Karl Blossfeldt: Variations
Ulrike Meyer Stump
Lars Müller Publishers, 2021
In the 1890s, Berlin artist, sculptor and teacher Karl Blossfeldt started to photograph plants, seeds and other illustrative material from nature for the purpose of teaching his students about the patterns and designs found in natural forms. His close-ups of the smallest plant parts, magnified up to thirty times their natural size, are startling as the plants appear geometric and sculptural. Published in 1928, his first collection of photographs Urformen der Kunst (later translated into English as Art Forms in Nature) became an international bestseller and remains one of the most significant photo books of the twentieth century.
Karl Blossfeldt: Variations is the first book-length monograph to examine the reception of Blossfeldt’s work. Drawing on unpublished materials, it analyzes the photographs’ replication in teaching materials, pattern books and art books, and also in the pages of the illustrated press. The six chapters of the richly illustrated study trace the paths Blossfeldt’s legendary plant motifs described as specimens, illustrations, patterns, analogues, models and abstractions from 1890 to 1945. Thematic excursions into the present, illustrating the rediscovery of Blossfeldt’s motifs in design and architecture over the past twenty years, offer a contemporary perspective on the famous German photographer.