Sunday, 19 October 2008

Clarkson Stanfield - "Staging" Landscape

In 19th century Europe landscape painting was highly en vogue, and travelling through Europe - especially to Italy - was seen as substantial to the education of every artist who strived for a successful career. Soon, other European countries and landscapes were added to the "must see"-list of every educated traveller, and with each of these countries and landscapes there were certain view points connected: The touristic "discovery" of the Rhine coincided with the "discovery" of the medieval castles and ruins, and so ruins of medieval castles are often part of paintings that depict scenes near the river Rhine.

Most of the travelling artists did not paint every motif they saw, but selected motifs that corresponded to the contemporary landscape concepts of the picturesque and the sublime. They thusly helped to cement certain stereotypes that are still present in our modern-day perception of these landscapes. And even back then, the eye of the travelling observer was thusly schooled, was trained to see nature as a landscape composed after certain standards. The rich bourgeoisie saw Italy as modelled after Lorrain's and Poussin's landscape paintings.
The tourist who wanted to be reminded of the "highlights" of his travels when he was back home became the new customer for the travelling artist. To him the arist sold his pictures on site or back home. This market was exploited rather quickly by publishers who provided the interested buyer with albums and illustrated books.

In this context, Clarkson Frederick Stanfield (Dec 3, 1793 – May 18, 1867), an acclaimed English marine painter, was sent by his publisher to continental Europe to draw landscape motifs of the Moselle, the Rhine and other popular regions, that were later to be published in different albums. His "Sketches on the Moselle, the Rhine and the Meuse" were published in 1838 by Hodgson & Graves in London. They show a landscape that is highly "inszeniert": the landscape is orchestrated to a picturesque vision of an idyllic country. Influenced by the Dutch landscape paintings and stage scenery the artist, Stanfield, who worked for different theatres throughout his career, created a vision of the Rhine regions that is hardly realistic but all the more poetic. He "dramatized" the landscape and made it to a fairy tale.

Consequently, the landscapes Victor Paul Mohn (1842-1911), a German landscape painter, drew for his fairy tale illustrations are not too different from Stanfield's landscapes:

The 19th century perception of landscape tended to idealize in a way that let fiction and reality blur together. No wonder that the late 20th century started to discuss the complexities of landscape perception.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Karl Mühlmeister

Karl Mühlmeister was certainly one of the most productive and talented illustrators of children's literature in Germany in the early 20th century. There are designs and watercolours to fairy tales, sagas, and adventure stories such as The Leatherstocking Tales by James Fenimore Cooper, or other children's literature like Johanna Spyri's Heidi.
About the artist himself is unfortunately very little known. He was born in Hamburg in 1876, lived and worked in Munich until around 1942 and was a member of the "Süddeutsche Illustratorenbund". Where he studied and who his teachers were, is as unknown as the date of his death. What remains is his work, and especially his watercolours are of an intriguing delicate beauty. I am rather convinced that there might have been an influence by the work of Willy Pogány (1882-1955) whose watercolours show a similar concept of landscape and understanding for colours.
Mühlmeister's luminously coloured landscapes conjure up the atmosphere of the whole picture, they are "Stimmungslandschaften" in which the protagonists act, the stories take place. Even though, the depicted persons are often rather small in contrast to their surroundings, they are not for accessory purpose only (as known from the landscape painting tradition) but are as important as the landscape itself: they form a unified whole that gives insight into the magical-fictive world of the illustrated story.

Fairy Tales: Mohr, Herbert and Lotte: Von Prinzessinnen und Königsöhnen. Leipzig: Feuer, ca. 1920.

Arabian Nights: Die schönsten Märchen aus 1001 Nacht. Stuttgart: Thienemann, ca. 1925.

The Leatherstocking Tales: Cooper, James Fenimore: Der Lederstrumpf. Reutlingen: Enßlin & Laiblin, ca. 1920.

Grimms' Fairy Tales: Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm: Kinder- und Hausmärchen. Reutlingen: Enßlin & Laiblin, 1927.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Book Art: designing end papers

At the turn of the 20th century artists tried to reform the making of books. Books shouldn't only be printed on good paper, with the right type and illustrations fitting to the text, but also with an according book cover and beautiful end papers. This over all development in the book arts is mostly attributed to the Art Nouveau, but, on closer look, interest in the book as a "Gesamtkunstwerk" started much earlier and is to be found for example in the editions de luxe that were published in the "epoch" of Historism.
True is, that the specific design of end papers increased during the Art Nouveau, but even then it was not a common feature. Through my researches on illustrated fairy tales and sagas, that are often categorized as children's literature (which is only half true), end papers were rarely designed at all. Nonetheless there are a few examples of not only decoratively patterned endpapers but such that are illustrated with motifs that fit to the contents of the book.
Intent and approach differ from end paper to end paper and range from a rather decorative, to motifs that create a certain atmosphere according to the text, or belong to the telling of the story.

In 1921, Maximilian Liebenwein designed the end paper for an edition of Gottfried Kellers Spiegel, das Kätzchen (Zürich / Leipzig / Wien: Amalthea, 1921), the story of a cat with a repeating pattern of cats moving over rose garlands. The topic of the book is thus mirrored and transformed into a decorative pattern.

The same can be said for Gertrud Caspari's fairy tale figurines (Mein Märchen-Bilderbuch von Gertrud Caspari. Leipzig: Alfred Hahn, [1921]): showing central standard characters of the fairy tales the book contains, such as the king and queen and the old witch.

On the contrary, Willy Planck (it's not completely sure, that he designed the end paper, sometimes different artists were commissioned to do this, especially when the end papers were needed for later editions) designed a dark wood:

The books title Ins Zauberland (Into Wonderland, Sttutgart: Loewe, 1913) alludes to the content of the book: fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, including Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood and other fairy tales in which the forest - dark, mysterious, dangerous - plays a significant role. By picturing an equally dark, mysterious and dangerous wood, the end paper creates a certain atmosphere that introduces the reader to the fairy wood.
This can be compared to the end paper of Wilhelm Roegge, designed for a collection of German folk and hero tales (Deutsche Volks- und Heldensagen. Stuttgart: Levy & Müller, ca. 1910), such as Barbarossa and Roland. The end paper depicts a medieval landscape: mountains, castles, and a river zig-zagging through the country. Rhine-Romantic is activated here, putting the reader into the right mind for the saga-material.

Anne Anderson's end paper (Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten und andere Märchen von Brüder Grimm. Leipzig: A. Anton & Co., [1930].) takes the possibilities of the end paper even further: she shows a fairy tale scene, that - though it has nothing to do with the Grimm fairy tales, but illustrates the story of the magical horse from the Arabian Nights - indicates clearly that the book contains a collection of fairy tales.

Walter Crane's Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves from 1904 actually shows a scene from the fairy tale contained in the book: or two, to be more precise, the opening of the secret hide-out of the thieves and a long caravan transporting treasures through the desert.

Ruth and Martin Koser-Michaels end paper (Zwei Märchen der Brüder Grimm. Nürnberg: Seebaldus, 1948) do the same: the narrative of the illustrations is continued - or even commenced - in the end papers. Here, the boy from the The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was sets out for his search. To his left, there is the gallows where he stayed overnight, and at the end of the road, there is the haunted castle with the giant ghost with the white hair waiting and watching.

Considered the many possibilities the end papers presented the artists with, it is a shame, that end papers were (and still are) only rarely illustrated or specially designed.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Marie Hohneck, illustrator

Puss in Boots, 1905

At the turn of the 20th century, women illustrators, especially for children books, became more common. Be it Kate Greenaway, Rie Cramer, Anne Anderson, Marie Hohneck, Norbertine Breßlern-Roth, etc. more and more women found a job as illustrators.
The academic training still was problematic and not equal for female and male students, and in most cases illustrating alone couldn't provide the livelihood. But nonetheless there were woman artists that became as popular as their male colleagues. Marie Hohneck certainly was one of them. Today mostly forgotten, she trained under Wilhelm Claudius, lived in Dresden and worked between 1885 and 1915.
Her popularity is shown very clearly by a simple fact: the fairy tale picture books she illustrated by order of the Stuttgart publisher Weise in 1905 were published with the serial title: "Hohnecks Märchenbilderbuch". To include the artist's name in the title of the publication was a rare practice at the time. It meant, that the name of the artist was popular enough to promote the book and ensure its saleability.
Hohneck's fairy tale illustrations strike a balance between conventional and modern. The chosen scenes are for example very traditional, as is the way Hohneck orchestrates the different scenes. Whereas the influence of the "Jugendstil" is shown in the lineament of the drawings, or the costumes of the heroines.

Little Red Riding Hood, 1905

Sleeping Beauty, 1905

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 1905.

Cinderella, 1905

Illustrations from:
Goldenes Märchenbuch. Eine Sammlung der Beliebtesten Märchen mit 96 farbigen Illustrationen von Maria Hohneck. Stuttgart: Weise, [1905].
Collective edition of twelfve picture-books to single fairy tales.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Fernande Biegler, illustrations for fairy tales

Unfortunately, there is little known about the artist Fernande Biegler, besides that she worked from ca. 1901 to 1929. Among her most popular works are two fairy-tale picture books, called:

1. Märchengarten. Ein Kinderbuch mit Bildern von Fernande Biegler. Leipzig: Anton, 1921.
2. Königs-Märchen. Märchen der Brüder Grimm mit Bildern und Einleitung von Fernande Biegler. Leipzig: Deutsche Jugend, 1922.

In bright colours these picture books present a strangely arificial fairy-land. Princesses and princes are nearly caricatural in their superficial poses, colourful make-up and delicate gestures.
Looking at them the influence of art déco is strongly visible. Especially fashion figurines seem to have inspired the artist, and helped her to create a other-worldly fairy-land that is one of a kind.

Take a look at some more of her illustrations:

Andersen's The Swineherd, 1921

Brother Grimms' King Thrushbeard, 1921

Brother Grimms' Sleeping Beauty, 1922

Mac Harshberger, Tristan and Iseult, 1927

1927 erschien bei Albert & Charles Boni in New York Joseph Bédiers Fassung der Tristan-Sage mit Illustrationen von Mac Harsheberger.

Der in Tacoma, Washington, geborene Künstler ging 1921 nach Paris und studierte dort zusammen mit Maurice Denis. In den 1920er Jahren arbeitete er in New York City und lehrte viele Jahre am Pratt Institute. Seine Illustrationskunst wird in der Regel dem Art Déco zugerechnet, was sich aber an seinen schwarzweißen Illustrationen zu Tristan and Iseult eher weniger festmachen lässt. Hier zeigt sich eher die Auseinandersetzung mit Aubrey Beardsley, der ja seinerseits Malory's Morte D'Arthur illustriert hatte. Wie Beardsley arbeitet Harshberger mit der Kontrastierung schwarzer und weißer Flächen. Harshbergers Illustrationen sind aber dennoch ganz anders, klarer in der Linie, graphischer in der allgemeinen Komposition. Sie gehören meiner Meinung nach mit zu den ästhetisch ansprechendsten Illustrationen zur Tristan-Sage.

Hier ein paar Beispiele (oben Isolde an der Leiche Tristans):

König Marke beobachtet Tristan und Isolde schlafend

Als Mönch verkleidet trägt Tristan Isolde ans Ufer.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Wiede-Fabrik München, Offene Ateliers & Werkstätten

Vom 3. Juli bis 6. Juli waren die Ateliers und Werkstätten der Künstler zu besichtigen, die auf dem Gelände und in der alten Wiede Fabrik in München (Rambaldistr.27) leben und arbeiten.
So bot sich ein breites Spektrum zeitgenössischer Kunst, mit ganz unterschiedlichen Arbeiten, die reizvoll in den einzelnen Ateliers und Werkstäten der jeweiligen Künstler präsentiert wurden. Da waren die abstrakten Gemälde von Milan Mihajlovic zu sehen, neben kleinen, reizvollen Bronzearbeiten von Amir Omerovic. Mihajlovic sprach von der Bedeutung des bild-internen Rahmens, dass also, wenn ein Gemälde einen Rahmen braucht, um vollendet zu sein, etwas im Gemälde selbst fehlt. Deswegen habe auch Rothko großen Wert auf bildinterne Rahmen gelegt. Ein spannender Gedanke.
Ganz anders waren dagegen die Aquarelle von Michale Lange, die als serielle Arbeiten topographischer Darstellungen nebeneinandergehängt Assoziationen an filmische Storyboards weckten. Freilich ist hier auch die Serienmalerei des Impressionismus Pate gestanden, aber Langes feine Aquarelle hatten doch auch ihren Reiz. Carl-H1 Daxl zeigte im Atelier daneben kleinformatige Gemälde, die in der Kombination von graphischen Elementen, Schrift und Malerei und der häufig humorvoll-ironischen, manchmal etwas derben Sujets manchmal recht karikaturistisch, mir aber zu comic-artig dekorativ wirkten. Das einzig größere Gemälde mit der Inschrift "Opium", in dem die graphischen Elemente deutlich zurückgenommen waren, und auch die Schrift nicht so deutlich hervortrat, hatte meiner Meinung nach jedoch die größte ästhetische Wirkung. Lebensfroher, kraftvoller waren die Arbeiten von Thomas Huber.
Freilich gefiel nicht alles gleichermaßen. Oliver Diehrs Gemälde erinnerten mich ein wenig zu sehr an Hopper mit ihren vereinzelten Figuren, die obwohl in Gruppen zusammen stets alleine scheinen. Und die naturgetreuen Arbeiten von Anja Bolata näherten sich etwas zu stark an die kunsthistorische Tradition um Maria Sybilla Merian.
Dennoch ist es, finde ich, gerade dieser Rahmen: Künstlerkolonie, offene Ateliers, "Selbst-" und Werkinszenierung, die die Auseinandersetzung mit zeitgenössischer Kunst hier sehr spannend machen.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Wierusz-Kowalski, Wolf, um 1885

Alfred Wierusz-Kowalski

Wolf, um 1885.
Öl auf Pappe, 30 x 68 cm
Muzeum Okregowe w Suwalkach (Bezirksmuseum Suwalki)

Ausgestellt im Rahmen der Ausstellung "200 Jahre Kunstakademie München", Haus der Kunst München.

Ein eher kleines Gemälde, keineswegs lebensgroß, aber unglaublich faszinierend.
Da sieht man auf weiter, öder, winterlich wirkender Fläche einen Wolf stehen, den Kopf in Richtung des Betrachters gedreht. Keineswegs aggressiv in seiner Pose; er fletscht nichtmal die Zähne oder sabbert angesichts möglicher Beute. Wierusz-Kowalskis Wolf wartet einfach nur. Und dennoch geht von dem Bild eine seltsam beunruhigende Stimmung aus.
Dies liegt an den Augen des Tieres, jenen zwei hellen, fast zitrus-farbenen gelben Punkten, die vor dem bläulich-grauen Hintergrund der kargen Landschaft und im Kontrast zum struppig dunklen Fell des Wolfes eine bezeichnende Leuchtkraft entwickeln. Die Augen des Wolfes fixieren den Betrachter, blicken auf ihn, und der Betrachter blickt zurück, ganz automatisch. So bilden Mensch und Tier über die Grenzen Realität/Bildfiktion hinweg Blickkontakt. Es ist ein gegenseitiges Warten auf die Reaktion des Anderen, die freilich im Endeffekt immer nur vom Betrachter ausgehen wird, der sich irgendwann abwendet und weiterwandert.
Der Wolf blickt und wartet weiter, zeitlos, eingefroeren, so dass beim Betrachten des Bildes, vielleicht auch durch die endzeitlich-karge Landschaft und den intensiven Blick des Wolfes Assoziationen an die Gruselliteratur nicht fern bleiben. Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts ist der Werwolf längst beliebte Schauergeschichte. In Märchen und Sagen hat der Wolf einen festen Platz, bedeutet zumeist große Gefahr für den Helden. Und dieses Wissen um die Gefahr, dieses Assoziationspotential, dessen sich der Künstler sicherlich bewusst war, verschiebt die Ruhe des Bildes ins Beunruhigende.
Wierusz-Kowalskis Wolf ist damit nicht einfach nur Tierbild. Es ist Stimmungsbild, mehr noch, es lädt zum Fantasieren ein, zum Geschichten erzählen im Kopf und ist darin wieder ganz typisch für die akademische Malerei des 19. Jahrhunderts und ihre Liebe zur Narration.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Albin Egger-Lienz Ausstellung, Museum Leopold, Wien

Albin Egger-Lienz, Die Bergmäher (I. Fassung), 1907
Öl/Lw., 94,3 x 149,7 cm
Wien, Leopold Museum, Inv. Nr. 716

Im April zu Besuch in Wien, hatte ich die Möglichkeit die Sonderausstellung über AlbinEgger-Lienz (1868-1926) im Museum Leopold zu besuchen.

Diese Ausstellung war schon deshalb so spannend, weil sie, wie es im Pressetext lautet, ganz bewusst versucht, die "Einbindung des Werks von Albin Egger-Lienz in den internationalen Kontext, vor allem die Anknüpfungspunkte seines Oeuvres an die europäische Malerei und Plastik in einigen exemplarischen Beispielen" zu beleuchten.
Dies ist meisterhaft gelungen: schon allein wie der junge Künstler in seinem Frühwerk noch von seinem Lehrmeister an der Akademie, Franz von Defregger (1835-1921) beeinflusst war, wird in der Gegenüberstellung einzelner Arbeiten beider Künstler in der Gattung des Bauerngenres mehr als deutlich. Albin Egger-Lienzs Gemälde, Das Kreuz (1901/02), wäre ohne Defreggers Das letzte Aufgebot (1872) schlicht undenkbar. Dies wurde mir noch um ein weiteres Mal deutlich, als ich vor ein paar Tagen die Genremalerei-Ausstellung in der Neuen Pinakothek sah, in der auch einige Bilder von Defregger ausgestellt waren. Defregger hat mit seinem historischen Bauerngenre Albin Egger-Lienz mehr als nur den Weg bereitet.

Albin Egger-Lienz, Das Kreuz, 1901/02.
Öl/Lw., 143 x 171,5 cm.
Wien Museum, Inv.-Nr. 27.091.
(Leihgabe im Museum Schloss Bruck, Lienz, Inv.-Nr. AEL 23)

Franz von Defregger, Das letzte Aufgebot, 1872.
Öl/Lw., 53.4 x 70.2 cm
Neue Pinakothek, München, Inv.-Nr. 9030

Von mindestens genauso großem Einfluss waren später dann die realistischen Franzosen: im Besonderen Jean-François Millet (1814-11875) mit seinem Sämann (1850) und der Bildhauer Constantin Meunier (1831-1905) mit seinen Arbeiter-Plastiken, wie dem Dockarbeiter (s. Abb.). So zeichnen sich Egger-Lienzs spätere Genrebilder durch einen gleichfalls gesteigerten Realismus aus, gröberen Pinselduktus und einem Millet und Meunier vergleichbaren Menschenbild. Egger-Lienzs Bauern sind nun ähnlich kantig, muskulös, wie die der französischen Realisten (s. Abb. oben Die Bergmäher).

Die kunsthistorische Tradition der Totentänze mit Albin Egger-Lienzs faszinierend beklemmenden Totentanz-Bildern lasse ich jetzt mal weg. Das wäre ein eigener Post.
Spannend sind im Oeuvre des Künstlers aber noch die vielen Kriegsbilder, die in erschreckender Deutlichkeit die Greuel des Krieges zu Tage führen. Den Krieg zu bebildern, hat Egger-Lienz dabei mit vielen seiner zeitgenössischen Künstler gemeinsam. Seine "Leichenhaufen" und ausgezehrten Kriegsopfer sind dennoch ungewohnt kritisch und verstörend.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Fairy Tales and Christian Values

In Bavaria, Germany, there is this tradition of painting murals on the facades of houses. It is called "Lueftlmalerei" (and sorry I have no clue how to translate that). This form of facade-painting is most popular in Upper Bavaria and Tirol and derives from the Italian Baroque facade-painting-tradition. In Germany it dates back to the 18th century, was mostly executed by craftsmen and showed the wealth and status of the citizens and farmers who ordered the facades to be decorated in such fashion. Spread by traders these buildings can be found mostly at marketplaces and on trade routes of the alpine regions. They show decorative or illusionistic medallions (trompe l'oeuil), Christian saints and episodes of the Bible, scenes of every day life. Oberammergau, a small town in the Allgau region, most popular for its passion-plays around Easter, has a variety of houses that are painted this way, but the chosen motifs do not belong to the Christian iconography or the everyday life as usual but show scenes from fairy tales.

The first frescoes were executed 1922-25 by the artist Throll who chose the fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel by the Brothers Grimm to decorate a children's home that was founded by a local friendly society that cared for children orphaned in the First World War. The frescoes depict one of the most generous donors - the opera singer Marie Mattfeld - in the center of the composition and - grouped around that - the scenes of the fairy tale.
Each scene is combined with distiches that interpret the scene in a distinct - mostly Christian - way that transforms each motif from a "simple" folk-tale-scene to a parable of Christian value. Comparable to the tradition of emblematas each of these fairy tale scenes consists now of an "icon" and an "epigramm" and so, the fresco motifs don't contribute solely to the narrative of the fairy tale, but are simultaneously a "book of wisdom" telling the observer about God's love and giving advice in the manner of common proverbs. For example, the text under the first detail-image says: Don't forget to pray at night - then angels protect you while you sleep.

In contrast to the political national pictorial program of the Kaiserpfalz the frescoes in Oberammergau do not have anything to say to the 19th century endavour of building a great nation. They are really a bit naive, simple folk sayings such as "beware of witches, you see what they do to Hansel" or "trust in God and everything will be fine". It's not exactly a pictorial programm developed by an acadamical educated artist.

In 1926, the house was extended and Max Strauss decorated the newly acquired annex building with decorative frescoes still showing fairy tale figures such as The Hare and the Hedgehog or The Valiant Little Tailor, but now without telling a complete fairy tale.

This fairy tale paintings were obviously so popular, that, in 1953, Max Strauss also decorated the house opposite to the children's home with frescoes to Little Red Riding Hood. As before, there is a strong Christian interpretation of the story provided that integrate the fairy tale motifs once again in the traditional iconography of the "Lueftlmalerei".

Just a few final words about the painting technique: They are frescoes. You can see the partition-lines where the fresh chalk plastering was applied and then the chalk colour before both fused together and dried out.
In 1951, the frescoes were redone in Keim mineral paints (look here for more information on these special paints:
and are probably retouched every twenty/thirty years at least.

(photos by me, on a visit a few days back.)