Lisette Model


Right Through the Very Heart of It
June 4 – July 31, 2009

Lisette Model (1906-1983) was born in Vienna, Austria. She studied music with influential composer Arnold Schönberg, attributing a great deal to his influence, calling him her "one teacher and one great influence." After the death of her father in 1924, she traveled to Paris to pursue her music education. During this time she met her future husband, the painter Evsa Model. In 1933 she abandoned music and began to study art—first painting, then photography. She credits Parisian portrait photographer Rogi Andre with teaching her basic camera techniques. While visiting her mother in the south of France she made a series of unsettling portraits of men and women lounging in deck chairs along the Promenade des Anglais. These images are among her most widely recognized and reproduced works. Since most of these pictures were taken without the knowledge of her subjects, she often cropped the images tightly to create the illusion of a shorter distance between her and them. In 1937, Lisette married artist Evsa Model and the following year they relocated to New York City. Her work was soon being published regularly in Harper's Bazaar and other magazines. She joined the Photo League and had her first solo exhibition. In 1951, Model accepted a position at The New School, where her friend and colleague Berenice Abbott was already a professor. One of Model's most famous students was Diane Arbus, whose work bears some similarities to her teacher in its raw subject matter. Model continued to work as a photographer and teacher until her death in 1983.