Armenia 1908 – United States of America 2002
gelatin silver photograph printed image 99.0 h x 73.6 w cm
Accession No: NGA 74.396.27
‘I decided to photograph the master of the ’cello from the back, in a partially restored abbey in Prades … lost in his music. For me, the bare room conveys the loneliness of the artist, at the pinnacle of his art, and also the loneliness of exile.’ (Karsh)
Lauded for his interpretation of Bach’s suites for unaccompanied cello, Casals was the leading cellist of his day, greatly influencing cellists and violinists who followed him. He refused to perform in Hitler’s Germany and voluntarily went into exile in Prades in the French Pyrenees (where he instigated a chamber music festival) as his uncompromising stance against the dictatorship of the Franco regime. Finally he resided in Puerto Rico in Central America. He was awarded the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963. Karsh said he had never photographed anyone before or since with his back to the camera but with Casals it seemed just right.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010