Urformen der Kunst, 1928
Author: Karl Blossfeldt
Publisher: Ernst Wasmuth, Berlin | E. Weyhe, New York
About the book:
The photographs of Karl Blossfeldt will give a good deal of pleasure to anyone sensitive to the nuances of form and tone, and that is perhaps all that needs to be said about them. Blossfeldt prefers black and white and a severely frontal approach to his subject, which he centers on the paper like a laboratory specimen on a slide. In some of his pictures the subject resembles turn-of-the-century ornamental iron work. In others it resembles the kind of architectural ornament Atoni Gaudi designed for the church of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. In general his pictures suggest an architectural style of sinuous cuves and spiky shapes halfway between Art Nouveau and Gothic, though the bits of the world in front of his camera actually bits of leaf, stem, seed pod and tendril, dramatically silhouetted and enlarged several times, and labeled with the name of the plant in Latin.
These photographs are not merelyl very superior exercises in shape and tone in the manner of Edward Weston, nor are they mere exercises in self expression in the manner of Minor White. They are attempts to penetrate to the innermost structure of the universe. And though the camera cannot do this, not even with the aid of the scanning electron microscope, Blossfeldts effort does leave its traces in his photographs.
Urformen der Kunst was the first of three photo books by Blossfeldt: four years later there came Wundergarten der Natur (1932), and posthumously Wunder in der Natur (1942). The book's 120 plates display Blossfeldt's remarkable photographs of plants – varieties from Equisetum hyemale (Winter Horsetail) to Tellima grandiflora (Fringe cups) — all captured in extraordinary detail, as if under the microscope, frozen into new forms almost beyond recognition.