Karl Blossfeldt

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KARL BLOSSFELDT German (1865-1932)
Karl Blossfeldt portraitKarl Blossfeldt, German photographer, sculptor, teacher and artist is remembered today for his close-up, detailed photographs of living things, particularly plant life. Blossfeldt was intrigued with the way plants grew, and his unique style of arranging magnified images of his subjects against stark, neutral backgrounds celebrated their artistic structure and architectural elegance. Depicting the intricacies of buds, pods, twigs, tendrils, seeds and other plant components, the photographs amplify the amazing design found in natural form.  According to the artist, a plant never lapses into mere arid functionalism; it fashions and shapes, according to logic and suitability, and with its primeval force, compels everything to attain the highest artistic form. His most acclaimed collection of photographs, Urformen der Kunst, was published in 1929 after an exhibition of his work at Berlin's Gallery Nierendorf.

Born in 1863, Blossfeldt spent much of his childhood in the Harz Mountains of central Germany. After an apprenticeship in sculpture and iron casting at the Art Ironworks and Foundry in Magdesprung, he began studies at the Institute of Royal Arts Museum in Berlin, attending on scholarship. It was during this time that Blossfledt started collecting plant forms to use as models for a drawing class. Eventually, he would seek these same forms as subjects for his photography.

Blossfeldt created a series of plant photographs intended to teach his students to look to be inspired by natural form.  Appointed a teaching post at the Institute of Royal Arts Museum in 1898 (and where he remained until 1930), he established an archive for his photographs. Blossfeldt never received formal training in photography; even more remarkable, his camera of choice was homemade and specifically designed to magnify the subject at hand. This reflected his enduring interest in the repetitive patterns found in nature's textures and forms.