Advent Calendar – Door 18: Two Church Doors

Heinrich Kühn, Church Entrance, c. 1910
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg (CC0)

In the early days of photography, the new medium’s relationship to art, especially painting, was a matter of intense debate. Could photos, i.e. mechanically/chemically produced “copies” of the outside world, be art at all? Quite a few photographers in the late 19th and early 20th century tried to answer this question in the affirmative by creating photos that deliberately looked like paintings. This movement is usually referred to as Pictorialism.

Heinrich Kühn, Architectural Study, c. 1910
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg (CC0)

One of the pictorialists was Austrian-German photographer Heinrich Kühn (1866-1944) who created the pictures of old Austrian church doors in this post. The subject and composition of these images owes a lot to the picturesque traditions of 19th century art, but their “painterly” effect derives perhaps even more from Kühn’s technique: He used soft lightning and focus to give his photos an appearance reminiscent of impressionist painting. To achieve the desired results, he even got involved in the development of a new soft focus lense which eventually became the well-known Rodenstock Imagon. There is an interesting contrast, then, between the somewhat old-fashioned look of Kühn’s pictures and the technological innovation that lies behind them.

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One Response to Advent Calendar – Door 18: Two Church Doors

  1. Pingback: Advent Calendar – Door 20: The Portal Reial in Poblet | L'Historien Errant

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