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Karl Blossfeldt
(1865 - 1932)

 

 

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headshotPhotographer, sculptor, teacher and artist, Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932) is best known for his magnified, sharply defined and detailed images of plants and flowers published in two famous texts, Urformen der Kunst (Forms in Art) (1928) and Wundergarten der Natur (The Magic Garden of Nature) (1932). He believed that pure, organic forms found in nature could be the source for a new, modern art. For a period of over 30 years, Blossfeldt made thousands of enlargements of plant details, in an attempt to reveal the fundamental structures of the plant world. Blossfeldt’s flowers, removed from their natural habitat and photographed against neutral backgrounds, are at once reminiscent of architectural designs and nineteenth century botanical illustrations. Blossfeldt’s work is significant because it served as an important bridge between the notion of photography as science and its acceptance as a fine art, making him a celebrated artist in the New Objectivity movement in the years following World War I.

Blossfeldt was born in Schielo, Harz, Germany, and educated in Harzgerode from 1871 to 1881. From 1882 to 1884 he was a sculptor's apprentice and modeler at the Art Ironworks and Foundry in Magdesprung. He studied painting and sculpture on a scholarship at the School of the Royal Museum of Arts and Crafts in Berlin from 1884 to 1891. On another scholarship from 1891 to 1896, he worked under Professor Meurer in Italy, Greece, and North Africa collecting plant specimens. Blossfeldt began photographing in 1890 and pursued musical studies during these years as well.

Blossfeldt began to photograph plant forms with a camera of his own making in 1899 in Berlin. His systematic documentation commenced the following year. This work was used as part of his teaching at the Kunstgewerbemuseum School where, from 1898 to 1931 he was an instructor, assistant professor, and professor, successively, in the sculpture of living plants. Throughout his career, Blossfeldt continued to travel, particularly in the Mediterranean, collecting specimens of foreign plants. He retired in 1931. Prints from Blossfeldt's original plates were first published in 1975.
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