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last ray's of sunlight falling on the kitchen table

last rays of sunlight falling on the kitchen table

Well, in my walk through history with Mr. Horne, I’ve been introduced to a number of people who have stirred my imagination.  One of those people is Adolphe Appia.  Like Edward Gordon Craig (for whom I did post an interlude extra), Adolphe Appia (1862-1928) transformed set design in the theater world by developing and exploring, among other ideas, new theories of using light and shadows as a way to unify productions.

Adolphe Appia and his set design for Parsifal (1896)

Adolphe Appia and his set design for Parsifal

Appia’s (and Craig’s) dark illustrations struck a chord.  As if I didn’t love shadows before, but now, more so than ever, when I see shadows lengthening upon a table or wall, I wonder:  what scene is being set for what story?  Thus, the reason why I photographed sunlight on a kitchen table.  ;)

more light falls on the kitchen table

more light falls on the kitchen table

Perhaps, one day I will sit with these images and write a story.  Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about Appia, in December 2013 an architectural group produced this great visual overview of Appia’s work.  Here is his Wikipedia page listing works and references.  And highly recommend this brief read by Pericles Lewis of Yale.  Below are more of Appia’s drawings from the late 1800s and early 1900s.

joy

In a world filled with such sadness and confusion, I think that is why it is such a pleasure to sit in the Boston Public Library courtyard and stare into these faces filled with such joy and awe.  The actual name of the sculpture is Bacchante and Infant Faun.  It is a replica of the bronze sculpture created by Frederick William MacMonnies.

You can read an interesting and very detailed analysis of the statue’s history in Boston and at the BPL via this link.  In short, while treasured today, this naked figure serving the infant god, Bacchus, caused quite the uproar in 1890’s Boston. Imagine that. ;)

The Abbey Room at the Boston Public Library, with its richly colored wall paintings, is one of my favorite indoor sites in Boston.  The murals depict the Quest and Achievement of the Holy Grail and, according to the Boston Public Library website, were installed in 1895 by Edwin Austin Abbey.  Today I had the opportunity to drop in for a moment to snap a few photos. Here are a few favorites from the day.  You can read more about the Grail story here and you can read more about Edwin Austin Abbey here.

a stone from the shore

white black gold

Today I saw three white butterflies tussling in the air.  It was an unexpected delight of a sight as I raced past an open window.  No camera did I have nor did I need.  It was better for me to just pause, and feel the breeze, as I watched such a beautiful dance.  Afterwards I sat with a piece of black paper and a white pencil and sketched them while mostly thinking of a young friend who is now 6 and about to turn 16 who recently asked, “what do you do with black paper?”  The butterflies were fine for me but not good enough to post.  But … I did recently take a walk with my camera and captured this little golden fellow resting on a green leaf.  So, after all those words, it is his image that I’ll share.  Enjoy, and may we all have a good week.

paintings by carl hofer

paintings by carl hofer

I enjoyed photographing the apricot and other fruits earlier this week.  In part, I was inspired by Carl Hofer‘s Bowl of Peaches and his other fruit still life paintings.  I did not know he was an artist when I began researching his life, nor could I imagine how much I would love his work.

paintings by carl hofer

paintings by carl hofer

My research began with only a name engraved on custom stationery and a signature at the bottom of a handwritten letter, dated 1948, addressed to Joseph A. Horne, the Director of the Offenbach Archival Depot.  The script was beautiful but illegible for me since it was in German.  Horne’s son remembered his father referring to the man but no other details about who he was or how his father and this Hofer might have met.

carl hofer painting

carl hofer painting

As part of my ongoing walk through history with Mr. Horne, I wanted to know more about this man in his life.  Translation of the letter would come later, but I began by researching the only words in the letter I could immediately understand, his name.

carl hofer self-portraits, spanning1920-1945

carl hofer self-portraits, spanning1920-1945

I quickly learned that Carl Hofer (1878-1955) was a noted German expressionist painter, printer and illustrator whose work  had been appearing in exhibits around the world since the early 1900s. At the end of this post are some of the links I found describing this important artist and teacher whose name may not be that familiar today outside of art circles. If not for Horne’s letter, I would not have learned of his work.

carl hofer paintings

carl hofer paintings

Of the many documents lost over time, that letter was one of the few that Horne retained.  For those of you familiar with my Interludes series, you know that Horne was involved with the recovery and restitution of stolen artwork, books and other cultural items in post-war Germany.  And he was also involved with those activities to foster and reinvigorate the artist communities in a war-ravaged Germany.  It is undoubtedly through these activities that Horne and Hofer met in the late 1940s.

carl hofer in later years, late 1940s

carl hofer in later years, late 1940s

Earlier, in the 1920s Hofer had been teaching art at a respected German institution and his work celebrated world-wide.  But, by the 1930s, he’d made Hitler’s list of degenerate artists.  He was removed from his teaching post.  Over 300 of his works were confiscated from museums and several included in a traveling exhibit of degenerate art alongside the works of Beckmann, Chagall, Kadinsky, Klee, Nolde and other artists.  By the war’s end, in Allied Occupied Germany, he would be reappointed as teacher and director of a new arts academy. As for the years in between and soon after …

carl hofer paintings, period 1947-1948

carl hofer paintings, period 1947-1948

In his memoir, From the Ashes of Disgrace, sociologist Hans Speier describes what happened to Hofer under the Nazis and Speier’s impressions of the man after they met in late 1945:

…The failure to find a safe place to work and live pushed [Hofer] to the brink of despair.  In 1943, a fire destroyed his studio along with all his paintings from the past ten years. He resumed work at once in a room in his apartment, only to be completely bombed out and lose everything in November 1944.  Thereafter he finally found refuge in a sanatorium in Babelsberg near Berlin, where the Nazis were hiding the French politician Herriot … Now [in November 1945] he owns no furniture, and he is hungry.  Nor has he suitable quarters for doing his work.  However, as president of the academy, which has been reconstituted … he is quite busy.  I was almost awed merely by seeing the expression on his face, and by his reserve and his dignity.” (page 25)

I was especially excited to find Speier’s 1945 account because his words corroborated and complemented what Hofer would write to Horne three years later in March 1948.  Once translated, the poignancy of the content came across although the specific meaning of words and references were not immediately clear.  Hofer writes of being touched by Horne’s inquiry into his well-being.  Then, he writes, after having been in the insane asylum for years, “now we are back in an asylum again.” He alludes to the monetary reforms of  postwar Germany that result in the “black market blossoms as never before, only this time prices are higher.”  Finally, he writes of “the American planes drone above our heads, reassuring us day and night that we won’t starve, unless the red Hitler gobbles us up.  It has been a crazy time, so different from what we pictured in our naive hope three years ago.

Berliners watch a C-54 Skymaster land at Tempelhof Airport, 1948

Berliners watch a C-54 Skymaster land at Tempelhof Airport, 1948

It wasn’t until I spoke with a woman who grew up in the Soviet Union that I understood that the reference to red Hitler was Stalin.  And when I looked more closely at the letter’s date, then did I understand the reference to crazy times, the security of American planes overhead and the possibilities of starvation.  Hofer wrote the letter only a short time before the Berlin Blockade.  As the Soviet blockade took place (June 1948-May 1949), Western Allies dropped food and other supplies into Western Berlin by air.  While the blockade would eventually end, the Cold War was only just beginning.  Hofer survived the blockade, and would continue to teach and to create art for several more years.

Life Magazine article, 1954

Life Magazine article, 1954

Today his work is found in museums, galleries and private collections around the world.  While there are a few more bits of correspondence between Hofer and Horne that I’ve found, their translation is a future project.  For now, it has been my pleasure to learn just a little bit about this influential artist, his perseverance, and the beauty he created until the end of his days in 1955.

 

Sources/Additional Reading

Degenerate Art Overview Wikipedia

Spaightwood Galleries Hofer Bio

Hofer Drawings at the Museum of Modern Art

Art Institute of Chicago Collection

Van Ham Art Estate and Hofer Archive

Life Magazine, May 10, 1954 Article

From the Ashes of Disgrace: A Journal from Germany, 1945-1955 by Hans Speier (page 25)

Berlin Blockade

 

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