About this artwork
A painter, architect, and designer as well as a photographer, El Lissitzky believed that avant-garde art could transform daily life. One of the key figures to integrate artistic developments in Russia with those in Western Europe, he began experimenting with photography seriously in Germany in 1923. Lissitzky was fascinated by the possibilities of photograms, multiple exposures, and what he called fotopis—loosely translatable as “photo-writing”—and he eventually abandoned painting to focus on combined photographic and architectural projects.
Photograms (images made by placing objects directly on photographic paper and exposing them to light, rather than with a camera) were taken up in Dada and Constructivist circles in different countries between 1919 and 1923. The primitive technology, which dispensed with lenses, permitted a merger of touch and sight that Lissitzky thematized in this picture by having himself (at left) and fellow painter and designer Vilmos Huszár appear to be the twinned pupil of a ghostly eyeball—at once pictured and the embodied agent of picturing.
This photogram incorporates circular images of El Lissitzky (with pipe) and another artist, Vilmos Huszár. It is printed on gelatin silver paper, the standard black-and-white pho-tographic paper of the 20th century. The absence of an intermediary baryta layer (a distinctive preparatory layer containing white pigment typically present in a gelatin silver print) gives it a very matte surface, while the gray tonality is most likely due to underdevelopment.
- El Lissitzky
- Gelatin silver photogram
- Unmarked recto; inscribed verso in the hand of Lissitzky's wife, Sophie Kuppers-Lissitzky: "Huszar-Lissitzky Holland 1923"
- 17.6 × 23.7 cm (image/paper, 6 15/16 × 9 5/16 in.)
- Mary L. and Leigh B. Block Collection
- © 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn