In the spring of 2012, the Münchner Stadtmuseum
s Photography Collection received a sensational addition to its archives. The complete artistic estate of German-American photographer Hermann Landshoff (1905-1986), featuring 3,600 original prints from between 1927 to 1970, were generously donated to the museum on behalf of the family by Andreas Landshoff.
Landshoff grew up in Munich-Solln as the son of a well-to-do Jewish family that was very much involved in the citys art, literature and music scenes. His father, Ludwig Landshoff, was an internationally acclaimed musicologist and composer who was director and head of Munichs Bach Society from 1917 to 1928. His mother, Philippine Wiesengrund, was a singer with the Royal Court Opera, while his sister Ruth Landshoff, better known by her married name of Vollmer, would become one of the founders of the conceptual art movement in the United States. In addition, writers such as Thomas Mann, Christian Morgenstern, Joachim Ringelnatz, Rainer Maria Rilke, Karl Wolfskehl and Franziska zu Reventlow were frequent visitors to his parents home. Another family member, the author Ruth Landshoff-Yorck, was the muse of Otto Umbehr and Paul Citroen and ran an art salon in Berlin that had a reputation as one of the most exciting meeting places for avant-garde artists in the whole of the Weimar Republic.
Other more distant relations of the family included important figures from the world of publishing such as Samuel Fischer, the founder of the S. Fischer Verlag publishing house, and Fritz H. Lands-hoff, who, from 1933, ran the Querido publishing house in Amsterdam which would become the most important forum for German exile literature, publishing novels by authors including Heinrich Mann, Klaus Mann, Hermann Kesten, Joseph Roth, Alfred Döblin, Lion Feuchtwanger, Anna Seghers, Ernst Toller and Arnold Zweig.
Even in his early years, Hermann Landshoff attracted attention with his cartoons and a photo reportage on Albert Einstein that was published in the Münchner Illustrierte Zeitung magazine. After training at Munichs Kunstgewerbeschule (School of Arts and Crafts), he became a member of the circle of well-known typographer and book illustrator Fritz Helmuth Ehmcke. It was here that Landshoff met the Nuremberg illustrator Richard Lindner alongside whom he would subsequently work as part of the creative team at the Knorr & Hirth publishing house. When the Nazis seized power in 1933, Landshoff was forced to emigrate, initially settling in Paris where he worked as a fashion photographer. Between 1936 and 1939, his images were published in the popular Femina magazine and in the French edition of Vogue. He was then forced to flee France and, after an eventful journey spanning 1940 and 1941, he eventually pitched up in New York. Landshoff soon became one of the most fascinating fashion photographers to collaborate with legendary art director Alexey Brodovitch for fashion magazines such as Harper's Bazaar, Junior Bazaar and latterly also Mademoiselle. He developed his own style as a fashion photographer, portraying the models in life-like everyday situations. American fashion photographer Richard Avedon considered himself to have been profoundly inspired by Landshoff, even being moved to claim that I owe everything to Landshoff.
There is little doubt that Hermann Landshoff is one of the last great unsung heroes in (the history of) 20th century photography. Having been quite wrongly consigned to oblivion for all these years, the time has now come for him to be rediscovered. His multi-layered works show us various sides to the age in which he lived and the lives of artists who had settled in the United States having been exiled from Europe. The exhibition offers the first chance to see Landshoffs portraits of European artists such as Max Ernst, Richard Lindner, Leonora Carrington or Frederick Kiessler who found a new artistic home in New York under the auspices of art collector Peggy Guggenheim. It also features a number of stunning group and individual portraits of members of the New York surrealist community centered around André Breton and Marcel Duchamp.
Finally, we also have Hermann Landshoff to thank for a unique cycle of around 70 portraits of different photographers that he created between 1942 and 1960. These striking images feature old masters like Walker Evans, Paul Strand, Alfred Stieglitz, Ansel Adams, Berenice Abbott, Margaret Bourke-White, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Andreas Feininger or WeeGee alongside young, up-and-coming photographers still at the start of their careers, such as Robert Frank, Irving Penn and Richard Avedon. This pantheon of eminent photographers occupies a unique place in the history of the medium.
Other collections of images tackle the urban architecture and people of New York, focusing particularly on those on the fringes of society. The exhibition also includes several portraits of prominent physicists such as Albert Einstein as well as some of the Los Alamos scientists such as Robert Oppenheimer and his cousin Rolf Landshoff involved in building the worlds first nuclear bomb.
The exhibition shows a selection of more than 250 of Landshoffs fascinating photographs for the first time, with subjects drawn from across the entire spectrum of his work, from fashion to portraits and architecture.