Museum Folkwang
  • Chronological insights into the Photography Collection – Photography of the 1920th and the 1930th

  • International Avant-Garde

    Photographic praxis in the 1920s and 1930s is one focal point of the Fotografische Sammlung in the Museum Folkwang.
    After the First World War – a period of decisive political and social change – a cultural production developed where the limits of art forms were extended and photography and technical imagery was conferred a new status. Protagonists of new photography distanced themselves deliberately from a romantic depiction of the genre of turn of the century art photography. The perception of the modern metropolis, industrial production, its world of machines and technology were taken as themes. Technology and tempo, the new popular themes, inspired the entertainment industry, art and the press.

    Experimental Photography

    Radical perspectives, isolation of object with close-ups, unusual sectioning and cuts, plays with light and shadow, regular use of diagonals, black and white contrasts and reflections were among the most important design elements in photographic praxis for reporters, artists, photographers and autodidacts. The works mentioned below serve as examples for the temporally defined focus of the Fotografischen Sammlung of the Museum Folkwang.
    Anne Biermann’s unusual view on and in the Eiffel Tower in Paris are and example for the discovery of the world from a perspective until then unnoticed; or the Frenchwoman Florence Henri’s experiments, creating unusual spaces for her still lifes with mirrors and panes of glass. Germaine Krull, fascinated by architectural construction of iron, published the book ›Métal‹ in Paris in 1927. In the Czech Republic, Jaromir Funke was a mentor of Neue Sehen. The Hungarian László Moholy-Nagy and the Austrian Herbert Bayer both taught at the Bauhaus, Germany’s most progressive college for art and design at the time. Many new ideas and starting points came from Bauhaus teachers and their students. Collages, montages, multiple exposures and photograms were experimented with by students there.
    One of he most influential experimenters was Moholy-Nagy, both with his montages using imagery he found an in the lab. He and Man Ray created exceptional imagery with camera-less photography. Already in 1922, the American Man Ray published a folio entitled ›Champs Délicieux‹ with 12 photograms which he called Rayogrammes or Rayographs.

    Neue Sachlichkeit

    Parallel to this experimental exploration, Albert Renger-Patzsch developed an objective photographic pictorial form. His range of motifs was large. Apart from nature and landscape photos, there are also photos of everyday objects, portraits, architecture, and themes from the areas of industry and technology. Albert Renger-Patzsch achieved his international breakthrough with the publication of his photobook ›Die Welt ist schön‹ by the Kurt Wolff Verlag in Munich in 1928. Also in the Sachlichkeit style, August Sander created a social portrait of the Weimar Republic. Entitled ›Menschen des 20. Jahrhunderts‹, he photographed representatives of various social classes he selected because of their profession, their social status or their role in society. Without making value judgments, but with an eye to the context, he directed his gaze towards people while leaving room for self-presentation in their living and work environs.
    Also for Helmar Lerski, who turned away from human portraiture, the reproductive character of photography was decisive. However, he was not interested in reproducing people; rather it was a staged role-play of the person opposite him achieved with light and framing. In his ›Verwandlungen durch Licht‹ (Metamorphose) project made in Tel Aviv in 1937, he made 175 portraits of one person. His estate is held by the Museum.

    Images for the Press

    The need for visual information material increased at the beginning of the 20th century. People’s curiosity for what was happening in the world was unlimited. Their hunger for images of the unknown world but also of everyday events led to an expansion of the print media. Their inquisitiveness was increased by a growing use of photographs in magazines and opened a new market for photographers.
    This led to the modern photoreportage, whose most prominent exponent in Germany was Erich Salomon. Like many of his co-reporters, he was not a trained photographer, having taught himself. He acquired a name with his photographs of politicians in the Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung and with his book, which shows the ›Berühmte Zeitgenossen in unbewachten Augenblicken‹.
    Wolfgang Weber also recognized the professional opportunities that photojournalism offered young people, »outsidern«. Together with Felix H. Man, the Gidal brothers, Kurt Hübschmann, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Harald Lechenperg and others, he was among the photojournalists who provided reportages at home and abroad for the illustrated newspapers and magazines of the day.
    In the recently founded USSR, too, film and photography developed into the most important information and propaganda form. Boris Ignatovic, student and companion of the artist Alexander Rodtschenko, was the exponent of a current which sought to introduce Neue Sehen in photography into photoreporting. Sought after was a new pictorial language which could express changing social and political conditions and to propagate for the future.

    After 1933

    Because of the National Socialist take over of power in 1933 in Germany and the immediate subordination of the press, many photographers, agency and magazine employees had to leave Germany. With their ideas and experience, they found respect and new opportunities for work especially in England and the USA.
    Lisette Model had already left Austria in 1922 to study painting in Paris. Photography only became her profession some years later in her new home in the USA. The photo shown here was made in 1934 on the French Riviera as part of a series on the ‘Promenade des Anglais’ in Nice, on her way to the USA.
    The Fotografische Sammlung, in its exhibition work, has frequently returned, both thematically and in monograph, to the protagonists of the 20s and especially some emigrants. We were fortunate to be able to acquire, in order, extensive work groups by Aenne Biermann, Lotte Jacobi and Annelise Kretschmer, the estates of Errell, Lotte Errel, Helmar Lerski, Germaine Krull an Walter Peterhans as well as, through the mediation of Floris Neusüss, in cooperation with the Centre Pompidou, Paris, an exceptional collection of works by Moholy-Nagy.
  • Exh_Title_S: Chronological insights into the Photography Collection – Photography of the 1920th and the 1930th
  • Exh_Id: 474
  • Exh_Comment_S (Verantw): Department of Photography
  • Exh_SpareNField01_N (Verantw ID): 184
Tadeusz Langier, Zakopane
Porträt mit Boulevard de la Grande-Armée
Portrait Composition (Margaret Schall)
Untitled (Paris Window)
Portrait Composition
Untitled (Portrait Composition)
Ohne Titel, Dessau
Ohne Titel, Dessau
Ohne Titel, Dessau
Untitled (Composition)
Verwandlungen durch Licht (Nr. 519)
Verwandlungen durch Licht (Nr. 537)
Verwandlungen durch Licht (Nr. 550)
Verwandlungen durch Licht (Nr. 552)
Still life with fabric and shell
Emailleschalen (Künstler: Kurt Lewy)
Bärentreiber im Westerwald, 1929
  • August Sander
  • Zirkusarbeiter, 1926 - 1932

  • Circus Workers
  • from the Portfolio Work: People of the 20th Century, Portfolio 37: Traveling People – Fair and Circus
  • Inv. 58/8/81
The Monument of Alexander III in Leningrad
Kriegsschulden-Konferenz, Restaurant Anjema, Den Haag
aus der Serie: Auf den Nadeln dieser Zeit