Karl Blossfeldt: Art Forms in Nature
This Hayward Touring exhibition consists of 40 celebrated photogravures of nature from the 1930s
Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932) was a German photographer celebrated by the Surrealists and early modernists for his pioneering close-up images of plants and flora.
Trained as a sculptor he was also an amateur botanist, fascinated by the underlying structures of nature.
He created his extraordinary catalogue of studies of natural forms as a teaching tool for the benefit of artists, artisans and architects
This exhibition comprises works taken from from an original German portfolio, ‘Wundergarten der Natur’ 1932, edited by Blossfeldt and published in the year of his death. It follows the 2014 exhibition of the artist’s work at the Whitechapel Gallery, London.
Over three decades, Blossfeldt produced 6,000 photographs, using a homemade camera and lens that could magnify a subject by 30 times, to capture the microcosmic aesthetic of his specimens. In 1928, the first of three ground-breaking portfolios was published under the over-arching title Urformen der Kunst (Artforms in Nature). It became an overnight sensation; Blossfeldt was celebrated for discovering a hitherto ‘unknown universe’ and for his exemplary technical feats as a photographer.
The philosopher Walter Benjamin declared that Karl Blossfeldt ‘has played his part in that great examination of the inventory of perception, which will have an unforeseeable effect on our conception of the world’. He compared him to Maholy-Nagy and the pioneers of New Objectivity, and ranked his achievements alongside the great photographers August Sander and Eugene Atget. The Surrealists also championed him, and George Bataille included his images in the periodical Documents in 1929.