Nightly Metropolis —

Franz Heckendorf, Fascination Sea of Lights Metropolis - Munich (detail)
“ The city-life as such emerges … and at once the spell of
personal freedom (spacing in the original) begins to operate …
There sets in a sort of passion for becoming urban ”
Spengler II (1928) , page 354

here you bathe in it

Heckendorf, Franz (Berlin 1888 – Munich 1962). Fascination Sea of Lights Metropolis. Munich – Rain-wet Stachus (Karlsplatz) with Sonnenstraße. On the left i. a. Kaufhof and southeastern front side of the palace of justice. On the right dominantly a building with bay tower and imaginable Café sign. Oil on fiberboard. Inscribed lower right: F. Heckendorf. (19)55. 27½ × 35⅜ in (70 × 90 cm). Genuine white gold antique frame, the black streaks of which conceivable as tar splashes of the asphalt.


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.

The whole vitality of eternally young art —

here it jumps at you .

Unmistakably comprising everything, rendering everything which from earliest till present literature has been qualified about his palette as breathlessly as the characteristic style of it itself. Here then

“ … from the period in Heckendorf’s work ,

Franz Heckendorf, Fascination Sea of Lights Metropolis - Munich (signature)

in which the painter once more scored a peak of his mastership,

presumably also as backlog demand after the vacuum of the Hitler regime … ”

(Horst Ludwig in Catalog Hagemeier).

And scored indeed with works – beside present one for instance also as supposedly likewise from the late period Lioness attacks a Wild Boar in an Oasis available here after Frans Snyders’ painting in Munich – which promptly contradict A. Cacace’s (AKL)

“ After WW II style and color are subdued, a balanced and tranquilly composed pictorial space takes the place of expressionist nervousness ”

and stage the unflagging paw of the expressionist doyen. For

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

the accomplishment of the program

of modern expressionism ,

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

“ Pupil of the instruction class of the Berlin Museum of Applied Arts and the academy, but essentially autodidact (as the contemporaries Heckel + E. L. Kirchner, and like these starting from impressionism). One of the most skilled exponents of the young generation of German artists, whose personal style found its most mature expression till now in his landscapes filled

by an enormous dynamic of pictorial rendering

and carried by a strong inwardness of perception. Already as a 20-year-old he exhibited (1909) 2 Street Scenes at the Berlin Secession which were still influenced by the impressionist manner of painting …

“ Making a hard yet very expressive contour the basis of his drawn compositions, he creates by an erratically abrupt juxtaposition of his often brutally rich, glowing local colors, which part from any naturalistic rendering just as consciously as the flow of his lines, a

vehemently raised natural impression .

“ The suggestion of movement which radiates from his landscapes

Franz Heckendorf, Fascination Sea of Lights Metropolis - Munich (detail left)Franz Heckendorf, Fascination Sea of Lights Metropolis - Munich (detail right)

over which it flickers like sheet lightning

results from the roaring momentum of their pictorial structure ,

in which far less an outside excited mood of the respective natural situation than the inside excitement of the creating artist is expressed …

“ Coping with all techniques and an exceedingly easily producing talent … H(eckendorf) applies himself besides oil painting to pastel, watercolor, and lithography … ”

So Hans Vollmer — as grandson/brother of the painters Johannes & Erwin V. dyed-in-the-wool connoisseur — 1923 in Thieme-Becker on the early triumphs. And 60 years later in turn Horst Ludwig, stating on the basis of a Southern Landscape with Sailboats from 1958 of the “tendency of excessive nature”:

“ Here also (just as it was) the claim becomes recognizable, which was expressed already 1906 in the program of the Bridge Artists, to describe unadulterated and without interference that what urges the artist to work, that is the own vision, which first blends with the landscape itself, however, without following it imitatively.

Reviewing Heckendorf’s creative work from several decades, the vehemence astonishes by which, emanating from the art of the turn of the century, he created and maintained his own pictorial language … For Heckendorf the subject always retained priority, albeit formally elevated and coloristically alienated. ”

With characteristic glowing out of itself as in turn reflection of the, indeed, “visionarily seen”. So then also most strikingly boiled down – 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 supposedly to be perceived 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 .

Franz Heckendorf, Fascination Sea of Light Metropolis - Munich

His colors glow , jerk , and flash

or are full of dark melancholia ”

(op. cit., page 11; spacing & centering not in the original).

And while in 1919 Joachim Kirchner (op. cit., page 6) considered Heckendorf’s creative work still rather determined by the line, so already 1924 (op. cit., page 194)

“ how much Heckendorf’s whole nature presses for a coloristic saturation in the picture, and how everything he paints is only inspired by the one emotion anymore:

to give himself fully in the color alone .

One cannot say that by this shifting of the emphasis from the line to the color the artist would stand before us as an utterly new and different one … The intensity of expression of the personality has lost nothing by this metamorphosis, only the base of its expression has shifted.

The power of the linear vision

has been followed by the power of coloristic effects .”

Striking the gist of the matter also with the résumé Mela Escherich draws on Jawlensky’s son Andrej:

“ It is no anticipating exaggeration to say that there are not many painters who are that much at home in color as Nesnakomoff-Jawlensky, not many with whom we perceive the pictorial means as something so natural, as the only acceptable for the expression.

The color … becomes tongue …”

(Mela Escherich, Andre Nesnakomoff-Jawlensky, in Jahrbuch der jungen Kunst (V) 1924, page 113; centering & spacing not in the original).

And remained to the last. Unabated through dark years 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 erstwhile already had been certainty:

“ 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).

For which present painting from the late period in its impastoed paint application is chief witness. Needs to be seen in its glow. In semi-dark as the city getting sleepy. And in the stale morning light as hungover mood of a night aglow. But always like the sparkling of a cat’s eyes.

“ More and more the need for more luminous, colorful effects became evident with Heckendorf. As much as his palette perceived the coloristic element as something essential of the new art from the beginning, so he had never been able to express the last,

the color in its utmost luminosity .

With the gradual neglect of the stylizing line the strange thing happened: The coloristic element became the essential thing ,

spread in infinitely manifold , jubilating sounds

over the whole image area … ”

(Kirchner, 1924, page 193). In such a manner here and now then

a wonderful Heckendorf ,

Franz Heckendorf, Fascination Sea of Light Metropolis - Munich (detail center)

pulse-quickening , experience-quivering .

And in its sparkling reminding of the golden Dutch century. For instance of the son of Hals, Claes (Nicolaes; Haarlem 1628 – 1686), from the Jacob van Ruisdael circle, of the latter himself and Jan Vermeer I of Haarlem as to be adduced, too, he yet distinguishes himself in his rare dune landscapes and views of Haarlem

“ by a particular, efficient lighting, with strong contrasts of light spots of sand and dark ground plants and trees. An example of this is his major work View of Haarlem … in which also

the whizzing reflex lights

on the leaves and the gables and roofs of the town

in the distance are quite characteristic ”

(Laurens J. Bol, Holländische Maler des 17. Jahrhunderts – Nahe den großen Meistern, 1969, pages 219 f. with illustration 213 as in Dutch private collection).

See on this painting also Willem Martin, De Hollandsche Schilderkunst in de zeventiende Eeuw, vol. I, Frans Hals en zijn Tijd, 1935, pages 382 f. with illustration 229, as saying

“ (Claes Hals appears to us as the most talented of the sons of Hals. As genre painter we became acquainted with him by the … Reading Girl at the Mauritshuis … The pleasant piece shows talent, but is not above the average of the genre pieces created at Haarlem about 1650. Far better, at times even extraordinary, are Claes’ landscapes, in which he proves to be a very capable artist of the Ruisdael circle … We illustrate here

his masterpiece , a particularly fine view of Haarlem.) ”

Whether and to what extent Heckendorf has encountered in his “studies of the old masters at the museums” (Horst Ludwig) such also in the Dutch 17th century rather rare whizzing reflex lights as inspiration has to be left undecided here. Claes’ supreme example of this at Haarlem, however, should have remained unknown to him in the original as in private collection in 1935 and supposedly – so Bernt, 1969, with ill. 471 & “strongly flashing light reflexes” – in the art trade only by the late 1960s.

Of adequately perfect condition, really slight traces of wear at the far edges aside. However, the lower left ledge of the frame with a brownish stain of 1¾ × 2½ in (4.5 × 6.5 cm) penetrating through to the wood and isolated other small defects at the ledges in general, too. – On the back by different hand in pencil capitals:





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