Imagine you are an art dealer and as you are viewing a student exhibition, suddenly you face to these photographs…
‘Captivating, outstanding, breathtaking!’ That was probably what Karl Nierendorf, an art dealer and owner of a gallery in Berlin, thought that moment almost a century ago, in 1926. He was so impressed by what he saw, that immediately arranged with the artist who had created them, an exhibition at his own gallery. And two years later, in 1928, a book followed. It was called Unformen der Kunst (Archetypes of Art), composed of 120 photos and turned out a bestseller. The book was highly praised both by the art critics and the public and still is considered as one of the most influential books of photography ever.
But who was that artist who all of a sudden amazed the world with his unique vision?
His name is Karl Blossfeldt, a German teacher of art and a self-thought photographer, who that time was going into his 60s. Of course, he did not become a famous overnight but a long professional experience stood behind him. And here is the story …
Karl Blossfeldt was born on the 13th of June 1865, in Schielo, Harz Mountains, in central Germany. In 1881, at the age of 16, until 1884, he was sent as an apprentice to Magdesprung to study the craft in the local ironworks and foundry. Afterwards, until 1890, he studied art at the Kunstgewerbeschule (school of arts and crafts) in Berlin.
And it is from 1890 when his perception about his artistic expression started to form.
That year Blossfeldt was hired by Professor Moritz Meurer (1839-1916) to assist him in assembling a collection of botanical illustrations to be used as teaching materials in guiding the designers in their production of innovative motifs.
Professor Moritz Meurer was a recognized botanist and a decorative artist. His concept was that only through the study of the forms of nature, particularly of the plants, the artist can acquire the understanding of the design. In 1889 the Prussian Board of Trade assigned him a project about the improvement of the technical drawings in the state schools. Because the visual images were an integral part of documenting the diversity of plants, Meurer employed nine different artists to assist him in the production of the illustrations. They travelled within Germany and also to Italy and Greece collecting specimens. One of them was Karl Blossfeldt who photographed the local plants with a camera he had built himself. These photographs were published later in Meurer’s books and were used by the latter for the drawing classes he taught in Rome.
In 1898 Blossfeldt was offered a teaching post as an assistant professor of drawing and modeling at the very same Kunstgewerbeschule in Berlin he had graduated. Highly influenced by the Meurer’s vision, Blossfeldt continued to employ it until his retirement in 1930. For all those years he created an impressive archive of plant photographs. These images were made as nothing more than a teaching tool for educating his students about the design elements that could be found in the nature.
On the 9th of December, 1932, Karl Blossfeldt passed away.
to be continued