Skip to main content

Joy Before the Object: The Photographs of Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)

July 24–September 26, 1993

The Philadelphia Museum of Art presents for the first time in North America a retrospective of the work of Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966), one of Germany's most influential photographers. The exhibition is comprised of approximately 120 photographs from important museum and private collections in Europe and the United States. In the years between the world wars, the Weimar Republic produced great innovation and accomplishment in all the arts: in the workshops of the Bauhaus, in the movie studios and photography darkrooms, in the theater, on artists' easels, and in the towering new urban buildings which rose to form what would be called "skyline." Among those who emerged to use new technology for a new aesthetic was Albert Renger-Patzsch, often called the father of modern European photography. Renger-Patzsch benefited both from new advances in equipment and from radical technical departures such as stop-action photography, tilting the plane of the camera to create diagonal forms, and the use of hyper-sharp detail. Along with his "objectivist" colleagues Moholy-Nagy, August Sander, Karl Blossfeldt, and Helmar Lerski, he was reacting against the sentimentality of traditional photographic pictorialism. Unlike the other "new photographers," however, he emphatically rejected the influence of Impressionism. To Renger-Patzsch, the photographer's function was a straightforward approach that would free the subject to speak for itself. The objects that he chose to photograph--trees, plant forms, landscapes, industrial structures, and occasionally, portraits and commercial assignments--all bear his unmistakable stamp of elegant formal simplicity. Although based on principles of scientific detachment, his images convey the immediacy and classical grace of an object snatched from time. Joy Before the Object: The Photographs of Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) is accompanied by a catalogue published by the Aperture Foundation in association with the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The book is the first English-language critical monograph on the artist's work, and contains over 60 duotone reproductions, an essay by art critic and historian Donald Kuspit, and a bibliography and chronology produced under the direction of The J. Paul Getty Museum, a major lender to the exhibition. A hardcover edition will be distributed by The J. Paul Getty Museum in association with Aperture Foundation.

Main Building


The Pew Charitable Trusts
National Endowment for the Arts


Michael E. Hoffman

Check out other exhibitions

View full calendar