Karl Valentin
and Liesl Karlstadt

Lotte Jacobi (1896 – 1990)

Photograph by Lotte Jacobi, silver gelatin paper, 16,8 x 23,1 cm
© The Lotte Jacobi Collection, University of New Hampshire, USA

A black-and-white photograph of Karl Valentin and Liesl Karlstadt. Valentin, in a black suit, looks at the camera without flinching. His arm is bent at the elbow and rests on the head of his stage partner, which has been largely cropped away in the bottom left corner. She looks past the viewer out to the right.

The face of cabaret performer Karl Valentin gives nothing away. His right hand rests thoughtfully on his cheek. A closer look reveals the comedy of the situation. His arm is leaning on the head of Liesl Karlstadt, his sidekick, heavily cropped in the bottom corner. She is his support in the truest sense.

Even without knowing the context, this photograph by Lotte Jacobi (1896–1990) elicits a smile. The photographer subtly reflects the relationship behind the Munich double act: in their sketches Valentin often played the disingenuous citizen who stumbles into awkward predicaments. Karlstadt’s task was to resolve the crazy chaos with a drop of common sense and female empathy.

Until her exile, Jacobi was a successful photographer and a major exponent of Neues Sehen (“New Vision”) in Germany. In the 1920s and 1930s she was well known for her personal portraits of artists and intellectuals. They included famous names like Klaus and Erika Mann, Käthe Kollwitz and Kurt Weill.

Untitled (Karl Valentin and Liesl Karlstadt, Berlin)
Gelatin silver print
16,8 x 23,1 cm
Purchased with funds from Senator für Kulturelle Angelegenheiten, Berlin 1980

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