The Istituto Veneto di Scienze Lettere e Arti presents an exhibition "L’ultima Venezia", from 22 March to 5 May, with sixty original photographs of the Swiss Gotthard Schuh, a photographer who lived in Venice in 1963.
With his Leica, Gotthard Schuh depicts a concrete image of city life of those years, but at the same time full of the charm of its history, and social and urbanistic realism that is the most amazing feature of Venice.
Gotthard Schuh was born on 22 December 1897 in Schöneberg (Berlin). After an academic education he embarked on his career as an artist by taking up painting. However, in 1926 he became interested in photography, focusing principally on daily life in central Europe and Italy. In 1927 he married Marga Zürcher, which prompted him to move to Paris, where he continued to experiment with photography and also did portraits of such eminent figures as Picasso, Braque and Léger.
In 1931 he began a long and fruitful collaboration with Arnold Kübler and the weekly "Zürcher Illustrierte"; many of his photographs also appeared in the magazines "Vu", "Paris-Match", "Berliner Illustrirte" and "Life".
On 16 March 1938 Schuh sailed from Genoa on a trip to Indonesia, where he visited the islands of Sumatra, Java and Bali. The result of this fundamental experience was the book "Inseln der Götter", published in 1941 and later reprinted and translated into several languages.
In order to promote photography, in 1951 Schuh founded the Kollegium Schweizerischer Photographen.
Since 1953 Schuh spent his summer time in the Canton Ticino, and went back to painting, which he had abandoned many years earlier. In 1957 Schuh exhibited at the Photography Biennale in Venice, and was awarded the gold medal for the overall quality of his works; the city of Venice was the subject of his last reportage, in 1963, published in the monograph Tage in Venedig in 1965.
After a long illness Schuh died in Küssnacht (Zürich) on 29 December 1969, at the age of 72.
The exhibition "L’ultima Venezia", combined with a number of study and research initiatives about life in Venice in the years from the end of the Second World War to the flood in 1966, is dedicated to Vittore Branca (1913–2004), who was vice-president and president of the Istituto Veneto for almost a decade. He was representative of a group of men who were capable of loving and understanding this city, of animating it with a profound and not merely ephemeral cultural life.
Why "L’ultima Venezia"?
There are many "last Venices": precariously built upon water, the city periodically seems destined to disappear. But Venice has demonstrated many times that it is capable of surviving the most ruinous tragedies and of transforming itself, without, however, losing any of the extraordinary magic that has made it so greatly loved and celebrated over the centuries. Our hope is that Schuh’s photos may enable us to rediscover some of that magic, so that we can ensure it is not entirely lost.
This photography exhibition presents the novel image of a Venice that is recent in time but equally far from the stereotype of our days.
These are the pictures of city life shot in the streets, in shops, along the canals, offering a perception of life within a great common home, where the squares are the rooms, the streets are corridors and the houses are "rooms within rooms", in a unique and surprising social and urban dimension. Perhaps this was the last of Venice...
In cooperation with the Museum of Culture, the City of Lugano, Switzerland.
The exhibition is opened till 5 May at:
Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti
San Marco, 2945, 30124 Venezia