Friday, 25 January 2013

Hélène Mass (Maß), painter printmaker (II)

Hélène Maß 
Walter Rudolf Leistikow
The Schlachtensee near Berlin as portrayed above combines a sense of rest and peacefulness with melancholia; the darkness of the forest and the glimmering reflection of the last rays of the sun mingle to a quiet harmony. It was painted in 1895 by Walter Leistikow, one of the founding members of the Berlin Secession.
All this could also be said of this woodblock print by Hélène Maß, considered by some her best, which is obviously a tribute, an homage in color and atmosphere, to her painting teacher.
At age 18 Leistikow left Danzigerstrasse 27 Bromberg (near Posen/Poznan) and arrived by train in Berlin only to find himself dismissed from the government-run Berlin Academy for “lack of talent” shortly after by influential professor  Anton von Werner (1843-1915) who was a painter of pompous and historic events. What bad luck and sharper contrast to the young man who was so sensitive and contrary in nature and ambition. 
The apothekers son who had dreamed of his heroes Adolph Menzel (1815-1905) and Franz Skarbina (1849-1910) becoming himself a great painter was lovingly taught by his mother the first principles of drawing and painting recognizing her sons talent. Skarbina, who also taught at the Academy, later also met the scorn of von Werner, creating yet another Berlin Secessionist.
Lake Grünewald, actual 1910 color photograph and one of the 100's of "Märke Landschaft" paintings by Walter Leistikow.

Toward the end of the 19th century and early 20th century, Secessionist movements sprang up all over Europe. Their goal was to cast off the stifling corset of the reigning conservative academic style, which prescribed classic shapes and idealized scenes. In Berlin, the academic style was strongly connected to the wishes of Emperor Wilhelm II. Wilhelm saw art as a means of glorifying German history and was abhorred by non-academic works, which he deemed anti-German and potentially disruptive. He made sure they were excluded from the “Salons,” where art was shown and sold. The foundation of the Berlin Secession in 1898 put an end to this political kidnapping of the arts.
Unfazed Leistikow took private lessons at first with Hermann Eschke (1823-1910) and later (1885-1887) with the important Norwegian landscape painter Hans Fredrik Gude (1825-1903), above, who happened to be good friend of von Werner and ran a private school in Berlin, developing his own style over time. Proofing hard work and determination, and the right mentor, can compensate a "lack of talent".  
Lesitikow, eventually abandoned the common practice of adding staffage (human or animal figures) to his landscapes, focusing instead on their own intrinsic strength. His work seems to have a "Scandinavian feel" (no wonder)  to it, in terms of tonality and prolonged lines, but also in its sense of loneliness and austere beauty. This might be explained by his lessons by Gude but also from his love for Japanese prints.

In 1890 Leistikow was appointed professor in Berlins Arts and Craft school, the most likely place to have met Hélène Mass who originated from Schönlanke, also from the Posen/Poznan region. The above 4 oil paintings are by Maß. Leistikow designed stained glass, wall papers, linoleum, tapestry and all kind of applied art becoming the first and most important Berlin Jugendstill artist. 
Leistikow, in the middle of the bustling Berlin art scene, the Academies, art schools, the modernists, (post)-impressionists, fauvists and emerging expressionists also became befriended with Edvard Munch (1863-1944) during his stay in Berlin. In 1894 he married the Danish poet Anna Mohr and they were portraited by Munch. In 1896 daughter Gerda was born. 
Traveling through the Nordic countries, upon his return, he appreciated the lakes and forests of Mark Brandenburg, the area surrounding Berlin, with renewed passion. His style of painting, I’ve learned, was described as the light and colors of Scandinavia superimposed on the Brandenburg landscape. He travelled frequently to Kopenhagen probably passing Eckersförde on the way and painting the local brick factory (above, a study, the original probably lost).
In 1901 he persuaded Lovis Corinth (1858-1925) to come over from Münich to Berlin resulting in Corinth taking took over his studio-house turning it into a painting school for Women (and marrying his first student). This could also be the place were Hélène Maß received painting lessons. Corinth, and more particularly his later flower paintings were an inspiration to that other great Leipzig and later Berlin based painter printmaker Else Schmiedeberg-Blume (1867 -after 1927) I discovered just recently (and will show later). She was a member  (like Maß) and  even head of the Drawing and Painting school of the Berlin Artist Women Association est. 1867. 
In hindsight, the moody atmosphere of the Schlachtensee forest which he created proved eerily befitting: having suffered from third-stage syphilis for years, it was here that he shot himself. The beloved lake would be the scene of Leistikow’s last moments on earth.
It is this similar use of light and color, the same choice of locations we find in maybe not Maß' paintings (the few I know of) but do in her landscape prints. But I doubt she created woodblock prints, like the one above, before 1908, the year Leistikow decided ending his life.

To be continued soon with some more pieces of the great puzzle.

(main body of text: Pauline Dorhout, reblogged from Link*)

all pictures borrowed freely from the Internet for friendly, educational non commercial use.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Hélène Mass, an account of my investigations (I)

Hélène Mass (Maß)
born 1871 Posen (Poznan, Poland) - ?
German painter and printmaker

part I

This picture, of flowering chestnuts (blühende Kastaniën), which can be found in several locations (and in Modern Printmakers here*) for quite some time annoyed me, causing doubt, questions and controversy about who actually created it. It was contributed to Carl Thiemann, "closely resembling the style of Hélène Mass" and vice-versa. It is most certainly the same example used in all sites and in some examples remnants of printed lettering in the lower margin are still visible.
Somewhere, sometime, some-one has removed this information probably because it made no sense. A printmaker by the name of Hermann Maier just didn't exist. To this day, reading the signature of Hélène Maß, is troublesome and often is read as Helen Mayo or other variations, the double ss or ß in "Fraktur" (machinetype) or "Sütterlin" (written) old-Germanic scrypt difficult to read 100 years later and not only for non-Germans and Ebay sellers! It's why I happened to find mine (next posting). Compare how she treated the trees' shadows !
The editor of der Kunstwart/Kulturwart is also to blaim of course printing this phantasy name. And he did it again in 1919 and 1920 because there can hardly be any doubt these two Hildesheim prints are also by Hélène Maß. One of them even bares her monogram, the M over the H, in the block. Prints like these were probably created exclusively, maybe even commissioned by the Magazine which had 13.000 subscribers in its days of glory. 
This perticular magazine, meant to enhance the cultural education and knowledge of the German People, was in existence from 1887 to 1932. Ploughing through all volumes (explaining the pause in posting) took me days. Many contemporary artists of name and fame co-operated happily, probably also because of the advertising power of a good, widely read and spread magazine. Graphic Art in German translates Vervielfaltigende Kunst: multiplicable Art. The British equivalent: the Studio first published 1893. These magazines had a huge influence educating the people and cleverly creating " good taste" and an appetite in a new public and market in the Art Deco and Arts and Craft period.  
To make sensible decisions in the many offers (Ebay) it's evident some knowledge about the "Kunst-beilagen" of magazines like der Kunstwart, die Grafische Kunste (1879-1943), Jugend (1890's-1930) and PAN (1896-1900), and there were many more, will give you an advance in collecting prints when on a budget and safeguard you from disappointing acquisitions. Not every seller will tell you or, in the best case, may be just ignorant of what exactly he is selling and (asking/starting) prices vary immensely. From insanely overpriced to dead cheap. Recently I was able to add these Austrian parrots to my parrots on prints collection patiently awaiting an affordable offer from a realistic seller. Both are Kunstbeilage prints. Right Ludwig Jungnickel (1881-1965), left Angelo Jank (1868-1940) an iconic lithography by this animal painter 
But mind you, most of these "Beilage"-prints today are very sought after, highly collectable and printed from the original blocks or plates in the case of etchings. Like the multiple prints by Ludwig Jungnickel (blue parrots, roe-deer), Norbertine Bresslern Roth (1891-1978)(orange lobster), Walter Klemm (1883-1957) (cattle market, blue-tits below a.o.), Eugen Kirchner (1865-1938) (print above), the great painter Max Liebermann (1847-1935) and the founding father of Modern Printmaking Emil Orlik (1870-1932) himself.
 Walter Klemm in Japanese-Orlik mode, a free print in 1914 !

Many of these prints I cannot remember ever coming across in a hand-pulled or hand-signed edition. Later added (fake) signatures spoiling the value considerably. 
Since I've found so many more nice and hardly ever seen pictures related to Hélène Maß and her times, facts about her and her contemporaries, the great German post-impressionist painters and the glorious city of Berlin its schools and many fine artists, I intend presenting them in following series of postings around Hélène Maß. Sharing and warming from the result of some winter armchair travel and research. 

Read further here about Hélène Maß and her prints:

All pictures borrowed freely from the internet for friendly, educational and non commercial use.

All comments and added information is warmly welcomed.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Eleonore Doelter meets Carl Thiemann

Eleonore Anna Philippine Doelter né Fötterle
(1855 Vienna – 1937 Graz)
Austrian painter and printmaker

Carl Thiemann’s many prints of Venetian sailing boats are well known, precious and iconic. Thiemann visited Venice and the lagoon, staying in Chioggia, the picturesque fishing port in the south of the lagoon. 
Chioggia fishing boats, left Doelter, right Thiemann

Numerous artists from all over the world created countless paintings (too many examples to show in this posting) of Venice, Chioggia and the characteristic fishing boats and gondolas either under sail in the lagoon or moored in the harbour. Here, printmakers, American Dana Bartlett (1882-1957) and Czech Frantisek Tavik Simon (1877-1942) made their sketches for their later printed lagoon impressions.

But today I’ld like to share some of the odd 40 examples I collected from the Internet over the years combined with some recently found bits and pieces concerning the life and career of forgotten Austrian printmaker Eleonore Doelter
Both prints by Eleonore Doelter
She obviously has been Thiemann’s student in Dachau, probably travelling with or meeting him in Italy, their Chioggia prints appearing in the same years. I discovered this information in some recent auction and gallery catalogues (see below) leading me further to some more Austrian and German biographical facts. 

Comparing some of the pupils trials, like these trees, with the masters prints (lower) the influence of Thiemann is very overwhelmingly obvious. 

above Doelter, lower Thiemann.

Eleonore married in 1876 Cornelio August Doelter (y Cisterich) (born 1850 in Arroyo Puerto Rico- died 1930 Vienna). His father August originated from Baden, emigrated and made his fortune marrying a sugar plantation and slave owner’s daughter in Puerto Rico in the West Indies and establishing a trading company. The father stayed in Puerto Rico sending his family home, first to Paris later to Germany. 
left Doelter, right Thiemann.
Young Cornelio studied mineralogy in Heidelberg and was appointed professor of mineralogy in Graz at the age of 27 the same year he married Eleonore Fötterle, daughter of Franz Fötterle an Austrian mining inspector and his wife Aloisia Radda. They Doelter family lived in a villa in a very posh neighbourhood in Graz near the wonderful Botanical Gardens and greenhouses.

Here Eleonore's eyewitness account was recorded of the 1899 Graz earthquake with her account from no.7 Schubertstrasse

It was said Eleonore followed her artistic ambitions only later in life, after their two children, a daughter (1880) and a son (1882), had grown up. She studied with painters like Alfred Zoff (1852-1927) in Graz and Adolph Hoelzel in Dachau (whom we've met in before postings) and then worked with and no doubt learned the technique from printmaker Carl Thiemann in Dachau.

All these men were of her own generation and age and she had been in Dachau from 1905 (well before Thiemann arrived) exhibiting her colour woodblock prints extensively for several years after. After living separated for a long time the marriage was dissolved in 1915 and the professor remarried in 1919.
Left print by Doelter, right painting by Zoff.
Alfred Zoff, the Graz painting professor, proved to be a very interesting character and painter. I think I will return to him one day. Destined to become a doctor, like his father, he changed his mind and destiny following instead the Landes Kunstschule in Graz and becoming one of Austria’s most loved painters. In 1895 Zoff and his wife rented a villa on the Ligurian Mediteranean coast, near Genua, he’d discovered on his visits and walks earlier. There he entertained and lead painting classes with friends and students. Eleonore most probably was one of them. 
Left Doelter, right Alfred Zoff painting in the Low countries.

Zoff visited and painted in Belgium and the Netherlands too, and I think Eleonore might have accompanied him there also.

I have no idea about the chronology of her prints, there's never a date and   most of her prints have the same somewhat simplistic approach to every day scenery, the coast, dwellings, boats and I even found two flower pieces among the 40 or so examples. And there's the consistency in the use of color. Much like her colleagues from Suisse Martha Cunz (1876-1961) and Austria Josephine Siccard-Redl (1878-1938)
This winter landscape however, might be the proof of what she eventually  was capable of creating with the medium: my favorite. If I only had known a year back what I know now I maybe even might have owned one.

See Modern Printmakers for more Venice fishing boats prints by various other artists visiting the Venice lagoon here*
With thanks:  A visit to their 2012 catalogue is highly recommended.

All pictures borrowed freely from the Internet for friendly, educational non commercial use.