Kurt Klagsbrunn, View of Rio de Janeiro from Christ the Redeemer Statue in Corcovado, 1948.
The photographer Kurt Klagsbrunn, born in Vienna in 1918, captured modern life in Brazil from 1939 until the 1970s. He photographed the parties of the wealthy and the leisure activities of the common people. His subjects were prominent personalities like Orson Welles or Evita Perón, but also freshly married young women throwing away their bridal bouquets, shoeshine boys on the boulevards or dreamy coffee drinkers. This son of a coal merchant and football functionary from Floridsdorf had actually wanted to become a doctor, but had to change careers after fleeing from Austria in 1938 and build a new life in exile. He chose his youthful hobby and quickly evolved from being a self-taught amateur to a pioneer of social photography. Apart from fashion, lifestyle, and industrial photographs, he documented the development of Brazil and recorded the building of the new capital Brasilia. Kurt Klagsbrunn died in Rio de Janeiro in 2005.
Since then, his estate, including over 250,000 negatives, has been managed by his nephew Victor Klagsbrunn. In 2017, he donated some of this estate—letters, notes, photos, and other mementos of the life of the Klagsbrunn family in Floridsdorf and their escape to Rio—to the Jewish Museum Vienna. The exhibition The Eye of Brazil: Kurt Klagsbrunn presents this donation and a selection of his works from exile in Brazil.
(Photo © Victor Hugo Klagsbrunn.)