Signed in ink on mount below image, lower right corner: otto steinert, 1955
Inscribed in ink, verso center: FOTO UND COPYRIGHT / PROF. DR. OTTO STEINERT / ESSEN-FOLKWANGSCHULE / ,,GRAND PALAIS I” (1955)
Inscribed in graphite, verso lower center and right: 10 [encircled] / 80//05 002 / (KE761) / 26 [encircled]
Postwar German artists faced a challenge: as a functioning society rose from the ruins of the Third Reich, where was the soil in which progressive culture could take root? Photographers, in a movement led by educator Otto Steinert, found a hopeful precedent by looking back to the Weimar era, when the technical innovations of the "New Vision" had defined an avant-garde agenda uniting many media and nations. Steinert named his new movement Subjective Photography, thus stressing that the medium was not beholden to its "objective" capacities. When tested, it could express even the most elaborate and abstract formal conceits — the more minutely, as equipment and materials grew in sophistication. Steinert created this montage in the darkroom by combining negative and positive views of the staircase and dome of the ironwork Grand Palais, built for the 1900 Universal Exposition in Paris, a fitting emblem for his vision of a (re)constructive new era.
As the leader of postwar Germany’s Subjective Photography movement, educator Otto Steinert sought to resurrect the hopeful, machine-age artistic spirit of the Weimar era (1919–33), preceding the rise of Adolf Hitler. Like such earlier innovators as Herbert Bayer and László Moholy-Nagy, Steinert used emerging technology to heighten photography’s unique formal capabilities. This high-contrast negative montage combines views of the staircase and dome in the Grand Palais, built for the 1900 Universal Exposition in Paris—a fitting emblem for Steinert’s vision of a (re)constructive new era in culture.
Princeton University Art Museum: Handbook of the Collections, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Art Museum, 2013).