Erwin Blumenfeld’s ‘Nude in Broken Mirror’

Nude in Broken Mirror reveals Erwin Blumenfeld’s obsession with the female nude. The photograph was taken seven years after Wet Veil, when Blumenfeld was establishing himself as a fashion photographer of note in New York. Blumenfeld’s personal work at this time was still highly experimental; nude studies from the time utilise solarisation, close cropping and bold lighting effects. In Nude in Broken Mirror, he distorts the female form by photographing a model’s reflection in the surface of a broken mirror. While the torso, neck and one full arm remain intact, the legs, back and head are distorted and warped by the fractured mirror. The effect is uncanny, and reveals the lasting influence of Man Ray and the Surrealists on his output. Where the profile of her face should be, there is instead a conspicuous void. Compositions with mirrors are common in Blumenfeld’s oeuvre, and he clearly delights in the mirror’s capacity to transfigure and transform.

Blumenfeld bought his radically avant-garde approach to the world of fashion photography, becoming one of the most sought-after and highest-paid photographers in the world. He continued to produce clever and unexpected compositions until his death in 1969. Blumenfeld left his photographic estate to his three children and his second wife. The estate remains to this day physically divided into four parts. Only very few of the surviving prints have been sold and prints of this calibre rarely come to the market.

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