Untitled: Still Life Paris


Black and white still life of bottle, newspapers, wine glass, and bananas on a plate.

André Kertész
b. 1894 Budapest, Hungary; d. 1985 New York, NY
Untitled Still Life (Paris), 1927
Gelatin silver print
4 x 3 inches
Accession date: 2007
Bequest of Isadore and Kelly Friedman
© Estate of André Kertész / courtesy Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto

Often creating unexpected compositions from everyday subjects, Kertész's established himself as a photographer when he moved to Paris in his early 30s and his signature style evolved. He had an aptitude of capturing the poetic instances of traditional Parisian life and culture–its cafés, fairs, parks, streets, vagabonds, the Seine and the essential aura of the French capital. Being in Paris surrounded by all forms of avant-garde art during the 1920s, Kertész was acutely conscious of the visual arts beyond photography. He became engaged with still life compositions, a subject favored by contemporary painters and one he would explore throughout his career. In Untitled Still Life (Paris), he focused on creating and capturing the careful arrangement of a Hungarian newspaper atop a stack of books, a bowl of overripe bananas, a wine glass and a half-full bottle of water.

Born Kertész Andor in Hungary, Kertész bought his first camera and made his first photograph while working as a clerk at the Budapest Stock Exchange in 1912. He served in the Austro-Hungarian army in World War I and had a camera with him, shooting photographs not of the battles or destruction of the war, but of soldiers during their rare moments of leisure. Moving to Paris in 1925, as a freelance photographer he captured intimate images of life in the streets, and inspired other photographers including Brassaï and Henri Cartier-Bresson. Forced to leave Europe by the political unrest, he was in New York by the mid-1930s and employed by House and GardenHarper’s Bazar and other magazines to photograph architecture and interiors. He also took photographs for himself that express his fascination with the spectacle of New York City, and his growing sense of isolation and loneliness caused by his longing for his native country. He would become known and recognized as one of the great photographers of the 20th century for these works, especially his extended study of Washington Square Park and his distorted nudes.