Karl Blossfeldt’s Story of Overnight Fame

We all marvel at mother nature’s creations now and then. They are ultimately the most democratic of all design pieces, free for everyone, everywhere. So how is it that in 1929 Karl Blossfeldt published an international best seller on plant pictures?

Our answer: The photographs speak for themselves.

Blossfeldt held an incredible talent for capturing the meticulous design of plants. He believed that “The plant must be valued a totally artistic and architectural structure”, and convinced the world of his beliefs by showing plants as perfectly symetrical, balanced and beautiful.

Karl Blossfeldt, Plaster models for Moritz Meurer’s book: Comparative Morphology: Ornament and Plant

Blossfeldt (1865-1932) was a German sculptor, artist, photographer and teacher. After a short career in ironworks he met Moritz Meurer (a biologist keen on the concept of natural forms shaping art) who significantly shaped his interests. They travelled across Italy, Greece and North Africa, as Blossfeldt built a collection of stark, intensily magnified, black and white photographs of plants.

With some help from gallerist Karl Nierendorf who admired the work greatly, he published his book Urformen der Kunst (Art Forms in Nature). It was instantly recognised as a seminal book in photography and made Blossfeldt famous almost overnight.

Despite never having trained in photography and using homemade lenses, these photographs placed him as the champion of New Vision Photography and the of forerunner of German Objectivity Photography.

Walter Benjamine, a notable scholar of the period, declared that the Blossfeldt ‘has played his part in that great examination of the inventory of perception, which will have an unforeseeable effect on our conception of the world’. With advancements in architectural design allowing us to more structure organic forms, Benjamine’s prediction seems thoroughly accurate. Blossfeldt’s works opened people’s eyes to the lessons we can/should learn from nature.

After the success in his book, he taught at the Kunstgewerbeschule (school of arts and crafts) for 31 years. There, Blossfeldt used his photography to showcase the engineering solutions for industrial design found in nature.

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