“Karl Blossfeldt: Urformen der Kunst” at Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum Madrid

The German photographer and sculptor Karl Blossfeldt (Germany, 1865-1932) captured the hidden beauty of nature through his camera. Throughout his life Blossfeldt photographed plants and flowers using cameras of his own design that allowed him to magnify the subject up to 30 times its size.


Karl Blossfeldt. Adiantum, 1928. LOEWE.


Austere and objective but with a power to transmit great emotion to the viewer, Blossfeldt’s images attracted the attention of writers and artists due to their innovative concept of nature, leading him to become one of the key reference points for avant-garde photography.


“Karl Blossfeldt: Urformen der Kunst”
6 September – 5 October, 2019
Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum Madrid
Paseo del Prado, 8, Madrid


From 6 September to 5 October 2019 the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza and LOEWE Perfumes will be presenting a selection of 40 of these photographs from the album Urformen der Kunst [Original forms of art], considered one of the seminal photographic books of the 20th century. Published in 1928, it was the work that brought Blossfeldt to public attention and gave him entry to the art scene of the day, making him one of the most important of the New Objectivity photographers. The high quality of the paper and printing of these fascinating photographs further enhances the beauty of their powerful images, in which lighting and composition are used to emphasise the sculptural and graphic qualities of the plants. From the outset Blossfeldt’s photographs were compared to African sculptures and provided a source of inspiration for the Bauhaus industrial designers and creators.


Karl Blossfeldt. Aconitum_Anthora, 1928. LOEWE.


For the present exhibition its curator Juan Naranjo has organised the photographs into different sections that group Blossfeldt’s work together in formal and thematic terms, playing with de-contextualisation in order to reveal the formal beauty of the plants.


Karl Blossfeldt. Abutilon, 1928. LOEWE.


The importance of Urformen der Kunst continues today, given that it has come to be considered a manifesto for the interconnection of art and nature. Karl Blossfeldt revealed the beauty of the natural, a concept that is notably present in today’s causes and debates.


Karl Blossfeldt. Vaccinium, 1928. LOEWE.


Blossfeldt embarked on studying sculpture in 1881 and shortly after that date entered the School of Applied Arts in Berlin where he completed his art training. During that period he started to use photography to record specimens of plants that he found on days out and field trips. This unique and distinctive photographic “herbal”, which he produced over the course of more than thirty years, led Blossfeldt to become one of New Objectivity’s most important photographers.


Karl Blossfeldt. Petasites, 1928. LOEWE.


For many years Karl Blossfeldt’s photographic output was associated with his activities as a teacher and illustrator. With the publication of Urformen der Kunst (1928) his photographic work
entered the terrain of art, becoming extremely well known and successful. Blossfeldt’s photographs are to be found in the collections of some of the world’s leading museums and he captivated critics and theoreticians such as Georges Bataille and Walter Benjamin, while also inspiring numerous artists, including Max Ernst, Joan Fontcuberta and Arno Rafael Minkkinen.


Karl Blossfeldt. Centaurea, 1928. LOEWE.

Karl Blossfeldt. Cotula, 1928. LOEWE.


An expert in early and vintage photography, Juan Naranjo is an independent curator whose research has focused on the uses and functions of photography. He teaches on the Masters in Photography at the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia and has been a member of the advisory committee of the department of photography at the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Barcelona. He advises the publishing house Gustavo Gili on its photography collection and has curated a number of exhibitions, including Distinción, Un siglo de fotografía de moda, Fundación Cristóbal Balenciaga (Guetaria, 2019) and Museu del Disseny (Barcelona, 2017); Gabriel Casas, Fotografía, información y modernidad, 1929-1939, Obra Social La Caixa, Museu Nacional d’ Art de Catalunya (Barcelona, 2015-2016); and Joaquim Gomis, de la mirada oblicua a la narración visual, Fundació Joan Miró (Barcelona, 2012).

News source: Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum Madrid
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