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 tagged ‘Germany’
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.
So as part of the Friedrich Wahle Project, I am assembling a catalog of his drawings and paintings. Using mainly online auction records from the last three decades, I’ve managed to put together a pretty interesting list. So here is approximately what I know so far:
I’m obviously curious to know what Friedrich Wahle looked like. While research his catalog, I’ve been scouring for a known portrait. It looks like I may have found a little something – Wahle in caricature.
It may not be the best physical likeness but it goes a long way to understand Wahle and his friends. The sketch comes from a biography  by Horst Uhr of Lovis Corinth (1858-1925) who was a well known German artist whose work ranged from Impressionism to Expressionism. Corinth moved to Munich in 1880 to study art at the Academy of Fine Arts. In 1884, he left for Antwerp, then Paris and finally returned to Munich in 1891. He was a member of the Secessionist (or modern art) movement which was founded shortly after his return to Munich. Five years older than Wahle, it is unclear if Lovis and Friedrich met each other at the Academy or through the active Munich art world, but by 1896 they have clearly become friends.
The caricature drawing by Lovis Corinth was completed around 1896. The upper right figure is a self-portrait of Corinth. The central figure is Benno Becker (1860-1938) a painter, art collector, art critic and founding member of the Secessionist movement in Munich. The lower left figure in profile is Hermann Eichfield (1845-1917). After a stint in the Prussian army, Eichfield came to Munich to study art, contributed to literary magazines and was a founding member of the Secessionist movement. Finally, in the upper left is Friedrich Wahle.
It’s important here to note a distinction between the two artistic movements in Germany during the late 19th century: the Secessionists and the the Jugendstil (or Art Nouveau). Horst Uhr notes in the biography that this caricature has elements of the Jugendstil with its “curvilinear patterns and capricious arabesques” and may have been a playful jaunt by Corinth into that style. However, Corinth and the other Secessionists were decidedly modern. They wanted to pursue art outside the traditional and academic style which meant they were more aligned with the Impressionist movement. Even still, Corinth’s incredible self-portrait below with a skeleton looks contemporary even by 21st century standards.
Given the associations of the other men in the caricature, I would be surprised if Wahle was not a part of the Secessionist art movement in Munich at the time. Since Corinth, Eichfield and Becker were also very involved in the foundation of this movement, Wahle may have been more connected than I first envisioned and definitely more than just a commercial artist for magazines.
It’s interesting what kind of clues you can get from a little cartoon portrait!
 Lovis Corinth, Caricatures , c. 1896. Pencil, 32.6 × 23.7 cm. Formerly Collection Johannes Guthmann, Ebenhausen; present whereabouts unknown. Photo courtesy Hans-Jürgen Imiela. Appears on page 87 of  below.
 Uhr, Horst. Lovis Corinth. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990. Full text here.
On my continuing search for information on Friedrich Wahle, I found one auction description that mentioned he worked for Fliegende Blätter. Fliegende Blätter translates to “Flying Leaves” and was a prominent German journal of “humor and wit”. The paper was founded in 1845 shortly after Punch, the British satirical paper. It published weekly out of Munich until 1944. The journal was filled with comics, poems and short stories. Most of the available information about the journal is in German (which is becoming quite the trend with this research project). One reviewer notes that Fliegende Blätter was known for “unerring satirical characterization of the German bourgeoisie” and “a compendium of humorous social criticism”. (Or at least that’s what Google Translate tells me.) I found a contemporary essay about Fliegende Blätter (circa 1894) :
Its humor is thus spontaneous, natural, and universal. Its contributors are found in every rank – men and women, rich and poor, young and old. None is too wise and no too lowly to send the joke of the day to this paper.
Thankfully the Heidelberg University Library has the entire 100 year run digitized and online so I have been flipping through some issues, focusing mainly on years which Wahle was probably active. The illustrations are fantastic! The journal is approximately half text and half drawings which range from little comical sketches to full page paintings. The art definitely gets larger and more elaborate as the years progress. The images mostly feature daily life focusing on people presumably involved in the corresponding stories, with a few fantasy images thrown in as well. I am recognizing the artists from issue to issue so at least there was a set of professional illustrators that worked for the journal.
I’ve noticed that Emil Reinicke draws humorous, folksy caricatures of everyday people. The scenes and situations depicted are a little goofy but expertly drawn in a stylized way. Although I’m unsure of the spelling of his name, H. Soblittgen contributes some great ink drawings of society life.
One of the most skilled and most frequently featured artist appears to be René Reinicke. I’m not sure if he’s related to Emil above, but given his lifespan (1860-1926), R. Reinicke would have been a contemporary of Wahle. In some sources he is listed as a primary Fliegende Blätter artist. His style is similar to Wahle’s but subject matter tends to be very grand. R. Reinicke paints formal balls and outdoor scenes with everyone wearing the height of fashion.
Having gone through a few random years, I have seen about 40 Wahle paintings. On average, he was publishing 18 paintings a year in Fliegende Blätter but it was variable. Sometimes there are 4-6 paintings in one month followed by a 4month absence. I remain impressed with the quality and variety of his works.
Of course, my focus right now in going through issues of Fliegende Blätter is to find and catalog Wahle’s works. Regardless, I’m already noticing how the journal’s illustrations evolved over decades and were influenced by the Art Nouveau movement. There are some reoccurring characters (including one drawn by Wahle) that I’ll have to do a little more research on. I’m also curious to see how this comic, sometimes whimsical, journal handles World War I and II given that it published straight through to 1944. At the very least, I am definitely on the right track for understanding Friedrich Wahle’s style and putting together his portfolio. Who knows, The Discourse may be in one of these issues!
 “A German Comic Paper (Fliegende Blätter)” by William DeLancy Ellwanger and C. M. Robinson, 1894, published unknown (access from Univ. of Toronto collection)