THE WORLD OF
FRED STEIN N OVEMBER 19, 2015 â€“ J ANUARY 15, 2016 V INTAG E P RINTS
19 E AST 66 TH S TR EET
N EW Y O R K , NY 10065
W W W. R O S E NB E RGC O . C O M
HE WORLD OF FRED STEIN is rooted in a deep respect for humanity and a commitment
to connecting to the world we live in. Stein’s tender approach to a tumultuous time is representative of his personal stake in history. Willy Brandt, Fred Stein’s lifelong friend,
wrote that Stein was “a brilliant photographer inspired by his quest for justice and his
concern for truth so clearly reflected in his photographs. He was truly a man of vision,
and his choice of people and subjects is the obvious proof of it”. As an individual and as an artist Stein was politically driven for intensely personal reasons. He studied law at Leipzig University but was denied entry to the German bar due to his political views and his Jewish background. In 1933, his militant anti-Nazi activities led him and his newly wed wife to flee their home in Dresden for Paris under the pretense of a honeymoon trip. As a wedding gift to each other, Stein and his wife bought themselves the recently released Leica hand-held 35mm camera. When war was declared in 1939, Stein was held in an internment camp until he was able to escape again and make his clandestine way through France to reunite with his wife and young daughter. Through the assistance of Varian Fry and the Emergency Rescue Committee, they made their way to New York in 1941 to start over once again. In his years in Paris (1933 to 1940), Stein and his beloved camera became part of the intellectual and artistic milieu, mingling with the photographers of the time (Capa, Taro, David Seymour “Chim”, CartierBresson, Halsman) and with socially-minded intellectuals (Malraux, Arthur Koestler and others). Stein captured his visual and philosophical perspective on the world thanks to the new found freedom of street photography enabled and uniquely framed by his Leica. He would continue to use his keen eye, remarkable intellect and ease at spontaneous composition in New York, capturing iconic views of the city and its people. Stein found ways to bring together the parallel worlds of enormous turmoil due to the war, the depression, poverty, displacement, raging anti-semitism and violence, and the simultaneous beauty, fragility, and closeness amongst his subjects. His ability to respect the scenes he photographed while also sharing the very core of these moments with the world displays perhaps his key artistic asset: empathy. Stein’s Paris and New York work preceded the long overdue recognition of photography as a complex fine art medium. He was a pioneer of modern photography, capturing the beauty and nuance of his moment in time, but, unfortunately died too young to enjoy the level of recognition of his contemporaries. We are here today to pay homage to Stein and to his photographs: they are not just documents of a time, they are moving and important works of art for all time. We are honored to represent the Fred Stein Estate and, in so doing, to have had the privilege to work with Peter Stein and Dawn Freer in assembling a testimony to a great artist and humanist.
M AR I AN N E R O SE NB E R G
Fred Stein B Y G I LLE S M O R A
he profound originality of Fred Stein’s work does not arise from the circumstances that
led him to become a photographer. Born in Dresden, Germany in 1909, he was forced
to flee when the Nazis came to power in 1933. Secretly warned that the Gestapo were
looking for him, he and his new wife Lilo hurriedly left on a “honeymoon” to Paris, where
they lived a tenuous exile existence. There Stein became a photographer.
Many other artists, from Robert Capa to André Kertész, also found themselves confronting the lethal savagery of their homelands. Like Fred Stein, numerous refugees in Paris became photographers, before having to flee a second time several years later as the Germans rolled across Europe and into France. However, all this is merely historical background. Though some stylistic similarities may link the aesthetics of these émigré photographers, it was Stein’s individual sensibilities that shaped his work. The common experiences of the refugee photographers resulted in vastly different photographic visions. When Stein first arrived in Paris, it was alive with new ideas and innovative photography. Stein had an acute visual sense, and picked up the most interesting currents of the time. From the beginning, he adopted the Leica as his favorite camera. This small format 35 mm technological marvel transformed the photographer into a mobile observer of the grand spectacle of urban life. Never before had these artists been able to capture images like this, on the fly. Stein was among the photographers (“Chim,” Robert Capa, André Kertész and Henri Cartier-Bresson) documenting the rise of the Popular Front (“Front Populaire”) in 1936. One of his iconic images is of a worker on a roof raising a fist in support of a popular demonstration (Popular Front, Paris 1936). We can discern Stein’s developing aesthetic by examining this emblematic image. The photograph is characterized by formal rigor, created in the spirit of the times. Yet as in all his photographs, Stein never loses his own style. We see in his work the influence of the “New Vision”; this was a movement born in interwar Europe and influenced by Russian Constructivism, which was marked by accentuated formalism characteristic of the Bauhaus movement. This approach focused on technical aspects of the photographic medium – how you photographed was more important than what you photographed. Various points of view available to the camera (high-angle, low-angle, wide-angle) were used to create an artistic construction. While the recorded event reflects the reality seen by a street photographer or a passerby, that is of secondary importance. Many of the photographs taken by Stein during this period evince a formal approach to composition. As with the other practitioners of the New Vision, such as Moholy-Nagy and Rodchenko, this work differs from the humanist intent of other photographers of this period for whom the anecdote (the content) takes precedence over the form. Yet Stein’s photographs set him apart from practitioners of the New Vision. His photographs during this period are very often distinguished by compelling composition; however, the pictures have Stein’s own particular flair. There is always a frisson. He manages to infuse them with his penetrating sense of the
meaning of his subject. The beautiful photograph of children running in a field, Joie, France 1938, impresses the viewer both with its amazing formal qualities and its picturesque subject matter. In Stein’s best work, the two always go hand in hand. It is Stein’s attitude itself that sets him apart. Since his school years, his political convictions had been deeply socialist: he was greatly concerned with the plight of the poor, and was suspicious of all totalitarian systems whether on the right or the left. This ideology, reinforced by events, was shared by many of his emigrant colleagues. But for Stein, his beliefs pervaded his work, in both his street themes and in the choice of subjects that defines his later portraiture. A study of his archives demonstrates Stein’s perennial interest in social issues. Stein was an artist who thought in thematic terms, and developed his photographic ideas by creating separate contact sheets for each different subject. This idea of grouping pictures by “series,” which Stein developed from his first days in France, meshed well with his work for magazines and newpapers (Regards, L’Humanité, etc.), which required pictures to be presented as sets of images covering a specific topic. His work explored a wide number of varied subjects, mostly, but not always, urban. A study of his contact sheets from Paris during the years 1933 to 1939 reveals a surprising array of themes: there are photographs of homeless, workers, alleyways, fashion (especially with the designer Gaston), portraits of children, fishermen on the Seine, and many more. Not one to be limited by the simply picturesque, his contact sheets are overflowing with startlingly original images: Man with Pig, Paris 1937, for instance, depicts a man swimming across the Seine with his pig. The sense of humor on display here and in many others of his images flirts with the kind of surrealism Henri Cartier-Bresson initiated in 1932. Interestingly, Stein’s photograph of a middle-class man acting the Peeping Tom, Hole in Fence, Paris 1936, and Cartier-Bresson’s photograph of two middle-class men peeking through a hole in the fence at some illicit spectacle, are strikingly similar. Stein’s curiosity went beyond the social, and encompassed subjects like architecture, which he pursued with the same formal rigor as his other work. His contact sheets on the International Style established by Le Corbusier and Robert Mallet-Stevens in the suburb of Suresnes show the influence of Bauhaus on Fred Stein, and demonstrate his rapid and remarkable mastery of the language of architectural photography – especially the spatial dynamics of combined concrete and glass. His photographic aesthetic is beautifully expressed in his attention to vernacular culture, particularly its urban manifestation. Unaware of Walker Evans’s similar work being done at the same time in America, Stein trained his lens on a series of graffiti and murals. He appreciated both their humorous power and their environmental effect. Posters, assorted advertisements, unexpected signage: these were the poetics of graffiti that Brassaï recognized in 1933 and that Stein, perhaps influenced by him, transformed into something much more humorous, and even surrealist, in graphic urban poetry in the streets of New York in the 1940s.
The extraordinary effervescence of photography in a Paris that favored the intermingling of emigrant and native photographers (for example, Stein knew Robert Capa, who frequently visited Cartier-Bresson); the proliferation of art magazines with a strong focus on photography (Le Minotaure, Cahiers d’Art, Arts et Métiers Graphiques); the increasing frequency of photographic exhibits – all this formed the backdrop against which Stein quickly developed a photographic language somewhere between formalism and humanism. He added to it a little sentimental music that is all his own, made up of humor and tenderness, and his feelings for a city steeped in European tradition and culture. Then war intervened. Stein was placed in an internment camp for “enemy aliens” outside Paris. As the Nazis swept through Belgium and pressed on deeper into France, he managed to escape, and, wearing the green coveralls of a laborer, made his way south to Marseilles, hiding during the day and crossing the fields by night. Stein’s wife Lilo remained stranded in Paris. She had no idea where he was, or if he was even alive. She finally received a postcard from him, written in code, and slipped out of Paris with his negatives and prints to meet him in Marseilles. Through the extraordinary efforts of Varian Fry and the Emergency Rescue Committee, they were able to get on one of the last boats to leave France, and ended up in New York. When he changed continents, Stein almost immediately changed his style. What he discovered in New York was a completely new American life. He was facing difficult economic circumstances (Lilo worked as a teacher to support them); a deep cultural break from his European world; and a lack of connections. In response, his impulse was to actively pursue a new and exciting photographic horizon. The photographers who were working in New York had different concerns than the humanist and formalist aesthetic then in vogue in Paris. Stein quickly discovered the work of the Farm Security Administration photographers (from Walker Evans to Ben Shahn and Dorothea Lange), the prevailing photojournalism personified by Weegee, and the street photography of Saul Leiter and Lisette Model. For a short time, he also became a member of the Photo League, an independent organization that, under the leadership of Aaron Siskind and others, strove to promote social and documentary photography with a radical tilt. These non-European influences are strikingly evident from the first images Stein captured on the streets of New York. He continued, and expanded, the street photography he had begun so brilliantly in Paris. With surprising ease, he responded to the different urban realities of his adopted metropolis: its speed, its brashness, its constant energy. His style transformed itself in this new photographic territory, which required a different photographic language, suited to its setting. Switching between a Leica and a Rolleiflex, he embraced a new freedom in his framing. His method of working in series broadened in scope, especially since he decided to give up the magazine and newspaper assignments he had pursued in France. He now worked only for himself. Photographing by theme or subject, he performed a process of accumulation, focusing first on what, to his European eyes, were unexpected sights: buildings and architecture (from the Brooklyn Bridge to the Flat Iron Building), but also Central Park and Coney Island. Anticipating the work that Garry Winogrand would undertake a decade later, in the 1950s, Stein recorded racks of clothing being pushed along in the street. He focused, with an almost arbitrary and deconstructed sense of camerawork, now on zoo animals, now on a surprising Popeye balloon, now a girl in a crowd with a band aid on her nose, Girl with Band-Aid, New York 1948.
Changing all the rules, Stein liberated himself with new methods such as these that would later shape the New Documents (Nouveau Documents) style Garry Winogrand and Lee Friedlander would employ. He was, in effect, translating his curiosity about everyday activities into a new visual language well suited to capturing the incessant, hectic flux of American life. In one arresting image of a young woman on Fifth Avenue holding a hatbox from Dobbs (Dobbs Fifth Avenue, New York 1946), Stein prefigured the artificial world of Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills (1977 – 80). And if many of the subjects are reminiscent of his Parisian subjects (posters, graffiti, workers, marginalized ethnic communities), the style is entirely different and ushered Stein into Modern American photography. Forced to limit his activity as a roving photographer in the 1950s due to physical limitations, Stein expanded his portrait work, and following the advice of his friend Philippe Halsman, opened a studio. He took minimally posed studies in the studio, but also shot many portraits in a purely documentary fashion in various locations such as at the United Nations. His knowledge and intellect allowed him to develop a rapport with his subjects, and opened the door for the psychological astuteness of his portraits. For Stein, people in all their manifestations, always remained his deepest interest. He recorded an astounding 1,200 portraits of world-famous artists and intellectuals, many of whom shared Stein’s love for art, ideas, literature and music, and many of whom were important voices for social justice. From Albert Einstein to Thomas Mann, Stein created a record of the great artists and thinkers of his time. He died at the age of fifty-eight, in 1967, before photography achieved full acceptance as a legitimate art form. During his lifetime, the network of museums and galleries that established the reputations of his contemporaries did not yet show photography. For too long, knowledge of Fred Stein’s photography has been limited to a handful of brilliant portraits and unattributed street photographs. A look at the years in Paris and New York show the breadth of his talent. The strength of this work will become more and more apparent as it becomes more known. Finally, in the 21st century, more than forty years after his death, the extensive and varied archive of Fred Stein’s work in Paris and New York is at last being made accessible to a wide audience. The redefinition of a major force in Modern photography has begun.
Gilles Mora is a photography scholar and curator. He is the author of over twenty books on the photography of Walker Evans, Henri Cartier-Bresson, W. Eugene Smith, Charles Sheeler, Edward Weston, the Farm Security Administration photographers, and the American Vision, among others. His most recent book, Aaron Siskind: Another Photographic Reality, is published by Yale University Press, 2014.
Aluminum Chairs Paris, 1938 Gelatin silver print
7 3/4 x 97/8 in.
CafĂŠ Paris, 1935 Gelatin silver print
93/4 x 7 3/4 in.
Children Reading the Newspaper Paris, 1936 Gelatin silver print
7 1/8 x 83/4 in.
Farmers in Field France, 1938 Gelatin silver print
67/8 x 9 in.
Feet in Circle France, 1938 Gelatin silver print
77/8 x 7 1/4 in.
Fish Platter Brittany, 1935 Gelatin silver print
81/8 x 7 7/8 in.
Fisherman with Net France, 1935 Gelatin silver print
6 1/4 x 93/8 in.
Hobo on Stoop Paris, 1938 Gelatin silver print
93/4 x 7 in.
Hole in Fence Paris, 1936 Gelatin silver print
9 x 6 1/2 in.
Joie France, 1938 Gelatin silver print
7 5/8 x 97/8 in.
Le RĂŞve Paris, 1934 Gelatin silver print
71/8 x 5 in.
Legs Paris, 1935 Gelatin silver print
5 1/8 x 91/8 in.
Man with Bottles Paris, 1938 Gelatin silver print
91/8 x 6 1/8 in.
Paris Jewish Quarter Paris, 1935 Gelatin silver print
13 /2 x 10 3/4 in.
Popular Front Paris, 1936 Gelatin silver print
91/2 x 7 5/8 in.
Rabbi with Cane Paris, 1935 Gelatin silver print
10 x 7 3/4 in.
Subway Map Paris, 1935 Gelatin silver print
95/8 x 7 5/8 in.
Surf France, 1937 Gelatin silver print
83/8 x 7 1/8 in.
Swing Paris, 1934 Gelatin silver print
9 x 6 3/4 in.
Three Chairs Paris, 1937 Gelatin silver print
9 /4 x 7 7/8 in.
Three Men from Behind Paris, 1935 Gelatin silver print
8 x 97/8 in.
Two Sailors at Harbor France, 1938 Gelatin silver print
93/8 x 6 3/4 in.
Two Women Lying in Sand France, 1937 Gelatin silver print
71/8 x 9 3/4 in.
VallĂŠe de la Loire France, 1936 Gelatin silver print
95/8 x 7 7/8 in.
Vendor Paris, 1935 Gelatin silver print
93/4 x 7 in.
Brooklyn Boys New York, 1946 Gelatin silver print
133/4 x 11 1/8 in.
Chess Game New York, 1947 Gelatin silver print
105/8 x 13 1/4 in.
Cleaning Graffiti New York, 1948 Gelatin silver print
12 x 11 1/8 in.
Coney Island New York, 1946 Gelatin silver print
133/4 x 11 1/4 in.
Crossing Fifth Avenue New York, 1949 Gelatin silver print
111/4 x 11 3/4 in.
Dobbs Fifth Avenue New York, 1946 Gelatin silver print
127/8 x 11 1/4 in.
Fire Escape in Snow New York, 1947 Gelatin silver print
93/4 x 6 5/8 in.
Girl with Bandaid on Nose New York, 1948 Gelatin silver print
93/4 x 7 7/8 in.
Knitting Circle New York, 1948 Gelatin silver print
111/8 x 13 1/8 in.
Mercedes Showroom New York, 1958 Gelatin silver print
93/4 x 7 7/8 in.
Orchard Beach New York, 1946 Gelatin silver print
85/8 x 7 7/8 in.
Newspaper Hat New York, 1946 Gelatin silver print
97/8 x 7 5/8 in.
Post No Bills New York, 1946 Gelatin silver print
97/8 x 7 7/8 in.
Snow on Bench New York, 1946 Gelatin silver print
11 x 11 in.
Still Life New York, 1949 Gelatin silver print
91/2 x 7 5/8 in.
Two Children with Dog New York, 1946 Gelatin silver print
8 x 7 7/8 in.
Two Matrons New York, 1948 Gelatin silver print
137/8 x 11 1/4 in.
View of Manhattan New York, 1946 Gelatin silver print
7 5/8 x 95/8 in.
Wrought Iron Staircase New York, 1945 Gelatin silver print
131/4 x 11 1/8 in.
Zapateria New York, 1944 Gelatin silver print
131/2 x 11 in.
At the Easter Parade New York, 1946 Gelatin silver print
97/8 x 7 3/4 in.
Window Washers Germany, 1961 Gelatin silver print
9 3/4 x 77/8 in.
Foto Baumgartner Germany, 1960 Gelatin silver print
97/8 x 7 5/8 in.
Boy on Trolley Italy, 1960 Gelatin silver print
9 /8 x 7 3/4 in.
red Stein was an early pioneer of the hand-held camera, a gifted street photographer
in 1930s Paris and 1940s New York. He was also a master portraitist whose numerous subjects include some of the most prominent personalities of the 20th century, including his famous portrait of Albert Einstein. Displaced from Germany in 1933 by
the Nazi menace, he lived a life of upheaval and exile.
Born in 1909 in Dresden, Germany, he was the son of a rabbi and a committed socialist and anti-Nazi activist. Barred from finishing law school and in danger of arrest by the Gestapo, he fled to Paris in 1933 with his new wife Liselotte Salzburg Stein. There Stein became a photographer. He and his wife lived among a circle of bohemian refugees, including photographers Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, and Philippe Halsman, and political activists like Willy Brant, who later became Chancellor of Germany. Stein also befriended many intellectuals whom he photographed over the years, such as Hannah Arendt, Bertolt Brecht, and André Malraux. This was a remarkable time in the history of photography, with an influx of emigre artists and the new technology of the hand-held camera. Stein took his Leica everywhere, moving quickly and capturing fleeting moments. To provide needed income, Stein worked for photo magazines and newspapers, and established Studio Stein to take portraits for the public in his apartment at 55 rue Coulaincourt (the darkroom was also the apartment’s one bathroom), and later at 12 rue Abel Ferry. When France declared war on Germany in 1939, Stein was put in an internment camp for enemy aliens near Paris. He managed to escape, and after a hazardous journey through the countryside, met his wife and baby daughter in Marseilles, where they obtained danger visas through the efforts of the Emergency Rescue Committee. On May 7, 1941, the three boarded the S.S. Winnipeg, one of the last boats to leave France. They carried only his negatives and some prints. New York in the 1940s was a vibrant center of culture, and the energy of the city infused Stein’s work. He ranged with his camera from Fifth Avenue to Wall Street to Harlem, recording life in all the different environments. He again used the family apartment as his darkroom for a time, until he was later able to open studios at 667 Madison Ave, then 38 East 65th St, and finally at 119 West 57th St. When his own mobility decreased in the 1950s, he focused almost exclusively on portraiture. He was a man of enormous personal charm and humor. Well-educated and well read, he was a brilliant conversationalist, and easily established a rapport with his subjects, which was part of his technique in capturing a glimpse of a person’s inner essence. The list, of over 1,200 artists, writers, philosophers, and scientists – Albert Einstein, Marc Chagall, Frank Lloyd Wright, Georgia O’Keeffe, Salvador Dali, Buckminster Fuller, Thomas Mann, et al. – reads like a roll-call of the most influential people of the time. He died in 1967 at the age of 58, before having a chance to fully establish his name when the increasing acceptance of photography as an art form occurred in the 1970s and 80s.
Selected Exhibitions & Collections
Selected Solo Exhibitions 2015-16
The World of Fred Stein, Rosenberg & Co., New York, New York, November 2015 to January 2016 Fred Stein: Témoin de l’Histoire, Galerie Sonia Zannettacci, Geneva, Switzerland, November 2014 In an Instant: Photographs by Fred Stein, Jewish Museum, Berlin, Germany November 2013 – May 2014
Art Photography, New York Public Library (Hamilton Grange), New York, New York, May 1958 (solo)
Art of the Portrait, International Tribune Book and Art Center, New York, New York, Februry 1946 (solo)
Revue de la Photographie, Galerie Paul Magne, Paris – with Brassai, Halsman et al., October and November 1938
Portraits d’Écrivains, Galerie De La Pleiade, Paris – with Halsman, Man Ray et al., April and May 1937
La Publicit par la Photographie, Galerie De La Pleiade, Paris – with Man Ray, Kertesz et al., August and November 1935
Fred Stein: Paris – New York, Flo Peters Gallery, Hamburg, Germany, November 2013
Fred Stein: Paris/New York, Robert Mann Gallery, New York, New York, June 2012
Portraits de l’exil: Paris – NewYork, Musée du Monparnasse, Paris, France, November 2011
Selected Group Exhibitions
Escape to Life, NYU Lafayette Street Gallery, New York, New York, September 2010
The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League, Jewish Museum, New York, New York, November 2011
Photographs by Fred Stein, Museo Gigon, Asturias, Spain, May 2009
Fred Stein: Moments in Time, Summa Gallery, New York, New York, November 2008
Fred Stein: Le Photographe Moderne, Galerie Claude Samuel, Paris, France, October 2004 Fred Stein: Moments in Time, Hammond Museum, North Salem, New York, June 2004
Moments in Time, The Photographs of Fred Stein, Flinn Gallery, Greenwich, CT, October 2002
The Mexican Suitcase, International Center of Photography, New York, New York, May 2011 Photo League Photographers: Fred Stein, Erika Stone, Farmani Gallery, Brooklyn, New York, November 2009 Le Dur Labeur, Galerie d’Art, Aix-en Provence, France – with Lee Friedlander, April 2007 New York Photographers, Jewish Museum, New York, New York, January 2005 La Fotographia en Francia, Huesca Imagen Museum, Huesca, Spain, May 2003
Photographs by Fred Stein, Hubert Gallery, New York, New York, December 2000
Moments in Time, Silvermine Guild Art Gallery, New Canaan, Connecticut, March 1999
Fred Stein – Paris/New York, Julie Saul Gallery, New York, New York, October 1997
Fred Stein’s New York, International Center of Photography, New York, New York, December 1995
J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Photographs by Fred Stein, Housatonic Museum of Art, Bridgeport, Connecticut, June 1993
Jewish Museum, New York
New York Stories, James Danziger Gallery, New York, New York, December 1996
Museum Collections Center for Creative Photography, Tucson
International Center of Photography, New York
Jewish Museum, Berlin
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Selected Exhibitions During Fred Stein’s Lifetime (Partial list from surviving records)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art Musée Carnavalet, Paris Musée du Montparnasse, Paris
Fred Stein Memorial Exhibition, Goethe House, with talk by Philippe Halsman, New York, New York, June 1968 Photographs of Famous Persons, Carl Schurtz Memorial Foundation, New York, New York, July 1959 (solo) Photographs at Mid Century, George Eastman House, Rochester, New York, curated by Beaumont Newhall, November 1959
Museum of Modern Art, New York National Portrait Gallery, London National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.
Rosenberg & Co. ©2015
Published on Nov 19, 2015
Published on Nov 19, 2015
Catalogue accompanying the photographs of twentieth-century photographer Fred Stein, at Rosenberg & Co. from November 19, 2015 - February 12...