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Herbert List, masterpieces, 1930-1970


Herbert List was born in Hamburg in 1903. He was the son of a Hansa-town coffee importer. In 1921-23 he studied art and literature at the University of Heidelberg. In 1924, he joined “List and Heineken”, the family coffee business in Hamburg, and between 1925 and 1928 represented the firm in Mexico, Brazil, Guatemala and San Francisco.
List came back to the Hamburg head office in 1929, and it was in Hamburg that he met Andreas Feininger who was employed as artistic adviser to a Hamburg department store. At this time List’s photographic activities had largely been confined to photographic records of his South American travels, but he now began to develop a serious interest in photography, and from Feininger ha learned how to handle a reflex camera.
National Socialism was incompatible with List’s own values and lifestyle, and in 1935 he left Germany. Giving up his position in the family business, he settled in Paris. Here he had his first one-man exhibition, in a small gallery on the Rue de Rivoli. He began to work for “Verve” and “Vogue”, and had photographs published in “Arts et Métiers graphiques” and “Photographie”.
From Paris he went to London where he met George Hoyningen-Huene. In 1936 the two men went for a trip to the Mediterranean. List now changed his home again, this time settling in Greece, where he started on work which was later to be published as the book “Licht über Hellas”. For the next six years he lived to Greece and Paris. The German occupation of Greece in 1941 forced him return to Germany. He took an apartment in Munich, mainly supporting himself on an income from the family business. In 1944 he was conscripted into the army and found himself stationed in Norway.
At the end of the war List returned to Munich and this time the city was to remain his home. Nevertheless, over the next twenty years he was to make extended trips to Paris, Italy, Greece, Mexico and the Caribbean. Photo-journalism became an increasing source of professional interest, though List rarely worked with fixed commissions, preferring to travel at his own cost and risk. His favourite photographic themes included artistic portraits, human reportage and travel studies of the highest quality. He published work in “Harper’s Bazaar”, “Vogue”, “Flair”, “Look”, “Picture Post”, Epoch” and various German magazines, as well as in books including “Licht über Hellas” (1949), “Roma” (1955), “Caribia” (1958), “Napoli” (1962) – the latter together with his friend Vittorio de Sica.
From 1960 onwards List returned with renewed vigour to an old hobby: collecting drawings by old masters. Soon he specialized in Italian art of 16th, 17th and 18th [then exposant] centuries. His fine feeling and familiarity with classical mythology served him well, as did his good relations with international museums and collectors.
In 1975 Herbert List died at the age of 72. Max Scheler of Hamburg was the executor of his photographic estate.

3-30 november 2010
17 avenue dʼIéna, 75016 Paris

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