Leap into the Void

Artist: Artistic action by Yves Klein (French, Nice 1928–1962 Paris)

Maker: Photographed by Harry Shunk (German, Reudnitz 1924–2006 New York (?))

Maker: Photographed by János (Jean) Kender (Hungarian, Pécs 1937–2009)

Date: 1960

Medium: Gelatin silver print

Dimensions: Image: 25.9 x 20 cm (10 3/16 x 7 7/8 in.)
Frame: 43.2 x 35.6 cm (17 x 14 in.)

Classification: Photographs

Credit Line: Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1992

Accession Number: 1992.5112

Rights and Reproduction: © Yves Klein, ADAGP, Paris; Photo: Shunk-Kender © Roy Lichtenstein Foundation


As in his carefully choreographed paintings in which he used nude female models dipped in blue paint as paintbrushes, Klein's photomontage paradoxically creates the impression of freedom and abandon through a highly contrived process. In October 1960, Klein hired the photographers Harry Shunk and Jean Kender to make a series of pictures re-creating a jump from a second-floor window that the artist claimed to have executed earlier in the year. This second leap was made from a rooftop in the Paris suburb of Fontenay-aux-Roses. On the street below, a group of the artist’s friends from held a tarpaulin to catch him as he fell. Two negatives--one showing Klein leaping, the other the surrounding scene (without the tarp)--were then printed together to create a seamless "documentary" photograph. To complete the illusion that he was capable of flight, Klein distributed a fake broadsheet at Parisian newsstands commemorating the event. It was in this mass-produced form that the artist's seminal gesture was communicated to the public and also notably to the Vienna Actionists.