Artwork Details

Ruth Bernhard
American

1905–2006

Two Forms
1963
Medium
Gelatin silver print on paper
Dimensions
13 1/2 x 10 1/2 inches
Location
Level 3, Gallery 5
Accession Number
1988.14.5
Credit
Museum Purchase, Friends of Photography Funds
Image Copyright
Reproduced with permission of the Ruth Bernhard Archive, Princeton University Art Museum. © Trustees of Princeton University

About the Artwork

Ruth Bernhard is best known for her black and white photographs of nudes, still lifes, and natural forms. She was born in Germany before emigrating to New York in 1927 to join her father, graphic designer Lucian Bernhard. It is while living in New York that Bernhard bought her first camera and became close friends with photographer Berenice Abbott. She was heavily involved with the lesbian sub-culture of the New York arts community and around 1934 began making posed, studio photographs of women in the nude. 

Two Forms is one of Bernhard’s most famous images. In this work, a Black woman and white woman, who were lovers, are pressed closely together. Bernhard worked exclusively in black and white and was meticulous about properly lighting her subjects. Of her models, Bernhard once said, Some of them are not beautiful. But, if you catch them in the right light, they glow.”