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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Lotte Jacobi - Klaus and Erika Mann

Lotte Jacobi - Klaus and Erika Mann, c. 1928
Lotte Jacobi - Klaus and Erika Mann, c. 1928

(Modernism in Central Europe - Exhibition at the Washington National Gallery)

The avant-garde of the 20's had the curiosity and the courage to go beyond the conventional approaches in showing men and women and started to explore in depth what was obscure, ambiguous. The character in the left, with effeminate traits, with languorous eyes, is a male, Klaus Mann, while the other character, dressed like a man, with active regards, is a female, Erika Mann. Here the roles are reversed: the male looks like a female, the female looks like a male.

Actually Klaus was a gay, while Erika was a lesbian. The photographer, Lotte Jacobi, told in the image a very convoluted story. More than that, the shift of sexual traits in the photo suggests somehow a quest for androgyny unit.

Lotte Jacobi lived a very long life. She was in her nineties when she passed away, after a prolific photographic activity. While in her fifties Lotte Jacobi pioneered an abstract photo form called photogenics, somehow related to the rayograms of Man Ray.

Lotte Jacobi - Photogenic, c 1940
Lotte Jacobi is also known for her photoportraits of famous people, shown in a casual, intimate way. She captured in black and white images of Albert Einstein, Thomas Mann, Marc Chagall, Pablo Casals, Kurt Weill, Peter Lorre, Robert Frost, Eleanor Roosevelt, among others.

Lotte Jacobi - Einstein, 1938The following photo reminds me by contrast another janitor, the one painted by Pirosmani. That one was a brute, this one has an ambiguous look: is it something frightening that is hidden beyond apparency?

Lotte Jacobi - The Janitor
And here is Lotte Jacobi, herself. Beauty is ageless.

Lotte Jacobi - Selfportrait

(Modernism in Central Europe)


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