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ANDRÉ KERTÉSZ (1894 – 1985)

André Kertész was born in Budapest, Hungary. After his first job at the Budapest Stock Exchange, he received his first camera in 1912 and immediately began to make intimate portraits of family and friends and studies of the Hungarian countryside.  In 1914, Kertész was drafted in the Austro-Hungarian army but continued to photograph scenes of daily life behind the battle lines of World War I. 

Kertész worked at the stock exchange until he moved to Paris in 1925, where he established a successful career as a photojournalist. Buoyed by this accomplishment and inspired by the vibrant artistic community of the French capital, he created some of the most intriguing and celebrated images of the period and photographed friends like Piet Mondrian, Marc Chagall, and Colette.  In 1927, the Sacre du Pritemps Gallery exhibited Kertész’s photographs in what was known to be the first solo exhibition of a photographer’s work.  In 1933, Kertész photographed his landmark “Distortion” series, which featured female nudes in various poses with their reflections in distorted mirrors.

Due to the threat of World War II and the growing persecution of Jews in Paris, Kertész relocated to New York in 1936 at the suggestion of his employer the Keyston Agency. Captivated by the rich visual spectacle of the city and awed by its scale, he used the camera to record both his fascination with, and sense of alienation from his new surroundings. Kertész intended to return to Paris soon after, but the progress of the war made this impossible.  Due to his Hungarian background, Kertész and his wife Elizabeth were designated as enemy aliens and Kertész was not permitted to photograph outdoors or take on any project that might relate to national security.  After essentially disappearing from the photographic world for three years, Kertész and Elizabeth finally became naturalized US citizens in 1944. While Kertész would later travel extensively worldwide, he maintained his primary residence in New York until his death.  

Despite his landmark exhibition in Paris in 1927, his successful contracts with Condé Nast, and the publication of several books, Kertész considered himself to be under-acknowledged until the 1960’s, when the Museum of Modern Art in New York launched a solo exhibition of his work. He was later awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Commander of the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and the Mayor’s Award of Honor for Arts and Culture in New York.  Photographs by André Kertész are included in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, and The Getty Museum, among others. Kertész continued to photograph until his death in 1985 in New York.

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