Front view
Inv. No.S-1581
ArtistElfriede Mejcharborn 1924 in Austriadied 2020 in Vienna, Austria


from the series "Herbarium"

gelatin silver print on PE paper

Dimensions29 x 23 cm

signed and dated, artist stamp on verso


This remarkable photograph of a leaf in the SpallArt collection is from a group of works, which Elfriede Mejchar pursued from the end of the 1960s into the 2000s and entitled Herbarium. It is a series of innumerable black-and-white photos of plants, blossoms and, in particular, leaves, which she arranged—separately or in groups—against a white background. Mejchar’s Herbarium captivates by abstaining from plastic effects in favor of an almost graphic emphasis on the contrast between black and white, where she sometimes used experimental methods, diverging from the usual negative/positive process. An excellent example is the Sabattier effect, also known as pseudo-solarization, which the artist employed for this photograph. The process, already discovered by and named after Armand Sabatier in 1860,1 which is based on the reversal of color values and thus accentuates the contours, was revived in the 20th century by major re-inventors of photography such as Man Ray and Otto Steinert, to counteract “a far too boring naturalism” and create “a new world of optical experience with a lively, graphic charm.”2 In the case of Mejchar’s photograph (which, by the way, has a positive companion piece), there is an emphasis on both the “construction” and the immaculacy of the leaf. This viewpoint, revealing the transience of all beauty, is a central aspect of her multi-facetted work and corresponds to her self-image of a “ruthless” photographer. Not least, however, our example confirms what Otto Steinert called the “completion stage of photographic creation”: “the absolute photographic design,” which—for example by using photographic variation processes, which also include (pseudo)solarization—dematerializes or abstracts the subject to such an extent “that it becomes only a formal element, a building block of the composition.”3
(Alexandra Schantl, published in Eikon 113, 2021)



[1] The variance in the spelling (Sabattier effect and Armand Sabatier) is an historical tradition.

[2] Otto Steinert, “über die Gestaltungsmöglichkeiten der Fotografie” (On the creative possibilities of photography) (1955), in: Wolfgang Kemp, Theorie der Fotografie III. 1945–1980, Munich: Schirmer/Mosel, 1999, 87.

[3] Ibid, 89.

S-1581, untitled
Elfriede Mejchar, untitled, 1991
S-1581, Front view
© Elfriede Mejchar
S-1580, Elfriede Mejchar, untitled, 1991
Elfriede Mejchar, untitled, 1991
more infoS-1580, Front view
© Elfriede Mejchar