Die Schönheit der Frauen

Female Beauty. Studies in the Open-air 


Matthias Leupold - The Designer

Today we live in the age of the camera clicker. Millions of pictures are taken daily - the great majority by amateurs - and they are correspondingly amateurish. Photographs are taken of everything life has to offer. The snapshot, or one could go so far as to say: the eye's combative shot from the hip as the non plus ultra. The result is stored in millions of private photo albums, uniform in its variety, colourless even in the brightest colours. Amongst the masses, any perfection is usually thanks to the automatic features of the camera. All those aspects which once involved skilled composition of the image, a patient arrangement of details, or ingenious direction of the light have long been obsolete in 99.99 percent of cases. Measured against the usual practice today, Matthias Leupold reverts to the heroic, early days of photography, the time when this black, black and white art developed directly from painting, when film material had not yet begun to roll from the reels, when every "take" required individual arrangement and time, and a high standard of craftsmanship was indispensable. As a boy, Matthias Leupold - who is the son of a film props designer at DEFA - already experienced the way in which optical reality is staged; the fact that nothing is left to chance. Other professional photographers would probably assert the same of themselves, at least to some extent (thinking for example of the chic, flippant work of Helmut Newton or Jeanloup Sieff). But Leupold has gradually adopted a method which sets him apart from his colleagues; he takes ready made images as his pattern. These may belong to pictorial worlds from the turn of the century, originating, for example, from the "Gartenlaube" ("Allotment" - a popular magazine); or, fifty years later, from a GDR art exhibition; or, in his most recent project "Female Beauty", they are pictures taken from an old collection of nude studies. Leupold poses these images afresh, creating his own versions. One could also say - he pursues them as a huntsmen does his game. His aim is to trace the secret of these images by reproducing the older material according to his own interpretation, with carefully chosen models, and in a calculated setting. As an artist, Matthias Leupold is far from the Zampano type. The Blow-Up Hero with models writhing in ecstasy before his hot lens is not Leupold's cup of tea. He is an ironist of the camera, often achieving his effects by means of a contrast between the image and the legend associated with it. Or he incorporates, almost like Brecht, alienation effects into the picture. When his "abandoned virgin, whose naked body would not be unworthy of a Greek princess", is "flung down" at the "barren foot of the cliff" - and one then sees the girl kneeling, rump upwards, on a pastorally patterned carpet, on the typical cheap carpeting of the 1970s, there is no overlooking the comic effect. Leupold also parodies the hypocrisy of an unemancipated age when classicism and ancient myths were used as a transparent excuse to depict nudity. Thus it was necessary for the cowering nude to represent Ariadne. The reclining nude, dramatically raising her arms to heighten the impression and create "a dramatic effect" was of course Dido, abandoned by Aeneas. Finally, the well-built brunette with hands coyly clasped before her genitals was "Kypris", or a "free interpretation of the Medici Venus". If I see it correctly, the history of nude photography during this century has been a progressive movement towards a point of liberation from allegorical ballast ("Resignation", "Aloft") and the discarding of conceptual disguises and fabricated explanations ("The figure attains heroic character through the splendid line of the outstretched arm and the hip"). Musil once said that art pared away the kitsch from life. In Leupold's work, one becomes aware of his photography paring away the kitsch from art, and that which has been frozen into a pose becomes - through a process of double negation - a "living image" once more; in the truest, most invigorating sense of the word.


Karl Corino, Essay in: M.L., Female Beauty. Studies in the Open-Air., Connewitzer Verlagsbuchhandlung Leipzig, 1996. Translation: Lucinda Rennison, Berlin


Solo exhibitions


Matthias Leupold. Szenische Fotografien Argus Fotokunst, Berlin



Die Schönheit der Frauen Kamera- und Fotomuseum Leipzig


2003 | 2004

Die Vergangenheit hat erst begonnen. Szenische Photographien 1983-99 (Retrospective) Kunst und Medienzentrum Berlin-Adlershof; Kunstmuseum Moritzburg Halle/Saale; Städtische Galerie Iserlohn and Kunstverein Ahlen with Stiftung Künstlerdorf Schöppingen, Alte Feuerwache Fotogalerie Mannheim; Kunsthalle Erfurt



Il mondo delle donne, Die Welt der Frau-... Deutsche Akademie Villa Massimo, Rom



Die Welt der Frau-Die Frau als solche hat sich ja in der Photographie bereits bewährt Festspielgalerie, Berlin


Die Schönheit der Frauen Fotografische Freilichtstudien Staatliche Galerie Moritzburg, Halle


Group exhibitions


Staged and Documentary Photography. Die Schönheit der Frauen Galerie Bernd A. Lausberg (Düsseldorf Photo+)



Vom Mythos zum Fragment Galerie Moritzburg Halle-Landeskunstmuseum Sachsen-Anhalt, Photographische Sammlung



Das Ende der Utopien. (1. Ars Bartica-Triennale der Photokunst) Schloß Gottorf, Schleswig; Haus am Waldsee, Berlin; Japanisches Palais, Dresden; Museet for Fotokunst Brandts Klaedefabrik Odense; (DK) Kunsthalle/Taidehalli Helsinki; Maison du Danemark, Paris; Center of Contemporary Art, Warzcawa; Center of Contemporary Art, Tallinn; Galeria Miesska, Arsenal Poznan (K)


Leupold, M., Immisch, T., Kaufhold, E. and Stremmel, K., 2003. Die Vergangenheit hat erst begonnen. Szenische Photographien. 1st ed. Köln: Schaden.


Leupold, M., Corino, K. and Immisch, T., 1996. Female Beauty. Studies in the Open-Air. 1st ed. Leipzig: Connewitzer Verlagsbuchhandlung. 

Public Collections

Kunstmuseum Moritzburg Halle/Saale

39 Photographs