Berenice Abbott opened a photographic portrait studio in Paris in 1926 after having worked for three years as an assistant to Man Ray, whom she had met in New York. Although her Paris portraits are indebted stylistically to Man Ray's, she brought to them a sympathetic eye that was very much her own. Her portraits of women are notable for their empathic understanding of her subjects, but she reached a depth of expression in her photographs of James Joyce (1882-1941). Abbott photographed Joyce on two occasions, the first in 1926 at his home, the second in 1928 at her studio, as was her more customary practice. In spite of Abbott's annotation on the back of the print, this portrait belongs to the earlier session, when Joyce was photographed both with and without the patch over his eye, worn because of his sadly degenerating sight. For this particular exposure Joyce removed the patch and held it, with his glasses, in his right hand; his forehead still bears the diagonal impression of the ribbon. This intimate portrait, with its softly diffused lighting, suggests the complex, introverted character of Joyce's imagination. It is with good reason that Abbott's are considered the definitive portraits of the author of "Ulysses" and "Finnegan's Wake."
Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings
Inscription: Inscribed by artist in pencil, print verso, BC: "Latest and most authentic portrait of James Joyce"; stamped in blue ink, print verso, C: "BÉRÉNICE // ABBOTT // 44, RUE DU BAC // --PARIS-- "
Berenice Abbott; [Paul Katz, North Bennington, VT]; Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York, November 3, 1981
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," May 25, 1993–July 4, 1993.
Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh, Scotland. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," August 7, 1993–October 2, 1993.
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," June 19, 1994–September 11, 1994.
O'Neal, Hank. Berenice Abbott: American Photographer. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1982. p. 43.
Apraxine, Pierre. Photographs from the Collection of the Gilman Paper Company. Reeds Springs, Mo.: White Oak Press, 1985. pl. 164.
Hambourg, Maria Morris, Pierre Apraxine, Malcolm Daniel, Virginia Heckert, and Jeff L. Rosenheim. The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993. p. 353.