Saul Leiter: Retrospective

The Photographers' Gallery

22 January – 3 April 2016

£2.50 with National Art Pass (standard entry £3)

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The first UK show devoted to the pioneering artist who helped introduce colour photography to America.

Born in 1923 to an Orthodox Jewish family in Pittsburgh, Saul Leiter was expected to follow in the footsteps of his father who was a renowned Talmudic rabbi and scholar. But mid-way through Theology school Leiter – who had always expressed an interest in painting – dropped out and moved to New York to become an artist. It was here he met the Abstract-Expressionist Richard Pousette-Dart who encouraged him to try photography.

Leiter started out in fashion, where his exciting compositions and elegant technique earned him popular acclaim. Photography soon became his fulltime pursuit and he began working on his own artistic projects. 

Fusing aspects of street, portrait, still life and commercial photography, he drew on the subjects he found in the direct vicinity of his apartment; shop windows, passers-by, cars, signs and umbrellas. He always thought of himself as a painter as well as a photographer and was drawn to shapes, shadows, surface and textures, rather than specific scenes or narratives. Leiter was also one of the first to make the switch to colour – many years before it would become commonplace.

Needless, to say his images were considered highly experimental and he was often criticised for not following the artistic traditions of the day. This display celebrates his ambitious approach, bringing together more than 100 images with drawings from his sketchbooks and other ephemera. 

Venue information

Opening times

Daily, 10am – 6pm (Thu until 8pm, Sun from 11.30am)

"Art Fund" is the operating name of the National Art Collections Fund, a charity registered in England and Wales (209174) and Scotland (SC038331)