André Kertész, ‘Distortion with Vase’, 1930s, Phillips

From the Catalogue:
This early large-format exhibition print of Distortion with Vase bears André Kertész’s first New York studio stamp that he used for a brief period after his arrival in America in October of 1936. As of this writing, only one other early print of this image has been located: in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Kertész began incorporating visual distortion into his images at the start of his career, with 1917’s Underwater Swimmer being the earliest example. He continued to employ various distortion techniques in the following decades, often to subvert an otherwise conventional photographic genre such as the nude or the still life. In 1933, he executed his largest group of Distortions on assignment for the risqué magazine Le Sourire, whose editors provided him with studio space, two models, and a pair of funhouse mirrors. Within a phenomenally productive two-week period, Kertész produced around 200 nude Distortions. It is possible that Distortion with Vase was made during the Sourire sessions, although there is uncertainty about its date. Robert Gurbo, of the André Kertész Estate, speculates that it may have been made in a subsequent Paris session, or possibly during the photographer’s first year in New York City.

Distortion with Vase was included in Kertész’s first exhibition in this country, at the PM Gallery in New York in 1937. The gallery was run by PM magazine, a trade publication for the advertising and publishing industries, and the exhibit was intended to showcase Kertész’s versatility as a photographer. Hungarian and Parisian work hung alongside more recent photographs made in New York. Kertész felt strongly that the Distortions had the most commercial potential of his images, and the show included a significant selection of these. Distortion with Vase can be seen on the wall in an installation shot of this exhibition (Of Paris and New York, p. 92). The image was also included in Of Paris and New York in 1985, the most comprehensive museum exhibition of Kertész’s work during his lifetime, and one which he had a hand in organizing. Distortion with Vase is a precursor to 1939’s Melancholic Tulip, which makes similar use of a distorting mirror to elongate the shape of the vessel. The two photographs are illustrated together in the exhibition catalogue for Of Paris and New York (p. 208).
Courtesy of Phillips

Signature: Signed in pencil on the mount; '317 E. 44th ST.' stamp (New York Stamp #1) on the reverse of the mount.

Phillips, Travis and Naef, André Kertész: Of Paris and New York, p. 208

Estate of the artist
Weston Gallery, Carmel, 1995

About André Kertész

An important influence on photography both as journalism and as art, André Kertész is known for the visual lyricism and humanism that characterized his practice. A Hungarian-born Frenchman, Kertész moved to New York in 1936, having spent 1925-1936 in Paris at the centre of the émigré art world, where he photographed fellow artists such as Brassaï, Piet Mondrian, Marc Chagall, Alexander Calder, and Constantin Brancusi. It was not until 1964 that his work gained recognition in the U.S., when he was given a one-man show at the Museum of Modern Art. Today he is best known for his series of Polaroid studies of Washington Square Park, as well as his distorted nudes of the 1930s, which take the radical angles and manipulation of light and shadow of his street scenes and apply them to the human body to obtain a similar de-familiarizing effect. “The moment always dictates in my work,” Kertész once said. “Everybody can look, but they don't necessarily see ... I see a situation and I know that it's right.”

Hungarian, 1894-1985, Budapest, Hungary, based in New York, New York

Solo Shows

André Kertész: Raison d’Etre

Group Shows

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Art Basel 2017 - Folio
NextLevel Galerie, 
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