Details draw me in. I can easily miss the forest (or wood, as they say here in England) for the trees. But, sometimes a detail fascinates me so much that I’m led to research its entire continent.
Last Spring I visited Berlin. On the side of the former House of Ministries building, (originally built for the Nazi Ministry of Aviation), there is a 60 foot long mural by German artist and illustrator Max Lingner (1888 – 1959). Lingner worked on the mural from 1950 to 1952. It was commissioned by the Prime Minister of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) who had Lingner revise the drawing five times. Lingner’s original concept centered on the family. The final image looks stiff and militaristic by comparison. Apparently Lingner hated the final version, and refused to look at it when he went past.
Nonetheless, the mural fascinated me. I didn’t take in the image in its entirety (which, granted, is hard to do as it is placed behind pillars), but I spent a long time studying how the image was built with layers of line, color and texture. (The image set into the plaza in front commemorates the Uprising of 1953.)
I took a number of photos so that I could examine the images further when I returned to London.
(I don’t have a thing for shoes, it’s just that the feet of the figures were at eye level and easiest to photograph up close.)
What intrigued me was the use of stenciling through a grid structure to achieve tonal variations. I often use stencils in my work, (it’s a printmaking technique, after all) and Lingner has inspired me to experiment with similar techniques.
Since visiting Berlin, I have been trying to gather more information about Lingner and the materials he used. Unfortunately, there is not much information available in English, probably because he was a communist artist working in post-war East Berlin.
I have purchased a number of books from Amazon.de, all in German. I studied German for one year in college. This gives me just enough German to (sort of) figure out what they are talking about, but not enough to know what they are actually saying. Translating online is a slow and inaccurate process, but here are some of my favorite pictures from the books I have collected.
Below is one of the initial paintings for the House of Ministries mural (in two parts because of its length).
This is the final painting that was then transferred to tiles and installed by a team of artisans from the Meissen porcelain factory.
This painting was for another mural: ” Construction in Germany.”
“Woman and Child,” Madrid 1937.
Cover for exhibition catalogue, “Eigentum des Deutschen Volkes” (tr. Ownership of the German People?)
From the series, “As it was,” 1958
“Peasant with wide eyes,” 1950-54. I believe Lingner was a colleague of Käthe Kollwitz.
Lingner also illustrated at least one book for children. This is the cover for The Goatherd, by Henri Barbusse.
I haven’t figured out the whole story yet. It’s something about a princess and a goatherd and forced labor and dancing and the future … for children aged six and up.
Someday I hope to learn more about Max Lingner’s work. Maybe I will get lucky and someone will publish a book about Lingner in English. In the meantime, Ich studiere, um mein Deutsch verbessern…
Viel Spass beim lernen!
Vielen dank, Julie!
There is interesting artwork in the DDR lived there for 7 years after the wall fell. My favorite is the Leipziger School, both an art school and a style. Don’t let Deutsch language put you off of art books. There are many bilingual ones. Try the store at the Brucke Museum in Berlin. Now that’s another favorite and interesting group of artists. I thought of doing a childre’s book about them but it seemed too adult.
Oops. Pardon the fat finger typing please.
Thank you for the tip, Elizabeth. I hope to get back to Berlin to do more research!
oh margaret — we are all gaining so much from your studies abroad — thanks for bringing us Max Linger!
Scan the text from the children’s book and send it to me — I think I can find you someone to translate. In the meantime, I’m very interested in the difference between his first ideas about the mural and the final version. Do you think there’s a shift in style or just in content?
Thank you for offering to help find a translator, Sandi K. I may take you up on it if I don’t get very far before I return to Seattle. Here in London, I know a few people who speak German and could help me.
As for the difference in style between earlier and later, I think one of the main differences is that the earlier drawings focused on the figures and family. The later versions have more technology featured and are overall less friendly looking. As an illustrator, I can relate to Lingner’s frustration with having to revise so many times. After a while, you just want the client to get their fingers out of your pie, so to speak.
Dear all–thought you would like to see this story/photos of children’s book illustrator studios: http://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/gallery/2015/sep/04/the-bookmakers-studio-jake-green?CMP
Thank you Beth L! Very fun to see!