On February 18, 1943, following the illegal distribution of anti-Nazi leaflets by the White Rose at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München—the leaflets instructing students and all others to actively resist the 10-year-old Nazi regime—three young German university students were arrested. In the next four days these students will be tried in a Nazi kangaroo court, convicted of treason, and condemned to death. Their crime?—public vocal resistance to the totalitarian state that suppresses freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of conscience in addition to reprehensible war crimes, including the Holocaust, during World War II.
On February 22, 1943, in Stadelheim Prison in Munich, Germany, these three White Rose resisters are the first of their group to die for freedom and whose legacy in the 21st century is to be listed as some of the most important Germans of all time—namely, 21-year-old Sophie Scholl, her brother, 24-year-old Hans Scholl, and 23-year-old Christoph Probst, a married father with three children.
Christoph Probst: It wasn’t in vain.
Sophie Scholl: The sun is still shining.
The execution scene from Marc Rothemund’s 2005 German film, Sophie Scholl – The Final Days (“Sophie Scholl – Die letzten Tage”). On February 22, 1943 the three condemned White Rose students—Sophie Scholl (Julia Jentsch), Christoph Probst (Florian Stetter) and Hans Scholl (Fabian Hinrichs)—are allowed a final moment together before being beheaded in Munich’s Stadelheim Prison.
By the start of 1943, the the Nazis were badly losing the Battle of Stalingrad in Russia that had been raging since August 1942. Its outcome was a major turning point in the war. The German armed forces experienced nearly one million casualties in six months. The American, British, and the Russian armed forces were closing in on Hitler’s Third Reich from many sides.
Since June 1942 five anti-Nazi leaflets had been written and distributed in and around the university in Munich. The distribution channels as well as the network of this new clandestine anti-Nazi group—who eventually called themselves the German Resistance Movement, a.k.a. the White Rose—had steadily expanded during the creation of these leaflets.
Conditions were growing tense in Germany. There was a developing global consensus—that included some even in Germany— that Hitler’s war was ultimately unwinnable for the Fascist tyrant. As these totalitarian thugs had lashed out to consolidate power so, as ultimate military victory was slipping away, the regime stooped to any means to crush its internal enemies.
Sophie Scholl, May 9, 1921-February 22, 1943.
Sophie Scholl had almost not graduated from high school in May 1940 because she was sick and tired of the curriculum’s relentless political (Nazi) indoctrination. Scholl was fond of children and took a job teaching kindergarten. But her motivation was not simply that she had found an early vocation but hoped to steer clear of Germany’s six-month National Labor Service (Reichsarbeitsdienst).
The Nazis found her anyway— and Sophie taught at a National Labor Service-approved nursery as part of the war effort. Scholl might not have bothered with the National Labor Service at all except that the Nazis had set it up as a prerequisite for attending university.
In her personal reading Sophie Scholl had already developed an interest in philosophy and theology and wanted to pursue these subjects academically. The Labor Service experience did contribute, however, to Sophie’s outlook—she reacted completely against its militaristic aspects to the point where she started to practice forms of nonviolent resistance.
1940 Letter from Sophie Scholl to a Friend – White Rose Memorial Room – Interior of Main Building of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat – Munich – Germany.
In May 1942, 21-year-old Sophie started at the University in Munich. Her older brother Hans, studying medicine and philosophy at the school, introduced his younger sister to all his friends. Though Hans had evolving and increasingly strong anti-Nazi views, as did his friends, camaraderie revolved around the arts, music, philosophy and theology. The Scholls were also physically active—especially hiking and swimming.
Sophie pursued her intellectual interests at the university making connections with artists, writers, and philosophers. Her father, a hometown mayor, had been put in prison for an indirect critical remark he made about Hitler—and Sophie’s quest to understand how she, as an individual, should act under a dictatorship was intensely personal.
The White Rose formed and began writing and publishing anti-Nazi leaflets in June and July 1942—but Hans Scholl kept his dangerous undertaking secret from Sophie. But, in November 1942, when Sophie learned about the White Rose, she immediately joined.
Hans Scholl (Fabian Hinrichs), left, and Sophie Scholl (Julia Jentsch) in the 2005 German historical film, Sophie Scholl – The Final Days.
On February 18, 1943, in the wake of the battle of Stalingrad, and major Allied victories in Africa which had the Americans and British closing in on Hitler’s Europe, the sixth and final leaflet produced by the White Rose was distributed by Hans and Sophie Scholl and others of the White Rose at Munich University. The leaflet had been written by Kurt Huber, a university faculty and White Rose member, and stated that the “day of reckoning” had finally come for “[Hitler,] the most contemptible tyrant that the German people has ever endured.”
The Atrium, Munich University, where the Scholls dropped the sixth leaflets on February 18, 1943, which led to their arrest by the Gestapo.
Atrium, Munich University.
Bringing the leaflets in suitcases, the Scholls stacked them in corridors of the main building—and the hurried activity, including tossing the last leaflets into the atrium, was noticed by a maintenance man who reported it. Before their arrest by the Gestapo, Sophie had successfully gotten rid of any incriminating evidence. But the Gestapo did find fragments of a seventh leaflet by Christoph Probst on Hans Scholl’s person and, upon searching the Scholls’ apartment, confirmed the White Rose writings. The Gestapo was going to let Sophie free, but when she discovered her older brother had been arrested, she confessed to her full role.
Hans and Sophie Scholl lived in the rear of this apartment building at 13 Franz-Joseph Strasse in Munich from June 1942 until their arrest on February 18, 1943 and execution on February 22, 1943.
Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst.
During the interrogation following her arrest, transcripts show that Sophie defended herself mainly by claiming her right to act based on an individual “theology of conscience.”
On February 22, 1943, the Scholls and Christoph Probst were tried in the Volksgerichtshof (The People’s Court) before rabid Nazi judge Roland Freisler. Sophie interrupted the judge several times during his tirades. The court record shows her saying to the judge: “Somebody—after all—had to make a start. What we wrote and said is believed by many others. They just don’t dare to express themselves as we did.” The trio were found guilty of treason and condemned to death. They were guillotined the same day at Munich’s Stadelheim Prison.
Sophie Scholl, Hans Scholl and Christoph Probst, a married father of three children, were tried in the Volksgerichtshof (The People’s Court) before the rabid Nazi judge Roland Freisler.Transcripts show Sophie told the judge, Somebody—after all—had to make a start. What we wrote and said is believed by many others. They just don’t dare to express themselves as we did.
White Rose stamp – Sophie and Hans Scholl.
Hans Scholl was, with Alexander Schmorell (1917-executed by the Nazis in prison, July 13, 1943), a founding member of the White Rose in 1942. After serving as a medic on the Eastern Front in 1939, Hans Scholl became determined to do something to change the German people’s minds about the Nazi regime and its war effort.
By June 1942 the White Rose (Weiße Rose) had been founded on principles of nonviolent intellectual resistance to the Nazis—a highly dangerous proposition in a totalitarian regime.
Detail of Typewriter Used to Produce White Rose Anti-Nazi Leaflets – White Rose Memorial Room – Interior of Main Building of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat – Munich – Germany.
Between June and mid-July 1942, Hans Scholl and Alexander Schmorell wrote four leaflets against the Nazis appealing to the truth of the people’s consciences based on facts. “Isn’t it true that every honest German is ashamed of the government these days?’ the writers asked in their first leaflet. “Who among us has any conception of the dimensions of the shame that will befall us and our children when one day the veil has fallen from our eyes and the most horrible crimes reach the light of day?”
Alexander Schmorell was. with Hans Scholl, a co-founder of the White Rose. Schmorell co-wrote their leaflets. A Russian-German student at Munich University, Schmorell was sentenced to death at 25 years old on April 19, 1943 at the second trial of the White Rose at the Volksgerichtshof. With Munich University faculty member Kurt Huber, also a White Rose member and leaflet writer, Schmorell was beheaded at Munich’s Stadelheim Prison on July 13, 1943. In 2012, Schmorell was declared a saint and martyr in the Russian Orthodox Church.
In the second leaflet the White Rose spoke of the crimes of the Holocaust: “Since the conquest of Poland, 300,000 Jews have been murdered in this country in the most bestial way…The German people sleep in a stupid sleep and encourage the Fascist criminals…”
The third leaflet appealed to the German people’s “spirit” to eliminate the Nazi system in their midst.
Leaflets, Memorial to Scholls at Munich University.
For the next four months, until November 1942, Scholl, Schmorell, and other young members of the White Rose were drafted to again serve as medics on the Eastern Front. War’s ongoing horrors that they witnessed only strengthened their resolve to resist.
At their return to Germany in autumn 1942 Sophie Scholl, Hans’ younger sister (born May 9, 1921), learned about the White Rose and Hans’ involvement in it, and eagerly joined the group.
Sophie Scholl bust, Munich University.
With the Battle of Stalingrad raging since August 1942, the White Rose (now called the German Resistance Movement) produced a fifth leaflet in January 1943. It was an appeal addressed to all Germans and the White Rose made almost 10,000 copies to distribute. The leaflet presented a straightforward analysis of the situation so to jog people’s intellect to take moral action. To state, as the leaflet did, that “Hitler cannot win the war; he can only prolong it.” was pure heresy to the all-encompassing propaganda arm of the dictatorship.
In the Battle of Stalingrad which the Nazis lost—it was the major turning point in the war—Hitler made an intense appeal to the German people’s patriotism. By one count, the German armed forces experienced nearly one million casualties in about six months.
The German populace—as well as people around the world– understood that Hitler’s defeat was inevitable. But, unlike the Americans and British who, in November 1942, successfully began and concluded Operation Torch in French Morocco pushing the Germans east and out of North Africa and next out of Southern Europe, few Germans were willing to even yet criticize the Nazi regime let alone take action as did the handful of young students and faculty of the White Rose.
White Rose Leaflets, memorial.
The White Rose’s fifth leaflet called all Germans to “Support the resistance movement!” The leaflet labeled Nazi policies as racist and subhuman, imperialist and militarist—and to be resisted. But further, a future Germany and Europe must, stated the White Rose in this penultimate leaflet, protect “freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the individual citizen from the arbitrary action of any dictator states.”
It was in January 1943 that the White Rose was beginning to expand its operation to make connection with older anti-Nazi groups already formed and operating in Germany, such as the Kreisau Circle led by Helmuth James von Moltke (1907-executed by the Nazis in prison, January 23, 1945).
Helmuth James Graf von Moltke (1907–1945) was one of the leaders of an early diverse group of anti-Nazi intellectuals known as the Kreisau Circle. In prison since January 1944, Von Moltke is photographed at his trial in July 1944. The Nazis executed Moltke in prison in January 1945. By early 1943, members of the mostly student-led White Rose were starting to expand their network of contacts to include other anti-Nazi groups such as the Kriesau Circle.
With the defeat at Stalingrad officially announced by the Nazis in early February 1943, the totalitarian regime blamed the German people. This included pointing a finger at university students as unpatriotic who did not serve in the army. Such slanderous and cowardly accusations from Nazi leaders who pompously impugned German intellectual youth in the wake of a massive Hitler-led military defeat making for one million casualties and devastating the nation’s morale, sparked a riot by students at the university in Munich. A growing chaos under the totalitarian regime had a heartbeat—and as in all totalitarian regimes, scapegoats must be found and made examples of. The leaflets of the White Rose had been disseminating anti-Nazi literature since June 1942. Its perpetrators had yet to be found out—and stood square at the tip of the Fascist dictatorship’s spear.
The White Rose, its members actively looking to capitalize on the energy of the students’ righteous indignation, decided to send out their sixth and last leaflet—which they did on February 18, 1943. The sixth leaflet, written by Munich faculty Kurt Huber (1893-executed by the Nazis in prison, July 13, 1943), and revised by Hans Scholl and Alexander Schmorell, said that with “the dead of Stalingrad [to] adjure us!,” the “day of reckoning” had finally come for “[Hitler,] the most contemptible tyrant that the German people has ever endured.” The group also stenciled slogans on university walls and buildings throughout Munich, the Nazi Party’s home base, stating “Down with Hitler!” and “Freedom!”
Munich University, Main Corridor.
The distribution of the leaflets packed in suitcases—this time including the public participation of Sophie Scholl—took place on Thursday, February 18, 1943. It is what led to the arrest, trial, conviction, and execution by beheading of Hans and Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst by the Nazis within the span of the next four days.
Sophie Scholl’s last words were: It is such a splendid sunny day, and I have to go. But how many have to die on the battlefield in these days? How many young, promising lives? What does my death matter if by our acts thousands are warned and alerted? Among the student body there will certainly be a revolt!
Hans Scholl’s last words were Es lebe die Freiheit! (Let Freedom live!)
Christoph Probst, Hans and Sophie Scholl graves, Perlach Cemetery in Munich.
600 Central, Wilmette, February 2021. The house is dated to 1893.
Old Parsonage, 1872, Washington Street at Maple Avenue, Downers Grove, Illinois, February 2018.
Jason and Lucy Flanders House, 1841, 24044 Main Street, Plainfield, Illinois, August 11, 2013.
Plainfield was settled at the end of the 1820’s when James Walker constructed a sawmill on the DuPage River. The mill attracted settlers to the region and created Will County’s first permanent community. Located about halfway on the Chicago-Ottawa stagecoach line, Plainfield developed commercially, including a booming lumber trade. Jason and Lucy Flanders married in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1833 (they were both 23 years old). Jason Flanders, born in Vermont, had worked in Boston, Massachusetts since 1830. Lucy Ann Clark Flanders was born in New Hampshire. The Flanders arrived into Will County in 1833 and after seven years of farming, moved to Plainfield in 1840. The Flanders had six children.
Built in 1841, Flanders House exhibits characteristics of both the Federal and Greek revival styles. This includes symmetrically arranged windows and a central entrance overlaid by a porch of the 1920’s. Also known as Mapleview Farm and Bragaw-Klomhaus House, The Flanders’ Place has had only a handful of owners in its 180-year history. There is no record of the house ever being used for any non-residential purpose though it may have served in a commercial capacity, perhaps serving travelers on the Dr. Temple Stage Line Chicago-Ottawa route.
The two-story, side gabled rectangular building is approximately 30 x 40 feet in dimension and with later additions. Jason Flanders built the house with hewn logs and sided it with walnut, its original siding hidden by later exterior finishes. The house was finished on the inside also with walnut. Walnut was abundant in the Plainfield area which may explain partly why the Flanders did not hesitate to whitewash the house exterior.
Jason Flanders was the town constable (Plainfield’s first) and at his death had amassed many hundreds of acres of land. The Flanders and their descendants retained control of the property until 1974. While it is recorded that Jason Flanders was a Methodist, his late-20th-century descendant sold the house to a Lutheran church for use as a parsonage. It was sold again in the early 1990s and restored to emulate its original appearance. Flanders House remains one the oldest extant houses in Plainfield, Illinois, today.
Venard/Kelly/Orwin House, 4540 Highland Avenue, Downers Grove, Illinois. Constructed in 1914, this American Foursquare with Craftsman influences maintains its original features.
The exterior has bevel siding on the first story and shingles on the second with dividing molding. The full width front porch has double and triple columns and a front door with oval glass. There is a bay window off the dining room with triple windows. The view is taken from the southeast on February 16, 2021.
5414 N. Sheridan Road, Chicago. Park Tower Condominium is on the lakefront next to north Lake Shore Drive and across from Foster Beach in Lincoln Park. Constructed in 1973 by Solomon, Cordwell, Buenz (SCB), a Chicago architectural firm founded in 1931, the tower was planned as the first of three towers in a triangular formation but the others did not materialize.
At 55 stories tall (513 feet high), Park Tower Condominium is one of the tallest structures in Chicago outside the downtown area. It is the tallest structure between downtown and Foster Beach. It is one of the largest all-residential buildings in the city. Originally built as luxury rental apartments, the building became condos in 1979. The photograph was taken on August 7, 2015 in Lincoln Park.
In the Edgewater neighborhood, Park Tower Condominium is one of three residential towers in Chicago with black Miesian windows and three rounded lobes. The others are Lake Point Tower (505 North Lake Shore Drive) and Harbor Point (155 North Harbor Drive).
The Mentor Building, 39 S. State Street (6 E. Monroe Street), 1906, Howard Van Doren Shaw (1869-1926).
A Mentor building has stood on this northeast corner of State and Monroe since 1873 when there was a 7-story building erected here.1
Shaw’s only skyscraper presents an unusual mixture of styles. There are windows grouped in horizontal bands between a four-level base of large showroom windows. The top is classically inspired and details are strong and idiosyncratic. The building retains the character of classical sources though used as large-scale motifs.2
Shaw’s 1906 building is 17 stories high with two basements on rock caissons.3
The photograph was taken on July 5, 2015.
1 Frank A. Randall, History of Development of Building Construction in Chicago, Second Edition, Revised and Expanded by John D. Randall, University of Illinois Press, Urbana and Chicago, 1999, p, 196.
2 Alice Sinkevitch, AIA Guide to Chicago, 2nd Edition, Harcourt, Inc., Orlando, 2004, p. 59.
Heino Eller (1887-1970) and Lepo Sumera (1950–2000) were both influential Estonian composers and music composition teachers. Following his graduation in 1920 from the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, Heino Eller taught music theory and composition in Estonia for the next 50 years.
The list of Eller’s students who are well-regarded composers in Estonia and internationally is lengthy and Eller’s musical legacy lives on through them.
Lepo Sumera is one of those students who, in Eller’s last years, studied with the legendary Estonian composer in Tallinn. Other notable Estonian composers who studied with Eller, starting in Tartu, are Eduard Tubin (1905–1982), Olav Roots (1910–1974), Karl Leichter (1902–1987), and Alfred Karindi (1901–1969). Eller’s students also included religious/minimalist music composer Arvo Pärt (b. 1985) and classical/film music composer Jaan Rääts (1932-2020), among others.
Heino Eller (center) in a group portrait with his students from The Tartu Higher Music School of composition in the 1930’s. Left to right: Estonian composers Eduard Tubin (1905–1982), Olav Roots (1910–1974), Eller, Karl Leichter (1902–1987) and Alfred Karindi (1901–1969). Photo: Public Domain, author unknown.
Lepo Sumera (1950-2000), Estonian composer, student of Heino Eller, and Minister of Culture during Estonia’s “Singing Revolution” between 1988 and 1992. Sumera is shown in his official government capacity in 1991. Estonia’s “Singing Revolution” signaled Estonia’s second revolution of independence from the Soviet Union in the twentieth century (the first was in 1920) which helped end the Cold War following World War Two. Photo: CC BY-SA 4.0.
From 1920 to 1940, Heino Eller, born in Tartu, Estonia, taught music theory and composition at Tartu Higher School for Music (today known as the Heino Eller Music School). During World War II, Eller’s wife, pianist Anna Kremer (1887-1942), was executed by the Nazis in a concentration camp because of her Jewish ethnicity.
After the war and following the Soviet occupation, Eller taught at Estonia’s Tallinn Conservatory until his death in 1970. It was at Tallinn State Conservatory (today the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre) that Lepo Sumera studied with Heino Eller. Following Eller’s death, Sumera graduated from Tallinn Conservatory having studied with Estonian composer Heino Jürisalu (1930-1991).
Eller: Romanticism, Modernism and Folk Songs.
Eller’s early music (before 1940) is characterized by a broad romanticism which takes in impressionism, expressionism and modernism. His melodies and orchestrations are lyrical and refined by way of varying modernist modes of polyphony. Eller’s orchestral, ensemble and piano works often utilize the melodies and/or structures of Estonian folk songs.
Charles Coleman’s arrangement of Heino Eller’s Three Pieces for Flute and Piano (or string orchestra) was created in 2005. In three movements: 1. In the Valley 2. On the River and 3. In the Meadow, the performance of “In the Meadow” features soloist Maarika Järvi on flute. She performs with the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra conducted by the flutist’s brother, Kristjan Järvi. (2:06 minutes).
Three Pieces, flute and piano was composed in 1952. Whereas Eller’s music had been generally lyrical-romantic, influenced by Chopin, Grieg, Rachmaninoff and Scriabin, Eller’s musical idiom changed after World War II.
Eller’s music turned simpler and relied increasingly on folk melodies. By the early 1950’s his orchestral works with an illustrative idiom such as Flight of the Eagle (1950) and Singing Fields (1951) reflected official Soviet cultural policy to which Estonia, in Eller’s lifetime after 1940, was incorporated. It wasn’t until the end of the 1950’s, however, that Eller’s symphonic arrangements grew structurally denser.
Lepo Sumera: introduced electro-acoustic trends to Estonian music
As a student of Heino Eller, Lepo Sumera shared with the legendary composer a keen attention to compositional detail as well as being a key figure in his generation to introduce international contemporary music ideas and trends to the country.
In his 50 restive and creative years the late-20th century Estonian composer and teacher, Lepo Sumera, wrote six symphonies, the bedrock of his musical corpus. Sumera regularly collaborated with theatrical figures, film directors, choreographers, and artists to create over 70 film scores and music for the stage.
From 1988 to 1992, during the days of Estonia’s “Singing Revolution” which helped to end the Cold War, Lepo Sumera was his country’s Minister of Culture. It was not easy for the new government minister as his own house was subject to restitution to its rightful owners following the end of a half century of Soviet occupation.
Lepo Sumera was known by his students as a kind and thoughtful man. The professor and composer thought it nothing to bend down in the middle of a discussion on musical composition to tie the untied laces of a child’s shoe of one of his students. Whereas Sumera’s themes, especially in his symphonies, tackle quintessential issues of humanity—life, death, love, torment, and so on, in music that is multi-layered, dramatic and richly colored—his other and shorter works frequently offer a weightless, shimmering quality that lend to the music a sense of timelessness.
Performance at the 2019 Pärnu Music Festival of Lepo Sumera’s waltz from the animated 1986 color short film Kevadine kärbes (“Spring Fly.”). Arranged by Mihkel Kerem, Sumera’s music is characteristically playful and humorous but expressively direct. It is performed by the Estonian Festival Orchestra founded by Paavo Järvi in 2011. (7:39 minutes).
Heino Eller, Estonian stamp, 125th anniversary of Eller’s birth (2012).
Sketch portrait of Lepo Sumera, 2018, by Khanzhin Ivan. CC BY-SA 4.0.
I lived with the seriousness of someone who has caught a tiger by the tail. Once you have caught hold of a tiger’s tail, you have to follow it all the way to the end, on pain of being eaten alive. Kim Tschang-Yuel (1929-2021), painter of water drops.
From an interview with critic and curator Michel Enrici published in 2018 and cited in The New York Times, “Kim Tschang-Yeul, 91, Dies; Painted Water Drops Swollen With Meaning,” updated January 19, 2021.
Kim Tschang-yeul (December 24, 1929–January 5, 2021) was a French-Korean artist known for his abstract paintings of water droplets.
“The advent of the new president changed everything. The Roosevelts transformed the White House as completely as the swift march of public thoughts and events had changed the country. No longer did the Executive Mansion resemble a medieval castle besieged by the forces of progress. The drawbridges were figuratively let down, and the moats drained of their timeworn prejudices. The archers of reaction withdrew from their turrets, and the victorious New Deal army took over the battlements.” George Abell and Evelyn Gordon, Let Them Eat Caviar, Dodge Publishing Co., New York, 1937.
“Even that son of a bitch looks impressive in that getup!” Alice Roosevelt Longworth (1884-1980), at the White House after visiting President Warren Harding in the Oval Office. Quoted in Katherine Graham’s Washington, Knopf, 2002.
Alice Roosevelt was President Teddy Roosevelt’s oldest child and the only child of Roosevelt and his first wife, Alice Hathaway Lee, who died in childbirth. Alice grew up to be an independent, unconventional and outspoken “first daughter” and was an important figure in the women’s movement in the first half of the 20th century.
Alice Longworth was perfectly realistic about Harding—and didn’t like the Republican president very much. Sen. Brandegee of Connecticut, a member of Harding’s own inner circle, called the former newspaper owner of The Marion Star, Senator from Ohio, and 29th U.S. President, “no world-beater, but he’s the best of the second-raters.”
“[The Wilsons] finally settled on a house in the 2300 block of S Street, Northwest, and purchased it…[W]e rode by everyday, and the President was eager as a bridegroom about getting back to private life. He seemed to gain new strength as he shed the idea of responsibility and assumed the freedom of a civilian. But he did not forget his dreams.” Colonel Edmund W. Starling, Starling of the White House…as told to Thomas Sugrue…, Simon & Schuster.
Colonel Edmund William Starling (1875-1944) was chief of the Secret Service detail in the White House from 1914 to 1943. In his thirty years of service at the White House he was responsible for the personal safety of five President of the United States—Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Starling idolized Woodrow Wilson. His first exposure to Wilson left him “in a daze.” Born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, the posthumous book is based on over 11,000 personal letters Starling wrote over the decades, mostly to his mother back home. Starling’s ashes are buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
“As Senate majority leader, I participated in many private conferences with President Franklin D. Roosevelt….Usually we would talk in his bedroom at the White House, and the President, wrapped in his cherished gray bathrobe, which he clung to year after year….would interrupt work on a pile of papers and puff at a cigarette through his long ivory holder as we exchanged views.” Alben W. Barkley (1877-1956), That Reminds Me, 1954.
Senator Barkley (later Vice President Barkley under President Harry S. Truman) describes an almost iconic FDR- one can almost imagine a bespectacled 32nd president smoking a cigarette from a long cigarette (in this instance, ivory) holder and jauntily thrusting his chin forward.
Alben W. Barkley, Democrat of Kentucky, was one of the most prominent American politicians of the first half of the 20th Century. Barkley hoped expectantly to someday be the U.S. President–or at least his party’s sometime presidential nominee, particularly in 1952. The longtime majority leader of the U.S. Senate had to settle, however, for being a one-term vice-president in the executive branch. After Truman chose Barkley to be his running mate in 1948 and that ticket triumphed in one of American history’s most astounding upsets, Alben Barkley became a popular national figure known everywhere as “The Veep.” Like his Kentucky forebear Abraham Lincoln, Vice President Barkley was a noted story-teller and often started his sentence with, “And that reminds me…”
“It was all gone now-the life-affirming, life-enhancing zest, the brilliance, the wit, the cool commitment, the steady purpose….[President Kennedy] had so little time: it was as if Jackson had died before the nullification controversy and the Bank War, as if Lincoln had been killed six months after Gettysburg or Franklin Roosevelt at the end of 1935 or Truman before the Marshall Plan.” Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (1917-2007) on the death of JFK. From A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House, Houghton Mifflin, 1965.
Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. was an American historian who resigned from Harvard and was appointed Special Assistant to the President in the Kennedy Administration in January 1961. Per Kennedy’s desire, Schlesinger served as a sort of ad hoc roving reporter and troubleshooter on behalf of the president. In February 1961, Schlesinger was told of the plans for what developed into the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961 and wrote a memorandum to the president telling him that he opposed the action. During the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962 Schlesinger aided United Nations ambassador Adlai Stevenson on his presentation to the world body on behalf of the Kennedy Administration’s ultimately successful efforts to peacefully remove Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba. On November 22, 1963, Schlesinger had flown to New York for a luncheon with Washington Post owner Katharine Graham and the editors of her magazine, Newsweek. As they still sipped pre-luncheon libations and amiably talked about upcoming college football games that weekend, a young man in shirtsleeves suddenly entered the gathering. He tentatively announced to the group that, as Schlesinger relates in A Thousand Days, “the President has been shot in the head in Texas.”
“[George Washington’s] mind was great and powerful, without being of the very first order; his penetration strong, though not so acute as that of a Newton, Bacon, or Locke; and as far as he saw, no judgment was ever sounder. It was slow in operation, being little aided by invention or imagination, but sure in conclusion.” Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), U.S. president, Letter, January 1814.
After returning from France where he served as Minister Plenipotentiary with John Adams and Benjamin Franklin in Paris in the mid-to-late 1780’s, Thomas Jefferson accepted President George Washington’s invitation to serve as the nation’s first Secretary of State in the early 1790’s. Jefferson eventually left Washington’s cabinet over his opposition to Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton’s promotion of a national debt and national bank in contrast to Jefferson’s vision of a minimalist federal government (see Joseph J. Ellis, American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson, Random House, 1998, pp. 221-222). Thomas Jefferson was elected the third president of the United States in 1800 and served two terms as president. In 1803 Jefferson transacted the Louisiana Purchase that doubled the size of the United States and in the process acquired the most fertile tract of land of its size on Earth.
“During the inaugural parade [President George H.W.] Bush kept darting in and out of his limousine…These pop-outs were much better received than the Jimmy Carter business of walking the whole parade route. We Americans like our populists in small doses and preferably from an elitist.” P.J. O’Rourke, PARLIAMENT OF WHORES, Atlantic Monthly Press, 1991.
The Bushes were a big family and family oriented. O’Rourke reported in his best-selling book that on the first night of Bush’s presidency 28 members of the Bush family spent it at the White House.
“Mr Jefferson has reason to reflect upon himself. How he will get rid of his Remorse in his Retirement I know not. He must know that he leaves the government infinitely worse than he found it and that from his own Error or Ignorance. I wish his Telescopes and Mathematical Instruments, however, may secure his Felicity. But If I have not mismeasured his Ambition, he will be uneasy, and the Sword will cutt away the Scabbard. As he has, however a good Taste for Letters and an ardent curiosity for Science, he may and I hope will find Amusement and consolation from them: for I have no resentment against him, though he has honoured and Salaried almost every Villain he could find who had been an Enemy to me.” Former president John Adams (1735-1826), at Quincy, letter to Benjamin Rush, April 18, 1808.
John Adams (1735-1826), the second president of the United States, a Federalist, and Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), a Democratic-Republican, were fierce political rivals. Both lawyers—Adams from Massachusetts and Jefferson from Virginia—each were enlightened political liberals who served in the Continental Congress in Philadelphia as well as headed the committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence. Adams and jefferson also served together as ministers to France in the 1780’s. Into the 1790’s, as president (Adams) and vying to be (Jefferson), each served opposing visions for the direction of the new nation. At their extreme, the Federalists advocated to establish a strong Federal government that could alienate the individual rights of large groups. Jefferson’s vision of limited government included his advocacy in certain instances for state government to have the right to resist those federal laws that were injurious to local interest.
Jefferson’s narrow victory in the presidential election of 1800 made John Adams the nation’s first one-term president, and sent the New England patriarch into early retirement to Quincy, Massachusetts. For the next decade, John Adams harbored a barely hidden resentment of his political rival, if not enemy when measured by some of their florid rhetoric. Though these two sparring giants of the early republic eventually resumed civil correspondence—Adams and Jefferson stayed in contact until the day they died, both remarkably on the same day, July 4, 1826— Adams had been especially upset by the relentless propaganda campaign of Jefferson’s Republican party against him during the second president’s first term. The years-long libelous accusations described President Adams, in part, as narcissistic, incompetent, dangerous to democracy, unbalanced, and corrupt—all of which Jefferson had personally paid for and approved and which led to a premature and hasty departure of Adams as chief executive on March 4, 1801. (See Joseph J. Ellis, American Sphnix: The Character of Thomas Jefferson, Random House, 1998, pp. 281-82).
“Isn’t it nice that Calvin is President? You know we never really had room before for a dog.” Grace Coolidge (1879-1957), First Lady of the U.S. (1923-1929), in 1927.
Grace Coolidge was the wife of the 30th President of the U.S., Calvin Coolidge. Throughout her husband’s career, whether as Governor of Massachusetts, Vice-President, or President, Grace Coolidge avoided politics. Though the young Grace broke off a marriage engagement to marry Coolidge, her mother advised against marrying this young man. Calvin Coolidge and Grace Coolidge married on October 4, 1905—and Calvin Coolidge never settled his differences with his mother-in-law who felt her daughter was completely responsible for his rising political fortunes. The Coolidges had two sons, John (1906–2000) and Calvin (1908–1924). After Calvin Coolidge, Jr. died of blood poisoning in July 1924, the Coolidges were inconsolable. The story is well-known: while playing lawn tennis with his brother, John, at the White House, the teenager developed a blister on one of his toes. Within the week, the 16-year-old was dead of a blood infection despite being admitted to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. (see- https://www.coolidgefoundation.org/blog/the-medical-context-of-calvin-jr-s-untimely-death/)
By 1921, the wife of Vice-President Coolidge entered Washington society and quickly became the most popular woman in the capital. In 1927 when Mrs. Coolidge made these remarks, the world that her husband was facing was in flux. In 1927, as France called to outlaw war, which was endorsed by the U.S, a Great Depression already began in Germany with its economic collapse on “Black Friday.” After President Coolidge called for a Naval Disarmament Conference, only a couple of global powers showed up.
The world seemed to be getting smaller in 1927. In May 1927 American Charles Lindbergh flew solo, nonstop, from New York to Paris and started the era of transatlantic air travel. Regular transatlantic telephone service also began in 1927. In the U.S., as the stock market boomed, much of it on shaky credit, lawyers and doctors earned around 3½ times more than a teacher or factory worker. Baltimore-born “Babe” Ruth hit a record 60 home runs in New York.
The first full-length sound motion picture, The Jazz Singer, opened in 1927. In Chicago there was an important art exhibition of Chinese Buddhist art of the Wei Dynasty. In 1927, Hemingway published Men without Women; Willa Cather published Death Comes for the Archbishop; and Thomas Mann published The Magic Mountain. That year’s Pulitzer Prize went to Thornton Wilder’s second novel, The Bridge of the San Luis Rey. It told the story of people who unexpectedly die together in a rope bridge collapse in Peru and the friar who witnessed the accident looking to figure out the possibly cosmic answers as to why.
“The days of transition from Kennedy to Johnson were as hard on me as they were on anyone else–harder. I was losing a dog and gaining a President I didn’t know. Not only didn’t I know him, I didn’t think I wanted to know him. He wasn’t boyish or good-natured or quick-witted like Kennedy and I heard him cussing out the help when things weren’t done fast enough.” Traphes Bryant, Dog Days at the White House, 1975.
Traphes Bryant started out working at the White House as an electrician on the afternoon shift. That was in 1951. Bryant soon moved on to respond to other maintenance calls such as a broken White House elevator. In the 1950’s Bryant was already looking after the incumbents’ family pets, such as it was for the Trumans and Eisenhowers. That line of work became official for Traphes Bryant when John Kennedy became president in 1961. Kennedy asked Bryant to become the new presidential kennel keeper. The president liked how Bryant trained the dogs to meet the presidential helicopter that would often be seen in photographs and on film.
Though Kennedy himself was sometimes allergic to animals, First Lady Jackie Kennedy adored all sorts of animals. During the next 1000 days in office, the Kennedys kept several pets. At one point the first family, which included two small children, Caroline and John, Jr., had 9 dogs. The Kennedys also kept hamsters, horses, birds, a rabbit, and a cat. Some of the animals were gifts from foreign heads of state.
In 1961 Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev sent the Kennedys a mixed breed dog named Pushinka. The dog’s mother had been sent into orbit on Korabl-Sputnik 2 in 1960. Though a surprise, the Kennedy’s welcomed the canine gift. In fact, the Kennedys’ Welsh terrier, Charlie, not only had another companion but a new mate: Pushinka gave birth to four puppies fathered by Charlie. Kennedy called the litter, “the pupniks.”
Bryant was officially in charge of Pushinka’s and Charlie’s grooming, exercise, and diet—along with all the rest. Those special responsibilities for John Kennedy ended abruptly with his assassination on November 22, 1963.
CHEVY DEALERSHIP: A TRIBUTE TO ROUTE 66, 2007, 396 N. Chicago Street, Joliet, Illinois, by Marion Kryczka with the assistance of community members. Photograph by author.
Joliet, Illinois, a city of nearly 150,000 people about 45 miles southwest of downtown Chicago, is famous for many things not least of which is its appearance in the opening credits and scene of the classic 1980 comedy film, The Blues Brothers. Starring John Belushi as “Joliet” Jake Blues and and Dan Ackroyd as his brother, Elwood, there is a flyover of Joliet’s old steel mills in operation at night as well as the old limestone walls of Joliet Prison at dawn. The city of Joliet takes pride in this popular culture heritage, though those manufacturing mills are shuttered and the old Joliet Prison, only one mile away from Chevy Dealership: A Tribute to Route 66, closed in 2002.
Joliet set out in the early 1990s to celebrate and present its rich and diverse heritage by way of a city-wide public artwork initiative. Depicted in painted murals placed at strategic points throughout the city, it presented the various historic periods, people, and significant activities that preceded and followed Joliet’s establishment.
After many hundreds of years living on the undulating prairie with its deep rivers, Native American communities were met in 1673 by French-Canadian explorer Louis Jolliet (1645-1700)— and after which the city could have been later named—accompanied by French Jesuit Père Jacques Marquette (1637-1675). These European explorers paddled up the Des Plaines River on which the present-day Joliet straddles and camped just south of its downtown. By the nineteenth and twentieth centuries came a proliferation of canals, various industries, railroads, and quarries that saw the economic boom of this northern Illinois city surrounded by a broad geographical area of farms. In 1964, Joliet’s significance in the development of this part of the nation’s interior was officially recognized with the establishment of the Illinois & Michigan National Heritage Corridor designation.
In the early 1990s, Joliet started a public art mural project. Contemporary art murals were created throughout the city often on exterior building walls or under viaducts. Several of these early murals, after 30 years being constantly exposed to the harsh weather conditions in summer and winter, are today in varying need of restorative work. Whether as an individual mural or as part of a series, these public murals have looked to depict in contemporary art the diversity of Joliet life in more than five centuries of its history.
The 2007 acrylic mural called Chevy Dealership: A Tribute to Route 66 is the artists’ imagined depiction of a Chevrolet automobile showroom in Joliet, Illinois in the mid-1950s. Newer than other murals in the city, the mural is in remarkable physical condition as it sits in the direct western sun on an exterior wall along a high-trafficked downtown street corner. The 10-by-15-foot mural was created by a team of artists led by Marion Kryczka, a Chicago-based artist who was a longtime professor at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The artists who matured under Kryczka’s mentorship are today accomplished artists in their own right.
The mural is part of a series at the site. It is the larger of two murals displayed on west and south walls of a historic one story red-brick building at 396 N. Chicago Street in downtown Joliet, Illinois. The building had been the original showroom of Winston Chevrolet, a busy auto dealer in the mid-1930s and 1940s. In 1955 the dealership was acquired by Bill Jacobs, Sr. A vintage photograph from that time connected to the mural shows a bevy of new and used cars lined up and parked around the perimeter of the building apparently awaiting customers.
The acrylic mural of Bill Jacob’s dealership in the 1950s is imbued with cultural and historical significance. Bill Jacobs Chevrolet, which opened in 1955, stayed in the family until it was sold in 2015. The founder’s son, Bill Jacobs, Jr., bought the dealership from his father in 1978 at 23 years old. In 2010, Bill Jacobs, Jr., following a 7-year battle with cancer, passed away at 55 years old. Starting at this showroom building in 1955, Bill Jacobs Automotive Group had, by 2010, expanded to five Chicagoland dealerships. It employed almost 500 people and generated about $300 million in annual sales. Mrs. Jeanne Jacobs, the wife of Bill Jacobs, Sr., and Bill Jacobs, Jr.’s mother, passed away in October 2020. It was because of Jeanne Jacobs that her husband Bill Jacobs, a university professor, entered the car business. Jeanne Jacobs’ father owned a car dealership in Chicago where Bill Jacobs worked before he bought his own dealership in Joliet in 1955.
Since the 1970s, artist Marion Kryczka has had a career as an artist. Mr. Kryczka’s drawing is rooted in his foundation as a figurative artist and a lively technique which uses realism as a launching point to create familiar, beautiful, and meaningful scenes. For Chevy Dealership: A Tribute to Route 66, Krycka’s painting imagines a realistic American social scene which reflected Bill Jacobs Sr.’s business philosophy. Mr. Jacobs believed that business is about people and the mural’s showroom is filled with people who worked, lived and played in Joliet in the mid-1950’s. For a public mural like this one, community input was an important part of the process. There were group design sessions and meetings with city officials, with the city approving topics and contracting for the projects. For historic pieces, local residents sometimes posed.
The placing of Chevy Dealership: A Tribute to Route 66 in the mid20th century in the middle of the 1950’s helps express several important historical facets about the building, its car dealership, and the road (U.S. Route 66) that runs past it. In this art project are displayed many facets of Joliet’s rich heritage.
The mural is directly meaningful as a display of Joliet, Illinois, especially as it developed into a vibrant city where the Jacobs and many others put down roots. The mural also expresses the profound economic and cultural impact of the car industry in Joliet at that time reflecting national trends. Finally, it evokes the popularity of the legendary U.S. Route 66 which had opened in 1926 and followed a quilt of interconnected state and county roads for motor travel from Chicago, Illinois, through Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and all the way to Santa Monica, California in Los Angeles County. Chevy Dealership: A Tribute to Route 66 shows Joliet’s connection and contribution to this important larger national phenomenon.
The mid1950s for the Chevy dealership mural depicts that unique historical moment when old Route 66, just then 30 years old, was already on the threshold of major change. In the mural U.S. Route 66 was still in its hey-day—though, at the very same time, it was headed for a rapid and transformative decline. In 1956 the Federal Aid Highway Act was passed by the U.S. Congress and signed by President Eisenhower. It authorized $25 billion for the construction of over 40,000 miles of an Interstate Highway System. The bill was the largest public works project in American history—and quickly displaced U.S. Route 66 as a major throughway.
Supertramp’s July 1970 debut album simply dubbed Supertramp, wasn’t released in the U.S. until 1977. That sort of distribution shortfall was not unusual in that decade. For an enterprising American traveler in the 1970’s, such a distribution shortfall could add to the purpose of any trip to London where to a Europe-only released record could be purchased and carried carefully home.
The music on the album Supertramp was composed by Supertramp co-founders Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson. The lyrics were written by guitarist Richard Palmer-James mainly because no one else in the band wanted to write any.
The debut album received positive reviews, though Supertramp’s musical innovations so quickly ahead that the first album’s ten songs were dropped from their promotional live mega-tours.
Indelibly Stamped, Supertramp’s second album in 1971, was a major change for the band to the rock sound. This was followed by the group’s multi-platinum albums, Crime of the Century in 1974 and Breakfast in America in 1979.
Supertramp never returned to its first days’ output as musician-poets. Thoughlater hit songs such as Dreamer and Give A Little Bit were written in this early period, which dd to the debut album’s appeal as other of Supertramp’s first songs definitely make for worthwhile listening.
Bankrolled by a Dutch millionaire, Supertramp’s first music was recognized by critics at the time as an admixture of melodic poetry and progressive pop. This would apply to Aubade/I Am Not Like Other Birds of Prey, their debut album’s third track.
Along with Arc, Crucible, and other bands, the song was featured as part of a rare soundtrack for a 1971 UK docufilm called Extremes. The film was directed by 19-year-old Tony Klinger and 21-year-old Mike Lytton and displayed the adventures and pursuits of young people of that era (it can be rediscovered in a 2017 DVD release).
Despite this creativity and critical success, the album Supertramp was a commercial flop. Its follow-up, new rock sound album Indelibly Stamped in 1971,was also a commercial flop. Crisis? What Crisis?
Supertramp, 1971. Roger Hodgson, Frank Farrell, Rick Davies, Kevin Currie, Dave Winthrop
Notwithstanding the discography of a full-fledged English prog-rock group in the rearview mirror, critics over the decades have not grown kinder towards Supertramp’s debut album. Though acknowledging its almost 50 minutes of enjoyable melodies—especially Surely, the lead track, as well as Words Unspoken, Nothing to Show and the 12-minute Try Again—today’s critics, potential upward revisionists, mostly dismiss these initial songs. The mainly constructive criticism observes that Supertramp‘s musical and lyrical effort remains too loosely conceived and, according to a review in AllMusic, wanders “pretentiously.” Meandering instrumentally among pretty patches of subtle melody is, of course, not all bad but, Supertramp’s first songs indulge themselves the pleasure of music making as a new group and forego the necessary compositional rigor to make a more powerful statement sooner.
Following these commercial disasters—and before fame—Supertramp broke up. Co-founders Davies and Hodgson recruited new band-mates. Bassist Frank Farrell and drummer Kevin Currie were replaced with pub rockers John Helliwell on saxophone, Dougie Thompson on bass, and drummer Bob “C.” Benberg. The third album, Crime of The Century, preceded by a massive millionaire-bankrolled promotional campaign, soared to no.1 in the UK —and sowed seeds of a following in the U.S.
Supertramp’s breakthrough hit single in the U.S. was Bloody Well Right in 1975. Written by Supertramp co-founders Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson and sung by Davies (who performs its opening keyboard bars), the song appeared on the newly reconstituted English prog-rock band’s third album, Crime of the Century, released in mid-September 1974. The song features impressive guitar work by Hodgson and by saxman and new recruit John Helliwell.
Bloody Well Right was not Supertramp’s odds-on, or even favored, hit song from the album. That would have been Hodgson’s Dreamer, written when he was 19 years old, on side A. But Dreamer only charted in Canada.
As Crime of the Century went Gold in the U.S. (Diamond in Canada and Platinum in France), listeners in the United States flipped Supertramp’s single and preferred side B.
Bloody Well Right, on side B, climbed to no. 35 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 1975. A Supertramp classic, it remains a staple “on the radio” and in the band’s live shows. In 1975, with singles from Crime of The Century charting, the bank-rolled group toured the U.S. and filled arenas by giving away most of the tickets.
Crime of the Century was the third studio album by Supertramp and recorded between February and June 1974. Released on September 16, 1974, it was Supertramp’s first Gold record in the U.S. The album produced Supertramp’s breakthrough Top 40 hit single in the U.S., Bloody Well Right. Written by Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson, band members believed that with this album Supertramp had entered into one of its most creatively original periods.
Crisis? What Crisis? is the fourth album by the English progressive-rock band. Recorded in the summer of 1975 in London and Los Angeles, it was released on November 29, 1975. Hastily assembled from second-hand discards of Crime of the Century to capitalize quickly on that album’s recent success, Rolling Stone magazine panned the music on the album, and Supertramp came to believe the project was a low point in their career.
The following album, Even in the Quitest Moments…, released in April 1977, produced another song that Hodgson wrote at 19 years old. Give A Little Bit became a Top 20 hit in the U.S. and Canada and reached no. 29 in the UK. This fifth album repeated virtually Crime of the Century‘s certification achievements. In this period, the band permanently relocated to Los Angeles.
Even in the Quietest Moments… was the fifth studio album by Supertramp. Recorded between November 1976 and January 1977, it was released on April 10, 1977. It became the second Gold record for Supertramp in the U.S. The album produced Give A Little Bit, a Top 20 single in the U.S. and Canada. It was one of the hit songs written by Supertramp cofounder Roger Hodgson when he was 19 years old.
Rock-star success for Supertramp was achieved in 1979 with Breakfast in America. Recorded from May to December 1978, Supertramp’s sixth album was released on March 29, 1979. It became the no.1 LP around the world and, in the U.S., went 4x Platinum, selling over 4 million copies.
Supertramp’s Breakfast in America produced the Top 10 hit, The Logical Song. Written by Roger Hodgson, it became Supertramp’s biggest hit.
SOURCES: The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Third Edition, edited by Holly George Warren and Patricia Romanowski, New York: A Rolling Stone Press Book, 2001.
Alexei von Jawlensky (1864-1941), Russian-émigré German Expressionist painter.
Alexei von Jawlensky (1864-1941), a young Russian-émigré artist to Germany beginning in the mid 1890’s, became one of the most progressive avant-garde modernist artists of his generation. His international search—from Russia to France, England and the Low Countries, as well as his lifelong expatriate base in Munich, Germany—led him to experiment and synthesize unto German Expressionism the main currents of modern art styles before World War One. This included significant borrowings from Impressionism, Post Impressionism, Cloisonnism, Synthetism, Symbolism, and Fauvism. Jawlensky, with Russian compatriot Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) and German painter Gabriele Münter (1877-1962), among several others, pursued a decade-long dialogue of their individual experimentation, particularly in the liberation of color and form, as, in part, an artistic response to a modern society increasingly saturated by industrialization and mechanization. Within the socio-economic context of a rising newly-formed German Empire before World War I, these emergent German Expressionists sought to free the object (and unto the natural world) from its objective fixity and situate it within the inner feelings and spirit of the artist. Within European modernism, Jawlensky developed a wide network of contacts and took especial inspiration from modern painters such as Édouard Manet (1832-1883), Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890), Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), Paul Cézanne (1839-1906), Henri Matisse (1869-1954), and others. Jawlensky sought in modern art exhibitions and the co-founding of, and participation in, the New Munich Artist’s Association in 1909 and Der Blaue Reiter in 1911, to lead modern art towards representational expressionism and abstraction.
Alexei von Jawlensky, Self Portrait, 1912.
In 1871, the newly-founded German Empire fused together most of the German speaking states in Central Europe under Prussian leadership. Over the next 60 years under several different forms of government—that of Emperor Wilhelm I (1871-1888), his grandson Wilhelm II (1888-1918) and, following World I, the Weimer Republic (1918-1933) —Germany worked to create and define a political and cultural identity all its own.
In World War I (1914-1918), the recent German Empire fought to consolidate its gains but the effort failed—and Central European powers were divided up into smaller states after the war. The German Empire had risen and fallen in less than 50 years.1
Before unification in 1871, German-speaking denizens of Central Europe came from many independent and differing political units. The Kingdom of Prussia, which in 1816 annexed the Kingdom of Brandenburg, was the foremost German power alongside Austria. Long-held liberal dreams based on the French Revolution of 1789, the Napoleonic empire (defeated at Waterloo in 1815) and later mid-19th century pan-European revolutions looked to unify these diverse states into a national union based on self-determination. But these idealistic political aspirations did not reflect all the conditions and facts in these lands.
Napoleon’s invasions into Central Europe in 1806 and 1807 resulted in German state governments that were conservative and anti-constitutional monarchies. When unification came for Germany in 1871, it was not by popular uprisings or democracy. It was the diplomatic handiwork of the six-foot-three-inch Prussian prime minister, Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898).
Prussian prime minister Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898).
In 1849, Otto von Bismarck was elected to the Landtag, or Prussian parliament. Following a decade of government service, König Wilhelm of Prussia appointed Bismarck in 1862 as Minister President of Prussia and Foreign Minister. This gave Bismarck virtual absolute power.
In 1866, Bismarck started a short, decisive war with Austria. It proved Prussia was the dominant force in German territory. The Austrian war led to the Prussians with their allies annexing territories and forming the North German Confederation comprised of 22 German states. Nationalism throughout German-speaking Europe rose significantly after this military victory over Austria which had in the contest lost its dominant power position in Europe.
By 1870, German unification was both cause and effect of German nationalism. Unification was opposed by European nations, particularly France, as well as German expansion. The smaller German kingdoms reacted to the diplomatic opposition by uniting with Prussia. It was France that, since the 17th century, was viewed as the actual destabilizing force in Europe, and not a new Germany.
The Franco-Prussian War of 1870 which started when France was maneuvered by Bismarck to declare war on the North German Confederation, was a disastrous defeat for France. The Prussian victory allowed them to annex Alsace-Lorraine from the French and became another impetus for independent German states to join a united Germany. The German empire was founded and declared on New Year’s Day, 1871. Bismarck crowned Wilhelm as Kaiser Wilhelm I, and Bismarck became Grand Chancellor.
With Austria as an exception, Bismarck ruled the German states as the Second Reich. He brutally censored and repressed any contradictory forces to German nationalism—including the Catholic Church and the Communists and worked to mold scattered German speaking residents into one political and cultural nationality. This nationalistic vision of centralized power—and entangling alliances to support or offset it—led to the mechanized death mill of World War I. In that conflict, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire—the so-called Central Powers—fought the Allied Powers of Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Romania, Japan and, later, the United States.
In this “Great War” the total number of military and civilian casualties on both sides was around 40 million—about 20 million deaths and 21 million wounded. Of the 20 million deaths, it included about 10 million in the military and 10 million civilians. The Allies lost almost 6 million soldiers and the Central Powers lost about 4 million.2
World War I was a dividing point in modern history which also had effects on modern art in Germany. Many young, avant-garde artists were killed in action as soldiers in the war. Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) and Alexei von Jawlensky (1864-1941), both Russian-émigrés, had to flee Germany, only to emerge from the general carnage years later. After the war, German architect Walter Gropius (1883-1969) believed that his work could be picked up precisely where it was left off before the war. But Gropius quickly realized that was not going to happen going forward, as if the worldwide calamity could exclude art-making in its whirlwind.
Prior to World War I, however, the German Empire experienced dynamic activity and prosperity. During Wilhelm II’s 30-year reign (1888-1918), rapid industrialization, population growth, and the growing gap between an increasingly wealthy and politically influential elite and disenchanted working class rippled throughout the empire. Berlin became Germany’s national capital and Europe’s young new city.
Kaiser Wilhelm II, c. 1901, by German painter Christian Heyden (1854-1939).
Antique map of the German Empire in 1900 showing population density.
Within this modern-state commotion, the role of art in Germany became a battle for the nation’s soul: from the pole of freedom to produce outstanding artworks in the modernist spirit to a regressive cultural heritage with proto-fascist overtones. Cultural conservatives argued for turning inward to German sources for the future direction of German art. These conservative critics dismissed French Impressionism as nonacademic, genre painting of modern life. Above all, it was foreign.
Conversely, the Berlin Secession (1898-1934) and Neue Galerie Thannhauser in Munich challenged academic and state-sponsored artwork and introduced international styles. These venues were where Germans went to see post-Impressionists such as Vincent Van Gogh and later Cubists such as Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque.
By the dawn of the 20th century, what it meant to be German, and among a culturally diverse citizenry, was a 30-year experimental construct forged by Bismarck using raw power so to achieve a unified empire on the world stage. The fall of that empire and the peace that followed it, helped set the stage for the rise of Fascism leading to World War II.
Modern artists of the key artistic movements of the Wilhelmine period, particularly Expressionist art groups such as Die Brücke (“The Bridge”) in Dresden from 1905 to 1913 and Der Blaue Reiter (“The Blue Rider”) in Munich from 1911 to 1914 — avant-garde forms of modernist abstraction and romanticism — wanted to offset conventional social values based on German industrial materialism by using a contradictory form of self-expression based on the sensual and spiritual.
The issue of what exactly was, or would be, “German” art in the modern age were the stakes for these artists. These artists sought to unify body and soul by expressing internal qualities through exterior appearances and saw this integrated expression as their contribution to that societal and artistic endeavor.3 Progressive artists never dismissed the idea of a German art. They sought its expression in avant-garde artistic elements and forms thereby rejecting its basis on historical and cultural anecdote or nostalgia.
Published in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1900 the map of the Russian Empire is labeled in French with topography relief shown by hachures and Paris as the meridian reference. Transcontinental rail lines in Russia and extend to Paris. Jawlensky, born in western Russia in 1864 was stationed in the 1880’s as a soldier in Moscow and St. Petersburg. As a professional artist in Germany in the 1890’s and afterwards, Jawlensky returned to visit Russia including in the year this map was made. (see- https://www.mapsofthepast.com/russia-empire-kartograficheskoe-circa-1900.html
Alexei von Jawlensky, born in Torzhok in western Russia in 1864, started his career in the military. At 25 years old, in 1889, Jawlensky, stationed in Moscow, requested a transfer to St. Petersburg to study painting at the Academy of Arts. In St. Petersburg, Jawlensky learned about the French Impressionists, particularly the artwork of Édouard Manet (1832-1883) and Alfred Sisley (1839-1899). In 1892, while taking painting lessons with Russian naturalist painter Ilya Repin (1844-1930), Jawlensky met realist painter Marianne von Werefkin (1860-1938) who became his mistress and dedicated patron. In 1893 Von Werefkin invited Jawlensky to her father’s estate in Kovno governorate (modern Lithuania) where Jawlensky met Hélène Nesnakomoff (1881-1965), Von Werekin’s personal maid. In time she became Jawlensky’s mistress, mother of his child and, ultimately, in 1922, his wife.
Jawlensky at 23 years old in his military uniform in Russia in 1887.
Marianne von Werefkin.
After seven years studying art in St. Petersburg, Jawlensky’s request to leave the military was granted. He left in early 1896 with a 20-year half pension and the rank of staff captain. That summer Jawlensky traveled through Germany, Holland and Belgium with Marianne von Werefkin and a female friend. Returning to St. Petersburg by way of Paris and London, Jawlensky viewed and admired artwork of J. W. M. Turner (1775-1851) and living artists, James Whistler (1834-1903) and Puvis de Chavannes (1824-1898).
In St. Petersburg, Jawlensky entrusted his possessions with family in Russia. With two young painter friends, Igor Grabar (1871-1960) and Dmitrij Kardovskij (1866-1943), he set off to settle in Munich at the end of 1896. Marianne von Werefkin and Hélène Nesnakomoff joined Jawlensky soon after. From his arrival into Munich, Jawlensky lived, with the exception of World War I, in Germany until his death in 1941. In 1897 Jawlensky, Von Werefkin and Hélène Nesnakomoff took an apartment at Giselastrasse 23, a residential street near the Englischen Garten, where they lived until 1914.
Marianne von Werefkin and Alexej von Jawlensky in their studio at Gut Blagodat, 1893.
In Munich Jawlensky attended Anton Ažbe’s art school where he met other young German artists, and in 1897, fellow Russian artist, Wassily Kandinsky. Anton Ažbe (1862-1905), a Slovene realist painter, was a master of human anatomy. He enforced figure drawing studies in his classes which Kandinsky loathed but Jawlensky had been studying since 1890. Kandinsky did appreciate Ažbe’s expressed view that an artist should never conform to a theory or set of rules. Ažbe, who died at 43 years old of cancer in 1905, said: “You must know your own anatomy but in front of the easel you must forget it.”4
Anton Ažbe, Self portrait, 1886.
Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944). Jawlensky met Kandinsky in 1897 in Munich at Anton Ažbe’s art school.
After five months in Munich, Jawlensky traveled to Venice in April 1897. He went with Werefkin, Grabar and Kardovskij, and Anton Ažbe. The next summer, in 1898, Jawlensky returned to Russia with Marianne von Werefkin and Hélène Nesnakomoff to visit family. That autumn the Russian group returned to Munich, where artists continued to draw heads and nudes at Azbé’s school. In 1898 Jawlensky met German Symbolist painter Franz von Stuck (1863-1928) and Kandinsky, in 1900, matriculated in his art class.5 Jawlensky’s conversation with von Stuck was not on the expression of German character in Symbolist art but the technical issue of working in tempura. In 1898 Jawlensky also received a visit from Russian portraitist Valentin Serov (1865-1911).
Franz von Stuck, Lucifer, 1890, oil on canvas, Bulgaria. At the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, critics observed that Franz von Stuck (1863–1928) was “one of the most versatile and ingenious of contemporary German artists.” Jawlensky met the renowned Symbolist painter, architect, designer, and co-founder of the Munich Secession in 1898.
Valentin Serov (1865-1911). Self portrait, c. 1888.
In 1899, with Grabar and Kardovskij, Jawlensky executed the ambitious project to open their own painting school in Munich which was short-lived. Kardovskij returned to Russia in 1900 to eventually become a professor at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts in 1907. Grabar returned to Russia in 1903 to became director of Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery. Jawlensky, remaining in Munich, was painting still lifes and looking for color harmonies.
Painter Dmitri Nikolayevich Kardovsky, Marianne von Werefkin, Igor Grabar, and Jawlensky in 1900.
Alexei von Jawlensky, Stillleben mit Samowar (Still life with a samovar), 1901.
Jawlensky visited Russia in 1901 with Marianne von Werefkin and Hélène Nesnakomoff. They visited the Ansbaki estate in the Vitebsk governorate (modern Belarus). When Jawlensky fell ill possibly with typhus, he recovered at the Black Sea with Marianne von Werefkin. There he met Kardovskij and his wife, Olga Lyudvigovna Della-Vos-Kardovskaya (1875-1952), a painter who studied at Anton Ažbe’s in Munich in 1898 and 1899.
Olga Lyudvigovna Della-Vos-Kardovskaya, Self portrait, 1917.
The following year, in January 1902, a son, Andreas, was born to Jawlensky and Hélène Nesnakomoff. Jawlensky was continuing to paint still lifes and figural pictures, some of which were influenced by Swedish artist, Anders Zorn (1860-1920). Jawlensky’s pictures featured as models Hélène and her sister, Maria, after she arrived to Munich in November 1902 to aid the new parents. In a visit in 1902, Prussian-born artist Lovis Corinth (1858-1925) advised Jawlensky to send a painting to the Berlin Secession. Jawlensky did so and it was exhibited.
Anders Zorn (1860-1920), Self portrait, 1896.
Lovis Corinth (1858-1925), Self-portrait with Skeleton, 1896, Lenbachaus, Munich. Corinth is a leading figure painter marked by draftsmanship and brushwork. Like Jawlensky, Corinth pursued his artistic training throughout Europe, including in Munich and Paris, and settled permanently in Berlin in 1902. (https://www.kimbellart.org/collection/ap-201701.)
Jawlensky, Stillleben mit orangen (Still Life with Oranges), 1902, oil on canvas.
Jawlensky, Cottage in the Woods, 1903.
Between 1903 and 1907, with Munich as his base, Jawlensky spent much time in France, including in Paris, Brittany and Normandy. In 1903, as Marianne von Werefkin and Georgian artist Alexander Salzmann (1874-1934) traveled in Normandy, Jawlensky was in Paris where he was fascinated with the color and texture of Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890). That same year, in Munich, Jawlensky attended lectures on aesthetics by Theodor Lipps and met the young, eccentric Austrian printmaker Alfred Kubin (1877-1959). Lipps’ theory of aesthetics involved the overlap of psychology and philosophy creating a framework for the concept of Einfühlung (“empathy”) which, defined as “projecting oneself onto the object of perception,” became a key component of Expressionism.5
In 1904, an over-worked Kubin married Hedwig Gründler, an older widow. In early 1906 Jawlensky painted her portrait in his Munich apartment before the Kubins left Munich to live in Austria. In the 23 x 30 inch, oil-on-cardboard portrait, Jawlensky’s colors and modeling of the face showed the influences of French Impressionism and emergent Fauvism.
Jawlensky, writing after his visit to France in 1903. (Dube, p.114).
Jawlensky, Porträt Hedwig Kubin (Portrait of Hedwig Kubin), 1906, oil on cardboard.
Jawlensky stayed in Reichertshausen in the summer of 1904. A woody hamlet 15 miles east of Heidelburg, Jawlensky painted a series of landscapes. In 1905 he followed up with a series of landscapes at Füssen. Jawlensky made friends with Wladimir Bechtejeff (1878-1971), a young Russian painter who relocated to Munich in 1904 in admiration of Jawlensky. Like the older artist, Bechtejeff stayed in Munich until 1914. When Jawlensky visited the 38-year-old German composer Felix vom Rath (1866-1905), son of a wealthy industrialist, Jawlensky saw for the first time at his home a painting by Paul Gauguin (Riders on the Beach of Tahiti, 1902, Essen). At Vom Rath’s home, Jawlensky also met pianist Anna Langenhan-Hirzel (1874-1951).7
Gauguin, Riders on the Beach, 1902, Essen. Jawlensky saw this, his first Gauguin, in a private collection in Germany in 1904.
Jawlensky, Selbstbildnis mit Zylinder (Self-portrait with a top hat), 1904, private collection.
Jawlensky, Hélène im spanischen Kostüm (Hélène in Spanish costume), 1904, Wiesbaden.
Jawlensky, Stilleben mit Weinflasche, 1904.
Jawlensky, Marianne von Werfekin, 1905, Switzerland.
Jawlensky, Portrait de Madame Sid, 1905.
Jawlensky, The Hunchback, 1905.
The middle years of the first decade of the 20th century—1905, 1906 and 1907—were key to Jawlensky’s artistic development. It is likely that Jawlensky traveled to France in 1905. He exhibited six paintings in the Paris Salone d’Automne in 1905, the exhibition which gave birth to the Fauves.
In January 1906 Jawlensky returned to St. Petersburg to exhibit nine paintings. As evidenced in his correspondence, he traveled to France in 1906. He visited Paris and Carantec in Brittany which was a region where Gauguin had worked. That same year Jawlensky exhibited ten paintings at the Paris Salone d’Automne in the newly-formed Russian Pavilion organized by ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev (1872-1929). At the salon, either in 1905 or 1906, Jawlensky met Henri Matisse (1869-1954) whose Fauvist artwork Jawlensky unreservedly admired. During Jawlensky’s visit to France in 1906 he also met Russian painter Elisabeth Ivanowna Epstein (1879-1956) and studied the artwork of Gauguin, Paul Cézanne (who died in October 1906), and Maurice de Vlaminck (1872-1958). Over the next couple of years, Jawlensky wrestled with Cézanne’s influence on his art.8
Jawlensky, writing after his visit to France in 1905 or 1906.
Jawlensky, Stillleben mit Blumen und Früchten, c. 1905.
Jawlensky, Bretonische Bäuerin, 1905.
In 1905 and 1906 Jawlensky painted landscapes and character studies, mainly heads. Following the 1906 exhibition in Paris Jawlensky traveled to the Mediterranean resort town of Sausset-les-Pins outside of Marseilles to continue to paint landscapes. Jawlensky returned to Munich by way of Geneva where he visited Swiss Symbolist artist, Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1918).
Ferdinand Hodler, Self Portrait, 1900.
Jawlensky, Self portrait, 1905.
Jawlensky spent the fall of 1906, as evidenced in correspondence, in Wasserburg am Inn outside of Munich. He painted landscapes and portraits. The next year, in 1907, he returned to Wasserburg for a shorter stay with his 5-year old son, Andreas. That fall with Hélène Nesnakomoff and Andreas, he went to Paris to view the Cézanne retrospective at the Salon d’Automne in Paris. He also visited at Matisse’s studio. Near Marseilles to paint landscapes, Jawlensky believed that he achieved his primary goal to use color that was autonomous from the object and based on the artist’s inner feeling. This was a major breakthrough for his painting. Jawlensky’s Mediterranean Coast became his talisman for landscapes going forward.9
Jawlensky, Mittelmeerkűste (Mediterranean Coast), 1907, oil on hardboard, Munich.
Jawlensky, Wasserburg am Inn, 1907, oil on board.
Jawlensky, Wasserburg am Inn (Melancholy in the Evening), 1907, oil on cardboard.
The landscape Wasserburg am Inn (Melancholy in the Evening) provides insight into Jawlensky’s artistic development at this time. Painted at Wasserburg Am Inn outside Munich in 1907, Jawlensky experimented with applying the techniques of French post-Impressionism, especially Van Gogh, Gauguin and Henri Matisse. The painting expresses Jawlensky’s goal of making unnatural color harmonies and giving visual form to the artist’s inner nature or spirituality. In the manner of Van Gogh, Jawlensky used chisel-like brush strokes and, like Gauguin, thick outlining to achieve a rhythmic, flat, two-dimensional landscape.
Back in Munich after Christmas, Jawlensky met Dutch Symbolist artist Jan Verkade (1868-1946) in early 1908. Verkade was a Dutch post-Impressionist and Symbolist painter who was a member of the French Nabis under Gauguin in Brittany. Verkade taught Jawlensky and Marianne Weferkin about Gauguin’s ideas on Synthetism. A convert to Catholicism in the mid1890s, Verkade became a Benedictine monk and lived at a monastery in nearby Beuron. In 1907 and 1908 Verkade stayed in Munich and at times painted in Jawlensky’s studio. Jawlensky also learned from Verkade about the writings of French theosophist Edouard Schuré (1841-1929) who influenced the Nabis’ art. In 1908 Jawlensky met Paul Sérusier (1864-1927) who painted The Talisman, an icon to Gauguin’s ideas of Synthetism. 10
Jan Verkade, Self-portrait, 1891.
Paul Sérusier, The Talisman, 1888, Musée D’Orsay.
In Munich in 1908 Jawlensky met other significant figures for his art, including the acquaintance of German painter Karl Caspar (1879-1956) and 22-year-old Alexander Sacharoff (1886-1963). Sacharoff was one of Europe’s most innovative solo dancers. Jawlensky formed a lifelong friendship with Sacharoff and painted his portrait several times between 1909 and 1913. Jawlensky’s 1909 portrait of Sacharoff was painted spontaneously one evening when Sacharoff arrived to Jawlensky’s studio before a performance. In his full theater costume, Jawlensky’s portrait of Sacharoff is notable in that it was one of the first examples of the painter’s motif of wide, piercing eyes.11
Jawlensky, Alexander Sacharoff, 1909.
Jawlensky, Girl with Peonies, 1909. Von der Hevdt Museum.
Vincent Van Gogh, La Maison du père Pilon, 49 × 70 cm, May 1890.
In 1908, with the help of Theo van Gogh’s widow, Jawlensky acquired a Van Gogh painting, La maison du Père Pilon. Jawlensky spent the next three summers—in 1908, 1909 and 1910—in southern Bavaria at Murnau am Staffelsee with Hélène Nesnakomoff, Andreas, Marianne von Werefkin, Kandinsky and Gabriele Münter (1877-1962).
In 1909 Jawlensky met Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), Baltic German painter Ida Kerkovius (1879-1970), and German Expressionist painters Erma Barrera-Bossi (1875-1952) and August Macke (1887-1914). These were all notable figures to the formation of avant-garde expressionism. Jawlensky also met the Ukrainian brothers and avant-garde artists David Burliuk (1882-1967) and Wladimir Burliuk (1886-1917).
Jawlensky’s summer visits to Murnau led to significant development in his painting, This was especially true for his large format portraits. In 1909, his Murnau landscape is a highly stylized reduction of the subject of mountains, trees, and pathway into flat, geometrical forms and harsh, contrasting and unnatural colors influenced by French Cloisonnism and French Cubism. The painting, Murnau landscape, is another example of Gauguin-inspired Synthetism with its high degree of stylization and artificial bright colors. Some of the experimental nature of the painting is indicated by the color samples in the lower righthand corner of the painting.
Jawlensky, Murnauer Landschaft, (Murnau landscape), 1909, oil on cardboard.
It was Wassily Kandinsky and Gabriele Münter who discovered Murnau in the spring of 1908 on a bicycle tour. They told Jawlensky about it who visited that summer with Marianne von Werfekin and wrote to Kandinsky to join them. In 1909 Münter and Kandinsky bought a house in Murnau which they called “The Russia House.” The importance of the Bavarian landscape as an inspiration to these artists’ work cannot be underestimated. The Murnau years of 1908 to 1910 was the start and bonding of artists that evolved in 1911 to the formation of The Blue Rider. In 1908 it was Jawlensky’s sharing of his new ideas gained from his visits to France that made him the progressive leader of the group in this period. Accompanied by Marianne von Werfekin, Jawlensky returned to this market town several times where he stayed at Gasthof Griesbräu.12
Jawlensky, Vue de Murnau, c. 1908–1910.
Jawlensky, Skizze aus Murnau (Murnau Sketch), 1908-09, oil on cardboard, Lenbachhaus.
Jawlensky, Weisse Wolke (White Cloud), summer 1909, oil on textured cardboard mounted, Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California.
Jawlensky, Sommerabend in Murnau (Summer Evening in Murnau), 1908-09, oil on cardboard, Lenbachhaus.
The painting Summer Evening in Murnau is marked by intense colors, dark contours, simple drawing, and a reduction of form reflecting Jawlensky’s understanding of Gauguin’s “Synthetism.” Sérusier had observed that “art is above all a means of expression.” Within the embryonic Blue Rider group of artists before 1911, Gauguin’s “Synthetism” meshed to Wassily Kandinsky’s idea of “inner necessity.” Intense colors and imaginary reduction of forms that marks German Expressionism had its nascent development in Jawlensky’s paintings at Murnau.13
In March 1909 Jawlensky co-founded Neue Künstlervereinigung München (“New Munich Artists”), an exhibition organization to counteract the inability of official academic art to accommodate avant-garde practice in a new century and counteract the Munich Secession, one of the oldest breakaway modern art groups founded in 1892. Before the first NKVM exhibition in Munich in December 1909, Jawlensky, Kandinsky and other artists resigned from the Munich Secession.14
In 1909 Jawlensky. Kandinsky, Gabriele Münter, and art historian Oskar Wittenstein and Heinrich Schnabel elected Kandinsky as NKVM president and Jawlensky as vice-president. German magic realist painter Alexander Kanoldt (1881–1939) was appointed secretary and German painter Adolph Erbslöh (1881–1947) was made chairperson of the association’s exhibition committee. German painter and printmaker Paul Baum (1859-1932) joined as did Russian painter Wladimir Bechtejeff (1878-1971), and German painters Erma Barrera-Bossi (1875-1952) and Carl Hofer (1878-1955). Alexander Sacharoff, Austrian Symbolist printmaker Alfred Kubin, and East European artist Moissey Kogan (1879-1943) soon joined this German avant-garde secession.
The NKVM hosted, in Munich, three annual exhibitions—in 1909, 1910, and 1911. These Munich shows then traveled around Germany. On December 1, 1909 the first New Munich Artists (NKVM) show opened at the Neue Galerie Thannhauser. It included ten painters, one sculptor, one printmaker and other invited artists. Though half of the exhibitors were Russians, these visual artists showed no similarity in style.15 The first show traveled to Brünn, Elberfeld, Barmen, Hamburg, Düsseldorf, Wiesbaden, Schwerin, and Frankfurt am Main. It was greeted almost universally with jeers by the public. The critics called it a “carnival hoax” and saw their art as evocative of bad French Impressionism.16
Designed by Kandinsky, the poster advertising for the first exhibition by the Neue Künstlervereinigung München, December 1909. Lenbachhaus, Munich.
The pamphlet for the foundation of the artist association stated, “Our starting point is the idea that the artist not only receives new impressions from the world outside from nature, but that he also gathers experiences in an inner world. And indeed, it seems to us that at the moment more artists are again spiritually united in their search for artistic forms. They are looking for forms that will express the mutual interdependence of all these experiences and which are free from everything irrelevant. The aim is that only those elements which are actually necessary should be expressed with emphasis. In other words, they are striving for an artistic synthesis This seems to us a solution that is once again uniting in spirit an increasing number of artists.”17
Jawlensky, Schwebende Wolke (Floating Cloud), 1909-10, oil on cardboard, 32.9 x 40.8 cm, Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California.
In 1909 and 1910, working in Murnau am Staffelsee, Alexei Jawlensky took outings into the foothills of the Bavarian Alps to paint. It was a manageable walk for the 45-year-old artist into surrounding mountains and woods. Floating Cloud is one painting that is part of a group of artworks from this period that evokes mountains, clouds and trees. The painting is undated so there is no irrefutable proof it was painted in 1910 — Jawlensky’s final summer stay in Murnau — but its varied and discordant colors and tendency to synthetic composition points to having been created in 1910 or summer 1909.
Its foreground green, dark trees, pink clouds, and orange sky are formal elements found in landscapes from the period. The painting had been later discarded by the artist though under exactly what circumstances is unclear. When World War I began in August 1914, Russian-émigré Jawlensky had to leave works behind in Munich to be retrieved in 1921 and 1922. Floating Cloud was brought to the United States in 1924 by its owner, Galka Scheyer (1889-1945). Jawlensky began his series of monumental heads by 1910 that defined his artwork in the years ahead.
In Floating Cloud, shapes are precisely delineated; the chain of the pine trees’ triangular forms are echoed in the repetition of the mountain chain’s pointed shapes in the background. The clearly defined planes of foreground, middle distance, and background are parallel to the picture plane but compressed into a narrowed, stage-like area. Jawlensky also began many figural drawings of the female nude in 1910 though he did not use them for paintings much. Its formal properties as well as subject is similar to paintings of Henri Matisse in this time period.18
Jawlensky, Sitzender Weiblicher Akt (Seated female nude), c. 1910 oil on cardboard.
Jawlensky, Girl with the Green Face, 1910, oil on hardboard, The Art Institute of Chicago.
Meanwhile Kandinsky’s Blue Mountain in 1908-1909 continued to demonstrate his direction towards abstraction. In the picture, a blue mountain has a yellow and a red tree on each side of it. A procession of human figures and horses crosses in the foreground. Their faces, clothing, and saddles are composed of bold colors, with little linear detail. The flat, contoured colored shapes indicate French Fauvist influences.
Kandinsky, Der Blaue Berg (Blue Mountain), 1908-1909, Guggenheim, New York.
Kandinsky, 1908, oil on card, Murnau, Landschaft mit Turm (Murnau Landscape with Tower Centre), Pompidou, Paris.
Floating Cloud was exhibited by Jawlensky, along with ten other of his paintings, in the important second exhibition of the New Artists’ Association which opened in September 1910 at the Neue Galerie Thannhauser. In that second show, Jawlensky also exhibited Child with Doll (Kind mit Puppe). In that painting, the sitter was a local school girl in Murnau. In 1912 Jawlensky returned to the subject of a girl with doll and gave one such picture to Franz Marc.19
Jawlensky, Kind mit Puppe (Child with Doll), c. 1910, oil on paper mounted on cardboard, Norton Simon.
Heinrich Thannhauser (1859-1934) opened his gallery in Munich in 1904. In 1908 it hosted an important exhibition of over ninety works by Vincent van Gogh. The Neue Galerie Thannhauser became the leading proponent of international modern art in Germany in the 1910’s exhibiting French Impressionist and post-Impressionist art as well as German and other international modern artists. Designed by Paul Wenz in the glass-domed Arcopalais developed by Georg Meister and Oswald Bieber at Theatinerstraße 7 in the heart of Munich’s shopping district, several rooms of the Neue Galerie Thannhauser were set up as fashionable domestic environments. With Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc in December 1911, Thannhauser organized the first exhibition of Der Blaue Reiter.
Lovis Corinth, Portrait of the Art Dealer Heinrich Thannhauser, 1918, Kimbell.
The second NKVM exhibition is important in that it was the world’s first modern art exhibition that assembled an estimable scope of international artists represented by Germans, French, Russians, and others.
The second exhibition expanded to include French Cubists, including Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, Postimpressionists, and Fauvists, such as Henri Le Fauconnier, Andre Dérain, Maurice Vlaminck, and Kees van Dongen.20 The historic showing at the Neue Galerie Thannhauser afterwards traveled to Karlsruhe, Mannheim, Hagen, Paul Cassirer Berlin, Leipzig, Galerie Arnold Dresden, Munich Weimar, and the Neue Secession Berlin. The exhibition was the precursor of future great international shows such as the Cologne Sonderbund in 1912 and New York Armory Show in 1913. The Armory Show, in which Neue Galerie Thannhauser participated, introduced European Modernism to the United States.
The Munich gallery occupied over 2,600 square feet of the glass-domed Arcopalais and was divided between two floors. Nine exhibition rooms were on the ground floor with a skylit gallery on the floor above. Similar to the first NKVM exhibition, the Munich public derided the offerings of the second. The German press called for its closure as the artists were “anarchists.” A small group of sympathizers gathered to support the avant-garde exhibitions including other modern artists and some German curators, one of whom was afterwards dismissed from his official curatorial posts because he espoused contemporary nonacademic views.21
Picasso, Head of a Woman, spring 1909, gouache, watercolor, and black and ochre chalks, manipulated with stump and wet brush, on cream laid paper. The Art Institute of Chicago.
Gabriele Münter, Landschaft mit weisser mauer (Landscape with a White Wall), 1910, oil on hardboard, Hagen.
The second exhibition catalog had five articles and was illustrated by Picasso’s Head of a Woman. In addition to Jawlensky’s 11 art works, Gabriele Münter exhibited 7 art works, including Landscape with White Wall from 1910. Kandinsky had carefully defined his different categories for a painting—an impression; an improvisation; and a composition.22 Kandinsky exhibited examples of all three at the second NKVM show in September 1910, including Composition no.2 of early 1910 and Improvisation no.12-The Rider painted in summer 1910.
Kandinsky, Improvisation no. 12 The Rider, summer of 1910.
Karl Ernst Osthaus (1874–1921), an important German patron of European avant-garde art, founded the Folkwang Museum at Hagen, Germany, in 1902. Following the second New Artists’ Association exhibition, Osthaus organized an even larger exhibition of Expressionist painting with works by Jawlensky and Kandinsky.
Ida Gerhadi, Portrait of Karl Ernst Osthaus, 1903.
By 1910, with 20 years of art practice, Jawlensky had built up and continued to expand his circle of collectors. His friendship with Cuno Amiet (1868-1961), a pioneer of modern art in Switzerland, likely started in 1909. In Still Life with Vase in 1909 Jawlensky painted in simplified forms, vivid colors, and decorative lines, following the example of Henri Matisse.23 From 1906 to 1911, Jawlensky’s still lifes were influenced by Matisse who Jawlensky met in Paris. In 1909 and 1910 Jawlensky painted still lifes that are among his finest works. Starting in 1911, Jawlensky focused increasingly on the human face. Regarding his still lifes, Jawlensky observed that he was not searching for a material object, but by way of form and color, “want[ing] to express an inner vibration.”24
Jawlensky, Stilleben mit Vase und Krug(Still Life with Vase and Jug), 1909, oil on Hardboard, Museum Ludwig, Cologne.
Jawlensky, Stilleben mit Früchten, (Still Life with Fruit), c. 1910, oil on cardboard.
In late 1909 and into early 1910 Marianne von Werefkin visited family in Lithuania. Since the early 1890’s, Alexej von Jawlensky and Marianne von Werefkin were a pioneering artist couple of the avant-garde. With the founding of the Neue Künstlervereinigung München in 1909, from which The Blue Rider emerged in 1911, individually and as a couple they advanced modernism as a conceptual and creative force making a significant contribution to early 20th century modern art. Each had found the other’s soulmate in which their interpersonal relationship was intense and complex. Lily Klee (1876-1946), wife of painter Paul Klee, wrote in her memoirs that Jawlensky and von Werfekin were “no marriage” but rather “an erotically platonic friendship love.” Though their domestic partnership ended, they remained loyal partners and art colleagues. A wealthy, Russian aristocrat, Von Werfekin was, as a painter and knowledgeable supporter of their theories and ideas, an influential force in the NVKM and Blaue Reiter that benefitted these progressive artists’ work.25
Marianne von Werefkin, Selbstbildnis I (Self portrait I), , c. 1910, tempera on paper on hardboard, Städtische Galerie am Lenbachhaus Munich.
In 1910, Jawlensky met German painter and printmaker Franz Marc (1880-1916) and, in 1911, after seeing the second exhibition of the Neue Künstlervereinigung, Marc joined NKVM. Pierre Girieud and Henri Le Fauconnier also joined. That same year Kandinsky, Marc, and others in the NKVM resigned and founded Der Blaue Reiter.
The approach of Le Fauconnier’s painting influenced by Gauguin and Emile Bernard greatly influenced Jawlensky’s work in this period. Kandinsky’s mediation led to Jawlensky exhibiting 6 paintings in Vladimir Izdebsky’s salon in Odessa and Kiev from December 1909 to February 1910 and again in Odessa at the same venue in December 1910. Jawlensky also exhibited at the Sonderbund Westdeutscher Künstler in Düsseldorf. In 1911 Jawlensky visited Franz Marc in Sindelsdorf, south of Munich and spent that summer with his family and Marianne von Werefkin in far northern Germany. At Prerow on the Baltic Sea he painted landscapes and large figural works in bright strong colors. The artist considered his time at Prerow as “a turning point in my art.”
Jawlensky, Blonde, c. 1911, oil on carboard. The time Jawlensky spent in the summer of 1911 on the Baltic coast was a turning point in his art.
Jawlensky, Blühendes Mädchen (Blossoming Girl),c.1911. Norton Simon. The precise date and the sitter are unknown, and the work was titled much later and not by Jawlensky.
Jawlensky, Turandot I, 1912, Privatsammlung.
In Fall 1911 Jawlensky traveled to Paris with von Werefkin where he saw Matisse, visited with Pierre Paul Girieud (1875-1940) and met Kees van Dongen (1877-1968). Later that year Girieud stayed with Jawlensky in Munich where Heinrich Campendonk (1889-1957) visited him in the studio in November. In December 1911 Kandinsky, Marc, Münter, Kubin and Macke resigned from the Neue Künstlervereinigung and Kandinsky and Marc founded Der Blaue Reiter.
The fault line between NKVM and The Blue Rider was over the degree of artistic importance of representation (Kanoldt and Erbslöh) versus nonrepresentation (Kandinsky, Marc, Kubin, Münter) in avant-garde German expressionism. The resignations came after Kandinsky and Marc had forcefully advocated for a jury show and, then, having overcome some other members’ intractable resistance, one of Kandinsky’s large format pictures was rejected by the jury for the 1911 NKVM show.26
Adolf Erbslöh, Mädchen mit rotem Rock (Girl with Red skirt), 1910, Von der Heydt Museum.
Alexander Kanoldt, Nikolaiplatz, 1910-13.
Jawlensky, Yellow Houses, 1909.
Kandinsky in 1910 produced the first painting, a watercolor, that was completely nonrepresentational—Untitled in the collection of the Pompidou in Paris. In late 1911 Kandinsky, seeing his painting as a triumph of art over the external object, published his art theories in a major treatise entitled Über das Geistige in der Kunst (“On the Spiritual in Art”). Kandinsky, who was informed on European modern art currents, synthesized and personalized ideas that were broadly available at the turn of the 20th century—one, that there is an order of pre-eminent human experiences; second, that all artworks possess spiritual or expressive qualities to be researched, expanded to the sensory faculties and refined to and superseded by physical and psychological effects; and, third, that the essential nature of art makes it autonomous of naturalistic external appearances.
Modern, specifically abstract, art, through the artist’s practice of relaying his emotive and spiritual qualities can, within the broad engagement of culture as well as art that possesses an autonomous spiritual-expressionist nature, can become a barometer for social progress and gauge the spirit of the age.
Since art is the embodiment of spirit or expression, Kandinsky postulated no specific formal or stylistic language—form is meaningless apart from the expression, the making visible, of the artist’s inner reality. This is true for the “great” avenues of realism or abstraction. The immediate use of Cubist and Futurist forms dematerialized further into a spiritual significance of colors and nonrepresentational forms in Abstract Expressionism.27
The third and final NKVM show was held in December 1911 at Neue Galerie Thannhauser. It featured 58 paintings and 8 illustrations by eight of the original and early member artists, namely, Jawlensky, Adolf Erbslöh, Alexander Kanoldt, Erma Barrera-Bossi, Wladimir von Bechtejeff, Moissey Kogan, Pierre Girieud and Marianne von Werefkin. It was hardly mentioned in the German press.
The show closed on January 12, 1912 and likely did not travel though scheduled to do so. In the same month of December 1911 and in the same gallery Der Blaue Reiter hosted its first exhibition. Though Jawlensky and Marianne von Werefkin sympathized with Kandinsky and der Blaue Reiter, they did not follow into the group until 1912.
Neither did Jawlensky follow Kandinsky into nonrepresentational abstract art. He continued with representational motifs. Jawlensky was more concerned with synthesis—a term and practice with a broad, diverse, and even contradictory definition. For Jawlensky, synthesis occurred between impressions of the outer world and experiences of the artist’s inner world. In terms of his art, it involved the “outer” object and “inner” expressive, unnatural colors. It involved the “outer” pictorial composition and “inner” colors and forms, with these categorical elements being fluid in terms of their opposition.
Kandinsky, Untitled, 1910, watercolor, Indian Ink and pencil on paper. Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. Reputedly the first nonrepresentational (abstract) painting.
Franz Marc, Pferd in Landschaft (Horse in a Landscape), 1910, oil on canvas, Folkwang Museum, Essen.
Jawlensky, Hügel (Hills), 1912, oil on hardboard, Museum am Ostwall, Dortmund.
Jawlensky, Landschaft mit gelbem Schornstein (Blue mountains landscape with yellow chimney), 1912, Museum Wiesbaden.
Jawlensky, Jünglingskopf (Head of a Young Man, called Hercules), 1912, oil on hardboard, Dortmund.
Kandinsky, Der Blaue Rider (The Blue Rider), 1903, private collection.
1. German Unification – Confronting Identities in German Art: Myth, Reactions, Reflections, Smart Museum, Chicago, 2002, pamphlet.
11. Sacharoff portrait—Hoberg, Blue Rider in Lenbachhaus.
12. Murnau art colony—Watson, German Genius, pp. 516-518; progressive artist- Hoberg, Blue Rider in Lenbachhaus; Barnett, Vivian Endicott, The Blue Four Collection at the Norton Simon Museum, 2002, p. 84.
13. Hoberg, Blue Rider in Lenbachhaus.
14. Selz, Peter, German Expressionist Painting, University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, 1974. p.185.
15. ibid., p 186 and 191.
16. First NKVM exhibition travel cities–Hoberg, not paginated; carnival hoax—Selz, German Expressionist Painting, p. 191.
17. Elgar, Expressionism, p. 168; Selz, German Expressionist Painting, p 191; Watson, German Genius, p. 516.
18. Selz, p. 195; Barnett, p. 86.
19. Barnett, p. 90.
20. Hoberg (not paginated); Selz, p.193.
21. Selz, p. 196.
22. “An impression is a direct impression of nature, expressed in purely pictorial form. An improvisation is a largely unconscious, spontaneous expression of inner character, non-material nature. A composition is an expression of a slowly formed inner feeling, tested and worked over repeatedly and almost pedantically. Reason, conscious, purpose, play an overwhelming part. But of calculation nothing appears: only feeling…” Kandinsky, Concerning the Spiritual in Art, quoted in Selz, p.196.
23. Elgar, Expressionism, p. 169.
24. Hoberg, not paginated.
25. Elgar, Expressionism, p.177.
26. Selz, p. 197.
27. Harrison, Charles & Paul Wood, Art in Theory 1900-1990: An Anthology of Changing Ideas, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford U.K. and Cambridge, MA, 2000, p 86); Chipp, Herschel B., Theories of Modern Art: A Source Book by Artists and Critics, University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, 1971, pp. 126-127; Kern, Stephen, The Culture of Time and Space, 1880-1918, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1983, p. 203).
Barnett, Vivian Endicott, The Blue Four Collection at the Norton Simon Museum, 2002.
Boyle, Nicholas, German Literature: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, Oxford New York, 2008.
Chipp, Herschel B., Theories of Modern Art: A Source Book by Artists and Critics, University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, 1971.
Dube, Wolf-Dieter, Expressionism, Oxford University Press, New York and Toronto, 1972.
Elger, Dietmar, Expressionism: A Revolution in German Art, Taschen, Cologne, Germany, 1998.
Harrison, Charles & Paul Wood, Art in Theory 1900-1990: An Anthology of Changing Ideas, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford U.K. and Cambridge, MA, 2000.
Hoberg, Annegret, The Blue Rider in the Lenbachhaus, Munich, Prestel, Munich, 1989.
Kern, Stephen, The Culture of Time and Space, 1880-1918, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1983.
Koldehoff, Stefan and Chris Stolwijk, editors, The Thannhauser Gallery: Marketing Van Gogh, Mercatorfonds, Brussels, 2018.
Selz, Peter, German Expressionist Painting, University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, 1974.
Taylor, A.J.P., Bismarck: The Man and the Statesman, Vintage Books, New York, 1967 (originally 1955).
Watson, Peter, The German Genius : Europe’s Third Renaissance, the Second Scientific Revolution, and the Twentieth Century, HarperCollins, 2010.
Chicago Harbor Lighthouse (1893), Chicago, Illinois, 2017.
Known as the “Chicago Light,” the Chicago Harbor Lighthouse is an active automated lighthouse dating from 1893.
About one-half mile beyond Navy Pier, the lighthouse stands at the north of the main entrance of the Chicago Harbor in Lake Michigan. The lighthouse has had a significant role in the development of Chicago and the American Midwest and remains an active aid to nautical navigation today.
For more than a century, the U.S. Coast Guard has staffed this lighthouse at the breakwater outside the Chicago Harbor Lock. The lock separates Lake Michigan from the mouth of the Chicago River.
The lock was built in the mid-1930’s and is operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The lock is one of the entrances into the Illinois Waterway system at the Great Lakes. The waterway system is a commercial and recreational shipping connection to the Gulf of Mexico by way of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers.
The “Chicago Light” is at that waterway system’s headwaters as it stands in the outer harbor constructed in 1880. The Chicago Light’s conical tower dates from 1893. Twenty-five years later, in 1918, the tower was reconstructed and the base building which contains a fog-signal room and boathouse was added. The architects are not identified.
Through its breakwaters, the main entrance into Chicago Harbor is 580 feet wide. The Chicago Harbor Lighthouse was designated a Chicago Landmark on April 9, 2003. It is the only surviving lighthouse in Chicago and one of two remaining examples in the state of Illinois.
The mouth of the Chicago River at Lake Michigan in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. About one mile ahead, the Chicago Harbor Lock, built in the 1930’s, provides the entrance/exit of the Illinois Waterway system at the Great Lakes. The waterway system is a commercial and recreational shipping connection from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico by way of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers.