Germany 1908 – France 2000

No title (Jean Cocteau avec Marquis de Sade). 1939 Materials & Technique: photographs, Type C colour photograph

Dimensions: printed image 30.0 h x 24.0 w cm sheet 36.9 h x 26.3 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1981
Accession No: NGA 81.1821
  • Yet it seems so easy to take a photograph! One forgets that, apart from the technical aspects, photography can be a mental creation and the affirmation of a personality. What is marvellous about a photograph is that its possibilities are infinite; there aren't any subjects 'done to death'.
    Gisèle Freund

    Freund's aim was to make her camera the witness of the time in which she lived and she made portraits of most of the great figures of the interwar years. Jean Cocteau – artist, writer, poet and filmmaker – had become a leader of the French avant-garde in the 1920s. Surrealistic fantasy pervades much of his work and this aspect to Cocteau's personality is introduced by the strange lamp which seems a disproportionately dominant part of the composition.

    Freund was one of the first professionals to work with Type C (colour negative) film. This produced prints with strange and muted colours. Freund, and other photographers such as Saul Leiter, chose to exploit its unique character rather than being limited by it.

    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra