The artists of the Kurt Kirchbach and Thomas Walther Collection – Avant-Garde Photography in the 1920s & 1930s

Analytics / Collector / History / Research
Photomontage of the Wolkenbügel by El Lissitzky, 1925 (or 1923)

Photomontage of the Wolkenbügel by El Lissitzky, 1925 (or 1923), © public domain

The artists of the Kurt Kirchbach Sammlung and Thomas Walther Collection

   This survey doesn’t examine exclusively individual works of some selected photo artists. It looks at the complete list of shown artists in many thousand exhibitions with the help of artist-info database and provides like this a new, so far impossible insight.

   The idea for this survey was born when I read about Cornelius Gurlitt, the art historian (Nischwitz 1850–1938 Dresden), Hildebrand Gurlitt, the museum director, Kunstverein director, and art dealer (Dresden 1895–1956 Oberhausen), and Cornelius Gurlitt, the art collector (Hamburg 1932–2014 München) in Maurice Philip Remy’s book “Der Fall Gurlitt – Die wahre Geschichte über Deutschlands größten Kunstskandel” 1 about their life. Based on intense research the book shows how much went wrong in the case Gurlitt.
   The artists of the photography collection of Kurt Kirchbach (Senftenberg (Niederlausitz) 1891–1967 Freiburg i.Br.), initiated and directed by Hildebrand Gurlitt and exhibited by him as director of the Kunstverein in Hamburg, from January 10 – February 14, 1932 as Internationale Foto-Ausstellung, Kurt Kirchbach are still waiting to be known in all details. 2 As an experienced witness of the art world of his time Hildebrand Gurlitt’s position regarding ‘new photography’, the ‘new vision’ is of particular interest for us today.
   Another collection covering avant-garde photography of the 20s and 30s is the Thomas Walther Collection at the MoMA. It is a selection made by Thomas Walther (*1950), a young German photographer who had moved to New York in 1977 and later became a member of the Museum’s Committee on Photography. His collection joined the MoMA’s collection in 2001 by proposal of former Chief Curator of Photography Peter Galassi. The collection’s photographs were subject to a four years in depth research and restoration project and exhibition which took place December 13, 2014 – April 19, 2015, entitled “Modern Photographs from the Thomas Walther Collection, 1909–1949”, with its own website moma.org/interactives/objectphoto/.
   The collection Cornelius Gurlitt inherited from his father Hildebrand Gurlitt after his sudden death in 1956 did include paintings, drawings and prints but no photography. Throughout his life Hildebrand Gurlitt was a passionate collector of mostly contemporary drawings and prints and could support numerous exhibitions with loans. The new vision in the field of photography after WWI wasn’t an international nor European movement. It was bound to German art movements and the pace of industrial development. However, the use of photography by artists and its development as media continued in other countries, too.

   Photography as a media became the ideal mirror for this pace by not only documenting it but to enrich the imagery as well with a new esthetic formula and language. Hildebrand Gurlitt was able to select by profound knowledge and talent on the basis of the artist’s œuvre, but the initiative for the photography collection may have come more from Kurt Kirchbach’s side, head of a successful automobile parts company. Hildebrand Gurlitt may have seen as well that his passion for paintings, drawings and prints, of which Kurt Kirchbach was as well a collector, are part of a well developed market whereas photography at this time left no footprint in the art market. Film und Foto in Stuttgart in spring 1929 was much more a kaleidoscope of new flourishing social and industrial self-understanding than a well organized art exhibition – in contrary to ‘Fotografie der Gegenwart’ at the Folkwang Museum Essen in January of 1929. Read below why this was the much better place to go to.

Two important photography collections covering the 20s and 30s
One question: Which insight offers the juxtaposition of the collection’s artists?

   The Kirchbach Photography Collection was a child of its time with its innovative visions the Walther Collection was born 50 years after this innovative period and is a retrospective approach.

How to compare the two collections?

   The artists are an important key information: Who are the artists in the Kurt

Kirchbach Collection? Who are the artists in the Thomas Walther collection? See the table below.
   Did they become part of the two collections because they were meant to be important, influential, experimental, what happened to them and their work in the past 90 years? Were they forgotten, were they important for a specific period, or was their work appreciated across many decades?
     A possible approach could be to compare auction results of the artists. From a sales point of view a good idea, but hopeless regarding the profile of the artists and their positioning in the public and art historical presence, as our survey  Are Auctions a good place to buy Contemporary Art? could show.
      Analyzing the individual photographs and their role in the artist’s œuvre could provide more insight into the collector’s personal taste and selection.
       This survey uses artist-info‘s exhibition documentation of the artists and exhibition venues to juxtapose the two collections. Looking up with artist-info the artists shown to the public in group-exhibitions is an important source of information to find out more about profiles, positioning and the development of artists, and the exhibition venue.
   Up to the present artist-info knows for the 82 artists of the Kurt Kirchbach Collection, which are identified up to now, more than 2.910 exhibitions, for the 147 artists of the Thomas Walther Collection more than 5.840 either solo- or group-exhibitions, organized by galleries, museums, or non-profit venues.
   To avoid any misunderstanding: Although this survey uses numbers and tables for its analytical approach – by the way figures which always existed but have never been documented in a database – we know as well most of the exhibition catalogs documented with artist-info and therefore the photographs in case they were illustrated, or the artist’s œuvre. Instead of name dropping of the Top 10 this survey sheds a different light on the two collections and on the 20s and 30s, summarized at the end in the chapter ‘Unframing the world’.

Hildebrand Gurlitt

   The first occupation after finishing his art history studies under Rudolf Kautzsch at the Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main was his appointment as director of the König-Albert-Museum, Zwickau in April 1925. The 1914 inaugurated museum offered for Hildebrand Gurlitt the most advantages opportunity to reorganize the older paintings and parts of the existing collection and to add a collection of contemporary art, a domain for which already his father had owned important reputation. Although he became famous with three volumes on Barock architecture as part of ‘Geschichte der neueren Baukunst / by Jacob Burckhardt and Wilhelm Lübke’, Cornelius Gurlitt was also a well established art critic. His comment in his book Internationale Kunstausstellung zu Berlin 1891 3 in 1892 did blame the missing younger Norwegian artists, ‘the most advanced Realists’, among them Edvard Munch. He must have been aware of one of the first appearances of the new and ‘unofficial art’ in Berlin, the exhibition Vereinigung der XI in April 1892 at Galerie Eduard Schulte (Werner Doede, in Berlin – Ort der Freiheit für die Kunst (1/6), (2/6), (3/6), (4/6), (5/6), (6/6), Neue Nationalgalerie, September 1960, preface 4). Back in Dresden in 1893 as professor at the ‘Königlich Sächsischen Technischen Hochschule’ four of his arhitecture students founded June 7, 1905 the famous artist group ‘Brücke’: Fritz Bleyl, Erich Heckel, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff.
   With this background and due to his talent it was not too difficult for Hildebrand Gurlitt to build up a network in favor of his new task as museum director with other art institution officials, art dealers, as well as with artists. His first exhibition in Zwickau October 1925 was the work of Max Pechstein (Zwickau 1881 – 1955 West-Berlin).
   His ambition to build up his connections must have been immense and not only related to his duties as museum director. This includes his eye for photography and the effort to proof his connoisseurship and instinct for artistic quality by building up a photography collection for Kurt Kirchbach, entrepreneur of automobile parts in Dresden. In sharp contrast to his art world activities was his struggle in the museum’s daily administrative life: The city parliament of Zwickau ended his contract as museum director in May 1929 with effect of April 1, 1930. This same month on May 18, 1929 opened Film und Foto – Internationale Ausstellung des Deutschen Werkbundes in Stuttgart (until July 7) to which Gurlitt and Kirchbach traveled to discover new tendencies in contemporary photography. See below Beaumont Newhall’s comment.
   Not to forget to mention: The MoMA opened only one week after the ‘Black Tuesday’, followed by the 10-year ‘Great Depression’, on November 7, 1929 with Cézanne – Gauguin – Seurat – van Gogh, enjoying during the 4 weeks approx. 47.000 visitors.
   In a short period of time Hildebrand Gurlitt must have gathered a lot of information about contemporary photography and new currents. His possibilities to know what’s going on in the art world and in particular regarding photography may not be underestimated. For example the Albright Art Gallery in Buffalo (NY) was showing in 1910 an International Exhibition of Pictorial Photography – Invitation Section (1/2), Open Section (2/2) with 37 photo artists in the ‘Invitation Section’. Only seven artists (Malcolm Arbuthnot, Walter Benington, Archibald Cochrane, Dudley J. Johnston, Frederick H. Pratt, Frank H. Read, Katharine Sheward Stanbery) are not present in the famous collection of Ernst Juhl (Hamburg 1850 – 1915 Hamburg), today part of the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg and Kunstbibliothek Berlin – Photography Collection. See below Beaumont Newhall’s comment.

Comparing the two collections – Photography in the 20s and 30s

   The before said in mind the Kurt Kirchbach Collection organized and directed by Hildebrand Gurlitt becomes even more eminent and valuable as a testimony of its time.
   Unfortunately the list of artists of the Kurt Kirchbach Collection is not complete due to the turmoil in WWII. The artist-info list of 82 artists is based on the ‘Helene Anderson Collection’ catalog (Sotheby’s auction May 1997) and findings in one auction at Villa Grisebach, Berlin, 2005 and two auctions at Christie’s, London, in 2008. 5 A most intriguing question however remains: Which artists are missing to document in full the Kurt Kirchbach Collection? 6 
   The Thomas Walther Collection’s artist-info list includes 147 artists.

The first question: Which artists are part of both collections?

The Kurt Kirchbach Collection (total 82 – incomplete) and the Thomas Walther Collection (total 147) have only 28 artists in common which are highlighted in gray in the table below.
The artists in both collections are born before 1910, with the exception of 4 artists in the Thomas Walther Collection: Hajo Rose (1910 – 1989), Arthur Siegel (1913 – 1978), Stefan Themerson (1910 – 1988), Raoul Ubac (1910 – 1985).
More details on matches and mismatches below.

   The challenge to select photography for the collection must have been the same for both, Hildebrand Gurlitt and Kurt Kirchbach. Gurlitt was used to explore the œuvre of a painter or a sculptor by categories and image language. The same can be said for the art collector Kurt Kirchbach. Furthermore Kirchbach’s horizon and compass did include as well the fast industrial and technical development of the 20s and 30s, which was communicated and discussed through a flood of photographs. What they saw in Stuttgart in May 1929, the Film und Foto – Internationale Ausstellung des Deutschen Werkbundes exhibition and in Foto-Auge, the photography book by Frank Roh und Jan Tschichold, published parallel to Film und Foto span this range of imagery: Photography as an artist’s media and photography showing the world in its new industrial and social pace. To describe the role of photography in the 20s Herbert Molderings referred in 1978 to Alexander Rodtchenko (‘Ways of Contemporary Photography’; 1928): “It is as though only the camera were able to depict life as it is today.” 7 

‘Film und Foto’ and ‘Foto-Auge’

   Beaumont Newhall (Lynn, MA 1908 – 1993 Santa Fe, NM) became in 1940 under Alfred H. Barr the first curator of MoMA’s photography department. He organized in 1937 the retrospective Photography 1839–1937, in Sep-Nov 1938 American Photographs by Walker Evans, and in Dec 1940 – Jan 1941 together with Ansel Adams Sixty Photographs – A Survey of Camera Esthetics, a selection of MoMA’s photography collection acquired since its opening in 1929.
   In Karl Steinorth’s ‘Photographen der 20er Jahre’, 1979 8, Beaumont Newhall states in the preface: “The 1929 Stuttgart Film und Foto – Internationale Ausstellung des Deutschen Werkbundes exhibition was summarizing the development in photography of the past decade very similar to the International Exhibition of Pictorial Photography – Invitation Section (1/2), Open Section (2/2), at the Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo in November 1910.”
   Taking Newhall’s statement into account the Kurt Kirchbach Collection (total 82 – incomplete) includes 40 of the 232 artists shown in Stuttgart, the Thomas Walther Collection (total 147) includes 42 of the 232 Stuttgart Film und Foto artists.
   Of the 40 and 42 artists both collections have only 19 of the ‘Film und Foto’ show artists in common (in total they have 28 artists in common): Florence Henri, André Kertész, Germaine Krull, Helmar Lerski, El Lissitzky, Man Ray, Lucia Móhóly, Walter Peterhans, Robert Petschow, Albert Renger-Patzsch, Aleksander Rodchenko, Werner Rohde, Cami Stone, Sasha Stone, Umbo, Dziga Vertov, Edward Weston, Yva, Willy Zielke.
   Regarding the photography book Foto-Auge | Œil et photo | Photo-Eye the Kurt Kirchbach Collection (total 82 – incomplete) includes 16 of the 56 photograph authors, the Thomas Walther Collection (total 147) includes also 16 of the 56 photograph authors, having in common 11: Hans Finsler, Florence Henri, El Lissitzky, Man Ray, László Móhóly-Nagy, Walter Peterhans, Robert Petschow, Albert Renger-Patzsch, Sasha Stone, Umbo, Edward Weston.
   Foto-Auge | Œil et photo | Photo-Eye includes 76 illustrated photographs by 56 “authors” (12 are anonymous), 35 of them are part of the ‘Film und Foto’ exhibition, 21 (of which are 8 anonymous) not. The advantage are the illustrations which are missing in the ‘Film und Foto’ catalog. The rather strange selection shows: Anything goes, photography is the sole media, a new and promising industry.

Fotografie der Gegenwart, Essen

   A much better choice should not be overseen: Already in Jan – Feb 1929 the Folkwang Museum, Essen did show Fotografie der Gegenwart (later in 1929 shown at Kestner Gesellschaft, Hannover; Whitechapel Gallery, London; Kunstverein Frankfurt a.M.), a not less important photography exhibition!
   Of the 66 exhibited artists are 28 part of the Kirchbach Collection, and 24 are part of the Walther Collection. Of these 28 and 24 artists are 16 artists present in both collections.
   Still many decades after the early summer of 1929 Stuttgart’s ‘Film und Foto’ (232 artistst, of which artist-info know more than 6.140 exhibitions) is reffered to as the only true place to go to for photography of the Weimarer Republik era. Beaumont Newhall is not the only one. Regarding the shown artists our statistics reveal that Fotografie der Gegenwart (66 artists, of which artist-info knows more than 3.000 exhibitions) was the better place to go to for a collector.
   Comparing only the artists with 10 and more exhibitions between 1880 and 2017 of the 232 and 66 artists in artist-info database 2/3 (63%, 145) of the 232 artists shown in Stuttgart are below this margin of 10, whereas 2/3 (68%, 45) of the 66 artists shown in Essen had 10-427 exhibitions between 1880 and 2017, following artist-info database, and they are still important today for the art world.

Walker Evans

   The first exhibition of Walker Evans (St. Louis, MO 1903 – 1975 New Haven, CT) in New York was at John Becker Gallery9 American Photographs by Walker Evans was the first one man show of a photographer to date at the MoMA in September 1938, if his show in the permanent architecture room in Nov-Dec 1933 of Nineteenth Century American Houses (gift of Lincoln Kirstein) is looked at as an only smaller spontaneous exhibit, concurrent with the Edward Hopper Retrospective and with Wilhlem Lehmbruck’s exhibit of Emporsteigender Jüngling (1913). 10 Thomas Mabry, Executive Director of the MoMA comments Evans’ exhibition in September 1938 by saying: ‘Although known and admired among a small group for ten years, Evans’ work has not received the recognition so far that has come to many of his contemporaries. In this exhibition the Museum hopes that a major photographic talent will be revealed to a wider public.” 11 
   Walker Evans did not show his work in Stuttgart in May 1929, was not present in the ‘Foto-Auge’ book, but his photographs were shown in Munich, Das Lichtbild, Jun 5 – Sep 7, 1930, Münchener Bund and Verein Ausstellungspark München E.V., curator Josef M. Jurinek, and in Basel in Die neue Fotografie, Jan 11 – Feb 8, 1931, Gewerbemuseum Basel.
   Did Hildebrand Gurlitt and Kurt Kirchbach travel to Basel and Munich? Did they recognize Walker Evans and purchased his work for the collection? Is he part of still missed rest of the Kurt Kirchbach Collection? In contrary and because he was starting 50 years later Thomas Walther did include Walker Evans in his collection.

Photography besides other media

   Exciting to see photographs by Max Peiffer Watenphul and of Friedrich Vordemberge-Gildewart in the Kirchbach Collection.
   It apparently was important to Hildebrand Gurlitt to see photography not only as an isolated artist’s media but as a media concurrently with painting, drawings and prints in an artist’s œuvre.

Subjektive Fotografie

   The Subjektive Fotografie – Internationale Ausstellung moderner Fotografie exhibition in Saarbrücken in summer 1951, organized by Otto Steinert (among others with a text by Franz Roh: ‘The academic quarrel about photography’) with 148 artists shown in three sections, gave an important first overview after WWII on ‘neue Fotografie’ in the 20s and 30s. The exhibition defines ‘Subjektive Fotografie’ as the artistic domain, staying in the tradition of the ‘neue Fotografie’ of the 20s, in contrast to the ‘applied’ photography (product and documentary).
   The following 5 artists are part of the Kirchbach collection: Hans Finsler, Hans Grubenbecher, Man Ray, László Móhóly-Nagy, Emmanuel Sougez.
   These 6 artists are part of the Walther collection: Herbert Bayer, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Hans Finsler, Man Ray, László Móhóly-Nagy, Luigi Veronesi.
   Although ‘Subjektive Fotografie’ wanted to commemorate the 20s and 30s and honoured Man Ray (1890 – 1976), László Móhóly-Nagy (1895 – 1946), and Herbert Bayer (1900 – 1985) with a special exhibition it is surprising that only 5 and 6 artists of the two collection were shown, including Man Ray, Móhóly-Nagy, and Bayer. Hans Grubenbecher had become professor at the Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg (HFBK), Hans Finsler did teach since 1932 at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Zürich.
   Edward Steichen, Director of the Photography Department, was aware of the situation when he commented his exhibition 50 Photographs by 50 Photographers – Landmarks in Photographic History mid 1948 at the MoMA by saying: “Painting has influenced photography for the past century. Today this Influence is a cause of dissatisfaction to many who are more interested jn probing the potentialities that, are peculiar to the photographic medium. Such conflict in concept and point of view is an invigorating stimulus to our younger photographers.” 12 Photo collages may therefore not be part of the ‘new vision’, as they already existed in painting and added the important possibility to a photograph to escape the ‘one exposure – one image’ limit a camera is bound to. At least nearly one third (23 of 76) of the 1929 ‘Foto-Auge’ book are collage works.

“Top 10”

   The artists of both collections were shown in many exhibitions since the 20s and 30s. artist-info database knows for the Kurt Kirchbach Collection more than 2.880 and for the Thomas Walther Collection more than 5.780 solo- and group-exhibitions at galleries, museums and non-profit venues.
   As some artists were shown more often than others we compared the artists of both collections who are documented with more than 20 exhibitions in artist-info.
   The Kirchbach Collection counts 30 artists in this range (47% of all 82 artists), the Walther Collection counts 64 (44% of all 147 artists) in the range of more than 20 exhibitions. Of 30 artists of the Kirchbach Collection 22 are as well part of the Walther Collection, except 8 of them: Imogen Cunningham, Hugo Erfurth, Andreas Feininger, Hill & Adamson, Max Peiffer Watenphul, Arkady Shaikhet, Friedrich Vordemberge-Gildewart, Brett Weston.
   The Thomas Walther Collection does include in the range of 20 and more exhibitions 64 artists (22 in common with the Kirchbach Collection), all well known artists like Herbert Bayer, Bérénice Abbott, Constantin Brâncusi, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans, Lyonnel Feininger, August Sander, Alfred Stieglitz, Charles Sheeler, Edward Steichen, Paul Strand, to note only a few.

Visualizing the numbers

   This diagram shows 8 exhibitions and an artist-info Top 10 statistics
Bar chart comparing the artists' exhibitions of the Kurt Kirchbach Sammlung and Thomas Walther Collection
May-Jun 1927, Neue Reklame, Jenaer Kunstverein
Mar-May 1928, Neue Wege der Photographie, Jenaer Kunstverein
Jan-Feb 1929, Fotografie der Gegenwart, Museum Folkwang, Essen
   Regarding the 66 shown artists the two collections have many more artists in common with the exhibition at the Folkwang Museum than with ‘Film und Foto’ in Stuttgart in May 1929.
May-Jul 1929, Film und Foto, Stuttgart
   The diagram makes it obvious that the 232 artists shown in Stuttgart had very limited influence on the artists selected for the two collections.
May 1929, Foto-Auge | Œil et photo | Photo-Eye [influential Book] 
Jun-Sep 1930, Das Lichtbild, München
Jan-Feb 1931, Die neue Fotografie, Basel
Jul 1951, Subjektive Fotografie – Internationale Ausstellung moderner Fotografie, Saarbrücken
Top 10 [artists with more than 20 exhibitions in artist-info] See previous paragraph.
Timeline Touring Exhibitions

Hildebrand Gurlitt on his exhibition in 1932, on the Kurt Kirchbach Collection, on Photography

   We would know more about the scope of the Kurt Kirchbach Collection if Hildebrand Gurlitt would have appended a list of the artists to his text in the invitation of his exhibition Internationale Foto-Ausstellung – Sammlung Kurt Kirchbach at the Kunstverein in Hamburg, in January 1932. A complete checklist of the shown prints would be even more compelling. But he did not, on purpose! 13 
   Hildebrand Gurlitt explains to the visitor in his text that this exhibition wants to document people’s unforeseeable addiction to consume images, due to the unique capability of photography to serve as a true imprint of everybody’s daily life, the industry, and the world, which photography has developed during the past 10 years. He explains that he wants to demonstrate with his exhibition the new photography as a mass phenomenon in which the individual artist’s profile is of no importance. Instead of providing a list of individual artists who incorporate with their masterworks the ‘new vision’, he provides a list of themes which build the easy to understand structure of the Kurt Kirchbach Collection and this exhibition, that photography is able to cover a universal basis: Berühmte Köpfe, Künstler, Frauen der Zeit, Männer der Zeit, Kinder, Tiere, Pflanzen, Hochgebirge, Wasser und Dünen, Landschaften, Stadt und Architektur, Flugaufnahmen, Industrie und Technik, Film, Stilleben, Wiedergaben des Stofflichen, Montagen, Fotogramme, Abstraktes, Tanz, Sport, Akte und Körperdetails, Reportagen. [Famous heads, artists, women of our time, men of our time, children, animals, plants, mountains, water and dunes, landscape, cityscape and architecture, aerial photography, industry and technique, film, still life, reproduction of material, montage, photograms, abstraction, dance, sports, nude and body details, news coverage].
   The collection aims to provide an overview from the beginnings of photography up to the present. He regrets this hasn’t been achieved so far as the collection was started only 2 years ago in 1929 and therefore is concentrating on contemporary and recent work. In contrary to the more recent work the prints from the early days of photography have already reached remarkably high prices. He is convinced that the contemporary photography will reach these higher prices in future time, near or far, as well.
   For Gurlitt the individual photography artist is much less important as for example in painting. Photography of his time, the ‘new photography’, is based on true craftsmanship. Even more important to him: The new photography is capable to capture the true life, face to face, the world with all its facets in which we are living today, points of view man on his two feet isn’t able to capture. It replaces any superficial salon painting or made up and retouched staged photography.
   For him, in photography creativity and master works arise not from the artist’s studio but from natural science and news reportage. His notion would apply perfectly well to Karl Blossfeldt who at the beginning in the 1890s was documenting flowers for educating purpose, as the exhibition Form Follows Flower – Moritz Meurer, Karl Blossfeldt & Co. at the Kunstgewerbemuseum Berlin reveals.
   In the early twenties and very much as part of the new era of photography and the ‘new vision’ he shows his flower prints as artwork in an exhibition in April 1926 at Galerie Neumann-Nierendorf, entitled Exoten, Kakteen und Janthur – Plastiken aus Afrika und Neuginea und Pflanzenphotographien von Karl Blossfeldt.

Is the Kurt Kirchbach exhibition showing art?

   It is important to Hildebrand Gurlitt to ask this question in the invitational text and to give an answer: He accepts that photography may have the quality of ‘free’ art but may be with photograms very close to abstract painting or with photomontage close to constructivist or surrealist painting. However, for him the new quality photography incorporates not only reproducing the already visible, but that photography is able to visualize new, strong and impressive perspectives of and about the world, depending on the creativity of the one behind the camera. This is what he wants the visitor of the Kurt Kirchbach exhibition to recognize.

Unframing the world

   Hildebrand Gurlitt must have been aware of what Edward Steichen said in summer 1948 (see above ‘Subjektive Fotografie’ last chapter): Where does photography parallel painting and drawing, where does it develop its own language? ‘Film und Foto’ in Stuttgart apparently wanted to encompass everything of today’s life, leaving painting behind, unframing the world, with the danger of getting lost.
   Trained in the field of painting and drawing Hildebrand Gurlitt was able to not fall for Stuttgart’s line and looked for Kurt Kirchbach’s Collection for photography using a language in its own right. Not only ‘Fotografie der Gegenwart’ in Essen in January 1929 was a more selective approach. Already Walter Dexel’s (the artist, the curator) exhibitions at the Kunstverein Jena, Neue Sachlichkeit (May 1926), Neue Reklame (May 1927), and Neue Wege der Photographie (Mar 1928) were important markers and stand for the positive side of unframing the world, with the means photography and a ‘new vision’.
   More tha 50 years later Thomas Walther could embrace many new and in depth findings, for example Frank Van Deren Coke’s exhibition Avant-Garde Photography in Germany 1919–1939 at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, in Dec 1980.

The artists of the Kurt Kirchbach Sammlung and the Thomas Walther Collection

Kurt Kirchbach Collection
[incomplete artist list]   Updated January 7, 2018
(Exh.)Modern Photographs from the Thomas Walther Collection, 1909–1949
MoMA, December 13, 2014–April 19, 2015
[28 artists in both collections]
(Exh.)
1Ballé, Oskar [Rapid Foto Ballé] (2)1Abbott, Bérénice (1898 - 1991)(103)
2Biermann, Aenne Sternefeld (1898 - 1933)(35)2Álvarez-Bravo, Manuel (1902 - 2002)(72)
3Block, Fritz (1889 - 1955)(5)3Arndt, Gertrud (1903 - 2000)(10)
4Blossfeldt, Karl (1865 - 1932)(64)4Bauh, Aurel (1900 - 1964)(4)
5Bosshard, Walter (1892 - 1975)(5)5Bayer, Herbert (1900 - 1985)(106)
6Burchartz, Max (1887 - 1961)(50)6Bayer-Hecht, Irene (1898 - 1991)(3)
7Citroën, Paul (1896 - 1983)(31)7Beese, Lotte [Charlotte] (1903 - 1988)(9)
8Cunningham, Imogen (1883 - 1976)(57)8Biermann, Aenne Sternefeld (1898 - 1933)(35)
9Dörner, Erhard (1888 - 1930)(6)9Blanc & Demilly, [Théodore Blanc 1898-1985 & Antoine Demilly 1862-1964] (7)
10Dowschenko, Oleksandr Petrowytsch (1894 - 1956)(3)10Blanc, Georges (1)
11Erfurth, Hugo (1874 - 1948)(36)11Blossfeldt, Karl (1865 - 1932)(64)
12Feininger, Andreas (1906 - 1999)(54)12Boiffard, Jacques-André (1903 - 1961)(12)
13Feist, Werner David (1909 - 1998)(13)13Bourke-White, Margaret (1904 - 1971)(59)
14Fiedler, Franz (1885 - 1956)(12)14Bragaglia, Antonio Giulio (1890 - 1960)(14)
15Finsler, Hans (1891 - 1972)(38)15Bragaglia, Arturo (1893 - 1962)(5)
16Flachslander, F. A. (8)16Brâncusi, Constantin (1876 - 1957)(149)
17Fliptikow, (1)17Brandt, Bill (1904 - 1983)(63)
18Globophot Pressedienst, (1)18Breslauer, Marianne (1909 - 2001)(15)
19Gorny, Hein (1904 - 1967)(14)19Brigman, Anne Wardrope (1869 - 1950)(14)
20Gos, Emile (1888 - 1969)(1)20Brown, Gertrude LeRoy (1870 - 1934)(2)
21Graf, Johann (6)21Bruehl, Anton (1900 - 1982)(16)
22Gramm, Josef (*1878)(6)22Bruguière, Francis Joseph (1879 - 1945)(33)
23Grubenbecher, Hans (1913 - 1952)(2)23Bull, Clarence Sinclair (1896 - 1979)(3)
24Gutschow, Arvid (1900 - 1984)(9)24Burchartz, Max (1887 - 1961)(50)
25Gyger, Emauel (1886 - 1951)(2)25Cahun, Claude [Lucy Schwob] (1894 - 1954)(44)
26Hausmann, Raoul (1886 - 1971)(103)26Cartier-Bresson, Henri (1908 - 2004)(162)
27Heise, Hildegard (1909 - 1993)(3)27Citroën, Paul (1896 - 1983)(31)
28Henle, Fritz (1909 - 1993)(10)28Coburn, Alvin Langdon (1882 - 1966)(38)
29Henri, Florence (1893 - 1982)(71)29Collein, Edmund (1906 - 1992)(8)
30Hill & Adamson, [David Octavius Hill 1804-1870 & Robert Adamson 1821-1989] (24)30Comeriner, Erich (1907 - 1978)(19)
31Hirschel-Protsch, Günter (1902 - 1938)(6)31Content, Marjorie (1895 - 1984)(1)
32Hoinkis, Ewald (1897 - 1960)(15)32Coppola, Horacio (1906 - 2012)(11)
33Hoppé, Emil Otto (1878 - 1972)(14)33Crawford, Ralston (1906 - 1975)(34)
34Jeck, Lothar (1898 - 1983)(2)34Demachy, Robert (1859 - 1936)(11)
35Jentzsch, W. (1)35Domela, César Nieuwenhuis (1900 - 1992)(79)
36Kertész, André (1894 - 1985)(130)36Evans, Walker (1903 - 1975)(155)
37Kessler, Rudolf (1)37Feininger, Lore (1901 - 1991)(4)
38Koch, Heinrich (1896 - 1934)(3)38Feininger, Lyonel (1871 - 1956)(268)
39Koehn, Henry (1892 - 1963)(1)39Finsler, Hans (1891 - 1972)(38)
40Kratzenstein, Eduard (3)40Fridlyand, Semyon Osipovic (1905 - 1964)(11)
41Krause, Erich (2)41Funke, Jaromír (1896 - 1945)(18)
42Krull, Germaine (1897 - 1985)(46)42Grill, Karl (1889 - 1966)(1)
43Lerski, Helmar [Israel Schmuklerski] (1871 - 1956)(28)43Gutmann, John (1905 - 1988)(14)
44Lissitzky, El [Lazar Markovich] (1890 - 1941)(225)44Hackenschmied [Hammid], Alexander (1907 - 2004)(7)
45Man Ray, [Emmanuel Rudinski] (1890 - 1976)(429)45Hagemeyer, Johan (1884 - 1962)(4)
46Man, Felix H. [Hans Felix Sigismund Baumann] (1893 - 1985)(21)46Hahn, Paul Edmund (1897 - 1960)(2)
47Merlo, (1)47Hatláková, Jaroslava (1904 - 1989)(5)
48Mikalina, (1)48Hausmann, Raoul (1886 - 1971)(103)
49Móhóly, Lucia (1900 - 1989)(41)49Heins, John P. (1896 - 1969)(1)
50Móhóly-Nagy, László (1895 - 1946)(344)50Henri, Florence (1893 - 1982)(71)
51Moral, Jean (1906 - 1999)(13)51Hirz, J. Jay (1)
52Neudatschin [Neudin], S. [Weltrundschau-Neudatschin] (3)52Hoffmann, Irene (1903 - 1971)(4)
53Peiffer Watenphul, Max (1896 - 1976)(39)53Horne, Bernard Shea (1867 - 1933)(2)
54Peterhans, Walter A. (1897 - 1960)(30)54Hoyningen-Huené, George (1900 - 1968)(16)
55Petschow, Robert (1888 - 1945)(13)55Jacobi, Lotte Johanna (1896 - 1990)(34)
56Photo Risch-Lau Bregenz (1)56Juley, Peter A. (1862 - 1937)(1)
57Presse-Photo G.M.B.H., (3)57Karmen, Roman Lasarewitsch (1906 - 1978)(4)
58Renger-Patzsch, Albert (1897 - 1966)(96)58Kepes, György (1906 - 2001)(44)
59Rodchenko, Aleksander Mikhailovich (1891 - 1956)(195)59Kerny, István (1879 - 1963)(2)
60Rohde, Werner (1906 - 1990)(18)60Kertész, André (1894 - 1985)(130)
61Rudolph, Charlotte (1896 - 1983)(12)61Kesting, Edmund (1892 - 1970)(47)
62Scheel, Ernst (1903 - 1986)(1)62Kinszki, Imre (1901 - 1945)(2)
63Schieron, Richard (*1905)(4)63Klutsis, Gustav Gustavowitsch (1895 - 1938)(78)
64Schuitema, Paul (1897 - 1973)(13)64Korth, Fred G. (1902 - 1983)(3)
65Shaikhet [Chaïkhet], Arkady Samoylovich (1898 - 1959)(28)65Kreyenkamp, August (1875 - 1950)(8)
66Sougez, Emmanuel (1889 - 1972)(18)66Krull, Germaine (1897 - 1985)(46)
67Stone, Cami [Camille] (1892 - 1975)(8)67Lachman, Harry B. (1886 - 1975)(2)
68Stone, Sasha [Aleksander Serge Steinsapir] (1895 - 1940)(27)68Latimer, Walter R. (1880 - 1924)(2)
69Umbo, [Otto Umbehr] (1902 - 1980)(50)69Lehovec, Ji?í (1909 - 1995)(2)
70Vertov, Dziga [Denis Arkadjewitsch Kaufman] (1896 - 1954)(22)70Lerski, Helmar [Israel Schmuklerski] (1871 - 1956)(28)
71Vogel, Alfred (1)71Lindemann, Elisabeth (1879 - 1960)(1)
72Vordemberge-Gildewart, Friedrich (1899 - 1962)(109)72Lindig, Otto (1895 - 1966)(6)
73Wasow, Edmund (1879 - 1944)(7)73Lissitzky, El [Lazar Markovich] (1890 - 1941)(225)
74Wegener, Bettina (1)74List, Herbert (1903 - 1975)(60)
75Weller, Peter [Dr.] (*1897)(8)75Loew, Heinz (1903 - 1981)(11)
76West, Eugen (1)76Lotar, Éli [Eliazar Lotar Teodorescu] (1905 - 1969)(25)
77Weston, Brett (1911 - 1993)(43)77Lynes, George Platt (1907 - 1955)(23)
78Weston, Edward (1886 - 1958)(122)78Man Ray, [Emmanuel Rudinski] (1890 - 1976)(429)
79Weymar, Bettina (1)79Man, Felix H. [Hans Felix Sigismund Baumann] (1893 - 1985)(21)
80Windisch, Hans (1902 - 1970)(5)80Mantz, Werner (1901 - 1983)(24)
81Yva, [Else Ernestine Neuländer-Simon] (1900 - 1942)(19)81Meyer, Hannes [Hans Emil] (1889 - 1954)(11)
82Zielke, Willy Otto (1902 - 1989)(16)82Miller [Lady Penrose], Lee [Elizabeth] (1907 - 1977)(43)
83Model, Lisette (1901 - 1983)(41)
84Modotti, Tina (1896 - 1942)(41)
85Móhóly, Lucia (1900 - 1989)(41)
86Móhóly-Nagy, László (1895 - 1946)(344)
87Moore, Marcel [Suzanne Malherbe] (1892 - 1972)(1)
88Moral, Jean (1906 - 1999)(13)
89Muche, Georg (1895 - 1987)(58)
90Munkácsi, Martin (1896 - 1963)(22)
91Navara, Adolf (1)
92Nerlinger [R. Nilgreen], Oskar (1893 - 1969)(46)
93Niegeman, Johan (1902 - 1977)(4)
94Painlevé, Jean (1902 - 1989)(10)
95Pap, Gyula (1899 - 1983)(9)
96Parker, Paul (1)
97Parry, Roger (1905 - 1977)(16)
98Pécsi, József (1889 - 1956)(4)
99Penson, Max (1893 - 1959)(8)
100Peterhans, Walter A. (1897 - 1960)(30)
101Petschow, Robert (1888 - 1945)(13)
102Quigley, Edward W. (1898 - 1977)(4)
103Renger-Patzsch, Albert (1897 - 1966)(96)
104Richter, Hans (1888 - 1976)(85)
105Riefenstahl, Leni (1902 - 2003)(17)
106Riess, Frieda Gertrud (1890 - 1955)(10)
107Rodchenko, Aleksander Mikhailovich (1891 - 1956)(195)
108Roh, Franz (1890 - 1965)(35)
109Rohde, Werner (1906 - 1990)(18)
110Rose, Hajo [Hans-Joachim] (1910 - 1989)(8)
111Rössler, Jaroslav (1902 - 1990)(17)
112Roszak, Theodore J. (1907 - 1981)(46)
113Rudomine, Albert (1892 - 1975)(3)
114Ruge, Willi (1882 - 1961)(2)
115Salomon, Erich (1886 - 1944)(19)
116Sander, August (1876 - 1964)(143)
117Seeley, George Henry (1880 - 1955)(10)
118Seidenstücker, Friedrich (1882 - 1966)(20)
119Sekaer, Peter [Peter Ingemann Sekjær] (1901 - 1950)(9)
120Sheeler, Charles R. (1883 - 1965)(97)
121Shiihara, Osamu (1905 - 1974)(8)
122Siegel, Arthur (1913 - 1978)(17)
123Steichen, Edward Jean (1879 - 1973)(99)
124Steinitz, Käte Traumann (1889 - 1975)(15)
125Stieglitz, Alfred (1864 - 1946)(119)
126Stone, Cami [Camille] (1892 - 1975)(8)
127Stone, Sasha [Aleksander Serge Steinsapir] (1895 - 1940)(27)
128Strand, Paul (1890 - 1976)(90)
129Štyrský, Jind?ich (1899 - 1942)(35)
130Tabard, Maurice (1897 - 1984)(31)
131Themerson, Franciska (1907 - 1988)(19)
132Themerson, Stefan (1910 - 1988)(17)
133Ubac, Raoul (Rolf Ubach) (1910 - 1985)(56)
134Umbo, [Otto Umbehr] (1902 - 1980)(50)
135Vechten, Carl van (1880 - 1964)(8)
136Veronesi, Luigi (1908 - 1998)(80)
137Vertov, Dziga [Denis Arkadjewitsch Kaufman] (1896 - 1954)(22)
138Vobecký, František (1902 - 1991)(4)
139Walser, Andreas (1908 - 1930)(2)
140Weegee, [Arthur Fellig] (1899 - 1968)(68)
141Weston, Edward (1886 - 1958)(122)
142Witkiewicz [Witkacy], Stanis?aw Ignacy (1885 - 1939)(20)
143Wulz, Wanda (1903 - 1984)(5)
144Yamawaki, Iwao (1898 - 1987)(13)
145Yva, [Else Ernestine Neuländer-Simon] (1900 - 1942)(19)
146Zielke, Willy Otto (1902 - 1989)(16)
147Zimin, Georgij (1901 - 1985)(11)
Source: artist-info.com
About documenting exhibitions 1880–present see art-exhibitions.com

Selection of photography exhibitions until 1950

With all participating artists

1989This exhibition on artist-info.com Kunstphotographie um 1900 - Die Sammlung Ernst Juhl
Jun - Aug 1989, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg
1964This exhibition on artist-info.com Kunstphotographie um 1900
Mar - Apr 1964, Museum Folkwang, Essen
1951This exhibition on artist-info.com Subjektive Fotografie - Internationale Ausstellung moderner Fotografie
Jul 1951, Staatliche Schule für Kunst und Handwerk, Saarbrücken
1948This exhibition on artist-info.com 50 Photographs by 50 Photographers
- Landmarks in Photographic History

Jul - Sep 1948, Museum of Modern Art - MoMA, New York
1946This exhibition on artist-info.com Fotomontage von dada bis heute
Dec 1946, Galerie Gerd Rosen, Berlin
1943This exhibition on artist-info.com Form and Formula
Mar - Apr 1943, Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati
This exhibition on artist-info.com Action Photography
Aug - Sep 1941, Museum of Modern Art - MoMA, New York
1940This exhibition on artist-info.com Sixty Photographs - A Survey of Camera Esthetics
Dec 1940 - Jan 1941, Museum of Modern Art - MoMA, New York
1939This exhibition on artist-info.com Art in Our Time: 10th Anniversary Exhibition - Photography Section
May - Sep 1939, Museum of Modern Art - MoMA, New York
This exhibition on artist-info.com Group of 53 Photographs by Photographers from West Coast Acquired
Apr 1939, Museum of Modern Art - MoMA, New York
1938This exhibition on artist-info.com Walker Evans - American Photographs
Sep - Nov 1938, Museum of Modern Art - MoMA, New York
1937This exhibition on artist-info.com Entartete Kunst
Jul 1937 - Nov 1937, Münchner Hofgarten - 'Entartete Kunst', München
This exhibition on artist-info.com Photography 1839-1937
Mar - Apr 1938, Museum of Modern Art - MoMA, New York
1933This exhibition on artist-info.com Entartete Kunst
Sep - Nov 1933, Neues Rathaus - 'Entartete Kunst', Dresden
1932This exhibition on artist-info.com Exhibition of Portrait Gallery
Oct - Nov 1932, Julien Levy Gallery, New York
This exhibition on artist-info.com Hugo Erfurth - Photographische Künstlerbildnisse
Sep - Dec 1932, Kestner-Gesellschaft, Hannover
This exhibition on artist-info.com Photographs of New York by New York Photographers
May - Jun 1932, Julien Levy Gallery, New York
This exhibition on artist-info.com Modern European Photography
Feb - Mar 1932, Julien Levy Gallery, New York
This exhibition on artist-info.com Internationale Foto-Ausstellung - Sammlung Kurt Kirchbach [incomplete artist list]
Jan - Feb 1932, Kunstverein in Hamburg, Hamburg
1931This exhibition on artist-info.com Fotomontage
Apr - May 1931, Lichthof des ehemaligen Kunstgewerbemuseums [today Martin-Gropius-Bau], Berlin
This exhibition on artist-info.com Die neue Fotografie
Jan - Feb 1931, Gewerbemuseum [today: Museum für Gestaltung], Basel
1930This exhibition on artist-info.com Das Lichtbild
Jun - Sep 1930, Verein Ausstellungspark München, München
This exhibition on artist-info.com Gezeichnet oder geknipst?
Mar - Apr 1930, Frankfurter Kunstverein - FKV, Frankfurt am Main
1929This exhibition on artist-info.com Fotografie der Gegenwart
Jul - Aug 1929, Frankfurter Kunstverein - FKV, Frankfurt am Main
This exhibition on artist-info.com Fotografie der Gegenwart
Jun 1929, Whitechapel Gallery, London
This exhibition on artist-info.com Foto-Auge[Influential Book]
May - Jul 1929, Ausstellungshallen auf dem Interimtheaterplatz, Stuttgart
This exhibition on artist-info.com Film und Foto - Internationale Ausstellung des Deutschen Werkbundes
May - Jul 1929, Ausstellungshallen auf dem Interimtheaterplatz, Stuttgart
This exhibition on artist-info.com Fotografie der Gegenwart
Jan - Feb 1929, Museum Folkwang, Essen
1928This exhibition on artist-info.com Neue Wege der Photographie - Porträts, Naturaufnahmen, Fliegeraufnahmen, Wissenschaftliche Aufnahmen, Filmphotos, Photomontage, Reklamephotos
Mar - May 1928, Jenaer Kunstverein, Jena
1927This exhibition on artist-info.com Neue Reklame
May - Jun 1927, Jenaer Kunstverein, Jena
1923This exhibition on artist-info.com Große Berliner Kunstausstellung 1923 - GBK (2/2) - Novembergruppe (Landes-Ausstellungsgebäude Lehrter Bahnhof)
May - Sep 1923, Grosse Berliner Kunstausstellung - GBK, Berlin
This exhibition on artist-info.com 55 | El Lissitzky - Max Burchartz
Jan - Feb 1923, Kestner-Gesellschaft, Hannover
1918This exhibition on artist-info.com Sculpture by Mrs. Gertrude Vanderbilt Whiney - Pictorial Photographs by American Artists (Auspices of Camera Club of Detroit and the Detroit Museum of Art)
Jan 1918, The Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit
1910This exhibition on artist-info.com International Exhibition of Pictorial Photography - Invitation Section
Nov - Dec 1910, Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo
This exhibition on artist-info.com International Exhibition of Pictorial Photography - Openn Section
Nov - Dec 1910, Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo
1905This exhibition on artist-info.com Internationale Ausstellung Kunstphotographischer Meisterwerke
Oct 1905, Kunsthalle Bremen
1904This exhibition on artist-info.com Salon d'Automne 1904 - 2ième Exposition (11/11) Photographie
Oct 1904, Grand Palais, Paris
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Footnotes

  1. Remy, Maurice Philip: Der Fall Gurlitt – Die wahre Geschichte über Deutschlands größten Kunstskandal; Europa Verlag 2017, ISBN 9783958901858.
  2. Molderings, Herbert: Die Suche geht weiter. Neue Fotos aus der Sammlung Kirchbach bei Christie`s; In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 131, 7. Juni 2008, p. 53. 
  3. Gurlitt, Cornelius: Die Internationale Kunstausstellung zu Berlin 1891; Franz Hanfstaengel Kunstverlag, München, 1892, p. 119. 
  4. Doede, Werner: Die ‘Affäre Munch’ und die Anfänge der Berliner Secession; in: ‘Berlin – Ort der Freiheit für die Kunst’, Neue Nationalgalerie, Sep 1960, introduction. 
  5. Sotheby’s, London, May 2, 1997, Sale LN7267; Villa Grisebach, Berlin, November 24, 2005, Sale 129; Christie’s, London, May 15, 2008, Sale 7584 and November 26, 2008, Sale 5435.
  6. Molderings, Herbert: see note 2. 
  7. Molderings, Herbert: Urbanism and Technological Utopianism; in: Mellor, David: Germany – The new photography 1927-33. Arts Council of Great Britain, 1978, ISBN 0728701855, p. 91.
  8. Steinorth, Karl: Photographen der 20er Jahre; Verlag Laterna magica, München 1979, ISBN 3874671399, p. 19. 
  9. ‘American Photographs by Walker Evans’, MoMA Press Release, September 24, 1938, #325121 (38919-24), p. 1. 
  10. ‘Edward Hopper Retrospective’, ‘Painting and Graphic Art of the School of Paris from the collection of Mrs. Sadie A. May’, ‘The Standing Youth’ by Wilhelm Lehmbruck, ‘Photographs of Nineteenth Century American Houses by Walker Evans, the gift of Lincoln Kirstein’. MoMA Press Release, November 15, 1933, #332897, p. 1-2. 
  11. See note 9. 
  12. Steichen, Edward, in: Exhibition of 50 Photographs by 50 Photographers – Landmarks in Photographic History, MoMA Press Release for this exhibition, July, 1948, #325610. 
  13. Gurlitt, Hildebrand: Fotografie als Handwerk – Zur internationalen Foto-Sammlung Kurt Kirchbach, Dresden, in: Invitation leaflet for ‘Internationale Foto-Ausstellung, Kunstverein 10. Jan. bis 14. Febr. [1932]’, p. 1-3.