“Heinrich Kühn: The Perfect Photograph”

Ask Anne Wilkes Tucker, the curator of photography for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, what the new “Heinrich Kühn: The Perfect Photograph” exhibit is about, and she’ll laughingly tell you, “Long dresses and floppy hats.” That’s because Kühn often used his children and a family employee for models, creating soft, flowing images of them in meadows or on hillsides.

Kühn was a pictorialist, and his images look more like Impressionist paintings than like photographs. He heavily manipulated his images, pulling out whole sections and replacing them with parts of another or softening the focus so they were almost unrecognizable as photographs. “They look like charcoal drawings, many of them,” says Tucker. She explains that pictorialists were more interested in the play between light and shadow than in retaining a high definition of the details of the image.

Kühn was a scientist before he was a photographer, and that knowledge allowed him to become a better craftsman. Understanding chemistry helped him. “It allowed him to alter the photographs in more sophisticated ways and bring the photographs closer to his ideal. The subtitle of the exhibition is ‘The Perfect Photograph,’ and that perfect photograph was in his mind. The more sophisticated he became technically, the closer he could bring the photograph to his mental picture of what it should look like, as opposed to what he found in nature.” 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 12:15 to 7 p.m. Sundays. 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7500 or visit www.mfah.org. Free to $7.
Tuesdays-Sundays. Starts: May 6. Continues through May 30, 2011

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Olivia Flores Alvarez