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.
This is the final painting that was then transferred to tiles and installed by a team of artisans from the Meissen porcelain factory.
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…