Otto Umbehr began his studies at the Weimar Bauhaus in Johannes Itten's preliminary course in 1921. Two years later he moved to Berlin, where he worked on Walter Ruttmann's innovative film "Berlin, Symphony of a Great City" (1926). He began to experiment with photography, making expressionistic portraits of friends and eventually teaching at Itten's private art school for two years. In addition, Umbo worked as a photojournalist for the Berlin picture agency DEPHOT from 1924 until its dissolution in 1933. Umbo's work has an uncanny, surreal edge that pushes it beyond simple documentation, less the result of experimental darkroom practices than of his exploration of the psychological parameters of photographic description. This photograph of Salzburg at night was taken with a long exposure from a high vantage point. The solid, volumetric mass of an apartment block is compressed into a flattened silhouette, while the path of a solitary car, delineated by the parallel tracings of its headlights, is etched into the street below. The mood is one of impenetrable darkness and impending doom, strongly expressionistic in its vertiginous projection of a nightmare.
Inscription: Inscribed, recto BR: "Umbo"; inscribed in pencil, verso: "Nacht in der Klein Stadt // Inv #21 // 376/8 // R.K. P8011186"
[Rudolf Kicken Galerie]; Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York, March 10, 1992
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," May 25, 1993–July 4, 1993.
Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh, Scotland. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," August 7, 1993–October 2, 1993.
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," June 19, 1994–September 11, 1994.
Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen. "Umbo: From Bauhaus to Photojournalism," July 8, 1995–October 1, 1995.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Dancing on the Roof: Photography and the Bauhaus, 1923-1929," June 4, 2001–August 26, 2001.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Johnson Gallery, Selections from the Collection 40," April 19, 2005–July 10, 2005.
Princeton University Art Museum. "The Life and Death of Buildings," July 23, 2011–November 6, 2011.
Hambourg, Maria Morris, Pierre Apraxine, Malcolm Daniel, Virginia Heckert, and Jeff L. Rosenheim. The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993. pl. 196.
Smith, Joel. The Life and Death of Buildings: On Photography and Time. Princeton: Princeton University Art Museum, 2011. p. 62.