Neck Study
Neck Study
Neck Study

Ruth Bernhard

Neck Study


Original Gelatin Silver Photograph

Image dimensions: 10.5" x 13.5"
Mounted dimensions: 16" x 20"

certified authentic
Neck Study
Neck Study
Neck Study



Original 10.5" x 13.5" Gelatin Silver photograph by Ruth Bernhard, "Neck Study." Individually handmade under Ruth Bernhard's supervision in 1986. Signed by Ruth Bernhard in pencil on mount with title and date in artist's hand on mount verso. Provenance: Personal Collection of Carol Williams, publisher of Bernhard's monograph, The Eternal Body.


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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.


carol williams and ruth bernhard


The most popular black and white process of the 20th century was gelatin silver, in which the image consists of silver metal particles suspended in a gelatin layer. Gelatin silver papers are commercially manufactured by applying an emulsion of light-sensitive silver salts in gelatin to a sheet of paper coated with a layer of baryta, a white pigment mixed with gelatin. The sensitized paper, generally fiber-based, is exposed to light through a negative and then made visible in a chemical reducing solution. William Henry Fox Talbot introduced the basic chemical process in 1839, but the more complex gelatin silver process did not become the most common method of black-and-white darkroom photography until the late 1910s. Because the silver image is suspended in a gelatin emulsion that rests on a pigment-coated paper, gelatin silver can be sharply defined and highly detailed in comparison to platinum or palladium, in which the image is absorbed directly into the fibers of the paper.

Cross section of Gelatin Silver paper