How do you recognize a portrait by the photographer, Arnold Newman? Check out the portrait's setting. You'll usually find Newman's subject with a characteristic object, an iconic accessory or a familiar pièce of furniture. You could call this Newman's trademark, his signature that has influenced generations of photographers.
Newman himself disliked being labeled an "environmental" photographer.
"Forget about labelling me as one thing or another…I see myself simply as a photographer who works in portraits, abstractions, still lifes or whatever ». Newan candidly admitted.
In the late thirties he showed an interest in abstract compositions and later was to become famous for his portraits. He died on June 6th, 2006 at the age of 88.
Les Douches la Galerie is proud to exhibit both aspects of his work – the abstractions and the portraits – as a new complete way to read and appreciate Newman's photography.
The exhibition is done through the cooperation with the Archive Arnold Newman, Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography and the Valery Bach Gallery, Brussels.
A pioneer of the environmental portrait
Arnold Newman's photography is easy to recognize because Newman characteristically places the subject of his portrait into his/her personnal setting. That is Newman's trademark which defines, too, his way of portraying his subject.
Many artists from Stravinsky to Picasso and Dan Flavin, have cooperated with Newman in his kind of environmental perspective. His style of portraiture influenced générations of photographers, but he never liked to be called an environmental photographer.
Newman bluntly told an interviewer one day « Forget about labelling me as one thing or another…I’m interested in what motivates individuals, what they do with their lifes, their personalities, and how I perceive and interpret them. But of equal or even greater importance is that, even if the person is not known (or already forgotten), the photograph itself should still excite the viewer. That is what my life and work is all about… As Alfred Stieglitz told him "the only thing that really matters is the finished picture. If it’s honest, it will look honest. If it ‘s dishonest, you and everybody else can tell. »
In describing his early photographs, Newman said, « I had worked very deliberately on my paintings and the direction in my photography followed the same concept. I was building a photograph. I wasn’t taking one ». The precept is made manifest in all the Newman’s photographs but particularly so in the work he produced in Florida in the late 1930’s.
With the money he made in the studio he was able to purchase a Speed Graphic camera with a high-quality lens and with his new equipment began « to build » photographs of a highly experimental nature. Incorporating many of the aesthetic principles of Cubism, Newman produced straight images that border on abstraction. By isolating shapes and objects, emphasizing linearity and maximizing the visual effects of light and shadow, he created images of remarkable beauty and compositional rigor. He also experimented with cut-outs and collages in his quest to explore unconventional photographic techniques. These works, avant-garde at the time have unquestionably stood the test of time and exist today as enduring examples not only of Newman’s innate artistic ability but also his willingness to take artistic risks.