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Ernest Nash

  • Ernest Nash was a German born photographer, who pursued his photographic as well as an archeologic interest in Roman architecture after his emigration to New York in 1939. Besides this research interest, he also worked as a portrait photographer and publisher.
  • Ernest
  • Nash
  • Ernst Nathan

  • 14-09-1898
  • Potsdam (DE)
  • 18-05-1974
  • Roma (IT)
  • PhotographerArchaeologistLawyer
  • Ernest Nash was a German born photographer, who pursued his photographic as well as an archeologic interest in Roman architecture after his emigration to New York in 1939. Besides this research interest, he also worked as a portrait photographer and publisher.

    Word Count: 40

  • Portrait of Ernest Nash, Neapel, 3/4 march 1939 (© Bildarchiv Ernest Nash, Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am Main).
  • Ernest Nash (née Ernst Nathan) was a German photographer, who pursued his photographic and archaeological interest in Roman architecture after emigrating to New York in 1939. Besides this research interest, he also worked as a portrait photographer and publisher. His interest in photography began early on during his law studies in Berlin during the 1910s. During a three-month period stationed as a soldier in Italy, Nash started to produce photographs for an album of his war experience as well as of the Italian people and landscape. From 1921 to 1923, he worked as a legal clerk at the Potsdam District Court and from 1926, he managed his own law firm in Potsdam. Although he renounced Judaism in 1929, on March 31 1933, he was declared a Jewish lawyer and forced to close his practise.

    During a summer trip to Italy in 1934, Ernest Nash created a series of photographs where his interest in and knowledge of Roman antiquity and history on ancient buildings and topography are clearly visible. At an early age, and besides an interest in photography, Ernest Nash developed a rich knowledge of Roman history as well as a keen curiosity in ancient architecture and topography. Back in Potsdam, he photographed places that were considered exemplary for the royal, bourgeois Romanesque architecture and transferred his archaeological and urban photographic exploration from Rome to his hometown in Germany.

    Due to the rise of National Socialism in Germany, in August 1936 Ernest Nash fled to Rome. His wife Ilse Nathan (née Rubinski), whom he married in 1928 and his two daughters Eva Nathan (born 1928) and Ruth Nathan (born 1931) joined him in Rome in the beginning of 1937. The family lived in an apartment in the Via Umberto Boccionic No. 5. Since it was no longer possible to practise law, Ernest Nash started to work as photographer in exile.
    In Rome, he worked at the photo studio Zauli, where he mainly carried out commissioned work such as portraits or photos for family events like baptisms, marriages as well as portraits for the Vatican. Beside his work as professional photographer, Nash spent his time in the urban space in Rome, where he began to systematically photograph monuments and topographies of the city. Rather than focusing only on antique architecture, his photographs show the entire spectrum of Roman architecture from churches to palaces, villas, squares, fountains, bridges as well as modern changes in the cityscape under Mussolini, where he experimented in the photographic styles of the ‘New Vision’.

    During the 1930s, Italy was home for many intellectuals and artists fleeing from Nazi Germany, and the German émigré community was joined by the author, art and film theorist Rudolf Arnheim. Arnheim arrived in Rome in 1933, after publishing his book Film als Kunst, which was censured shortly after publication. There, he worked until 1937 on a comprehensive encyclopaedia of film for the Educational Film Institute of the League of Nations. He was also a co-editor of the film magazines Intercine and Cinema. In 1939, he went into exile in London where he worked as a  translator for the BBC's foreign service until moving to New York the following year.

    On 7 September 1938, Italy introduced racial laws, which stated that Jewish immigrants had to leave the country within six months. The family Nash made an effort to obtain visas and affidavits to emigrate to the U.S. While waiting for the immigration papers, the family left Rome and stayed on the island of Capri. Finally, in March 1939, the family could emigrate from Naples via Genoa to New York arriving there in April 1939. After spending the first three months in an apartment on West 93rd Street, the family moved into 420 Riverside Drive. Here, Ernst Nathan installed his own darkroom. In these new surroundings, second exile, and in a new language, he re-established his career as photographer.

    Shortly after the arrival in New York in 1939, he started to use the English idiom Ernest Nash of his name Ernst Nathan (in 1942 the change was official accepted by the Supreme Court). His first series in New York was created for the World’s Fair 1939. From 30 April 1939 to 31 October 1940, the world exhibition was installed at the Flushing Meadows Park in Queens. Here, Nash photographed the pavilions, newly erected buildings, the transportation system as well as the visitors to the fairgrounds. Symbols of the World’s Fair were the Trylon and Persiphere, which stood for the “World of Tomorrow”; the topic of the World’s Fair representing the city model of the future. These symbols were also photographed by Nash as can be seen in a postcard credited by him. Via this postcard and another one, which is part of the collection of Fine Arts in Huston, it seems he also got commissions or could sell his images for this international event. Other émigré photographers who found work or got commissions thanks to the World’s Fair Carola Gregor, Walter Sanders, Lilo Hess, Ruth Staudinger Rozaffy as well as Rolf Tietgens. In photographing at the World’s Fair, Ernest Nash also recognized that the fair’s monumental landmarks (Perisphere and Trylon) alluded to the Roman Foro Mussolini. At this point already, he started to proceed similarly to his arrival in Rome and photographed buildings that were erected in the style of the European ancient architecture.

    Following this artistic strategy, Nash explored the New York City urban space, photographing buildings like the Washington Square Arch (in reference to the Roman Titus Arch), the Seth Low Library of Columbia University (in reference to the Pantheon), Riverside Church (in reference to the cathedral Chartres, France), and the Subtreasury Building (in reference to the Temple Paestum). For shootings of Manhattan, Nash approached from a distance by ship or from the bird perspective to capture different urban views and cumulations of the New York skyscrapers. Furthermore, he photographed the industrial architecture and port facilities, factories, and bridges. Fellow émigré photographers like Lux Feininger and Andreas Feininger searched for similar motifs such as the transportation system and the nautical infrastructure of New York.

    Besides his photographic encounters in New York, Ernest Nash initially earned a living doing baby photographs and portraits for family events. He also resumed his research in ancient architecture; for which he frequented the New York Public Library. Furthermore, he compiled his photographs from Potsdam and Rome, made enlargements of his prints, and supplement the images with notes. A new and additional income during this exile was with publications. In 1944, Ernest Nash’s photobook and architectural compendium Roman Towns was printed by the exile publishing house J.J. Augustin, where other photobooks by émigré photographers as Horst P. Horst, George Hoyningen-Huene, Alexey Brodovitch or Joseph Pilates (the founder of the Pilates method) were also published. Based on his archive of images and research created during his Roman exile, Nash attempted to present the ancient buildings to an American readership. The contrasting and comparing of New York buildings with Roman ones was intended to create interest in the introduction. By drawing the line between Rome and New York it also reflects Ernest Nash nomadic life and his continued research method on ancient architecture – whether in Italy or the U.S. Paul Zucker, an architectural historian and émigré friend of Nash, reviewed the book: “This new publication contains the work of a gifted photographer who proves clearly that he has gone through the visual experiences of the last twenty years. Fortunately, Ernest Nash did not succumb to the fashionable snobbism of taking each picture from the perspective of a prostrate frog, a cliché much abused by some modern photographers.” (Zucker 1944, 52) Another review appeared in The New Yorker: “A book of pictures, some of which are superb, taken in such places as Pompeii, Herculaneum, Paestum, Pozzuoli, and Rome. Mr. Nash’s text is almost as good as his pictures […] has turned out an unusually fine job of bookmaking.” (Anonymous 1944, 78) By January 1947, the first edition of 2000 copies were already sold out.

    During the mid 1940s, Ernest Nash expanded his commission work beyond wedding photographs and baby portraits to include portraits of musicians. This series contained famous composers, conductors, soloists and singers, such as Béla and Britta Bartók (where the portraits were taken at Nash's home and of Britta Bartók sitting at the piano in her own flat at 309 West 57th Street), Jozsef Szigeti, Sir Thomas Beecham, and, William Primrose. Most of them were fellow emigrants from Europe, but also American colleagues like Bennie Goodman stood in front of Ernest Nash’s camera. Mostly, the portraits were three-quarter view and concentrated on the face or portraits, where the musicians were accompanied by their instruments. The émigré photographer Hermann Landshoff followed a similar photographic strategy followed, in that he did not only do portraits of musicians but on the émigré art scene in New York as well as a series on his photographer colleagues. For Landshoff too, it was important to contextualize the protagonists with attributes connecting to their professions; the instrument, the camera or also the place of profession, or the studio or workplace. Contrary to Landshoff, Ernest Nash’s portraits also served as image material for music agencies and front covers for albums, where retouching was desirable and necessary (Lahusen 2000, 75).

    In 1949, Ernest Nash travelled to Rome for the first time after the Second World War, to continue his studies in Roman architecture and topography after ten years of absence. In the early 1950s, Ernst and Ilse Nash separated and in 1952, Ernst Nash married the German émigré Irne Lande, a researcher in Semitic languages and the history of Jerusalem, in New York. In May 1953, the couple travelled to Europe to pursue their research and to reconnect with friends from before their returning to New York in September. During the next years, Ernst Nash regularly travelled to Rome to upkeep his photo archive as well his topographic studies of the city. Finally, in March 1956 Ernest Nash photo archive was taken up as a foundation of the Fototeca di Architettura e Topografia dell’Italia Antica in the American Academy in Rome. The establishment of the Fototeca allowed Ernst Nash to become a citizen of the city of Rome and to continue his scientific research and photographic reappraisal of Roman architecture and topography in Rome on site and he remained in Rome until his death.

    In 1961, Nash’s Roman photographs were published among his research results in the double volume encyclopaedia Bildlexikon zur Topographie des antiken Rom, that he had worked on for 30 years and which was essentially the crown of his work. The German edition was created with the help of the Tübinger publisher Ernst Wasmuth. In 1962, the English version Pictorial Dictionary of Ancient Rome appeared in the publishing house Frederik A. Praeger. In 1968, it was published in the second revised edition by Prager in New York and Thames & Hudson in London.

    During the mid-1950s and 1960s, Ernst Nash travelled extensively to Europe and Israel. Before his death in Rome in May 1974, in 1973 he once more travelled to New York.

    Today, the picture archive of Ernest Nash’s Roman photographs and studies are part of the American Academy in Rome. Since 1998, a second part of the estate is preserved at the archaeological institute at the Goethe-Universität in Frankfurt. It preserves original photographs and negatives of ancient monuments, contemporary street scenes and portraits of well-known personalities.

    Word Count: 1877

  • Announcement of Roman Towns by Ernest Nash (J.J. Augustin, 1944).
    Announcement of Roman Towns by Ernest Nash (J.J. Augustin, 1944).
    First page of Roman Towns by Ernest Nash, J.J. Augustin, 1944 (Photo: Helene Roth).
    Page of Roman Towns by Ernest Nash, J.J. Augustin, 1944. Left side: New York, Columbia University. Right side: Rome, Pantheon (Photo: Helene Roth).
    Page of Roman Towns by Ernest Nash, J.J. Augustin, 1944. Left side: New York, U.S. Sub-Treasury Building. Right side: Paestum, Temple of Neptune (Photo: Helene Roth).
    Ernest Nash, New York, Washington Square, 1939 (© Bildarchiv Ernest Nash, Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am Main).
    Ernest Nash, New York, United States Subtreasury Building, 1939 (© Bildarchiv Ernest Nash, Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am Main).
    Ernest Nash, Burns Bros on the East River, New York, 1939 (© Bildarchiv Ernest Nash, Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am Main).
    Ernest Nash, Portrait of Béla Bartók, New York, between late 1940 and 1945 (© Bildarchiv Ernest Nash, Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am Main).
    Ernest Nash, Portrait of Ditta Bartók-Pásztory, New York, between late 1940 and 1945 (© Bildarchiv Ernest Nash, Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am Main).
    Ernest Nash, New York World’s Fair 1939, Perisphere (© Bildarchiv Ernest Nash, Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am Main).
    Ernest Nash, New York, World’s Fair 1939, Constitution Mall, Trylon and Perisphere (© Bildarchiv Ernest Nash, Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am Main).
    Information by J.J. Augustin about the new release of Roman Towns by Ernest Nash (J.J. Augustin, 1944).
  • Anonymus. "Prof. Ernest Nash." The New York Times, May 19, 1974, p. 59.

    Alföldi, Maria R., and Margarita C. Lahusen, editors. Ernest Nash – Ernst Nathan: 1898–1974; Photographie Potsdam, Rom, New York, Rom. Nicolai, 2000.

    Ciuffa, Lavinia. "The Ernst Nash - Fototeca Unione Collection and the Project. The Urban Legacy of Ancient Rome." VRABulletin, vol. 46, no. 1, 2019, Article 2. Accessed 15 November 2021.

    Nash, Ernest. Roman Towns, J.J. Augustin, 1944.

    Zucker, Paul. “Roman Towns by Ernest Nash.” Journal of the American Society of Architectural Historians, vol. 4, no. 3/4, 1944, p. 52.

    Word Count: 79

  • Helene Roth
  • Rome, Italy (1936–1939); New York, US (1939-1956); Rome, Italy (1956–1974).

  • West 93rd Street, New York (April 1939–July 1939); 420 Riverside Drive, New York City (July 1939–1956).

  • New York
  • Helene Roth. "Ernest Nash." METROMOD Archive, 2021,, last modified: 04-07-2022.
  • Walter Sanders
    New York

    Walter Sanders was a German émigré photographer. In 1938 he arrived in New York, where he worked from 1939 until the end of his life for the Black Star agency and, from 1944, for Life magazine.

    Word Count: 33

    Erika Stone
    New York

    Erika Stone is a German émigré, who moved to New York with her parents and sister in December 1936, at the age of 12. She went on to carve out a career as photographer.

    Word Count: 32

    Rolf Tietgens
    New York

    Rolf Tietgens was a German émigré photographer who arrived in New York in 1938. Although, in the course of his photographic career, his artistic and surrealist images were published and shown at exhibitions, his work, today, is very little known.

    Word Count: 39

    Ruth Staudinger
    PhotographerCinematographerArt dealer
    New York

    Very few and only fragmentary details can be found on the German émigré photographer Ruth Staudinger, who emigrated in the mid-1930s to New York City. Her nomadic life was also characterisedd by several changes of name along the way.

    Word Count: 40

    Carola Gregor
    New York

    The German émigré photographer Carola Gregor was an animal and child photographer and published some of her work in magazines and books. Today her work and life are almost forgotten.

    Word Count: 30

    Trude Fleischmann
    New York

    Trude Fleischmann was an Austrian-Jewish portrait and dance photographer who emigrated in 1939 to New York, where she opened a studio in Midtown Manhattan with the photographer Frank Elmer.

    Word Count: 28

    New York World's Fair postcard View of the Constitution Mall looking toward statue of George Washington and Trylon and Perisphere
    New York

    Shortly after the arrival in New York in 1939, photographs by the German émigré Ernest Nash were used and reproduced for postcards of the New York’s World’s Fair.

    Word Count: 29

    J.J. Augustin Incorporated Publisher
    Publishing House
    New York

    J.J. Augustin was a German publishing house in Glückstadt with a long history, going back to 1632. In 1936 the American branch opened in New York with a large artistic and cultural focus.

    Word Count: 33

    Hermann Landshoff
    New York

    Besides outdoor fashion shots, Hermann Landshoff was a portrait and street photographer. During his time in New York, he captured the cultural, artistic and intellectual émigré scene as well as his photographer colleagues.

    Word Count: 33

    Andreas Feininger
    New York

    Andreas Feininger, was a German émigré photographer who arrived in New York with his wife Wysse Feininger in 1939. He started a lifelong career exploring the city's streets, working as a photojournalist and writing a large number of photography manuals.

    Word Count: 39

    Alexey Brodovitch
    PhotographerArt DirectorGraphic Designer
    New York

    Alexey Brodovitch was a Belarus-born émigré graphic artist, art director and photographer who, from 1933, worked in New York for Harper’s Bazaar magazine and at the New School for Social Research.

    Word Count: 31

    Lilo Hess
    New York

    The German émigré Lilo Hess was an animal photographer working for the Museum for Natural History and the Bronx Zoo, as well being a freelance photographer and publisher of children's books.

    Word Count: 31

    T. Lux Feininger
    New York

    Lux T. Feininger was a German-American émigré photographer and painter and the brother of the photographer Andreas Feininger, arriving in 1936 in New York. Although he started taking photographs during the 1920s in Germany, Feininger is better known for his career as a painter and his photographic work is largely unacknowledged.

    Word Count: 50

    Thames & Hudson
    Publishing House

    The emigrants Eva Feuchtwang (later Eva Neurath) and Walter Neurath founded the Thames & Hudson publishing house in 1949, which published art history books, photo books and collection catalogues.

    Word Count: 28