Nature - "instructor" of Technology
“Aside from a basic drive to create ornament and rhythm, which prevails throughout nature, all the forms a plant constructs are for specific uses and purposes”
Karl Blossfeldt (1865 – 1932) wrote this in his book “Wundergarten der Natur” (“Magic Garden of Nature”), published in Berlin in 1932, in which he refers to nature as the “instructor” of art and technology.
He is the creator of the photographs on our website - © Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich/Munich 2011.
Following an apprenticeship as sculptor and modeler, Karl Blossfeldt studied painting and music, and in the late nineteenth century spent more than thirty years teaching plant drawing and modeling at the Königliches Kunstgewerbemuseum (Royal Museum of Arts and Crafts) in Berlin, first as a lecturer, then as professor.
Karl Blossfeldt took roughly 6,000 photographs with a plate camera he had made himself. He did not consider these to be works of art. His intention was to produce teaching materials, models for his students to draw from. In line with this aim, his photographs are similar in their stringent structure and technique: neutral background, diffused light to avoid shadows, and formats of 6x9cm, 9x12cm or 13x18cm, depending on the plant material.
We find the following typical example of the technical data for a picture later printed in “Das Deutsche Lichtbild” (“German Photography Annual”): “9x12, aplanatic lens 1:36, F = 50 cm, open aperture, no filter, Satrap-Braunschicht plate, exposed between 8 and 12 minutes, in studio, diffused daylight.”
Quite unintentionally, by putting his photos in the service of the plants and their structures in such a straightforward way, Karl Blossfeldt created an objective style all his own. The Berlin gallery owner Karl Nierendorf discerned the artistic lines in Blossfeldt’s works and organized an exhibition in 1926. Blossfeldt’s first book, “Urformen der Kunst” (“Archetypal Forms of Art”).
Today, Blossfeldt’s work is cared for by the Ann und Jürgen Wilde Archive in Zülpich, whom we would like to thank for their kind support. We would also like to point out that the “Urformen der Kunst” portfolio can be acquired from the Archive (Fax +49 2252 834988).
Karl Blossfeldt’s photographs appear to anticipate the way in which today’s research is illustrated: “The task of bionics is to identify relevant natural phenomena, describe them, abstract from them and thereby make them accessible to technical implementation.” (Reports of the Rheinisch-Westfälischen Technischen Hochschule Aachen, 1/2008, “Bionik, Schnittstelle zwischen Natur und Technik”, p. 6.)