American, 1905 - 2006
Ruth Bernhard (1905–2006, b. Berlin, American) is best known for her studio-based photography work of nude women. Moving to New York from Berlin in the late 1920s, the artist was deeply rooted in the lesbian subculture of her artistic community. Treating all of her subjects as worthy of detailed observation, Bernhard’s close-up rendering of the female form, shells, or advertisement products aligns her work with Modernist photography. Her expanded focus, which included images of doll heads and architectural containers for the human body, as in In the Box - Horizontal (1962), lends a psychological element that has categorized her work as a prototype of Surrealist photography. Bernhard’s graphic and evocative subject matter sets a precedent to photographers such as Robert Mapplethorpe as well as renowned contemporary artists working in photography, such as Zoe Leonard and Cindy Sherman.