Rudolf Hünlich – Old Woman


A drawing (mixed media, probably ink and black and white pastels, ca. 29 x 22 cm. The original is a bit darker, on grey paper) showing an elderly woman. The caption reads “R. Huenlich d. 10/5 02”. (probably that is May 10th 1902). Rudolf Hünlich was born about 1880, being the youngest brother of the four children of the Hünlich family (his older brother was born in 1878), so the other reading of the date, as “82” is impossible (see So Hünlich, who died aged 24, was probably around 20 years old or in his early 20s when he made this drawing.

Hünlich was a xylographer, a graphics artist making wood engravings. This background shows in his approach to shading, as you can see if you look at the drawing close up. Besides dark color (black pastel or something similar) the shading effect is achieved with the density of lines, probably made with a pen.

The woman shown on the drawing is probably one of his aunts. There is a photograph showing members of the Hünlich family, with two men (one of them probably a brother of Rudolf Hünlich’s father) and three women. The women resemble each other, so they are probably sisters, and they all look more or less like the woman on this drawing, so probably the pictured woman is one of them. She was probably a sister in law of Rudolf Hünlich’s father, or one of her sisters. The name of one of these women was probably “Anette” (or some similar name), so that might be her name. Most members of the Hünlich family seem to have been weavers. It is possible that more genealogical research  into the Hünlich family (which would have to be conducted in Neusalza-Spremberg where they were living) is going to reveal more about this woman (and about the exact dates of Rudolf Hünlich’s life), but at this moment, that is all I know.


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.


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”.