Ruins 5

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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.

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Town Canal in Holland

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In 1944, Rolf Keller spent some time in Holland. He was there as a soldier. We have little exact information on this time since most of the letters he wrote home during the war (many of them illustrated) where destroyed in a fire (I am going to publish the few extant examples here at another time). However, there is a number of drawings and sketches from Holland, some giving names and places, some without exact information on the where and when. It is obvious that Rolf Keller was a great admirer of Dutch architecture.

I don’t know where exactly this pen drawing was made. The tower looks like that of the Weigh House (containing a cheese museum) in Alkmaar. If you look at pictures of that town on the internet, you also find exactly that type of draw bridge and exactly that type of hand rail on the bridges. However, I was not able to find any point on the map of the city that would provide exactly this view. It might be that this is somewhere else, not in Alkmaar, it might be that I have not studied the map of the town well enough or that places have been changed.

However, it is also possible that this drawing does not show any actual view but was composed by the artist, combining different elements he saw or sketched while walking through the town, something like an ideal concentrate of that town, combining the different elements that provide the beauty and atmosphere of these Dutch and Frisian Towns, the canals, the bridges, the trees, the houses and the typical towers.

Pentecost Greeting Cards

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While in the US, Pentecost (or Whitsun) is only a church holiday and, as a consequence, only known to Christians, in Germany, where it is called “Pfingsten”, it is a public holiday and since the following Monday (called “Pfingstmontag”) is also a holiday, even non-Christians know it. As a result, people (used to) send each other greating cards, even if the religious connection is not always there, as is the case in these examples. They obviously belong to the same style and series as the New Year greeting cards shown here, designed by Rolf Keller in 1956 for the publisher Lederbogen Verlag.

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I don’t know where Rolf Keller took the motives for these cards, but it was likely somewhere in the Erzgebirge mountains south of Chemnitz, where he was living.

The “Reiterhaus” in Neusalza-Spremberg

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Another pencil sketch by Svend Keller, from August 9th, 1948. The caption reads “Neusalza Spremberg Reiterhaus”. Neusalza Spremberg is a village just at the border between Saxony and Czechia. This is where the father of Rolf Keller’s mother Gabriele Hünlich, Friedrich Wilhelm Hünlich, came from. Her mother, Rosa Plocek, was from Czechia.

So while the year before, Svend Keller had visited Heidmühlen where the ancestors of his mother came from, one year later he visited Neusalza Spremberg on the trail of his father’s ancestors, although the family was not from this particular house.

The Reiterhaus that is shown on the sketch, is today a local museum (see http://www.reiterhaus.de/). It was built in 1670. The name refers to the depiction of a horse rider fixed to one side. This is hardly visible on the sketch but if you know where it is, by comparing it with the pictures from the museum’s web site, you can see that it is at least hinted at on the sketch. This house was built in the style of “Umgebindehaus”. In such houses, the upper part of the house rests on the pillars at the side, while the rooms downstairs are not directly connected to it. Typically there are arches at the windows in order to carry the weight of the upper part of the house. One theory why these houses are built like this is that the noise of the looms that where typically operated in these houses would not be propagated upstairs so strongly, so people could weave while other members of the family were sleeping. Another advantage seems to be that this way of building leads to a relatively stable room climate which is also thought to be advantageous for weaving. However that might be, all of the known male ancestors of Friedrich Wilhelm Hünlich (from the Hünlich and Hempel families) had actually been weavers, although he himself was a clerk at a district court.

Six Generations later, my sister Christine returned to the profession of our Saxon ancestors and became a weaver (and textile designer and textile artist) again.

 

Farmhouse in Heidmühlen

Haus1 001A pencil sketch drawn by Svend Keller on August 7th, 1947. The caption reads “Hof Hans Danker Heidmühlen” (farm Hans Danker Heidmühlen). Heidmühlen is a village in Schleswig Holstein, north of Hamburg and this is where the familie of Svend Keller’s mother Margarethe (“Grete”) Keller, née Danker, originally came from, so this is probably the farm or her ancestors. Grete Keller’s grandfather was called Hans Danker and this had probably been his house.

I don’t know if this house is still standing. It shows typical features of northern German 19th century farm houses. Similar houses can still be found in the area. Having a little garden with some fruit trees, currant and goosberry bushes, as well as some vegetables and herbs, was also quite typical.

Svend Keller, at this time, stayed with his grandmother and his aunt in Hamburg. Probably he went to Heidmühlen by bike. I don’t have any specific information on this, but one motivation for this trip might have been to try to get some additional food from the farmers since the supply situation in the years after the war was very difficult.

Sketch of Grüna

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This pencil sketch (you can click on the image for a larger version) by Rolf Keller, drawn in his typical style, was part of a letter written to Svend Keller on June 19th, 1958. At this time, Rolf and Grete Keller were living in the center of Chemnitz (then called “Karl-Marx-Stadt”), but before, they had been living in Grüna, a village near Chemnitz (and today a part of it). Svend Keller had spent part of his childhood there. In the letter, written during an excursion to their old place, Rolf Keller starts the letter: “Grüna, June 19th 58 on the bench at the edge of the forrest with the view onto our appartment in Rabensteiner Str.” (“Grüna, 19.6.58 auf der Bank am Waldesrand mit Blick auf unsere Wohnung in der Rabensteiner Straße”).

The house in the middle is marked “Rabensteiner Str. 8”. This is the house where the Keller family had been living. On the left, a place in the background is identified as “Poltermühle mit Teich” (“Rumbling Mill with pond”). The other texts contain news as well as memories about the houses and the people who had been living there before.

If you compare this sketch with the Sheaves sketch I posted last year, you will note that it is showing nearly the same area, so that sketch is showing Grüna as well, probably from a point slightly further to the left (and probably years eralier). Note also that the house shown here probably provided the inspiration to the house on the third advent calendar in Advent Calendars 4 (compare the arc-like structure on the house in the sketchand on the advent calendar). The sketch shown in Harvesting Hay had been made from a balcony of the house in Rabensteiner Straße, in 1935.