Erwin Blumenfeld

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Erwin Blumenfeld
Erwin Blumenfeld photographed by Gordon Parks, 1950.jpg
Blumenfeld photographing Sophie Malgat, photographed by Gordon Parks, 1950
Born (1897-01-26)26 January 1897
Berlin, Germany
Died 4 January 1969(1969-01-04) (aged 71)
Rome, Italy
Known for Photography
Blumenfeld's photograph of a 1955 DeSoto Fireflite

Erwin Blumenfeld (1897 – 1969) was a famous American photographer of German origin.

In the 1930s, he published collages mocking Adolf Hitler. In 1936, he emigrated to Paris. With the German occupation, he was interned in a concentration camp in 1940 because he was Jewish. In 1941, he somehow made his way to the United States.

In the 1940s and 1950s he became very famous for his fashion photography, working for Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, and also for artistic nude photography. In the 1960s, he worked on his autobiography which found no publisher because it was considered to be too ironic towards society, and was published only after his death.

History[edit]

Erwin Blumenfeld was a renowned photographer whose work originally appeared between 1930 and his death in 1969. He was born in Berlin on 26 January 1897, moved to the Netherlands in late 1918, and started a professional career in photography in 1934. He moved to France in 1936. From 1937 to 1939, his photographs were published in Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. When the Second World War broke out, he was interned in the French camps Monthbard-Marmagne and Le Vernet as an alien, but was eventually allowed to leave for Morocco and then onto New York in 1941. He became a US citizen in 1946. His more personal work is in black and white; his commercial work in fashion, much for Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, is mostly in color. In both media he was a great innovator. In black and white he did all his work personally in the dark room. In color he drew on his extensive background in classical and modern painting.

He married Lena Citroen (b. 1897-d. 1994), who was a cousin of his best friend Paul Citroen, in the Netherlands in 1921, and had three children there: Lisette (May 1922-August 2011), Henry (1925-2011), and Yorick (b. 1933). Erwin's daughter Lisette was also put into a camp at Gurs when she was about 18. Erwin Blumenfeld died in Rome on 4 July 1969, and his widow Lena outlived him by twenty-five years. His son Henry recorded an oral history of his father and the family's life shortly before he died in 2011. The audio can be found online.

For details of his life one should read his picaresque autobiography, which he wrote in German and on which he worked from 1955 till 1969. It has been published in German under the title: Einbildungsroman, Eichborn Verlag, 1998. It also has come out in English under the title: Eye to I, Thames and Hudson, 1999. It was first published in French under the title: Jadis et Daguerre, Robert Laffont, 1975, with a re-edition by Editions de la Martinière, 1996. It also has come out in Dutch: Spiegelbeeld, Uitgeverij de Harmonie, 1980. There were several earlier German editions under the title: Durch tausendjährige Zeit.

To appreciate his work in photography, the principal publications of his work are the following:

  • My One Hundred Best Photos, Bentelli Verlag, 1979. Only black and white.
  • A Passion for Beauty, Thames and Hudson, 1996.
  • The Naked and the Veiled, Thames and Hudson, 1999
  • Erwin Blumenfeld. 55 Photos, Phaidon Press 2004 ISBN 0-7148-4193-5
  • The photo book

For his early work:

  • Helen Adkins, Erwin Blumenfeld. I was nothing but a Berliner. Dada Montages 1916 – 1933, Hatje Cantz

Ostfildern 2008 ISBN 978-3-7757-2127-1

A lesser-known aspect of Blumenfeld's image-making is his films. Captured between 1958 and 1964, these were mainly pilots for beauty commercials, aimed at his key beauty clients Helena Rubenstein, Elizabeth Arden and L'Oreal. The full holdings can be seen on SHOWstudio.com

Erwin Blumenfeld had numerous exhibits of his work, among the most important were the following:

  • Rath Museum in Geneva, Switzerland, 1979
  • Musée Pompidou, Paris, France 1981
  • Barbican Museum, London, UK, 1996. This exhibit travelled to many cities, including Zurich, Lausanne, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam.
  • A show of his Dutch period, has run from 9 September till 26 November 2006, in the Hague Museum of Photography, Netherland. A catalogue/book has been published for this occasion Erwin Blumenfeld His Dutch Years 1919 to 1936 by Veenman Publishers ISBN 90-8690-033-X
  • A new exhibit will open in June 2012 Museum Nicéphore-Niépce Chalon-sur-Saône, France, 16 June till 16 September 2012, Studio Blumenfeld, New York, 1941-1960.

Blumenfeld's most iconic fashion photograph is arguably the January 1950 cover of American VOGUE with model Jean Patchett's eye and red lips only visible. Another is model Lisa Fonssagrives the wife of fellow fashion photographer Irwin Penn, hanging off the Eiffel Tower in 1939. He also took famous photos of actress Grace Kelly and a famous photo in 1952 of Audrey Hepburn with a mirror duplicating her image behind her.

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Naylor, Colin, ed. (1988). "Erwin Blumenfeld". Contemporary Photographers (2nd ed.). Chicago: St. James Press. ISBN 0-912289-79-1. 
  • Blecksmith, Anne (2006). "Erwin Blumenfeld". In Warren, Lynne. Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Photography, Volume 1. New York: Routledge. pp. 141–143. ISBN 0-415-97665-0. 
  • Eskildsen, Ute (2014). Erwin Blumenfeld. Photos, Drawings, and Montages. Jeu de Paume. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-19938-3. 

External links[edit]