Monday, June 11, 2007

The Education of Heinz Warneke (1895-1983)

Thanks to Robert Mileham linking me to the Reingold Collection ,
I discovered Heinz Warneke, and it turns out an exceptional book
has been written about his career by Mary Mullen Cunningham
in cooperation with the sculptor's family and students,
and especially his stepdaughter, Priscilla Waters Norton, who wrote:

I was raised to believe that Heinze Warneke was one of the greatest sculptors of the 20th Century. My mother Jessie said so and Heinz did not contradict her"

Well ... being born into the family of a sculptor and his devoted wife,
I can certainly relate to that !

The granite boars from 1929, shown above, might end up being my favorite piece
-- especially if I get to see them
-- which is actually possible since they entered
the Art Institute's collection in 1931
through a purchase award following an exhibition.
(although I fear they've been in the basement for at least the last 40 years)

As Ms. Norton wrote:

Look at the Wild Boars. There you will see the respective roles of Jessie and Heinz. Jessie the fierce female defending her territory and Heinz, siting, sizing up the situation before springing into action

(For those interested in the personal history here:
Jessie, born into a wealthy Philadelphia family,
was married into the St. Louis family that owned Purina Mills,
and met the younger sculptor when her husband commissioned decorative work from the German immigrant soon after his arrival in America.
A scandalous divorce and remarriage soon followed.)

But this post is about sculpture, not family,
and the above was done around 1913
after he had won admittance to
the Berlin Kunstgewerbeschule (or Arts and Crafts school)
following a competitive 2-week examination.

This was something of an elite state academy
(a fellow student that year was George Grosz),
the class size was small (possibly only 13),
and those admitted were, as you can see above,
already had to be quite accomplished.

It's director, Bruno Paul (1874-1968)
was a painter and active participant in the German Workbund,
a movement that promoted collaboration between art, crafts, and industry
and sculpture students, like Warneke, would also spend time
working in ceramic factories, foundries, and tool shops.
Emphasis was also placed on the skills practiced in architecture.

His earlier training consisted of a two-year apprenticeship
as a silversmith at Wilkins and Sons Silver Factory
and evening classes at the city art school in Bremen,
where he studied life drawing.

This is another piece from his art school years,
and what you can notice is that sculptural qualities are appearing
as well as well anatomical detail.

(And -- I'm really wondering whether most of their models were male.
German sculpture of this period certainly seems to place greater
emphasis on the masculine than say, the French or Italian)

But I guess not all of the models were men,
here's his entry into the Prix de Rome
competition of 1915.

I'm not surprised it lost,
this view seems as tired and bored as the model,
(though I am surprised that the German art world
conducted this contest at all after the war began)

Joseph Wackerle

The life-modeling instructor was Wilhelm Haverkamp
(not much on the net yet about him)
and the pieces shown at the top were done in his class
- but it seems that the most influential instructor at the school in those years,
was the young Joseph Wackerle (1880-1959)
( who would later get some important commissions from the National Socialists.)

Here's a Wackerle piece that
would probably have been considered
very modern in its day,
and it's feeling for forms in space
seems to have left a permanent impression
on young Heinz:

This is a Warneke piece done soon after the war
(which he survived by working in a cemetery,
supervising those prisoners of war
who had the skill to carve tombstones
under his official direction.
Obviously, Heinz was born under a lucky star !)

Another influential teacher at the school was
Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932)
who, although a professor of sculpture,
became more famous for his close-up photographs of
plant structures -- as they might then be
applied to sculptural ornament.

(we had Louis Sullivan moving in a similar
direction here in Chicago -
where it was called
"organic design")

But I guess it must also be recorded
that the school had an anatomy instuctor,
Maximilian Schafer (1851-1916)
who required students to learn the names,
positions, and actions of all the bones, muscles, and tendons.

In the early 1920's,
he moved to America,
and became best known as an animalier

But he also did some nice small figures

a few nice large ones

I especially like this stone piece,
and due to his breadth of his training
he could work in many materials

I'm less fond of his public statuary,
these things feel so formal and tight

Sometimes, I more enjoy his ornamental wood carving

He probably had as many different kinds
of sculpture commissions as one could have --
including lots of work in the National Cathedral,
where he designed as well as supervised
several programs of stone carving.

though I prefer his work at the National Zoo !

The point here ...
that I think this German program of art education,
c. 1910,
is exemplary.

(even if it did not prepare
young Heinz to take
the most important step in his career,
which was to marry such a supportive,
and talented, wife.
whose sketch of her loving husband
is shown above.)

many of its graduates went on
to make monuments for the National Socialists,
and that's why this approach to art education
was tanked after the war.


Along with the "Wild Boars" shown at the top,
these "Hissing Geese" of 1926 (12" high)
have been in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago
since 1930,
but the museum's database
has no record of either one EVER
being on display.


Blogger Robert said...

The sculptural forms of the plant structures are interesting but the girl with the red background is reminiscent of a balloon I feel although not completely without charm.

June 12, 2007  
Blogger chris miller said...

Balloon art belongs in a carnival -- but that piece reminds me more of Joseph Bernard or your fellow Brit, Frank Dobson than it does of the famous balloonist, Botero. (who is probably the most successful figure sculptor of our time - but who will never appear on my sculpture site!)

It would be interesting to contemplate that difference - certainly Bernard's work was quite controversial when it first appeared in places that were unfamiliar with modern sculpture.

June 12, 2007  
Blogger marlyat2 said...

Priscilla Waters Norton must have been amusing...

I enjoyed this for the sculpture, the rant on academy teaching, Priscilla, and the balloon attack from Robert!

June 12, 2007  
Anonymous suburbanlife said...

Chris - check out on Google, Roger Luko, a Canadian sculptor, trained in Italy, and completely immersed in the figurative tradition. He is in his 60s now, and is still going strong.
Warneke's animal sculptures are amazing, and I like them much better than his figures. The figures seem cliche-d to me, and typical of the taste of the period in which he worked. Of the figures shown here, I found the woman sitting on the plinth, bored, with her limbs completely relaxed most convincing, and least self-consciously "sculptural" and arty. And I like the way that figure integrates with its support.
There are still, though fewer, sculptors working within the figurative tradition, but they are thin on the ground.

June 13, 2007  
Blogger chris miller said...

I think most people have agreed with you, Suburban Life, that Heinz Warneke is best remembered as an animalier -- but I guess I do like his figures -- especially his kind of unhappy males - because, for one thing, they do feel unique.

So I like unique -- but -- since repetition doesn't bother me in Tang sculpture (with its endless versions of plump, friendly women) -- I guess Warneke's clich├ęs don't bother me either.

But the "bored model" statue does require a special setting -- wouldn't you love to see it in the examination room of an outpatient clinic ? (with the title "Waiting for the Doctor)

And thanks for the lead on Roger Luko - I hope he finally gets his website working so we can see more of his work.

June 13, 2007  
Blogger Robert said...

I think Leda was the one who was attacked Marly!!
Chris is quite right, Botero has taken the balloon to even further heights (!),.
This one looks as if it will take off.

Rather reminisent of the 18 century bellas.

I have posted Reid Dick up on the English site for you. I have now found some more. Your "Hot seat" email is not now working for me at all.

June 14, 2007  
Blogger Lori Witzel said...

Stopping by with nothing to say but random phonemes (it's been that sort of busy week) -- but I am always so glad to come to the Mount Shang salon.

Chris, your informed, cantankerous spirit always makes me smile (and then run to Wikipedia to try and learn more.)

June 14, 2007  

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