Self-portrait

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  • Provenance

    Michael Hoppen Gallery, London

  • Catalogue Essay

    Surrealism was born from a need to examine and understand the self; not the obvious visible self but the stream of one’s uncontrollable consciousness which the Surrealists felt was quotidian to human existence. When the Photomaton arrived on the Champs Élysées in Paris in 1928 it provided the perfect vehicle to make this celebral happening a visual reality. This fascinating machine, invented by Anabol Josepho in 1925, produced an automatic strip of images without the intervention of an operator – it was the precursor and much more romantic version of today’s digital ‘Photo Me’ booth. Fuelled by photographic chemicals, it spat out a silver gelatin stream of images to the eagerly waiting sitter and provided almost instantaneous results. The Surrealists used and were obsessed by automatism, ‘the act of letting thoughts flow freely without rationally thinking about them’ like free writing – the Photomaton (arguably) took control of the self, creating its own automatism. The automatic properties of the machine excited André Breton and immediately he related the unbiased and uncontrollable functions to those of the mind. Breton, said to be one of the first advocates of the booth, enthusiastically rounded up the Surrealists including Max Ernst, Luis Buñuel, René Magritte, Paul Éluard and Yves Tanguy (depicted in this present lot) and put them one by one at its impartial mercy. The idea was that the impression produced would be an uncontrived imprint, a reflection of their psychological state or what they perceived as the ‘true-self’. Since the invention of the Photomaton, generations of artists have been fascinated by the ‘Photo-Booth’ concept and the human placed in its own very particular environment.

11

THOMAS WALTHER COLLECTION

Self-portrait

c. 1928
Photomaton.
20 x 3.8 cm (7 7/8 x 1 1/2 in).

Estimate
£2,000 - 3,000 

sold for £15,000

Photographs

3 November 2011
London