Helmut Newton - Photographs Evening Sale New York Wednesday, April 1, 2015 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Acte2 Galerie, Paris
    Private Collection, Europe

  • Literature

    Taschen, Helmut Newton (SUMO), n.p there dated 1980

  • Catalogue Essay

    “I love women, I admire them greatly,” Helmut Newton one confessed. “And when people say ‘you use them like objects of desire,’ [I think to myself,] ‘well, I hope they are objects of desire.’ It would be terrible if they weren’t.” However, for Newton the objectification of his models was not to benefit his own pleasure, but rather, their own. Drawing inspiration from Berlin’s leading zeitgeist publications from the 1920s and 30s such as Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung and others, Newton created a working space for his models that was part decadent and part unorthodox—a safe microcosm in which fantasies became reality. And perhaps most famously of all, Newton engendered an environment in which his female models—all tall, statuesque and curvaceous—claimed the space around them with unapologetic poise and commanding sensuality. Unsurprisingly, as a photographer Newton believed that his job was to “seduce, amuse and entertain.” The work offered in the current lot perfectly embodies Newton’s approach to the profession, presenting a bold vision of beauty, power and sex.

    By 1981, the year the current lot was taken, the German-born Newton had established his name as a world renowned photographer, having worked extensively for the Australian, French, German and American Vogue, Playboy and Spiegel e Stern. All publications, in particular those based in Europe, granted Newton the space to experiment with a mode of fashion photography that had been previously unexplored. His models were often paired with mannequins that resembled them in appearance. By blurring the line between object and subject, Newton cleverly subverted the dynamic between the two but without deciding in which direction the subversion tilted. Models became as perfectly sculpted as objects, and objects became as desirous and animated as humans. Newton stated that he was not interested in creating images that pleased his clients, but rather some that provoked and challenged. “If there is one thing I hate,” he said, “it’s good taste. To me it’s a dirty word.”

    Newton’s most renowned oeuvre is Big Nudes, of which the current triptych is an outstanding example— one that has never come up on the secondary market. The images depict four models in different stages of motion. Some are engaging each other, others look beyond the frame, and one appears to lock eyes with the viewers. There is no apparent staging or direction. “It’s without any artifice,” Newton spoke of his Big Nudes. “It’s just a woman standing there; she wears high heeled shoes, nothing else. It’s almost like a passport photograph, but in the nude.” The women thus exercised unadulterated control over their bodies, their gaze and their pace. While other fashion photographers at the time evolved from a tradition of fashion photography that positioned the model as a vessel for highlighting the clothing, Newton turned the genre on its heels— boldly thrusting his models to the forefront of viewers’ consciousness as empowered, fearless and domineering agents. Their clothing became secondary, if not inconsequential, in Newton’s intent to depict a new contemporary culture that emphasized the power of an emerging independent woman. Shot from a low vantage point, his models appear monumental, larger than life, otherworldly Amazons roaming about their space. “When I start giving instructions, it’s not true anymore,” Newton later explained of his desire to let his models occupy their space without direction.

    The images offered in the current lot are variants of Sie Kommen, which depicts the four models marching forward. The title of that work, which translates as ‘They Are Coming’, connotes an announcement, an arrival. Yet, what the work declares is not the arrival of the models, but rather the ushering of a new era—women’s sexual freedom. The triptych format in the current lot enhances the idea of a powerful, imminent change. The progression that ensues in the three works infuses them with an immediate rush of movement and energy. The models are that much more palpable and their movement raw, sincere and purposeful. In lieu of a moment frozen in time and a single frame, the triptych brings a sense of continuous cinematic bravado that prompts the viewers to wonder what the next frame would be, where the models were headed, and what advancements lie ahead in the women’s powerful rise. Inspired by the candid vitality of early European street photography, Newton took great pride in creating an image that finds the beauty and strength in the natural and unexpected, especially outside the conventional aesthetic parameters. “I like the idea of trespassing,” he recalled. “It’s quite true that what I am aiming at, even when I take portraits, is to get a scandalous picture. I would love to be a paparazzo.”

    Another triptych from this edition of 3 is on permanent loan to the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation in Berlin, Germany, courtesy of the Helmut Newton Foundation.

  • Artist Biography

    Helmut Newton

    German • 1920 - 2004

    Helmut Newton's distinct style of eroticism and highly produced images was deemed rebellious and revolutionary in its time, as he turned the expected notion of beauty, depicted by passive and submissive women, on its head. Depicting his models as strong and powerful women, Newton reversed gender stereotypes and examined society's understanding of female desire.

    Newton created a working space for his models that was part decadent and part unorthodox — a safe microcosm in which fantasies became reality. And perhaps most famously of all, Newton engendered an environment in which his female models claimed the space around them with unapologetic poise and commanding sensuality. His almost cinematic compositions provided a hyper-real backdrop for the provocative images of sculptural, larger-than-life women, and enhanced the themes of voyeurism and fetishism that run throughout his work.

    View More Works


Walking Women, Paris

Gelatin silver print triptych.
Each image 53 1/8 x 44 1/2 in. (135 x 113 cm)
Each overall 67 1/2 x 58 7/8 in. (171.5 x 149.5 cm)

Signed, titled, dated, numbered 3/3 and annotated 'Left panel', 'Centre panel' or 'Right panel', respectively, in ink on the reverse of each flush-mount.

$700,000 - 900,000 

Sold for $905,000

Contact Specialist
Vanessa Kramer Hallett
Worldwide Head, Photographs

Shlomi Rabi
Head of Sale, New York

General Enquiries:
+1 212 940 1245

Photographs Evening Sale

New York 1 April 2015 6pm