Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Gretl Götz, a forgotten printmaker, and meeting her father.

Margarete (Gretl) Götz
(Winterthur  30-11-1869 - Zürich 28-09-1952)

Swiss portrait painter, illustrator and printmaker.
(although I could not find any portraits by her hand)


Like often before I just happened to stumble over this hardly known printmaker rummaging Ebay. Gretl is mostly remembered (or forgotten) because of her illustrations in two once popular nature books by Hugo Sieker (1903-1979), a Hamburg editor and writer known for this friendship with sculptor Ernst Barlach (1870-1938). And occasionally a signed hand-pulled print surfaces in German Ebay, very nice and delicate woodcut printmaking.


But the most interesting thing however was meeting with Gretl's father Hermann mentioned somewhere in a footnote. About the life of Gretl nothing much is to be found, other then that she's donated her fathers musical legacy to the Swiss State in the beginning of the twentieth century. 

Hermann Götz (Goetz) was born in 1840 in Königsberg Prussia as son of a salesman. He didn't receive his first serious piano lessons when he was 17 in 1857 but at the same also starting studying for a degree in mathematics which he gave up to go to Berlin studying in the prestigious Julius Stern Konservatorium. He followed piano lessons with piano virtuoso Hans von Bülow graduating two years later in 1862. 
Postcard woodcut by unknown printmaker
Winterthur Stadtkirche.
A year later, in 1863, Hermann Götz 23 years of age probably also because of his lung problems moved to Switserland where he was appointed city organist in Winterthur Stadtkirche a few years later marrying a local girl Laura Wirth in 1866, Gretl's mother. Laura had something to do with the arts because she is mentioned as teacher to Sophie Schäppi (1852-1921) a Winterthur artist who later studied and made a career in Paris. 
      

Hans von Bülow (1830-1894) was married to Cosima Liszt (1837-1930) the  daughter of his piano tutor Franz Liszt's (1811-1886). She had been left in the care of von Bülow's mother in Berlin by father Fransz who had a very troublesome relation with the mother of his three children Marie d'Agoult (1805-1876). 



Cosima, who was the mother of two children with von Bülow, later divorced him to marry her lover, composer Richard Wagner (1813-1883) who was 24 years older. They had another three children. She was the Godmother of both the Bülow and the Wagner dynasty. Not bad for a girl that wasn't famous for her good looks.    



Götz suffered from tuberculosis since he was 14, the desease eventually killing him. Like it did Chopin. In 1876 only 35 years old leaving behind his wife Laura and little Gretl. It was his tragedy to be born with so much talent, in the same year as Tsjaikowski, being sickly and overshadowed by contemporary colleagues that eventually were more popular and rose to greatest fame: Strauss, Wagner, Liszt, Brahms. And dying so young of course (*)
  

I'd read about Hermann's tragic and short life and extraordinary qualities as a composer in a book by Dutch writer, behavioral psychologist, organist, novellist and musical scholar Maarten 't Hart (b.1944) who confesses to have indulged in buying Goetzes extremely expensive biography. After reading he succeeded in finding and collecting all of the composers music and available scores. It's always nice meeting some one who's as nuts.......... 



But seriously: this hardly ever heard music is a revelation. Götz wrote some incredibly beautiful stuff, some say rivaling with Schubert and Brahms: piano 4 handed, a moving piano quintet, a symphony, a violin concerto and two piano concertos that I cannot believe aren't known world wide. If you like classic music as you do woodblock printmaking: there are several CD's, quality and enthousiast interpretations at very affordable prices available. Also check Youtube and here's(*) a link with some sampled fragments. Enjoy !

(*) Some other but more famous composers who didn't reach the age of 40: Mozart (35), Mendelsohn (38), Schubert (31), Chopin (39).

Read here(*) more about Hermann Goetz' biography and Musical legacy.   

All pictures borrowed freely from the Internet for friendly, educational and non commercial use only. 

Monday, 20 October 2014

Elsbeth Timmermann-Heuss , Elvira Castner and some other remarkable girls

Elsbeth Timmermann-Heuss
(Wunstorf near Hannover 1873 – Wunstorf 1948)
forgotten German painter and printmaker. 

Faithful reader Markus (who appeared in dear Charles' Blog recently) is pointing me regularly to hidden female German (early) printmakers in my ongoing research concerning German women printmakers born before 1900. His most recent hint was to this “Linolschnitt”, linocut print, surfacing in German Ebay.


It is titled “Plön:/ Hol. Mariënhöhe” and signed E. Timmermann-Heuss, monogramed in the block ETH. It has a lovely soft pallet and the technique of overlaying the different blocks using transparant paint creating multiple new and “in between” colors giving it an impressionistic atmosphere. Elsbeth certainly new what she was doing. Maybe she'd been in nearby Heikendorf (near Kiel), an artist colony in the early 20th century. 



Curious about the unknown printmaker what follows is what I was able to find on a rainy day. The name Mariënhöhe probably was only known to a very limited circle because the building and location, I've found, is the castle Prinzenhaus in Plön situated between Lübeck and Kiel in province Holstein north of Hamburg.
View on Castle Plön, woodcut possibly by Frido Witte (1881-1965)
The castle was refurbished in 1895 to accommodate the education of Emperor Wilhelm II's six sons. Holstein being the native province of their mother Empress Augusta-Viktoria. Wilhelm was Englands Queen Victoria's son. It was as such in use until 1910 when the boys were grown up and in 1914 it became a military hospital ("Lazarett") so between 1910 and 1914 it will have been in use as "Mariënhöhe" Garden School.  


In a 2013 newspaper article (link*) I learned Elsbeth was born in Wunstorf  10 miles west of Hannover and that Wilhelm Timmermann, a doctor, probably had been her brother. Which brings me to the curious habit of placing the (her) married/husbands name after her maiden-name. The article also stated she’d lived in the USA for some time but had returned to Wunstorf. A painting, mentioned in the article showing a location, the abby now library, in Wunstorf, and was created in 1938 probably after she'd returned ?


In a 1907 passengers list of SS Kronprinz Wilhelm” one of the great  Norddeutscher Lloyd ocean steamers, I found: Elsbeth Heuss (30) and Theodor Heinrich Heuss (41) travelling from Bremen to New-York and next to Baltimore. Could she be Elsbeth from Wunstorf ? On arriving the couple was recorded and registrated at New-York's Ellis Island’s immigrations office. Theodor Heinrich was born 05-01-1866 in Ebersbach near Heilbron which is not far away from the village of Brackenheim where a namesake was born: Germany’s first elected Federal President (“Bundespräsident”) in 1949: Theodor Heuss (1884-1963). Maybe there is a relationship: in both families Theodor and Louis (Ludwig) are common names.


Since 1910 the Prinzenhaus in Plön housed one of Germany’s Advanced Horticultural Colleges (Höhere Gartenbauschule) for (educated) Women (this one founded by Marie Schwertzel (*). These schools followed the initiative of Lady Warwick in Reading, Berkshire, England (1889) (read here for more about the Prince of Wales' mistress). In those days, women were not allowed to follow courses as academy students. Has Elsbeth been a student in Mariënhöhe? There's just the one reference to the name Mariënhöhe to be found in combination with the horticultural school in Plön. And that's in a footnote.


---------------------------------------------- 

Dr.Elvira Castner 
(born Zempelburg 10-03-1844 - probably 1919)

Pioneer female dentist graduated 1878 in Baltimore (USA) practicing for 20 years in Berlin 
Founding mother of horticultural schools for girls in Northern Germany since 1894

Mariënhöhe school in Plön was founded by a student of a student(*) of founding mother Dr. Elvira Castner, a most remarkable woman. She was one of the first female German dentists (a colleague !), trained and educated in Baltimore USA because academic training and careers for girls were still impossible in Germany. She arrived in Baltimore in 1876 (31 years and unmarried) with SS Gellert (build one year before) owned by the Hamburg-America Line. 29 years later Elsbeth followed the same route in 1907 with the Kronprinz Wilhelm



After 20 years of practice in Berlin however already in her 50's she was more interested in training young women to produce horticultural pruducts in Germany to replace American import and creating decent professional education and careers for girls. (Read here* for more about this extraordinary woman and see below (**)






She followed in the footsteps of another great women-rights pioneer Hedwig Heyl-Crüsemann (Bremen 1850-1934 Berlin) who started the Horticultural School for Women initiative in Berlin in 1890. Heyl's father Eduard by the way was one of the owners of the Norddeutsche Lloyd (see above). 

Although Heyl undoubtedly started the idea and enterprise she supported Elvira Castner's spreading of the gospel of founding new schools led by newly educated professional women a few years later and soon after started a new greenhouse project. For women. As a free thinker and true follower of Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) she believed freedom from need not only applied to the foods she and her students produced but also to her initiative and life-work: truly a great an altruistic woman.    

All further information is welcomed and will be shared with readers of this Blog. 

A request for information to the Wunstorf regional newspaper with a request for help from local readers is already underway.

(*)   Marie Schwertzel (01-05-1871 Schönhagen) she founded the Mariënhöhe school in Plön and had been in 1907-09 a student of Marta Back, herself a student of Elvira Castner starting her own horticultural school in nearby Holtenau in 1900. I could not find any biographical facts concerning these two women.
(**) Felicitas Glade 2008: Jungfern im Grünen, Berufsausbildung für "höhere Töchter" in Gartenbauschülen fur Frauen. 
("Damsels in green", professional training for "higher daughters" in horticultural schools for women. 

Friday, 17 October 2014

Pearce Bates: K.C. Pearce and Bob Bates

K.C. Pearce and Bob Bates
also known as
Pearce Bates 

(American printmakers couple) 


Going through some portfolios with prints to decide which may go and which may stay(*) I found this nice Pearce Bates (sparrow and swallows) print which I simply had forgotten. A fine  opportunity to try to find out some more about this printmaker on a rainy day.



Excavating the internet, other sources and my archive files for more examples I found this rather strange and seemingly incoherent collection of prints and styles but hardly anything personal about the makers. 




So here're all the examples I could find an scratch together. To be honest, some pictures I've pimped in Photoshop because they were either very small (auction house pay-site thumbnails: do you hate those as much as I do ?) or very  perspectively distorted. 


Pearce Bates in reality proofed to be two artists: K.C. Pearce (Mrs. Bates)  and Bob Bates working together, not only as a a couple but also as printmakers. Educated and trained in the 1930's and still working in the 1970's is all I was able to discover so far: hardly anything about their lives and careers. No dates or places and not even where the  initials K.C. might be standing for. 


Bob Bates had been a bird decoy woodcarver and both had been working in the advertising, magazine and newspaper illustration world. They choose to go their own way, flying their own plane and living in the woods in Dillsburg Pensylvania (USA) dedicated to producing graphic art. 



So maybe with the help of readers we can fill in and color the lives and careers of this American couple and joined printmaking venture. I particularly like these amusing titmouse (or is it a nuthatch or just a phantasy bird ?) 



The prints they've created reflect their personal interests in music (jazz), dogs (Irish water spaniels), traveling, flying and sailing. Their work is collected by  private collectors around the world as well in institutional collections like the Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art and the Microsoft Art Collection







(*) As of today the narrowing down my collection to prints made by German Women Printmakers born 1860-1900 and active until WW2, has priority, preferably by swapping. So if you have any prints by this particular group and your focus of collecting or interests lies elsewhere you are invited to contact me.  



All pictures borrowed freely from the Internet for friendly, educational and non commercial use only.                

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

August Oppenberg: in the fields !

August Oppenberg 

(1896-1971)
German painter and printmaker.



August Oppenberg is in Germany a very appreciated artist although with a regional status as a painter and printmaker. Nevertheless he is rewarded his own entry in the Wikipedia(*). He started, lived and worked and closed his life in the region near the city of Wesel in the Province of Nieder-Rhein (Lower-Rhine). Roughly between Arnhem (Netherlands) and Duisburg (Germany).



Living some 300 km north, and in a neighboring country, I suppose I would never have heard of August Oppenberg hadn't I stumbled over this etching that wasn't very successful in finding a new owner in our local Ebay. But I could not help falling instantly in love with it. Had it been a scribble by Vincent (why not ?) it would have been priceless.  


It's better then anything else August produced in his 75 years on the planet, I honestly believe, excavating the internet for images and examples of his artistic achievements. But this is all my personal opinion. It's actually more a drawing (on a plate) then it shows a proper etching. The cleverly constructed long diagonal and the sloping horizon giving it a great perspective and feeling of space. 
   

Millet, les Glaneuses: gathering the last remains of the weat-harvest spoiling nothing. 

August must have known one of Vincent van Gogh's (1853-1890) many Provence weat-field paintings. And/or the "Glaneuses" (Gleaners) by Vincent's inspiration Jean Francois Millet (1814-1875) the French Barbizon painter-etcher and forerunner of the Impressionists. Also knicked by his friend Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)(r.)   


Weat harvesting remained practically unchanged before it was taken out of our hands by combine-machines. From the dark ages and Pieter Bruegel's  the elder (c.1525-1569) 1565 masterpiece until these photographical recordings from not that long ago, the beginning of my era. A family and village business. 





And thanks to August Oppenberg I've met this wonderful Polish painter: Wlodzimierz Tetmajer (1861-1923). Warmed by his glowing palet and uncomplicated rural scenes of summers and days gone by I'll have to honor him with his own posting soon. 



All pictures borrowed freely from the Internet for friendly, educational and noncommercial use only.