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Albert Renger-Patzsch papers, 1890-1980 (bulk 1924-1966)

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Renger-Patzsch (Albert) papers

Biographical / Historial Note

The German photographer Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897 -1966) was born in Würzburg, Bavaria, and died in Wamel near Soest, Westphalia. Son of amateur photographer Robert Renger-Patzsch, he learned the techniques of photography early. Following primary education in Sondeshausen in Thuringia, Albert Renger-Patzsch attended the renowned Kreuzgymnasium in Dresden. After service in the German Army between 1916 and 1918, he studied chemistry at the Technische Hochschule in Dresden from 1919 to 1921.

His professional career as a photographer began in the early 1920s at the Folkwang Verlag in Essen, and at the Folkwang and Auriga Archiv in Hagen, where he was the head of photographic services. In 1923, he served as head of a photographic service agency in Berlin. In that same year, he married Agnes von Braunschweig and moved briefly to Kronstadt (Brasov) in Romania. His daughter Sabine was born in 1924, his son Ernst Normann in 1926. In 1924 Renger-Patzsch returned briefly to Darmstadt to work at the Auriga Verlag, the successor of the Folkwang Verlag. In 1925 he left the Auriga Verlag to become a freelance photographer, joined the Deutscher Werkbund, and moved with his family to Bad Harzburg, near Braunschweig. His first exhibition was mounted in his studio.

Between 1924 and 1937, Renger-Patzsch collaborated on several book projects, including the series Die Welt der Pflanze, conceived by Ernst Fuhrmann (volumes Crassula and Orchideen, both 1924). Other project partners included Rudolf Schwarz ( Wegweisung der Technik, 1928), Carl Georg Heise ( Lübeck, 1928), and the Auriga Verlag ( Das Chorgestühl von Kappenberg, 1925). His influential book Die Welt ist schön appeared in 1928, published by Kurt Wolff Verlag in Munich; the Einhorn Verlag edition followed in the same year. In 1927, Carl Georg Heise organized an exhibition of Renger-Patzsch's photographic work at the Behnhaus in Lübeck. In 1928, Renger-Patzsch participated in the exhibition Kunst und Technik at the Museum Folkwang in Essen; he also held two individual exhibitions, one at the Kunstgewerbemuseum in Zurich and another at the Grafisches Kabinett in Munich.

In 1929 Renger-Patzsch moved with his family to Essen, where he had a studio and office at the Museum Folkwang. During this time he worked intensively with the industrial architect Fritz Schupp, and made architectural photographs for the architect and director of the Kunstgewerbeschule Aachen, Rudolf Schwarz. The first retrospective exhibition of his work took place in 1931 at the Museum Folkwang in Essen. His industrial photographs, published in the book Eisen und Stahl (1931), won a silver medal at the Milan Triennale in 1933. During 1933, Renger-Patzsch lectured at the Folkwang School in Essen, and took over the chair of photography from Max Burchartz.

Between 1938 and 1940, Renger-Patzsch received his first commissions from the chemical concern C. H. Boehringer Sohn in Ingelheim: Hospitalbauten in Europa aus zehn Jahrhunderten (first issued in 1967), a book about hospital buildings in Europe with text by Dankwart Leistikow, and Historische Apotheken Deutschlands (year of issue unknown), a book about historical pharmacies. During the years 1941 to 1944, Renger-Patzsch worked on the book projects Paderborn (first issued in 1949) and Land am Oberrhein (appearing in 1944 in small edition). In 1943, he was commissioned by the Todt Organization to take pictures of the Western defences of the German forces in Normandy and Brittany. A large part of Renger-Patzsch's archive in the Museum Folkwang was destroyed during an air raid on Essen in 1944. Shortly afterwards Renger-Patzsch moved with his family to Wamel on the Möhnesee, near Soest, where he lived for the remainder of his life.

Beständinge Welt, a small volume with landscape photographs with text by Helene Henze, initiated his post-war work in 1947. The year 1949 marked the start of long-term commission work for the firm Schubert & Salzer, a spinning machine manufacturer in Ingolstadt, as well as the continuation of work begun in 1932 for the glass manufacturer Jenaer Glaswerk Schott & Gen., and the firm C. H. Boehringer Sohn in Ingelheim. He also undertook commissions for the architects Fritz Schupp in Essen and Hans Schwippert in Düsseldorf. The Siepman Werke in Belecke commissioned Renger-Patzsch to produce two publications: Bilder aus der Landschaft zwischen Ruhr und Möhne (1957) and Bauten zwischen Ruhr und Möhne (1959). During the 1950s and 1960s Renger-Patzsch collaborated with the publisher Mocker & Jahn in Soest on the book projects Schloss Cappenberg (1953) and Soest (1963); he received commissions from numerous industrial companies in Germany. He also traveled throughout Europe, with several trips to Italy for the book project Hohenstaufenburgen in Süditalien (1961). This book, with text by Hanno Hahn, was commissioned by the firm C. H. Boehringer Sohn, which also commissioned the books Bäume (1962) and Gestein (1966), both with text by Ernst Jünger. A professional relationship developed between Renger-Patzsch and the German dendrologist Wolfgang Haber, who accompanied Renger-Patzsch on his trips to Italy and wrote texts for Im Wald (1965) and Bäume.

During the postwar years Renger-Patsch lectured on photography throughout Germany. His photographic work was recognized and awarded. In 1957, the Gesellschaft Deutscher Lichtbildner honored Renger-Patzsch with the David Octavius Hill Medal. In 1960, he received the prestigious culture prize of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Photographie. In 1961, he received a gold medal from the Photographische Gesellschaft Wien for his life's work. In 1963, the television station Westdeutscher Rundfunk in Cologne broadcast the documentary Portrait of the Photographer Albert Renger-Patzsch. In 1965, the Minister of Culture awarded to Renger-Patzsch the North Rhine-Westphalia state prize for artistic achievement. Also in 1965, the German photographer Lotte Jacobi showed Renger-Patzsch's photographs in her gallery in Deering, New Hampshire, and the Art Institute of Chicago included his works in its annual photography exhibition.

Albert Renger-Patzsch died on September 27, 1966 in Wamel. In December of that year, a memorial exhibition was mounted in the Ruhrland- und Heimatmuseum in Essen. In 1970 and 1971, commemorative exhibitions were held in Bremen and Hamburg.

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