Indepth Arts News: |
"1900 Photographs of Berlin and environ
by HEINRICH ZILLE"
2000-04-15 until 2000-06-04
Presentation House Gallery
Little-known in North America but highly influential in Europe, Heinrich Zille (1858 – 1929) gained
extraordinary popularity through his vivid and seemingly carefree photographs of turn of the
century Berlin and environs. His eye turned to the refreshingly mundane detail of everyday life,
and his images suggest a hip-shooting looseness quite uncharacteristic for the time.
In an interview published in Art Press in 1999, Vancouver artist Roy Arden said that Zille had a
more than adequate subject already developed through his work in caricature: the quotidian life
of Berlin. His approach prefigures the snapshot style of someone as recent as Robert Frank.
And in the same interview Jeff Wall wrote that He was one of the first photographers to pay
attention to dirt and debris on the sidewalk or on the ground, trash blowing around or being
ground away by people’s feet or wheels of vehicles. . . Zille [was interested] in people passing
through places, inhabiting them, dirtying them, then disappearing from them.
Heinrich Zille was born in 1858 in Radeburg, Saxony. In late 1867, after a short residence in
Potschappel, the Zille family moved to Berlin. In 1872 he began an apprenticeship as a
lithographer, studying in the evening at the Berlin Academy of Arts. By 1877 he was working for
the Berlin Photographische Gesellschaft, a firm engaged in photographic and graphic
reproduction, where he was to remain for the next thirty years.
It appears that Zille’s photographs were intended solely as ‘studies’ for his drawings of Berlin, for
which he would later become famous. Consequently the photographs are not as well known.
Kinder der Strasse (Children of the Street), published in 1908, was Zille’s first book of drawings,
followed later by Mein Milljoeh (My Milieu), which sold over 100,000 copies. On August 9, 1929,
Heinrich Zille died. The city of Berlin gave him a funeral ‘with honours’ in recognition of his
significant artistic documentation of the city.
The forty-two photographs in the exhibition are on loan from the Berlinische Galerie in Berlin,