What's on in Paris in Spring 2000
Editorial collection

Herbert List

Organized by the Fotomuseum im Münchner Stadtmuseum,
this exhibition of photos by Herbert List in Paris' Hôtel de Sully was on view until 11th June, 2000.

Herbert List (1903-1975) is one of the great photographers of our time whose work has promoted photography to become a major art. His famous 1950 portrait of Anna Magnani reveals her vivid personality in the shadowy forehead, magnetically expressive eyes and the strong determination of her hand. To capture such diverse richness of emotions in one instantaneous photo shows Herbert List's great artistic talent as well as his deep understanding of the personality of his subject—the unforgetable Anna Magnani, who was herself a master of portrayal of deeply felt emotions. With great lucidity List wrote in 1943: "A portrait is credible if the photographer has empathy for his subject's personality. He cannot make a resembling portrait of a person to whom he feels no attachment." His portraits of Picasso, Braque, Maugham, Morandi, Stravinsky, Gide or Pasolini show the same conscious communion with the inner character of his models; their spiritual aura matter more, in these portraits, than the aesthetic representation.

Self-taught in photography, List only took it seriously after his meeting in 1930 with Andreas Feininger, a prominent memeber of the influential Bauhaus.

He shares with De Chirico a sublimed vision of ancient Greek ruins, their timeless beauty drowned in metaphysical light, though fallen victim to war and oblivion. He brings out the contrast of this idyllic vision of Greece in his 1945 photos of the calcinated facades of Munich in ruins; the ugliness signifies a decadence that led to folly—a folly that he never shared, but suffered from, choosing ultimately self exile.

There are affinities with Magritte and Dali. There is also fascination for Greece and Italy. And he always managed to extract the melancholic beauty of people and places, rich or miserable, happy or distraught.

Of life he kept an abstraction of linear elegance, a discreet and noble expression of emotions, a mysterious ambiguity symbolized by light and shade that became his only instruments of composition. And that's how he, himself, will be remembered by life: discreet, elegant, sensual and mysterious—in constant search of the essential beauty and the primordial light.

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On-Line Galler
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May 2000
Herbert List:
Patrimoine Photographique,
Hôtel de Sully

62, rue Saint-Antoine,
Paris 4th
Phone: 01 42 74 47 75
Metro: St. Paul
April 7 to June 11, 2000
Open: 10:00 to 18:30
Closed: Mondays
Price: 25 Francs