Efraim Habermann

»Photography is my work - watercolors are my pearls.«

With city views of Berlin, Efraim Habermann became known to a broad public as a photographer in the 1960s. His works are characterized early on by a distinctive, concise style and unusual perspectives. Today, after a 50-year creative phase, he has an extensive body of photographic work, consistently in black and white, with numerous series from Israel, Venice and Berlin, still lifes, portraits and photographic collages. Habermann's »pearls«, his mostly constructivist watercolors, geometric forms in strong colors, finely balanced into a postcard-sized composition, seem almost like a commentary on his own conception of the image. An extensive exhibition of works from the artist's private archive can now be seen in Berlin from mid-February.

by Felix Brosius, February 04, 2023
Efraim Habermann - Self Portrait
© Efraim Habermann
Efraim Habermann - Self Portrait 1989

Habermann, now 89, was born in Berlin in June 1933 and spent the first six years of his childhood there. After his parents were forced to abandon their shoe store in Berlin Mitte after the Nazis came to power, the family, who were Jewish, managed to flee to Palestine in 1939. Habermann trained there as a technical draftsman, experienced the founding of the State of Israel and shortly afterwards completed his military service as a technical draftsman in the Israeli Air Force.

Efraim Habermann - Berlin
© Efraim Habermann
Efraim Habermann - Berlin, 2010

In 1957 he returned to Berlin due to a health condition of his father. What was initially only intended as a temporary stay became a life-changing decision – Habermann »got stuck in Berlin«, as he himself puts it today. He found a job as a draftsman at the Senate Department for Building and Housing, but the purchase of his first camera in 1960 was to have a much more formative influence on his future life. From then on, he captured city views of post-war Berlin and rapidly developed a unique view and striking visual language, characterized by unusual perspectives and a richly contrasting presentation of light and shadow, which is accentuated in a special way by a deliberate graininess in his black-and-white pictures.

Efraim Habermann - Still Life
© Efraim Habermann
Efraim Habermann - Still Life, 1991

His motifs are the architecture of Berlin as well as still life images and portraits: the traces of war on the façade of the New Synagogue, solitary cemeteries and posters half-torn from walls. Each motif is carefully chosen, or even constructed, the perspective is determined with precision. Habermann does not shy away from capturing the raw and dreary sides of the city either and although Berlin is the city from which he once had to flee with his parents, his photographs reveal the loving, embracing perspective with which he views his subjects.

Efraim Habermann - Berlin - Reflection
© Efraim Habermann
Efraim Habermann - Berlin, 2081

in 1968, Habermann’s work became known to a wide audience for the first time with the publication of a photo of the Neue Nationalgalerie. Since then, he has considered himself a professional photographer. Numerous publications in various newspapers followed and later, exhibitions in Berlin, Tel Aviv and Chicago too, including at the Nationalgalerie Berlin in 1983.

Efraim Habermann - Israel
© Efraim Habermann
Efraim Habermann - Israel, 1980

Just as initially in the city of Berlin, later he also discovers motifs in Venice and Israel, capturing numerous still life images and developing, with The woman in the picture, a fully autonomous series of works consisting of portraits of women in front of famous paintings such as the Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe by Edouard Manet, with whom this series began.

Efraim Habermann - Woman in the Picture
© Efraim Habermann
Efraim Habermann - »Woman in the Picture - Edouard Manet - Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe «, 1974

Since the 1980s in particular, Habermann has also focused on watercolor painting. His constructivist motifs, almost entirely in postcard format, reflect his understanding of how to compose an image successfully. They form an independent body of work, but also help us to move closer to understanding the perspective of Habermann as a photographer.

Efraim Habermann - Watercolor
© Efraim Habermann
Efraim Habermann - Watercolor

.Art.Salon

Deep dive:

Dive deeper into the art world

Retrospective in Berlin

In the exhibition Efraim Habermann - Photography and Watercolor, artnow Gallery, which is associated with art.salon, presents a comprehensive exhibition of the photographs and watercolors of Berlin-based artist Efraim Habermann.

by Felix Brosius, February 04, 2023
Kunstmuseum Basel, 2 exhibitions in the main and new building

On March 2, the Kunstmuseum Basel opens two parallel exhibitions: In the main building, the show Ingenious Women. Women Artists and their Companions presents around 100 works and social backgrounds from the early modern period. In the new building, Dan Flavin. Dedications in Lights examines his works in rarely discussed contexts.

March 02, 2024