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Bonnefantenmuseum Werner Mantz: The Perfect Eye | 26.09.2022.-26.02.2023

Editors’ Choice

40 years after the death of Werner Mantz (*1901 in Cologne- †1983 in Maastricht), the Bonnefantenmuseum in Maastricht will present the first ever retrospective of the pot photographer from 25 September 2022 to 26 February 2023. Mantz is regarded worldwide as one of the most important architectural photographers of the New Building movement and his work has been published in numerous architectural journals. With the exhibition “The Perfect Eye”, the Bonnefantenmuseum convincingly demonstrates why Mantz’s work (also) belongs to the canon of Dutch photography and presents his complete oeuvre for the first time. Through his pictorial language, his use of natural light and his professional skill, he occupies a unique position in the history of photography; Mantz had the perfect eye.

Image. above: Werner Mantz Haus der Kolnischen Zeitung, Pressa (Haus der Kölnischen Zeitung), 1928 Keulen, Deutschland
Architekten: Wilhelm Riphahn und Caspar Maria Grod © Werner Mantz/Nederlands Fotomuseum

The Perfect Eye
Werner Mantz likes to depict the everyday in his photographs. The exhibition “The Perfect Eye” at the Bonnefantenmuseum brings together the photographer’s life’s work in a retrospective with around 300 photographs, linking three narrative strands: firstly, his independent work, secondly his architectural photography and thirdly his portrait photography. In addition, Mantz’s various (art) historical periods from Cologne as well as from Central and South Limburg in the Netherlands are linked together.

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Werner Mantz Portrait of a woman (Portrait von einer Frau), 1935 © Werner Mantz/Nederlands Fotomuseum

Short biography Werner Mantz
In 1921, the young photographer Werner Mantz opened his first studio for architectural photography in the centre of his home town of Cologne. The 1920s were the ideal time for this, as Cologne was far ahead of its time in terms of the realisation of important, modern urban expansion plans. This is how Werner Mantz produced his most famous works and, as a photographer of the New Building movement, he received commissions from renowned architects such as Riphahn, Klotz, Mendelsohn and Wirminghaus. From 1932, Mantz maintained a second photographic studio in Maastricht. With the rise of National Socialism in Germany, he decided to settle there for good in 1938. With the opening of his studio on the Vrijthof in spring 1939, Werner Mantz switched to child portrait photography more or less out of necessity. Generations of Maastricht citizens were immortalised by him. These portraits have the same quality of craftsmanship and persuasiveness as his earlier works.

A great source of inspiration
Mantz is considered a “missing link” in the development of photography in the 1920s. His work is the link between the artistic avant-garde of his time and a purely artisanal, functional photographic practice – at a time when the historiography of photography was just beginning to move. The artistic potential of the medium was retroactively recognised, Werner Mantz was “rediscovered” as a photographer and his architectural photographs were exhibited at Documenta 6 (1977) in Kassel. It is now clear that the quality of Mantz’s photography derives from a combination of three different qualities: His technical skill, his understanding of everyday subjects and his great creative talent for developing an individual and coherent visual language within the often narrowly defined framework of a commission.

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Werner Mantz Interieur (locatie onbekend) (Innenbereich, Ort unbekannt), 1950-1960 © Werner Mantz/Nederlands Fotomuseum

In collections around the world
Mantz’s work was regularly shown in group and solo exhibitions both during his life and afterwards. His work is represented in the collections of over 30 museums on four continents worldwide, such as the Bonnefantenmuseum, Nederlands Fotomuseum (Dutch Museum of Photography, Rotterdam), Museum Ludwig (Cologne), J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles, USA), Museum of Modern Art (New York, USA), Canadian Centre for Architecture (Montreal, Canada), Tate (London, UK), Centre Pompidou (Paris, France) and Tokyo Photographic Art Museum (Tokyo, Japan). Presentations of his work are limited in particular to Mantz’s German period or to thematic parts of his extensive oeuvre, and until now his photographs have never been presented completely and coherently.

The exhibition was realised in collaboration with the Nederlands Fotomuseum and the Werner Mantz Stichting Foundation. With special thanks to the loans from Museum Ludwig and Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung
Culture, Cologne.

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Werner Mantz Glaspaleis Modehuis Schunck, (Glass Palace Fashion House Schunck), 1936 Heerlen, Netherlands Architect: Frits Peutz © Werner Mantz/Nederlands Fotomuseum

The exhibition is accompanied by a comprehensive publication by Hannibal Books in collaboration with the Werner Mantz Stichting Foundation, titled: Werner Mantz -The Perfect Eye. This publication contains images from Mantz’s oeuvre and texts by Frits Gierstberg, Stijn Huijts, Clément Mantz, Charlotte Mantz and Huub Smeets. The book is available in German at the Bonnefantenmuseum.
Price: €55 (EN-DU).

A unique piece for collectors
Werner Mantz’s works are also popular with collectors and his work is rarely missing from the international art fair “Paris Photo”. On the occasion of the exhibition, an exclusive photo print will be published in a limited edition, signed by the heirs of Werner Mantz. The photo print costs €750 in combination with the book and is available exclusively at the Bonnefantenmuseum, through Hannibal Books and at the Werner Mantz Stichting Foundation.


Vernissage: Sunday, 25 September 3:45 p.m 

Exhibition dates: Sunday 25 September 2022 – Sunday 26 February 2023


Adult €15.00

Student, CJP € 7,50


Bonnefantenmuseum Masstricht
Esther Wagemans Avenue Ceramique 250 | 6221 KX Maastricht

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