Anton Bruehl was born in 1900 to German émigré parents in the small town of Hawker, Australia. By 1919, when he moved to the United States to work as an electrical engineer, he was a skilled amateur photographer. A show of student work from the Clarence H. White School of Photography at the Art Center, New York, in 1923 convinced Bruehl to quit his engineering job to become a photographer. White taught Bruehl privately for six months and then asked him to teach at his school, including its summer sessions in Maine.
White’s sudden death, in 1925, prompted Bruehl to open a studio, at first partnering with photographer Ralph Steiner and then with his older brother, Martin Bruehl; it was immediately successful. Specializing in elaborately designed and lit tableaux, Bruehl won top advertising awards throughout the late 1920s and early 1930s.
A favourite of Condé Nast Publications, he developed the Bruehl-Bourges colour process with colour specialist Fernand Bourges, which gave Condé Nast a monopoly on colour magazine reproduction from 1932 to 1935. In 1931 Alma Reed exhibited Bruehl’s non-commercial photographs at her New York gallery, Delphic Studios. An ardent supporter of Mexican art and artists, she may have inspired Bruehl’s 1932 summer trip to Mexico, the pictures from which she exhibited in 1933 and then published as collotypes in a beautifully printed linen-bound book, titled Photographs of Mexico. The book was well-reviewed and was chosen as one of the “Fifty Books of the Year” by the American Institute of Graphic Arts. Until his retirement, in 1966, Bruehl maintained an elegant midtown studio and commanded high fees for his work. —Bonnie Yochelson