Erwin Blumenfeld, Self-Portrait with a Linhof, Paris, 1938
The Trials and Tribulations of Erwin Blumenfeld, 1930-1950
13 October 2022 – 5 March 2023
Featuring some 180 photographs, including series never previously exhibited, "The Trials and Tribulations of Erwin Blumenfeld, 1930-1950" exhibition focuses on the photographer’s most fertile period. It also casts new light on his vision of art and his life during the Second World War.
The Trials and tribulations of a Jew from Berlin in the 20th Century
From his arrival in Paris in 1936 to the beginnings of his American career after 1941, Erwin Blumenfeld (Berlin, 1897-Rome, 1969) experienced a period of great artistic activity and personal upheaval. His immersion in the artistic effervescence of the French capital and its fashion world was brought to an abrupt end by France’s defeat in 1940. Forced into an itinerant existence, he was interned as an “undesirable foreigner” in several French camps before obtaining a visa for the United States. He and his family set sail from France on the Mont Viso but were again interned in a French camp in Morocco. Blumenfeld endured these torments like many Jewish artists, but at the last moment was able to reach the United States, where he immediately resumed his career as a fashion photographer.
The revelation of his talent as a photographer
During the period from the 1930s to the 1950s, Blumenfeld revealed his talent as a photographer in the original and prolific artistic experimentation he ardently pursued both in Paris and New York. After his Dadaist beginnings and notably his premonitory political photomontages denouncing Nazism, his work became more detached from the troubles of the times. He transcended the techniques adopted notably by proponents of the “New vision”, both in his imagery and in the laboratory: solarisation, reticulation, superimposition, mirrors, optical effects, interplay of shadow and light became the grammar of images in which beauty and the female nude were central. In the 1940s his genius expressed itself particularly in fashion photography with his pioneering experimentation with the use of colour.
The exhibition at the mahJ
The exhibition traces Blumenfeld’s development in the series comprising his most famous and most experimental photographs, and via the links he forged with the old masters and modern art in his imagery. In New York, Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue magazines became influential showcases for the talent he showed in his free exploration of forms and colour. The exhibition also features two previously unpublished reportages, on a gypsy family at Saintes-Maries de-la-Mer in Provence and the ceremonial dances of the Native Americans in New Mexico.
The exhibition is accompanied by events in the auditorium, activities for young visitors and guided visits.
The catalogue is copublished by the mahJ and the Rmn-Grand-Palais.
General curator: Paul Salmona (director of the mahJ)
Scientific curators: Nadia Blumenfeld-Charbit (granddaughter of Erwin Blumenfeld) and Nicolas Feuillie (mahJ)
With the support of
With the partnership of
With media partnership of
Rates and reservation
MahJ ticket to permanent collection and exhibitions:
> Full rate: 10 €
> Reduced rate: 7 € (18-25 year non European Union residents)
> Exhibition-Reduced rate for 18-25 year European Union residents: 5 €
Online booking is recommended, including for free ticket holders, Paris Museum Pass holders and Friends of the mahJ.
Purchase your entrance ticket:
> Online ticketing*
> On site, at mahJ’s ticketdesk (from Tuesday to Saturday, from 11 am to 5 pm)
> By phone, (33)1 53 01 86 57 (Tuesday and Wednesday from 10h30 am to 1h pm)
* Secured payment by crebit card