Fine Art

The Female Gaze: Masterworks of French Photography

hands-of-cocteau-1927-by-bernice-abbot3Berenice Abbott, Hands of Jean Cocteau, 1927

Hemingway arrived in Paris in 1921. So did Berenice Abbott, an aspiring American journalist who had shared her Greenwich Village apartment with Djuna Barnes.  Abbott got her start in Paris as Man Ray’s darkroom assistant and, after studying photograph in Berlin, opened her own photography studio in Paris in 1927. Her photograph, Hands of Jean Cocteau, 1927, is one of the highlights of the show. Besides Cocteau, her subjects included James Joyce and photographer Eugene Atget.  Following Atget’s death, Abbott became instrumental in selling his archive to the Museum of Modern Art, editing several books about his work, and ensuring his international reputation. When she returned to the U.S., Abbott taught photography at the New School for Social Research.

Dora Maar, born Henriette Theodora Marković, a photographer of French and Croatian ancestry, contributes one of the exhibition’s most amusing surrealist images, a seemingly headless man in Man Looking Inside a Sidewalk Inspection Door, London 1935. Maar’s Reflections, a Store Window, 1935, captures the advent of retail shopping, an entirely new concept that turned pedestrians into window shoppers.

Viennese-born photographer Lisette Model is best known for documenting the life of the idle rich on the French Riviera. French Gambler, Nice, 1934, shows a middle-aged gentleman attired in a smart business suit sunning himself on a promenade, his face bronzed more deeply than a certain former House Speaker’s. Her clandestine portrait reveals the vanity and loneliness of her affluent subject. Eventually joining Berenice Abbot in New York City and teaching at the New School, Model mentored Diane Arbus, who studied with her in 1957.

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