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Lotte Jacobi’s Historical Portraiture
All photos by Lotte Jacobi
Lotte Jacobi was renowned not only for her portraits of influential people, but equally, for her gift of revealing her subjects’ inner being. She always insisted that her style was “the style of the person I’m photographing.” Hence the title of her traveling exhibit: “Focus on the Soul: The Photographs of Lotte Jacobi.” Originally this exhibit was on view at the Currier Museum of Art in New Hampshire and at the Jewish Museum in New York City, prior to arriving at its current venue at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C. (June 18—September 5, 2004). This exhibition features Jacobi’s intriguing portraiture, as well as some of her documentary, abstract and nature images.
According to Kurt Sundstrom, Associate Curator of the Currier Museum, and the person who organized this exhibit, Johanna Alexandra “Lotte” Jacobi was a fourth-generation photographer in her family. “Her great-grandfather Samuel went to France in the early 1840s and bought a license to practice photography from Louis Daguerre (the French inventor of photography),” he explains. Jacobi’s grandfather and father continued the business, and operated several photo studios throughout the years.
Photography as an Art Form
Incorporating her early love of
the theater and dancing, Jacobi photographed many live dance and theatre performances
in Berlin. She was allowed backstage, where she took pictures and sold many
of them to magazines, such as the portrait of Lotte Lenya, photographed in 1928.
Lenya was married to Kurt Weill, author of “Three Penny Opera.”
In 1929, she photographed Niura Norskaya for “Head of a dancer.”
As Sundstrom observes, “Jacobi was interested in shapes.”
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