Krupp’sche Gussstahlfabrik. Friedrich KRUPP, Essen, Cast Steel Works, Photographer: Hugo van Werden.
Krupp’sche Gussstahlfabrik.
Krupp’sche Gussstahlfabrik.

A Photographic Panorama of the Krupp Steel Works
from the Library of Otto von Bismarck

Krupp’sche Gussstahlfabrik.

Six albumen prints from wet collodion negatives (each 430 x 430 mm.), each mounted on stiff card stock panels (each panel measuring 620 x 430 mm.), joined together with the orig. linen, with the lithographed title at foot of the two middle panels. Preserved in the orig. green cloth-backed board portfolio, ties gone. [Essen: F. Krupp, ca. 1872-73].

A magnificent and rare photographic panorama of the Krupp Steel Works in Essen, consisting of six albumen prints, each mounted on paper board panels, measuring altogether 430 x 2480 mm. The industrial steel manufacturer Friedrich Krupp AG was the largest company in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century. One of the most powerful business dynasties in Europe, for 400 years Krupp flourished as the premier weapons manufacturer of Germany. From the Thirty Years’ War until the end of the Second World War, they produced everything from guns and cannons, battleships, U-boats, tanks, and hundreds of other products.

“In 1861, one of the most remarkable figures in German industrial history, Alfred Krupp, commissioned his far relative Hugo van Werden [(1836-1911)] to learn photography in a studio in Hannover then well-known for its qualities in depicting industrial products. After a short apprenticeship, van Werden set up the Krupp photographic and lithographic institute which from then on had to deliver all visual materials used for documentation, press releases, and public relations for Krupp’s steel company. As early as 1862, on the occasion of the London World Fair, Krupp was able to show and deliver large quantities of photographs of all his products, and the company gained fame for the use of the new medium in advertising…On top of the Krupp stand at the World Fair in London in 1862 there was a large photograph showing the Essen company site. Made of 12 images, it correlated to a recent fashion among manufacturers: showing a bird-like view of their establishment.”–Rolf Sachsse in Encyclopedia of 19th-Century Photography, p. 584.

In the century prior to the advent of photography, panoramic painting reached a pinnacle of development in which whole buildings were constructed to house 360 degree panoramas, and even incorporated lighting effects and moving elements. Indeed, the career of one of the inventors of photography, Daguerre, began in the production of popular panoramas and dioramas. Shortly after the invention of photography, the desire to show overviews of cities and landscapes prompted photographers to create panoramas.

The development of panoramic cameras was a logical extension of the 19th-century enthusiasm for panorama. Because of the high cost of materials and the technical difficulty of properly exposing the plates, Daguerreotype panoramas, especially those pieced together from several plates, are rare. After the advent of wet-plate collodion process, photographers would take anywhere from two to a dozen of the ensuing albumen prints and piece them together to form a panoramic image. This photographic process was technically easier and far less expensive.

The history of photography and the modern manufacturing of steel have been interwoven since both came into being in the mid-19th century. Photography of steel mills began about the same time that modern steel making became possible through invention of the Bessemer converter (furnace) in 1855. Photographers have actively engaged this topic ever since. Photographing the steel industry has always presented technical as well as aesthetic challenges, but no challenge was more daunting than that of access. Mere fascination with industrial architecture, the dramatic processes of transforming raw iron ore to finished steel, or the many tasks performed by steel workers, did not entitle a photographer to take pictures of mills.

The pioneering German industrialist Alfred Krupp hired Hugo van Werden as the company’s first full- time photographer. As an employee, van Werden had unlimited access to take photographs of the factory. The stunning nature of van Werden’s early photographs interpreted Krupp’s business vision. Van Werden’s task was to document Krupp’s rapidly expanding company; he began to make periodic panoramas of the Kruppsche Gußstahlfabrik in Essen in 1861. These panoramas started modestly and ended up being monumental. Krupp’s intensive advertising work for his company, as well as the company’s presence in commercial and world exhibitions, was important in the success and economic expansion of the company. Krupp used the new medium photography for the self-presentation and documentation of his emerging company. In addition to a historical department, which was founded in 1861, Krupp set up an atelier for photographers. Not only the individual products but also the company as a whole were documented by means of the photographic image.

Our 180 degree panoramic view of the cast steel factory was taken by van Werden at the request of Krupp from a tower of the cannon workshop. Krupp himself gave the order to photograph the factory on a Sunday because “the work days carry too much smoke, steam and restlessness.” The elevated viewpoint provides an overview of the extent of the factory, which transitions into the landscape on the horizon. The panoramic view over the roofs of the factory buildings, along the chimneys to the landscape, gives the impression of a self-contained world. From the tower, one looks westward over the works to the surroundings of Essen. The arranged scenery — the factory buildings still partly under construction, the workers and steam locomotives, the railway bicycles and other steel goods transported throughout the plant — give the impression of remarkable economic activity.

In fine and fresh condition. From the library of Otto von Bismarck, no doubt presented to him by the firm.

❧ Tenfelde, Pictures of Krupp: Photography and History in the Industrial Age (2005).

Price: $45,000.00

Item ID: 5946