Theatre tableaux, or ‘theatricals’, made up a significant part of the Condé Nast Bruehl–Bourges colour photography program from 1932. Bruehl spent hours perfecting each shot and the resulting images showcase the artistry that he prized in his photography.

A number of Bruehl’s theatricals depicted the newly popular musicals featuring jazz scores, such as On your toes of 1936, and Broadway productions with African-American casts, such as Porgy and Bess. Though Bruehl rarely went to the theatre, he successfully evoked the vibrancy and life of the musical stage, mimicking the props and settings of the real productions in his studio.

A later suite of colour works by Bruehl included the very popular, long-running series called The Esquire Canteen, made for Esquire men’s magazine in 1943–45. The series was inspired by the shows put on for the troops in the field and allowed Bruehl the freedom to create evocative cabaret scenes with his own unique sense of drama and intrigue.

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