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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Hugo Erfurth

Dates:  1874, 14 October - 1948, 14 February
Born:  Germany, Halle
Died:  Germany, Gaienhofen am Bodensee
Active:  Germany
German portrait photographer.

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Further research

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Unidentified photographer
Hugo Erfurth 
1926 (ca)
Family history 
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Supplemental information

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
Recent Exhibitions:
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] 

Internet biographies

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Getty Research, Los Angeles, USA has an ULAN (Union List of Artists Names Online) entry for this photographer. This is useful for checking names and they frequently provide a brief biography. Go to website
Grove Art Online ( has a biography of this artist. 
[NOTE: This is a subscription service and you will need to pay an annual fee to access the content.]
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Printed biographies

The following books are useful starting points to obtain brief biographies but they are not substitutes for the monographs on individual photographers.

• Auer, Michele & Michel 1985 Encyclopedie Internationale Des Photographes de 1839 a Nos Jours / Photographers Encylopaedia International 1839 to the present (Hermance, Editions Camera Obscura) 2 volumes [A classic reference work for biographical information on photographers.] 
• Beaton, Cecil & Buckland, Gail 1975 The Magic Eye: The Genius of Photography from 1839 to the Present Day (Boston and Toronto: Little, Brown & Company) p.152 [Useful short biographies with personal asides and one or more example images.] 
• Capa, Cornell (ed.) 1984 The International Center of Photography: Encyclopedia of Photography (New York, Crown Publishers, Inc. - A Pound Press Book) p.172-174 
• Lenman, Robin (ed.) 2005 The Oxford Companion to the Photograph (Oxford: Oxford University Press)  [Includes a short biography on Hugo Erfurth.] 

Useful printed stuff

If there is an analysis of a single photograph or a useful self portrait I will highlight it here.

• Gruber, Renate and L. Fritz Gruber 1982 The Imaginary Photo Museum (New York: Harmony Books) p.246 
• Naef, Weston 1995 The J. Paul Getty Museum - Handbook of the Photographic Collection (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum) p.186 
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