Still Life with Mirror, Pens and Key

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  • Provenance

    Bruce Silverstein Gallery, New York

  • Catalogue Essay

    When Hungarian born André Kertész moved to Paris from Budapest in 1925 at the age of 31 he was ensconced in the City of Light and aspired to make the most of it. In this assimilation into the circle of the Parisian avant-garde, Kertész found his milieu and matured fully into a Modernist artist with a unique brand of imagery that defies categorization. Most notably, in June 1926 Kertész was introduced to the Dutch émigré painter, Piet Mondrian by their mutual acquaintance, the critic, poet, playwright and amateur photographer, Michel Seuphor. Seuphor had recently championed abstraction as the pinnacle of avant-garde painting in Het Overzicht (The Overview), an article published the previous year in Antwerp. In April of 1925, Seuphor met Mondrian while in Paris researching his paper, beginning a lifelong friendship. Little could Seuphor realize that this chance pairing would greatly influence Kertész, and in turn, the history and aesthetics of 20th Century photography.

    Kertész’ brief but extended portrait of Mondrian, including Chez Mondrian, Mondrian’s Atelier and Mondrian’s Pipe and Glasses, all taken in 1926, defined a strategy that would set him aside from his contemporaries. It was Kertész’ use of the metonymic device – the substitution of something to represent something else in a picture – that was one of his significant pictorial contributions to Modernist photographic practice. It is tempting to think of Still Life with Mirror, Pens and Key, circa 1927 as an homage to Mondrian, a gathering of objects so carefully arranged as to be one of the Dutchman’s own Neoplastic compositions. The gridded field of the tablecloth, the intersecting lines of the envelope with pen and brush, the sly inclusion of a symbolic key placed on a mirror, all point to a meaning beyond mere representation for the sake of still life. Even the slightly askew mirror, its edge unevenly breaking the plane of the table, could be a reference to the painter. The image infused with Kertész’ distinctive style with the undertones of Mondrian’s influence creates a poised and contemplative still life that rivals the other iconic images in his oeuvre.

166

Still Life with Mirror, Pens and Key

circa 1927
Gelatin silver print.
6 x 8 1/2 in. (15.2 x 21.6 cm)
Signed and dated in pencil on the mount; '5, Rue de Vanves, Paris -14' credit, copyright credit reproduction limitation and 'VU Photo' stamps on the verso.

Estimate
$120,000 - 180,000 

Contact Specialist
Vanessa Hallett
Worldwide Head, Photographs

Sarah Krueger
Head of Sale, New York

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Photographs

New York Auction 8 October 2015