Thursday, February 10, 2005

Kertesz Jewel Box

André Kertész, "Bocskay-tér, Budapest," 1914, gelatin silver print.

"Andre Kertesz" is a jewel box of an exhibition, partly because of the intimacy of the museum's photography galleries but mainly because so many of the 116 photographs on view are perfect little gems.

The earliest pictures, taken between 1912 and 1924 when Kertesz lived in Budapest, are vintage prints barely two inches tall and an inch and a half wide. Toned a warm brown (presumably a result of their age) and minutely detailed, they invite us to be charmed.

And charming they are. Some are conventional landscapes and genre scenes, but others come from the front lines of World War I where Kertesz served as a soldier of the Austro-Hungarian army. Here Kertesz's knack for lyricism first shines forth. What could conceivably have been a crude subject -- four soldiers visiting a makeshift field latrine -- instead seems sweet, even sentimental.

-From Andre Kertesz: Photographs With Time's Warm Patina, in Tuesday's Washington Post

Exhibition at the National Gallery of Art.

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