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Bertolt Brecht

  • Kind of Object:
    Photograph
  • Name:
    Bertolt Brecht

    Word Count: 2

  • Creator (Person):
    Grete Stern
  • Year Start:
    1936
  • Year End:
    1936
  • Known addresses in Metromod cities:

    Grete Stern Advertising, Artist and Photographer, 20 Abbey Road, St John’s Wood, London NW8 (studio).

  • Size:

    20,5 x 19 cm

  • City:
    London (GB)
  • Introduction:

    Grete Stern practised as a commercial and portrait photographer in her London exile and took portraits of emigrants such as Bertolt Brecht, Helene Weigel, Karl Korsch and Paula Heimann.

    Word Count: 29

  • Content:

    The photographer Grete Stern practised primarily as a commercial and portrait photographer during her time in exile in London between 1933 and 1936. Stern had successfully run a studio for commercial and advertising photography in Berlin as part of the duo ringl + pit. She opened her studio Grete Stern Advertising, Artist and Photographer at 20 Abbey Road. Her flat was located at 3 Alma Square (Ingelmann 2006, 98). Her partner Ellen Auerbach, from the jointly-run studio ringl + pit, first went to Palestine then moved in 1935 to London, where the two initially continued to work together. Bureaucratic problems, however, led Auerbach to emigrate to the U.S. in April 1937 (Eskildsen 1993, 15).

    During her London period, Stern produced a series of portraits of emigrants such as Helene Weigel, Bertolt Brecht, Karl Korsch and Paula Heimann (1935). Brecht’s portrait is often dated 1933 or 1934 (ringl + pit 1993, 53; Grete Stern 1995, 35; Marcoci/Hermanson Meister 2015, 65). However, it is likely that it was created in 1936. In that year, Brecht (probably together with his partner Helene Weigel) was in London between 6 March and 28 July, when he collaborated on the script of Richard Tauber’s film A Clown Must Laugh (Bajazzo) (Jacobs 1977, 27f.; Völker 1976, 232f.). Brecht found accommodation in the immediate vicinity of Stern’s studio in Abbey Road (Pross 2000, 207).
    Grete Stern photographed the writer several times, showing him in a bust portrait, sometimes in profile, sometimes in a three-quarters portrait. In two, almost identical, photographs the striped background is striking. Ellen Auerbach also photographed Brecht in front of the same background; however, she showed the writer in profile at his typewriter, indicating his profession (Graeve Ingelmann 2006, 57). Stern, on the other hand, captured Brecht in a narrow frame focused entirely on his face.
    In other shots, Stern used details that can be read as subtexts. The philosopher Karl Korsch – acquainted with Brecht from the 1920s – is portrayed in front of a map showing northern Germany and its railway lines. The map is turned horizontally. On the left, the inscription “England” can be seen, showing ferry connections across the English Channel. With this background, Stern may have been subtly referring to Korsch’s emigration routes, which took him from Germany via Denmark to England, where the portrait was painted. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art has a print of the photograph labelled “Karl Korsch/Berlin ‘31”, but the photograph is always dated 1934/35, corresponding to Stern’s London exile. Korsch later moved to the U.S. As in her other London portraits, Stern shows her model in a close-framed bust portrait.
    In Stern’s photographs, the sitters are not looking at the camera, but at a point outside the picture space. This gaze and their serious facial expressions lend the subjects a melancholy air. Grete Stern created psychological portraits of people who, like herself, were obliged to live their lives on the move, outside their country of origin.
    During the years of her British exile, Grete Stern, in addition to her portraits, also designed advertisements for the Shell-Mex oil company, the Imperial Chemical Industry (ICI) and the Kynoch-Press printing company (Kunst im Exil in Großbritannien 1986, 167). Also extant is a 1935 advertisement for Sharp, Perrin & Co, a textile company founded in 1868 that dealt in women's underwear and children's clothing and had two shops in London. The advert promotes the shop at 31 Old Change. As in the ads produced by the ringl + pit studio in the early 1930s, Stern relied on a photomontage, combining image and text. The photographed children’s clothing is mounted on an abstract ground showing a light square on black. The red lettering and a red dot provide visual accents and labelled arrows provide information about the garments. It is therefore possible to speak of a continuity of artistic work, although it is not possible at present to record how extensive Stern’s commercial graphic activity in London actually was.

    After moving to Buenos Aires in 1936, Grete Stern continued with her portrait series and produced 150 photographic portraits (also of emigrated) intellectuals and artists from her new environment. As part of the local artistic network and with her partner Horacio Coppola, whom she married in 1935, Stern was once again able to develop a lively and inspiring career as a photographer and artist (Marcoci 2015, 29–36). Thus, the London photographs can be seen as the prelude or run-up to a large-scale project, perhaps a proving ground where Stern found a subject for herself and – after her successful Berlin years – was able to reinvent herself.

    Word Count: 732

  • Signature Image:
    Grete Stern, Bertolt Brecht, 1936, 20,5 x 19 cm, Reprint (Museum Folkwang, Essen, Inv. No. 221/93, © The Estate of Horacio Coppola/Galería Jorge Mara • La Ruche, Buenos Aires).
  • Media:
    Grete Stern’s business card in London, 1936 (Museum Folkwang, Essen, Inv. No. 146/2/2009, © The Estate of Horacio Coppola/Galería Jorge Mara • La Ruche, Buenos Aires).
    Grete Stern, Karl Korsch, 1935, 22 x 18,9 cm, Reprint (Museum Folkwang, Essen, Inv. No. 220/93, © The Estate of Horacio Coppola/Galería Jorge Mara • La Ruche, Buenos Aires).
    Grete Stern’s advertising for Sharp, Perrin & Co. Ltd, in The Draper’s Record, 14 September 1935 (Museum Folkwang, Essen, Inv. No. 527/93, © The Estate of Horacio Coppola/Galería Jorge Mara • La Ruche, Buenos Aires).
  • Bibliography (selected):

    Begegnungen mit Menschen. Das fotografische Werk von Grete Stern, exh. cat. Bauhaus-Archiv, Berlin, 1975.

    Eskildsen, Ute. “Fotografie und Berlin. Ausgangspunkte einer Frauenfreundschaft.” ringl + pit. Grete Stern und Ellen Auerbach, exh. cat. Fotografisches Kabinett, Museum Folkwang, Essen, 1993, pp. 8–15.

    From Bauhaus to Buenos Aires. Grete Stern and Horacio Coppola, edited by Roxana Marcoci and Sarah Hermanson Meister, exh. cat. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2015.

    Graeve Ingelmann, Inka. Ellen Auerbach. Das dritte Auge. Leben und Werk. Schirmer/Mosel, 2006.

    Grete Stern, exh. cat. IVAM Centre Julio González, Valencia, 1995.

    Jacobs, Nicholas. Bertolt Brecht in Britain. Irat Services, 1977.

    Kunst im Exil in Großbritannien 1933–1945, exh. cat. Neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst, Berlin, 1986.

    Marcoci, Roxana. “Photographer Against the Grain. Through the Lens of Grete Stern.” From Bauhaus to Buenos Aires. Grete Stern and Horacio Coppola, edited by Roxana Marcoci and Sarah Hermanson Meister, exh. cat. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2015, pp. 21–36.

    Pross, Steffen. “In London treffen wir uns wieder”. Vier Spaziergänge durch ein vergessenes Kapitel deutscher Kulturgeschichte nach 1933. Eichhorn, 2000.

    ringl + pit. Grete Stern und Ellen Auerbach, exh. cat. Fotografisches Kabinett, Museum Folkwang, Essen, 1993.

    Völker, Klaus. Bertolt Brecht – Eine Biographie. Hanser, 1976.

    Word Count: 190

  • Archives and Sources:

    Museum Folkwang, Essen.

    Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin.

    Word Count: 5

  • Acknowledgements:

    I am grateful to Petra Steinhardt from Museum Folkwang, Essen, who provided me kindly with Grete Stern’s images.

    Word Count: 19

  • Author:
    Burcu Dogramaci
  • Metropolis:
    London
  • Entry in process:
    no
  • Burcu Dogramaci. "Bertolt Brecht." METROMOD Archive, 2021, https://archive.metromod.net/viewer.p/69/1470/object/5140-11267579, last modified: 19-06-2021.
  • Grete Stern
    Photographer

    Grete Stern is one of the photographers that represent modern photography in Argentina. Her house in Ramos Mejía was a meeting place for local and foreign artists and intellectuals.

    Word Count: 30

    Grete Stern, Autorretrato, 1943, photograph, 21,9 x 30,5 cm. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires (© The Estate of Horacio Coppola/Galería Jorge Mara • La Ruche, Buenos Aires).
    Grete Stern, Photomontage for Madí, Ramos Mejía, Argentina, 1946–47, Gelatine silver print, 59.8 x 49.4 cm. (via Wikimedia Commons, © The Estate of Horacio Coppola/Galería Jorge Mara • La Ruche, Buenos Aires).Grete Stern, María Elena Walsh, 1947, photograph, 24,5 x 20,5 cm. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires (via Wikimedia Commons, © The Estate of Horacio Coppola/Galería Jorge Mara • La Ruche, Buenos Aires).
    Buenos Aires
    Horacio Coppola
    FilmmakerPhotographer

    Born in Buenos Aires, Horacio Coppola is one of the photographers who represent modern photography in Argentina.

    Word Count: 17

    Horacio Coppola, "Nocturno. Calle Corrientes desde Reconquista hasta Plaza de la República (centro)", in Buenos Aires 1936: Cuarto centenario de su fundación. Visión fotográfica. Municipalidad de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires, 1936 (via Wikimedia Commons).
    Horacio Coppola, "Bar Madrid sobre la Avenida de Mayo", in Buenos Aires 1936: Cuarto centenario de su fundación. Visión fotográfica. Municipalidad de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires, 1936 (via Wikimedia Commons).Horacio Coppola, "Plaza de la República. Fiesta de la Bandera (Centro)", in Buenos Aires 1936: Cuarto centenario de su fundación. Visión fotográfica. Municipalidad de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires, 1936.Horacio Coppola, "Liquidación en una casa de trajes, Buenos Aires, esquina de Bartolomé Mitre y Maipú en 1936", in Buenos Aires 1936: Cuarto centenario de su fundación. Visión fotográfica. Municipalidad de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires, 1936 (via Wikimedia Commons).Horacio Coppola, "La Avenida Corrientes, recientemente ensanchada sobre su lado sur. Vista desde la cuadra del 1200 hacia el oeste", in Buenos Aires 1936: Cuarto centenario de su fundación. Visión fotográfica. Municipalidad de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires, 1936 (via Wikimedia Commons).
    Buenos Aires
    Ellen Auerbach
    Photographer

    When she arrived in New York in 1937, the German-born photographer Ellen Auerbach (formerly Rosenberg) had already passed through exile stations in Palestine and Great Britain.

    Word Count: 25

    Ellen Auerbach, Selbstportrait, cropped detail (Ellen Auerbach auf einer Liege sitzend, sich selbst im Spiegel fotografierend), New York 1950 (©Akademie der Künste, Berlin / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021).
    Ellen Auerbach, Selbstportrait. (Ellen Auerbach auf einer Liege sitzend, sich selbst im Spiegel fotografierend), New York 1950 (©Akademie der Künste, Berlin / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021).Cover of Life magazine, with image Two Years Old by Ellen Auerbach, Life, 28 November 1938 (Photo: Helene Roth).The dancer Renate Schottelius photographed by Ellen Auerbach ( "Ellen Auerbach - Robert Mann Gallery" by Erika_Herzog is licensed under CC BY 2.0).
    New York