Rudolf Hünlich – Old Woman

Huenlich_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 https://www.geni.com/family-tree/index/6000000061830588852). 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.

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Living Room with Tropical Plants

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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.

livingroom

Tropical Plants – Stephanotis Floribunda

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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 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

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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.

Reading Stories 2

Svend Vorlesen (1)

Another drawing by Rolf Keller, showing a book being read to my father as a boy. This time, it’s his mother, sitting in a wing chair, reading to him. The ladder, perhaps brought into the room to take the curtains down for washing or to change a bulb, had been turned into a chair (or a throne, a raised hide, a crow’s nest?).

The captions read “Mutti liest aus Marie Hamsuns die Langerudkinder” (“Mom is reading from Marie Hamsun’s The Langerud Children” and “Svend, siebenjährig (oder acht?) in Grüna Villa Rauschenbach” (“Svend, seven years old (or eight?) in Grüna Villa Rauschenbach”).

Since Svend Keller was born in 1928, this might have been in 1935 or 1936. Grüna is the name of the village (near Chemnitz and nowadays a part of Chemnitz) where the Keller family was living before moving into central Chemnitz.

Reading Stories

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“Oma-Ebersdorf ließt vor und Svend lauscht…”

(Grandma Ebersdorf is reading to him and Svend is listening…)

How much is in these three little dots…

Rolf Keller’s mother was living in Ebersdorf, near Chemnitz (nowadays a part of the city). His other grandmother was living in Hamburg, so there was “Oma Ebersdorf” and “Oma Hamburg”.

This pencil sketch by Rolf Keller, made in the 1930s, is showing my father as a child, sitting in a chair and listening while his grandmother is reading stories to him. Maybe when he was much smaller, he was sitting already in this same chair, and now, already a bit too large for it, he was making himself small again inside that chair to listen to the stories. Then, his grandmother took the heavy book from the bookshelf, put on her glasses, sat down besides him and started reading…

He told me about it when I was a child myself. His grandmother would, for example, read the stories of Wilhelm Hauff to him, for example “Zwerg Nase” (The Dwarf Nose). I remember my father reading this (and many other stories) to me and my sisters. Nothing can be compared to the feeling of having stories read to you when you are a child. And when my daughter was small, I discovered the joy of reading stories to a child, again something special that cannot be compared to anything. I continued it even when she could read already herself, at our shared pleasure.

“… She went so slowly that it was three quarters of an hour before she reached a remote part of the city, and finally stopped before a tumble-down house. Then she drew a rusty old hook from her pocket, and inserted it skillfully into a small hole in the door, which sprung open with a bang. But how surprised was little Jacob as he entered! The interior of the house was splendidly fitted up; the ceilings and walls were of marble; the furniture of the finest ebony, inlaid with gold and mother-of-pearl; while the floor was of glass, and so smooth that the boy slipped and fell several times. The old woman then drew a silver whistle from her pocket and whistled a tune that resounded shrilly through the house. In response to this, some Guinea-pigs came down the stairs; but, as seemed strange to Jacob, they walked upright on two legs, wore nutshells in place of shoes, and had on clothes and even hats of the latest fashion. …”

A long thread of story reading and, earlier, story telling connects us back through the generations into earliest times, and at the same time into the world of the stories. “Once upon a time…”, “Es war einmal…”, “Mukashi, mukashi, o-mukashi…” – many languages have such formulas that enter the child and the reader into that realm of stories, the only real magic words. The chair, the carpet, the curtains disappear, and in their place, a different world appears…