press release

The exhibition ‘Astonish Me’, at the Kunsthal Rotterdam is a retrospective of work by Philippe Halsman (1906 -1979), one of the greatest photographers of the 20th century. Halsman is well-known for his portraits of famous people and for his collaboration with Salvador Dalí and Alfred Hitchcock. He was always searching for new photographic perspectives, and his oeuvre exposes an exceptional degree of inventiveness and technical skill.

Over a short period of time, he became an admired portrait artist, the subjects in front of his lens including numerous famous names such as Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill. He also developed the phenomenon of ’jumpology photography’, which included photos of film stars and politicians captured in mid-jump, the aim of which was to give his portraits a more spontaneous character. Over three hundred never-before exhibited works including contact prints, vintage prints and original photomontages illustrate Halsman's constant search for photographic possibilities and impossibilities.

Perfectly mastered technique and a remarkable eye for detail

Philippe Halsman's direct approach, perfectly mastered technique, his remarkable eye for detail and his experiments using the medium of photography resulted in a highly diverse oeuvre ranging from portraits, fashion, photo reports, advertising, personal projects and commissions for institutions and private customers. Using a different style to that of his fellow photographers, he developed an entirely unique photographic style. His fascination with the surreal brought Halsman into contact with like-minded, contemporary artists with whom he loved to spend countless hours exchanging ideas. That collaboration resulted in the iconic photographs now so familiar to us all; photographs such as the Hitchcock portrait series and Dalí Atomicus (1948) with its flying cats, water thrown from buckets and an astonished Dalí, mid jump with paintbrush in hand.


An exhibition produced by the Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne, in collaboration with the Philippe Halsman Archive, New York. Exhibition curators Musée de l’Elysée: Sam Stourdzé and Anne Lacoste, assisted by Camille Avellan and Lydia Dorner. Publication

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue entitled ‘Philippe Halsman. Astonish Me!' by Prestel Publishing. The 320-page publication presents the very first study of Philippe Halsman's complete body of work. The book includes two essays: one on his creative process, by Anne Lacoste, curator of the exhibition, and another on his collaboration with Salvador Dalí, by Marc Aufraise. Completing the study are a text by the Halsman family describing their most personal memories of the photogra­pher and a detailed chronology.