Erwin Blumenfeld rediscovered at the Jeu de Paume

With the 17th edition of Paris Photo, the City of Light will become for a week the City of Prints and events dedicated to the medium will be everywhere. There are two that I reckon you should not miss aside from the art fair itself to make the trip worth its while.

First thing first. Two metro stops away from the Grand Palais, in the Jardin des Tuileries and with a breathtaking view at his entrance of the Place de la Concorde sits le Jeu de Paume, a Parisian museum dedicated to photography. During FIAC I stopped there to visit the current exhibition and it should not be missed: Erwin Blumenfeld (1897-1969) Photographies, dessins et photomontages

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Last July, I reviewed Blumenfeld’s exhibition at the Somerset House  for One Stop Arts. The exhibition entitled Blumenfeld Studio: New York, 1941-1960 at Somerset House focused on this artist’s colour fashion photography and suggesting through a few scattered personal works that his dadaist influence was decisive.

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The Jeu de Paume gives visitors the opportunity to reevaluate completely what they might have thought of the artist. Stepping out you can no longer reduce his heritage to a few Vogue covers such as the Doe Eye as genial as it is. You understand fully how he could have been so bold in his approach to fashion.

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In the first room, most of the drawings and collages have never been seen by the public. It comes as no surprise that he had met George Grosz in 1918.

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Further along we can see how much Blumenfeld was experimenting in his lab and with lighting. His personal work uses high contrasts and tightly cropped images. Solarisation is also used for his nudes and portraits revealing that he must have been in the same artistic circles as Man Ray and Lee Miller after he arrived in Paris in 1933. The solarised buildings in the room dedicated to Architecture have an incredibly ghostly effect.

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In 1941, Blumenfeld fled to New York where he became the fashion photographer we know. He was fiercely aware of the danger Hitler represented and anticipated the dehumanisation at the centre of the Holocaust in a series of almost prophetic photographs.

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Erwin Blumenfeld (1897-1969) Photographies, dessins et photomontages, Jeu de Paume, Paris, Until January 26th, 2014.

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