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Norlyst Gallery

  • Founded in 1943 by the American painter and art collector Elenore Lust, the Norlyst Gallery represented a cross section of contemporary painting, photography and other media focusing on surrealist and abstract expressionist styles and promoting women artists and photographers.
  • Name:
    Norlyst Gallery
  • Kind of Organisation:
    GalleryArt Gallery
  • Introduction:

    Founded in 1943 by the American painter and art collector Elenore Lust, the Norlyst Gallery represented a cross section of contemporary painting, photography and other media focusing on surrealist and abstract expressionist styles and promoting women artists and photographers.

    Word Count: 38

  • Content:

    Despite its progressive and experimental programme, the Norlyst gallery is today not well known in the gallery scene of the 1930s and 1940s. It was located close to the gallery district around 57th Street, where other galleries as the Julien Levy Gallery or Wheye Gallery were located. Elenore Lust opened her gallery in March 1943, together with the émigré artist Jimmy Ernst. On his arrival in New York in 1938, Jimmy Ernst (1920–1984), the son of the artist Max Ernst, got in contact with the circle of émigré surrealist painters, while experimenting with different surrealistic techniques. After working at Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century Gallery (founded in October 1942 and located at 30 West 57th Street), he joined Elenore Lust to co-found the Norlyst Gallery. It was there that, from March, 29 until April, 14 1943, he put on his first one-man show Reflections of the Inner Eye. Elenore Lust (1909–1997) studied at the New York University and Art Students League and evolved during the 1930s as a muralist and portraitist while engaging with the National Association of Women Artists (NAWA). Representing a cross section of contemporary painting, photography and other media, Elenore Lust tried to focus on surrealist and abstract expressionist styles and promoting women artists and photographers. She was also very well connected to the New School for Social Research, where émigré artists, photographers and intellectuals could re-start their careers in exile in New York while teaching at the school.

    From Juni, 1 until June, 24 1944, the Captured Light. Experimental Photography exhibition featured, in addition to surrealist paintings, the work of several photographers. Among them were the émigrés Josef Breitenbach, Erwin Blumenfeld, Rolf Tietgens, György Kepes and Lázló Moholy-Nagy. The group show was one of the first to present experimental photography in a gallery setting in New York. This was a follow-up to the first, highly successful, Captured Light exhibition held in January of the same year with contributions from émigré photographers Andreas Feininger, Erwin Blumenfeld and Rolf Tietgens. A third edition of Captured Light opened on April, 30 in 1945. Two articles on the exhibitions and the subject of surrealist photography appeared in Popular Photography magazine. (Downes 1944; Kraus 1945)
    As well as showing photography in her gallery, Elenore Lust also supported the work of female émigré artists and lent them space to put on exhibitions. Among those who benefited were Jaqueline Lamba (1944), Louise Bourgeois (1947), probably the photographer Ruth Bernhard and in 1948 Lotte Jacobi. Lotte Jacobi’s exhibition ran from October, 3 until October, 10 and was reviewed in the Aufbau newspaper (Wolfradt 1948, 19).
    In March 1945 the émigré photographer Marion Palfi had her first one-woman exhibition Great American artists of minority groups and democracy work at the Norlyst Gallery. Her study was financed by the Council Against Intolerance in America.

    Word Count: 450

  • Known addresses in Metromod cities:

    59 West 56th Street, Central Park South, Manhattan, New York City.

  • Signature Image:
    Flyer for the Captured Light exhibition (© The Josef and Yaye Breitenbach Charitable Foundation, courtesy of The Center for Creative Photography, Josef Breitenbach Archive, AG90:29).
  • Media:
    Announcement for the Captured Light exhibition (© The Josef and Yaye Breitenbach Charitable Foundation, courtesy The Center for Creative Photography, Josef Breitenbach Archive, AG90:29).
    Flyer for Lotte Jacobi’s exhibition at the Norlyst Gallery, 1948 (© 2020. University of New Hampshire).
    Willi Wolfradt. "Lichtbild-Schöpfungen." Aufbau, 15 October 1948, p. 19.
  • Bibliography (selected):

    Belasco, Daniel. “Femme Maison: Louise Bourgeois, the Norlyst Gallery, and Feminist Surrealism in America, 1943–1947.” Networking Surrealism in the USA. Agents, Artists and the Market (Passages online, vol. 3), edited by Julia Drost et al., arthistoricum.net, 2019, pp. 303–320. Accessed 5 March 2021.

    Downes, Bruce. “Exhibition of the Month. Captured Light: Experimental Photography.” Popular Photography, September 1944, pp. 32f., 95ff.

    In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States, edited by Ilene Susan Fort and Teresa Arcq, exh. cat Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, 2012.

    Kraus, Felix. “Why Photographers experiment.” Popular Photography, February 1945, pp. 27–29.

    Kuspit, Donald. Jimmy Ernst. Hudson Hill Press, 2000.

    Sawin, Martica. Surrealism in Exile and the Beginning of the New York School. MIT Press, 1995.

    Wolfradt, Willi. "Lichtbild-Schöpfungen. Photo Sezession." Aufbau, 15 October 1948, p. 19

    Word Count: 126

  • Archives and Sources:

    Word Count: 10

  • Acknowledgements:

    My deepest thanks go the Josef Breitenbach Estate and the Center for Creative Photography, The University of Arizona, Tucson.

    Word Count: 19

  • Author:
    Helene Roth
  • Date of Founding:
    03-1943
  • Date of Disbandment:
    05-1949
  • Participants (selection):

    Josef Breitenbach, Andreas Feininger, Rolf Tietgens, Ruth Bernhard, Lotte Jacobi, Marion Palfi.

  • Metropolis:
    New York
  • Entry in process:
    no
  • Helene Roth. "Norlyst Gallery." METROMOD Archive, 2021, https://archive.metromod.net/viewer.p/69/2948/object/5145-11005406, last modified: 04-05-2021.
  • Josef Breitenbach
    Photographer
    New York

    On arriving in New York in 1941, the German photographer Josef Breitenbach tried to restart as a portrait, street and experimental photographer, as well as a teacher of photo-history and techniques.

    Word Count: 30

    Rolf Tietgens
    PhotographerEditorWriter
    New York

    Rolf Tietgens was a German émigré photographer who arrived in New York in 1938. Although, in the course of his photographic career, his artistic and surrealist images were published and shown at exhibitions, his work, today, is very little known.

    Word Count: 39

    Marion Palfi
    Photographer
    New York

    Marion Palfi was a German émigré photographer who lived in New York from the 1940s to the 1960s. Her photographic engagement in social and political topics made her name for her use of the camera to draw attention to social injustices.

    Word Count: 41

    Lotte Jacobi
    Photographer
    New York

    In October 1935 the German émigré photographer Lotte Jacobi, together with her sister Ruth Jacobi, opened a photo studio on 57th Street. The two sisters had to leave their parents' photo studio in Berlin in the 1930s and emigrated to New York.

    Word Count: 41

    Ylla
    Photographer
    New York

    Ylla was an Austrian-born photographer who emigrated to New York in 1941. Specialising in animal photography, she produced not only studio photographs, but also shot outside on urban locations in the metropolis.

    Word Count: 31

    J.J. Augustin Incorporated Publisher
    Publishing House
    New York

    J.J. Augustin was a German publishing house in Glückstadt with a long history, going back to 1632. In 1936 the American branch opened in New York with a large artistic and cultural focus.

    Word Count: 33

    Camera Features
    Photo Agency
    New York

    Camera Features was a photo agency founded by the photographer Werner Wolff and other colleagues of the photo agency PIX.

    Word Count: 20

    Weyhe Gallery
    Art Gallery
    New York

    Opened in 1919 by the German-born art dealer Erhard Weyhe opened a bookstore and gallery space specialised in contemporary European artists and was the first to specialise in prints.

    Word Count: 28

    Julien Levy Gallery
    Art Gallery
    New York

    The Julien Levy Gallery was founded by the art dealer Julien Levy (1906–1981) in 1931, and was situated in the New York gallery district around 57th Street, where the Weyhe and Norlyst Gallery were also located.

    Word Count: 34

    American-British Art Center
    Art Center
    New York

    The émigré gallerist Ala Story left London for New York around 1940, where she co-founded the American-British Art Center, which introduced British and US artists to the public.

    Word Count: 27

    László Moholy-Nagy
    PhotographerGraphic DesignerPainterSculptor
    London

    László Moholy-Nagy emigrated to London in 1935, where he worked in close contact with the local avantgarde and was commissioned for window display decoration, photo books, advertising and film work.

    Word Count: 30

    Andreas Feininger
    PhotographerWriterEditor
    New York

    Andreas Feininger, was a German émigré photographer who arrived in New York with his wife Wysse Feininger in 1939. He started a lifelong career exploring the city's streets, working as a photojournalist and writing a large number of photography manuals.

    Word Count: 39

    Ruth Bernhard
    Photographer
    New York

    Ruth Bernhard was a German émigré photographer who lived in New York from the 1920s to the 1940s. Beside her series on female nudes, her place in the photography network, as well as in the New York queer scene, is unknown and understudied.

    Word Count: 43

    New School for Social Research
    Academy/Art SchoolPhoto SchoolUniversity / Higher Education Institute / Research Institute
    New York

    During the 1940s and 1950s emigrated graphic designers and photographers, along with artists and intellectuals, were given the opportunity to held lectures and workshops at the New School for Social Research.

    Word Count: 31