Clock of the Académie Française, Paris

Object Details


Clock of the Académie Française, Paris


André Kertész (American, born Hungary, 1894 - 1985)




Paris, France (Place created)


negative 1929 - 1932; print 1950s


Gelatin silver print


25.1 x 19.7 cm (9 7/8 x 7 3/4 in.)


© Estate of André Kertész

See more

See less

One day in 1932, I was standing in front of the Académie Française and decided to take a look at what was behind those massive gates. I noticed that, for the average French citizen, even the sight of this national institution was awe-inspiring. I simply became very curious and wanted to know what was behind that imposing facade. As I wandered farther and higher up in the building, I ended up in the huge attic...the clock was under the cupola. Its glass face with Roman numerals gave me this fantastic view onto the Pont des Arts with the Louvre behind it.
--André Kertész

Looking at this photograph simulates a feeling of standing beside the photographer, looking out on a wintry Parisian cityscape. Through André Kertész's careful juxtaposition, the clock's silhouetted Roman numerals and hands appear to align with various elements of the scene below. The V points to the statue's shadow, the IIII traps two pedestrians, the III rests atop magazine stands flanking the Seine, and the star shape on the clock's hand blocks the far end of a bridge crossing the river. Darker than anything else, the clock's numerals and hand appear to be cut out and collaged onto the print's surface, rather than a natural part of the scene.

This photograph demonstrates Kertész's strategic use of flat, foreground elements against a deep background to suggest a sense of space. But he became most well known for his bird's-eye perspective, which reflects his desire to photograph behind the scenes from unconventional viewpoints.

André Kertész: of Paris and New York (May 10, 1985 to February 23, 1986)
  • The Art Institute of Chicago, May 10 to July 14, 1985
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), December 19, 1985 to February 23, 1986
"...images that yet/ Fresh images beget...": Photographing Art (September 15 to November 15, 1987)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), September 15 to November 15, 1987
André Kertész: A Centennial Tribute (June 28 to September 4, 1994)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), June 28 to September 4, 1994
Photographers of Genius (March 16 to July 25, 2004)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), March 16 to July 25, 2004
André Kertész Photographs: Seven Decades (December 18, 2007 to April 13, 2008)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), December 18, 2007 to April 13, 2008
Twilight Visions: Surrealism, Photography, and Paris (September 10, 2009 to May 9, 2010)
  • Frist Center for the Visual Arts (Nashville), September 10, 2009 to January 3, 2010
  • International Center of Photography (New York), January 29 to May 9, 2010