Heinrich Kuhn - the Perfect Photograph

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Heinrich Kühn
The Perfect Photograph

Alexander Stolz – Erasmus – N. et.: 11031891

Heinrich Kühn – The Perfect Photograph

Alexander Stolz – Erasmus – N. étudiant: 11031891

In recent years there have been an increasing number of shows about the Pictorialists, the fine art photographers around 1900. The Austrian photograph Heinrich Kühn counts as one of the most famous and most important among them. He is perceived as one of the founders of photography arts – the first style of art in photography, which could be established as own type of arts internationally. In the epoch between Post-Impressionism and the graphic planar of the Viennese Art Nouveau, Heinrich Kühn created a unique body of photographic work whose scope is still unknown, even to experts in that field. His work was shown at countless exhibitions and published in all the important art magazines between 1895 and 1915. The modernist potential of his art however was barely recognized during his lifetime. Heinrich Kühn was born in 1866 in Dresden. He came from a wealthy family, which was important to pursue his passion for photography, as this was an expensive hobby at that time. Once he completed his extensive studies in sciences, he became a member of the renowned Vienna Camera-Club. In association with other members of this club Kühn planned to develop photography into a medium of artistic expression rather than a medium that he and his associates felt had been demeaned by the advent of the professional photographic studio. Their English role models have been Peter Henry Emerson and George Davison. From the Frenchman Robert Demachy, they adopted the technique of gum bichromate prints, which is capable of rendering painterly images from photographic negatives. This technique suited well their vision of a photograph’s picture-like appearance. Heinrich Kühn and his fellows from the Vienna Camera-Club, can be seen as an early stream of “amateur” photography artists. More and more people of his time invested a considerable amount of money in their photography equipment and took their hobby very serious. Some even undertook travels to beautiful landscapes and views in order to take pictures of these sides. These new stream that made arts more accessible to the public was also supported by the director of the Hamburg Art Museum Alfred Lichtwark, who gave a positive connotation to the term “dilettantism”, and in doing so postulated the layperson as a protagonist in artistic questions. The American Alfred Stieglitz offered Kühn and his fellows to use his New York gallery to promote themselves and exchange ideas. With the expression PhotoSecession he created a slogan that pushed photography in the direction of the international secessionist endeavors in fine arts, and amateur photographers adopted this “separatist” spirit as their inspiration. Kühn always tried to bring his photo techniques to perfection and with his scientific background he was particularly suited to both exploring the practical aspects of his profession and advancing it. He was admired for his mastery of complicated techniques and had great success in exhibitions from Rome to Berlin and from Budapest to the USA. For several years his work had a wide-reaching influence on an international group of like-minded people. From 1910 onwards however international photography took a different direction than Heinrich Kühn. Photography gave room for a new artistic development starting in the 1880s. Social and technical achievements had made it possible for exhibitions and publications to reach a wider audience. Although fiercely debated and criticized amateur photography can be seen as the origin of an independent media theory and criticism. Heinrich Kühn was an influential figure in UFR03: Histoire de la photographie – Professor Poivert

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Heinrich Kühn – The Perfect Photograph

Alexander Stolz – Erasmus – N. étudiant: 11031891

this movement. Long time, his work and the exemplary quality of...
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