Kurt Kuhn & Photographia Zu Wetzlar (with an aside about Dr. Wolff)

Oct 29, 2018  By Ed Schwartzreich

 In Viewfinder Volume 44, Issue 2 (2011) I placed this query (right). Recently and fortuitously I was put in contact with Dr. Knut Kühn-Leitz, who it turns out has information about Photographia zu Wetzlar, since his father, Kurt Kühn, was one of its principals; the other founder and partner was Friedrich von Rosen, who had previously represented E. Leitz in Bulgaria. Photographia indeed had only a brief life as a flourishing commercial entity, 1945 until 1949. The following article is mostly about the life and career of Kurt Kühn, touching also on his company Photographia, as well as interactions with Ernst Leitz and Dr. Wolff.

Both Knut and his Wetzlar classmate Gerhard Neumann, former general manager of the Industrie und Handelskammer, Wetzlar, have contributed to this article, as has Thomas Sommer from Dr. Wolff ’s photo archive. With their information, I have learned more about Photographia and also the career of Kurt Kühn.

Kurt Kühn (born Kassel, 1904, died Bad Homburg, 1981) had earned a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Kiel, and married Elsie Leitz, both in 1935. After that and before the War he worked first for the Adler-Werke in Frankfurt and later with the Glanzstoff- Werke in Wuppertal. After the War, Kurt Kühn returned to Wetzlar. Like many in immediate post-war Germany, he had to improvise for income. The original idea behind Photographia had to do with the art seminars at the nearby University of Marburg and its large image archive of art and architecture photos, Bildarchiv Foto Marburg. Foto Marburg had been started in 1913 by Prof. Richard Hamann, and immediately post-War had 230,000 negatives. Thinking that these images might be of interest and saleable to the German public, Kühn approached Hamann to have titles originating in their artworks published by Photographia under some sort of a contractual arrangement. Knut writes that publishing “the wonderful pictures of art of the Acropolis or the Bordesholmer Altar [was] a result of a close cooperation with Foto Marburg which had in Marburg / Lahn a large amount of negatives protected against U.S. bombardments during World War II.” Some of the Foto Marburg images were from Leica negatives, and are so labeled in Photographia’s offerings. It seems reasonable to assume that Kurt Kühn had a large role in making the choices of which topics and which images to publish, and that both he and Prof. Hamann also saw that such a venture made economic sense.

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I have about 20 of the Wetzler photos on printed paper but has a different logo on the back. Mine read: PHOTO MARBURG Kunst der Welt Nr. 65860 Herausgeber und Alleinverkauf: PHOTOGRAPHIA, WETZLAR

I can be reached by email at: rich.miller66@yahoo.com

Yes, Photographia zu Wetzlar mostly used images form the massive Marburg photographic archive. That was Kurt Kühn’s innovative idea, along with Professor Hamann. The Dr. Paul Wolff and Tritschler images were a separate source, used for just a few collections, along with some individual prints.

These are all beautiful images, very well presented. I only have 4 or 5 sets.

Thanks for your comment.

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