Helmut Newton - Photographs New York Tuesday, October 1, 2013 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galerie Andrea Caratsch, Zurich

  • Literature

    Taschen, Helmut Newton: Sex and Landscapes, p. 91

  • Catalogue Essay

    Helmut Newton’s impact on the history and trajectory of fashion photography merits the utmost recognition. More than 50 years a­fter his first photographs appeared in publication, Newton’s groundbreaking work continues to embody the cultural revolution that characterized the latter half of the 20th-century.Newton’s career began in the 1950s in Australia, where he briefly served as a contributing photographer for British Vogue. However, it was as a staff photographer for French Vogue in the late 1960s where he began making a name for himself in the industry. By then, his contemporaries Irving Penn and Richard Avedon had already established themselves as the photographic visionaries behind American Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, respectively. Between Penn’s minimalist approach and Avedon’s affinity for lively outdoors shoots, the genre of fashion photography was transforming from a once-staid and overly-styled genre to one that emanated contagious livelihood, effortless movement, and impossible elegance. With Newton’s commanding entrance into the field marked by his trailblazing style, at once shocking and seductive, fashion photography was propelled even further into an exciting and dynamic future.While other fashion photographers of that 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, domineering and entirely unapologetic agents. Their clothing became secondary, if not inconsequential, in Newton’s intent to depict a new contemporary culture that emphasized the power of the sexually-liberated and independent woman. Some of the strongest examples of his approach may be found in Helmut Newton’s Photographien (lot 87) where models in various stages of undress pose in playful yet sexually charged scenarios. Indeed, Newton’s highly meticulous and staged photographs have long been noted for their edge and the overt sexual tones that consistently pushed boundaries. But his work also offers a peek behind the curtain that conceals the darkest scenes of our subconscious; a glimpse at the performance of fantasy and social taboos. Newton has referenced the French street photographer Brassaï as an early influence, and the tawdry details seen throughout Newton’s work resonate with Brassaï’s images of the prostitutes frequenting gentlemen’s clubs who characterized the Parisian gritty nightlife in the 1920s. But whereas Brassaï’s subjects were oft­en oblivious to his presence in their underground world, Newton’s subjects exude a confident awareness of the photographer’s watchful eye. In the current lot, Parlour Games, Munich, 1992, the model’s direct and assertive gaze into the camera implicates the photographer, inviting him and by extension the viewer into the unfolding seductive narrative. Viewers are subsequently turned into an actively observant audience whose participation is tightly controlled by the model’s actions. While Newton was o­ften criticized for presenting his female subjects in such heightened sexual scenes, his brilliance, in fact, lay in his ability to transfer his power as the male voyeur to his female subjects, putting them in the position of triumphant dominance. Indeed, not only were they aware of the parlor games, they appeared to be joyously leading them.

  • 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


Parlour games, Munich

Gelatin silver print, printed 2002.
63 x 47 1/4 in. (160 x 120 cm)
Signed, titled, dated and numbered 3/3 in ink on the reverse of the flush-mount.

$150,000 - 200,000 

Sold for $173,000

Contact Specialist
Vanessa Kramer Hallett
Worldwide Head, Photographs
+1 212 940 1245


New York 30 September & 1 October 2013