently published in The Telegraph, and if you missed the screening of the first documentary on his life and work, The Man Who Shot Beautiful Women, I highly recommend catching it while you still can on BBC iPlayer (available until May 29th).

One of Blumenfeld’s most dramatic and frequently imitated images is his ‘doe eye’ cover shot for Vogue in 1950, which has become one of the most iconic covers in Vogue‘s history. The model, Jean Patchett, is shown reduced to a flat white background with a pair of lips, a beauty spot and one eye highlighted by a flick of eyeliner. Here’s a brief TV interview with Patchett and presenter Edward R. Murron from January 1955. (The excerpt below also shows Blumenfeld’s original photograph before it’s adaptation into the final cover):

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9E48wOMwJI4&w=560&h=315]

Man Ray and the Société Anonyme, New York

Founded in 1920, by Katherine Dreier, Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray, the Société Anonyme was the first institution to promote avant-garde art in America. The organisation which built upon the legacy of the pioneering 1913 Armory Show and Alfred Stieglitz’s 291 Gallery (which closed in 1917), is today much lesser known than its successor, the Museum of Modern Art, founded nine years later. A new exhibition at Yale University of Art Gallery, Société Anonyme: Modernism for America, presents an opportunity to expand upon Man Ray’s work with the Société Anonyme, and acknowledge the significance of this experience in his artistic development.

Following his formal education, Man Ray dedicated himself to painting and drawing while living at the artist’s colony at Ridgefield from late 1912 until the end of 1915. Here his circle included his first wife, the Belgian poet Adon Lacroix (born Donna Lecoeur), modernist painter Samuel Halpert and poet Alfred Kreymborg. Man Ray’s life-long friendship with Duchamp began he visited the colony with art patron Walter Arensberg in the autumn of 1915. Katherine Dreier had studied at the Pratt Institute and at studio classes in Paris, exhibiting at the 1913 Armory Show alongside Duchamp. By 1920, when Dreier initiated discussions with Duchamp to establish a ‘museum of modern art’ in New York, he naturally wanted to involve his dear friend Man Ray.

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