Ida Kar (1908–74) was instrumental in encouraging the acceptance of photography as a fine art. She was the first photographer to be honoured with a major retrospective in London.
Russian-born, of Armenian heritage, Ida Kar was instrumental in encouraging the acceptance of photography as a fine art. In 1960, she became the first photographer to be honoured with a major retrospective in London.
Ida Kar: Bohemian Photographer, 1908-74 charts the photographer’s life and career from her first studio in Cairo in the late 1930s to her move to London in 1945. In the early 1950s Jacob Epstein became one of Kar’s first artistic subjects and she subsequently made numerous photographs of artists in their studios, some of which have become defining portraits and important social documents. With striking portraits of artists such as Henry Moore, Georges Braque, Gino Severini and Bridget Riley, and writers such as Iris Murdoch and Jean-Paul Sartre, the exhibition offers a fascinating insight into the cultural life of post-war Britain.
From the late 1950s Kar travelled widely with her Rolleiflex. She was invited by the Cuban government to attend the fifth anniversary celebrations of the revolution in Havana in January 1964. She photographed the country’s president, Fidel Castro and the artists and writers of a country whose Communist ideals she herself embraced. Kar’s Cuban photographs, exhibited in London in 1965, marked the last publicly recognised creative phase of her career, and a move towards a documentary style in accordance with the changing fashions in photography.
In the summer of 1974 Kar embarked on a project photographing nudes in a make-shift studio. It was her final creative phase before her death on the 24th December of the same year.
The exhibition IDA KAR: BOHEMIAN PHOTOGRAPHER, 1908-74 runs until 19 June 2011 in the Porter Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, London. A fully-illustrated hardback catalogue showcasing 150 of Ida Kar’s remarkable portraits accompanies the exhibition.