Rudolf Koppitz - Photographs New York Monday, April 9, 2018 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Gift of the photographer to his assistant Alfred Ernst
    The estate of Alfred Ernst
    Sotheby’s, London, 10 May 2001, Lot 405

  • Exhibited

    Salon of Hungarian Amateur Photographers, Budapest, 1927
    International Photographic Salon, Prague, Czechoslovakia, 1928
    Third Salon of International Artistic Photography, Poznan, Poland, 1929
    The Camera Club of New York, March 1930
    The Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C., May 1930
    The Gallery of the California Camera Club, San Francisco, July 1930
    The Photographic Society of Philadelphia, date unknown
    The Fort Dearborn Camera Club, Chicago, date unknown
    Biennale Internazionale D’Arte Fotografica, Rome, 1932

  • Literature

    Conklin and Faber, Rudolf Koppitz 1884-1936, p. 71, 83
    Faber, Rudolf Koppitz Photogenie 1884-1936, p. 133

  • Catalogue Essay

    This multiple-gum print of Rudolf Koppitz’s masterpiece, Bewegungsstudie, is remarkable for its large size, masterful print quality, extensive exhibition history, and direct provenance. The array of printed labels affixed to the reverse of the print documents its inclusion in no fewer than nine exhibitions in Europe and America between 1928 and 1932. Koppitz gave this print to his assistant Alfred Ernst, an accomplished photographer in his own right. All of these qualities demonstrate that Koppitz regarded this print highly and that it met his own exacting standards.

    Born in Czechoslovakia, Koppitz studied, worked, and taught in Vienna for most of his career. His development as a photographic artist paralleled his mastery of the photographic processes of his day. The print offered here, which Koppitz describes as a “combination gum” print shows the effects he was capable of generating in the printing process. More than other prints of this image, the example offered here delivers a remarkable range of detail and tonal subtlety. The faces of the dancers are rendered with great clarity, as are their delicately arched feet, which are frequently obscured in other prints. The dancers’ black robes, which at first seem absolutely black, show detail in their folds upon prolonged examination, giving them a sense of three-dimensionality and movement. In all respects, it is a bravura print. While the gum and pigment processes are generally regarded as tools for the Pictorialist photographer and were typically used to create atmospheric, Impressionistic prints, Koppitz used the process here to create a highly detailed and richly-toned photograph that includes elements of Modernism, Pictorialism, and Surrealism, while also relating to the Viennese Secession and the Wienner Werkstätte movements in its stylized grace and perfection of craft.

    Koppitz was perhaps the most accomplished Austrian photographer of his day, and he was an active exhibitor of his work. He took advantage of the international network of camera clubs and salons to ensure that his work was widely seen. The exhibition labels on the print’s verso (as seen here) are a testament to this ambition. Today, Koppitz’s work is appreciated but difficult to categorize. Elements of his life and creative development parallel that of his contemporaries. Like Edward Steichen, he served as an aerial combat photographer in World War I. With Heinrich Kühn he shared a belief in the beauty and redemptive value of nature. Like Pierre Dubreuil he achieved fame in his own day as a creator of entirely novel imagery that had no direct corollary in the photography of the time. He shared with these photographers a deep understanding of photographic technique and utilized a repertoire of complex print processes to execute his photographic ideas. Despite these resemblances, Koppitz’s work and his aesthetic are distinctly his own.

    During Koppitz’s lifetime, Bewegungsstudie became his most famous image, and his studio produced gelatin silver prints and photogravures of it in a variety of formats. While the image retains its graphic impact across these media, these smaller prints do not convey the detail or subtlety of the combination gum print offered here, nor do they possess the impact imparted by its large size. Stylized, graceful, and mysterious, Bewegungsstudie has remained Koppitz’s best known work. This masterful, large-format multiple-gum print represents the ideal presentation of this timeless image.

The Enduring Image: Photographs from the Dr. Saul Unter Collection


Bewegungsstudie (Movement Study)

Large-format combination gum print.
22 1/4 x 16 3/4 in. (56.5 x 42.5 cm)
Signed and dated in gouache on the recto; titled, numbered '1,' annotated 'Combin. Gummidruck' in ink and 'Vervielfältigung/Vorbehalten’ stamp, all within the photographer's printed studio label, and multiple exhibition labels, all affixed to the verso.

$200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for $399,000

Contact Specialist
Sarah Krueger
Head of Department, Photographs

Vanessa Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs and Deputy Chairman, Americas

General Enquiries
+1 212 940 1245


New York Auction 9 April 2018