• Karl Blossfeldt: Variations
    Ulrike Meyer Stump
    Christopher Jenkin-Jones
    Lars Müller Publishers, 2021
    Lars Müller Publishers

Karl Blossfeldt, Urformen der Kunst, plate 6, 1935, Berlin, Germany.

In the 1890s, 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 thirty times their natural size, are startling as the plants appear geometric and sculptural. 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 photo books of the twentieth century. Karl Blossfeldt: Variations is the first book-length monograph to examine the reception of Blossfeldt’s work. Drawing on unpublished materials, it analyzes the photographs’ replication in teaching materials, pattern books and art books, and also in the pages of the illustrated press. The six chapters of the richly illustrated study trace the paths Blossfeldt’s legendary plant motifs described as specimens, illustrations, patterns, analogues, models, and abstractions from 1890 to 1945. Thematic excursions into the present, illustrating the rediscovery of Blossfeldt’s motifs in design and architecture over the past twenty years, offer a contemporary perspective on the famous German photographer.

Ulrike Meyer Stump is a lecturer in the Knowledge Visualization program in the Department of Design at the Zürich University of the Arts, Switzerland. She holds an MA in museology from the Ecole du Louvre in Paris and a PhD in art history from Princeton University. Her work as writer, editor, and curator focuses on the photographs of Karl Blossfeldt, contemporary photography, and the history of the photobook. She is the curator of the exhibition No Two Alike: Karl Blossfeldt, Francis Bruguière, Thomas Ruff (Contemporary Arts Center Cincinnati, September 2018–January 2019) and editor of its accompanying catalogue, author of Karl Blossfeldt: Working Collages (MIT Press, 2001), coeditor of Karl Blossfeldt: Aus der Werkstatt der Natur (forthcoming), and coauthor of Swiss Photobooks from 1927 to the Present (Lars Müller Publishers, 2011).

Lars Müller Publishers is an internationally active publishing house based in Zürich, Switzerland. It came into being in 1983, as a result of the bibliophile passion of designer Lars Müller. The house has made a worldwide name for itself—and not just in specialist fields—with carefully edited and designed publications on architecture, design, photography, contemporary art, and society. The publishing program reflects Lars Müller’s own diverse interests, documenting historical developments and contemporary phenomena by presenting compelling work in the visual arts and the design of objects and the environment and exploring its social and cultural relevance.