Natural Archetypes in Art: Karl Blossfeldt’s Influential Photographs
Image rights: Framed photogravures from Urformen der Kunst book
A teacher at the Royal Arts Museum in Berlin, Karl Blossfeldt became a celebrated photographer nearly overnight after the 1928 publication of his Urformen der Kunst (Art Forms in Nature), a photo catalogue filled with images of plants. Blossfeldt, who studied sculpture and iron casting but had no formal training in photography, built a camera to magnify his subjects. Arranged with stark, neutral backgrounds, his photographs of plant life reveal the architectural intricacies of tendrils, petals, and root hairs on flower stems. Urformen der Kunst was intended to be a pedagogic tool for German industrial and commercial designers, not a collection of avant-garde, modernist photographs, yet it led designers and artists alike to look at the natural world through a new lens.
German, 1865-1932, Schielo, Germany, based in Berlin, Germany