Museum Folkwang
  • Chronological insights into the Photography Collection – Pictorialism at the Turn of the Century

  • Pictorialism

    At the end of the century two important factors spurred the development of photography: a steadily increasing demand for photographic images and a related expansion of the trade. Up to then photography was only accessible to a limited number of people. However, simplification of the process of taking a photograph and improved camera technology expanded the number of people who earned their living as photographers. With the ›carte de visite‹, photographic portraits became affordable for a large section of the population for the first time. It was no longer the quality of the image, but quantity that became important. An international group of amateur photographers sought to oppose this general trend towards standardization and commercialization. There ideas were given the name art photography or Pictoralism.

    The Kleeblatt

    Heinrich Kühn was among the most important figures in the German art photography movement. In 1887 he formed a group called ›Kleeblatt‹ in Vienna with Hugo Henneberg and Hans Watzek. They shared their experience, criticized each other’s works and organized group exhibitions to better defend their interests vis-à-vis other exhibition organizers and gallery owners. Their aim was to establish photography as an independent art medium and refute accusations that it was a simply mechanical and thus not artistic form of imagery.
    In order to have the greatest possible influence on the photographic process, art photographers used so-called ›noble photographic processes‹, which include gum printing and oil printing. With their great potential for modification, an image could be changed to the extent that it little resembled the original exposure. Working on the positive was thus seen as the true artistry, with the negative simply providing a stating point.
    When Hans Watzak introduced Heinrich Kühn to gum printing in 1895, they were making use of a process known in France since the 1850’s. The two then improved the technique of multi-level gum prints.
    Choice and composition of the motif was oriented towards tastes in art of the day. The photographers left their studios to work en plein-air or in private homes.
    The photographic Collection holds an exceptional lot of 127 works by Kühn, including the first double gum print ›Portrait of Emma Kühn‹ from 1896 and a three color gum print, ›The Meadow‹ form 1898, a paper negative of 73 x 55 cm as well as five of Henneberg’s prints and one of Watzek’s.

    Hugo Erfurth

    Hugo Erfurth, from Halle, was in fact a professional photographer, but from very early on was also active as an art photographer in the sense of being an enthusiastic amateur. He became well-known above all because of his portraits. His studio in Dresden was always a popular meeting place for artists and other figures of society. While art photographer portraits concentrated above all on artistic and pictorial structuring, Erfurth sought to capture the essence of his subject. He stuck to the complicated ›noble print methods‹ well into the 1920’s although other aesthetic standards had in the meantime proliferated. There are 115 of his works in the Collection.
  • Exh_Title_S: Chronological insights into the Photography Collection – Pictorialism at the Turn of the Century
  • Exh_Id: 492
  • Exh_Comment_S (Verantw): Department of Photography
  • Exh_SpareNField01_N (Verantw ID): 184
Porträt Emma Kühn
Die Wiese
Untitled (Still Life with Oranges)
Italienische Villa im Herbst
Villa Adriana
Alfred Flechtheim
Max Beckmann
Helene Erfurth