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PAUL OUTERBRIDGE, Jr.: WOMAN WITH MASK, ca. 1937

In this ongoing series, writers are invited to discuss a contemporary work that has special significance for them.
 
Paul Outerbridge, Jr., Woman with Mask, ca. 1937, carbro-color print, 15 1/8 x 10 7/8".

I HAVE ALWAYS been an enthusiast of erotic images—high or low, flirtatious or hardcore. I am one of those indefatigable libidinous gazers: people, pictures, books, films. Though I’m something of a naïf—I blush, and am easily put out of countenance—I guess polemically I’m a libertarian, one who holds that looking is a feature of sexual license, and that images can’t be made without desire of some kind. So you’d imagine that the photographer who could write, “What this country needs are more and better nudes,” would be dear to my heart. Still, though I’d seen Paul Outerbridge images over the years, I unaccountably (a charitable euphemism) wasn’t much interested—until I saw Woman with Mask.

The work summarizes the major attractions of Outerbridgism in this genre: masterly formal achievement, in the service of an intense, idiosyncratic erotic vision—lascivious, decadent, sometimes almost

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