In the 1920s, along with August Sander, Hugo Schmölz and his son Karl Hugo Schmölz, Mantz was considered one of Cologne's most influential photographers. Even so, there has never been a comprehensive retrospective of his work in Germany. Fortunately, however, the Bonnefanten Museum in Maastricht is currently hosting a magnificent exhibition of his work, accompanied by a thick catalogue published by Hannibal Verlag. The fact that Mantz's work is being exhibited in this Dutch city some forty years after his death can be explained by his biography. In addition to his photography atelier in Cologne's Hohenstaufenring, he had already set up a second studio in Maastricht in 1932. It was not only the tough economic situation in Germany that had led to this step, but, more importantly, the rising National Socialism that threatened his very existence due to his Jewish heritage. He left Cologne in 1938, following the November pogroms, and moved permanently to Maastricht. The commissions he received there changed his subject matter: now his focus was more on photographing people, especially children, and everyday subjects. His static architectural photography expanded to include more spontaneous portrait and snapshot photography.
Even so, it is his architectural photography that is the focal point of both the book and the exhibition; though some of his personal work, especially his portraiture, is also present. The “perfect eye” is what it is all about: a successful tribute to Werner Mantz's work and life, including supplementary texts in the book, and an overall generous supply of his photography. (Ulrich Rüter)
Werner Mantz: The Perfect Eye
With texts by Frits Gierstberg, Stijn Huijts, Huub Smeets, Charlotte Mantz and Clément Mantz.
320 pages, over 270 black and white images, 32 x 24 cm.
Editions available in English, Dutch, and German.
The exhibition at the Bonnefanten Museum Maastricht runs until February 26.