Karl Blossfeldt

1865-1932, German

Karl Blossfeldt’s oeuvre consists of some 6000 plant studies and fragments which have survived through negatives and publications. This meticulous examination of botanical forms, begun in 1896, was conducted with his chosen medium of photography (the only medium truly suitable for the immediate mirroring of life) over a period of three decades. His usual modus operandi, as a teacher and sculptor, meant that he looked at these ‘forms of nature’ as bodies of iron, elevating them to the most elegant and solidified being, the term ‘three-dimensional’ barely serving to describe their weighty solidity. All of the plants were photographed using the same camera which, as well as creating a uniform consistency, finally provided a scientific-like documenting of the plant kingdom. Again, probably unknowingly, Blossfeldt caused an explosion of interest with these sculptural studies among cultural, literary and avant-garde circles. Identified as being between the new objectivity and surrealism, these images were referenced by George Bataille in ‘Le language des fleurs’, published in his magazine Documents in June 1929, in which the plant is seen as a symbol of the duel existence of cultivation and obscenity, a polarity on which he hinged many analyses. These studies were also compared by Franz Roth to Max Ernst’s Histoire Naturelle.

Neue Sachlichkeit: “New Objectivity” in Weimar Germany | September 21 – December 18, 2004