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Lisette Model

(1901—1983)


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(1901–83).

Photographer. Known for images that reveal the psychology of modern social experience by unmasking its pretenses and anxieties, she often captured indignity, aberration, and self-delusion in candid documentary portraits. Born in Vienna and privately educated, Lisette Seybert found in Arnold Schönberg a mentor for her early ambition to become a professional musician. In 1926 she left for Paris to study music. Essentially self-taught as a photographer, she began her camera work in 1933, not long after turning to the study of art in Paris. Her first major project, from the following year, summarizes her central interests and remains among her most admired accomplishments. On the Promenade des Anglais along the beach in Nice, she surreptitiously photographed vacationers of the haute bourgeoisie, capturing in their body language, facial expressions, and clothing a rich commentary on social class and its effects. In 1937 she married Russian-born painter Evsa (or Yevsa) Model. When they settled permanently in New York the following year, she turned her sardonic camera on local street life. She worked for Harper's Bazaar and other magazines in the 1940s and taught at the New School for Social Research (now New School) from 1951 until her death. Her students included many accomplished photographers of the next generation, most notably Diane Arbus, who extended Model's sensibility to new levels of intensity.

Subjects: Art.


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