A VISUAL POEM, PARIS, 1952.
Bildhalle Amsterdam has the pleasure of presenting the first Dutch solo exhibition of René Groebli (*1927), one of Switzerland’s most important living photographers. The series The Eye of Love, resulting from Groebli’s honeymoon in Paris in 1952, is a visual love poem that launched the artist‘s international career and was far ahead of its time.
After their wedding in 1952, René Groebli and his wife Rita went on honeymoon to Paris for two weeks. During the visit Groebli shot some photographs which one year later he assembled as a visual essay and published this as an artist’s book entitled The Eye of Love.
The U.S. Camera Annual, the most influential American photographic yearbook of the time, wrote in 1955: “The Eye of Love is a tender photo essay on a photographer’s love for a woman.” It is no surprise that the series launched Groebli’s international career and that one of its photographs, the “Sitting Nude”, became part of the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Edward Steichen, founder of the photography department at MoMA New York, acquired the work for the museum’s collection and included it in his monumental exhibition The Family of Man (1955).
The stunning power of Groebli’s 1952 series still takes our breath away, the more so because we are fully aware that we are not looking at a model we suspect has an affair with the photographer, but rather at the unmarred bliss of a freshly married couple in a Paris hotel room. And we are also aware that the woman’s gleaming white dress, falling and gliding from her body into the rustling of blurred edges, betokens an encounter we know from our own lives. The pleasure divined between the pictures in this series is as scandalous as the love and familiarity between two human beings is enduring and touching.
Groebli did not want to document: he wanted to inspire associations. As a photographer he aims at making feelings visible, convey an atmosphere, capture a moment, and express happiness. On their honeymoon Groebli photographed more than the objectively visible. He photographed emotions, the ephemeral, intimacy, sensuousness… and his love for Rita. The Eye of Love is a work filled with intimacy and timeless poetry.
René Groebli was born on 9th October 1927 in Zurich.
In 1945 he visited the preparation class and from 1946 the photography class of Hans Finsler at the Art School in Zurich. Between 1946 and 1948 he completed his formation as a documentary cameraman at Central Film and Gloria Film in Zurich. As a photo reporter he carried out jobs for the magazine Die Woche, and later worked for the London-based agency Black Star in Africa and the Middle East.
His first two book publications were Magie der Schiene (Rail Magic, 1949), a poetic essay, and the image series Das Auge der Liebe (The Eye of Love, 1954, new edition 2014). In The Family of Man, an exhibition curated by Edward Steichen for the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Groebli was represented alongside the Swiss photographers Werner Bischof, Robert Frank, and Gotthard Schuh. In 1954 the Council of Swiss Photographers accepted him and Robert Frank as members.
Groebli quit photo journalism quickly and in the mid-1950s he founded his own studio for advertising and industrial photography. Groebli specialised in color photography and experimented with the dye-transfer process. In 1957 the American magazine Color Annual honoured him as a Master of Color.
After the early 1980s he returned to his artistic essays in black and white. Towards the end of the twentieth and during the first decade of the twenty-first century he reprocessed his image archive and digitalised the most important photographs of his oeuvre spanning over six decades. Groebli, who is 93 years old today, lives and works in Zurich. After a career of 73 years in the world of photography he is still printing photographs in his studio.
Show runs 11th – 13th February.