Will McBride - Photographs London Wednesday, May 16, 2012 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist

  • Catalogue Essay

    Titles Include: Barbara Smoking, Munich, 1963; Street Scene in New York, 1976; Full House, for Twen, Munich, 1970; Uli in the Leonardo-Da-Vinci Circle, Casoli, 1978; Bernauer Strasse, Berlin, 1961; Girl in the Excavator Shovel, Frankfurt, 1997; Michael and Cathy, Les Baux, 1975; Barbara in Bed, Berlin, 1959; The Embrace, Munich, 1964; Barbara Pregnant, for Twen, Berlin, 1960; Hand with Two Stones, 1972; Uli, Casoli, 1978; Mike in the Shower, Salem, 1963; Boy with Dog, 1957; Konrad Adenauer, Berlin, 1965

    The opening quote from Will McBride’s website, reprinted right, conveys the feeling which seems to float tenderly from his images. Rather than for the scope of its subjects – such as photographic portraits of John F. Kennedy, Romy Schneider, Willy Brandt and Konrad Adenauer, plus sculpture, painting and book illustration – McBride’s work is etched in the subconscious for its fierce ambiguity, which resulted in his photographs of nudes being rejected in the United States. When one really looks and digests their careful, energetic beauty, one wonders if this is due to tacit assumption rather than a deliberate intent of the artist.

    Ever since its invention, photography has been seen as a commentary on and a documentation of social change: images chosen with moral sense and conscience. McBride himself saw his images in many ways as a moral response to a country that was re-thinking its position after the second world war. Although born in St Louis, Missouri, in 1955 he eventually settled permanently in Germany, a country he had originally visited while serving with the United States Army.

    What we see in McBride’s photographs are the subjects being placed imaginatively and emotionally in a world of their own. There is a sensual link between the fabric of their clothes, the placement and proximity of their bodies, the textures which surround them and the elements of nature which are used to construct this fantasy. To McBride, clothes are a metaphor for our commercial culture – garments identifying both our place in society and our era in history. In his perception, shedding
    such costumes represents escaping society’s consumerist constraints for a more tranquil and sublime existence, the return to a happy age of innocence and freedom.

    By viewing his oeuvre in its entirety, what emerges is a picture of a coming-of-age for humanity: beings in transition from one century to another, a society moving away from the wars of the 20th century and towards one which, at the time, seemed more hopeful. It’s a hopefulness encompassing couples and pregnant mothers, children, students and young families – all carefully studied and presented with the utmost tenderness, the utmost respect.


Selected Images

Berlin: Camera Work, 2001. Seventeen gelatin silver prints, each mounted.
Varying sizes from 20.5 × 30.5 cm (8 1/8 × 12 in) to 26.5 × 33.5 cm (10 3/8 × 13 1/4 in) or the reverse
Each signed, dated and annotated in pencil on the album page. One print per page with linen covers. Signed, dated ‘2002’, numbered ‘AP’ and inscribed in pencil on the colophon. Index page. Contained in a black linen case. One from an edition of 10 plus artist’s proofs.

£8,000 - 12,000 

Sold for £10,000


17 May 2012