Raoul Ubac (Belgian, 1910-1985)
gelatin silver print, Image: 17.00 x 22.90 cm (6 11/16 x 9 inches); Paper: 18.20 x 24.10 cm (7 1/8 x 9 7/16 inches). John L. Severance Fund 2007.154
Ubac’s Penthesilea series (1937-39) is named for an 1808 play by poet Hermann von Kleist about the
queen of the Amazons, who were female warriors. This print, the finished work, is a photograph of a
thick collage of cut-up photographs set on a black background and re-photographed using darkroom
manipulations, including solarization. Bits of bodies rope, and wood can be discerned but the end
product is distant from reality, in keeping with its mythological origins. The chaotic composition and
fragmented, disfigured bodies convey the frenzy and horrors of battle, a subject that would soon become all too real in Europe.