Living Room with Tropical Plants


In a previous post, it was already mentioned that one of Rolf Keller’s hobbies was growing tropical plants. In 1958, he removed one of the walls of his apartment (he was the owner of the house) and replaced it with a glass cabinet or indoor greenhouse, shown on this drawing. In the lower right corner, you can see Rolf Keller’s “24” logo, his signature and the dating “Dez. 58” (Dec. 58). The two rooms where integrated into one larger room this way with the “greenhouse” as a room divider. The size of the painting is 22 cm * 29 cm. It is mixed media, predominantly watercolor.

There had been paintings of tropical plants on the wall before, documented on some photographs, but obviously Rolf Keller had preferred to get the real thing instead. The integration of living plants and typical 1950s furniture creates a modern atmosphere.

The project of building the glass cabinet and populating it with plants is documented in several letters, some of them with illustrations. I am planning to show the more interesting ones here in a future post. For example, in one of the letters Rolf Keller describes how he got and transported the large branch that acts as the “backbone” of the little tropical landscape inside. Getting the plants in the GDR (East Germany) of the late 1950s was a challenge, but he was eventually able to get several species of epiphytic ferns and flowering plants.

In the back of the room, you can see Rolf Keller’s wife, Grete Keller, perhaps reading a book, or playing a solitaire card game.

On the right side, the picture is getting sketchier. One can see here that Rolf Keller would draw hidden parts of an object, like the arm chair sketched here, in order to get the proportions right, even if these would not be visible in a finished painting. Rolf Keller signed and framed the picture like this, so I think the sketchiness of the drawing on the sides is intended. This way, the viewer’s gaze is directed to the center which has been worked out in more detail, showing the plants and the bright light of the lamp.

In the foreground you can see one of the chairs shown in a previous post. The lamp might be the one shown there as well.

Here is an enlargeable version of the image. Click on it, then click again to see details.


Ruins 5


A charcoal drawing of a war ruin, made by Svend Keller, dated November 20th, 1946. Under the date, one can read “Mittag, Himmel bedeckt” (noon, sky clouded). This is probably the same building that is visible in the middle of the watercolor shown in the Ruins article on this blog. When that watercolor was painted, some parts of the building obviously had been broken down, probably because they where unstable, and some rubble had been cleared away.

The watercolor had been painted looking out of an attic window of the house in which Svend Keller and his parents, Rolf and Grete Keller, where living at the time. This drawing might have been made looking out of their appartments window. Unlike many surrounding houses, that house had survived the war.

Tropical Plants – Stephanotis Floribunda


One of Rolf Keller’s hobbies was tropical plants. Today it is not difficult to get such plants but in the GDR, it was not easy. He had removed one wall in his appartment and replaced it with a glass cabinett, containing different tropical plants. In several letters, he described how he built this little greenhouse inside his appartment. One of the plants inside it is sketched here, Stephanotis Floribunda, a native of Madagascar. The pencil sketch is dated July 7th, 1959. The caption reads: “Die erste ist soeben duftend erblüht, am Vorabend unserer Wolgareise.” (The first one just opened up with a sweet scent, on the eve of our Wolga trip). The next day, Rolf and Grete Keller would start a trip to Russia, described in a series of letters.

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.