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Kertesz, Andre


KERTESZ, ANDRE (1894–1985), photographer. One of the most influential photographers of the 20th century, Kertesz was born in Budapest, Hungary. He attended the Academy of Commerce there but had little interest in business. He served in World War i and was wounded. At 18 he bought his first camera, one that made 4.5 × 6-centimeter glass negatives. This early work, prints not much bigger than a postage stamp, included cityscapes, landscapes, portraits, and outdoor studies of the artist's brother capering about nude. In 1925 Kertesz moved to Paris, changed his given name from Andor to Andre, and met and photographed some of the most glamorous personalities of the time, including Chagall, Colette, Sergei Eisenstein, and Mondrian. One black and white photograph, which became his most famous, shows the austerely luminous image of the door and vestibule of Mondrian's studio, but the work, Chez Mondrian, became better known for its subject than for its creator. Kertesz's work, praised by critics, appeared in the most fashionable magazines of the day. Many of his pictures capture the incongruities of time and space. In Meudon, from 1928, the view down a narrow street opens up to a high aqueduct, across which charges a locomotive belching smoke. In the foreground, a man in a dark suit with eyes shadowed by his low hat brim approaches, carrying a large flat package. Buoyed by his success in Paris, Kertesz took a job as a fashion photographer in New York and he and his wife sailed to America in 1936. The new job did not work out and his efforts were not warmly embraced. He made a living making pictures of celebrity homes for House & Garden magazine but others, including his fellow Hungarian Brassai and Henri Cartier-Bresson, became famous. Kertesz felt that those photographers had appropriated his innovations. But in his late sixties, Kertesz, a pioneer in the use of small, 35-mm. cameras, began to receive recognition. He was included in exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art and a new generation of photographers began rediscovering him, and he continued photographing into his nineties.

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]

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