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 Paul Jr. Outerbridge  (1896 - 1958)

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Lived/Active: New York/California / France      Known for: erotic nude study and abstract still life photography, drawing

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Ad Code: 4
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
Untitled (Skeletal Hand)
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Following is Getty Museum exhibition text for: "Paul Outerbridge: Command Performance", March 31-August 99, 2009.

This exhibition brings together over 100 photographs by Paul Outerbridge (American, 1896–1958) from all periods of his career, including his Cubist still life images, staged magazine photographs, and controversial nudes.

Outerbridge introduced an artist's sensibility to the black and white photographs he made for commercial purposes. By the 1930s he was working in color, using the intensely-hued carbro process to create advertising and fine art photographs. Outerbridge's work has appeared in magazines such as Vanity Fair, Harper's Bazaar, and McCall's, as well as in exhibitions of fine photography. In 1943 he moved to Southern California where he continued photographing and writing about photography until his death in 1958.

Outerbridge burst onto the photographic art scene in the early 1920s with photographs that were visually fresh and technically adept. He applied his talent for the formal arrangement of objects to advertisements for men's haberdashery, glassware, and perfume in fashionable magazines such as Vanity Fair and Harper's Bazaar.

In 1925 Outerbridge moved to Paris to design layouts for French Vogue. His friendship with the photographer Man Ray put him in frequent contact with members of the European avant-garde. In 1928 he moved to Berlin and then to London to work in motion pictures before returning to New York. The following year, 12 of his photographs were included in the groundbreaking exhibition Film und Foto held in Stuttgart, Germany, and 10 of his prints were acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Outerbridge was celebrated for his ability to transform commonplace objects into semiabstractions through a keen sensitivity to pattern and light. Outerbridge's working method was to sketch out his ideas on paper before setting up objects in the studio and lighting them. His extraordinary degree of control allowed him to explore spatial relationships in a way that led critics to compare him to Modernist painters of his day.

Increasingly dissatisfied with the limitations of the black-and-white medium, Outerbridge began researching and experimenting with various color processes. In the mid-1930s he spent several years mastering the three-color carbro transfer printing process. Color photography was primarily viewed as a commercial medium, but Outerbridge challenged that assumption by cultivating it as a means of personal expression.?? The carbro color process allowed Outerbridge to naturalistically reproduce subtle skin tone variations in his nudes—something that had not been done before.

By the late 1930s the demand for color photography in advertising surged. Outerbridge worked as a freelance photographer for magazines such as House Beautiful, Mademoiselle, McCall's, Woman's Home Companion, and Town & Country as well as for corporate clients.


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