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Posts tagged ‘Munich’

The Friedrich Wahle Project – Mission Accomplish! (at least part of it…)

Well look what I found in the July 21-27, 1901 issue of Fliegenden Blätter:

Friedrich Wahle - Discourse in Fliegende Blatter

Familiar, no?

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.

Friedrich Wahle - old man closeups

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.

Vor der Oper - Friedrich Wahle

The Wahle market remains strong in Germany. Vor der Oper. (Before the Opera) sold by the Neumeister Auction House, Munich in September 2012 for 2600 Euro!

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.

Munich Secessionists Catalogs

Embossed logo on the cover of the Munich Secessionist catalog (Photo: Princeton University Library)

Having decided that Wahle was part of the Munich Secessionist art movement based on his circle of friends, I sought out the catalogs for the Secessionist exhibits to see if he ever did show his art with this group.  While I didn’t find many specifics about this paintings, I did find some key biographical information.

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A Portrait of Wahle and His Friends

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.

Friedrich Wahle in the upper left, from "Caricatures" (1) by Lovis Corinth

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 [2] 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, "Self-Portrait with Skeleton", 1896 (Lenbachhaus Art Museum, Munich)

"Portrait of the Painter Benno Becker" by Lovis Corinth, 1892 (Von der Heydt Museum) - a slightly more realistic likeness than the central caricature figure

Benno Becker "River bank near Bologna" (Galerie Konrad Bayer)

Hermann Eichfeld, "Country Road with Approaching Storm", 1895. Sold at auction in 2009.

[1] 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 [2] below.

[2] Uhr, Horst. Lovis Corinth. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  1990. Full text here.

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