Heinrich Kühn (photographer)

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Self-portrait in the autochrome process , 1907

Carl Christian Heinrich Kühn (born February 25, 1866 in Dresden , † September 14, 1944 in Birgitz ) was a German - Austrian photographer and photography pioneer. He was associated with Hans Watzek and Hugo Henneberg in the artist group Wiener Kleeblatt .

Frank Eugene , Alfred Stieglitz , Heinrich Kühn and Edward Steichen (from left to right) look at a work by Frank Eugene on January 1, 1907

life and work

Heinrich Kühn's grandfather was the sculptor Christian Gottlieb Kühn . From 1885 he studied medicine and natural sciences in Leipzig, Berlin and Freiburg im Breisgau and obtained a doctorate in medicine. However, he had to give up his subsequent work as a doctor for health reasons. Because of this, he had moved to Innsbruck for a change in the climate, where he initially worked in medicine, but later, since his livelihood was secured due to the family fortune, only devoted himself to photography in theory and practice.

With his pictorialistic pictures, which are close to Impressionism , he is considered an important representative of art photography - the first photographic style that was able to establish itself as an independent art form.

Kühn refused manual interventions in the image, such as those carried out by Robert Demachy . It was his aim to achieve the desired painterly effect purely with photographic means, e.g. B. the noble printing process used to achieve. In contrast to Hans Watzek, who was associated with him, Kühn sometimes took up to a hundred photos of a motif in order to achieve the desired result.

With the First World War, Kühn lost his fortune, which he had invested in war bonds. His late work receives hardly any attention. He moved to the country and became a member of the NSDAP in 1938 .

Technical aspects of his photographic work

Technically, he implemented his intentions primarily with the means of rubber printing , which he developed for combined or multilayered rubber printing. This gave rise to previously unknown possibilities for designing the image and for color manipulation.

In 1911 Kühn invented rubber engraving , which is a combination of heliogravure and rubber printing. In 1915 he developed glue printing , a chromate process in which isinglass is used as a colloid and which creates a rubber print- like image effect. The Syngraphie was invented by him. It is a process - now forgotten - that works with two negatives with different sensitivity and thus achieves a higher tonal range in the positive. The two-layer film is based on Kühn's development. It combines two layers of different sensitivity and was used especially in reproduction photography .

The improvements in photo lenses in terms of light intensity and image quality achieved around the turn of the century resulted in an image sharpness that contradicted Kühn's stylistic ideas. After attempts with spectacle lenses as lenses and various soft-focus filters or grids, he succeeded in convincing Franz Staeble , founder of the Staeble factory , to develop a lens in joint work (Staeble took on the mathematical-technical work and Kühn the testing from an artistic point of view), in which an adjustable circle of confusion could be superimposed on the sharp image core via exchangeable screen panels, resulting in the image he wanted "softness, without sweetness". This lens was launched on the market under the name Anachromat Kühn . In 1928 this finally resulted in the Rodenstock Imagon, which was offered until the 1990s .

Exhibitions (selection)

  • 1894: Annual exhibition of the Amateur Photographers Association, Kunsthalle, Hamburg
  • 1902: Kleeblatt exhibition (Hugo Henneberg, Heinrich Kühn, Hans Watzek), Wiener Secession, Vienna
  • 1909: Heinrich Kühn , Artists Association for Tyrol and Vorarlberg, Museum Ferdinandeum, Innsbruck
  • 1910: International Exhibition of Pictorial Photography, Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York, USA
  • 1911: Heinrich Kühn , Galerie Thannhauser, Munich
  • 1915: Special exhibition of pictorial photographs by Heinrich Kühn, Kunstgewerbemuseum, Berlin
  • 1952: Heinrich Kühn Memorial Exhibition , Photokina, Cologne
  • 1964: Art photography around 1900, Museum Folkwang, Essen (further station: Museum for Art and Commerce in cooperation with the Landesbildstelle, Hamburg)
  • 1973: The Painterly Photograph 1890–1914 , Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA
  • 1976: Heinrich Kühn 1866–1944. Photographs , gallery in the Taxispalais, Innsbruck
  • 1977: Painting and photography in dialogue from 1840 to today , Kunsthaus Zürich
  • 1978: Heinrich Kühn (1866–1944) - 110 pictures from the photographic collection in the Museum Folkwang, Essen
  • 1981: An exhibition of one hundred photographs by / An Exhibition of One Hundred Photographs by Heinrich Kühn , Stefan Lennert, Munich; Zur Stockeregg Gallery, Zurich; Rudolf Kicken Gallery, Cologne; 1982: Photo Gallery Dröscher, Hamburg; Lunn Gallery, Inc., Washington, DC; Baudoin Lebon, Paris
  • 2002: Rudolf Koppitz and Heinrich Kühn. Vintage Photographs , Kicken Berlin
  • 2007: Heinrich Kühn. Big Pictures , Kicken Berlin
  • 2007: Heinrich Kühn, Gum & Pigment Prints 1895-1925 , Galerie Johannes Faber, Vienna
  • 2008: Football in Vienna. The world champions , Georg Kargl Fine Arts
  • 2009: Pictorialism. Hidden Modernism. Photography 1896-1916 , Kicken Berlin
  • 2010: Heinrich Kühn: The Perfect Photography , Albertina, Vienna (further stations: Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris; 2011: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, USA)
  • 2012: Heinrich Kühn. The Photo Secession. Selected Works , Hans P. Kraus jr., New York, USA
  • 2014: Paradise under threat. Heinrich Kühn photographs in color. Tyrol Castle, Merano
  • 2016: Made in Germany. German Photography from the 19th Century Until Today, 2nd Shenzhen International Photography Week, Shenzhen, China
  • 2016: Heinrich Kühn or the metamorphosis of photography from the Museum Folkwang on the occasion of 150 years of Heinrich Kühn, FO.KU.S. Photo art Stadtforum Innsbruck


  • Technique of photography. Wilhelm Knapp, Halle / Saale 1921.


  • Ute Eskildsen: Heinrich Kühn 1866–1944. 110 images from the photographic collection. Folkwang Museum, Essen 1978.
  • Peter Weiermair (text): Heinrich Kühn (1866–1944). Photographs. Allerheiligenpresse, Innsbruck 1978.
  • Ute Eskildsen:  Kühn, Heinrich. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 13, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1982, ISBN 3-428-00194-X , p. 194 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • Ulrich Knapp (text): Heinrich Kühn Photographien. Residence, Salzburg 1988, ISBN 3-7017-0528-3 .
  • Simone Förster, Annette and Rudolf Kicken (eds.): Points of View. Masterpieces of Photography and Their Stories. Steidl, Göttingen 2007, ISBN 978-3-86521-214-6 .
  • Georg Kargl, Annette and Rudolf Kicken (eds.): Pictorialism. Hidden Modernism. Photography 1896-1916. Berlin / Vienna 2008.
  • Monika Faber, Astrid Mahler (ed.): Heinrich Kühn. The perfect photography / Heinrich Kühn. The Perfect Photograph. Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern, 2010, ISBN 978-3-7757-2568-2 (Ger.), ISBN 978-3-7757-2569-9 (en.)
  • South Tyrolean State Museum for Cultural and State History Castle Tyrol (Ed.): The threatened paradise. Heinrich Kühn photographs in color. Meran 2014, ISBN 978-88-95523-05-7 .

Web links

Commons : Heinrich Kühn  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b Ute Eskildsen:  Kühn, Heinrich. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 13, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1982, ISBN 3-428-00194-X , p. 194 f. ( Digitized version ).
  2. Wolfgang Baier: Source representations for the history of photography . 2nd edition, Schirmer / Mosel, Munich 1980, ISBN 3-921375-60-6 , p. 537
  3. Wolfgang Baier: Source representations for the history of photography . 2nd edition, Schirmer / Mosel, Munich 1980, ISBN 3-921375-60-6 , pp. 537, 541
  4. Michael Kohler, Gisela Barche: The nude photo: views of the body in the photographic age: aesthetics, history, ideology . Ed .: Bucher. ISBN 3-7658-0466-5 .
  5. Wolfgang Baier: Source representations for the history of photography . 2nd edition, Schirmer / Mosel, Munich 1980, ISBN 3-921375-60-6 , p. 536
  6. ^ Exhibition archive Schloss Tirol, accessed on March 3, 2020.