Monday, September 25, 2006
Johann Dieter Wassmann was a frequent visitor to Naumburg, all the more so after he took to photography in the early 1890s. His fascination with the bold, simple forms of the city’s medieval cathedral are reflected in the large number of images he recorded here over several years. Curiously, the austere geometry of this 13th century Romanesque structure suited his early modernist preoccupation with the reduction of image to line, depth and volumetric form. In the photograph above (WF1070024, albumen silver print, 18 x 23 cm), the focus is solely on form, with ornamentation, such as the upper row of stone sculptures, merely incidental.
This ensemble of sculptures just happens to include top-centre-left Count Eckhart and a serene Uta, circa 1245. 40 years after Johann captured this image, Uta would attain far greater attention when Walt Disney combined her carved body with the face of Joan Crawford to create the evil queen in his 1937 adaptation of the Brothers Grimm’s “Snow White”.
Disney’s unbridled confidence in mixing disparate cultural references is now the subject of a major exhibition curated by Bruno Girveau at Le Grand Palais. “Once upon a time, Walt Disney,” which opened last weekend in Paris, honours a man Girveau describes as “one of the great geniuses of the 20th century and the greatest storyteller of the 20th century,” although in a back-handed compliment he goes on to say Disney’s juxtapositions “are completely unscrupulous, something only an American could do, back then and still today.”
For more on the exhibition, and France’s effort to make cultural amends with the U.S., here’s a link to Angela Doland’s overview in The Los Angeles Times.