CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Color in Black and White – Josef Löwy’s Photography Turntable (1888–1891)

Exhibition: 28 October 2022 - 1 May 2023

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the techniques of photographic art reproduction were perfected and photography from paintings developed as a new line of business. In this context, the imperial painting collection also aroused international interest. The impending transfer of the collection from Belvedere Palace to the newly built Museum am Ring was seized as an opportunity to have the Old Master paintings systematically photographed for the first time. The difficulty was to reproduce the colorfulness of the paintings in black and white photographs.

Photograph by Josef Löwy of Pieter Bruegel’s Hunters in the Snow (photo from the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien)

In 1888, the court photographer Josef Löwy was awarded the contract to carry out this task. He set up a provisional open-air studio in the garden parterre of the Belvedere. With the help of a photographic turntable that could be adjusted according to the amount of sunlight, Löwy was able to photograph hundreds of paintings outdoors – for the first time under natural light. The results, which were highly praised by the press at the time, still bear witness today to the photographer’s meticulous working methods and his drive for the ideal reproduction.

The exhibition shows paintings, glass negatives, original prints as well as technical drawings by Löwy and explains the advanced technical processes of reproduction photography that he used. It is curated by Sabine Pénot and Hanna Schneck. The accompanying catalogue includes essays by Monika Faber, Hanna Schneck, Gerlinde Gruber and Sabine Pénot.

See for more information the KHM website.