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August 04, 2022

Acquisition: Manuel Álvarez Bravo

Manuel Álvarez Bravo, "Retrato de lo Eterno (Portrait of the Eternal)"

Manuel Álvarez Bravo
Retrato de lo Eterno (Portrait of the Eternal)
, 1935
gelatin silver print
image/sheet: 24.13 x19.37 cm (9 1/2 x 7 5/8 in.)
mount: 45.24 x 35.56 cm (17 13/16 x 14 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Nancy Rutter Clark Collection
2021.87.7

Manuel Álvarez Bravo (1902–2002) is one of the most important figures in 20th-century Latin American photography. Rejecting stereotypes, he was deeply influenced by the Mexican muralists and interested in depicting the Indigenous heritage of the Mexican people. Donated by the Nancy Rutter Clark Collection to the National Gallery, Retrato de lo Enterno (Portrait of the Eternal) (1935) is the first vintage print by the artist to enter the collection, joining 30 other, later prints.

Retrato de lo Enterno (Portrait of the Eternal) is a vintage print of one of this photographer’s most celebrated works. It depicts Isabel Villaseñor—a noted post-revolutionary Mexican sculptor, painter, printmaker, poet, and songwriter—looking into a mirror as she pulls her hair back from her partially lit face. Using sunlight, as the poet Langston Hughes wrote of Bravo’s work, that is "a quiet veil making the shadows like velvet," Bravo transformed an everyday event into a poetic reflection on beauty, vanity, and the transitory nature of life.

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