Galerie Edwynn Houk is pleased to present in Zürich our first exhibition of works by the renowned fashion
photographer, Erwin Blumenfeld (1897-1969), from 6 February through 15 March 2014. This exhibition will
feature 10 prints from two color portfolios, Vive L’Amerique! and Vive L’Amerique !!, published by the
photographer’s estate, providing an opportunity to view the groundbreaking works by Blumenfeld that have proven
to influence the course of fashion photography.
Erwin Blumenfeld is considered to be one of the early pioneers of fashion photography alongside George Hoyningen-
Heune, Cecil Beaton, and Horst P. Horst. It was not only his employment of experimental techniques in the
darkroom, Dada and Surrealist influences, and novel street work, but Blumenfeld’s unique and masterly
combination of elegance and eroticism that transformed fashion into high art and paved the way for Richard
Avedon, Irving Penn, Herb Ritts, and other photographers who enjoyed such prominence and recognition in the
history of art.
In addition to holding the record for the most covers of Vogue, Blumenfeld’s works were abundantly reproduced
within the pages of Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, Life and Vogue during the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s. Some of the
images from these shoots will be featured in this exhibition and have since become icons of the history of fashion
photography. In his retrospective examination of Blumenfeld’s work, William Ewing writes, “His highly original and
visionary work was a seamless blend of the negative and positive: taking the picture in the studio and making it in
the darkroom.” The images from the two portfolios on view showcase this level of innovation perfectly. These prints
illustrate Blumenfeld’s early and seemingly effortless shift to color photography upon his arrival in United States
where he found this technology to be already more advanced and accessible. It gave him the opportunity to
experiment on the forefront of color photography, often applying inventive tools and techniques he had developed
earlier when still working in black and white, producing color images of a sustained contemporary aesthetic and
iconic status. Not surprisingly, it is this post-war body of work that is most prominently featured in the concurrent
retrospective of Blumenfeld’s artistic career at the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume in Paris.
Erwin Blumenfeld was born in Berlin in 1897, and as a young man he moved to Amsterdam. It was there, while
keeping a leather goods shop, that he began to experiment with photography and became involved with the Dada
movement. He would use the shop’s storeroom as his darkroom, and would display his photographs in the windows.
Success in the leather business eluded him, but his confidence with photography grew, and when he relocated to
Paris in 1936, he set out on the career that was to make him famous. While initially the fashion magazines were
reluctant to employ him, the more avant-garde publications like Photographie regularly featured his work. Finally,
with the crucial support of the British photographer Cecil Beaton, who was closely affiliated with Condé Nast,
Blumenfeld was awarded a contract with Vogue in 1938. In the summer of 1941, just after his release from an
internment camp during the German occupation of France, Blumenfeld and his family emigrated via North Africa to
New York. By the 1950’s he was the most accomplished and highest paid fashion photographer in the world.