A leader of Pictorialist photography in Europe, Heinrich Kühn was a major figure of the Vienna Camera Club and a member of the Kleeblatt, a trio of photographers that included Hans Watzek and Hugo Henneberg. Exhibiting together until 1903, they perfected the gum bichromate printing process and made large pictures composed of broad, rich tonal masses that involved a high degree of handwork; their photographs took on the appearance of mezzotints, aquatints, and other traditional processes of graphic art.
"On the Hillside" belongs to the later part of Kühn’s photographic career when, without sacrificing the breadth of his vision, he moved away from the oversized, public scale of his moody landscapes of the 1890s and turned to more intimate motifs – portraits, domestic still lifes, and views of the countryside surrounding Innsbruck. Members of his family resting, hiking, or at play in the open spaces of the Tyrolean hills were among his favorite subjects. With their hazy outlines and sensitive rendering of changing patterns of light and shade, these bucolic images belong to the world of late Impressionism. Here, the figure of Lotte, Kühn’s youngest child, picking flowers on the incline of a hill, has been flattened into a luminous graphic shape, light and immaterial, whose delicate simplicity demonstrates the artist’s superb eye for tonal values.
Kühn gave the picture the parenthetical title "A Study in Values" when he sent a photogravure version of this print to the International Exhibition of Pictorial Photography at the Albright Art Gallery in Buffalo in 1910. (MET) Comparing the photogravure to a platinum print held in the collection of the Met illustrates the subtle, beautiful ‘softening’ effect that the ink-on-paper syntax of photogravure can bring to a ‘straight’ photograph.
Marien, Mary W. Photography: A Cultural History. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: SunSoft Press, 2002. fig. 4.9
Pierre Apraxine and Lee Marks, Photographs from the Collection of the Gilman Paper Company (White Oak Press, 1985), pl. 134
Maria Morris Hambourg, Pierre Apraxine, et al., The Waking Dream: Photography’s First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993, in conjunction with the exhibition), p. 182
Peter Weiermair, Heinrich Kühn, Photographer (1866-1944) (Innsbruck, 1978), pl. 28
Elizabeth Pollock, Heinrich Kühn (Cologne, 1981), p. 44
Weston Naef, The Collection of Alfred Stieglitz (New York, 1978), no. 408
Pollock, Heinrich Kühn, p. 44
Weiermair, Heinrich Kühn, Photographer (1866-1944), pl. 28
Neue Galerie, Heinrich Kuehn and His American Circle: Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen, p. 97
Naef, The Collection of Alfred Stieglitz, no. 408
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Waking Dream: Photography’s First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection, p. 182