Ruth Bernhard

Ruth Bernhard


The artist whom Ansel Adams called “the greatest photographer of the nude.” Bernhard is world renowned for her classical and luminous forms which clearly transcend the boundarie...

Ruth Bernhard


The daughter of graphic designer, Lucien Bernhard, Ruth Bernhard studied art history and typography in Berlin, immigrated to the United States in 1927 and began photographing in 1930. Self-taught in photography, she had said that the most important influences on her work were Edward Weston, the poet Ranier Maria Rilke, Michelangelo and Auguste Rodin. Like Rodin, Ruth embraced the artistic belief that “you should be able to roll a nude down a hill and nothing breaks off.” Though, like Weston, she photographs natural forms in a sharp-focus, straight f/64 style, she is more sensual and romantic in her interpretation of nature than he was.

Ruth once wrote: “My photographs are the result of intense reaction to my daily experiences. I do not wish to record, but to search for the elusive fragments of meaning according to my perceptiveness and awareness of the universe. Is a blade of grass not as miraculous as the firmament and of equal value? Life and death are two words for the same thing – all part of the living order, the illumination of which leads to the underlying philosophy of the creative artists in eery medium” (The Photograph as Poetry, Pasadena Art Museum exhibition catalog, 1960).

Ruth Bernhard’s work can be found in most major museum collections throughout the world, including the George Eastman House, Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. Her photographs have been shown internationally in major exhibitions and have also been widely published. In 1986, Photography West published an acclaimed monograph of her nudes entitled, The Eternal Body (Photography West Graphics, 1986), which received Photography Book of the Year from Friends of Photography and brought Bernhard widespread acclaim as a photographer of the nude.

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