Karl Blossfeldt (1865–1932) is recognised for his extensive and unique collection of photographic plant portraits that reveal the tactile qualities, intricate forms and uncanny aspects of flora. His fusion of scientific observation, sculptural form and surreal composition pioneered an artistic style that forged new approaches to modern art and photography.
Working at the junction of Art Nouveau and Modernism, Blossfeldt developed a series of homemade cameras that allowed him to photograph plant surfaces in unprecedented magnified detail. Working as a tutor in Berlin from the late nineteenth century until his death, Blossfeldt’s works were primarily used as teaching tools and were brought to public attention in 1928 by his first publication Urformen der Kunst (Art Forms in Nature). Swiftly regarded as a seminal book on photography, Blossfeldt’s factual yet finely detailed imagery was praised by Walter Benjamin, adopted by the Surrealists and mass produced in magazines and books.
The exhibition is a major presentation of Blossfeldt’s work and consists of over 80 silver gelatin prints made and used during his tutorship. In addition, five rarely-seen large-scale prints will also be shown. These historic photographs are accompanied by his original publications, a set of working collages made in preparation for his books along with a number of avant-garde writings that embraced his work, including a text by Georges Bataille.
This Whitechapel exhibition opens April 16 until June 14.