Morton Bartlett, ‘Untitled (Studio Shot of Naked Dolls)’, 2010, Rago

Sight: 22" x 21"

Morton Bartlett was a private man whose artistry became public after his death. The adopted only son of a Boston Brahmin couple, he left Harvard two years before graduating with the class of 1932. Various jobs followed, including gas station manager and printer’s broker, while he devoted himself to creating a fantasy family of perfectly sculpted children. Bartlett photographed these meticulously dressed and posed figures in staged scenarios that were at once quotidian and dramatic: a girl curled up comfortably reading or dancing at a ballet class, a boy at the beach. Discovered in their entirety after the distribution of his estate, Morton Bartlett’s staged photographs have since received international acclaim. Bartlett’s work is in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, Collection de l’Art Brut Musée, Lausanne, along with many others.--Courtesy of Rago Auctions

About Morton Bartlett

A pioneer of staged photography, Morton Bartlett created and photographed uncannily lifelike dolls whose features expressed a range of emotions. Using a Brownie camera to photograph them in sets that he designed, Bartlett carved and painted the dolls in highly specific detail. “There is a kind of artificiality to Bartlett’s images that oscillates between communicating the idealization of children favored by society and the underlying tensions of childhood that often stem from the strain of that idealization,” art critic Roberta Smith wrote of his work. Predating many artists whose images followed suit, such as Mike Kelley and Laurie Simmons, Bartlett’s photographs marked a break from the dominant photographic styles of the 1940s and ’50s, the period in which he worked.

American, 1909-1992