About the Artist

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  • Unknown photographer. Karl Blossfeldt Examining Leaves. c. 1894. Karl Blossfeldt/Archiv Ann and Jürgen Wilde. © Karl Blossfeldt/Archiv Ann and Jürgen Wilde, Zürich/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 2014

    Karl Blossfeldt is best known for his precise photographs of plants; however, he began his career as a sculptor, completing apprenticeships at the ironworks and foundry in Mägdesprung and the Kunstgewerbeschule (Institute of the royal arts museum) in Berlin from 1884 to 1890. From 1890 to 1996 he travelled through Italy, Greece, and North Africa, working for Moritz Meurer, who theorized that natural forms were reproduced in art. From 1898 to 1930 Blossfeldt taught at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Berlin; during this time, he amassed an archive of thousands of photographs of plants that he used as models to teach his students. Never formally trained in photography, Blossfeldt made many of his photographs with a camera that he altered to photograph plant surfaces with unprecedented magnification. His pictures achieved notoriety among the artistic avant-garde with the support of gallerist Karl Nierendorf, who mounted a solo show of the pictures paired with African sculptures at his gallery in 1926 and, subsequently, produced the first edition of Blossdeldt’s monograph Urformen der Kunst (Art forms in nature), in 1928. Following the enormous success of the book, Blossfeldt published a second volume of his plant pictures, titled Wundergarten der Natur (The magic garden of nature), in 1932. The clarity, precision, and apparent lack of mediation of his pictures, along with their presentation as analogues for essential forms in art and architecture, won him acclaim from the champions of New Vision photography. His work was a central feature of important exhibitions, including Fotografie der Gegenwart and Film und Foto, both in 1929.

    —Mitra Abbaspour


Meeting Points

Artist Chronology

June 13, 1865
At location: Karl Blossfeldt
Apprentices in iron casting at a foundry
At location: Karl Blossfeldt
Gathers and photographs plant material as part of a project for his drawing class with Moritz Meurer
At location: Karl Blossfeldt
Teaches a course in modelling based on plants at the Institute of the Royal Arts and Crafts Museum
At location: Karl Blossfeldt
April–May 1926
Exoten, Kakteen und Janthur at Galerie Neumann-Nierendorf
Participant: Karl Blossfeldt
April 1926
First exhibition at Neumann-Nierendorf Gallery
Participant: Karl Blossfeldt
Publishes Urformen der Kunst
Contributor: Karl Blossfeldt
Writes the essay "Aus der Werkstatt der Natur"
At location: Karl Blossfeldt
Group exhibition at the Bauhaus
Participant: Karl Blossfeldt
January 20–February 17, 1929
Fotografie der Gegenwart at Museum Folkwang

Kestner Gesellschaft v.V, Königstrasse 8, Hannover
March 10–April 7, 1929

Galerie Neumann-Nierendorf, Lützowstrasse 32, Berlin
April 20–May 20, 1929

Whitechapel Art Gallery, London
June 6–29, 1929

Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt
July 7–August 8, 1929

Leipziger Kunstverein, Augustusplatz 6, Leipzig
August 18–September 8, 1929

Lichthof des Neuen Rathauses, Dresden
September 15–October 6, 1929

Kunstverein, Rostock
October 20-November 10, 1929

am Adolf-Mittag-See, Städtisches Ausstellungsamt, Magdeburg
November 28–December 19, 1929

Landesgewerbeanstalt, Kaiserslautern
February 23–March 23, 1930

Vereinigung Göttinger Kunstfreunde, Göttingen
May 18–June 8, 1930

May 18–July 7, 1929
Internationale Ausstellung des Deutschen Werkbunds Film und Foto (FiFo) at Städtische Ausstellungshallen

Kunstgewerbemuseum, Zurich
August 28–September 22, 1929

Im Lichthof des Ehemaligen Kunstgewerbemuseums, Prinz-Albrechs-Strasse 7, Berlin
October 19–November 17, 1929

Stadtmuseum, Danzig
(dates unknown)

Österreichisches Museum, Vienna
February 20–March 31, 1930

Agram, Zagreb
April 5–14, 1930

Münchner Bund/Verein Ausstellungspark München E.V. (as part of Internationale Ausstellung. Das Lichtbild), Munich
June 5–September 7, 1930

Asahi Shimbun, Tokyo
April 1931

Asahi Shimbun, Osaka
July 1–7, 1931

Group exhibition at the Städtisches Museum
Participant: Karl Blossfeldt
Publishes Wundergarten der Natur
Contributor: Karl Blossfeldt
December 9, 1932
At location: Karl Blossfeldt

Walther Photographs

View this artist's works in MoMA's Online Collection

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