Admittedly, my Friedrich Wahle research has been on the back-burner since I found the print version of my painting. I’ve mostly been trying to monitor the auction market where a few of his paintings surface every year. Interestingly, I happened across a television appraisal of a Fritz Wahle painting on Kunst & Krempel (Art & Stuff), the German version of Antiques Roadshow. It’s a well executed scene of a couple sharing a few private words at a dinner party which I think the show entitled “Eavesdropping”. While the image is beautiful, it was the frame that really got my attention – it is the same as the one on my Wahle!Read more
Posts from the ‘The Friedrich Wahle Project’ Category
Well look what I found in the July 21-27, 1901 issue of Fliegenden Blätter:
I finally found my painting! So there you have it, The Discourse was in fact created as an illustration as I suspected. The engraving was done by “Willis” and signed in bottom right corner. While not as beautiful as the oil painting, I am impressed by the amount of scenic detail picked up in the print version. The engraver even reproduced the broad diagonal strokes in the flooring which seem like such an after thought on the part of Wahle, likely meant to be cropped in the magazine lay-out process.
The print does settle one detail that I’ve been debating since I first saw the painting. For a work mostly done in muted blue and gray, the little red dash on the old man’s lapel always seemed like either a later addition or a playful detail. I’m happy to report that it seems to be reproduced in the magazine and must have been original to the image.
But what really matters is the accompanying text. As an illustration, what is the story here? Apparently the old man is a wealthy banker and the younger man is a Baron with financial problems. The image is entitled, “Ein Gemüthsmensch (A good-natured fellow).” I owe a big thanks to my fluent aunt and German uncle for the following translation:
“Gut denn, Herr Baron, ich gebe Ihnen meine Tochter und arrangire Ihre Schulden … doch wohl gemerkt, mit einem Theil der Mitgift!” …” Uber Herr Commerzienrath, Sie werden Ihr Kind nicht berauben?!”
“Ok then, Mr. Baron, I will give you my daughter and take care of your debts, but it comes out of the dowry!” … “But Mr. Bank President, do you want to deprive your child?!”
So, the Baron is trying to get both a wife and have all his debts paid off. He guilts his creditor with paternal responsibility as a means of getting the full dowry. It sounds like a social critique of the “dollar princesses” who used their new industrial-age familial wealth to marry into titled families. I suppose this was clever, if not funny, in 1901 but the humor doesn’t really translate today. There are a few other lame jokes on the same page, but at least this one is cute:
The Big Feast. Man (to the butcher): Was everything over the top at your daughters wedding? ….. O, let me tell you, the pig we ate could have taken a bath in all the Champagne we drank!
I’d like to look more closely at and translate other pages in Fliegenden Blätter to see if the jokes get any better. It’s hard to believe that such beautiful illustrations by Wahle, Reinicke, and Soblittgen were paired with silly jokes. For comparison, I might also check out the UK’s 19th century humor magazine Punch to see if century-old English jokes hold up at all.
I still find it hard to believe that my painting, and frankly all the other gorgeous images in the magazine, might be just lame jokes. It speaks to the available artistic talent and maybe to the quality of journal the public was use to. I’m still divided on whether Wahle was supplied the text/joke on which to base the image or if he created scenes which were then matched as best as possible to available stories. “The Flirtatious Officer” seems to suggest that the text influenced the image.
So what’s next now that I found “my Wahle”? I will continue to work on Wahle’s biography and more importantly his catalog – wrapping up my review of Fliegenden Blätter and then looking at other 19th century magazines. With paintings popping up every year (and most recent here), I continue to watch the auction market. It’s interesting to put each piece into context of his entire career portfolio so I like seeing what surfaces for sale. I also have references to Wahle’s participation in other art shows (besides the Munich Secessionists) that I will start researching too. It’s encouraging to find my painting and makes me more determined to finish what I started!
To read up on the entire Friedrich Wahle Project so far, click here.
As readers of this blog know, I bought an early 20th century German painting by a little known illustrator, Friedrich Wahle, and have since been researching the artist’s life and portfolio. The catalog research has been going well and I’ve figured out what he looked like and even where he lived in Munich from 1893-1902. Then, out of nowhere, a scandal emerged. Apparently, Fritz Wahle may have been involved in a love triangle with Sigmund Freud’s fiance (and future wife) Martha Bernays. Given some of Freud’s vehement writing decrying artists as wild seducers, I can’t help but think my Wahle may be the one who jaded the father of modern psychology.
Sigmund Freud and Martha Bernays met in Vienna and were quickly engaged in 1882. Because he felt he lacked the means to impress her family, Freud demanded that the engagement be kept secret. To hide their relationship, her love letters to him were disguised as academic correspondence arriving to the University of Vienna. Freud’s love letters to Martha were addressed to and delivered by their mutual friend Fritz Wahle.
At first I though this name was just a coincidence. Looking at American immigration records, there were a dozen or so men named Fritz Wahle during this period. But then again, the Friedrich Wahle I have been researching would have been only 2 years younger than Martha. The “Fritz” in this love story is described as an artist. Freud even makes a cheeky reference to their academic cover-up referring to their friend “Dr. Wahle of Prague”. I know very little about Friedrich Wahle’s youth, but it is possible that after being born in Prague that his family came to the Austrian capital of Vienna. Likewise, since he was Jewish, he may have known Martha whose grandfather was a famous rabbi. So while this necessitates a lot more historical research (art school records, census, genealogy, etc), it’s a distinct possibility that Fritz was a close friend of Martha and Sigmund.
Honestly, I really hope this is the right Fritz Wahle because he was involved in a juicy story! Although engaged to Martha’s cousin Elise, Fritz spent a lot of time with Martha accompanying her to events and even serving as her art teacher. Very soon into the engagement, Sigmund proved to an incredibly jealous boy-friend criticizing friends and even family members that occupied Martha’s time. This included her “brotherly friend” Fritz who Freud apparently believed had a reputation for “being able to coax a woman away from another man” . In this case, Freud was perhaps rightly suspicious.
Only two months into the secret engagement, a mutual friend tells Freud that Fritz and Martha had recently kissed. In a rage, Freud confronts Fritz and reveals that he and Martha are engaged. Fritz apparently then bursts into tears, declares his undying love for Martha and starts to write her a passionate letter asking her to leave Sigmund. Freud tares up the letter in Fritz’s face. I presume this was followed by some yelling but they eventually cooled down, and parted ways. Freud continued to brood over the confrontation and forbids Martha to see Fritz. He writes:
The man who brings tears to my eyes must do a great deal before I forgive him. He is no longer my friend, and woe to him if he becomes my enemy. I am made of harder stuff then he is, and when we match each other he will find he is not my equal. [1, letter to Martha, 1882]
Martha is initial reluctant to abandon her friendship, but Freud is adamant. While she maintains that Fritz was never more than a friend, Martha eventually concedes to break off all contact and correspondences with Fritz. (Perhaps this is what drives Fritz’s move to Munich? I wonder if the engagement to cousin Elise was broken off?)
Not to psychoanalyze the father of modern psychology but perhaps this episode created a new animosity towards artists or revealed an existing insecurity compared to them? The analytical Freud seemed a bit threatened by creative-types writing:
I think there is a general enmity between artists and those engaged in the details of scientific work. We know that they posses in their art a master key to open with ease all female hearts, whereas we stand helpless at the strange design of the lock and have first to torment ourselves to discover a suitable key to it. 
Freud also seemed disgusted by Fritz’s apparently delayed realization that he loved Martha which only seemed to surface once confronted with her engagement to Sigmund. While the situation may seem like teenage drama or the stuff of a good romantic-comedy, Freud took the “guy friend with a crush” storyline to indicate a deep weakness of character. His critique of Fritz’s behavior foreshadows his later career in psychology:
The solution of the Puzzle is this: only in logic are contradictions unable to coexist; in feelings they quite happily continue alongside each other. To argue like Fritz, is to deny one half of life. Least of all must one deny the possibility of such contradictions in feelings with artists, people who have no occasion to submit their inner life to strict control of reason. [1, letter to Martha July 8, 1882]
Friedrich (Fritz) Wahle may have led a very interesting life indeed!
 Ernest Jones, The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud. Basic Books: New York, New York; 1953.
Peter M. Newton, Freud: From Youthful Dream to Mid-Life Crisis. The Guilford Press: New York, New York; 1995.
Lisa Appignanesi and John Forrester, Freud’s Women. Basic Books: New York, New York; 1992.
Norman N. Holland “Freud and the Poet’s Eye: His Ambivalence Toward the Artist”. PSYART: A Hyperlink Journal for the Psychological Study of the Arts. December 15, 2009. Available here. Sept 17, 2012.
When I started searching through Fliegende Blatter, my goal was to find the story that accompanied my own Wahle painting. I’ve also naturally found other Wahle’s each with their own stories. It is very clear that for these illustrations, their context matters.
Above is “Der Galante Offizier (The Gallant Officer)” which was sold at auction in Munich in 2003. A gentleman sits adjusting his lapel flower while a woman looks away. It’s a lot clearer in the print version below. It’s a pity the painting image isn’t clear because I like the use of colors in the purple flowers, red uniform collar and green tone in the woman’s gown.
If you haven’t been following along, I’ve embarked on a little research project to create a catalog raisonne and biography for the German illustrator Friedrich (Fritz) Wahle – mainly because I bought one of his paintings and couldn’t find any information about him. Many of his paintings appeared in the humor magazine Fliegende Blatter and so I’ve been going through digitized copies looking to correlate print images with auction records and to identify new painting. Here is the first match I found!