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Indepth Arts News:

"An American in Europe: The Photography Collection of Baroness Jeane von Oppenheim from the Norton Museum of Art "
2002-04-06 until 2002-06-16
Frye Art Museum
Seattle, WA, USA

An American in Europe features more than 140 European photographs that trace influential photographic movements of the twentieth century. The exhibition includes work by international prominent artists André Kertész, Alexander Rodchenko, Bernd and Hilla Becher, and Sigmar Polke. The diverse subject matter embraces plant studies, landscapes, portraiture, and abstraction. This exhibition traces influentialphotographic movements from the beginning of the 20th century to the present day.

The exciting presentation includes the work of several prominent pre-war European photographers published in Alfred Stieglitz's groundbreaking magazine Camerawork; a very significant group of modernist photographers working in Germany and other parts of Europe between the two World Wars; an important circle of innovative photographers working in the immediate post-war era; as well as the avant-garde generation of photographers that has recently emerged in Europe.

Bauhaus artists coming to prominence just after the First World War explored innovative and often iconoclastic processes such as photogram exposures, collage effects, photo-montage techniques, and abstracted imagery. These revolutionary directions are evident in images produced by Lucia Moholy, Kattina Both, and Lotte Jacobi.

Fascinated with plant life, Ernst Fuhrmann did not photograph himself, but his close friends Albert Renger-Patzsch and Lotte Jacobi operated the camera while Fuhrmann closely supervised. Some of Fuhrmann's collaborative efforts have the look of scientific documentation while others take on more fanciful appearances. August Sander's portrait types that document a range of German citizenry are much better known than the landscape studies of Cologne environs that he began producing when socially-charged imagery was curtailed by a Nazi regime. The von Oppenheim collection includes European artists of diverse origins. André Kertész, a Hungarian working in Paris from 1925 to 1936, contrasted the ephemeral promises of advertising with the everyday realities of life. In addition, the Russian Alexander Rodchenko's well-known images revealing this contain odd angle and dramatic viewpoints - this artist's trademark use of unusual perspective.

Following the Second World War, the Neue Sachlichkeit or New Vision artists focused on contemporary subject matter and the technical capabilities of the camera. Later, Berndt and Hilla Becher advanced the objective tradition of Neue Sachlichkeit photography by repetitively recording factory buildings and mechanical structures, symbols of an industrial landscape marginalized in a world of rapidly advancing technology and emerging corporate economies. Other artists emerging in Germany of the 1960s, such as Sigmar Polke and Gerhardt Richter, turned to photography as a primary source of imagery for their large-scale, media-influenced paintings.

Baroness Jeane Wahl von Oppenheim is an American collector who lives in Cologne, Germany, and Palm Beach, Florida. Born in New York City and trained in art history at Connecticut College, New London, she married Baron Alfred von Oppenheim in 1962. By 1968, Baroness von Oppenheim began collecting photography in out-of-the-ordinary places, such as antiquarian booksellers and flea markets. Buying what she liked, von Oppenheim developed a particular taste for and discriminating expertise in European photography of the 20th century. Von Oppenheim started the photography department of the Wallraf-Richartz Museum in Cologne, and has given her expertise as well as parts of her collection to the adjoining Museum Ludwig. She has been an important figure within the vibrant art world of Germany since the 1970s, and is currently on the Board of the Museum Ludwig, the Wallraf-Richartz Museum, and the Kunstverein, all in Cologne.

Alexander Rodchenko
, Russian, , Stairs, ca., 1930,
Gelatin silver print,
Gift of Baroness Jeane von Oppenheim, 98.516
(c) Estate of Alexander Rodchenko/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

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