Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Paul Outerbridge papers
Date (inclusive): 1915-1979 (bulk 1922-1958)
16.5 linear ft.
The Getty Research Institute
1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
Los Angeles, California, 90049-1688
The Paul Outerbridge papers document the American photographer's artistic and professional life from his earliest art studies
in 1915 through his varied career as an innovator in advertising photography, a pioneer in color photography, and a freelance
writer. The archive includes correspondence, notebooks and diaries, typescripts, drawings and sketches, business records,
scrapbooks, a portfolio, autobiographical and biographical statements, and intermittent clippings and ephemera.
Request access to the physical materials described in this inventory through the
for this collection. Click here for the
Language: Collection material is in
American photographer Paul Outerbridge (1896-1958) was born in New York City. He studied anatomy and aesthetics at the Art
Students' League of New York from 1915 to 1917 while working as a theatrical designer and illustrator, among other jobs. In
1917 he joined the Canadian Royal Flying Corps. Discharged after a minor crash, Outerbridge enlisted in the United States
Army and gained his first photographic experience documenting materials and operations for the army at a lumber camp in Oregon.
In 1921 he enrolled at the Clarence H. White School of Photography, New York, where he studied with White and Max Weber. Although
he did not complete the program at the White School, Outerbridge demonstrated such proficiency that he was soon invited to
teach there. His first published photograph appeared in
Vogue in 1922, the same year he became acquainted with Alfred Stieglitz and studied sculpture with Alexander Archipenko.
Through meticulous composition and manipulation of light, Outerbridge transformed everyday objects into formal abstractions
of mass and line, light and shadow. His innovative photographs were widely praised and published in magazines such as
Harper's bazaar, and
Vogue. As a freelance advertising photographer, he reinterpreted the ‘product shot' in his own visual language, as seen in the
crisp precision and Cubist aesthetic of his Ide collar advertisement, first published in the July 1922 issue of
Vanity fair (see series VI). Marcel Duchamp was reportedly so impressed with the image that he tore it from a magazine and tacked it
to his studio wall. This landmark of early modernism in commercial photography led to more commissions, and Outerbridge had
his first solo exhibition at the Art Center, New York, in 1924.
Outerbridge interrupted his New York success by moving to Paris in 1925, then to Berlin three years later where he became
briefly involved in filmmaking. In Paris he met Edward Steichen, with whom he developed a friendly rivalry while they both
worked for the French edition of
Vogue. Man Ray was a frequent companion and entries in Outerbridge's pocket diaries from the period mention encounters with numerous
other artists, including Duchamp, Berenice Abbott, Kiki de Montparnasse, and Constantin Brancusi (see series II).
Shortly after his return to the United States in 1930, Outerbridge moved to Monsey, New York. There he concentrated on his
pioneering work in color photography, eventually perfecting his technique with the complex tri-color carbro process. As described
U.S. camera, "Technically his carbros are gems. Their color range, their flesh tones, their unbelievable fidelity make them the envy
of all who see them" (no. 2, 1939, p. 80). The primary subject of his technical virtuosity was the female nude, often exoticized
or fetishized with props, sometimes with menacing overtones. The full-color realism of the nudes shocked some viewers and
resulted in scandal, to which Outerbridge responded, "What this country needs is more and better nudes" (Outerbridge, "The
Nude," undated typescript, series III). Outerbridge's book,
Photographing in color, was published by Random House in 1940.
In 1943 Outerbridge moved from New York to California hoping to transition from photography to motion pictures. He never found
work in the film industry, however, and instead earned an irregular livelihood as a portrait photographer and freelance writer,
contributing articles and illustrations to photographic and travel magazines. From 1954 until his death he wrote the monthly
column "About Color" for
U.S. camera. Paul Outerbridge died October 17, 1958, in Laguna Beach, California.
Open for use by qualified researchers.
Paul Outerbridge papers, 1915-1979 (bulk 1915-1958), Getty Research Institute, Research Library, Accession no. 870520
Acquired in 1987.
Scope and Content of Collection
The Paul Outerbridge papers constitute the surviving body of documents relating to the American photographer's artistic and
professional life from his earliest art studies in 1915 through his varied career as an innovator in advertising photography,
a pioneer in color photography, and a freelance writer.
Letters to and from Outerbridge document the acquisition, exhibition, and publication of his work, while professional records
itemize prints sold and loaned. A large portion of the archive consists of Outerbridge's writings, which range from early
poems to a draft and a proof of his book,
Photographing in color (New York: Random House, 1940), to typescript drafts of articles. Among the articles are drafts of every issue, from 1954
until his death, of Outerbridge's monthly column "About Color" for
U.S. camera. Also included are writings by others, primarily poems and brief excerpts, but also a typescript of a play by Alvan L. Barach.
Monthly diaries for four years chronicle the details of Outerbridge's daily life in the 1920s and offer a glimpse of the artistic
life of New York and Paris, the cities in which he lived at the time. Among many artists mentioned in these volumes are Alexander
Archipenko, Man Ray, Edward Steichen, Marcel Duchamp, Berenice Abbott, Kiki de Montparnasse, and Constantin Brancusi.
Preliminary sketches and drawings, a student notebook, and a teaching notebook provide insight into Outerbridge's creative
process. Detailed notes, exposure records, and lighting diagrams document his work methods. The published results are contained
in two large scrapbooks and a portfolio. With approximately 500 tear sheets from magazines and journals, the portfolio and
scrapbooks together comprise a comprehensive collection of Outerbridge's published work.
The archive also contains resumes, transcribed comments about Outerbridge's work, an incomplete autobiography (1929), and
brief biographical and autobiographical statements written at different stages in his career. Materials collected intermittently
by Outerbridge, including clippings, printed ephemera, and writings and drawings by others, point to his varied interests
Although a substantial portion of the material is undated, the bulk can be situated between 1922, the year of Outerbridge's
first published photographs, and his death in 1958. Also included are obituaries, correspondence regarding the final dispensation
of his estate, and other materials collected by his widow, Lois (Weir) Outerbridge, after his death.
The collection is arranged in eight series:
Series I. Correspondence, 1915-1979
Series II. Writings, 1929-1958
Series III. Notebooks and diaries, 1915-1926
Series IV. Drawings and sketches, 1935-1938
Series V. Professional records, 1922-1958
Series VI. Portfolios, 1922-1956
Series VII. Autobiographical and biographical information, 1924-1973
Series VIII. Clippings and ephemera, 1923-1966
Subjects - Names
Barach, Alvan L. (Alvan Leroy), 1895-
Epstean, Arnold Allen
Man Ray, 1890-1976
Quinquela Martín, Benito, 1890-1977
Wood, Robert W. (Robert William), 1889-1979
Subjects - Topics
Commercial art--United States
Subjects - Places
New York (N.Y.)--Intellectual life--20th century
Paris (France)--Intellectual life--20th century
Genres and Forms of Material
Drawings (visual works)
Portfolios (groups of works)