Alemania: Museum Ludwig. Master of Beauty. karl Schenker’s Glamorous Images

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Portrait of a Lady, around 1920, Museum Ludwig. Photo: Rheinisches Bildarchiv

Master of Beauty: Karl Schenker’s glamorous images on view at Museum Ludwig

Septem­ber 10, 2016–Jan­uary 8, 2017

Karl Schenk­er (1886–1954): the “born por­trai­tist of el­e­gant peo­ple,” “a mas­ter of sev­er­al medi­ums,” “s­tage di­rec­tor of wo­m­en’s heads”—the press was en­thu­si­as­tic about the pho­to­graphs that made Karl Schenk­er one of the best-known so­ci­e­ty pho­to­g­ra­phers in the 1910s and ’20s. Ev­ery­body who was any­body had their por­trait tak­en in his Ber­lin stu­dio on the fa­mous Kur­fürs­ten­damm.

Af­ter all, no one made their sub­jects look bet­ter, and there was no greater mas­ter of re­touch­ing. He wrapped ac­tress­es, dancers, and so­ci­e­ty ladies in tulle and furs be­fore tak­ing their pic­ture—or he paint­ed the fur in­to the pic­ture af­ter­wards. As a pho­to­g­ra­pher, il­lus­tra­tor, pain­ter, and for a time even a sculp­tor, Schenk­er ded­i­cat­ed him­self to cre­at­ing beau­ti­ful por­traits of wo­m­en. He made use of ev­ery means of re­touch­ing, but sure­ly al­so the ris­ing cos­met­ic in­dus­try and in some cas­es pre­sum­ab­ly the equal­ly young cos­met­ic surgery. Es­pe­cial­ly wo­m­en be­came formable ma­te­rial, and Schenk­er had one goal above all: beau­ty.

Lit­tle is known about Schenk­er’s life and work. Born in 1886 in Bukov­i­na (Ro­ma­nia), he came to Ber­lin via Lviv and Mu­nich around 1912, where he estab­lished a flour­ish­ing stu­dio. In 1925 he moved to New York for five years, where he main­ly il­lus­trat­ed and paint­ed por­traits un­der the name Karol Schenk­er. Af­ter 1930, back in Ber­lin, his name ap­pears as an ad­ver­tis­ing pho­to­g­ra­pher in mag­azines. But af­ter 1934 the trail goes cold. Fac­ing per­se­cu­tion as a Jew, in 1938 he emi­grat­ed to Lon­don, where he opened a stu­dio on Re­gent Street. He died in Lon­don in 1954.

The Mu­se­um Lud­wig re­cent­ly ac­quired around 100 por­traits and is tak­ing this as an oc­ca­sion to trace Schenk­er’s life and work for the first time and to re­dis­cov­er an un­just­ly for­got­ten artist. Around 250 works will be pre­sent­ed, in­clud­ing in­ter­na­tio­n­al loans: pho­to­graph­ic por­traits of once-fa­mous wo­m­en and men, fashion and wax fig­ure pho­to­graphs, mag­azine cov­ers de­signed by Schenk­er, an orig­i­nal draw­ing, a paint­ing, movie star post­card­s—even col­lecti­ble im­ages from ci­garette pack­ages. To re­dis­cov­er Karl Schenk­er is to re­dis­cov­er a pho­to­g­ra­pher who trans­formed his mod­els in his works in­to the gla­m­orous crea­tures they want­ed to be seen as.

Cu­ra­tor: Miri­am Hal­wani

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Portrait of a Lady, around 1920, Museum Ludwig. Photo: Rheinisches Bildarchiv

INFO: http://www.museum-ludwig.de/en.html

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