Nicola Perscheid

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Nicola Perscheid: Self-Portrait (1910)

Nicola Perscheid (born December 3, 1864 in Moselweiß ; † May 12, 1930 in Berlin ; actually Nikolaus Perscheid ) was a German photographer and one of the first professional photographers in Germany. In 1892 he was appointed "Royal Saxon Court Photographer" and was a sought-after portrait photographer in the following decades . Around 1920 he developed a lens with a soft- focus effect that was popular for portraits.


Nicola Perscheid was born in 1864 as the son of Andreas Perscheid and Gertrud Wirgens in Moselweiß near Koblenz . His ancestors were allegedly wine growers from Spain and Portugal who had to call themselves Perscheid around 1600 after their first settlement on the Rhine . Nicola Perscheid later married the astrologer Claire Günther. Their son Lothar Perscheid became a popular photo motif for Nicola Perscheid.

Nicola Perscheid: Lothar Perscheid (1910)

Nicola Perscheid completed an apprenticeship in photography in the Reuss and Möller studio in Koblenz from 1879. After completing his training, he first worked in the Paul Strnad studio in Erfurt and from 1887 to 1889 in the Beer studio in Klagenfurt , where he was employed as a retoucher .

In 1891 Nicola Perscheid opened his first own studio in Görlitz , which specialized in portrait photography. A year later he was appointed "Royal Saxon Court Photographer". Even after moving to Gellertstrasse 2 in Leipzig in 1894, he remained loyal to portrait photography and became known to artists in the city through the mediation of Max Klinger . In the following years Klinger was repeatedly photographed by Nicola Perscheid. At the turn of the century Nicola Perscheid took part in numerous exhibitions at home and abroad, which made him familiar with the latest developments in the field of photography. The first Pinatypien date back to 1900 , for example the three-color Pinatypie Miss Jungmann , one of the first color pictures of Perscheid. Around 1900, Alfred Krauth was Perscheid's operator and first assistant for a year and a half, he then went into business for himself and also made a name for himself in three-color photography and stereo photography.

Glance into Nicola Perscheid's studio in Berlin.

Nicola Perscheid's photographs were in demand. In 1905 he moved to Berlin and opened a new Atelier W9 on Bellevuestraße 6a. In 1909, the height of Nicola Perscheid's creative development, he received the Great Silver State Medal from the German Photographers Association, which was considered the most important award for professional photographers.

After 1909, no further artistic development can be seen in Nicola Perscheid's work. In addition to his work as a photographer, he also turned to the training of young photographers and gave lectures in Germany, Denmark and Sweden. His students included Madame d'Ora , Arthur Benda , Toragorō Ariga (1890–1993), Peter-Paul Atzwanger (1888–1974), Uno Falkengren (1889–1964), Curt Götlin (1900–1993) and Henry B Goodwin (1878-1931).

Nicola Perscheid: Manfred von Richthofen as Sanke Postcard No. 533 (1917/1918)

Nicola Perscheid photographed countless famous personalities of his time. He created many photographs free of charge in order to use them to advertise his own exhibitions or brochures. From 1910 to 1918 he also worked with the postcard distributor Willi Sanke in Berlin, who published a series of postcards on German airships, airplanes and flying aces in the context of developing aviation and, from 1914, especially military aviation . He was a darling of Berlin society and friends with Max Liebermann , Lovis Corinth and Hugo von Habermann , among others .

In old age Perscheid increasingly suffered from lack of money, which was due not only to the general economic situation but also to the personal eccentricity of Perscheid. He lived out his penchant for luxury and his extravagance even in times when this was actually no longer financially possible for him. His health also deteriorated, so Perscheid had been complaining since 1925 of nervous problems that his family doctor could not cure either. Nicola Perscheid died impoverished in Berlin in 1930; his studio had already been closed during his lifetime.



Nicola Perscheid was known to contemporaries as a portrait photographer. As a court photographer, he portrayed King Albert of Saxony and his brother, later King George . In the course of the First World War , portraits of Hermann Göring , Manfred von Richthofen and Theobald von Bethmann Hollweg, among others, were created . Nicola Perscheid also portrayed scientists, writers, religious and painters, and numerous portraits of actors were also put on the market as autograph cards. His portrait of Pope Pius XI from 1922 is also known and praised .

In his portraits, he uses a combination of top and front light in terms of lighting, thus achieving an optical separation of the heads from the often dark background.

The landscape photographer Nicola Perscheid is less well known. Already during his apprenticeship in Klagenfurt he had the landscape photography dedicated and photographed in later times, however rare, landscapes.


At the beginning of his career Nicola Perscheid mainly worked with the rubber printing typical of the time . In 1901, for example, the work Der Schnitter (also called the farmer with scythe ) was created in blue and black , which Perscheid considered his best work throughout his life. Today it is in the possession of the Kupferstichkabinett Dresden along with other rubber prints by Perscheid .

Nicola Perscheid began to experiment with new development processes around 1900. He turned to the Pinatypie , among other things , with whose three-color process the first color pictures were created. For the production of colored Pinatypien two plates were required, which had to be exposed for between 15 and 25 seconds. Models were not allowed to move during this time, which is why Nicola Perscheid printed advertisements in his brochures for a backrest he had developed, which supposedly "benefits the face." It becomes free for the expression of the essence, for its actual physiognomy, "which, however, should only allow his models to stand or sit quietly.

However, his preferred positive process was high-contrast pigment printing .

In cooperation with the "Emil Busch AG Optische Industrie", Nicola Perscheid developed a special portrait lens, the Busch-Nicola-Perscheid lens or, for shorter, the Busch-Perscheid lens. This is constructed as an aplanate from two identical and symmetrically arranged achromatic lenses with a central aperture between them . With the Busch-Perscheid lens, the degree of soft focus can be controlled via the aperture setting. It came on the market in 1921 and was often used for portraits in the following years, although since the end of the First World War the pictorialistic style of photography went out of fashion and was replaced by realism in the form of straight photography or New Objectivity . Nevertheless, Rosemarie Clausen, for example, learned photography with the Busch-Perscheid lens as an apprentice in the Becker & Maas studio.

After 1921 Nicola Perscheid's photographs show the preferred use of the Busch-Perscheid lens, which also made the light more soft. In contrast to many of his colleagues, Nicola Perscheid refrained from alienating retouching of a photo.

“He is an enemy of retouching in the sense of what was previously understood by it in portrait photography, and yet he knows retouching, the equalization of technicalities, the removal of an intrusive light effect, the discreet brightening of the shadows. He seeks the main task of the portraitist in the preservation of the peculiar, personal of the person, never in effect. "

- Elisabeth von Igel, 1905


Woman in a meadow , rubber print (around 1900)

Nicola Perscheid's work was popular and respected by his contemporaries. He is still known today for masterfully working out the personality of the portrayed in his pictures and thus having reached a climax in the photographic male portrait.

“Over the years Perscheid has portrayed most of the personalities who have a name in public, and he has convinced many that something artistically valuable can be achieved through photography [...], but his strength is undisputedly in the lively apprehension of the Personality. That is probably the highest praise that can be given to an artist, but unfortunately almost too little for the present, which loves a bluff and praises the shimmering bowl: If the thing only makes a name for itself. "

- Artur Ranft, 1930

Nonetheless, Nicola Perscheid also delivered mass-produced consumer goods, especially in the 1920s, which on an artistic level cannot keep up with his better works, such as those created around the turn of the century.

Although his students later included famous photographers such as Madame d'Ora or Arthur Benda who tried to preserve the memory of Nicola Perscheid, Perscheid was already considered comparatively "old-fashioned" at the time of his death. The means of art photography, such as rubber printing or the use of soft-focus lenses, including the Busch-Nicola-Perscheid lens, and their efforts to achieve a painterly image impression, were already viewed as "out of fashion" around 1930. L. Fritz Gruber therefore began his 1964 article About Nicola Perscheid with the comment, "The name [Perscheid] only arouses memories in the elderly".


  • In noble circles (1907)
  • Nicola Perscheid on lighting, position and composition . In: The Photographer . No. 7, Volume 25, 1914, pp. 25f.
  • Contemporary suggestions . In: The Photographer . No. 10, Volume 37, 1927, p. 37f.
  • On the psychology of today's photography students . In: Photography for All . No. 5, 1924, pp. 82f.


  • Fritz Matthies-Masuren : On Perscheid's pictures . In: Photographisches Central Blatt . Issue 7, 1902, pp. 145-148.
  • Hermann Scheidemantel: Nicola Perscheid's photography in natural colors . Leipzig 1904.
  • Hermann Scheidemantel: Photographer Nicola Perscheid, Leipzig. A contribution on the subject of "Professional Photography and Art" . In: German art and decoration . 13, 1904.
  • Elisabeth von Igel: Nicola Perscheid . In: Sonne , 1905, pp. 15-17.
  • Elisabeth von Igel: Nicola Perscheid's new art photography studio in Berlin . In: Sonne , 1905, pp. 359f.
  • Martin Kiesling: Nicola Perscheid . In: Sonne , 1908, pp. 10–12.
  • Fritz Hansen: On the 50th anniversary of Nicola Perscheid . In: The Photographer , 1929.
  • Arthur Ranft: Nicola Perscheid. For the fifty-year professional anniversary of the master . In: The Photographer , 1929.
  • Emil Waldmann: Nicola Perscheid's portrait photographs . In: Westermannsmonthshefte . November 1925.
  • Herbert Starke: Nicola Perscheid . In: The photographer's studio . Issue 6, 1930.
  • L. Fritz Gruber: About Nicola Perscheid . In: Photo magazine . 12, 1964.
  • Arthur Benda: Memories of Nicola Perscheid . In: Photo prism . February 1965.
  • Fritz Kempe (ed.): Documents of Photography 1. Perscheid, Benda, Madame d'Ora . Museum for Art and Crafts Hamburg, Hamburg 1980.
  • Berthold Roland (ed.): The Rhineland-Palatinate contribution to the history of photography: Nicola Perscheid, Theodor and Jacob Hilsdorf, August Sander . Landesmuseum Mainz, Mainz 1989.
  • Katja Schumann: Nicola Perscheid (1864–1930). The "pictorial portrait photography" of a professional photographer around 1900 . In: Photo-Antiquaria. Announcements from Club Daguerre . No. 76, pp. 26-33.
  • Sabine Schnakenberg:  Perscheid, Nicola. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 20, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-428-00201-6 , p. 197 f. ( Digitized version ).

Web links

Commons : Nicola Perscheid  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Fritz Kempe: Nicola Perscheid . In: ders .: Photography between daguerreotype and art photography . Kassel 1977, p. 134.
  2. See NDB, p. 197.
  3. Adam An-tAthair-Siorai: Nicola Perscheid on the side of De animorum immortalitate , bottoms Leipzig .
  4. See NDB, p. 198.
  5. ^ Fritz Kempe (ed.): Documents of Photography 1. Perscheid, Benda, Madame d'Ora . Museum of Arts and Crafts Hamburg, Hamburg 1980, p. 18.
  6. Commons : Postkartenvertrieb W. Sanke  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
  7. Wolfgang Baier: Source representations for the history of photography . 2nd edition, Schirmer / Mosel, Munich 1980, ISBN 3-921375-60-6 , p. 537 f.
  8. a b Fritz Kempe (Ed.): Documents of Photography 1. Perscheid, Benda, Madame d'Ora . Museum for Art and Commerce Hamburg, Hamburg 1980, p. 19.
  9. ^ Rudolf Kingslake: A History of the Photographic Lens . Academic Press Inc., 1989, p. 58 f., Available at googlebooks
  10. ^ Fritz Kempe (ed.): Documents of Photography 1. Perscheid, Benda, Madame d'Ora . Museum for Art and Commerce Hamburg, Hamburg 1980, p. 20.
  11. ^ Elisabeth von Igel: Nicola Perschein . In: sun . Berlin 1905. pp. 15-17.
  12. Wolfgang Baier: Source representations for the history of photography . 2nd edition, Schirmer / Mosel, Munich 1980, ISBN 3-921375-60-6 , p. 537f.
  13. Artur Ranft: death tablet (= obituary). In: The intelligence . July 1930.
  14. ^ L. Fritz Gruber: About Nicola Perscheid . In: Photo magazine . 12, 1964.