André Kertesz, Colette, Paris, 1930

André Kertesz, Colette, Paris, 1930

André Kertesz (American, b. Hungary, 1894-1985), Colette, Paris, 1930. Silver Print, 15 x 12 in. Gift of D. Frederick Baker from the Baker/Pisano Collection, 2012.1.39

Reclining against the corner of a table beneath a bursting floral arrangement of open white petals, Colette rests with her cheek against her hand, gazing out at us from the shadows. The French novelist was a controversial figure throughout her life, performing in the music halls of Paris and flaunting her affairs with women. In her late fifties at the time this photograph was taken, Colette had cultivated a famously intimate, explicit style of writing. The dandified stylings of her image—her masculine dress, reclining pose, pensive gaze, and close juxtaposition with a handsome bouquet of flowers—present a picture of the woman writer as aesthete. At the same time, the play of the dark shadows cast on the wall behind her trace a double of her form that suggests a shadow dimension. The shadows along with the partial concealments of the white cuffs refuse the camera’s tendencies to fix the subject into a type.

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