Karl Blossfeldt. Variations
How Karl Blossfeldts plant photographs were disseminated in the popular media of the time, from pattern books to magazine spreads
In the 1890s, the Berlin artist, sculptor and teacher Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932) 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 30 times their natural size, startle us as they dramatically highlight the geometrical and sculptural properties of plants. 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 photobooks of the 20th century.
Karl Blossfeldt: Variations is the first monograph to examine the reception of Blossfeldts work. Drawing on unpublished materials, it analyzes the photographs replication in teaching materials, pattern books, art books and in the pages of the illustrated press. The six sections of the book trace the paths that Blossfeldts legendary plant motifs took in their incarnations as specimens, illustrations, patterns, analogues, models and abstractions from 1890 to 1945. Thematic contemporary appraisals illustrating the rediscovery of Blossfeldt’s motifs in design and architecture over the past 20 years complement this new perspective on the beloved German photographer.