In its first show of 2009, Kicken Berlin presented an overview of art photography from 1896 to 1916. The exhibition embraced over forty masterpieces of Pictorialism by JAMES CRAIG ANNAN, ROBERT DEMACHY, FRANK EUGENE, HUGO HENNEBERG, GERTRUDE KÄSEBIER, RUDOLF KOPPITZ, HEINRICH KÜHN, ALFRED STIEGLITZ, HANS WATZEK and CLARENCE H. WHITE, among others, in addition to prints by largely unknown artists such as ERWIN RAUPP and ELISE MAHLER.
This limited-edition catalogue accompanied the exhibition. Lavishly designed and produced, in cooperation with Georg Kargl Fine Arts, Vienna, it contains contributions by Monika Faber and Wilfried Wiegand plus more than forty images in four-color printing.
The turn of the century saw the establishment of an "international style" in photography, laying claim to the medium's recognition as a fine art. An additional goal of the Pictorialist movement was modernity; in contrast to the medium's commercial and private uses, art photographers aspired to transform reality. By adapting the subjects of Symbolism, art nouveau's awareness of form, and the craftsmanship of the Arts and Crafts Movement, they participated in the artistic avant-garde of fin de siècle Modernism and conveyed a very clear message: Photography is art.
Rather than being obvious or shocking, this modernity was hidden within individual aesthetic expression and in the art object's sumptuous materiality. Numerous photography clubs, magazines, and museum exhibitions provided art photographers with a forum for critical recognition. The movement's important centers included Vienna, Hamburg, and London, and it found its most important champion in the American Alfred Stieglitz, who published the magazine Camera Work. His masterpiece The Steerage (1907), a work he himself called one of his most important, was on view.
Exotic techniques such as gum bichromate printing, pigment printing, and platinum printing made possible the felicitous translation of painterly and graphic impressions into Pictorialist photography. The eye and hand of the artists were evident throughout, in the prints' refined compositions as well as their elaborate printing methods. Thus did the camera's mechanical coldness seem to be surmounted. Like Impressionism, Pictorialism was an art of atmosphere, one that privileged the "subjective eye" (Augeneindruck – Hans Watzek).