Blossfeldt, Karl

Biography

German, 1865–1935

Details

As early as 1898, Karl Blossfeldt began to photograph plants, seeds, and other natural specimens, using their organic forms to study linearity and design. A lecturer at the School of the Royal Museum of Arts and Crafts, he taught a course titled “Modeling from Living Plants,” in which he projected slides of his plant photographs for students to copy. Blossfeldt consistently used a neutral background, drawing upon seventeenth- and eighteenth-century botanical classification systems. He continued to add to his catalogue, and by the time these works were first exhibited in 1926, coinciding with the beginning of Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) photography by August Sander and Albert Renger-Patzsch, Blossfeldt had accumulated over 4,000 images. Although the project may have been conceived in the context of Art Nouveau—a movement dominated by reference to natural forms—by the 1920s, Blossfeldt’s sharp-focus realism, rigid compositions, and objective-documentary style looked surprisingly avant-garde. But neither the extraordinary diligence of Blossfeldt’s labor, nor the stark beauty of his minimalist approach, could explain the overnight international sensation created in 1928 by his first book of plant photographs, “Urformen der Kunst“ (literally “Archetypes of Art”; published in English as “Art Forms in Nature“), a portfolio of 120 loose-leaf photogravure plates. The initial print run of 6,000 copies sold out within months, and further editions were published in Germany, France, England, and the United States.

Artworks by Blossfeldt, Karl

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