Portrait of Ellen Auerbach
Grete Stern, around 1930
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The teacher’s influence (Walter Peterhans) on his student is unmistakable in her photographic work. Grete Stern’s masterpieces are portraits, along with photomontages in collaboration with Ellen Auerbach. Like Peterhans, Stern chooses a recumbent position in her portraits of her friend Ellen. Against background materials apparently chosen for high contrast and with plain clothing, she photographs her model using a top view. Whereas Peterhans’s portraits of women almost exclusively show vulnerable, delicate beings, Stern often presents her women as self-aware, but no less feminine for that. In the portrait of Ellen, she sets a black diagonal line formed by bent arms in contrast to the bright check pattern. Ellen’s white face stands out from the black of her clothing and hair; she is gazing out of the picture with a faraway look.