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.



Zooming In and Zooming Out

My contribution to the cooperative blog project “Journey of a photograph”. The journey will be going on now…



Nerve impulses running down the spinal cord, triggering muscle cells – mitochondria pumping protons and electrons to provide the energy to move a muscle. The muscle contracts and the fingertip touches the release button, triggering a cascade of electronic signals, calculations, movements of electromechanical parts, chemical reactions inside a battery, a shutter opening, photons flashing inside and triggering chemical changes in the particles of the film. A myriad of smallest and shortest events and processes combine to produce that short “click” that indicates that a picture has been taken. The photographer looks away and her mind and eye turn on something else.

A short moment in her life. The moment she pressed the trigger of her camera. Clouds, trees or bushes, houses, the horizon, the sun. Motion blur. Lens Flair.

The photograph was shot while in motion, maybe from a train or a car. The hexagonal spots of lens flair…

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Rolf Keller – In Memoriam

Rolf Keller

My grandfather Rolf Keller, the artist who created many of the drawings and paintings on this web site, as I remember him. He was fond of smoking, especially cigars. This picture was taken in a restaurant at river Elbe in Hamburg.

I think the film used was from East German (GDR-) production; all of these pictures have this violet tint. I decided not to try a color correction. This is how they are actually looking. They are contemporary documents and the properties of the film material are part of that.

The next one is also a slide, but on a black-and-white film. My father was a student back then and could not afford the expensive color slide films, so he used the cheaper black and white slide films instead or the color films from East German production that my grandfather brought along.


This picture was probably taken in the port of Hamburg during a visit. Hamburg is in West Germany, Karl-Marx-Stadt, where Rolf Keller was living, was in the East. Young people were normally not allowed to visit the West, but for old people, this was possible. I cannot date these pictures at the moment, but might be able to do so later. In any case, they are from the 1960s.


This picture is probably from the same visit to Hamburg as the first one.


Rolf Keller’s grave in Chemnitz, photographed probably in 1984 (so the city’s name was still “Karl-Marx-Stadt”). It is displaying his 24-logo – he had started his business as a self-employed graphics artist in 1924. This grave probably does not exist any more.

All pictures: Svend Keller. The pictures are digitized slides or sections thereof.