© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Carl Strüwe, German (Bielefeld, Germany 1898 - 1988 Bielefeld, Germany)
Plankton 1. Above: Algae Colony (Asterionella), Below: Green Algae (Volvox)
Other Titles
Original Language Title: Urfamilien im Plankton (1). Kieselalge (Asterionella, o.) und Grünalge (Volvox, u.)
Work Type
1952, printed late 1950s
Physical Descriptions
Gelatin silver print
Gelatin silver print
57.5 × 47.6 cm (22 5/8 × 18 3/4 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: On verso, in graphite: CST 067 / 1-172, 1952, 1/2
  • inscription: On verso: Unfamilien im Plankton / (oben: Algenverband; unden: Fierstaaten / ca. 1000:1
  • stamp: On verso, in purple ink: CARL STRUWE / BIELEFELD / DITFURTHSTR. 39c / CARL STRUWE / Formen des Mikrokosmos
[Steven Kasher Gallery, New York], sold; to the Busch-Reisinger Museum, 2016.
State, Edition, Standard Reference Number
Standard Reference Number
Gottfried Jäger 1-172
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, Antonia Paepcke DuBrul Fund
Accession Year
Object Number
Modern and Contemporary Art
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Label Text: Inventur—Art in Germany, 1943–55 , written 2018
In the 1920s, Strüwe began a three-decade-long effort to photograph the underlying formal structures of the natural world. He retrofitted a microscope with a hand-cut aperture to document specimens like algae with a rectangular frame rather than the circular eyepiece—a frame better suited, he thought, to a work of art. Magnified between 100 and 2,000 times, these specimens became the subjects of “microphotographs” that revealed abstract graphic patterns not unlike the geometries Strüwe designed as part of his early work as a printmaker and draftsman. In Plankton, Strüwe creates an experimental “light montage,” combining three exposures in a single image to juxtapose two species of algae. His interest in the elemental structures of the natural world was indebted to the illustrations of zoologist Ernst Haeckel, as well as Bauhaus master László Moholy-Nagy. The latter’s pursuit of a “New Vision” inspired Strüwe and others to explore common languages between art and science both before and after the war.

Publication History

Lynette Roth and Ilka Voermann, Inventur—Art in Germany, 1943–55, exh. cat., Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2018), pp. 332-334, cat. no. 45.1, ill. (b/w)

Exhibition History

Inventur—Art in Germany, 1943–55, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 02/09/2018 - 06/03/2018

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Modern and Contemporary Art at am_moderncontemporary@harvard.edu