Mathilde Pajeken – Small Sketch Book 3

kleines Skizzenbuch 14.jpg

Another pencil sketch from Mathilde Pajeken’s small (8.2 by 11.8 cm) travel sketch book. This little book contains sketches – probably from a single trip – mostly of maritime motives. A few places on the trip can be identified as either on the Weser river (somewhere between the city of Bremen and the North Sea) and the island of Helgoland. This sketch might have been taken somewhere in the north sea. The sketches in this book where probably made around the year 1900.

Ships like the ones shown here where used for coastal fright transport during the 19th and even into the early 20th centuries. When this sketch was made, these ships where, for the most part, probably still not motorized, although some steamers where around already, as can be seen in the background. By the shape, I would guess that the steam ship to be seen in the background is a tug boat.

Rocks in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains 4


A watercolor showing the “Schrammsteinmassiv”, a famous group or rocks in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, made by Svend Keller on June 7th, 1949. The Elbe Sandstone Mountains were one of Svend Keller’s favorite landscapes and there are several depictions of motives from this area made in different techniques (see

Playing the Piano III



Two sketches from one of Rolf Keller’s sketch book, showing two undidentified pianists. I don’t know if this sketch originated during a concert (perhaps a musical competition, since the sketches seem to show two different people) or during a more private setting. It might have been on a trip to the Sovjet Union as well. Unfortunately, these sketches are not dated and I don’t know when and where they where made. I wonder if it might be possible to identify these pianists. Doing so would yield a clue to when and perhaps these sketches where made.

Rudolf Hünlich – Tree Studies I


A watercolor study from Rudolf Hünlich’s sketch book, one of several tree and forest studies. Rudolf Hünlich was an uncle of my grandfather Rolf Keller (a brother of his mother). He was a professional graphics artist working as a xylographer. He was only 24 years old when he died of a lung disease. I don’t have the exact dates of his life. I guess the sketch book is from the 1870s or 1880s, but I don’t know exactly. Here is another drawing from that sketch book.

Mathilde Pajeken – Small Sketch Book 2

kleines Skizzenbuch 20a

Most of the sketches in Mathilde Pajeken’s small sketch book show either boats or coastal landscapes. Most of the boats are sailing boats of the types used during the 19th century for fishing or to transport goods in the coastal areas or northern Germany. There are cutters (“Kutter” in German) and a type of barge with what is called a ketch rigging in English, a type of boat called “Ewer” in German. I am not an expert on these boat types, but as far as I know, the two vessels shown on this sketch are of a type called “Besan-Ewer” in German. These ships typically have two masts, often with gaff rig (as can be seen in the left boat). The second, mast (the mizzen mast, called “Besanmast” in German) is shorter. The left boat has a leeboard (called “Seitenschwert” in German) that can be lowered into the water, and a jigger or jibheaded topsail (“Gaffeltoppsegel” in German), the small extra sail above the gaff.

I hope I am getting these things right. Boat types and especially rigging types are a complex topic, a science in its own right. A complex technology with a rich and elaborate technical language had been developed here, and after the introduction of steam engines and motors, a lot of that was mostly forgotten. I am missing here the expertise of Mathilde Pajeken’s father, my great-great-grandfather, the ship captain Eduard Pajeken, who commanded large sailing ships and who published a textbook of English for sailors, explaining nautical technical terms. It is likely that Mathilde Pajeken had quite some expert knowledge about these topics as well because of her father.

I have not yet managed to read all of the notes that are written on some of the sketches. The last word here seems to be “gelb” (meaning “yellow”) so maybe Mathilde Pajeken noted down some information about the colors since she only had a pencil. A tentative reading of that is written there is “L. hell bl., Segel hell gelb”, meaning “l(eft) light blue, sail light yellow”. However, I am not entirely sure about the reading.

Given the small size of these sketches (8.2 by 11.8 cm) I am astonished at their detail and accuracy. And I like them a lot, maybe because I have grown up in the city of Hamburg, in walking distance of the museum harbour of Övelgönne, where a number of old ships of this kind can still be seen, among them a gaff rigged “Besan-Ewer“.

Mathilde Pajeken lived from 1842 to 1913. These sketches are undated but where probably made around the year 1900. Note that the name is pronounced “paɪkɛn”, the “e” after the “j” is not pronounced, it probably entered the name because of a clerk’s mistake. There are other branches of the same family spelling the name as “Payken”. Originally, the name was probably “Boyken” or “Boyeken”, a Frisian name probably meaning “little boy”.

Mathilde Pajeken – Small Sketch Book 1

kleines Skizzenbuch 1

The painter Mathilde Pajeken, a great-grandaunt of me, left a sketch book to us. The book is quite small, about 8.2 by 11.8 centimeters. It contains sketches (in most cases pencil) that where probably made during a trip to northern Germany. A few of these sketches are dated with a day and month, but unfortunately, there is no year given. The first sketches show several ladies and by the dresses and outfits, I would suspect the sketches where made in the 1890s or shortly thereafter. Many of the sketches show sailing boats (most of them probably fishing vessels) or other boats and ships and some coastal landscapes. In some cases the place is indicated, for example “Helgoland” which is an island in the North Sea. As far as we know, Mathilde Pajeken, originally from Bremen in northern Germany, was living in Munich, which is in the south. It is possible that all of these sketches were made during a single trip to northern Germany. We don’t know whether the sketches of ladies on the first pages of the sketch book where made during the same trip or before. These might be people she knew in Munich, but just as well they might be people she met on the train.

On the inside of the book’s cover, there are some notes that seem to be names, but we do not know if they belong to these ladies or are totally unrelated notes.

The first sketch in the book can be seen here. This type of dress, with puffed sleeves, seems to be typical for the 1890s. This is the main evidence that the sketches date to that time.