23.9 x 17.2cm image/sheet (irreg.)
Maurice Tabard was born in France in 1897 but moved to America with his father after the First World War. He worked as a silk designer but also studied briefly with the French photographer Emil Brunel. He admired professional portrait photographers and became friends with one of Edward Steichen’s students, Harvey White. In 1920 he purchased a full-plate camera and in 1922 he went to work for the Bachrach studios which took him to Baltimore, Cincinnati and many smaller towns. In 1928 he returned to France where he worked as a freelance photographer.
In his advertising designs he began using techniques that he had observed from avant-garde photographers’ experimentation, including the photograms, solarisation, double exposure and montages of Man Ray. Tabard had his work shown in a number of magazines, including journals of graphics and photographic annuals. Julien Levy included his photographs in the exhibition ‘Modern European photographers’ 1932 in New York and he also showed regularly in ‘Galerie de la Pléiade’. During the Second World War he worked for Gaumont film studio and spent some time as a correspondent.
‘Untitled (photomontage with hand and ruler)’ brings together the human hand with measuring instruments, invoking that ancient imagery of the arts and sciences as found, for example, in Albrecht Dürer’s famous etching ‘Melencolia’ 1514. It is a conjunction that has a new lease of life in modernism, with constructivists and Bauhaus artists using it often as a sign of the new objectivity. El Lissitzky used it in his well-known photomontage ‘The constructor (self portrait)’ 1924. The combination of circle and bar is a constructivist motif, while the toning on the protractor gives it a cosmic or spatial feel reminiscent of suprematist compositions, such as Alexander Rodchenko’s painting ‘Composition’ 1918 in the AGNSW’s modern collection.
© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007
Anthony Bond, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'International modernism', pg.93-111, Sydney, 2007, 103 (illus.).