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Erfurth was the portrait photographer par excellence of the intellectual and artistic avant-garde of the Weimar Republic in the 1920s. Many artists, including Oskar Kokoschka, Otto Dix, and Paul Klee had their portraits taken in his atelier. He developed an elegiac style of portraiture. Erfurth’s work is characterized by a simple natural use of light, great psychological insight into the character of each of his subjects, and a masterful use of the technique of oil-pigment printing.
Erfurth studied art at the Academy of Arts in Dresden, Germany, from 1892 to 1896. Where he was trained in the aesthetics of Pictorialism and shaped by the compositional style of Art Nouveau. He worked as a portrait photographer in Dresden from 1896 until about 1925. From 1924 to 1948 he was chairman of the jury of the prestigious Gesellschaft Deutscher Lichtbildner (GDL). He worked in Cologne, Germany, from 1934 to 1943 and in Gaienhofen from 1943 until his death.
Bodo von Dewitz and Karin Schuller-Procopcvici, Hugo Erfurth 1874-1948: Photograph zwischen Tradition und Moderne, Köln 1992
Bodo von Dewitz, Hugo Erfurth: Menschenbild und Prominentenportrait, Druck-und Verlagshaus Wienand, Köln, 1989
Lohse, Bernd, Hugo Erfurth: Der Fotograf der Goldenen Zwanziger Jahre, Seebruck am Chiemsee: Heering, 1977
Steinert, Otto, Hugo Erfurth Bildnisse, Essen: Museum Folkwang, 1961
Portraits of an Age: Photography in Germany and Austria, 1900-1938, Neue Galerie New York, New York, 2005
Das Auge und der Apparat. Eine Geschichte der Fotografie aus den Sammlungen der Albertina, Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland 2004
Faces: Helmar Lerski, Hugo Erfurth, Ansel Adams, Galerie Kicken, Berlin 2002
[Courtesy of Muse XX, October 2007]