Paul Dobe, Sequoia, 15 August 1916
“It is useful to know something about the current natural system of plants. About the history of their origin, of their relationships. You can then compare a number of related forms and in your mind trace them back to their common ancestors.” With these words the painter and plant illustrator Paul Dobe described an important aspect of his working method in 1929. In Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur research is being carried out on a large collection of his works which focus on plants and are on permanent loan from Rainer and Sonja Stamm. Among them are precise close-ups of flowers and plants, carefully mounted on card and labelled, as well as photographic reproductions of plant drawings, carried out in Indian ink or watercolour. Pine cones, liverwort, spiral studies, trees and clouds comprise the motifs of the over 500 pictures, which are completed by portfolios such as “Das Blumenornament" (The Flower Ornament), letters, filing cards and over 1,000 negatives and slides in the original boxes.
In his studies of native plants it was more important for Dobe to deduce types and principles of construction from the specific material and transform them into works of art, as can be seen in the picture of the sequoia, than to make a portrait of a specific object. The illustration shows the fine lines of the pine needles as well as the individual elements which make up the pine cone. The twig is graphically isolated on a monochromatic background, which additionally highlights the individual elements. On the lower right-hand side the artist has placed his initials as a signet. As with many of Dobe’s works it is in the second, rather than in the first place a photographic object: Dobe used photography as an independent artistic medium as well as to document his drawings and prints. He used the technique of photography very carefully. On the reverse of the works he has noted down the time the photograph was taken, along with information on paper and toner: The sequoia was taken on 15th August 1916, and was printed on “matt albumin paper” and was “toned with platinum”.
Dobe’s precise view of the original material and serial comparison of “related forms” establishes an important common feature with the conceptual approaches of the great masters of photography such as Karl Blossfeldt, August Sander and Bernd and Hilla Becher. Paul Dobe’s works thus comprise an essential element of photographic history in the context of Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, which reflect methodologically pioneering moments of the modern era.
Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Sitftung Kultur