Rogi André

1905Budapest, Hungary | 1970Paris, France
Rogi André — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Rogi André, Autoportrait, ca. 1930, gelatin silver print, 51 x 41 cm, © Photo:  Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, © Rights reserved

French Photographer and Painter.

The daughter of a doctor, Rogi André received a bourgeoise education in Budapest during the Austrian occupation. Suffering from severe scoliosis since childhood, she wore an iron corset, which limited her movements, leading her to learn to play the violin and to draw. In 1924, she studied at the Fine Art School in Budapest, hoping to become a painter. The next year, she travelled alone to Paris, where she met several exiled supporters of Count Mihály Károlyi, the temporary president of the Hungarian Republic, all of whom were opposed to the dictatorial Horthy regime. She became particularly close with the sculptor István Beöthy and his wife, the painter Anna Beöthy-Steiner (1902–1985). In 1928, she married the photographer André Kértesz. They lived together at 75, boulevard de Montparnasse in Paris, next to the constructivist gallery/bookshop L’esthétique founded by their friend, painter Evsa Model. Trained in photography by her husband, R. André was thus able to become financially independent. Around 1927–1928, she began photographing nude female figures, in high demand by the press, although she was clearly not personally drawn to this genre. She nevertheless quickly managed on her own and even advised her friend Lisette Model, who began working in photography as well. In 1930, she specialised in portraiture. She made full-length portraits of her sitters, giving great importance to the position of the head, their gestures and their hands. She captured her models in their everyday life, eliminating all artifice in order to attain a likeness of their personality.

For each portrait, she would take four to six photographs. She transported her own equipment, a 1912 9 x 12 Voigtländer Bergheil with folding plates, which was heavy, cumbersome and complicated to handle and whose installation time was long since she also took time to meet with her models. Her prints eliminated all details that would not be important to the photograph. In her portrait of Max Jacob, the elegance of the penholder placed on his desk seems not only to accompany the gesture of the writer, but also to reduce his existence to the pen; in that of Mondrian, the stiffness of his pose is accentuated by the lines of his paintings seen behind him; and when she photographed André Lhôte in front of his easel, his pupils behind him are truly the ones being photographed. In her portrait gallery one comes across the Tout-Paris of the arts and literature: Braque, Bissière, Bonnard, Duchamp, Crevel, Peignot, Breton, Colette, Dora Maar. The artist always made her prints herself, adapting to the small space at her disposal: a small corner of her kitchen or bathroom.

After her divorce in 1932, she moved into a building on the Rue du Père-Cotentin, where she reunited with two other photographers, Florence Henri (1893–1982) and Ilse Bing (1899–1998)–these three women supported each other. R. André worked for several magazines: Paris Magazine; Arts et métiers graphiques; and Verve. In 1935, she photographed Jacqueline Lamba (1910–1993) swimming to illustrate Breton’s text La Nuit du tournesol published in the magazine Minotaure. She was exhibited in several galleries such as Art et industrie, Pléaide, Le Chausseur d’images, and in several group exhibitions, such as the 1936 Exposition internationale de la photographie contemporaine (International Exhibition of Photography) at the Pavillon de Marsan in the Musée des Arts décoratifs in Paris; and the exhibition Photography, 1839-1937 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1937. In 1941, she left Paris assisted by Renée Beslon, whom she met in the studio of A. Lhote, whose painting classes she took, for the unoccupied zone and fled temporarily to Touraine. After returning to Paris, the gallerist Jeanne Bucher protected her by hiding her in her daughter’s bedroom. In 1944, R. André was commissioned to photograph Kandinsky on his death bed. Starting in 1950, living in poverty, she turned to painting. According to several accounts, she had an extremely difficult personality and lived in solitude, despite having met all of the painters and writers from the legendary Montparnasse neighbourhood during the interwar period. Throughout her life, she was a nomadic artist always catching the eyes of others.

Catherine Gonnard

Translated from French by Katia Porro.

From the Dictionnaire universel des créatrices
© 2013 Des femmes – Antoinette Fouque
© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
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