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Lillian Bassman, American, b. June 15, 1907
Golden Fox, Blue Fox, Marilyn Ambrose, Harper's Bazaar, [Boa by Frederica], November 1954
Gelatin silver print
11 in. x 14 in. (27.94 cm x 35.56 cm)

Object Type: Photography
Technique: Gelatin silver Process
Accession Number: 2011.3.2

"In Golden Fox, Blue Fox, a photograph which appeared in Harper’s Bazaar in November 1954, Marilyn Ambrose, a prominent model of the time, is seen intimately, her face half in shadow, half in a soft glow of light. Ambrose’s visage is divided into well-demarcated lips, nails, and highly stylized brows and a valance of white—a testament to Bassman’s interest in form. This contrast in Bassman’s black-and-white photography illustrates what John Galliano has recently called “painterly strokes of light” (1). The fur’s materiality and texture are accentuated by a sharper focus that contrasts with Ambrose’s almost grainy figure and skeletal hand, reminding the viewer that although this is art, it is still fashion—and hence, advertisement.

The hand across Ambrose’s forehead and the anonymous tuxedoed man call attention to Bassman’s ability to capture models in more open and seemingly candid poses, a strength Bassman attributes to being a woman photographer with whom models felt at ease (2). Bassman’s hallmark techniques of darkroom manipulation to alter photographs, which include using brushes to blur edges and ferrocyanic acid to lighten areas of the photograph, can be seen especially in the background, which floats away in a romantic style. The man’s hand and smoking cigarette suggest Bassman’s knack for capturing movement and a playful departure from the portraiture conventions dominant in fashion photography at the time."
(1) Lillian Bassman: Women. Intro. Deborah Solomon. New York: Abrams, 2009, pg. 7.
(2) Rosenblum, Naomi. A History of Women Photographers. New York: Abbeville Publishing Group, 1994, pg. 230.

By Catherine Sweatt, Academic Year Wilson Intern, 2010-2011.


Signed and numbered in pencil on verso.

Gelatin silver print, 1954. Printed 2006.

Object Description
Black and white fashion photograph of a woman draped in a fur stole, holding her hand up to the side of her face. An anonymous tuxedoed man stands behind her.

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