Legendary American photographer Paul Outerbridge is perhaps best known for his pioneering work in color photography and his avant-garde use of compositional space. Outerbridge was a fashion and commercial photographer whose style of formal arrangement drew from Cubism and Modern abstract painting. His photographic still-lifes of objects and various commercial products defined the twentieth-century’s advertising aesthetic. Outerbridge also created a series of erotic nude photographs that were unable to be shown publicly during his lifetime due to censorship laws.
Born in New York City in 1896 Outerbridge spent his life between New York City, and Los Angeles. During his adolescent years, Paul was sent to the Hill School in suburban Pennsylvania where he studied under a strict academic curriculum before returning to New York City and enrolling in the Cutler School. Eventually, against the wishes of his father, an influential surgeon in New York City, Outerbridge turned from a university education and began classes at the Art Students’ League in New York. It was here that Outerbridge met and assisted theatrical stage designer Rollo Peters. This experience, as Outerbridge suggests, was formative to his photography, writing “I worked out a theory of my own for the painting of scenes with light alone”.
A technical and conceptual master, Paul Outerbridge’s photographs were decades ahead of their time. An iconic Paul Outerbridge photograph The Coffee Drinkers (1940) staged for a supermarket ad is an example of Outerbridge’s use of lifestyle to sell a product while making the product itself a secondary focus. Furthermore, Outerbridge is a pioneer in the rigorous and luxurious carbro-color process and would invest in upwards of nine hours to print a single work.
Paul Outerbridge’s work has been exhibited widely throughout the world. In 1959, one year after his death the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. exhibited a solo exhibition of Paul Outerbridge’s works. Additionally, his works have been exhibited and are represented in prominent collections including Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Getty Museum, Los Angeles, California; The Metropolitan Museum, New York; The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago; and the Los Angeles Museum of Art, Los Angeles