Lotte Jacobi, Portrait of Claire Bauroff, Berlin

Lotte Jacobi, Portrait of Claire Bauroff, Berlin, around 1928; printed 1979. Gelatin silver print, Overall (sheet): 22.8 x 16.5 cm. Gift of Sandra Ball and Marcia Reid, 1987. © The University of New Hampshire. Used with Permission 87/335.1

Photography, 1920s–1940s: Women in Focus

April 27 - November 10, 2019

Located on the first floor in gallery 128, the Edmond G. Odette Family Gallery.

Admission is always FREE for AGO Members, AGO Annual Pass Holders & Visitors 25 and under. Learn more.


The photographer is a witness. The witness of her era.” Germaine Krull (1930)

The interwar years were a period of intense social and political change and marked a new era for women in Europe and North America. Fighting for new freedoms, modeling new fashions, and interrogating issues of identity, women emerged as powerful and provocative creators. Photographs were disseminated on a mass scale through illustrated magazines and newspapers. Artists took up the camera as a dynamic tool to perceive their surroundings in new ways.

This exhibition highlights photographs from the collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario, along with key loans, and features a range of innovative photographic practices forged during these years of creative vitality. For instance, Germaine Krull produced dramatic close-ups and dizzying views of modernist architecture, and Hannah Höch, a Dadaist, created politically and socially subversive collages from magazine cut outs. Women also appear in front of the camera as compelling subjects and as modern muses for artists like Man Ray. Ilse Bing’s self-portrait demonstrates artists’ unconventional use of the camera to capture the modern experience.

Featured in McEwen Gallery, adjacent to the main display, is the projection of Fernand Léger’s film Ballet mécanique (1924). The film expresses a growing anxiety towards the relationship between humans and machines. The jarring soundtrack, composed by George Antheil, emphasizes the ballet’s frenetic movements and dissonant effect.

The works on display reflect the zeal of technological innovation and avant-garde expression during the interwar years and pays homage to the women both behind and in front of the camera. The exhibition will be spread over two distinct rotations to reflect the experimentation flourishing in postwar Europe and the development of documentary modes in North America.

The second iteration will be on view from November 23, 2019 to April 19, 2020.

Presented in collaboration with the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival


Tina Modotti, El Machete

Tina Modotti, El Machete, 1926. Gelatin silver print, Overall (sheet): 23.8 × 18.8 cm. Gift of Harry and Ann Malcolmson, 2015 © Art Gallery of Ontario 2015/248

Tina Modotti, El Machete
Rudolph Koppitz, Bewegungsstudie (Movement Study)

Rudolph Koppitz, Bewegungsstudie (Movement Study), 1926. Bromoil print, Overall (sheet): 59.8 × 43.8 cm. Gift of Patricia Regan, in memory of Dr. Arthur Rubinoff, 2013 © Art Gallery of Ontario 2013/373

Rudolph Koppitz, Bewegungsstudie (Movement Study)
Jaromir Funke, Abstraction

Jaromir Funke, Abstraction, 1925-1930. Gelatin silver print, Overall (sheet): 23.1 × 29.2 cm. Malcolmson Collection. Gift of Harry and Ann Malcolmson in partnership with a private donor, 2014. © Art Gallery of Ontario 2014/550

Jaromir Funke, Abstraction
Violet Keene Perinchief, African Appeal

Violet Keene Perinchief, African Appeal, around 1935. Gelatin silver print, Overall (sheet): 64.45 x 50.80 cm. Courtesy Stephen Bulger Gallery © The Estate of Violet Keene Perinchief / Courtesy Stephen Bulger Gallery

Violet Keene Perinchief, African Appeal

Be the first to find out about AGO exhibitions and events, get the behind-the-scenes scoop and book tickets before it’s too late.
You can unsubscribe at any time.