Advent Calendars 1


Rolf Keller was not just an artist, he earned his money mainly with commercial contracts as a graphic designer. For example, he designed logos, did technical illustrations, caricatures for newspapers and other things like this.

One specialty were his advent calendars. A few of them have survived (in some cases only as copies) and over the next weeks, I am going to post them here. For a start, I have chosen a relatively well preserved one. It is approximately A4-sized. There is a hand-written “7” in the top left corner (shown incompletely here) and I don’t know what that means. There are two holes near the top, indicating that it had been nailed to the wall. Near the lower right corner, you can see Rolf Keller’s logo and name.

Nowadays, advent calendars normally contain chocolate. In the days of December before Christmas, children open a numbered door on each day and get a little piece of chocolate. Back then, however, there was only a little picture behind each door. We liked it that way; every morning, it was a little surprise. Since my grandfather was the one designing them, we had such calendars in our childhood. We were living in the west, my grandparents were in the east. Christmas parcels went in both directions. The ones going from east to west contained, among other things, such advent calendars.

There is a little poem on this one, about the winter, fitting to the main motive of the calendar, a personified winter:

The winter covers with ice and snow

Mountain, field and forest, village, creek and lake.

Little lights flicker in every house

And shine outside golden

Soon emerges from deep winter night

The beautiful celebration in its splendor


And as you take pleasure every day

Looking behind a new window

Mom removes from the calendar, snip-snap

After Christmas the back side

So that you will discover

What was until then hidden

The calendar has two layers, glued together at the rim. On the back side, there is an intstruction how to separate the two:


(“Please cut out the back side along the printed line”). The back side in this calendar is still attached to the front and I am not intending to destroy this item it by cutting it open, so the mystery of what is there will remain. Behind the doors are little pictures of a tree, a cat and things like that. These are probably arranged into another picture.

The following images of another advent calendar by Rolf Keller are from a collector’s site on the internet ( – thanks to the owner of that site for allowing me to include them here). Here you have an example of both the front page and the back page.



The back page of these calendars also contains a license code. Here is the one form my “Winter” calendar.


East Germany, i.e. the communist “DDR” had a state directed economy. Every book and printed work had to get a license code indicating it had been approved for print. This was a precondition for the allocation of paper and other resources for printing and it was also a control mechanism in the system of censorship. The big L in the dark rectangle here is probably the logo of the printer or publisher. It is not part of the license. The “A142” is the number of the publisher (Verlag). Some of these publisher’s numbers can be found here: but this list is obviously incomplete. On, however, I find another advent calendar with this logo and the publisher’s name “Lederbogen” as well as the A142, and my mother told me that Lederbogen-Verlag was one of the main customers of Rolf Keller. Besides advent calendars, he did things like christmas cards for them. The owner of that site also sent me some additional information on these codes from the book “Adventskalender Geschichte und Geschichten aus 100 Jahren” by Tina Peschel. According to that information, 56 is the year of print or the year when the license was issued, so this design is from 1956. DDR is the German Democratic Republic. The sequence III/29/3 is the registry number of the printer’s shop, but again I don’t know the name of the printer. This system of codes was introduced in 1951.

The motives show winter activities and toys. The figure on Nr. 17 is a wooden incense smoker. Such smokers are produced in the “Erzgebirge” region in the south of Saxony. My mother has one from Rolf Keller’s heritage that is exactly like this, and probably its the one he had been drawing here. You can remove the top part, put an incense cone inside, light it and close it back. The smoke will then come out through the mouth. The figure beside it is another incense smoker. Even if there are some angels, the motives on these calendars are largely secular. The angels are actually depictions of christmas decoration and candle holders, like they are produced in the Erzgebirge region, and are no longer religious symbols.

One may say this is kitsch, and I don’t deny it, but there are childhood memories connected to these calendars.


Phase Transitions – Series II – 4


This is the last slide in the second series of Phase Transitions. Looking at these pictures, I find it amazing how such a beautiful structure can arise by itself. We see here a mixture of the laws of physics and the accidental history of the events under the microscope.

Two substances where mixed and melted, so from two white powders, we got a liquid drop. This was the first phase transition, from solid to liquid. The old order of the crystals in the powders was forgotten. The result is an unordered jumble of molecules moving around.

When they were cooling down again, crystals started growing. This was the second phase transition, from liquid to solid. Where these crystals grow and in what direction is a matter of accidents. It might be little bits of dust, but maybe just an accidental arrangement of some molecules to form the “seed” of a crystal. This little bit of order then reproduces itself over a large section of the melt, until it hits against another crystallite. Compared with the liquid, the overall order increases. Meanwhile, symmetry decreases: while the liquid does not favor any direction, so that it has spherical symmetry with infinitely many symmetry axes, in the crystal different directions have different properties and there are only a few symmetry axes or planes of symmetry or points of symmetry left (depending on the kind of crystal).

I a further stage, these crystals changed their configuration, from one ordered lattice to another one. This third phase transition leads from one solid to another, with a different lattice structure. In this particular case, the transition leads to a change in the shape, creating mechanical tensions. As a result, patterns of stripes arise, partially regular, partially irregular.

The beginning of a further phase transitions that is going to destroy this structure can be seen in a few spots.

The result of these steps is a complex mix of order and disorder. The interference colors, depending on the thickness and orientation of the crystals, resulting from the interaction of polarized light and the “optical activity” of the crystals, add to the beauty of the result.

The last transition, however, happens in the brain and mind of the observer. This step, I have to leave to you.

Animal Studies 1 – Ruff


 A pen and pastel drawing of a ruff, undated. Caption: “Kampfläufer Philomachus pugnax Sommerkleid” (“Ruff Philomachus pugnax, summer dress”). During his apprenticeship as a graphics artist, Svend Keller had to make a couple of animal studies, using different techniques. Probably he made them from photographs. This is the first one I am posting here.

The ruff (in German “Kampfläufer” which means “fighting runner”) is a wading bird. The male birds develop a “collar” of feathers in the summer to impress the females as well as each other (during fights).