Maritime  South — Heckendorf’s  South

Heckendorf, Franz (Berlin 1888 – Munich 1962). Mediterranean Harbor (Trieste?). Dominating the harbor basin on the right a French steamship with loading gear, before beside one & two-mast coastal sailing vessels further smaller steam vessel. On the pier in front as well as aboard two of the sailboats boatmen figurines, on the left dinghy and, beside two further sailboats, vista of the town situated at the foot of the ridge in the background. Tempera on white ground on fiberboard. Inscribed lower right: F. Heckendorf 1949. 31½ × 39⅛ in (80 × 99.5 cm). Framed.


Thieme-Becker XVI (1923), 211 f.; Vollmer II (1955), 400; AKL LXX (2011), 513 f.

Kestner Museum Hanover, (Catalogs of Special Exhibitions) XVII, 1918; Joachim Kirchner, Franz Heckendorf, 1919, & Neue Bilder von Franz Heckendorf in Biermann (ed.), Jahrbuch der jungen Kunst 1924, 190 ff.; Cicerone, vols. 1912-1928, here particularly XVI (1924), 802 f.; Feuer II, 1 (1920/21), 195-202; Franz Heckendorf, Catalog of the Special Exhibition Gallery Hagemeier, Frankfort/Main, 1985; (Symphony in Color), exhibition catalog of Kunstfreunde Bergstraße, 1991; Rainer Zimmermann, (Expressive Realism / Paintings of the Lost Generation), 1994, 384.

Gisela Hauss (ed.), (Migration, Flight, and Exile as Reflected by Social Work), 2010, 192 f.; Winfried Meyer, (Nazi Justice against Jew Helpers: “Destruction by Work” instead of Death Penalty. The Judgement of the Special Court Freiburg im Breisgau against the Berlin Painter Franz Heckendorf and its Execution). In: Wolfgang Benz (ed.), (Almanac for Anti-Semitism Research) XIX, 2010, 331-362.

Verso remains of an old gummed label with typewritten designation

“ HAFEN  VON  T(?)..E(?)S.”.

Franz Heckendorf, Mediterranean Harbor (Trieste)

“ The priority of the city (of Trieste) and her whole bearing naturally is her harbor … from here

that  curious  Canal  grande  emanates ,

on  which  the  heaviest  ships  get  deep  into  the  center  of  the  city … ”

(Karl Stieler and others, Italien, 1876, pages 70 f.).

Particularly the corners a little bumped, in the sky part along the upper edge few small color split-offs, otherwise excellent. – The 3-piece wooden ivory and black painted frame modeled on one such of a further Heckendorf painting here, worked presumably by the artist himself.

Harbor views and landscapes resp. occur – though mostly of smaller size – throughout Heckendorf’s œuvre. So for instance more recently on the market the atmospheric watercolor from 1927 Harbor of Marseilles and the Harbor in Southern France from a sketchbook of 1944. Or the large-sized painting Industrial Port in the 1985 exhibition Hagemeier from 1952. From the same year also the watercolor Southern Harbor Landscape picking up again the steamship here. All as

“ the  most  characteristic  field  of  his  successes ,

the  southern  landscape ”

(Kirchner 1924). Here then as

splendidly  color-strong  work

after a sketch in pencil and color pastel

Heckendorf, Ships in the Harbor (Trieste)

created  1941  as  snapshot  on  the  spot.

“ What the north could not present of color impressions to this painter of the sun ,

the  Adriatic  coast  provided  to  him  to  the  full  extent .

Here nature appeared to him in that colorfulness which he longed for, in that blazing light which clearly delineates all contours and has the shadows stand out deeper and darker. Here a deep blue sky shone for him, and across the sea glistening silvery by the sun the look turned to mountainous archipelagoes which are cast by the setting sun in such magical unreal colors.

Also … the  harbors  with  the  boats  moored  at  the  jetties ,

the  lines  of  houses  glittering  in  the  light …

On this occasion it should not go unmentioned that on his travel Heckendorf only painted in water-colors and sketched, and that

the  execution  in  oil  only  ensued  in  the  study

from memory. Nevertheless the artist has succeeded in not only striking the essence of the character of the landscape most luckily and translating the nature of the colors absolutely accurately, but he also was able

to  execute  local  details  so  unfailingly  from  the  chalk  sketch

that a fancier of those parts will find out the rendered motif at a glance … Merits which are combined with a never inhibited joy of working and an immense industry ”

(Kirchner 1924).

Above on-site sketch of 1941 available here, too, here then executed large-sized with the addition of the left-sided pier and the houses at the rearward quay and in the foothills of the then just succinctly sketched, now dramatically accentuated mountain scenery as characteristic for the group of the mountainous southern landscape so decisive for Heckendorf, based on the

“ study  stays  in … Italy , Dalmatia  and  Asia Minor

The most mature Heckendorf has created so far (1923) are his landscapes … especially, however, the landscapes he had the occasion to paint during World War (I) as combat pilot at the eastern front,

on  the  Balkans , by  the  Bosporus  and  by  the  Tigris ”

(Vollmer in Thieme-Becker and in Vollmer resp.).

As proverbial “strong, shining local colors” decisive for the image besides the ochre of the two steamships and the pier and the blue of water and sky. The figuration, as frequently with him, subordinated intentionally-visibly by (non)faces devoid of contours. For

“ ‘to spiritualize everything which is optically visible and translate it into the sphere of the visionarily seen’; that meant

the  accomplishment  of  the  program  of  modern  expressionism ,

of  which  H.  is  one  of  the  most  persuasive  evangelists … ”

(Vollmer 1923).

Generations later Peter Bürger shall talk with reference to Kirchner’s street figures

of  “mask-like  simplified  lineaments”

as  expression  of  “general  unrelatedness”

(“Saunters overstretch the Town … Kirchner and the Mannerism” in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung July 23, 2001). But already Hogarth made use of this stylistic method of ultimately Biblical origin by way of “Times I” (1762) in the person of Lord Temple, that is not to make a picture, just as likewise the children of orthodox Mennonites play with faceless puppets.

“ Pupil of the instruction class of the Berlin Museum of Applied Arts and the Academy, but essentially autodidact (just as the contemporaries Heckel + E. L. Kirchner and like these starting from impressionism). One of the most talented exponents of the young generation of German artists … Coping with all techniques and an exceedingly easily producing talent … besides oil painting H. applies himself to pastel, watercolor, and lithography … ”

(Vollmer ibid. continuing).

And in view of a 1958 Southern Landscape with Sailing Boats in Catalog Hagemeier Horst Ludwig speaks of the “tendency of the excessive nature”:

“ Here also the claim to describe purely and barely what urged the artist to his work as already raised in the program of the ‘Bridge Artists’ in 1906 becomes (unchanged) recognizable: the own vision that first linked itself to the landscape though not following it purely imitatively.

Overlooking Heckendorf’s creation from several decades the vehemence by which he developed his own pictorial language, emanating from the art of the turn of the century and still kept in the 50s, is astonishing … For Heckendorf the object always remained priority though formally heightened and coloristically alienated. ”

With characteristic shining out of itself as in turn reflection of, exactly, the “visionarily seen”. So then also most strikingly put into a nutshell – adopting Kirchner almost verbatim – by Rainer Zimmermann in the catalog of Kunstfreunde Bergstraße:

“ The process of spiritualization, which the artist creates by the color but also by rhythm and line, is to be perceived doubtlessly most easily in his landscapes.

By  the  selection  of  the  colors  the  whole  passionate  verve

of  his  exuberant  temperament  finds  its  highest  satisfaction .

Visionary light effects complete the charm.

His  colors  glow , jerk , and  flash

or are full of dark melancholia ”

(op. cit., page 11; spacing & centering not in the original). – Allied here with special painting technique. For

“ Unvarnished  tempera – as here – is … in  brightness  superior  to  oil  paint …

The tones … appear … more ravishingly in drying. The material presents more casual charm than the oil paint ”

(Max Doerner, Malmaterial und seine Verwendung im Bilde, 14th ed. revised by Hans Gert Müller [1976], p. 119).

So then the present presumably Trieste Harbor from the late period, “a phase in Heckendorf’s work in which the artist

Franz Heckendorf 1949

once  again  scored  a  height  of  his  artistry ,

presumably also as a backlog demand after the vacuum of the Hitler regime … ” (Ludwig, op. cit., p. 4) during which he was ostracized like his kind, at the very beginning imposed with an exhibition ban, followed 1937 by removal/sale/burning of the works in the National Gallery and in Berlin public property, 1940 the expulsion from the Reichskammer der Bildenden Künste and 1943 finally by even completely different, profoundly personal hardship, ultimately grown from the zodiac sign of the Scorpio Heckendorf:

“ A further rescuing network of refugee smuggling emerged around the art painter and proprietor of a gallery, Franz Heckendorf … in Berlin. He had many Jewish acquaintances to whom he again and again suggested to leave Germany … False identity cards were made and escape routes (to Switzerland) prepared … (and tested) in the disguise of ramblers … The first refugees were Kurt and Hilda Schüler from Berlin. Approximately further 20 to 80 persons followed … In February 1943 this refugee smuggling network was busted after Heckendorf … (was presumably set up). Four of the refugee smugglers were sentenced to penal servitude and high fines by the Special Court Freiburg (Breisgau) … ”

(Hauss, op. cit.).

With 10 years Heckendorf was sentenced the maximum penalty, by which an obviously sympathetic court, shifting actual responsibility to foreign Jewish wire-pullers, thwarted the death penalty requested by the public prosecutor. Just as then in the course of the jail stations good people, not self-proclaimed “do-gooders”, helped when the physical strength were on the verge of ruin. Right to the end ultimately even concentration camp Mauthausen.

The way back was paved by professorship at the Vienna Academy and teaching in Salzburg. From 1950 then settled down in Munich. And leaving behind an œuvre in which, even though not yet again ex cathedra, the connoisseur is promised what had been certainty 90 years before :

“ The leading role (Heckendorf) took already at the beginning of his career among the same-aged colleagues remained with him, and it supposedly means a general acknowledgement of his skill when this year he was represented

along  with  the  most  eminent  names  of  the  world  of  German  painters

with several works on the international art exhibition in Rome ”

(Joachim Kirchner in Jahrbuch der jungen Kunst 1924, page 190).

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