Ruth Bernhard: untitled (two figures)
Ruth Bernhard (1905-2006) was a beloved figure in the San Francisco art world until her death two years ago at the age of 101. Best known for her photographs of the female figure, Ansel Adams proclaimed her 'the greatest photographer of the female nude,' and she is widely acknowledged as the master. As one of the few women photographing other women, Ruth Bernhard's nudes are more about form and light than eroticism. As a young aspiring photographer she had a chance meeting with the great American photographer Edward Weston on the beach at Santa Monica. Her ensuing friendship with Weston brought her to the realization that her photographs could be accepted as art. She later recalled, "Although I had been a practicing photographer for more than five years, the personal power of his [Edward Weston's] photographic statements made me respect my own craft for the first time. I was thirty years old and ready to make a long-term commitment to my chosen work.'
This unusual set of small photographs comes from the collection of a photographer who assisted Ruth part time during the years 1989-1990. He preferred to be paid with prints, rather than money. When he found this set of contacts in Ruth's studio he recalls being attracted to them for their interesting subject matter and jewel-like presence. These are the first prints Ruth made of these images, as reference. Since they were struck at the time the negatives were made, all are vintage prints. Some of the images were later printed in larger format while others exist only in these contacts. This makes some of these prints unique and the group all the more interesting. Ruth Bernhard individually signed each photograph on the reverse, adding a title and date if it was known. Each is archivally matted and signed again on the overmat.
Keywords: woman figurative woman BNHD