Auction 1068, Photography, 03.06.2016, 14:00, Cologne Lot 20

Albert Renger-Patzsch, Natterkopf

Albert Renger-Patzsch, Natterkopf, 1925, Auction 1068 Photography, Lot 20

Albert Renger-Patzsch

Wurzburg 1897 - 1966 Wamel

Natterkopf

1925

Vintage gelatin silver print. 16.9 x 23 cm (17.1 x 23.4 cm). Titled and numbered 'T 12' in pencil as well as photographer's and copyright stamps on the verso.

Provenance

From the photographer to the father of the present owner

Literature

Carl Georg Heise (ed.), Die Welt ist schön. Einhundert photographische Aufnahmen von Albert Renger-Patzsch, Munich 1928, plate 27; Albert Renger-Patzsch. Joy before the Object, exhib.cat. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu et al., New York 1993, ill. p. 59; Ann and Jürgen Wilde/Thomas Weski (ed.), Albert Renger-Patzsch. Meisterwerke, Munich et al.1997, plate 18; Virginia Heckert/Ute Eskildsen, Albert Renger-Patzsch. Bilder aus der fotografischen Sammlung und dem Girardet-Foto-Archiv der Ruhr-Universität Bochum, exhib.cat. Museum Folkwang, Essen 1997, ill. p. 44; Ann and Jürgen Wilde/Beate Reese, Albert Renger-Patzsch zum 100. Geburtstag. Frühe Fotografien, exhib.cat. Städtische Galerie Würzburg, Würzburg 1997, ill. p. 41; Bernd Stiegler/Ann and Jürgen Wilde (ed.), Albert Renger-Patzsch. Die Freude am Gegenstand. Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Photographie, Munich 2010, ill. p. 80

In photography, one should always begin with the innate characteristics of a motif and attempt to depict them with purely photographic means, regardless of whether the object in question is a person, a landscape, architecture, or anything else… As the German word 'Sachlichkeit' is nowadays used to describe almost exactly the opposite, I must here resort to the foreign word 'objectivity' to describe my role as servant to the motif” wrote Renger-Patzsch in the anthology “Meister der Kamera erzählen”, published in 1937 (cit. from: Wilhelm Schöppe (ed.), Meister der Kamera erzählen, wie sie wurden und wie sie arbeiten, Halle-Saale 1937, p. 50).

Although the purely objective approach described above may be freely applied to the previous images of a baboon (lot 18) and a griffon vulture (lot 19), the present well-known image of a colubrid snake displays a different quality of detachment from its motif. Many New Objectivist works share this characteristic: The starkly close-up and cropped viewpoint reduces the motif to a two-dimensional plane and compresses its contours to an almost graphic composition. Georg Heise already referred to the “graphic beauty” of Renger-Patzsch's images in the foreword to “Die Welt ist schön”, in which this shot was also included. This ambivalent relationship between abstraction and documentation does not present a contradiction to him, in that he never “seeks an artistic form not already evident in the motif itself” and that the motif is “transformed into an interesting lineal ornament without damaging its natural appearance in any way” (Carl Georg Heise, in: Idem (ed.), Die Welt ist schön. Einhundert photographische Aufnahmen von Albert-Renger-Patzsch, Munich 1928, p. 8). The fascination of the present work derives from this contrast between the abstract effect and the detail captured in the surface texture of the snake's body. Its scales graduate in fine shades of grey and its rigid gaze captivates viewers now as it did when first published.

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