Director of Photographs Daile Kaplan on Why We Chose the Cover Image

The Kertész photograph gracing the cover of the cover of our Fine Photographs catalogue is a rare and important vintage print. The photograph was created during the period Kertész worked in Paris and was first exploring modernism. The highly abstract and dynamic nature of this image fully realized this artist’s pictorial sense of how the female nude might be reinterpreted within this emerging artistic vocabulary. At once elongated and elegant, there are elements of the figure that are familiar while others leap into a perplexing terrain. In this regard, one might characterize the photograph as a metaphorical image, insofar as it addresses the wide ranging cultural changes that occurred during the Roaring 20s, when women’s social and political roles also entered a new territory.

Among collectors of fine-art photography, there is a keen appreciation of both the picture and the print. Kertész pre-visualized this unique image as a mode of creative expression. However, the physical object known as the photographic print also plays a vital role in appreciating the nature of his vision. After all, a photographer will make particular aesthetic choices about the manner in which a photographic negative is translated in much the same way as a painter is aware of the materials associated with his or her art form. For example, when a curator acquires a Van Gogh painting, they are not only delighted with the subject matter, but also recognize that this artist’s bold brushwork is integral to the artwork. This same attention to technical proficiency may be said of Kertérsz, who selected a very warm photographic paper on which to print his marvelous Distortion. At the time, the special quality of the paper imparted a sense of newness or immediacy to the image. Today, that same paper conveys an historical patina to the photograph, which continues to attract and enchant collectors of the 21st century.