Petra Kelly: an influential Green

Environmental concerns are dominant issues of the 21st century as we grapple with what we can all do to lessen the negative impact of human activities on our planet. But it was not always so, and the topics of concern have also changed over time. Back in the early 1980s my German A-level conversation classes often featured subjects such as acid rain (now largely forgotten) or debates around nuclear power. This reflected a growing interest in environmentalism in Germany where the Green Party (Die Grünen) had been established in 1980, one of the first in Europe. A founder member was Petra Kelly, born on 29 November 1947. 75 years on, and also just over 30 years since her untimely death, this blog post explores her life and legacy. Continue reading

Prinzhorn’s influential book, 100 years on

The idea for this blog post came to me in 2021 when I read a review of an engaging new book, Charlie English’s The gallery of miracles and madness (e-Legal Deposit) in which I first learnt of Hans Prinzhorn’s Bildnerei der Geisteskranken (S400:05.b.9.337). This groundbreaking book analysed the artwork of disturbed psychiatric patients, with just over half of it devoted to detailed descriptions of ten artists, given pseudonyms to protect the reputation of their families. The book was first published 100 years ago in 1922; the University Library copy is a reprint from 1923, demonstrating the book’s popularity. In his The Discovery of the art of the insane (9000.b.1564) John MacGregor describes Prinzhorn’s work as “an unequaled contribution to the study of the art of the mentally ill.”

Cover and title page of our 1923 edition (click on image to see enlarged): Prinzhorn demanded of his publisher that the cover be black with a runic font

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Interned artists (2): Hugo Dachinger and Hellmuth Weissenborn

I wrote in an earlier blog post about John Heartfield and Kurt Schwitters who shared the experience of being interned during World War Two. This post will highlight two more artists interned by Britain because they were foreign nationals: the Austrian Hugo Dachinger and the German Hellmuth Weissenborn. After the war both men made Britain their home until their deaths much later in the 20th century. Continue reading

A new acquisition: the Panorama of the Franco-Prussian war by Percy Cruikshank (1870)

We are delighted to be able to shed light on the recent purchase by Cambridge University Library Special Collections of a satirical Panorama of the Franco-Prussian war. Illustrated by Percy Cruikshank, it probably dates from the end of 1870. It relates to both the exhibition of the Cambridge collection of 1870-71 caricatures held at the University Library this spring, and the academic conference on the Memory of 1870-71 held at Wolfson College by Marion Glaumaud-Carbonnier and Nick White last month.

Unfolded panorama in the Rare books reading roomThe Panorama of the Franco-Prussian war, published in London by F. Platts & Mann Nephews, was “painted by PC from the sketches of Messrs. Smith, Brown, Jones & Robinson”. The full signature of Percy Cruikshank (1817-1880) appears repeatedly within the images themselves. Percy came from an illustrious family of caricaturists: he was the son of Isaac Robert Cruikshank (1789-1856), the nephew of George Cruikshank (1792-1878), and the grandson of Isaac Cruikshank (1764-1811). He contributed caricatures of the Franco-Prussian war to the British satirical humour magazine Judy or the London Serio-Comic Journal (named after Punch and Judy). The highly collaborative nature of the panorama is interesting given the reference to no less than four sketchers. Continue reading

Interned German artists (1): John Heartfield and Kurt Schwitters

Cover of 1940 edition (1941.7.3074)

British wartime internment of foreign nationals seems to have been a recurring theme for me this year. I already knew about World War Two internment camps on the Isle of Man (see my earlier blog post on Franz Hildebrandt) but was not aware that this had also happened during World War One until, on a visit to Liverpool, I came across the story of Carl Bartels, designer of the famous Liver Birds on the Royal Liver Building. Shortly afterwards I read a review of Simon Parkin’s new book The Island of Extraordinary Captives (e-Legal Deposit) about the interned artist Peter Midgley. Then I happened to unearth a cutting from the Observer that I had been sent in September 1988 in which Neal Ascherson wrote engagingly about a reissue (539:1.c.805.63) of François Lafitte’s 1940 book The internment of aliens, a contemporary criticism of government policy (the article can be viewed online if you have Raven access). And as the current government’s Rwanda deportation plan was announced it was easy to be reminded of wartime deportations and the tragedy of the Arandora Star

In this blog post I will look in more detail at two German artists who share the internment experience, both of whom I have mentioned before in previous blog posts: John Heartfield (see German theatre premières in 1922) and Kurt Schwitters (see On the fringes of Dada in Berlin). A later post will consider some less well-known German artists who also endured internment. Continue reading