Whether it offers an image of a sun-drenched beach or a pristine ski slope, the picture-postcard has become a photographic genre unto itself, synonymous with escapist fantasy. With their “Wish you were here!” slogans and generic views, however, most of today’s mass-manufactured vacation spot postcards seem cheesy and disposable.
In Germany in the early 1900s, before the popularization of color film, colored photochrom postcards were coveted novelties, all the rage in a burgeoning tourist industry. And more than a century later, these images remain as mesmerizing as they were when first printed. A book from Taschen, Germany Around 1900: A Portrait in Colour, compiles 800 colored images of Germany’s Belle Époque, picturing sites from Ludwig II’s castles in the Bavarian Alps to fancy Baltic bathing resorts. They’re rare examples of the painstaking photochrom process, a printing technique originally developed by lithographer Hans Jakob Schmid, the chief engineer at Zurich printing firm Orell Füssli & Co., that allowed black-and-white photographs to be reproduced in color.
These postcards, which were manufactured as souvenirs for tourists, drench Germany with a kind of enchanted romanticism. The country was, at the time, experiencing an unusually long period of peace and economic prosperity after a turbulent 19th century, and these photochroms reflect widespread optimism and patriotism. They look hyperreal, almost too richly colored to be true, much like today’s postcard-gracing utopian shots of beaches and other vacation getaways. Viewed in retrospect, the optimism about Germany’s future also takes on a dark irony.
“They bring back to life places that have since suffered the ravages of time and the devastation of the wars of the 20th century,” collector Marc Walter writes in the book.
Above and beyond the commercial aspect that was a driving force behind their invention, the fact remains that these photochroms possess a powerful poetry that makes them eloquent witnesses of their epoch. . . . They attract, seduce, surprise and move us. The past comes back to life before our eyes, strangely present. What emerges is the souvenir of a country, a memoir in color. We have souvenir photography to thank for the fact that the ‘old days’ arise again in their former, unscathed glory, and the virtuoso photochromists for the fact that they do so in color.
Germany Around 1900: A Portrait in Colour is published by Taschen and available from Amazon and other online booksellers.
MTV’s The Exhibit Is Back With an Inflatable Dolphin
Episode four, in which artists tackled themes of justice and injustice, was the most lifeless of the reality TV show so far.
Florida Principal Ousted Over “Pornographic” Michelangelo Sculpture
Parents complained that the famous sculpture was shown to their sixth graders.
The Milton Resnick and Pat Passlof Foundation Presents The Feminine in Abstract Painting
Curated by Jennifer Samet and Andrea Belag, this group exhibition in NYC explores the feminine through aesthetics, as opposed to identity or gender.
Tickets to Sold-Out Vermeer Show Are Going for Hundreds
The online resale market for the Rijksmuseum’s smash exhibition is booming, with tickets selling on eBay for over $2K.
NYU Steinhardt Opens 2023 MFA Thesis Exhibitions
Taking place at 80WSE Gallery in New York’s Greenwich Village, Part I is on view from late March through April while Part II opens in May.
Miniature Worlds: Joseph Cornell, Ray Johnson, Yayoi Kusama
Through small-scale works, this exhibition at the Katonah Museum of Art in New York examines Cornell’s prominent role in the lives and careers of Johnson and Kusama.
Three Looted Antiquities at the Met Repatriated to Turkey
Nine other repatriated works were seized from Met Trustee Shelby White, whose collection was subject to a criminal investigation.
This week, the world’s lightest paint, Pakistan’s feminist movement, World Puppy Day, and were some of Vermeer’s paintings created by his daughter?
The Wider World and Scrimshaw
On March 28, join the New Bedford Whaling Museum online and in-person for a symposium on global carving traditions from across the Pacific Rim.
Who Will Decide on the Future of a Miami Native Burial Ground?
Native activists say sacred remains and objects dug up from a Brickell construction site should remain there, but mega-developer Jorge Pérez is pushing back.
How Can a Curator Approach South Asian Futurisms?
How do I acknowledge my shortcomings while reckoning with obscured histories and the exclusion of subaltern narratives in the fine art landscape? A working checklist for curators.
MCA Chicago Presents On Stage: Frictions
Will Rawls, Shamel Pitts | TRIBE, and Barak adé Soleil explore Blackness, queerness, movement, and dance in performances at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.
The Complicated Legacy of Camilo Egas
The Ecuadorian painter, a leading figure of Latin America’s Indigenismo art movement, has been both praised and scorned for his representation of Indigenous peoples.
Tom Jones Zeroes in on Ho-Chunk Visibility
“I think about the young kids, the teenagers, and I think being able to see yourself represented in art is so powerful,” says the artist.
Actual gasping going on here. Such exquisite architectural achievement. Wow.
Comments are closed.