Snapshot: ‘Virginia Woolf’ (1939), by Gisèle Freund

The image forms part of a collection of the German photographer’s photos, magazine covers and letters

German photographer Gisèle Freund (1908-2000) was an early pioneer of colour photography, which she considered to be “closer to life”.

The subjects of her colour portraits included James Joyce, Simone de Beauvoir and Frida Kahlo, as well as Virginia Woolf – shown below with her dog Pinka in an image from a series taken in 1939 at Woolf’s flat in Tavistock Square, London.

Freund described Woolf, then 58, as “a very reserved woman” who was “shattered” by the prospect of war. Woolf also wrote in her diary that she found sitting for the portraits “detestable and upsetting”, and chain-smoked throughout.

This image forms part of a collection of 280 Freund photographs, magazine covers and letters on show at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin. For this exhibition (see slideshow below), the colour portraits have been digitally enhanced to restore their original vibrancy.

‘Gisèle Freund: Photographic Scenes and Portraits’ is on show at Akademie der Künste, ( Berlin, until August 10

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