Biography | Bibliography
Kuhn made his first photographs in 1879, but he did not devote himself solely to photography until 1888. He studied botany and medicine, but he never practiced his vocation. Instead he went to Vienna and took portraits and joined the Vienna Camera Club. Here he met Professor Hans Watzek and Hugo Henneberg. The three men experimented with a multiple gum-bichromate process for color prints and together were known as the “Trifolium”.
The three founded the German-Austrian school of photography in 1912 and championed pictorialism. Kuhn liked the idea of being able to manipulate the photograph and because his gum bichromate technique was so advanced, he was later able to produce his images of landscapes, portraits and genre scenes as platinum and oil-transfer prints. In 1895 he became a member of The Linked Ring and throughout the years his work was reproduced in many publications including Camera Work. Kuhn’s compositions were revolutionary at the time for emphasizing forms instead of details.
In the 1920s, Kuhn moved away from the idea of manipulating the print and instead believed it better to use a more straightforward approach to photography. He worked on various commercial assignments for magazines and later in 1927 he worked in the editorial section of Photographische Rundschau und Mitteilungen. In 1937, he received an Honorary Doctorate of Philosophy from the University of Innsbruck for his contribution to the scientific and artistic aspects of photography.
He is regarded one of the forefathers of fine art photography, the movement that helped photography to establish itself as an art on its own. His photographs closely resemble impressionist paintings, with their frequent use of soft lighting and focus. Kühn was part of the pictorialist photographic movement.
He mainly used the gum bichromate technique, applied in several layers, and thus allowing for previously unseen color tonalities.
His work can be found in such collections as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C, and the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1988 Residenz Verlag published a book on Kuhn entitled, Heinrich Kuhn Photographien.
Enno Kaufhold, Heinrich Kuhn und die Kunstfotografie um 1900, Berlin: Verlag Dirk Nishen, 1988.
Rudolf Kicken, An Exhibition of One Hundred Photographs by Heinrich Kuhn, Berlin: Rudolf Kicken, 1981.
Ulrich Knapp, Heinrich Kuhn: Photographien, Salzburg: Residenz Verlag, 1988.
Weston J. Naef, The Art of Seeing: Photographs from the Alfred Stieglitz Collection, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1978.
Alfred Stieglitz, Alfred Stieglitz: Camera Work: The Complete Illustrations 1903-1917, Koln, Germany: Taschen Books, 1997.
Paul Vogt, Odette M. Appel, Ute Eskildsen, Sally Stein, Heinrich Kuhn 1866-1944, 110 Bilder aus der Fotographischen Sammlung Museum Folkwang Essen 1/12/1978-14/1/1979, Essen, Germany: Museum Folkwang Essen, 1978.
Peter Weiermair, Heinrich Kuhn: 1866-1944: Photographer, Innsbruck, Austria: Allerheiligenpresse, 1978.