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Focus on Architecture and Sculpture

  • Kind of Object:
    Book
  • Name:
    Focus on Architecture and Sculpture

    Word Count: 5

  • Creator (Person):
    Helmut Gernsheim
  • Year Start:
    1949
  • Year End:
    1949
  • Known addresses in Metromod cities:

    The Fountain Press, 46-47 Chancery Lane, Holborn, London WC2.

  • Language:
    English
  • City:
    London (GB)
  • Introduction:

    Focus on Architecture and Sculpture by émigré photographer Helmut Gernsheim brought together his work and experience as a photographer for the National Buildings Record (NBR).

    Word Count: 25

  • Content:

    Focus on Architecture and Sculpture. An Original Approach to the Photography of Architecture and Sculpture was the fifth book on photography and its history by photographer Helmut Gernsheim (1913–1995) published by The Fountain Press. The book brought together Gernsheim’s work and experience as a photographer for the National Buildings Record (NBR). In addition, Focus on Architecture and Sculpture was written at a time when Gernsheim was increasingly evolving from photographer to photo historian and photo collector.

    Helmut Gernsheim studied art history with Wilhelm Pinder at the University of Munich from 1933 – as, in the 1920s, did Henry Roland (born Heinrich Rosenbaum), who also emigrated to London and founded the Roland, Browse & Delbanco gallery. Gernsheim later trained as a photographer at the Bavarian State School of Photography. In 1937, Gernsheim emigrated to London, where he lived as a freelance photographer. In 1940, Gernsheim was interned as an enemy alien. In a temporary camp near Liverpool, he met the architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner, who was later to write the forewords to Gernsheim’s books Beautiful London (1950, published with Phaidon) and Focus on Architecture and Sculpture. After his return from an Australian internment camp in November 1941, Gernsheim's central photographic project soon began: he was appointed photographer of a memorial and picture archive of buildings in London and surrounding area that were threatened with destruction.

    After the outbreak of the Second World War, in view of the threat of destruction by bombing, the NBR was set up to take an inventory of important historical buildings. Selected photographers were sent to endangered buildings across the country (Summerson 1991, 4f.). The institution established partnerships with such bodies as the Courtauld Institute and the Warburg Institute, a research institute that emigrated from Hamburg to London in 1934 and had an extensive image archive. Helmut Gernsheim submitted an initial application to Fritz Saxl, then director of the Warburg Institute (Gernsheim 1941), and was hired in February 1942. Gernsheim photographed the buildings in detail, using both  long shots and close-ups, and, through his use of light and special perspectives, dramatised sculptures, positioning them as actors. Gernsheim’s collaboration with the NBR ended in December 1944 (Saxl 1944). Gernsheim used the resulting photographs in his own books such as Beautiful London and Focus on Architecture and Sculpture as well as in magazine articles for Country Life, The Architects’ Journal and Architectural Review.

    Focus on Architecture and Sculpture is divided into two sections: the first is devoted to architectural photographs, the second to Gernsheim’s sculpture photographs, which were taken in the context of the commission for NBR. Particularly large amounts of space are devoted to photographs of the architecture of St. Paul’s Cathedral and the sculptures in Westminster Abbey. The book starts with a view of St Paul’s Cathedral from the east (pl. 1), from a distance and an elevated perspective. Another photograph shows the cathedral’s south-west tower (pl. 2); a zeppelin is visible, like a dot in the sky, though in other paper prints of the image at the Warburg Institute it appears much larger. The photographs that follow are devoted to the staircase and ornamental details. These in turn are followed by photographs of, for example, Hampton Court Palace and the Royal Naval College. Gernsheim paid particular attention to architectural details that were not actually visible to the viewer or that he was able to draw attention to with his camera, be they an ornate lintel or the detail of a ceiling (pl. 14).

    The section on the sculptures shows many photographs of the statues and decorated tombs in Westminster Abbey – Gernsheim’s first large commission for the Warburg Institute, which was to keep him busy for six months. Gernsheim worked on a four-and-a-half-metre-high platform, very close to the sculptures. He used spotlights to achieve a special, often theatrical effect. In Focus on Architecture and Sculpture, the photographer wrote: “For the photography of architectural details and monuments I was, I believe, the first in this country to make use of floodlights. I was not only able in this way to obtain in a comparatively short time photographs which would have meant hours of exposure under normal lightning conditions or would have been completely impossible (such as details of ceilings or ornaments in dark positions), but they helped to bring out the forms more strongly than would have been possible in the diffused natural lights.” (Gernsheim 1949, 36) Gernsheim’s remarks were directed against the two-dimensional conception of sculpture that he often encountered in architecture and art books. He, by contrast, prioritised modelling with light. Gernsheim worked with three 500-watt lamps while he photographed on top of a scaffold with his 9 x 12 cm plate camera by Kühn-Stegemann (Gernsheim 1948, 108).
    The photographer approached the Newton monument in Westminster Abbey, first via a shot of the entire monument (pl. 52), then via a close-up of Newton’s head (pl. 53). He then focused on the cherubim, the massive baroque feet of the sarcophagus and finally the globe with the signs of the zodiac. Gernsheim wrote: “It was evident to me that real appreciation of art could only be brought about with photographs which had plasticity and which could stimulate the imagination.” (Gernsheim 1948, 107)  

    This photographic practice was criticised because Gernsheim gave the sculptures a unique appearance and brought them to life. He did not follow the vision of sculptors who could not yet conceive of their work in artificial light. A review in The Burlington Magazine states: “In order to produce sharper outlines, Mr. Gernsheim places the head against a black background, and in distributing the lights and shadows with great ingenuity, he creates a personality which falsifies the original work.” (Mandowsky 1950, 362) Two of Gernsheim’s photographs of William Shakespeare’s monument in Westminster Abbey (Pl. 60a and 60b) show the extent to which the use of light determined the effect and could lead to exaggeration. Gernsheim used the Bard’s head to test how the effect of a sculpture could change under the influence of artificial light. The intensely illuminated Shakespeare shows extreme shadows and even distortions.
    Meanwhile, other reviews emphasised that Gernsheim was able to make something unseen visible through his photographs. Kenneth Clark wrote in Architectural Review: “The camera, as handled by Mr Gernsheim, can isolate and intensify individual figures and motifs in such a way as to discover values which would otherwise remain hidden even from the eyes of a careful observer of the original.” (Text on the book jacket of Focus on Architecture and Sculpture) In his foreword to the book, Nikolaus Pevsner took a mediating position: “What distinguishes Mr Gernsheim’s photographs is, on the contrary, that they are both serving their recording purpose superlatively well and expressing the emotional qualities of the originals.” (Pevsner 1949, 11)

    Gernsheim had a close working relationship with The Fountain Press, a London publishing house specialising in photography. He also published his books New Photo Vision (1942) and The Man Behind the Camera (1948) with the London publisher.
    Helmut Gernsheim and his wife Alison Gernsheim had been collecting historical photographs since the mid-1940s. Their growing photo-historical knowledge found its way into the books on Julia Margaret Cameron (1948) and Lewis Caroll (1949), published by The Fountain Press. Gernsheim thus positioned himself as an expert on the early history of camera art. In 1955, Helmut and Alison Gernsheim’s The History of Photography from the Earliest Use of the Camera Obscura in the Eleventh Century up to 1914 was published, for which Lucia Moholy’s book A Hundred Years of Photography 1839–1939 (1939) also provided important orientation.

    Word Count: 1235

  • Signature Image:
    Helmut Gernsheim. Focus on Architecture and Sculpture. An Original Approach to the Photography of Architecture and Sculpture. The Fountain Press, 1949, cover (Archive Burcu Dogramaci).
  • Media:
    Helmut Gernsheim. Focus on Architecture and Sculpture. An Original Approach to the Photography of Architecture and Sculpture. The Fountain Press, 1949, pl. 1 (Archive Burcu Dogramaci).
    Helmut Gernsheim. Focus on Architecture and Sculpture. An Original Approach to the Photography of Architecture and Sculpture. The Fountain Press, 1949, pl. 2 and 3 (Archive Burcu Dogramaci).
    Helmut Gernsheim. Focus on Architecture and Sculpture. An Original Approach to the Photography of Architecture and Sculpture. The Fountain Press, 1949, pl. 4 and 5 (Archive Burcu Dogramaci).
    Helmut Gernsheim. Focus on Architecture and Sculpture. An Original Approach to the Photography of Architecture and Sculpture. The Fountain Press, 1949, pl. 6 and 7 (Archive Burcu Dogramaci).
    Helmut Gernsheim. Focus on Architecture and Sculpture. An Original Approach to the Photography of Architecture and Sculpture. The Fountain Press, 1949, pl. 14 and 15 (Archive Burcu Dogramaci).
    Helmut Gernsheim. Focus on Architecture and Sculpture. An Original Approach to the Photography of Architecture and Sculpture. The Fountain Press, 1949, pl. 52 and 53 (Archive Burcu Dogramaci).
    Helmut Gernsheim. Focus on Architecture and Sculpture. An Original Approach to the Photography of Architecture and Sculpture. The Fountain Press, 1949, pl. 54a, 54b and 55 (Archive Burcu Dogramaci).
    Helmut Gernsheim. Focus on Architecture and Sculpture. An Original Approach to the Photography of Architecture and Sculpture. The Fountain Press, 1949, pl. 60a and 60b (Archive Burcu Dogramaci).
  • Bibliography (selected):

    Anderson, Joanne. “Helmut Gernsheim and the National Buildings Record (NBR).” Image Journeys. The Warburg Institute and a British Art History (Veröffentlichungen des Zentralinstituts für Kunstgeschichte in München, 49), edited by Joanne W. Anderson et al., Dietmar Klinger Verlag, 2019, pp. 132–134.

    Dogramaci, Burcu. “New Photo Vision. Architektur- und Skulpturfotografien von Helmut Gernsheim.” Architekturfotografie. Darstellung – Verwendung – Gestaltung, edited by Hubert Locher and Rolf Sachsse, Deutscher Kunstverlag, 2016, pp. 40–55.

    Gernsheim, Helmut. Letter to Fritz Saxl (The Warburg Institute Archive, London, 20 November 1941).

    Gernsheim, Helmut. New Photo Vision. The Fountain Press, 1942.

    Gernsheim, Helmut, editor. The Man Behind the Camera. The Fountain Press, 1948.

    Gernsheim, Helmut. Focus on Architecture and Sculpture. An Original Approach to the Photography of Architecture and Sculpture. The Fountain Press, 1949.

    Gernsheim, Helmut, and Alison Gernsheim. The History of Photography from the Earliest Use of the Camera Obscura in the Eleventh Century up to 1914. Oxford University Press, 1955.

    Helmut Gernsheim. Pionier der Fotogeschichte (Publikation der Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen, 9), edited by Alfried Wieczorek and Claude W. Sui, exh. cat. Forum Internationale Photographie der Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen, Mannheim, 2003.

    Hill, Paul, and Thomas Cooper. “Interview with Helmut Gernsheim.” Idem. Dialogue with Photography. Dewi Lewis Publishing, 1979, pp. 160–210.

    Lehrjahre, Lichtjahre. Die Münchner Fotoschule 1900–2000, edited by Ulrich Pohlmann and Rudolf Scheutle, exh. cat. Fotomuseum im Münchner Stadtmuseum, Munich, 2000.

    Mandowsky, Erna. “Focus on Architecture and Sculpture by Helmut Gernsheim (review).” The Burlington Magazine, vol. 92, no. 573, December 1950, p. 362. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/870667. Accessed 9 April 2021.

    Mann, Nicholas. “Past, present and future.” Porträt aus Büchern. Bibliothek Warburg und Warburg Institute. Hamburg – 1933 – London, edited by Michael Diers, exh. cat. Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Hamburg Carl von Ossietzky, Hamburg, 1993, pp. 133–143.

    Moholy, Lucia. A Hundred Years of Photography 1839–1939. Penguin Books, 1939.

    Pevsner, Nikolaus. “Foreword.” Helmut Gernsheim. Focus on Architecture and Sculpture. An Original Approach to the Photography of Architecture and Sculpture, The Fountain Press, 1949, pp. 9–13.

    Saxl, Fritz. Letter to Helmut Gernsheim (The Warburg Institute Archive, London, 29 December 1944).

    Summerson, John. 50 years of the National Buildings Record 1941–1991. Royal Commission of Historical Monuments, 1991.

    Warburg, Eric M. “The Transfer of the Warburg Institute to England.” The Warburg Institute Annual Report 1952–1953, n.d. [1953], pp. 13–16.

    Word Count: 341

  • Archives and Sources:

    Word Count: 6

  • Acknowledgements:

    My thanks go to the Warburg Institute in London and the Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen in Mannheim, which gave me access to the photographs and papers of Helmut Gernsheim.

    Word Count: 26

  • Author:
    Burcu Dogramaci
  • Metropolis:
    London
  • Entry in process:
    no
  • Burcu Dogramaci. "Focus on Architecture and Sculpture." METROMOD Archive, 2021, https://archive.metromod.net/viewer.p/69/1470/object/5140-11259719, last modified: 27-04-2021.
  • Wolf Suschitzky
    PhotographerCinematographer

    The Viennese Wolf Suschitzky made a career as a photographer and cinematographer after emigrating to London in 1935.

    Word Count: 17

    Animal and Zoo Magazine, vol. 3, no. 6, 1938, cover photograph by Wolf Suschitzky (© The Estate of Wolfgang Suschitzky).
    Animal and Zoo Magazine, vol. 3, no. 6, 1938, p. 29 with photographs by Wolf Suschitzky (© The Estate of Wolfgang Suschitzky).Animal and Zoo Magazine, vol. 3, no. 6, 1938, p. 30 with photographs by Wolf Suschitzky (© The Estate of Wolfgang Suschitzky).Animal and Zoo Magazine, vol. 3, no. 2, 1938, pp. 14–15 with photographs by Wolf Suschitzky (© The Estate of Wolfgang Suschitzky).Wolf Suschitzky (photographs) and Julian Huxley (text). Kingdom of the Beasts. Thames and Hudson, 1956, pp. 84–85 (© The Estate of Wolfgang Suschitzky).Wolf Suschitzky. Photographing Animals. The Studio, 1941, cover (© Estate of Wolfgang Suschitzky).Wolf Suschitzky. Photographing Animals. The Studio, 1941, p. 21 (© Estate of Wolfgang Suschitzky).Wolf Suschitzky. Photographing Children. The Studio, 1940, cover (© Estate of Wolfgang Suschitzky).Wolf Suschitzky. Photographing Children. The Studio, 1940, p. 53 (© Estate of Wolfgang Suschitzky).Lilliput, vol. 6, 1940, p. 311: “London Snowstorm”, photo: Wolf Suschitzky (© The Estate of Wolfgang Suschitzky).
    London
    A Hundred Years of Photography 1839–1939
    Book

    Six years after her arrival in London, the photographer Lucia Moholy published her book A Hundred Years of Photography 1839–1939, on the occasion of the centenary of photography.

    Word Count: 27

    Lucia Moholy. A Hundred Years of Photography 1839–1939. Penguin Books, 1939, cover (METROMOD Archive).
    Lucia Moholy. A Hundred Years of Photography 1839–1939. Penguin Books, 1939, bastard title with Daumier’s quote “Je suis de mon temps” (METROMOD Archive).Lucia Moholy. A Hundred Years of Photography 1839–1939. Penguin Books, 1939, title page (METROMOD Archive).Lucia Moholy. A Hundred Years of Photography 1839–1939. Penguin Books, 1939, page with daguerreotypes (METROMOD Archive).Lucia Moholy. A Hundred Years of Photography 1839–1939. Penguin Books, 1939, page with a multiple flash photograph of the golfer Bobby Jones with a driver (METROMOD Archive).
    London
    The Story of Art
    Book

    The Story of Art by the émigré art historian Ernst H. Gombrich was published in 1950 with Phaidon Press. The book is a comprehensive and accessible introduction to visual culture.

    Word Count: 29

    Ernst Gombrich’s The Story of Art, published with Phaidon Press in 1950, cover (Photo: Private Archive).
    Ernst Gombrich’s The Story of Art, published with Phaidon Press in 1950, cover without dust jacket (Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Bremen, photo: Private Archive).Ernst Gombrich’s The Story of Art, published with Phaidon Press in 1950, first page with dedication by G.B., probably Gertrud Bing from the Warburg Institute in London and a colleague of Gombrich (Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Bremen, photo: Private Archive). It reads “On 29 June 1950 from your friends from the Warburg Institute G.B.”.Ernst Gombrich’s The Story of Art, published with Phaidon Press in 1950, title page with Velazquez’s Las Meninas (Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Bremen, photo: Private Archive).Ernst Gombrich’s The Story of Art, published with Phaidon Press in 1950: Introduction by the author (Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Bremen, photo: Private Archive).Ernst Gombrich’s The Story of Art, published with Phaidon Press in 1950, p. 10–11: comparing Géricault’s Horce-racing at Epsom with a photo from 1948 (Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Bremen, photo: Private Archive).Ernst Gombrich’s The Story of Art, published with Phaidon Press in 1950, p. 20–21: reproductions of cave paintings in Altamira and Font de Gaume (Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Bremen, photo: Private Archive).Ernst Gombrich’s The Story of Art, published with Phaidon Press in 1950, p. 102–103: looking eastwards (Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Bremen, photo: Private Archive).Ernst Gombrich’s The Story of Art, published with Phaidon Press in 1950, p. 440: reproduction of Henri Rousseau’s Portrait of Joseph Brunner, 1909, and Marc Chagall’s The Musician, 1912–13 (Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Bremen, photo: Private Archive).
    London
    The Warburg Institute
    Research Institute

    The Kulturwissenschaftliche Bibliothek Warburg in Hamburg achieved a new presence in London after 1933 under the name The Warburg Institute as a research institution with a library and photo archive.

    Word Count: 29

    The Warburg Institute, Reading Room, Imperial Institute Building, London, c. 1952 (© The Warburg Institute).
    The Warburg Institute, Reading Room, Thames House, London, c. 1934/36 (© The Warburg Institute).The Warburg Institute, Reading Room, Woburn Square, London, c. 1958 (© The Warburg Institute).
    London
    Visual Pleasures from Everyday Things
    Booklet

    Visual Pleasures from Everyday Things is a booklet written in 1946 by the emigrated architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner with the aim of aesthetic education and teacher training.

    Word Count: 26

    Nikolaus Pevsner. Visual Pleasures from Everyday Things. An attempt to establish criteria by which the aesthetic qualities of design can be judged. Council for Visual Education (C.V.E.), 1946, cover (METROMOD Archive).
    Nikolaus Pevsner. Visual Pleasures from Everyday Things. An attempt to establish criteria by which the aesthetic qualities of design can be judged. Council for Visual Education (C.V.E.), 1946, title page (METROMOD Archive).Nikolaus Pevsner. Visual Pleasures from Everyday Things. An attempt to establish criteria by which the aesthetic qualities of design can be judged. Council for Visual Education (C.V.E.), 1946, pp. 2–3: Foreword by Herbert Read. (METROMOD Archive).Nikolaus Pevsner. Visual Pleasures from Everyday Things. An attempt to establish criteria by which the aesthetic qualities of design can be judged. Council for Visual Education (C.V.E.), 1946, pp. 8–9 (METROMOD Archive).Nikolaus Pevsner. Visual Pleasures from Everyday Things. An attempt to establish criteria by which the aesthetic qualities of design can be judged. Council for Visual Education (C.V.E.), 1946, pp. 14–15 (METROMOD Archive).
    London
    Roland, Browse & Delbanco
    GalleryArt Dealer

    Émigré art historians and art dealers, Henry Roland and Gustav Delbanco, along with Lillian Browse, opened their Mayfair gallery, Roland, Browse & Delbanco, in 1945.

    Word Count: 24

    Sickert 1860–1942, exh. cat. Roland, Browse & Delbanco, London, 1960, cover (METROMOD Archive).
    Sickert 1860–1942, exh. cat. Roland, Browse & Delbanco, London, 1960, title page and p. 1 (METROMOD Archive).Sickert 1860–1942, exh. cat. Roland, Browse & Delbanco, London, 1960, pp. 4–5 (METROMOD Archive).Sickert 1860–1942, exh. cat. Roland, Browse & Delbanco, London, 1960, pp. 16–17, mentioning two books by Lillian Browse on Sickert (METROMOD Archive).Advertisement for the Sickert exhibition at Roland, Browse & Delbanco in 1946 in The Observer, 26 May 1946, p. 7 (Photo: Private Archive).Advertisement for the Rodin: Sculptures and Drawings exhibition at Roland, Browse & Delbanco in 1953 in The Manchester Guardian, 22 April 1953, p. 5 (Photo: Private Archive).Announcement for the Henry Moore. Drawings and Maquettes and Pajetta: Paintings exhibitions at Roland, Browse & Delbanco in 1957 in The Manchester Guardian, 14 October 1957, p. 5 (Photo: Private Archive).Announcement for the Philip Sutton. Recent Paintings and Margaret Kaye. Fabric Collages and Drawings exhibition, at Roland, Browse & Delbanco in 1960 in The Guardian, 27 June 1960, p. 7 (Photo: Private Archive).
    London