The events and background stories connected to 24 images that make up “A Shared Eye: Photographs of Father and Daughter Ernest and Lucienne Bloch” at the Jewish Community Library in The City are as interesting and impressive as the works of art themselves.
The diverse show includes elegant pictures of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, pictures of 1930s-era labor and political protests in the U.S., a variety of nature shots and attention-grabbing portraits of notable figures.
Swiss-born, San Francisco-based Ernest Bloch (1880-1959) was an accomplished composer who was inspired by music and nature. He passed his love of photography to his daughter Lucienne Bloch (1909-1999), whose images in the show are possibly more interesting to the contemporary viewer than those of her father.
Drawn from the personal collection of Lucienne Allen, Lucienne’s granddaughter, the show is truly remarkable. While both artists are concerned with portraiture and its context, they differ in approach: Ernest celebrates the expanse and intimacy of nature, Lucienne explores the psychology and social engagement of her subjects and their art.
A study in form, Ernest’s “Mountains and Fog” has a rich fullness, with almost an abstract quality. It’s a big contrast to Lucienne’s “Free the Scottsboro Boys — NYC, 1935 Demonstration,” a scene depicting political unrest, one of several by Lucienne showcasing social and labor strife in America.
Another photo reflecting strength and simplicity is Ernest’s “Peasant Woman, 1933,” a radiant image of an earth-bound figure sitting in the doorway, simply looking ahead.
Perhaps the show’s most riveting images are those of Kahlo, taken by Lucienne, her close friend. In “Diego and Frida Caught Kissing” in 1933, she captures an intimate moment. It’s ironically countered by the 1935 image “Frida with Cinzano Bottle” in which Frida is cradling the container as if it were a baby. The revealing caption says, “Frida caught Diego having an affair with her favorite sister Cristina. To rebel, Frida cut off her long black hair. The Cinzano bottle represents the unborn child she could never give him.”
Lucienne also photographed Rivera’s work on his leftist-themed mural at New Workers School in New York in 1933.
Among other interesting people-focused pictures are self-portraits by Ernest, in locales including Ohio, the Grand Canyon and Vermont (where he poses with his first car); a portrait of Ernest by Lucienne taken in Switzerland; one by Ernest of violinist and conductor Yehudi Menuhin; and a 1940 image by Lucienne of “Albert Einstein Playing the Violin.”
IF YOU GO
A Shared Eye: Photographs of Father and Daughter Ernest and Lucienne Bloch
Where: Jewish Community Library, 1835 Ellis St., S.F.
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays-Wednesdays, noon to 6 p.m. Tuesdays, noon to 8 p.m. Thursdays, noon to 4 p.m. Sundays; closes March 2
Contact: (415) 567-3327, www.jewishcommunitylibrary.org