Horacio Coppola

Egg and Twine

1932, printed c.1950–70

Not on display

Horacio Coppola 1906–2012
Original title
Huevo y Piolin
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
Image: 235 × 282 mm
Presented by Michael Hoppen Gallery 2011


Egg and Twine is a black and white photograph taken in 1932 by the Argentine artist Horacio Coppola. An experimental study in form and contrast, it shows a white egg alongside a twisted piece of white string against a dark background of what appear to be wooden floorboards. The study is likely to have been a student exercise made during Coppola’s time studying at the Bauhaus Photography Department in Berlin, since it is inscribed ‘Berlin’ and dated 1932 on the reverse (the year the Bauhaus moved to the city). It also corresponds to similar studies made by other students which also feature an egg and twine subject. This print, which was made at a later date, has been signed by the artist on the reverse.

Coppola began taking photographs in 1926 in his home town of Buenos Aires guided by his brother Armando, who was a skilled amateur. He made similar studies of abstract and semi-abstracted form both before leaving Buenos Aires for Europe and after his arrival there. His earlier studies exhibit a formal and stylistic relationship with the aesthetics of Ultraism, a radical Spanish literary movement which established itself in 1918 and was taken up in Argentina as the basis for a more broadly based visual and literary avant-garde. This work dates from the formative years of Coppola’s career and shows him experimenting with his medium and with avant-garde ideas that were current in the early years of the century.

Such works indicate important aspects of early modernist photographic practice, and also help to trace the trajectory of Coppola’s career and development, as well as the wider exchange of modernist ideas and principles between the Americas and Europe in the early twentieth century. In 1930 Coppola had embarked on a study tour of Europe, not long afterwards publishing his photographs back in Buenos Aires in the magazine Sur (nos.4 and 5), where the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges was on the editorial board. In Europe, Coppola studied at the Bauhaus in Berlin in 1932–3 under the German photographer Walter Peterhans. While at the Bauhaus he also met the German photographer Grete Stern. They married in the 1930s and set up a studio together in Buenos Aires in 1937. Coppola and Stern’s return to Argentina was an important instance of the transmission of avant-garde modernist ideas and practices from one continent to another.

Coppola is represented in Tate’s collection by a number of other works, including Hampstead Heath, London 1934 (Tate P80303), London 1934 (Tate P80307) and The Drink for You… 1934 (Tate P80305).

Further reading
Horacio Coppola, Michael Hoppen Gallery, exhibition catalogue, London 2001.

Tanya Barson
May 2011

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