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An image of Two forms by Max Dupain

Max Dupain

(Australia 22 Apr 1911 – 27 Jul 1992)

Two forms
printed 1970s
Media category
Materials used
gelatin silver photograph

50.2 x 38.4 cm image/sheet; 63.0 x 48.6 cm original board

Signature & date
Signed and dated l.r. image and u.c. verso original board, pencil "Max Dupain '39".
Purchased 1976
Accession number
Not on display
Further information

This photograph relates conceptually to Dupain’s experiments with photographs of nudes. According to the vitalist philosophies of the time, the spiralling rounded shell being shaped by nature is feminine, while the hard metallic tool is man-made and represents the masculine principle. Photographed on a plain surface and lit with raking light, the sense of space is ambiguous. Dupain retained an interest in still-lifes throughout his career, returning to them particularly towards the end of his life. In the 1930s his most well-known still-life was ‘Shattered intimacy’ 1936 (AGNSW collection) where an image of broken glass and a broken classical statue has been solarised, producing a powerful narrative. ‘Two forms’ is a more contemplative image as the shell and the head of a hammer lie side by side and are of similar scale. Interestingly, the two forms are distant from each other, rather than close together, and their scale gives them equality. It is not known whether Dupain necessarily subscribed to the contemporaneous anxiety about the ‘new woman’, but certainly one can read this image as an examination of difference.

© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007

Bibliography (4)

Judy Annear, The Enigmatic Object, Sydney, 1997.

Judy Annear, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'Australian modernism', pg.131-149, Sydney, 2007, 136, 139 (illus.).

Gael Newton, Max Dupain retrospective 1930-1980, Sydney, 1980. catalogue no: 43

Ursula Prunster, Seeing is believing: the art in photography, Sydney, 1985. catalogue no: 15

Exhibition history (4)

Max Dupain Retrospective 1930-1980, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 29 Aug 1980–28 Sep 1980

Seeing is believing - the art in photography, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 13 Dec 1985–19 Jan 1986

Four Photographers, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 02 Jun 1990–19 Aug 1990

The Enigmatic Object, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 15 Apr 1997–22 Jun 1997