René Groebli, THE EYE OF LOVE, Bildhalle.
The exhibition THE EYE OF LOVE is currently on show in Bildhalle in Amsterdam (until April 3), in which the viewer becomes part of a moving and intimate moment: the photographer's honeymoon. 93-year-old René Groebli is considered to be one of the most important living Swiss photographers and several times during his lifetime, he proved to be a pioneer. The exhibition in Bildhalle is the first Dutch solo exhibition of his work.
René Groebli, Lying nude, The Eye of Love, Paris, 1952, Bildhalle.
Groebli was born in Zurich in 1927, where he started training as a cameraman at the age of 19. Even before graduating, he came third in a photography competition run by the magazine Camera. With the money he earned from his first freelance job, he made his first trip to Paris in 1948. A year later he bought his first Leica camera and organised his first solo exhibition. He started working as a photojournalist, traveling to various countries in Africa and the Middle East. His work has appeared in several influential magazines, including Time and Life. Groebli was committed to high print quality from a young age, even if it meant borrowing money. In 1954, he was admitted to the Council of Swiss Photographers. He retired as a photojournalist and started his own advertising and industrial photography studio, specialising in complicated colour photography processes. In 1957, he was hailed as a "master of colour" by the American magazine Color Annual. When colour processes became faster, easier and cheaper in the 1970s, he rediscovered his fascination for black and white photography and Groebli is still active in his studio in Zurich to this day. In 2015 he received a Lifetime Award from the Swiss Photo Academy.
René Groebli, Night shirt, The Eye of Love, Paris, 1952, Bildhalle.
In 1951, Groebli married Rita Dürmüller, with whom he would later also collaborate on the production of the artist's book Das Auge der Liebe (The Eye of Love) (1954). Rita had studied at the art academy in Zurich, where she studied under the Swiss painter Otto Morach, among others. She is the protagonist of the series The Eye of Love, set during their belated honeymoon to Paris in 1952 and their trip to Marseille a year later. The work was uniquely designed, as a narrative essay with dramatic compositions and juxtapositions, with white pages serving as a chronological means of switching between daytime and nighttime. The photos are intensely moving and intimate, and betray that the photographer did not just want to document this private situation, but also wanted to convey a fleeting and universal feeling. Groebli: “I tried to convey the typical atmosphere of French hotel rooms. There were so many impressions: the poor-looking furniture in a cheap hotel, the word 'Amors' embroidered on the curtains. And I was in love with the girl, the girl who was my wife. I think a series of photographs should be compared with a novel or even a poem rather than a painting: let us tell something!”
René Groebli, Cupid, The Eye of Love, Paris, 1952, Bildhalle.
The reactions to the work were mixed at the time, but it also marked the start of the photographer's international career. Peter Lacey wrote in 1964 that the work caused some controversy, but at the same time was also praised for its design and the quality of the photography. The photo "Sitting Nude" from the series was even included in the MoMA collection and Groebli's work was also on display in a major exhibition at the museum in 1955, called ‘The Family of Man’. The U.S. Camera Annual, considered to be the most influential American photography yearbook at the time, described the work a year after publication: "The Eye of Love is a tender photo essay about the photographer's love for a woman.”