Ubac was active in the Surrealist movement during the late 1930s. His photographs appeared frequently in the Surrealist publication "Minotaure," alongside photographs by Brassaï, Boiffard, and Atget, as accompaniment to texts by Breton and other Surrealist poets. Surrealism's efforts to tap the creative powers of the subconscious led them through a landscape of dreams, chance, sexual fantasy, and madness. Photography, essentially a realist medium, yet one with a remarkable power to distort appearances, was appreciated for its unique ability to force a rupture in the surface of perceived reality. "Convulsive beauty," Breton's term for this abrupt encounter with the subconscious, became the group's elusive, aesthetic ideal. This portrait, an image as provocatively revealing as it is concealing, is in fact a confrontation with the psychological discomfort of uncertainty. As one critic has written, the woman who stares out at us from the mirror could be the fictional character who "pushes André Breton to rewrite the question, 'Who am I?' in the form, 'Whom do I haunt?'"
[KM; Johnson Gallery XXVI]
Inscription: Signed in ink, recto, LR: "ru.38."; inscribed in ink, verso, UC: "Portrait dans un miroir 1938// [crossed out inscription]// photographie de R. UBAC."; inscribed in pencil, verso, UC: "cliché disponible// 24 x 298"; in pencil, verso, LR: "10"; in pencil, verso, UR: "EXPO-CORCORAN"; in ink, verso, UR: "17" [crossed out in ink]
Arnold Herstand & Co/ Adrien Maeght, Paris
Washington, DC. Corcoran Gallery of Art. "L'Amour Fou: photography & surrealism," September 14, 1985–November 17, 1985.
Fundación "La Caixa", Madrid. "Lost Bodies, Photography and the Surrealists," November 23, 1995–January 14, 1996.
Caixa Forum, Fundacion "La Caixa", Barcelona. "Lost Bodies, Photography and the Surrealists," February 20, 1996–April 14, 1996.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Johnson Gallery, Selections from the Collection 26," May 15, 2000–September 18, 2000.
Krauss, Rosalind E., and Jane Livingston. L'amour Fou: Photography and Surrealism. Washington, D.C.: Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1985. p. 79.
Nixon, Nicholas. Nicholas Nixon: Pictures of People. New York: Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1988. p. 75.
[Arnold Herstand and Co., New York; Galerie Maeght, Paris, Jan. 28, 1987]