Exhibitions: Galerie Michele Chomette, Paris Photo, 2013
The subject of this rare carte-postale is rue Mont-Cenis in Montmartre. The local landmark that it presents is the house of Mimi Pinson who was an eccentric woman famous in literary and musical circles. She was the model for Puccini's opera La Boheme; inspired a short story by Alfred de Musset; and, in 1924, shortly before Kertesz took this photograph, she was the subject of a French silent film, Mimi Pinson. Pinson's house was a favourite amongst artists. It was painted several times by the great Ecole de Paris painter Maurice Utrillo's The House of Mimi Pinson in Montmartre (oil on canvas, c.1914, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston), which uses virtually the same viewpoint as Kertesz. Perhaps as an allusion to this popularity, Kertesz includes what appears to be a painter with his easel to the left of his photograph. The carte postales of Andre Kertesz have always been the most sought-after of his works. In "Exhibition in a Pocket: The Cartes Postales of André Kertész" Nancy Reinhold writes of their qualities and importance: "These photographs, which Kertész made by contact printing on silver gelatin developing-out postcard stock, are a group whose beauty and scale make them uniquely interesting among Kertész's works. The postcards, inexpensive and printed in a makeshift darkroom in the artist's rented room, were made between 1925 and 1928, after he arrived in Paris and before he became a successful photojournalist. They provide an intimate window into this period of personal and creative transition Kertész's choice of postcard stock would have been a combination of strategy and economy: although it was not the cheapest paper available, it was inexpensive enough to meet his practical needs; it also met his aesthetic requirements, and the double weight gives the prints a substantial feel Kertész must have chosen this particular Guilleminot paper because of its characteristic qualities; it has been said that he only gave up printing on postcard stock when the Guilleminot paper was no longer being produced. One advantage of using a single kind of paper is that it produces predictable results, and Kertész's postcards have a remarkable consistency of tone, with the meticulous lighting and careful compositions evident in his earlier work, even as his subjects were various: portraits made for personal and professional use, interiors, street scenes, night scenes, exterior views, and still lifes. Kertész's photographs on postcard stock are among his most iconic images, but he only made them for a short time, and the last one was probably printed in 1928. The purchase of the Leica camera and, possibly, the discontinuation of the Guilleminot postcard stock may have led him to turn to other papers and processes. And after his first exhibition at Galerie Au Sacre du Printemps in Paris, in 1927, his work began to be shown in traveling exhibitions, to be purchased by museums, and to appear in art magazines, literary journals, and the popular press. He would have therefore needed to produce larger prints for exhibition and reproduction. As a successful photojournalist, with an income from assignments and commissions, he had less time for his personal work. Although postcard has become a shorthand for these prints, it is probably more useful to consider them photographs made on postcard stock. They are not materially identical, but similar. They are recognizable as a group by their scale, delicacy, tone, and finish, and they remain a source of fascination. Kertész's use of postcard stock was distinctive and personal: the format itself seemed not to matter, as he obliterated its original size and purpose by trimming and mounting."