André Kertész - Important Photographs from the Collection of Dr. Anthony Terrana New York Monday, April 1, 2013 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist
    Jane Corkin Gallery, Toronto
    Jedermann Collection, Princeton
    Houk Friedman Gallery, New York

  • Exhibited

    1er Salon Indépendent de la Photographie, Salon de l'Escalier, Paris, 1928
    Exposition de Photographie, Galerie L'Epoque, Brussels, 1928
    for both, another print exhibited

  • Literature

    Borhan, André Kertész: His Life and Work, p. 102
    Harry N. Abrams, Inc., André Kertész: A Lifetime of Perception, p. 109
    J. Paul Getty Museum, In Focus: André Kertész, Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum, n.p.
    Jeu de Paume, André Kertész, p. 147
    National Gallery of Art, André Kertész, pl. 38
    Newhall, The History of Photography, p. 223
    Szarkowski, Looking at Photographs, p. 93
    Szarkowski, Photography Until Now, p. 222
    Thames and Hudson, André Kertész: Of Paris and New York, p. 135

  • Catalogue Essay

    Another print of this image is in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

    Like many of his European contemporaries, Hungarian-born, André Kertész’s interest and involvement in photography was self-propelled. “Instinctively I began to compose,” he recounted at a later stage in life, “I learned to perceive the moment.”

    Kertész’s keen interest in the medium was utilized during his military service during World War I and was further developed after the war. His mission as a photographer, he stated, was “to eternalize” moments in time. Wishing to strengthen his pursuit, the young photographer joined the Hungarian Amateur Photographers’ Association, where he won the silver medal at an annual contest in 1923. However, despite the accolade, Kertész chose to forego the award, citing his disagreement with the Association’s wish that he printed his image in the Pictorialist-favored method of bromoil. A photograph, he believed, ought to champion the tenets of Modernist photography—line, color and tone, and avoid mimicking the atmospheric painterly qualities of Pictorialism that still dictated the norms at his home country. Embracing of the avant-garde, Kertész left for Paris in 1925, the hub and pulse of Modernism.

    Enchanted by the freedom and driven by the encouragement to experiment with alternate modes of using his lens to capture the world, Kertész roamed the streets of
    Paris with fervor and intrigue. Among his compatriots at the time were such luminaries as Marc Chagall, Alexander Calder, Fernand Léger, and Piet Mondrian. It was particularly the latter, himself an émigré from Holland, whose abstract sensibilities were to greatly influence Kertész’s nuanced ways of seeing and capturing his newfound home city. In Chez Mondrian, 1926, (lot 166)among the most celebrated of Kertész’s achievements, viewers are met with a composition in which multiple plains intersect vertically, horizontally and diagonally, tightly compressing a three-dimensional view into an emphatically flat field. Therefore, it is evident that Kertész’s interest did not lie in capturing the scale of the space but rather present it as a metonymic representation of Mondrian’s De Stijl or neoplastic art. A similar application of essentially Modernist principles is likewise seen in the current lot, The Stairs of Montmartre, Paris, taken the same year.

    Perhaps for being a foreigner, Kertész was not preoccupied with conveying the grandeur of the revered Parisian locale. Home to the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur and
    a bustling nightlife, Montmartre was also the home district for many of the leading artists at the time, including Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí and, unsurprisingly, Piet
    Mondrian. Accordingly, Kertész’s depiction of the favored spot pays a subtle homage to its groundbreaking inhabitants in its own subversive aesthetic. The image presents an immediate sense of disorientation through the notable removal of the horizon line, and, perhaps more compellingly, through the glaring absence of a central subject from the image. A nearly blank field occupies the center of the composition, save for the diagonal shadows that are thrust by the rail. And, as in Chez Mondrian, Kertész cleverly collapsed multiple fields of depth into a single, flat plain, with a sharp line slicing of-center, and a number of diagonal vectors shooting in and out of the composition. Moreover, in lieu of capturing the height of the stairs or its many colorful inhabitants, Kertész turned the aforementioned tenets of Modernist photography into the main protagonists, thereby empowering the nascent approach to the medium as well as paying homage to his fellow artists working in Montmartre. The Stairs of Montmartre, Paris, is not meant to introduce another familiar view to curious viewers by an adoring resident, but rather to present an innovative perspective through the savvy and analytical eye of another.



The Stairs of Montmartre, Paris

Gelatin silver print.
6 1/8 x 8 in. (15.6 x 20.3 cm)
Signed, dated ‘1927’ [sic] and annotated ‘Paris’ in pencil on the mount; titled ‘Montmartre’, annotated ‘André Kertész/ 5 rue de Vanves/ Paris 14e’ in pen, ‘No 1’, ‘(Agr.)’ in pencil and ‘441’ in red wax pencil on the reverse of the mount.

$120,000 - 180,000 

Sold for $194,500

Contact Specialist
Vanessa Kramer Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs
[email protected]
+ 1 212 940 1245

Important Photographs from the Collection of Dr. Anthony Terrana

2 & 3 April 2013
New York