From the category archives:

Germany

Hans Bellmer was a Surrealist German artist and photographer. Born in 1902 and initially working in the fields of advertising and graphic design before transitioning to fine art, Bellmer’s first major project was also one of his best-known – Die Puppe, or a group of life-sized and sexualized pubescent female dolls. The goal of this first project was to oppose Nazi fascism by not creating anything that would support the Third Reich, which he attempted to achieve by criticizing and commenting on the cult of the perfect body which existed in the German state at the time.

He took inspiration for his doll project from a variety of places, including reading the published letters of Austrian poet and playwright Oskar Kokoschka and attending a performance of Jacques Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffman in which a man falls in love with an automaton. He began to physically construct his first doll in 1933, which stood approximately 56 inches tall. In 1934 Bellmer anonymously published a book, The Doll (Die Puppe), which contained 10 black-and-white photographs of the doll arranged in a series of tableaux. Also in 1934, photographs of his doll appeared in the Surrealist journal Minotaure with the title “Poupée: Variations sur le montage d’une mineure articulée”. The doll was shown in some cases with sexualized props including a black veil, lacy undergarments, or flowers, or in some photos simply as a pile of doll parts. Of the doll, Bellmer wrote, “It was worth all my obsessive efforts when, amid the smell of glue and wet plaster, the essence of all that is impressive would take shape and become a real object to be possessed.” (Bellmer, 1934)

Bellmer was eventually declared a degenerate artist and was forced to flee Germany for France, where he was welcomed into the Surrealist circles there. He gave up doll-making but spent the rest of his life continuing to push sexual and erotic boundaries with a variety of explicit drawings, etchings, photographs, paintings, and prints of pubescent girls. F.A. Bernett currently has in its inventory an important work from this period of Bellmer’s creative life.

À Sade comprises a portfolio of ten incredibly explicit and surrealistic erotic etchings inspired by and in homage to the Marquis de Sade, the famous French libertine best known for his pornographic writings which emphasize violence, suffering, and blasphemy. The etchings are remarkable examples of Bellmer’s obsessive and meticulous treatment of the body especially the female form – limbs, genitalia, eyes, breasts, and buttocks are distorted or conflated, combining desire and horror in a way typical of both Bellmer’s work and de Sade’s.

Bellmer, Hans. À Sade. Unpaginated portfolio including title page, colophon, and ten explicit and detailed etchings inspired by the erotic writings of the Marquis de Sade, most plates approx. 7 7/8″ x 5 7/8″, each printed on 15″ x 11 1/16″ sheet, housed in separate blank folder with guard sheet, all signed in pencil by the artist. Contents loose as issued, in wrpps. portfolio, laid into cloth folder and slipcase. N.p. 1961. No. 30 of an edition of 50. (47737)

 Although published anonymously, our research shows that it was published in Paris by Alain Mazo. Incredibly scarce; as of April 2018, WorldCat locates only one copy in a German library and none in North America.

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John Heartfield (born Helmut Herzfeld) was an important and ground-breaking artist in Germany, known as the inventor of photomontage. He anglicized his name in protest against the anti-British sentiments prevalent in Germany after the First World War. He was a member of Berlin Club Dada, later assisting with the Erste International Dada-Messe exhibition of 1920. His first photomontages were created for publications associated with the Dada movement as well as book jackets for the publishing house run by his brother, Malik-Verlag.

 

Heartfield is called by some the creator of photomontage, and is best known for having helped to pioneer the use of art as a political weapon, primarily through his famous anti-Nazi and anti-fascist photomontages. These collages were not simple combinations of pictures and text, but appropriated and reused photographs to achieve powerful political effects. He chose recognizable photographs of politicians or events from mainstream news sources, and then took apart and rearranged the images to change their meaning and provide a commentary on the current state of the country. His aim was to expose the dangers and abuses of power within the Nazi regime by highlighting their incompetence, greed, and hypocrisy. His most impactful images played with scale and stark juxtaposition to get their point across. His work shadowed and reflected the chaos and agitation present in Germany in the 1920’s and 1930’s, as it shifted towards social and political upheaval.

 

Heartfield’s images illustrating these tensions were so powerful that they helped to transform the photomontage into a powerful tool of mass communication. Some of his most impactful works were even mass-produced and distributed as posters in the streets of Berlin between 1932 and the Nazi rise to power in 1933, when the SS broke into Heartfield’s apartment and he was forced to flee Germany. Many of his best-known images were created for and published in the pages of AIZ – Die Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung, an illustrated left-wing worker’s journal published in Berlin, beginning in 1930.

 

Most of his sharpest satire was reserved for Adolf Hitler, parodying his poses, gestures, and symbols associated with the dictator. One such example is this image titled “Adolf, the Superman: Swallows Gold and Spouts Junk”. Heartfield has overlaid a well-known photograph of the Führer with a chest x-ray and replaced his heart with a swastika. The x-ray reveals coins collecting in his stomach. Heartfield’s image references a cartoon by Honoré Daumier, and alludes to the large contributions that industrialists were making to the Nazi Party in contradiction to its supposed roots in socialism. This image made such an impact that it was reproduced as a political poster in 1932.

 

Another example is “Der Sinn des Hitlergrusses”. Heartfield exaggerates the difference in size between Hitler and the man behind him, handing him money, to comment again on Hitler’s relationship to Germany’s wealthy industrialists, a puppet accepting financial influence and assistance.

 

“The Meaning of Geneva” depicts a white dove, the symbol of peace, impaled on a bayonet, a symbol of modern warfare. In the background is the League of Nations palace, where the Geneva disarmament conference took place in November 1932. The text accompanying the image reads, “Where Capital Lives, There Can Be No Peace!”

 

 

(Heartfield Photomontages) – AIZ. Die Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung. Year X, No. 1 (n.d., 1931) through Year XII, No. 9 (n.d., 1933). 112 total issues of the illustrated left-wing German worker’s journal, published in Berlin from 1924 to March of 1933, and afterward in Prague and then Paris until 1938, anti-Fascist and pro-Communist in stance, published by Communist political activist Willi Münzenberg and best-known for its propagandistic photomontages by John Heartfield, of which 26 are included in this collection, and including coverage of current events, women’s issues, and gender relations, original fiction and poetry, and above all photography, primarily submitted by amateur photographers. Profusely illustrated throughout. Some very minor defects or small repairs, overall excellent condition. Folio. Original illustrated wrpps. Berlin (Neuer Deutscher Verlag) 1931-1933. (48927)

Before AIZ began, a monthly magazine called Sowjet Russland im Bild (Soviet Russia in Pictures) was published by Internationale Arbeiter-Hilfe (Workers International Relief), a group led by Willi Münzenberg. The magazine contained reports about the recently created Russian Soviet state and the IAH, and in 1922 began reporting on the German proletariat. As the paper expanded coverage and attracted prominent contributors such as George Grosz, Käthe Kollwitz, Maxim Gorki, and George Bernard Shaw, it grew rapidly and reappeared on November 30, 1924 with the new name of AIZ and a new format. Over time it became the most widely read socialist pictorial newspaper in Germany.

The issues included in this collection are: 1931 (Year X): Nos. 1-52; 1932 (Year XI): Nos. 1-52 (lacking no. 49 which was confiscated by the censorship authorities); and 1933 (Year XII): Nos. 1-9 (9 was the final issue published in Berlin after Hitler seized power).

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Collection of 14 World War I Print Portfolios by German Artists.  Including works by René Beeh, Emma Frenberg, Karl Bober, Bruno Kraustopf, Ursla Stolte, Paul Hartmann, Elsa Weigandt, Erich Dietrich, Hilde Schindler, Georg Mathen, Editha Quaas, Joshua Bampp, Paul Winkler, Josef Eberz, Fritz Gärtner, Erich Gruner, Willi Geiger, Carl Christoph Hartig, Luigi Kasimir, Hermann Struck, Richard Müller and Heinrich Vogeler. Munich, Berlin, etc., 1914-1917. (47377)

The First World War may have been the last global conflict to be so comprehensively illustrated and interpreted by graphic artists.  Only a few decades later, Capra and the photographers who followed his example would claim battlefield documentation largely for the camera.  With the centennial of the war’s commencement looming next year, F.A. Bernett Books has acquired a collection of print portfolios that demonstrate how German visual artists represented and responded to the Great War.

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Dreaming in Dirigibles: The Airship Postcard Albums of Lord Ventry.

Thumbnail image for Dreaming in Dirigibles: The Airship Postcard Albums of Lord Ventry. July 26, 2012

Collection of 548 postcard prints and original photographs depicting airships, dirigibles and zeppelins, ca. 1890 to 1960. Most images 3 x 5 in. or 4 x 6 in., housed in period 4to and tall 4to boards albums, one with spine partially detached.  N.p (United Kingdom?), N.d. (ca. 1890 to 1960).  (47267) The golden age of […]

Conjuring Pan: Julius Meier-Graefe’s darkly beautiful paean to the new currents of art in Europe, 1895-1899.

Pan. Cover detail. March 22, 2012

Pan.  Years I-V (all published). Edited by Julius Meier-Graefe and Otto Julius Bierbaum.  A complete run of all five years, bound in 21 parts as issued  (altogether 347, 351, 266, 267, 279 pp.)  Sm. folio.  Orig. wrpps., a few chips and tears at edges, some covers professionally repaired.  Berlin (Genossenschaft Pan) 1895-1899.  (45601) In the […]