Posts Tagged ‘Heinrich Kühn


Exhibition: ‘A Subtle Beauty: Platinum Photographs from the Collection’ at the National Gallery of Art, Washington

Exhibition dates: 5th October 2014 – 4th January 2015

Curator: Andrea Nelson, assistant curator, department of photographs, National Gallery of Art



Alfred Stieglitz. 'The Last Joke - Bellagio' 1887


Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
The Last Joke – Bellagio
Platinum print
Sheet (trimmed to image): 11.7 x 14.7cm (4 5/8 x 5 13/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred Stieglitz Collection



I am too sick at the moment to really say anything constructive about platinum prints except one word: wow. You only have to look at the tonality and the sensuality of the prints to understand their appeal. Driftwood, Maine, 1928 by Paul Strand is my favourite in this posting.


Many thankx to the National Gallery of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.



Laura Gilpin. 'Ghost Rock, Colorado Springs' 1919


Laura Gilpin (American, 1891-1979)
Ghost Rock, Colorado Springs
Platinum print
24.2 x 19.1cm (9 1/2 x 7 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, The Marvin Breckinridge Patterson Fund



Renowned for her landscape photographs of the American Southwest, Gilpin was mentored by Gertrude Käsebier and trained at the Clarence H. White School of Photography in New York. This luminous photograph exemplifies Gilpin’s skill in producing expressive works with a wide spectrum of tonal values.


Frederick H. Evans. '
York Minster, North Transept: "In Sure and Certain Hope",' 1902


Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943)
York Minster, North Transept: “In Sure and Certain Hope”
Platinum print
27.46 x 19.69cm (10 13/16 x 7 3/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Carolyn Brody Fund and Pepita Milmore Memorial



Evans was known as the master of the unmanipulated platinum print. For him, a perfect photograph was one that “gives its beholder the same order of joy that the original would.” In this work, light, more than architecture, is his subject. As light fills the space of York Minster Cathedral it dissolves the weight of the massive stone, creating a reverential, timeless mood. Evans also took great care in the presentation of his photographs, often embellishing his mounts with hand-ruled borders and watercolour washes.

Text from the National Gallery of Art website


Evans was described by Alfred Stieglitz as ‘the greatest exponent of architectural photography’. Evans aimed to create a mood with his photography; he recommended that the amateur ‘try for a record of emotion rather than a piece of topography’. He would spend weeks in a cathedral before exposing any film, exploring different camera angles for effects of light and means of emotional expression. He always tried to keep the camera as far as possible from the subject and to fill the frame with the image completely, and he used a small aperture and very long exposure for maximum definition. Equally important to the effect of his photographs were his printing methods; he rejected the fashion for painterly effects achieved by smudging, blowing or brushing over the surface of the gum paper print. His doctrine of pure photography, ‘plain prints from plain negatives’, prohibited retouching.

Text from the MoMA website


Karl Struss. 'Columbia University, Night' 1910


Karl Struss (American, 1886-1981)
Columbia University, Night
Gum dichromate over platinum print processed with mercury
24 x 19.4cm (9 7/16 x 7 5/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation through Robert and Joyce Menschel


Alfred Stieglitz. 'From the Back-Window - 291' 1915


Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
From the Back-Window – 291
Platinum print
24.1 x 19.1cm (9 1/2 x 7 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred Stieglitz Collection



Influenced by Peter Henry Emerson’s understanding of photography as an independent art form, Stieglitz became the driving force behind the development of art photography at the turn of the century. He founded the Photo-Secession group in 1902 with the aim to “advance photography as applied to pictorial expression.” This view of the buildings in New York behind Stieglitz’s famed Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession at 291 Fifth Avenue is an exceptional example of a platinum print with rich, neutral grey and black tones. The diffuse glow of the lights is enhanced by Stieglitz’s choice of a smooth printing paper with a subtle surface sheen. (NGA)

Around 1915, Stieglitz began photographing the view out of the window of his gallery, a practice he continued through two relocations of his business. In this photograph made from the window of Stieglitz’s first gallery (known as “291” for its address on Fifth Avenue), the legacy of Pictorialism hovers in the rich, evocative atmosphere he coaxes from the nighttime scene, even as the play of angular forms declares the modernist impulse for the exposure. (Text from Metropolitan Museum of Art)


Paul Strand. 'Driftwood, Maine' 1928


Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Driftwood, Maine
Platinum print
24.3 x 19.2cm (9 9/16 x 7 9/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Southwestern Bell Corporation Paul Strand Collection



Strand was a committed advocate of the platinum process and made platinum photographs well into the 1920s and early 1930s. Driftwood, Maine is printed on Japine paper, a photographic paper with a chemically altered surface, which resembles parchment. First introduced by William Willis’ Platinotype Company in 1906, Japine platinum paper provided deep blacks and a lustrous surface sheen that Strand found ideal for his modernist abstractions.



Rare platinum photographs that played a pivotal role in establishing photography as a fine art will be presented at the National Gallery of Art. On view in the West Building from October 5, 2014 through January 4, 2015, A Subtle Beauty: Platinum Photographs from the Collection will include two dozen works from the Gallery’s renowned collection of photographs. Presented in conjunction with a symposium organised by the National Gallery of Art and sponsored by the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, this exhibition features compelling prints by Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946), Edward Steichen (1879-1973), Gertrude Käsebier (1852-1934), and other prominent Pictorialist photographers.

“Photographers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were captivated by the lush appearance and rich atmospheric effects they were able to create through the platinum print process,” said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. “With their extraordinary tonal range – capable of capturing the deepest blacks, warmest sepias, and creamiest of whites – platinum prints quickly became the preferred process of the era.”


Exhibition highlights

Featuring 24 outstanding photographs from the 1880s to the 1920s, this exhibition reveals the artistic qualities and subtle nuances of the platinum process. Major artists such as Peter Henry Emerson (1856-1936), Frederick H. Evans (1853-1943), Alvin Langdon Coburn (1882-1966), and Clarence H. White (1871-1925), revered platinum prints for their permanence, delicate image quality, and surface textures that could range from a velvety matte to a lustrous sheen.

Focused on the aesthetic and technical aspects of platinum photographs, highlights include Stieglitz’s From the Back-Window – 291 (1915), an exceptional print with neutral grey and black tones capturing the diffuse glow of lights in the buildings behind the artist’s galleries at 291 Fifth Avenue; Evans’ superb York Minster, North Transept: “In Sure and Certain Hope” (1902), an affective work whose subject is light more than architecture; and Steichen’s evocative Rodin (1907),  combining platinum with gum dichromate to create a painterly, multilayered portrait.

Press release from the National Gallery of Art website


Clarence H. White. 'Mrs. White - In the Studio' 1907


Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
Mrs. White – In the Studio
Palladium print, printed later
24.4 x 19.3cm (9 5/8 x 7 5/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation through Robert and Joyce Menschel and R. K. Mellon Family Foundation


Alvin Langdon Coburn. 'Clarence H. White' c. 1905


Alvin Langdon Coburn (American, 1882-1966)
Clarence H. White
c. 1905
Platinum print
24.2 x 19.4cm (9 1/2 x 7 5/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund



Coburn presents fellow photographer Clarence H. White holding a tube of platinum paper in much the same manner as a painter would hold a palette. Because the paper support contributed greatly to the overall appearance of the platinum print, photographers experimented with a range of handmade and mass-produced papers that varied in texture and colour.


Clarence H. White. 'George Borup' 1909


Clarence H. White (American, 1871-1925)
George Borup
Platinum print
25 x 20cm (9 13/16 x 7 7/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund



A self-taught photographer from Ohio, White became an important leader of the Pictorialist movement. A member of the Photo-Secession, he exhibited widely and later founded the Clarence H. White School of Photography in New York in 1914, a school that helped define and establish Pictorialist ideals. White took this portrait of geologist and explorer George Borup the year he returned from an expedition to the North Pole.


Frederick H. Evans. 'Aubrey Beardsley' 1894


Frederick H. Evans (British, 1853-1943)
Aubrey Beardsley
Platinum print
13 x 90.2cm (5 1/8 x 35 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Paul Mellon Fund



A major figure in British Pictorialism and a driving force of its influential society The Linked Ring, Frederick Evans is best known for his moving interpretations of medieval cathedrals rendered with unmatched subtlety in platinum prints. Until 1898, Evans owned a bookshop in London where, according to George Bernard Shaw, he was the ideal bookseller, chatting his customers into buying what he thought was right for them. In 1889, Evans befriended the seventeen-year-old Aubrey Beardsley, a clerk in an insurance company who, too poor to make purchases, browsed in the bookshop during lunch hours. Eventually, Evans recommended Beardsley to the publisher John M. Dent as the illustrator for a new edition of Thomas Malory’s “Le Morte d’Arthur.” It was to be Beardsley’s first commission and the beginning of his meteoric rise to fame.

Evans probably made this portrait of Beardsley (1872-1898) in 1894, at the time the young artist was achieving notoriety for his scandalous illustrations of Oscar Wilde’s “Salomé” and “The Yellow Book,” two publications that captured the irreverent, decadent mood of the European fin de siècle. A lanky, stooped youth who suffered from tuberculosis and would die of the disease at the age of twenty-five, Beardsley, conscious of his awkward physique, cultivated the image of the dandy. Evans is reported to have spent hours studying Beardsley, wondering how best to approach his subject, when the artist, growing tired, finally relaxed into more natural poses. In the platinum print, Evans captured the inward-looking artist lost in the contemplation of his imaginary world, his beaked profile cupped in the long fingers of his sensitive hands.

Text from the Metropolitan Museum of Art


Gertrude Käsebier. 'Alfred Stieglitz' 1902


Gertrude Käsebier (American, 1852-1934)
Alfred Stieglitz
Platinum print
30.5 x 21.2cm (12 x 8 3/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, R. K. Mellon Family Foundation, Diana and Mallory Walker Fund, and Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation through Robert and Joyce Menschel



Featured in the 1903 inaugural issue of Alfred Stieglitz’s seminal journal Camera Work, Gertrude Käsebier was hailed by him as “the leading portrait photographer in the country.” To manipulate the tones of this print, Käsebier masked sections of the negative and then used a brush to selectively apply the developing solution to the printing paper. The final result resembles a beautifully hand-worked watercolour.


Heinrich Kühn. 'Walther Kühn' 1911


Heinrich Kühn (American, 1866-1944)
Walther Kühn
Gum dichromate over platinum print
29.7 x 23.7cm (11 11/16 x 9 5/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation through Robert and Joyce Menschel



A photographer, writer, and scientist, Heinrich Kühn was a central figure in the international development of Pictorialist photography. Known for his intimate portraits, scenes of rural life, and still-life photographs, he was actively involved in groups – both in Great Britain and Austria – that espoused an alternative to a purely technical view of photography.


Edward Steichen. 'Rodin' 1907


Edward Steichen (American, 1879-1973)
Gum dichromate over platinum print
37.94 x 26.67cm (14 15/16 x 10 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund



Steichen positioned Auguste Rodin in a contemplative pose reminiscent of the sculptor’s most recognised work, The Thinker. By adding gum dichromate (a mixture of light-sensitive salts, pigment and a gum arabic binder) over a platinum print, Steichen enhanced the soft-focus appearance and tonality of his portrait.

Steichen was an important link between European and American artistic circles during the first decade of the twentieth century. A member of the Photo-Secession, Steichen encouraged the group’s founder, Alfred Stieglitz, to open a gallery in New York to promote the club’s work. The Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession (later known as “291” from its address at 291 Fifth Avenue) opened in 1905. Soon, the gallery’s scope extended beyond photography to include other currents in modern art, such as the exhibition of Rodin’s watercolours and drawings that Steichen organised in 1908.


Alfred Stieglitz. 'Hodge Kirnon' 1917


Alfred Stieglitz (American, 1864-1946)
Hodge Kirnon
Satista print
Alfred Stieglitz Collection



One of the least well known and most beautiful of Stieglitz’s portraits, this photograph depicts Hodge Kirnon, a man Stieglitz saw in passing every day. When preparing to close his historic gallery “291” in 1917 as a result of World War I, Stieglitz assessed his work and life and saw that Kirnon – who operated the elevator that transported the gallery’s visitors, its critics, and its provocative modern art – had been a true fellow passenger on the momentous trip.

Satista prints refer to a print that is a composed of a mixture of silver and platinum. This is a very old process, invented by William Willis published in Sensitive Photographic Paper and Process of Making. The process was intended to be more economical then platinum printing, but being able to produce results that looked like pure platinum prints and being as permanent.


Edith R. Wilson. 'Portrait of a Family' 1922


Edith R. Wilson (American, 1864-1924)
Portrait of a Family
Palladium print
R.K. Mellon Family Foundation



With the onset of World War I, platinum metal was needed for military purposes, raising its price and severely limiting its use in commercial applications. This led to the advancement of new photographic products that relied on the more readily available and less expensive precious metals of silver and palladium. Wilson made this portrait on palladium paper during a summer course offered by the Clarence H. White School of Photography. Intended to replicate the look of platinum prints, palladium papers came in various surface textures and tonal values; however, they were never fully embraced by photographers, who questioned both their quality and permanence.


Harry C. Rubincam. 'The Circus' 1905


Harry C. Rubincam (American, 1871-1940)
The Circus
Platinum print
The Sarah and William L Walton Fund



After years of working for insurance and wholesale grocery companies in New York City, Rubincam moved to Denver, Colorado, where he learned photography from a retired professional. His participation in several exhibitions brought his work to the attention of Alfred Stieglitz, who invited Rubincam in 1903 to be a member of the Photo-Secession, an elite group of photographers whose aim was to advance photography as a fine art. This photograph of a circus performance is unusual among art photographs from this time for its spontaneity.



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National Mall between 3rd and 7th Streets
Constitution Avenue NW, Washington

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Exhibition: ‘Lichtbilder. Photography at the Städel Museum from the Beginnings to 1960’ at the Städel Museum, Frankfurt

Exhibition dates: 9th July – 5th October 2014

Curators: Felicity Grobien, curatorial assistant, Modern Art Department, Städel Museum; Dr Felix Krämer, head of the Modern Art Department at the Städel Museum



Roger Fenton (1819-1869) 'London: The British Museum' 1857


Roger Fenton (British, 1819-1869)
London: The British Museum
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
32.2 x 43cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK



There are some absolutely stunning images in this posting. It has been a great pleasure to put the posting together, allowing me the chance to sequence Roger Fenton’s elegiac London: The British Museum (1857, below) next to Werner Mantz’s minimalist masterpiece Cologne: Bridge (c. 1927, below), followed by Carlo Naya’s serene Venice: View of the Marciana Library (c. 1875, below) and Albert Renger-Patzsch’s sublime but disturbing (because of the association of the place) Buchenwald in November (c. 1954, below). What four images to put together – where else would I get the chance to do that? And then to follow it up with the visual association of the Royal Prussian Institute of Survey Photography’s Cologne: Cathedral (1889, below) with Otto Steinert’s Luminogram (1952, below). This is the stuff that you dream of!

The more I study photography, the more I am impressed by the depth of relatively unknown Eastern European photographers from countries such as Hungary, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Bulgaria and Turkey. In this posting I have included what details I could find on the artists Václav Jíru, Václav Chochola and the well known Czech photographer František Drtikol. The reproduction of his image Crucified (before 1914. below) is the best that you will find of this image on the web.

I would love to do more specific postings on these East European photographers if any museum has collections that they would like to advertise more widely.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

PS. Lichtbilder = light images.

Many thankx to the Städel Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.



Installation view of the exhibition 'Lichtbilder. Photography at the Städel Museum from the Beginnings to 1960'

Installation view of the exhibition 'Lichtbilder. Photography at the Städel Museum from the Beginnings to 1960'

Installation view of the exhibition 'Lichtbilder. Photography at the Städel Museum from the Beginnings to 1960'



August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Country girls


August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Portrait of Anton Räderscheidt


Installation view of the exhibition 'Lichtbilder. Photography at the Städel Museum from the Beginnings to 1960'


Dora Maar (France, 1907-1997)
Mannequin With Perm (installation view)


Installation view of the exhibition 'Lichtbilder. Photography at the Städel Museum from the Beginnings to 1960'


Otto Steinert (1915-1978)
Ein-Fuß-Gänger (installation view)


Installation view of the exhibition 'Lichtbilder. Photography at the Städel Museum from the Beginnings to 1960'

Rudolf Koppitz. 'Head of a Man with Helmet' c. 1929. Installation view of the exhibition 'Lichtbilder. Photography at the Städel Museum from the Beginnings to 1960'


Rudolf Koppitz (1884-1936)
Head of a Man with Helmet (installation view)
c. 1929
Carbon print, printed c. 1929
49.8 × 48.4cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt a. M., donated by Annette and Rudolf Kicken 2013


Installation view of the exhibition 'Lichtbilder. Photography at the Städel Museum from the Beginnings to 1960'


Installation views of the exhibition Lichtbilder. Photography at the Städel Museum from the Beginnings to 1960 at the Städel Museum, Frankfurt



In 1845, the Frankfurt Städel was the first art museum in the world to exhibit photographic works. The invention of the new medium had been announced in Paris just six years earlier, making 2014 the 175th anniversary of that momentous event. In keeping with the tradition it thus established, the Städel is now devoting a comprehensive special exhibition to European photo art – Lichtbilder. Photography at the Städel Museum from the Beginnings to 1960 – presenting the photographic holdings of the museum’s Modern Art Department, which have recently undergone significant expansion. From 9 July to 5 October 2014, in addition to such pioneers as Nadar, Gustave Le Gray, Roger Fenton and Julia Margaret Cameron, the show will feature photography heroes of the twentieth century such as August Sander, Albert Renger-Patzsch, Man Ray, Dora Maar or Otto Steinert, while moreover highlighting virtually forgotten members of the profession. While giving an overview of the Städel’s early photographic holdings and the acquisitions of the past years, the exhibition will also shed light on the history of the medium from its beginnings to 1960.

“Even if we think of the presentation of artistic photography in an art museum as something still relatively new, the Städel already began staging photo exhibitions in the mid 1840s. We take special pleasure in drawing attention to this pioneering feat and – with the Lichtbilder exhibition – now, for the first time, providing insight into our collection of early photography, which has been decisively expanded over the past years through new purchases and generous gifts,” comments Städel director Max Hollein. Felix Krämer, one of the show’s curators, explains: “With Lichtbilder we would like to stimulate a more intensive exploration of the multifaceted history of a medium which, even today, is often still underestimated.”

The first mention of a photo exhibition at the Städel Museum dates from all the way back to 1845, when the Frankfurt Intelligenz Blatt – the official city bulletin – ran an ad. This is the earliest known announcement of a photography show in an art museum worldwide. The 1845 exhibition featured portraits by the photographer Sigismund Gerothwohl of Frankfurt, the proprietor of one of the city’s first photo studios who has meanwhile all but fallen into oblivion. Like many other institutions at the time, the Städel Museum had a study collection which also included photographs: then Städel director Johann David Passavant began collecting photos for the museum in the 1850s. In addition to reproductions of artworks, the photographic holdings comprised genre scenes, landscapes and cityscapes by such well-known pioneers in the medium as Maxime Du Camp, Wilhelm Hammerschmidt, Carl Friedrich Mylius or Giorgio Sommer. An 1852 exhibition showcasing views of Venice launched a tradition of presentations of photographic works from the Städel’s own collection.

Whereas the photos exhibited in the Städel in the nineteenth century were contemporary works, the show Lichtbilder will focus on the development of artistic photography. The point of departure will be the museum’s own photographic holdings, which were significantly expanded through major acquisitions from the collections of Uta and Wilfried Wiegand in 2011 and Annette and Rudolf Kicken in 2013, and which continue to grow today through new purchases. The exhibition’s nine chronologically ordered sections will span the history of the medium from the beginnings of paper photography in the 1840s to the photographic experiments of the fotoform Group in the 1950s.

In the entrance area to the show, the visitor will be greeted by a selection of Raphael reproductions presented by the Städel in exhibitions in 1859 and 1860. They feature full views and details of the cartoons executed by Raphael to serve as reference images for the Sistine Chapel tapestries. The art admirer was no longer compelled to travel to London to marvel at the Raphael cartoons at Hampton Court, but could now examine these masterworks in large-scale photographs right at the Städel. The following exhibition room is devoted to the pioneers of photography of the 1840s to ’60s. No sooner had the invention of the new medium been announced in 1839 than enthusiasts set about conquering the world with the photographic image. The aspiration of the bourgeoisie for self-representation in accordance with aristocratic conventions soon rendered photographic portraiture a lucrative business; to keep up with the growing demand, the number of photo studios in the European metropolises steadily increased. Works of architecture and historical monuments, art treasures and celebrities were all recorded on film and made available to the public. Quite a few photographers – for example Édouard Baldus, the Bisson brothers, Frances Frith, Wilhelm Hammerschmidt and Charles Marville – set out on travels to take pictures of the cultural-historical sites of Europe and the Near East, and thus to capture these testimonies to the past on film.

Among the most successful exponents of this genre was Georg Sommer, a native of Frankfurt who emigrated to Italy in 1856 and made a name for himself there as Giorgio Sommer. The second section of the show will revolve around the image of Italy as a kind of paradise on Earth characterised by the Mediterranean landscape and the legacy of antiquity. That image, however, would not be complete without views of the simple life of the Italian population. These genre scenes – often posed – were popular as souvenirs because they fulfilled the travellers’ expectations of encountering a preindustrial, and thus unspoiled, way of life south of the Alps. Faced with the challenges presented by the climate, the long exposure times and the complex photographic development process, photographers were constantly in search of technical improvements – as illustrated in the third section of the presentation. Léon Vidal and Carlo Naya, for example, experimented with colour photography, Eadweard Muybridge with capturing sequences of movement, and the Royal Prussian Photogrammetric Institute with large-scale “mammoth photographs.”

While the pictorial language of professional photography hardly advanced, increasing emphasis was placed over the years on its technical aspects. The section of the show on artistic photography demonstrates how, at the end of the nineteenth century, enthusiastic amateur photographs worked to develop the medium with regard to aesthetics as well. Whereas until that time, professional photographers had given priority to genre scenes and other motifs popular in painting, the so-called Pictorialists set out to strengthen photography’s value as an artistic medium in its own right. Atmospheric landscapes, fairy-tale scenes and stylised still lifes were captured as subjective impressions. While Julia Margaret Cameron very effectively staged dialogues between sharp and soft focus, Heinrich Kühn employed the gum bichromate and bromoil techniques to create painterly effects.

After World War I, a new generation of photographers emerged who questioned the standards established by the Pictorialists. Their works are highlighted in the following room. Rather than intervening in the photographic development process, the adherents to this new current – who pursued interests analogous to those of the New Objectivity painters – devoted themselves to austere pictorial design and sought to establish a “new way of seeing.” The gaze was no longer to wander yearningly into the distance, but be confronted directly and immediately with the realities of society. The prosaic and rigorous images of August Sander and Hugo Erfurth satisfy the demands of this artistic creed. The exhibition moreover directs its attention to early photojournalism and the development of the mass media. Apart from documentary photographs by the autodidact Erich Salomon, Heinrich Hoffmann’s portraits of Adolf Hitler – purchased for the Städel collection in 2013 – will also be on view. Although it was Hitler himself who had commissioned them, he later prohibited the portraits’ reproduction. For in actuality, Hoffmann’s images expose the hollowness of the dictator’s demeanour. The show devotes a separate room to the work of Albert Renger-Patzsch, whose formally rigorous scenes are distinguished by uncompromising objectiveness in the depiction of nature and technology.

The photographers inspired by Surrealism pursued interests of a wholly different nature, as did the representatives of the Czech photo avant-garde – the focusses of the following two exhibition rooms. In the section on Surrealist photography, the works oscillate between fiction and reality, and photographic experiments unveil the world’s bizarre sides. Employing strange effects or unexpected motif combinations, artists such Brassaï, André Kertész, Dora Maar, Paul Outerbridge and Man Ray sought the unusual in the familiar. The Czech photographers of the interwar period, for their part, explored the possibilities of abstract and constructivist photography. Their works, many of which exhibit a symbolist tendency, are concerned with the aestheticisation of the world.

The final section of the show is dedicated to Otto Steinert and the fotoform Group. It sheds light on how Steinert and the members of the artists’ group took their cues from the experiments of the photographic vanguard of the 1920s, while at the same time dissociating themselves from the propagandistic and heroising use of photography during the National Socialist era. The six photographers who joined to found the fotoform Group in 1949 – Peter Keetman, Siegfried Lauterwasser, Wolfgang Reisewitz, Toni Schneiders, Otto Steinert and Ludwig Windstosser – coined the term “subjective photography” and emphasised the photographer’s individual perspective.

The show augments the joint presentation of photography, painting and sculpture practised at the Städel Museum since its reopening in 2011 and also to be continued during and after Lichtbilder. The aim of this exhibition mode is to convey the decisive role played by photography in art-historical pictorial tradition since the medium’s very beginnings. The presentation is being accompanied by a catalogue which – like the exhibition architecture – foregrounds the specific “palette” of photography as a medium conducted in black and white. The subtle tones of grey are mirrored not only in the works’ reproductions, but also in the colour design of the individual catalogue sections. When the visitor enters the exhibition space, he is surrounded by an architecture that is grey to the core, while at the same time making clear that no one shade of grey is like another. In the words of curator Felicity Grobien: “The exhibition reveals how multi-coloured the prints are, for in them – contrary to what we expect from black-and-white photography – we discover a vast range of subtle colour nuances that emphasise the prints; distinctiveness.

Press release from the Städel Museum


Édouard Baldus (1813-1889) 'Orange: The Wall of the Théâtre antique' 1858


Édouard Baldus (French, 1813-1889)
Orange: The Wall of the Théâtre antique
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
43.4 x 33.4cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK


Werner Mantz (1901-1983) 'Cologne: Bridge' c. 1927


Werner Mantz (1901-1983)
Cologne: Bridge
c. 1927
Gelatin silver print on baryta paper
16.7 x 22.5cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014



Werner Mantz began his career as a portrait and advertising photographer, later becoming known for his architectural photographs of the modernist housing projects in Cologne during the 1920s. This portfolio of photographs was selected by the artist towards the end of his life as representative of his finest work. These rare prints reveal Mantz’s mastery in still-life and architecture photography, and are considered some of the most influential works created in the period.

Text from the Tate website


Carlo Naya (1816-1882) 'Venice: View of the Marciana Library, the Campanile and the Ducal Palace' c. 1875


Carlo Naya (Italian, 1816-1882)
Venice: View of the Marciana Library, the Campanile and the Ducal Palace
c. 1875
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
41.3 x 54.1cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK



Carlo Naya (1816, Tronzano Vercellese – 1882, Venice) was an Italian photographer known for his pictures of Venice including its works of art and views of the city for a collaborative volume in 1866. He also documented the restoration of Giotto’s frescoes at the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua. Naya was born in Tronzano di Vercelli in 1816 and took law at the University of Pisa. An inheritance allowed him to travel to major cities in Europe, Asia, and northern Africa. He was advertising his services as portrait photographer in Istanbul in 1845, and opened his studio in Venice in 1857. He sold his work through photographer and optician Carlo Ponti. Following Naya’s death in 1882, his studio was run by his wife, then by her second husband. In 1918 it was closed and publisher Osvaldo Böhm bought most of Naya’s archive.

Text from Wikipedia website


Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Buchenwald in November' c. 1954


Albert Renger-Patzsch (German, 1897-1966)
Buchenwald in November
c. 1954
Gelatin silver print
16.5 x 22.4cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014


Royal Prussian Institute of Survey Photography (est. 1885) 'Cologne: Cathedral' 1889


Royal Prussian Institute of Survey Photography (est. 1885)
Cologne: Cathedral
Gelatin silver prints mounted on cardboard
79.8 x 64.5cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK


Otto Steinert (1915-1978) 'Luminogram' 1952


Otto Steinert (German, 1915-1978)
Gelatin silver print on baryta paper mounted on cardboard
41.5 x 59.5cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK
© Nachlass Otto Steinert, Museum Folkwang, Essen


Otto Steinert (1915-1978) 'Ein-Fuß-Gänger' 1950


Otto Steinert (1915-1978)
Gelatin silver print
28.5 × 39cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK


Paul Outerbridge (1896-1958) 'Egg on Block' 1923


Paul Outerbridge (American, 1896-1958)
Egg on Block
Platinum print
11.9 x 9.4cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK
© Paul Outerbridge, Jr., © 2014 G. Ray Hawkins Gallery, Beverly Hills, CA


Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Untitled (Close-up of a Zip Fastener)' 1928-1933


Albert Renger-Patzsch (German, 1897-1966)
Untitled (Close-up of a Zip Fastener)
Gelatin silver print
23 x 16.9cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014


Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879) 'Mrs Herbert Duckworth' 1867


Julia Margaret Cameron (British, 1815-1879)
Mrs Herbert Duckworth
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
35 x 27.1cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK


Giorgio Sommer (1834-1914) 'Naples: Delousing' c. 1870


Giorgio Sommer (European, 1834-1914)
Naples: Delousing
c. 1870
Albumen print mounted on cardboard
25.5 x 20.6cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK


Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) 'Alexandra "Xie" Kitchin as Chinese "Tea-Merchant" (on Duty)' 1873


Lewis Carroll (English, 1832-1898)
Alexandra “Xie” Kitchin as Chinese “Tea-Merchant” (on Duty)
Albumen print
19.8 x 15.2cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK


Dora Maar (1907-1997) 'Mannequin With Perm' 1935


Dora Maar (1907-1997)
Mannequin With Perm
Gelatin silver print on baryta paper mounted on cardboard
23.4 x 17.7cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014


August Sander (1876-1964) 'Country Girls' 1925 (print 1980 von by Gunther Sander)


August Sander (1876-1964)
Country Girls
1925 (print 1980 von by Gunther Sander)
Gelatin silver print
27.4 x 20cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014


Otto Steinert (1915-1978) 'La Comtesse de Fleury' 1952


Otto Steinert (1915-1978)
La Comtesse de Fleury
Gelatin silver print on baryta paper mounted on hardboard
39.2 x 29.1cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK
© Nachlass Otto Steinert, Museum Folkwang, Essen


Additional images

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Tropical Orchis, cattleya labiata' c. 1930


Albert Renger-Patzsch (German, 1897-1966)
Tropical Orchis, cattleya labiata
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print, printed c. 1930
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK


Man Ray (1890–1976) 'Schwarz und Weiß' 1926


Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Schwarz und Weiß (Black and white)
1926 (printed 1993 by Pierre Gassmann)
Silver gelatin print
24.8 x 35.3cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014


Man Ray. 'Retour à la Raison' 1923


Man Ray (American, 1890-1976)
Retour à la Raison (Return to Reason)
1923 (printed c. 1979 from Pierre Gassmann)
Gelatin silver print
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Acquired in 2013 as a gift from Annette and Rudolf Kicken
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013


Václav Jíru. 'Untitled (Sunbath)' 1930s


Václav Jíru (Czech, 1910-1980)
Untitled (Sunbath)
Gelatin silver print
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Acquired in 2013 as a gift from Annette and Rudolf Kicken



Jíru started to shoot as an amateur photographer, and since 1926 published photos and articles. He first exhibited in 1933 and collaborated with the Theatre Vlasta Burian, photographed in the Liberated Theatre, was devoted to advertising photography, and became well known in the international press (London News, London Life, Picture Post, Sie und Er, Zeit im Bild).

In 1940 he was arrested by the Gestapo for resistance activities, and sentenced to life in prison by the end of the war. In the book Six Spring, where there are pictures taken shortly after liberation, he described his experience of prison and concentration camps. After the war he became a member of the Union of Czechoslovak Journalists and in 1948 a member of the Association of Czechoslovak Artists. He continued shooting, but also looking for new talented photographers. In 1957, he founded and led four languages ​​photographic Revue Photography. By the end of his life he organised a photographic exhibition and served on the juries of photographic competitions.

The photographs of Václav Jírů, especially in the pre-war stage, was very wide: sports photography, theatrical portrait, landscape, nude, social issues, report. After the war he concentrated on the cycles of nature, landscapes and cities. A frequent theme of his photographs was Prague, which unlike many other photographers he photographed in its unsentimental everyday life (Prague mirrors, walls Poetry Prague, Prague ghosts).

Text translated from Czech Wikipedia website


Werner Mantz (1901-1983) 'Förderturm – Im Auftrag der Staatsmijnen Heerlen/Niederlande' 1937


Werner Mantz (German, 1901-1983)
Förderturm – Im Auftrag der Staatsmijnen Heerlen/Niederlande (Headframe – On behalf of the States Mine Heerlen / Netherlands)
Gelatin silver bromide print
22.6 x 16.7cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013


Václav Chochola. 'Kolotoc-Konieci' (merry-go-round horse) c. 1958


Václav Chochola (Czech, (1923-2005)
Kolotoc-Konieci (merry-go-round horse)
c. 1958
Gelatin silver print
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Acquired in 2013 as a gift from Annette and Rudolf Kicken



Chochola (January 31, 1923 in Prague – August 27, 2005) was a Czech photographer, known for classic Czech art and portrait photography. He began photography while studying at grammar school in Prague-Karlin. After leaving the photographer taught and studied at the School of Graphic Arts. He was a freelance photographer, photographed at the National Theatre and has collaborated with many other scenes. Chochol created a series of images using non-traditional techniques, creating photograms, photomontage and roláže.

In his extensive work Chochol was devoted to candid photographs, portraits of celebrities (famous for his portrait of Salvador Dali), acts or sports photography. His documentary images from the Prague uprising in May 1945 are invaluable. In 1970 Chochol spent a month in custody for photographing the grave of Jan Palach. He died after a brief serious illness in Motol Hospital in Prague.

Text translated from Czech Wikipedia website

Jde užasle světem, o kterém jako kluk na předměstí snil a od něhož byl vždy oddělen červenou šňůrou, a do něhož má najednou přístup. Skutečnost, že v tomto světě nikdy nebyl úplně doma, dokázal proměnit v nepřehlédnutelnou přednost: zbystřilo mu to oko a zahlédl detaily, které my oslněni jinými cíli ani nevidíme.

He walks in amazement through the world he dreamed of as a boy in the suburbs, and from which he was always separated by a red cord, and to which he suddenly has access. He was able to turn the fact that he was never quite at home in this world into an unmissable advantage: it sharpened his eye and he saw details that we, dazzled by other goals, don’t even see.


Frantisek Drtikol (1883-1961) 'Crucified' before 1914


Frantisek Drtikol (Czech, 1883-1961)
before 1914 (printed before 1914)
Gelatin silver print
22.7 x 17.3cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Acquired in 2013 as a gift from Annette and Rudolf Kicken
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2013



František Drtikol (3 March 1883, Příbram – 13 January 1961, Prague) was a Czech photographer of international renown. He is especially known for his characteristically epic photographs, often nudes and portraits.

From 1907 to 1910 he had his own studio, until 1935 he operated an important portrait photostudio in Prague on the fourth floor of one of Prague’s remarkable buildings, a Baroque corner house at 9 Vodičkova, now demolished. Jaroslav Rössler, an important avant-garde photographer, was one of his pupils. Drtikol made many portraits of very important people and nudes which show development from pictorialism and symbolism to modern composite pictures of the nude body with geometric decorations and thrown shadows, where it is possible to find a number of parallels with the avant-garde works of the period. These are reminiscent of Cubism, and at the same time his nudes suggest the kind of movement that was characteristic of the futurism aesthetic.

He began using paper cut-outs in a period he called “photopurism”. These photographs resembled silhouettes of the human form. Later he gave up photography and concentrated on painting. After the studio was sold Drtikol focused mainly on painting, Buddhist religious and philosophical systems. In the final stage of his photographic work Drtikol created compositions of little carved figures, with elongated shapes, symbolically expressing various themes from Buddhism. In the 1920s and 1930s, he received significant awards at international photo salons.

Text from Wikipedia website


August Sander. 'Portrait of Anton Räderscheidt' 1927


August Sander (1876-1964)
Portrait of Anton Räderscheidt
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
Photo: Städel Museum – ARTOTHEK
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2014



Städel Museum
Schaumainkai 63
60596 Frankfurt

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 10.00am – 6.00pm
Thursday 10.00am – 9.00pm
Closed Mondays

Städel Museum website


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Exhibition: ‘Flowers & Mushrooms’ at the Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Austria

Exhibition dates: 27th July – 27th October 2013


Many thankx to the Museum der Moderne Salzburg for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.



Giovanni Castell. 'Tulpomania 3 / Vergissmeinnicht' 2009


Giovanni Castell (German, b. 1964)
Tulpomania 3 / Vergissmeinnicht
C-Print/Plexiglas (Diasec)
130 x 160cm
Courtesy the artist


Peter Fischli / David Weiss. 'Mushrooms / Funghi 18' 1997-98


Fischli/David Weiss
Peter Fischli
(Swiss, b. 1952) and David Weiss (Swiss, 1946-2012)
Mushrooms / Funghi 18
Inkjet print with Polyester Foil
73.8 x 106.7cm
Bavarian State Painting Collections Munich – Pinakothek der Moderne
Acquired by PIN, Friends of the Art Gallery of modernity for the Modern Collection Art
© The artists; Gallery Sprueth Magers Berlin, London; Galerie Eva Presenhuber Zurich; and Matthew Marks Gallery New York


Michael Wesely. 'Still life (29.12. - 4.1.2012)' 2012


Michael Wesely (German, b. 1963)
Still life (29.12. – 4.1.2012)
C-Print, UltraSecG, Metallrahmen
100 x 130cm
Courtesy Galerie Fahnemann, Berlin
© VBK, Wien, 2013


Marc Quinn. 'Landslide in the South Tyrol' 2009


Marc Quinn (British, b. 1964)
Landslide in the South Tyrol
Oil in canvas
168.5 x 254 x 3cm
Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris. Salzburg
Foto: Ulrich Ghezzi


Pipilotti Rist (Swiss, b. 1962) 'Sparking of the Domesticated Synapses' 2010


Pipilotti Rist (Swiss, b. 1962)
Sparking of the Domesticated Synapses
Video installation; Projector and Media Player, miscellaneous
Objects, Regal, Quiet
Video: 5:34 min
Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth, Zürich
© The artist, Hauser & Wirth and Luhring Augustine, New York
Foto: Stefan Altenburger Photography Zürich



For some time now, there has been a renaissance of flowers and mushroom themes in fine art. The comprehensive exhibition Flowers & Mushrooms explores the clichées and the various levels of meaning and symbolism of flowers and mushrooms in art. Current social and aesthetic issues are discussed on the basis of a selection of works from the fields of photography, photo-based paintings, video and sculptures/installations.

Today flowers are primarily associated with their decorative function. They also have a symbolic meaning both at weddings, where they represent freshness and fertility, and at funerals, where they represent transitoriness and death. An in-depth exploration of the varied symbolic meanings of flowers in cultural history reveals further levels of meaning, many of which refer to the ambivalence and abysms of human existence. Contemporary art adopts and continues the historical and complex pictorial tradition of flowers and mushrooms by adding new, contemporary perspectives. The exhibition was inspired by the multi-part work series Ohne Titel (Flowers, Mushrooms) by the artist duo Peter Fischli / David Weiss. The Swiss artists have been preoccupied with the role of clichées and common subjects for many years. Different slide projections with a comprehensive series of inkjet prints and Cibachromes included cross-fadings of flower and mushroom motifs.

At the beginning of the exhibition, a historical section shows photographs from the 19th and early 20th century. In particular the new medium of photography developed a special relationship with flower motifs. Photographs of the great variety of different plant and flower species serve as a kind of substitute for the traditional herbarium or as natural models, as “prototypes of art” for ornamental design lessons. From the early beginnings of photography, scientific interest motivated pioneers such as William Henry Fox Talbot or Anna Atkins to capture amazing pictures of plants.

Later on, the affirmative exaggeration of the decorative character of the flower inspired none other than Andy Warhol to take up a simple, photographically reproduced flower motif in his work Flowers (from 1964); through serial repetitions he ironically exaggerated the motif and conferred iconic status on banal everyday objects. Artists such as David LaChapelle and Marc Quinn continue the baroque symbol for opulence with the aggressive colourfulness of their impressively grand flower arrangements, but also emphasise the simultaneously existing threatening moment, when the boundlessness can take on a devouring character.

For some time now, there has been a renaissance of flowers and mushroom themes in fine art. The works of leading “portraitists” of flowers and mushrooms, such as Peter Fischli / David Weiss, David LaChapelle, Marc Quinn, Sylvie Fleury, Nobuyoshi Araki or Carsten Höller, continue the multi-faceted and long pictorial tradition of flowers, which is unparalleled in the history of art. At the same time no other motif is so easily suspected of trivialism. The question arises of how a subject that is frequently accused of being trivial and shallow has been able to gain ground in a field of art that is generally regarded as serious and sophisticated. The picture of a flower is too easily associated with the idea of harmless beauty and the mushroom with cliché-like hallucinogenic states of consciousness. Nevertheless many artists increasingly adopt these motifs, adapt them and find individual ways to put them into the context of socio-critical, feminist, political and media-reflexive art.

It is only at first glance that David LaChapelle and Marc Quinn continue the baroque symbol for opulence with their impressively grand flower arrangements that reveal a threateningly devouring character upon closer inspection. Female artists such as Vera Lutter, Paloma Navares and Chen Lingyang reflect upon flowers in a specifically female way, using them as a symbol for their own identity-defining sexuality, but also for their vulnerability and exposure and thus elevate the flower to a socio-critical and political level. With almost scientific interest, Andrew Zuckerman and Carsten Höller take an analytical view of the morphological characteristics of flowers and mushrooms in their photographs and installations which create an impressive immediacy. The erotic photographs by Nobuyoshi Araki and Robert Mapplethorpe draw parallels between a blossom and the male and female body and create a field of tension between still life and nude. The wilting flower as a classic symbol of vanity is depicted by Michael Wesely in his long-exposure photographs, which accompany the life of a flower from full bloom to its wilting while emphasising their beauty to the very end. Contrastingly, the monstrous, towering plants of the “desolate” video installations created by Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg are devoid of any loveliness and have a menacing effect. They depict violence and abuse give flowers a particularly irritating and disconcerting touch by breaking with their generally positive connotation.

Flowers and buds symbolise eroticism in general, their appearance creating associations with the female and masculine gender (sexual organs) specifically and thus have a sensual appeal. Imogen Cunningham and Robert Mapplethorpe have a reputation as early forerunners of this sexualised and yet apocalyptic perception of flowers. They both implemented this special perception – erotically charged and aloof at the same time – in their photographs by drawing analogies to the human body in their sculptural treatment of the flower. Female artists such as Vera Lutter, Paloma Navares and Chen Lingyang reflect upon flowers in a specifically female way, using them as a symbol for their own identity-defining sexuality, but also for their vulnerability and exposure and thus elevate the flower to a socio-critical and political level.

Thanatos, or death, is closely related to Eros. The wilting flower as a symbol of vanity is depicted by Michael Wesely in his long-exposure photographs, which accompany the life of a flower from full bloom to its wilting while emphasising their beauty to the very end. The flower monstrosities of the “desolate” video installations by Nathalie Djurberg, which deal with violence and abuse, are devoid of any loveliness and even have a threatening effect.

Both in their natural environment and in cultural history, mushrooms are on the shadow side. Mushrooms are mainly associated with dubious alchemism and witchcraft, are desired and feared as hallucinogenic and have become an integral part of art and literature. Similar to flowers, mushrooms have a long tradition in art history and appear frequently within the context of artistic productions. Sylvie Fleury, for example, controls space with a “forest” of over-dimensional mushrooms, whose surface is covered with car paint, thus increasing their intrinsic character of a foreign body. Their over-dimensional size, and glittering appearance evokes scenes from “Alice in Wonderland”, where the protagonist eats from a mushroom to makes her grow or sink. Carsten Höller, by contrast, explores mushrooms with almost scientific interest and documents their individuality and uniqueness in detailed colour photographs or converts them into larger-than-life-size, large-scale sculptures and display cabinets.

The particular appeal of this exhibition organised by the curators of the MdM SALZBURG lies in the comparison and confrontation of the different levels of meaning of images of flowers and mushrooms and their controversial positions in contemporary arts. The title of the exhibition has been inspired by the series of C-prints by the Swiss artist duo Peter Fischli / David Weiss with the title “Flowers, Mushrooms”. Flowers & Mushrooms presents a selection of important works from the fields of photography, photo-based paintings, video and sculpture/installation art with floral motifs, spanning the time from the early beginnings of photography to the immediate presence. Selected works on loan accentuate the focal points and main themes of the exhibition by raising current social and aesthetic issues and thus allow a closer inspection of the multi-faceted symbolic use of flowers and mushrooms. At the same time, new levels of meaning are opened, referring to the ambivalent and mystical dark side of human existence. The exhibition shows how contemporary art adopts and continues the historical and complex pictorial tradition of flowers and mushrooms by adding new, contemporary perspectives. A historical section with photographs from the 19th century and of Classical modernism complements the exhibition and shows, how photography as a new medium has developed a special relationship with floral motifs.

The exhibition features works by Nobuyoshi Araki, Anna Atkins, Eliška Bartek, Christopher Beane, Karl Blossfeldt, Lou Bonin-Tchimoukoff, Balthasar Burkhard, Giovanni Castell, Georgia Creimer, Imogen Cunningham, Nathalie Djurberg, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Peter Fischli / David Weiss, Sylvie Fleury, Seiichi Furuya, Ernst Haas, Carsten Höller, Judith Huemer, Dieter Huber, Rolf Koppel, August Kotzsch, David LaChapelle, Edwin Hale Lincoln, Chen Lingyang, Vera Lutter, Katharina Malli, Robert Mapplethorpe, Elfriede Mejchar, Moritz Meurer, Paloma Navares, Nam June Paik, Marc Quinn, Albert Renger-Patzsch, Zeger Reyers, Pipilotti Rist, August Sander, Gitte Schäfer, Shirana Shahbazi, Luzia Simons, Thomas Stimm, Robert von Stockert, William Henry Fox Talbot, Diana Thater, Stefan Waibel, Xiao Hui Wang, Andy Warhol, Alois Auer von Welsbach, Michael Wesely, Manfred Willmann, Andrew Zuckerman.

Press release from the Museum der Moderne Salzburg website


Paloma Navares. 'Vestidas de Sede' 2009


Paloma Navares (Spanish, b. 1947)
Vestidas de Sede
C-Print on Diasec
125 x 125cm
Courtesy MAM MARIO MAURONER Contemporary Art, Salzburg-Vienna
© VBK, Wien, 2013


Robert Mapplethorpe. 'Flower' 1988


Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Silver gelatin print
71.1 x 68.6cm
© The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, New York


Robert Mapplethorpe. 'Thomas' 1987


Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Silver gelatin print
71.1 x 68.6cm
© The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, New York


Luzia Simons. 'Stockage 104' 2010


Luzia Simons (Brazilian, b. 1953)
Stockage 104
Lightjet Print / Diasec
100 x 100cm
© VBK, Wien 2013


Katharina Malli. From the series 'Dead nature' 2012


Katharina Malli
From the series Dead nature
Digtal C-Print
40 x 60 cm
KUNSTIMFLUSS; eine Initiative von VERBUND



Flowers & Mushrooms exhibition texts

The title of the exhibition refers to the name of different slide projections and comprehensive photo series created by the Swiss artist duo Peter Fischli / David Weiss, which show cross-fadings of flowers and mushrooms. Fischli / Weiss began with photo series of everyday motifs back in 1987, and ten years later they used 2400 pictures from their extensive archive to make a cross-fading video with a duration of eight hours. Their general aim was to present the entire visual world they had encountered and documented on their excursions or long travels. Ten years later, the seemingly endless impressions of sights and attractions of the old and new world became limited to flowers and mushrooms, whose pictures overlap in double exposures and appear as a kind of hybrid: as newly created “living beings” between the world of flowers, associated in art history with all kinds of christological and erotic symbolism, and the world of mushrooms, which are not plants and are mainly known for their toxicity. Peter Fischli and David Weiss made the representation of flowers and mushrooms, which had mainly been restricted to calendars and trivial photo books respectable and presentable in contemporary visual arts. The time was ripe for this, even though pictures of flowers and mushrooms had experienced a kind of renaissance in contemporary art before: The ongoing interest in artistic productions dealing with different plants and mushrooms seems to confirm this.

Nevertheless the question arises, how the “flower image” which was frequently accused of triviality in the past, has been able to gain ground in sophisticated and serious art. Pictures of flowers could too easily be associated with the idea of harmless beauty and those of mushrooms with cliche-like, hallucinogenic states. For some years, many artists have nevertheless adopted these motifs, adapted them and found individual ways to put them into the context of socio-critical, feminist, political and media-reflexive art.

Many of the artists represented here in this exhibition deliberately continue this multi-faceted tradition which testifies to a respectable history the “flower picture”: Integrated into the context of Christian iconography in late antiquity and the Middle Ages until the Renaissance period, it timidly began to develop an autonomy during the Baroque period as a result of the newly arising scientific interest in the morphology of flowers and the related wish to classify them encyclopaedically. The rise of the “flower image” to a significant motif that appeals to the audience came to a temporary standstill in the 19th century, when it became an empty academic shell. It re-gained importance only during the Art Deco and New Objectivity period and even became a model for some contemporary forms of expression. While flowers have always been used as photographic motif all over the world due to their beauty and their specific shapes, which are frequently associated with human genitals, mushrooms seem to have inspired most artists who used them in their works due to their sculptural potential and possibly their hallucinogenic effect.

Our exhibition wants to present the use of flowers and mushroom in contemporary art photography, slide and video projections, installations, sculptures and photo-based paintings in all its different faces and assign the works to different themes for better understanding, however without clear boundaries between the individual categories. In a kind of art-historical prologue with the Latin title Species Plantarum we want to show, how scientists and artists have dealt with the representation of plants and blossoms and more rarely of mushrooms since the mid-19th century – parallel to the invention of photography – in photographic studies and “still lifes”. Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose shows that even seemingly trivial photographs of a flower or a mushroom viewed with disinterested pleasure can and should no longer be regarded as neutral and is linked with connotations of everyday experience and cultural education. Les Fleurs du Mal focuses on cryptic and unfathomable, abysmal aspects hidden in flower motifs. The works presented in the section Garden of Earthly Delights establish connections between gender, eroticism and sexuality – but also transitoriness and death – and the symbolism of flowers and associations used by many artists in their works. Nature versus artificiality finally heralds human interventions in nature and the wish to control and experiment with nature and the reflection of this development in visual art.


Species Plantarum

The 19th century was marked by social upheavals, which allowed civil society to intervene in many areas, such as politics, humanism and cultural history, but also natural sciences. The publication of Charles Darwin’s (1809-1882) Origin of Species (1859) intensified the public interest in forms of nature and increased the significance of natural phenomena. This not only encouraged the scientific curiosity of scientists, but also inspired artists to find new approaches to representing nature.

The newly discovered medium of photography, (further) developed out of the desire for an accurate reproduction for scientific purposes and used for various optical and chemical experiments, expanded the range of artistic forms of expression. Artists with an interest in botany eagerly and enthusiastically applied new techniques -such as nature prints, airbrush techniques or photogenetic drawings – and also embraced the new medium and instantly recognised its potential, inspired by pioneers such as Anna Atkins (1799-1871) and William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877). Early photographic experiments found their expression in the floral Art Nouveau style and in teaching concepts and teaching aids. The most famous collection of designs was Urformen der Kunst / Art Forms in Nature (1928) by Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932). His photographs became incunabula for the representation of plant-derived forms using the precise stylistic means of New Objectivity.

The artistic impulses of the following decades contributed to an exploration of nature through alternative cognitive forms. Photography detached itself from the primacy of representation, dominated by form and surface stimuli, and turned towards visual stimuli for the human power of imagination.


Anna Atkins

The botanist and illustrator Anna Atkins (1799-1871) is regarded as pioneer of photography. Her father, the British chemist, mineralogist and zoologist John George Children (1777-1852) aroused her passion for natural sciences. At a time when there was no scientific education for women, ladies from noble families had to content themselves with being “amateur helpers” for their fathers and husbands and worked in the background, compiling herbariums and making drawings. Through her friendship with the physicist John Herschel (1792-1871), who closely collaborated with William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877), Atkins became familiar with cyanotype, a printing process invented by Herschel, and began to use this new photographic printing process for mapping scientific samples. The first photographic herbarium was published under the title Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions between 1843 and 1854, comprising 12 issues with 389 illustrations. The photograms, which get their characteristic blue colour on the parts of the paper exposed to light from the use of an iron complex, produce particularly accurate representations of the plants. Their special allure is their diaphanous appearance. Anna Atkins’s works, which were forgotten for a long time, are today regarded as a milestone in the history of scientific and photographic illustration and have contributed to the rediscovery of cyanotype as printing technique.


Alois Auer von Welsbach

Alois Auer von Welsbach (1813-1869) was an Austrian printer, inventor and illustrator specialising in books on botany. He was head of the “k.u.k. Hof-und Staatsdruckerei” printing company founded in 1804 in Vienna and developed it into a large-scale enterprise that offered all state-of-­the-art printing techniques and methods of representation known at that time. The printing company became renowned for its nature prints developed and perfected by Auer in cooperation with Andreas Worring. Nature printing is a printing process that uses natural objects to produce an image. Dried or pressed objects are placed between a plate of steel and another of lead and drawn through a pair of zinc rollers under considerable pressure to produce in impression in the leaden plate. The printing plate is produced by electrotyping, also called galvanoplasty. Gravure printing is used for plants. The use of several colours in one printing cycle produced polychrome and particularly “authentic” prints. Until today no printing process has been able to surpass the high level of detail of this technique. For Auer nature printing was as important as photography, and he published books to promote this printing process. “Auers Naturselbstdruck” was patented in 1852 and released for general use in 1853. Over the centuries nature printing has been used for decorating everyday objects and for illustrations on substrates such as papyrus, parchment and paper.


Robert von Stockert

In the 1890s a small community of aristocrats and upper class people with an interest in arts established the “Club der Amateur-Photographen” (Club of Amateur Photographers) – later re­named “Wiener Kamera-Club”. Their photographs were largely influenced by painting. Members of the club include many famous names such as Heinrich Kühn (1866-1944), but also less famous contemporaries such as Carl Brandis (active around 1885-1900), Franz Holluber (1858-1942) or Robert von Stockert (1848-1918), who specialised in flower still lifes. For von Stockert, nature was an interesting theme for various reasons: He had the ambition to contribute to the “development of photographic art”, benefited from his own gardens and the decorative talent of his daughters and used his photographs for book illustrations. He regularly published his experience in illustrated supplements to the association’s publication “Wiener Photographische Blätter”. His pictorial vocabulary ranges from purely decorative flower arrangements to sophisticated still lifes. To convey the colourfulness of his motifs, von Stockert experimented with various techniques, both with photographic techniques, like the use of various colour filters and sensitive plates, and with reproduction techniques. His favourite printing techniques include platinum print, which provides a particularly rich and intensive range of grey nuances. For colour reproductions he used the new multicolour collotype process.


Karl Blossfeldt

The plant photographs of German photographer Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932) are milestones in the transitions from the playfully stylising Art Nouveau style to the unemotional, cool spirit of “New Objectivity” and have become incunabula of the history of photography. His motivation behind his imagery and motifs is rooted in his education as sculptor and modeller in an art foundry. At the Kunstgewerbeschule in Berlin – today the Universität der Künste (University of the Arts) – he collaborated in a project of his art teacher Moritz Meurer and compiled teaching aids for ornamental design. As lecturer for “modelling from plants” he received an official assignment in 1889 which provided further impetus for the production of illustrative material. Blossfeldt became famous for his book Urformen der Kunst (Art Forms in Nature) (1928); another volume – Wundergarten der Natur (Magic Garden of Nature). A sequel to Art Forms in Nature ­was published in 1932. The photographs here on display are a small selection from a collection of 6,000 pictures, whose clarity, rich contrast and acutance testify to his technical precision, craftsmanship and passion for photography and teaching. Graphic details, structures, forms and surfaces are emphasized by the targeted selection of details, magnified 2 to 45 times. Blossfeldt achieves a sculptural effect by using a monochrome, light background and thus liberates the plants from their natural context.


Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose

What Getrude Stein wrote in the mid-1920s and later became so influential and was often misunderstood, can be used as a motto for the works here on display, but also to point out ironically that the use of flower motifs is trivial only at first sight.

Like portraits or interieurs, flower pictures are part of the repertoire of art history. Even more so: No living being is used more frequently in symbolism than the flower, and few subjects are as complex as the history of the flower motif. In the past, flower still lifes were used to convey encrypted and symbolic messages, most of which are lost to us today. We no longer know the symbolic meaning of the individual flowers or their arrangements. Many artists have used floral themes in their work, as a reaction to the apparent triviality of the century-old flower motif, and have so continued this traditional theme. Today the flower motif has become the basis for new reflections and observations.

The oldest photographers whose works are here on display – Ernst Haas and Balthasar Burkhard – already liberated the flower from its temporal and spatial context and focused on depicting the flower not as a decorative still-life at the height of its beauty, but as a fragile plant subjected to instability and transformation. The American photographer Andrew Zuckerman portrays crystal-clear, razor-sharp images of different blossoms with an accurate eye, capturing the fine details of their surface structure and colour transitions. His strict staging abandons the common understanding of flowers and releases them from their context. As a result, Zuckerman’s pictures assume an almost cool, abstract quality.

Christopher Beane shares a similar love for details. His close-up pictures of petals convey sensuousness and opulence. As a staging photographer he completely restrains himself and entirely leaves the stage to his protagonists, allowing them to unfold their full beauty in exciting, suspenseful intersections, contours and curves. The scannograms by Luzia Simons show an opulence and splendour that reminds us of traditional Dutch still lifes of flowers. The large-format photographs are thoughtful reflections on the proud, but also tragic role of the tulip in the early 17th century Netherlands in connection with the “tulip mania”, which is generally considered the first recorded speculation bubble. In Giovanni Castelli’s photographs, flowers appear as mysterious plants, monumental and unreal at the same time. The artist finds his motifs in nocturnal parks, capturing close-ups of colourful flowers against a jet-black sky. The result are eerily beautiful flower portraits which seem to be from another world and elegantly refute our conventional visual concepts.


Carsten Höller

b. 1961 in Brussels/Belgium, lives and works in Stockholm/Sweden

Carsten Höller, who has a doctorate in agricultural science, works at the frontier between art and natural science. Dissatisfied with the restrictive structures of the academic world, he turned his back on it and chose the path of greatest-possible openness: he became an artist. “As an artist I do not have to submit to any formalistic constraints and can develop things as far as I think makes sense in a particular framework, without always having to undergo specialist training in the relevant fields.” Höller has not abandoned his first life, but combines the two disciplines, which appear to be so different from one another, in a highly idiosyncratic and humorous manner. He creates bizarre hybrid forms from a variety of types of mushrooms. He either grows them to a threatening height or exhibits them, like jewels in a glass cabinet, in orderly rows as though in a natural-history museum. Fly agaric is always present. Höller explores this mushroom and its hallucinogenic effects in great detail. In this context he is on the trail of a mysterious potion called soma, which is thought to have been made of fly agaric and was used for ritual purposes as early as the second century BC. Drinking it is said to impart good fortune and riches, the power to be victorious, and awareness and access to the divine sphere.


Hans­ Peter Feldmann

b. 1941 in Düsseldorf/Germany, lives and works in Düsseldorf

The large-format photographs of flowers by Hans-Peter Feldmann are at first glance reminiscent of the floral postcards of the 1950s: we see flowers popular at the time, such as roses and lilies, in close-up in front of a neutral, colourful background. The colour aesthetic of flower and background, too, corresponds to the time. Clear and uncompromising, the blossoms present themselves to the viewer in their full glory, while simultaneously appearing distant and artificial. In this respect they do not match today’s ideas of the bourgeois idyll. The magnification makes the kitschy look sublime. The blossom appears like a fetish behind glass, frozen for the next millennium. Feldmann has always been interested in the everyday and the banal. He lives his passion for collecting at flea markets and in his own shop of knick-knacks. He often works with found materials such as postcards and newspaper cuttings. The photographs shown here are not enlargements of these collected objects, however. They were created by Feldmann, based on the aesthetic of the small-format postcards of which they are ironic imitations. Feldmann’s artistic concept includes the practice of not dating and not signing his works: “Bakers don’t sign their rolls either, do they? Art has to taste and smell, one has to be able to experience it.” For Feldmann, one of the first concept artists, the works of art are already there. He considers it to be his job to find them. They should not lose their vitality despite the transformation.


Luzia Simons

b. 1953 in Quixadá/Brazil, lives and works in Stuttgart and Berlin/Germany

The tulip is, in the eyes of Luzia Simons, an element that connects cultures, and a symbol of transcultural identity. As a nomad among flowers, the tulip was brought to Europe from Asia, and connects the Orient and the Occident. It is at home both here and there, and has established itself as a virtu despite having been transferred via several different cultures. The tulip conquered the Netherlands in the late sixteenth century, and tulips featuring special colours and patterns commanded exorbitant prices on the market in a rapidly expanding “tulip mania”. Speculation with tulip bulbs led to a speculative bubble. The bubble burst in 1637, with far-reaching social and economic consequences. Simons sets the scene for the majestic and simultaneously tragic character of the tulip, as well as for its long-standing traditions, in her series entitled Stockage. The artist stages the flowers in large-format arrangements in which they surge towards the viewer in bright colours out of a neutral darkness, revealing their beauty and fugacity in sharp focus. Both through the inescapable vanitas concept and in its painterly effect Simons’s oeuvre is reminiscent of Baroque still lifes. Paradoxically, Simons makes use of a very modern method to generate the images, however: the flowers are “read” by a scanner before they are printed using a carbon-printing process, and finally they unfold their vibrant depth effect behind acrylic glass.


Peter Fischli / David Weiss

b. 1952 in Zurich/Switzerland, lives in Zurich / b. 1946 in Zurich, d. 2012 in Zurich

The Swiss artist duo Fischli / Weiss began work in 1979 and was highly successful in the spheres of film, photography, sculpture, art books and video installations. Cryptic and playful, often seen as though through the eyes of children, they re-arranged art and the everyday in their work. Their subtly ironic works, which often appear to be imbued with subversive nonsense messages, received numerous international awards. From kinetic experimental arrangements using everyday objects to interpersonal re-enactments using sausage leftovers: Fischli / Weiss transformed the apparently banal and the absurd into art. For this reason the flower motif also entered the work of Fischli / Weiss from 1997 onwards. The Flowers series (1997-1998) exists in two presentation forms: colour prints, and a double-slide projection. It shows a chaotic view of nature, as though from an ant’s perspective, using a hallucinatory and intensely colourful technique of superimposition. The arrangement of double and quadruple exposures and the resulting translucent layering of close-ups of flowers, mushrooms, snails and many other things creates the impression of a nature that is unordered and exuberant, unreal and simultaneously beautiful. This playful approach to reality and appearance, the conceptual claim of the visualisation of the world – in this case nature, which is just “there” and is in no need of legitimisation in order to be shown in the context of art – and the interest in the banal, in combination with a more serious artistic interest, constitutes the framework that encompasses the entire oeuvre of die Fischli / Weiss.


Les Fleurs du Mal. Reality and Appearance

In his poetry collection Les Fleurs du Mal (1857-1868) the French writer Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) painted a picture of a pessimistic modern city dweller that is characterised by despondency, anger and rebellion against all conformities. Man is torn between Christian morality, the good ideal and virtuousness on the one hand and the reprehensible and yet appealing fascination with the evil and ugly on the other hand, and forced to establish a new position for himself continuously.

What the artists represented in this part of the exhibition and Baudelaire’s Fleurs du Mal have in common is their questioning of conventional views on beauty and morality, symbolised by flowers which are generally regarded as beautiful, and the deliberate discussion of the transience of beauty as well as socio-­political principles and ethics. In particular the vanity theme is directly related to the “Flowers of Evil”, as it belies the human desire for eternal beauty and eternal life. Bourgeois decadence in the form of Baudelaire’s positive re-interpretation is no longer a common term today, but has a stronger presence than ever in the classic meaning of the decline of a social system, in particular with reference to the frequently heralded fall of capitalism. In the 21st century artists approach this subject in a differentiated way. Works closely related to traditional genres of art history, such as the still life, exist side by side with current series of works dealing with the concept of time as such, for example by intensely visualising the blossoming and withering of flowers or linking this with socio-political issues. The delightful moment of the pictures and materials is sometimes opposed to the subject matter or explicitly border-crossing contents.


Marc Quinn

b. 1964 in London/Great Britain, lives and works in London

Marc Quinn’s 2009 paintings Landslide in the South Tyrol and Aleppo Shore from 2010 are based on photographs that he took of model landscapes he himself had composed. To this end he arranged lush and colourful plant ensembles in his studio. Drawing on Baroque bouquets, which are artificial creations and consciously unnatural in their composition, Quinn negates the passing of the seasons and combines plants that do not blossom at the same time as each other. His enormous square compositions confront viewers with paradisiacal gardens bursting with life, allowing viewers to immerse themselves in an apparently idyllic, magical world. Closer inspection reveals that the white surface to which the luminosity is owed is in fact a snowfield, and this causes consternation. The first impression of cheerful colourfulness and light-heartedness dissipates and the scenery that is now perceived as artificial suddenly feels threatening in a very subtle way. In the midst of life we are surrounded by death! The viewer is surrounded not by a lively garden landscape, but by an arrangement of frozen, dead plants. The unnatural brightness of the colours, which knows no soft nuances, points to the artificially generated world, and reveals the difference between beautiful appearances and reality. One senses that critique of civilisation is a driving force: the artist exposes humankind’s reckless approach to nature because we are willing to sacrifice nature for the sake of its perfect beauty.


Eliška Bartek

b. 1950 in Nov Jičín/former Czechoslovakia, lives and works in Berlin/Germany and Lucerne/Switzerland

For the series Und Abends blüht die Moldau Eliška Bartek uses highly sensitive film that blurs the contours while simultaneously making details as visible as though they are being viewed through a microscope. As a result the surfaces of the flower petals appear exquisitely delicate and fragile. This feeling corresponds to the traditional symbolism of flowers. They are viewed as the ultimate symbols of the beauty of the moment, which already contains the seeds of transience. The flowers come from a Berlin wholesaler or are cut fresh by the owner of a botanical garden in Pila, a small village in Ticino. Bartek exposes them to particular light influences and in this way alters their colours. In addition to the extreme magnification and closely framed composition of the pictorial subjects it is this intense colourfulness in particular, further enhanced by the dark background and dramatically heightened by unusual light and shadow effects, that creates an extraordinary vitality and releases the pictorial subject from its static nature. For a short time the photo artist breathes an intoxicating beauty into the blossoms, for which the flowers pay the ultimate price: the extreme light burns the delicate petals and destroys the natural splendour. Bartek’s subtle play with reality and appearance, or with artificiality and naturalness, also points to the fallibility of our perception.


Vera Lutter

b. 1960 in Kaiserslautern/Germany, lives and works in New York/USA

With the project Samar Hussein Vera Lutter reveals herself to be a socio-critical artist who rescues the civilian victims of the Iraq war from oblivion and creates a memorial to them. More than 120,000 civilians have been killed since the invasion by the American army in March 2003. They are referred to in military jargon as “collateral damage” – an appalling word that downplays the suffering for which it stands. The artist has gathered the names and dates for her work of art from the Iraq Body Count Project. The biggest publicly accessible database of this kind worldwide, it records the civilians who have lost their lives in military and paramilitary campaigns, and documents the collapse of public safety following the invasion. Lutter uses the image of a budding, blossoming and finally wilted and withered hibiscus blossom as a metaphor for the human life cycle. The artist sees analogies between human life with its beauty and fullness, as well as its vulnerability and destructibility, on the one hand, and the tones of this flower, reminiscent of the colour of flesh, and the sensuous shape of its blossom, on the other hand. The names of the dead are superimposed on the printed and projected photographs in chronological order according to the date of death. The first picture is named after Samar Hussein. It is for this 13-year-old girl, the first civilian victim to have been recorded in the database, that the art project as a whole, Vera Lutter’s remarkably poetic and touching elegy for the senseless casualties of war, is named.


Paloma Navares

b. 1947 in Burgos/Spain, lives and works in Madrid and Alicante/Spain

Paloma Navares’s oeuvre spans the fields of photography, sculpture, installation and performance, and explores historical female positions in our society. Navares, who suffers from a rare eye condition that will eventually lead to the loss of her eyesight, employs her memory, which she refers to as her “inner eye”, as an artistic device. The multimedia artist uses a poetical pictorial language that aims to draw the viewer’s attention in a delicate and subtle way to existential human questions: might putative mistakes or what society judges to be incapacity lead to recognition after all? The photographs of delicate orchid blossoms tell of the fates of women, and are in some respects symbolic. They stand, for example, for Meerabai, a late-fourteenth-century princess from northern India who wrote love songs and laments, and who, as a devotee of Krishna, vehemently opposed marriage. The pressure exerted on her by society at court forced her to commit suicide by drinking from a poisoned cup. Female Korean entertainers, known as kisaeng, were similarly despised and judged by society for their nonconformity. Navares’s depictions of flowers are homages to great female poets of past eras whose lyrical works were ignored and who, in the face of the contempt with which society treated them, chose to die by their own hands. The images represent a plea for justice and self-determination, and simultaneously stand for grace, strength and beauty.


Garden of Earthly Delights

Flowers and blossoms have always held a great fascination for man and are symbolically and culturally linked with love, beauty, youth and sensuality. Opulent flowers are thus instinctively associated with eroticism and seduction, but also inevitably with the aspect of transitoriness. From a biological point of view, the attraction of flowers is due to their signal effect for the purpose of pollination and thus reproduction and survival of a plant species. Not only poems use flowers as metaphor for human desire; the flower as analogy for man and corporeality is also found in fine arts. Artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe, Nobuyoshi Araki and Rolf Koppel combine nudes with floral still lifes and both in form and context refer to the sensual analogies to the erotic desires of man. Robert Mapplethorpe has made the most explicit comments on the relationship between flowers – in particular blossoms with strongly emphasised seeds such as the calla or anthuria – and the phallus. Mapplethorpe once said that his way of photographing a flower does not differ significantly from his way of photographing male genitals. The natural scientist Carl von Linné (1707-1778), who established the basis for modern botanical and zoological classifications, commented two centuries ago on the relationship between the corporeality of plants, animals and man. “We look at the genitals of plants with pleasure, those of animals with revulsion and our own with wondrous thoughts.” In his writings he poses the question, who is aware that the flowers a man gives to the woman he adores are “cut-off genitals of higher plants” and that the floral splendour must be regarded as “sexual intercourse of plants”? Within the context of cultural history, plants have been used until today as a symbol for the sexuality of man which is still a taboo.


Chen Lingyang

b. 1975 in Zhejiang province/China, lives and works in Beijing/China

The subject of Chen Lingyang’s twelve-part series of photographs Twelve Flower Months is the artist’s monthly cycle, which is associated with twelve different flowers. The viewer sees twelve geometric formats that correspond to traditional Chinese window and door shapes. They feature reflections of Chen Lingyang’s vagina, and the menstrual blood that drips from it. The shape of the mirror, too, varies from month to month. The viewer is supposed to feel disturbed by the juxtaposition of flowers – which are the ideal expression of the beauty of nature – and the bleeding genitals. Looking at the mirror, a Western symbol of flirtatiousness and beauty, viewers simultaneously become secret viewers of an intimate depiction. The apparent contrast also reveals unusual similarities, however: Chen Lingyang shows two natural cycles of growth and decay. The artist herself has commented on this work that “in traditional Chinese culture there is the idea of the person who lives in harmony with nature. … To me, ‘nature’ refers most importantly to the laws and rhythms of the universe. And these laws and rhythms are connected to cycles. It is easy for a woman to observe this from monthly physiological and psychological changes.”


Nature vs. artificiality

“Planting means to dig holes to force nature to become unnatural (cultural). […] Owing to the gesture of planting man has lived in an artificial world since the Neolithic period”, the media philosopher and communication scientist Vilém Flusser (1920-1991) once said. In this way he descriptively refers to the general circumstance that we can no longer view nature as something “given”, but as something that is “man-made” and constructed and controlled by man. Accordingly, culture has monopolised nature and its original autonomy to a large extent.

The main purpose of fine arts as a cultural manifestation is not only aesthetic edification. Artists, in particular modern and contemporary artists, also serve as introspective seismographs for development processes of civilisation. Their thinking, designs and creations bring about a change of perspective that goes beyond conventional acceptance and reception and thus refers to phenomena that inspire the viewer to reflect and take a closer look. The preoccupation with flower and mushroom motifs also has to be understood in this context. Primarily decorative and trivial at first glance, their meta levels contain far-reaching statements.

The installation of the Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist explores socially standardised patterns of behaviour of civilised man. Rist makes these patterns tangible in her works by depicting the way people deal with artfully arranged flower decorations. In a comparable, yet differing way Gitte Schäfer explores nature and its “domestic use” in her flower wall. About three hundred small flower vases with an artistically kitschy design are affixed to a wall of diagonally placed mirrored tiles and filled by the artist with cut flowers in the form of a symmetrical picture.

The transient splendour of the flower arrangements symbolises earthly transitoriness and were a characteristic feature of 17th century Baroque still lifes. The Italian term for this category of painting ­natura morta – also alludes to the notion of vanity. In her four-part work series with the same title, the Austrian artist Katharina Malli shows close-up coloured pictures of crops and ornamental plants against a neutral white background, whose aesthetics deliberately quote the documentary style of Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932). Upon closer inspection, they are industrially produced artificial flowers. As perverted products of civilisation they represent this dead nature and at the same time symbolise the notion of immortality. Dieter Huber’s works also focus on artificially generated nature and play with the wishful thought of potential immortality. In his work series he presents apparently “documentary” pictures of plant hybrids that herald a “brave new world”. The works by Nam June Paik and Zeger Reyers create a concrete connection between nature and technology. The instruments used, such as TV sets and record players, symbolically refer to social progress and are an expression of human inventiveness. They emphasize “manmade” things, juxtapose them with naturally occurring objects and thus describe them in relation to one another.


Andy Warhol

b. 1928 in Pittsburgh/USA, d. 1987 in New York/USA

By the second half of the twentieth century the flower as an artistic motif had become insignificant. It had become overburdened with the general suspicion of triviality and kitsch. However, Pop Art, which took a deliberate interest in the world of trivial imagery, immersed itself in this subject. Andy Warhol’s Flowers are exemplary of the approach of Pop Art artists. Warhol based his flowers on a folded insert in the June 1964 issue of Modern Photography magazine, a reproduction of a colour photograph of seven hibiscus blossoms. The photograph had been taken by the editor in chief, Patricia Caulfield, and was included as an illustration accompanying an article about a Kodak colour processor. Warhol cropped the photograph to alter the pictorial format, number and arrangement of the blossoms. Numerous variations of what was now a square image were then produced using the screen-printing process, differing from one another in colour and size. In total, more than 500 pictures of flowers must have been produced in this way. The Flowers appear to float in a diffuse space, detached from the background and unconnected to their stalks and leaves. In some versions the blossoms and the pictorial ground are painted by hand in DayGlo colours, further emphasising this impression. Warhol presented the prints in such a way that they covered entire gallery walls as though they were wallpaper. In this way he succinctly demonstrated the plant’s natural potential for rank growth as well as its technical reproducibility as a decorative mass subject.


Dieter Huber

b. 1962 in Schladming/Austria, lives and works in Vienna and Salzburg/Austria

Since as early as 1986 Dieter Huber has worked with photography that is optimised and altered using computer technology. The three works from the KLONES series, which were executed from 1994 onwards and thus explored genetic engineering and manipulation at a very early date, are doubtless among the pioneering works in computer-generated images. Huber commented on them that “the construction of a world that could be freely disposed of in all respects according to one’s will and imagination was still considered highly vexing at the time.” The three plant studies in the exhibition are – at first glance – razor-sharp photographs of flowers, each before a black background. Well-known types of flowers such as tulips, carnations, narcissuses, daffodils, roses and lilies are reminiscent of a grandmother’s garden. Closer inspection causes consternation, however: various types of flowers grow out of the same greenery, rose stalks are crowned by lily blossoms, and daffodils, lilies and tulips all grow out of the stem of a trumpet flower. Artificially created, impossible-looking crossings have long since found entrance into our real world. Almost all livestock breeds and crop plants used in agriculture were developed through decade-long crossing. Perhaps the surreal floral worlds of Dieter Huber will really exist one day?


Christopher Beane. 'Study of fungus' 2004


Christopher Beane (American, b. 1967)
Study of fungus
From the Farm House series
60 x 50cm
Courtesy of the artist


Lou Bonin-Tchimoukoff. 'Rayograph #35 - #75' Paris, 1928


Lou Bonin-Tchimoukoff (French, 1906-1979)
Rayograph #35 – #75
Paris, 1928
Gelatin silver print
23.8 x 17.8cm
Courtesy Galerie Johannes Faber, Wien


Imogen Cunningham. 'Two Callas' c. 1925


Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976)
Two Callas
c. 1925
Gelatin silver print
Estate Prints, 2013
21.5 x 17cm
Austrian Gallery, Museum of Moderne Salzburg
The Imogen Cunningham Trust, 2013


David LaChapelle. 'Late Summer' 2008-2011


David LaChapelle (American, b. 1963)
Late Summer
152 x 110cm
Courtesy of the Artist ROBILANT + VOENA, London – Milan



Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Mönchsberg 32
5020 Salzburg, Austria

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday:10.00am – 6.00pm
Wednesday: 10.00am – 8.00pm
Monday: closed

Museum der Moderne Salzburg website


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Exhibition: ‘The Naked Truth and More Besides: Nude Photography around 1900’ at the Museum for Photography, Berlin

Exhibition dates: 3rd May – 25th August 2013


Many thankx to the Museum for Photography for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.




Léon Gimpel. 'The Sculptor' 1911


Léon Gimpel (French, 1873-1948)
The Sculptor
© Société française de photographie, Paris


Photographer unknown. 'Act of Headstand' Before 1905


Photographer unknown
Act of Headstand
Before 1905
Silver gelatin print
© Universität der Künste Berlin, Universitätsarchiv


Photographer unknown. 'The 250-pound ranks of the 1st Caulking men's club, Munich' 1907


Photographer unknown
The 250-pound ranks of the 1st Caulking men’s club, Munich
From: Athletics Sports Illustrated Newspaper, 01/19/1907
© Niedersächsisches Institut für Sport-geschichte, Hannover


Otto Skowranek. 'Olga Desmond - Sword Dance' 1908


Otto Skowranek (German)
Olga Desmond – Sword Dance
Gelatin silver print
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunst-bibliothek


Frank Eugene Smith. 'Adam and Eve' 1898/99


Frank Eugene (American, 1865-1936)
Adam and Eve
Published in Camera Work, 1910
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunst-bibliothek



At the dawn of the last century, photographs of nudes could be found everywhere. The exhibition The Naked Truth and More Besides presents the astonishing diversity of photographic depictions of the disrobed human body that existed around this time. It was an age in which the foundations were laid for the development in the public domain of an extremely varied type of image, which, more than any other continues to inform the world in which we live today.

Most striking of all, the photographic nude appeared as a reproducible medium – on postcards, cigarette cards, posters, in magazines and in advertising, as inspiration for artists and an incentive for sportsmen, as instructional material, and as collector’s items. From the vast array of material, it is possible to identify several distinct groups that fall under such headings as: the mass produced, visual pleasures (arcadias, eroticism, and pornography), the body in the eye of science (ethnography, motion study photography, medicine), the cult of the body (reform movements – especially in German-speaking countries – naturism, and staged nudes from the world of sport and variety shows), and, of course, the nude in the artistic context (art academies and the Pictorialist tradition of fine-art prints). The most important characteristic of the image of naked people during this time is the inseparability of nude photographic production and reproduction. The trade or exchange in nude photographs was widespread across the whole of Europe. This is reflected in the exhibition, which not only features many treasures and rare finds from the Kunstbibliothek’s own Collection of Photography, but also includes important loans from several European institutions, ranging from the Bibliothèque nationale de France to the Police Museum of Lower Saxony.


The exhibition

A Commodity Market – The Machinery of the Nude

Since the invention of photography, the unclothed human body has been positioned – sitting, standing and reclining – in front of the camera. Large numbers of nude images, avidly pursued by censors, were in circulation as of the middle of the 19th century. By around 1900 nude photography had broken into the public sphere. Starting in 1880, photographs had become easier to produce and reproduce. They began to flood the market in various printed forms: alongside stereoviews, cartes de visite and single prints, nudes could now be found on postcards, trading cards, autograph cards, posters and in magazines, books and films. Nude photographs were promoted, ordered, sold and sent. They were published for a large audience under the guise of artistic or academic activity, and people’s viewing habits, their gaze on the naked body – their own or someone else’s – began to change. In this process it became clear that photography played a significant role in the marketing of the naked body, but also in people’s self-understanding. Today’s arbitrary use of scantily-clad models to advertise goods is but one phenomenon that continues what was emerging with the visual material of the turn of the 20th century.


“For Artistic Purposes Only” – Model Studies and Photographic Academies

Nude pictures were reaching the public as “photographs after nature.” In the process, the artistic content or the intended use of the photographs was always emphasised. If we were to judge by the quantity of materials said to be produced solely for artists, then the largest professional group around 1900 would have been composed of them. “For artistic purposes only” was the password to uncensored production of nude photography. For many artists, photographic depictions actually did replace calling in live models. Art academies created a reference collection with nude studies. In many cases, works of painting or sculpture can be directly traced back to a particular photograph. Taken in classrooms that tended toward sobriety, most of the poses were borrowed from the art-historical cannon. Countless Venus and Apollo figures, cherubs, Atlases, Horatii, Graces and boys in the classical style populate the portfolios of the period. A practice of child nudes developed in the slipstream of the photographic academies. Ostensibly, these were created to show the angelic innocence of children of all ages. Photographers also documented classes in studios and at academies. Thus we see photographs of entire student groups with their nude model, and there are also fine examples of the triad of artist, model and work.


(Visual) Yearnings – Ideals from Arcadia

The unclothed body was first and foremost an object of erotic associations, and they were rendered by photography in more or less subtle ways. While a large audience enjoyed the Arcadian idylls of Sicily without coming into a conflict with the law, there was likely an even larger public buying the goods “under the table” or only “per order,” potentially becoming guilty of immorality. Under Wilhelm II, male friendships were cherished as pillars of the system. Homosexuality, by contrast, was the subject of heated debate, its reception mixed. With this in mind, the vast array of potentially homoerotic photographs that were produced is revealing.

Wilhelm von Gloeden counts among the best-known practitioners of a kind of nude photography that gave voice to longings for an idyll that was generally Mediterranean or classical in nature. His photographs enjoyed tremendous commercial success around 1900. Numerous fellow photographers, most of them anonymous, began to photograph young and old satyrs, Ephebes, Apollos and shepherd boys and girls, staging the journey to Arcadia for the camera. Their images were published in such places as the first homoerotic magazine Der Eigene alongside poems, prose and essays. At the same time, these nude photographs were added to ethnographic collections (for example as Sicilian folklore), were discussed in the medical context and were used by (body) reformers to communicate an ideal.


Vividly Immoral – Censored and Pornographic Photography

Since the invention of photography, photographs have been produced that are erotic or pornographic in nature. Crude or more sophisticated fashions, fantasies, means of distribution and censorship changed depending on the period. Around 1900, censorship in Germany generally went hand in hand with the so-called Lex Heinze, a newly added paragraph that forbade public exhibition of material classified as immoral. When enforced, the censorship effort resulted in the impounding by police of thousands of images from individual distribution businesses and studios. But in the face of the new, ever-growing production of nude photographs, the aim of gaining the upper hand over the flood of images was destined to fail.

Material from private collections is rare today but it would have been found in a large number of ordinary households. Aficionados put together albums in which they showed their predilections using a combination of photographs, drawings or caricatures, and sometimes writing. Even the police kept an exemplary inventory of nude photography which they collected in albums. In Germany there remains only the album from the Police Museum of Lower Saxony, whose large format, elaborately stamped leather binding, and careful arrangement of the diverse material make it clear just how significant nude photography was to the guardians of the law, too.


“The photographic plate is the retina of scholars” – The Nude Body in Science

A great number of scientific fields made use of photography in their systematic mapping out of the visible world. The naked body was measured, compared and assessed. Norms were defined and aberrations shown. The new, photographically mediated consciousness of physical constitutions made itself felt in the way people saw themselves and their contemporaries. But the seeming objectivity of the medium also abetted discriminatory views. The photography of movement played a particular role in the photographic experiments that sought to describe and unravel the human body in all its aspects. Special devices were used to record the consecutive positions of motor activities. In addition to movement in everyday life and in sports, photographers also documented freely invented movement and movement resulting from disease. Eadweard Muybridge and Ottomar Anschütz together with Albert Londe count among the best-known representatives of the photographic anatomy study and the systematic recording of movement.

Using special equipment, photographers provided physicians with illustrations of diseases and physical ailments. Image material was gathered on a regular basis and used in medical research and teaching. The often highly suggestive visual language of the time is also reflected in scientific publications. Many of the diagnostic findings and display formats from around 1900 seem outdated today.

When photography became more compatible with travelling, ethnographers brought back to Europe a large number of photographs of the sometimes unclothed inhabitants of colonies they were visiting and exploring. And as the ethnographic nude became more pervasive, posing for the camera became more common. Postures and props were modelled on recognised artworks as well as ideas about foreign cultures that were prevalent in Europe. Photographic comparisons were designed to emphasise particular characteristics of ethnic groups or body types: here, technical tricks, such as using different lighting, backgrounds and poses, came into play. This kind of image material fuelled chauvinist and racist delusions, which became widely published.


“Naked People – a Cheerful Future” – Nude Photography and the Cult of the Body around 1900

At the turn of the century, questions about the body were quickly gaining in importance. Were corsets desirable? The photographs of corset marks on naked female bodies argue against them. What good was exercise? Photographs of trained naked bodies documented the benefits. What did a normal person look like, and what did the ideal body look like? With nude photography printed in numerous magazines and books, people began to develop an eye for these matters. With more and more images becoming available, people became more discerning when it came to their body versus foreign bodies. The body could be compared and evaluated. Ideals spread through powerful imagery and gained an increasing influence on individual body culture.

During the reform movement people, especially those in the German Empire, were drawn to the open air. They enjoyed so-called light baths, whose benefits were discussed at length and proven with photographs. An emerging nudism used photography to demonstrate a deliberately relaxed association with one another. Scantily clad or unclothed, stars soon had their pictures taken onstage, becoming famous when their images were used in advertising and turned into items of mass distribution. Their postcards and cartes de visite were precursors of the pin-up. Several of these images bring to mind hippies of the 1960s and ‘70s. Yet, among the nudists of the turn of the century were also publishers such as Richard Ungewitter, whose racist theories, based in folk identity, lent decidedly ideological undertones to the nude images they used in their argumentation.


Passions of Art Photography – Pictorialist Nudes

Beginning in the 1890s many photographers sought to elevate their craft to the status of art with the aid of particular printing techniques and strategies of image creation. Nude photography, certainly a pleasurable pastime for such ambitious art photographers as the so-called Pictorialists, produced a wide variety of motifs. In the prestigious magazine Camera Work, Alfred Stieglitz published a vast number of such images, including works by Robert Demachy, Constant Puyo, Heinrich Kühn, Annie Brigman and Edward Steichen. Among the Pictorialist nudes are expressive mise-en-scenes, some of them self-portraits of the photographers, whose subject matter was by turns poetic and symbolic. Besides this work, there certainly are images that are conventionally pleasant or academic and that stand out from the common material mostly due to their high print quality. Their pictorial techniques serve an atmosphere of everything from playful coquetry to dramatic religiousness. As the clearly preferred pose of wrestlers was that of a poet or thinker, Auguste Rodin’s sculpture The Thinker can be seen as bringing together the aesthetics of sculpture, Pictorialism and athlete photography.

Press release from the Museum of Photography website


Emile Bayard. 'The Aesthetic Nude No. 34' 1903


Emile Bayard (French, 1837-1891)
From The Aesthetic Nude No. 34


Emile Bayard. 'The Aesthetic Nude No. 34' 1903


Emile Bayard (French, 1837-1891)
From The Aesthetic Nude No. 34



How many artfully-draped centaurs, bacchantes, and nymphs does it take to make a dirty magazine? Only one early 20th-century periodical has the answer: The Aesthetic Nude (Le Nu Esthétique)… Illustrated entirely with unclothed models enacting quasi-mythological imagery, the covers alone range from a rapturous Leda and the Swan to a centaur’s semi-consensual abduction of a nymph (above). Inside each issue appear even more views of studio models in increasingly far-fetched poses, all of which were ostensibly meant to supplant the live model in studio practice. It’s not clear that anyone ever copied these compositions in paint, but the effort that went into cutting out the photos in lively shapes, and the publication’s run of several years (c. 1902-06), suggests a market existed for it!

These ‘aesthetic nudes’ beg the question of what constituted nudity, as opposed to nakedness in the late 19th and early 20th century. Was it simply the academic and mythological guise that made these images acceptable, even collectible?

Text from the ARTicle, Art Institute of Chicago blog [Online] Cited 08/08/2013


Photographer unknown. 'Two women on a carousel Pig' c. 1900


Photographer unknown
Two women on a carousel Pig
c. 1900
Silver gelatin print
© Collection GERARD LEVY, Paris


Albert Londe. '15 Chronophotographs of Charcot's son / Charcot plays football' c. 1890


Albert Londe (French, 1858-1917)
15 Chronophotographs of Charcot’s son / Charcot plays football
c. 1890
Gelatin silver print
© École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts, Paris; Reprofoto: Jean-Michel Lapelerie


Photographer unknown. 'Postcard with Aktmotiv, stamped and postmarked' 1906


Photographer unknown
Postcard with Aktmotiv, stamped and postmarked
© Sammlung Robert Lebeck, Berlin


Photographer unknown (Max Lorenz Nielsen?). 'Male Nude in Tree' c. 1900


Photographer unknown (Max Lorenz Nielsen?)
Male Nude in Tree
c. 1900
Gelatin silver print
© Berlinische Galerie


Rudolf Lehnert and Ernst Landrock. 'Transparency' 1904


Rudolf Lehnert (Austro-Hungarian, 1878-1948) and Ernst Landrock (German, 1878-1966)
Salter paper print
© Münchner Stadtmuseum


Heinrich Kühn. 'Female Nude' c. 1906


Heinrich Kühn (Austrian-German, 1866-1944)
Female Nude
c. 1906
Bromoil print
© Estate of the Artist / Galerie Kicken Berlin



Museum of Photography
Jebensstraße 2, 10623 Berlin, Germany
Phone: +49 30 266424242

Opening hours:
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Closed Mondays

Museum of Photography website


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Exhibition: ‘In Focus: Still Life’ at The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Exhibition dates: 14th September 2010 – 23rd January 2011


Many thankx to The J. Paul Getty Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.



Thomas Richard Williams (English, 1824-1871) 'The Sands of Time' 1850-1852


Thomas Richard Williams (English, 1824-1871)
The Sands of Time
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles



This daguerreotype stereograph image by Thomas Richard Williams is a still life memento mori composition. An assemblage of a human skull, an hourglass with the sand running out, an extended compass, and a book abandoned mid-read with eyeglasses placed upside down on the page, the image evokes the temporary nature of mortal life and the inevitability of death. The objects also refer to intellectual pursuits and to the inevitable triumph of the soul over the mind.


Armand-Pierre Séguier (French, 1803-1876) 'Still Life with Plaster Casts' 1839-1842


Armand-Pierre Séguier (French, 1803-1876)
Still Life with Plaster Casts
Daguerreotype 8 x 6 in.
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles



Baron Séguier was part of a small circle of amateurs that surrounded Jacques-Louis-Mandé Daguerre. Daguerre invented the daguerreotype, the process announced to the world in 1839 that produces highly detailed positive images on silver-coated copper plates. Some of the first successful daguerreotypes depicted arrangements of small-scale plaster copies of sculpture. The exceptionally long exposure times precluded the use of living models, a problem that would not be resolved until about 1841.


Eadweard J. Muybridge (American born England, 1830-1904) 'The Attitudes of Animals in Motion' Negative 1878-1879; print 1881


Eadweard J. Muybridge (American born England, 1830-1904)
The Attitudes of Animals in Motion
Negative 1878-1879; print 1881
Iron salt process
Closed: 19.5 × 24.7 × 3.1cm (7 11/16 × 9 3/4 × 1 1/4 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles



“… A photograph is made by one of the 24 cameras at every 12 inches of progress, made by the animal during a single stride. The length of each stride may be calculated by the line of consecutive numbers arranged parallel with the track, a number being placed every 12 inches of distance.”

~ Eadweard J. Muybridge

The possibility for moving pictures originated from a rich man’s bet: whether or not a galloping horse ever had all four feet off the ground at any time during its stride. Because the unaided eye cannot see such an instantaneous event, Leland Stanford hired Eadweard Muybridge to photograph his racehorse, Occidental. After Muybridge produced the proof to win the bet, he continued his motion experiments and documented them in this album. He wrote the above passage on the album’s first page, describing his methodical approach of rigging twenty-four cameras with electromagnetic shutters – tripped by wires as an animal ran across a track.

Photographs of the cameras show how wires were attached to modified lens shutters; others depict the racetrack, where a long shed with the battery of cameras faced a track with a wall behind to silhouette subjects. Most pages depict animals and humans walking, running, and jumping before the cameras. Muybridge later devised the zoopraxiscope, a rotating device that animated sequences of images.


Roger Fenton (English, 1819-1869) '[Still Life with Game and Gun]' about 1859


Roger Fenton (English, 1819-1869)
[Still Life with Game and Gun]
about 1859
Albumen silver print
19.8 × 17.6cm (7 13/16 × 6 15/16 in)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles


Charles Aubry (French, 1811-1877) '[An Arrangement of Tobacco Leaves and Grass]' about 1864


Charles Aubry (French, 1811-1877)
[An Arrangement of Tobacco Leaves and Grass]
about 1864
Albumen silver print
Image: 47 x 37.3cm (18 1/2 x 14 11/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles



After working as a designer of patterns for carpets, fabrics, and wallpapers, Aubry formed a company to manufacture plaster casts and make photographs of plants and flowers. His detailed prints of natural forms were intended to replace the lithographs traditionally used by students of industrial design. This close-up of a delicate arrangement of leaves and grasses on a lace-covered background appears as if a slight movement of air could disturb it.


Louis-Rémy Robert (French, 1811-1882) '[Still Life with Statuette and Vases]' Negative 1855; print 1870s


Louis-Rémy Robert (French, 1811-1882)
[Still Life with Statuette and Vases]
Negative 1855; print 1870s
Carbon print
32.4 × 26.2cm (12 3/4 × 10 5/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles


Frederick H. Hollyer (English, 1837-1933) 'Lilies' about 1885


Frederick H. Hollyer (English, 1837-1933)
about 1885
Platinum print
33.7 × 19.1cm (13 1/4 × 7 1/2 in)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles



Baron Adolf De Meyer (American, 1868-1949)
Glass and Shadows
Image: 8 3/4 x 6 9/16 in
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles



During the first decade of the 20th century, photographers such as De Meyer and Heinrich Kühn helped advance the idea that photography should emulate other forms of art. Here De Meyer photographed several glass objects through a scrim. The thin woven fabric softens the backlit objects, replicating the subtle tonal effects prized in etchings by artists from Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn to James McNeill Whistler.


Heinrich Kühn (Austrian born Germany, 1866-1944) '[Tea Still-life, Version III]' 1907


Heinrich Kühn (Austrian born Germany, 1866-1944)
[Tea Still-life, Version III]
Platinum print
27.5 × 37.8cm (10 13/16 × 14 7/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles



The J. Paul Getty Museum presents In Focus: Still Life, a survey of some of the innovative ways photographers have explored and refreshed this traditional genre, on view at the Getty Center in the Center for Photographs from September 14, 2010 – January 23, 2011.

“Still life photography has served as both a conventional and an experimental form during periods of significant aesthetic and technological change,” said Paul Martineau, assistant curator, Department of Photographs, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and curator of the exhibition. “One of our goals for the exhibition was to show how still life photographs can be both traditional and surprising.”

With its roots in antiquity, the term “still life” is derived from the Dutch word stilleven, coined during the 17th century, when painted examples enjoyed immense popularity throughout Europe. The impetus for a new term came as artists created compositions of increasing complexity, bringing together a greater variety of objects to communicate allegorical meanings. Still life featured prominently in the early experiments of the pioneers of the photographic medium and, more than 170 years later, it continues to be a significant motif for contemporary photographers.

Drawn exclusively from the Museum’s collection, the exhibition includes photographs by Charles Aubry, Henry Bailey, Hans Bellmer, Jo Ann Callis, Sharon Core, Baron Adolf De Meyer, Walker Evans, Roger Fenton, Frederick H. Hollyer, Heinrich Kühn, Sigmar Polke, Man Ray, Albert Renger-Patzsch, Paul Outerbridge, Louis-Rémy Robert, Baron Armand-Pierre Séguier, Paul Strand, Josef Sudek, and Thomas R. Williams.

The exhibition is arranged chronologically and includes a broad range of photographic processes, from daguerreotypes and albumen silver prints made in the 19th century to gelatin silver prints, and cibachrome prints made in the 20th century, to digital prints from the 21st century.

Newly acquired works will be on display for the first time: Still Life with Triangle and Red Eraser (1985) by American Irving Penn, Lorikeet with Green Cloth (2006) by Australian Marian Drew, and Blow Up: Untitled 15 (2007) by Israeli Ori Gersht (Gersht loosely based his Blow Up series on traditional floral still life paintings. His arrangements of flowers are frozen and then detonated. The explosion is captured using synchronised digital cameras, with the fragmentary detritus caught in remarkable detail. 

This diptych (pair) belies the notion of still life as something motionless as it explores the relationships among painting and photography, art and science, and creation and destruction.)

For Bowl with Sugar Cubes, photographer André Kertész created a still life out of a simple bowl, spoon, and sugar cubes, demonstrating the photographer’s interest in the compositional possibilities of layering basic geometric forms on top of one another – three rectangles in a circle (sugar cubes and bowl) and a circle in a square (bowl and the cropped printing paper). A visual sophistication is achieved through his adroit use of simple objects and dramatic lighting.

Other selections from In Focus: Still Life include Edward Weston’s Bananas and Orange, which depicts a symmetrical fan of bananas punctuated by one oddly shaped orange, and Frederick Sommer’s The Anatomy of a Chicken, which uses the discarded parts of a chicken to create a visual commentary. Influenced by Surrealism, Sommer embraced unexpected juxtapositions and literary allusions to express his intellectual and philosophical ideas. In Anatomy of a Chicken, a severed head, three sunken eyes, and eviscerated organs glisten on a white board. Evoking biblical imagery, medieval grotesques, and heraldic emblems, Sommer calls on the viewer to consider the endless cycle of birth and death, the cruel reality of the food chain, and man’s role in this violence.

In Focus: Still Life will be the seventh installation of the ongoing In Focus series of exhibitions, thematic presentations of photographs from the Getty’s permanent collection. Previous exhibitions focused on The Nude, The Landscape, The Portrait, Making a Scene (staged photographs), The Worker, and most recently, Tasteful Pictures.

Press release from The J. Paul Getty Museum website


Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitzky) (American, 1890-1976) 'Dead Leaf' 1942


Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitzky) (American, 1890-1976)
Dead Leaf
Gelatin silver print
Image: 9 1/2 x 7 13/16 in
© Man Ray Trust ARS-ADAGP
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles



Remarkable for its starkness, this photograph of a brittle castor bean leaf appeared with four others by Man Ray in the October 1943 issue of Minicam Photography. In his caption for the image, Man Ray wrote with uncharacteristic poignancy of the knowledge that “the dying leaf would be completely gone tomorrow.” It is tempting to interpret the melancholy sentiment of the work in terms of the artist’s growing discontent concerning his lack of recognition and financial success in Los Angeles and his fear that the work he left behind in France might be destroyed during the war.


Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976) '[Black Bottle]' negative about 1919; print 1923-1939


Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
[Black Bottle]
Negative about 1919; print 1923-1939
Gelatin silver, on Cykora paper print
Image (trimmed to mount): 32.7 x 24.8 cm (12 7/8 x 9 3/4 in.)
Sheet: 34.4 x 27.1cm (13 9/16 x 10 11/16 in.)
Mount (irregular): 35.1 x 27.8 cm (13 13/16 x 10 15/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Aperture Foundation



“The photographer’s problem is to see clearly the limitations and at the same time the potential qualities of his medium, for it is precisely here that honesty no less than intensity of vision is the prerequisite of a living expression. This means a real respect for the thing in front of him expressed in terms of chiaroscuro… ”

So wrote Paul Strand two years before he made this negative of a black bottle sitting in a white sink. Through the manipulation of light and dark tones, Strand transformed this ordinary subject matter. The four overflow drain holes become graphic markings in the upper left, while the muted grey shadow cast by the bottle assumes an almost-human form against the porcelain. The diagonals of light that illuminate the scene appear like radiant beams.


Albert Renger-Patzsch (German, 1897-1966) 'Flatirons for Shoe Manufacture, Fagus Factory' (Bügeleisen für Schuhfabrikation, Fagus-Werk, Alfeld) 1926


Albert Renger-Patzsch (German, 1897-1966)
Flatirons for Shoe Manufacture, Fagus Factory (Bügeleisen für Schuhfabrikation, Fagus-Werk, Alfeld)
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 22.9 × 16.8cm (9 × 6 5/8 in)
© Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Ann u. Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York



“We still don’t sufficiently appreciate the opportunity to capture the magic of material things. The structure of wood, stone, and metal can be shown with a perfection beyond the means of painting… To do justice to modern technology’s rigid linear structure… only photography is capable of that.”

So wrote Albert Renger-Patzsch in 1927 about the camera’s innate ability to depict the Industrial Age. Here he studied the materials of identically shaped, finished wooden handles and industrially produced steel heads, while also representing the flatirons as an army of tools standing at attention like bowling pins. Renger-Patzsch’s photograph celebrates the beauty of the commonplace object.


Marie Cosindas (American, 1923-2017) 'Asparagus Still Life I' 1967


Marie Cosindas (American, 1923-2017)
Asparagus Still Life I
Polaroid Polarcolor 58 instant print
8.9 × 11.4cm (3 1/2 × 4 1/2 in)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Marie Cosindas



Cosindas was among the first photographers to embrace the potential of Polaroid colour film during the early 1960s. She varied her use of camera filters, exposure times, lighting temperature, and development times to achieve portraits and still lifes that resemble paintings in their vibrant use of colour.

For Asparagus Still Life I, Cosindas created an elaborate assemblage of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and vessels to evoke the luxurious bounty of 17th-century Dutch banquet paintings.


Irving Penn (American, 1917-2009) 'Still Life with Triangle and Red Eraser, New York, 1985'


Irving Penn (American, 1917-2009)
Still Life with Triangle and Red Eraser, New York, 1985
Dye-bleach print
Image: 22 3/4 x 18 1/8 in (57.8 x 46cm)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles


Fredrick Sommer. 'The Anatomy of a Chicken' 1939


Frederick Sommer (American born Italy, 1905-1999)
The Anatomy of a Chicken
Gelatin silver print
Image: 24.1 x 19.1cm (9 1/2 x 7 1/2 in)
© Frederick and Frances Sommer Foundation
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles



Still life derives from the Dutch word stilleven, coined in the 17th century when paintings of objects enjoyed immense popularity throughout Europe. The impetus for this term came as artists created compositions of greater complexity, bringing together a wider variety of objects to communicate allegorical meanings.

Still life has come to serve, like landscape or portraiture, as a category within art. Although it typically refers to depictions of inanimate things, because it incorporates a vast array of influences from different cultures and periods in history, it has always resisted precise definition.

This exhibition presents some of the innovative ways photographers have explored and refreshed this traditional genre. During the 19th century, still life photographs tended to resemble still life paintings, with similar subjects and arrangements. Beginning in the 20th century, still life photographs have mirrored the subjects and styles that have more broadly concerned photographers in their time.


A New Medium

Still life featured prominently in the experiments of photography inventors Jacques-Louis-Mandé Daguerre and William Henry Fox Talbot. They did this in part, for practical reasons: the exceptionally long exposure times of their processes precluded the use of living models.

In the late 1830s, Baron Armand-Pierre Séguier, a close associate of Daguerre, created this elegant daguerreotype that features small-scale copies of famous sculptures in the Louvre and Uffizi museum collections.

In the mid-1800s, Charles Aubry was an accomplished practitioner of still-life photography who came to the medium by way of his professional interest in applied arts and industrial design. After working as a pattern designer for carpets, fabrics, and wallpapers, he formed a company to manufacture plaster casts and make photographs of plants and flowers.

Aubrey’s detailed prints of natural forms – like this close-up of plants on a lace-covered background – were intended to replace lithographs traditionally used by students of industrial design.


Photography as Art

By the first decade of the 20th century, art photographers like Baron Adolf de Meyer employed soft-focus lenses and painterly darkroom techniques to make photographs that resembled drawings and prints. The vogue at the time was to produce images that reflected a handcrafted approach, while asserting photography as an art medium in its own right.

Here, De Meyer photographed an arrangement of objects through a scrim. The pattern of thin, woven fabric softens the backlit objects and helps replicate the subtle tonal effects prized in etchings and aquatints.



Several decades into the twentieth-century, the American artist Man Ray emerged as a pioneer of two European art movements, Dada and Surrealism, in which the element of surprise figured prominently. This image seems both unusual for Man Ray in its apparent straight-forward approach, but also typical in its somewhat dark emotional tone.

By selecting a dead leaf with a claw-like appearance and photographing it against a wood-grain board, Man Ray updated the concept of memento mori (“remember that you must die”), a motif popular in centuries-old still-life paintings.


New Directions

In that same vein, the best contemporary still-life photographs recall past styles of art while containing a paradox relevant to today. Contemporary photographer Sharon Core became known for re-creations of painter Wayne Thiebaud’s pop-art dessert tableaux. Her series of still-life compositions, inspired by the 18th-century American painter Raphaelle Peale, followed.

For this series, entitled Early American, Core studied the compositional structure of his paintings, replicated the mood of the lighting, and when she couldn’t find the right vegetables and flowers, grew her own from heirloom seeds.

The stilled lives of objects have served so well as both experimental and conventional forms in the past, that still life may well be the anchor that allows photographers to explore new and yet unimagined depths.

Text from the J. Paul Getty Museum website [Online] Cited 02/01/2020


Ori Gersht. 'Blow Up No. 15' from 'Time After Time' (2007)


Ori Gersht (Israeli, b. 1967)
Blow Up: Untitled 15
Digital chromogenic prints
Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council of the J. Paul Getty Museum
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Ori Gersht


Edward Weston (American, 1886 - 1958) 'Bananas and Orange' April 1927


Edward Weston (American, 1886-1958)
Bananas and Orange
April 1927
Gelatin silver print
Image: 18.9 x 23.7cm (7 7/16 x 9 5/16 in)
© 1981 Arizona Board of Regents, Center for Creative Photography
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles



Simultaneous with his work on shells and nudes, Edward Weston began photographing bananas, gourds, and other still-life subjects. He was staying close to his studio in 1927, partly because he found his growing Los Angeles surroundings unappealing and partly to be available for portrait commissions. But he also realised during this time that art could be modern without depicting industrial themes. As he wrote in his daybook, “Are not shells, bodies, clouds as much of today as machines? Does it make any difference what subject matter is used to express a feeling toward life!.”

In 1928 Weston moved to San Francisco and opened a portrait studio with his son Brett (1911-1993), who had chosen to become a photographer himself. In December of that year the two packed up and moved to Carmel, a small town along the coast with a significant population of artists. It was there that Weston began focusing attention on peppers, which he typically ate after photographing them. Those who followed his output commonly saw sexual content in his still-life compositions, although he repeatedly denied having directly intended such allusions. He resented those who pigeonholed his work in this way, calling them “the sexually unemployed belching gaseous irrelevancies from an undigested Freudian ferment!” He wrote in his daybook that he photographed peppers because “of the endless variety in form manifestations, because of their extraordinary surface texture, because of the power, the force suggested in their amazing convolutions!” At the same time, however, Weston was aware that the simplified, heightened reality of his presentations, whether they be of nudes, vegetables, fruits, or his later dunes, could conjure up other associations. He was keenly interested in the idea that “all basic forms are so closely related as to be visually equivalent!”

Weston’s work during the late 1920s and early 1930s was well received. Arthur Millier, an avant-garde critic, reviewed it frequently in the Los Angeles Times, and it was exhibited in modern art galleries in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Carmel.

Brett Abbott. Edward Weston, In Focus: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2005), 56. © 2005, J. Paul Getty Trust.


André Kertész (American, born Hungary, 1894-1985) '[Bowl with Sugar Cubes]' 1928


André Kertész (American born Hungary, 1894-1985)
[Bowl with Sugar Cubes]
Gelatin silver print
Image: 16.7 x 16.4cm (6 9/16 x 6 1/2 in)
© Estate of André Kertész
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles



While living in Paris as a young photographer during the 1920s, Kertész became intrigued by still life, a motif that he continually returned to throughout his long career. Bowl with Sugar Cubes demonstrates his interest in the compositional possibilities of layering basic geometric forms on top of one another – three rectangles in a circle (sugar cubes and a bowl) and a circle in a square (the bowl and the cropped printing paper). Visual sophistication is achieved through his adroit use of simple objects and dramatic lighting.


Sharon Core (American, b. 1965) 'Early American - Still Life with Steak' 2008


Sharon Core (American, b. 1965)
Early American – Still Life with Steak
Chromogenic print
Image: 17 3/16 x 23 7/16 in
© Sharon Core
Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council of the J. Paul Getty Museum
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles



Core studied the compositional structure and lighting of still life paintings by Raphaelle Peale for a series of photographs she titled Early American. When she found it difficult to find vegetables that looked like the examples in Peale’s paintings, she grew her own from heirloom seeds. Core’s methodical approach yields compositions that hover between past and present.


Marian Drew (Australian, born 1960) 'Lorikeet with Green Cloth' 2006


Marian Drew (Australian, born 1960)
Lorikeet with Green Cloth
Digital pigment print
Image: 71.8 x 89.5cm (28 1/4 x 35 1/4 in.)
Sheet: 73 x 90.2cm (28 3/4 x 35 1/2 in.)
© Marian Drew
Purchased with funds provided by the Photographs Council of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles



Drew’s tabletop still life compositions feature fruits, vegetables, and dead animals and birds presented as game. While the unusual angles and lustrous colours bring to mind paintings by Paul Cézanne, the richness of the fabrics and dramatic lighting look back to 17th-century examples. Road kill gives Drew’s photographs a dynamic twist that calls into question mankind’s stewardship of the earth and its creatures.


Jo Ann Callis (American, b. 1940) 'Untitled (Strawberry Pie), #2' 1993


Jo Ann Callis (American, b. 1940)
Untitled (Strawberry Pie), #2
Silver-dye bleach print
27.9 × 35.5cm (11 × 14 in)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
© Jo Ann Callis



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The J. Paul Getty Museum website


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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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