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.


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

Animal Studies 5 – Watercolor Bird Sketch


Another sketch of a bird by Svend Keller. This one is unsigned and undated, so I don’t know exactly when it was made, but it is probably, like the others, from 1947 or 1948 I don’t know the species here, maybe some reader knows more. Like the other sketches of this kind, a grey rough paper was used, reflecting the economic hardships of the time when quality paper was not available.

The top of the paper was used to wipe excess paint from the brush or to test the colors. This would have been cut off or covered by a passepartout.

It pays off here to click on the image to get an enlarged version since there is a lot of detail. I am even imagining one can see a refelction of the artist in the eye, but that might be my imagination.

The sketch is unfinished. When you enlarge it you will see that the outlines of the bird’s feet are there as a preparatory drawing, probably made with a pencil, but they have not been colored.

Animal Studies 4 – Argus Pheasant


Another animal study by Svend Keller, a drawing showing an argus pheasant.

The caption reads:

Argusianus Argus L
Siam, Malakka, Sumatra
Naturwissensch. Sammlung

(Argus pheasant, Arusianus Argus L, Siam, Malakka, Sumatra, July 6th. 48, scientific collection).

The specimen shown here seems to be from some museum- or university collection. The name of the species refers to the giant Argos in Greek mythology who was covered with eyes on his whole body. Linnaeus obviously chose the name because of the many eye like spots used by the male bird as part of a mating display.

The drawing, made with blue ink and pastels, was drawn on a large piece of rough grey paper. Since the paper turned out not to be large enough, another stripe was attached at the side. In 1948, when Svend Keller did his apprenticeship as a graphics artist, paper was still rationed in Germany and good paper was hard to get. Some other examples of his drawing exercises from those days are also made on pieces of scrap paper, e.g. on the back sides of what seems to be test prints of some other graphics, and this paper also seems to have been some rest.

The “Reiterhaus” in Neusalza-Spremberg

Haus1 002

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 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.

Animal Studies 3 – Great Egret

4I continue the series of animal studies by Svend Keller with another bird, this time a great egret. It is a pen (blue ink) and black chalk drawing, probably made in 1947 or 1948. It was made on a piece of drawing board, the size is 27 cm x 24 cm. On the same sheet there is a small pencil sektch showing two more birds. The caption gives the German name of the bird (“Silberreiher”) and the scientific name then in use (Egretta alba alba, i.e. the European subspecies. Today the species is more commonly called Ardea alba). The birds develop the long tail feathers shown here during the breeding season.