Erich Retzlaff

Retzlaff in the exhibition Exploring the School of Art collections - October 2012
Retzlaff in the exhibition Exploring the School of Art collections – October 2012

Erich Retzlaff (1899-1993) is a name almost forgotten in the ever-swelling annals of the various histories of photography. Yet, in the early twentieth century Retzlaff was a prolific and celebrated photographer with a publication list of over seven major volumes solely between the two world wars.

Indeed, his work was well known outside of his native Germany. At best, Retzlaff has now become a footnote in all the varied histories of photography (due in large part to the approbation he received from Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist government). When viewing the quality and breadth of his photography, this neglect is unfortunate. Retzlaff’s work is highly significant in relation to his experiments with the innovative Agfa colour films of the 1930s, his forceful studio portraits and his hugely ambitious catalogue of the German working classes (and agricultural workers in particular) that he made between the two world wars.

The intention of my research, is to begin to address this neglect and to highlight the work of a highly skilled and aesthetically gifted photographer who made beautifully crafted, visually engaging, but most of all, historically significant, ideological photographic documents. These iconic photographs stand as fragments from a pivotal period of social, ideological, and economic change in Germany and indeed the world.

Christopher Webster Van Tonder, Lecturer in Fine Art

The School of Art acquired a large body of Retzlaff’s work in July 2012 which will be shown in a major Retzlaff exhibition in October 2013. Chris is currently working on a catalogue to accompany the exhibition.

Erich Retlaff was first exhibitied at the School of Art as part of the ‘Exploring The School of Art Collections’  exhibition in October 2012.

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