Photography by Professor Emeritus John Gutmann Featured at Stanford's Cantor Art Center

Thursday, March 05, 2020

PALO ALTO WEEKLY -- Gutmann’s work offers a different perspective on American life, probably because he was an “outsider.” Born in 1905 in Germany, he emigrated to the U.S., as so many other European artists did, in order to flee the Nazis. He settled in San Francisco, worked as a photojournalist and taught at what is now San Francisco State University. His black-and-white prints, taken with a Rolleiflex camera, tend to focus more on the quirky aspects of American life.

In “The Beautiful Clown” (1940), two circus performers are captured in a close-up, double portrait. Fully made up, they seem a bit grotesque and we wonder why they chose this unusual profession. The woman, who stares at the clown in admiration, must be a fellow performer maybe the one who works with the knife-thrower or who swings from a trapeze? Gutmann also displayed a sense of whimsy and humor in “Artist Lives Dangerously” (1938), a print showing a small boy creating a chalk drawing on the street while cars whiz perilously close by.