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

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

Max Liebermann – modern master 

Self-portrait (source: Wikimedia Commons)

175 years ago, on July 20, 1847, the famous artist Max Liebermann, regarded as the pioneer of modernism in Germany, was born in Berlin.  After realist beginnings, influenced by the School of Barbizon which he encountered during a stay in Paris from 1873 to 1878, he became a master impressionist finding inspiration in beer gardens, café terrasses, gardens and parks. Portraits form a considerable part of his oeuvre too, including the creation of fascinating self-portraits throughout his career. Today his paintings can be found in all the major museums around the world.

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Lesser-known German impressionists

The idea for this blog post started with a postcard which I recently rediscovered among letters sent home from my year abroad in the 1980s, bought on a visit to the Kunsthalle in Mannheim. The postcard is a reproduction of a painting by Fritz von Uhde (1848-1911), one of a number that he did of his three daughters and the family dog in the garden of his country house near Munich. It was the impressionistic treatment of the sunlight which drew me to it and which reminded me of more familiar works by French impressionist painters.

Die Töchter im Garten, 1906, public domain via Wikimedia Commons

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Beuys 100

One hundred years ago, on May 12, the artist Joseph Beuys was born. Through his radical redefinition of sculpture and art more generally and his spectacular performances he became one of the most famous artists of the second half of the 20th century. He developed his concept of the extended art work which led him to become a politically engaged artist working with and for the Green Party.

The 100th birthday of Joseph Beuys is being celebrated with numerous exhibitions and events worldwide. The state of North-Rhine Westphalia in Germany has put on a particularly rich programme, understandably so as Joseph Beuys was born in Krefeld and spent most of his life in Düsseldorf, the second largest city in North-Rhine Westphalia, where he taught at the art academy. I wonder what Beuys would have made of these state sponsored celebrations given that he was a provocateur and questioner of authority. Continue reading