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Lou Landauer

By 6th April 2021September 6th, 2021No Comments

Lou Landauer at the Leo Baeck Institute, New York; Courtesy of Leo Baeck Institute, New York

ARTISAN’S BIG SHOW AT BEZALEL MUSEUM: EXHIBITION OF APPLIED ARTSPrize Winners
[…] ‘A Second Wizo Prize went to Lou Landauer for exquisite wrapping papers in photogramme. Her book-jackets in photomontage are equally attractive and are among the few new and surprising things in this show.’  The Palestine Post, 19th April 1946 [4]

While producing these ‘book-jackets’, many of which were designed for crime novels, Lou experimented with double exposure techniques and layered symbolism. The resulting still-life images are imbued with an idiosyncratic aesthetic which evokes the unsettling intrigue of the novels they embellish.

Lou also worked as a documentary filmmaker during this time, collaborating with directors Eva Stern and Marta Goldberg on Aufbruch der Jugend  (Departure of the Youth, 1934) – a short film documenting the departure of young Jewish people from Germany as the racist policies of the Nazis gained momentum. The film premiered at the Berlin Logenhaus on 25th May 1936 to critical acclaim. Fulfilling the role of cameraperson, Lou was praised for the empathic quality of her footage; the Russian architect and art historian Rachel Bernstein Wischnitzer particularly applauded the ‘achievement and sensitivity’ of Lou’s camera work. [5] The film depicts a Youth Aliyah group from Germany settling in the Ein Harod Youth Village, learning Hebrew and agricultural skills to support their transition from a typically urban upbringing to a more rural way of life. Although many of these young people were never reunited with their families, the child and youth aliyah saved an estimated 22,000 Jewish youths from the Nazis. [6] Now in the care of The Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the World Zionist Organization, Aufbruch der Jugend can be viewed in full online.

Lou Lander Cat. 100

Lou Landauer, Photogram, Sweet Peas, 1936, Matt finish Gelatin silver print, 160 x 120 mm. Private Collection. Courtesy of the Dulwich Picture Gallery

Lou Lander Cat. 99

Lou Landauer, Photogram, Two Sprigs, 1936, Matt finish Gelatin silver print, 180 x 130 mm. Private Collection. Courtesy of the Dulwich Picture Gallery

Lou Lander Cat. 97

Lou Landauer, Photogram, Violets & Pansies No. 2, 1936, Matt finish Gelatin silver print, 180 x 130 mm. Private Collection. Courtesy of the Dulwich Picture Gallery

In 1949, Lou emigrated to the U.S. with Georg, who died shortly afterwards. Having settled in New York, Lou eventually gave up photography and began a new career as a library assistant at the Leo Baeck Institute, an archive and research library dedicated to German-Jewish history and culture. Lou died in 1991, and while several of her photographs have been auctioned in recent years, the whereabouts of her wider estate remains unknown today. Her botanical photograms were recently featured among a line-up of forty artists in the Dulwich Picture Gallery’s Unearthed: Photography’s Roots exhibition, which charts the evolution of photography via the organic forms which have populated the medium since its inception. Lou’s black-and-white botanical photograms go beyond schematic categorisation; depicting plants with religious and historical significance to Jerusalem, the images capture – according to Dulwich Picture Gallery – ‘both the duality of Jerusalem, in their delicate beauty and their rich darkness, and Landauer’s experience of a land both intrinsically familiar and entirely alien.’[7]

Aside from her creative practice, Lou spent part of her career teaching and became the first woman professor of photography at the Bezalel Academy of Art & Design in Jerusalem. Despite her appointment, Lou’s photography classes were often relegated to her own home.[8] In December 1945, Lou presented an exhibition which included a broad range of her photographic work including nature studies, double-exposure portraits, and landscapes. This exhibition may constitute the only retrospective of her oeuvre to date; Lou’s legacy is only just beginning to be uncovered, and a great deal of research into her life and work remains to be carried out. Nevertheless, the fragments of her story which have emerged are evidence of a career which was – like the silhouettes of her photograms – rich with innovation and depth. While only sparsely revealed, Lou’s surviving work exemplifies her indomitable spirit and uniquely variegated artistic vision.

By Katherine Riley

Lou Landauer and unidentified researcher; Courtesy of Leo Baeck Institute, New York

References:

[1] “New York, New York Passenger and Crew Lists, 1909, 1925-1957,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:245P-MY8 : 2 March 2021), Louise (Lou) Landauer, 1947; citing Immigration, New York City, New York, United States, NARA microfilm publication T715 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
[2] “New York, New York Passenger and Crew Lists, 1909, 1925-1957,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:242T-F3K : 2 March 2021), Louise Landauer, 1939; citing Immigration, New York, New York, United States, NARA microfilm publication T715 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
[3] “New York, New York Passenger and Crew Lists, 1909, 1925-1957,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:245P-976 : 2 March 2021), Lou Or Louise Landauer, 1947; citing Immigration, New York City, New York, United States, NARA microfilm publication T715 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
[4] The Palestine Post, 19 April 1946 – Archived at the National Library of Israel https://www.nli.org.il/en/newspapers/pls/1946/04/19/01/article/104/?srpos=2&e=——-en-20-pls-1–img-txIN%7ctxTI-lou+landauer————-1
[5] https://lapetitemelancolie.net/tag/lou-landauer/
[6] https://histclo.com/essay/war/ww2/hol/ger/ri/hgri-ya.html
[7] Dulwich Picture Gallery, Unearthed: Photography’s Roots catalogue essay, 2021
[8] Rachel Neiman, Photographic Truth at Bezalel, https://www.israel21c.org/photographic-truth-at-bezalel/

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