August 12, 2022

Post-war European postcards play with language and format | Arts

In 1925, photographer André Kertész left Hungary for Paris, where he joined an influential community of artists including Constantin Brancusi, Piet Mondrian and Fernand Léger.

He was used to making small prints (and he also preferred cameras that produced small negatives), but during his early years in Paris, Kertész favored a particular type of small photographic paper: Post card (postcard) prepared paper with a printed and divided spine like a traditional postcard. He printed on part or all of the front, sometimes cropping his images dramatically, then physically cutting the card into tiny, tightly contained compositions.






NOMA Curator Russell Lord


His placement of the image was often idiosyncratic, playing with the design of framing and space within the object as well as the picture. Here, the off-center position of the image – a crowded corner of Léger’s studio – echoes the placement of various graphic forms in the painter’s works, creating a photograph that is both of and about flatness, withdrawal and framing.

Both Kertész and Léger had been sent to the front during World War I, and both had been wounded: Kertész was temporarily paralyzed in his left arm after being hit by a bullet, and Léger suffered greatly after a mustard gas attack. .

While recovering in a hospital, Léger painted a picture of soldiers playing cards, a work which marked the beginning of his shift towards mechanical and precise renderings of figures and forms. The playing card reappears in one of Léger’s works visible in this photograph, but at this time it has been transformed into the main subject and exploited for its symbolic language and form.

The relationship between the photograph and its content is therefore semantic and formal, the two artists playing with the language and form of the cards: Post card (postcard) and playing cards (playing cards).

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The photographs of the photographic act were common in the 20th century, but less in the 19th century, when each negative was a challenge to be carried out.

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