This multiple-gum print of Rudolf Koppitz’s masterpiece, <em>Bewegungsstudie</em>, is remarkable for its large size, masterful print quality, extensive exhibition history, and direct provenance. The array of printed labels affixed to the reverse of the print documents its inclusion in no fewer than nine exhibitions in Europe and America between 1928 and 1932. Koppitz gave this print to his assistant Alfred Ernst, an accomplished photographer in his own right. All of these qualities demonstrate that Koppitz regarded this print highly and that it met his own exacting standards. <br /><br />Born in Czechoslovakia, Koppitz studied, worked, and taught in Vienna for most of his career. His development as a photographic artist paralleled his mastery of the photographic processes of his day. The print offered here, which Koppitz describes as a “combination gum” print shows the effects he was capable of generating in the printing process. More than other prints of this image, the example offered here delivers a remarkable range of detail and tonal subtlety. The faces of the dancers are rendered with great clarity, as are their delicately arched feet, which are frequently obscured in other prints. The dancers’ black robes, which at first seem absolutely black, show detail in their folds upon prolonged examination, giving them a sense of three-dimensionality and movement. In all respects, it is a bravura print. While the gum and pigment processes are generally regarded as tools for the Pictorialist photographer and were typically used to create atmospheric, Impressionistic prints, Koppitz used the process here to create a highly detailed and richly-toned photograph that includes elements of Modernism, Pictorialism, and Surrealism, while also relating to the <em>Viennese Secession</em> and the <em>Wienner Werkstätte</em> movements in its stylized grace and perfection of craft. <br /><br />Koppitz was perhaps the most accomplished Austrian photographer of his day, and he was an active exhibitor of his work. He took advantage of the international network of camera clubs and salons to ensure that his work was widely seen. The exhibition labels on the print’s verso (as seen here) are a testament to this ambition. Today, Koppitz’s work is appreciated but difficult to categorize. Elements of his life and creative development parallel that of his contemporaries. Like Edward Steichen, he served as an aerial combat photographer in World War I. With Heinrich Kühn he shared a belief in the beauty and redemptive value of nature. Like Pierre Dubreuil he achieved fame in his own day as a creator of entirely novel imagery that had no direct corollary in the photography of the time. He shared with these photographers a deep understanding of photographic technique and utilized a repertoire of complex print processes to execute his photographic ideas. Despite these resemblances, Koppitz’s work and his aesthetic are distinctly his own.<br /> <br />During Koppitz’s lifetime, <em>Bewegungsstudie</em> became his most famous image, and his studio produced gelatin silver prints and photogravures of it in a variety of formats. While the image retains its graphic impact across these media, these smaller prints do not convey the detail or subtlety of the combination gum print offered here, nor do they possess the impact imparted by its large size. Stylized, graceful, and mysterious,<em> Bewegungsstudie </em>has remained Koppitz’s best known work. This masterful, large-format multiple-gum print represents the ideal presentation of this timeless image.
Large-format combination gum print.
Warm toned print on matte heavy weight paper with thin black margins, hinged along the top edge to board. Light, scattered pinpoint sized rust-colored spots; two extremely light, minor pinpoint sized losses of emulsion above the nude figure; minor diagonal crease with break in emulsion measuring 2 1/4 in. above the mid-right edge; minor crimp with an extremely light, minor break in emulsion between the nude figure's arm and body, all visible mostly under very close inspection. Slight crease in the lower right corner, with a break in emulsion measuring 4mm, visible under close inspection. Extremely light, minor edge wear, all in the margins, not affecting the image, and visible only under very close inspection. This work is sold framed. While these issues are apparent upon close examination, they do not detract from the overwhelmingly fine appearance of this impressive large-format print.
Salon of Hungarian Amateur Photographers, Budapest, 1927<br />International Photographic Salon, Prague, Czechoslovakia, 1928<br />Third Salon of International Artistic Photography, Poznan, Poland, 1929<br />The Camera Club of New York, March 1930<br />The Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C., May 1930<br />The Gallery of the California Camera Club, San Francisco, July 1930<br />The Photographic Society of Philadelphia, date unknown<br />The Fort Dearborn Camera Club, Chicago, date unknown<br />Biennale Internazionale D’Arte Fotografica, Rome, 1932
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22 1/4 x 16 3/4 in. (56.5 x 42.5 cm)
Conklin and Faber, <em>Rudolf Koppitz 1884-1936, </em>p. 71, 83<br />Faber, <em>Rudolf Koppitz Photogenie 1884-1936,</em> p. 133
Gift of the photographer to his assistant Alfred Ernst<br />The estate of Alfred Ernst<br />Sotheby’s, London, 10 May 2001, Lot 405