Frans Snyders’ 1620/25 Munich Lioness

in  the  Blaze  of  Expressionism

Franz Heckendorf (Berlin 1888 – Munich 1962). A Lion’s Assault on a Wild Boar in the Oasis. The latter itself paradisiacally dreamily under bright sun. Oil on fiberboard. 21⅝ × 27½ in (55 × 69.8 cm). In 3-piece wooden frame – presumably by the artist himself – painted grey and black.

The  dominating  scenery

of  the  lioness  at  the  wild  boar’s  neck

Franz Heckendorf, A Lion's Assault on a wild Boar in the Oasis

as  the  core  motif  of

Frans  Snyders’  (1579 Antwerp 1657)  painting  in  Munich 

(enclosed its copy in reverse by Ferdinand Piloty as chalk lithograph of 1816 — incunabulum of lithography — printed with two tone plates in the 2nd of III states, Winkler 622/24, 39.8 x 54.9 cm).


Thieme-Becker XVI (1923), 211 f.; Vollmer II (1955), 400; AKL LXX (2011), 513 f. – Cf. Robels, Frans Snyders, Munich 1989, no. 258 with illustrations & Koslow, Frans Snyders, Antwerp 1995, (color) illustrations, pp. 292 + 305.

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.

Small defect at the upper right corner, nearby another one of the kind of a big needle’s head. The edges slightly worn by the framing, otherwise perfect. – The coloring of the artist’s frame touched up.

Extremely  typical ,

that  is  paw-like  dynamic  work

from  the  group  of  the  large  sizes

containing everything, reflecting everything that from the earliest up to the latest literature was qualified just as breathless as the range of Heckendorf’s palette. The prevailing ground of his paintings allowing to our review the following chronological order: Canvas for the early years of about 1912-1929, (ply-)wood 1930-1943, fiberboard already for 1931 & 1941, more generally then for after 1945 as that

“ period in Heckendorf’s work in which the artist once again scored a height of his artistry, presumably also as a backlog demand after the vacuum of the Hitler regime … ”

(Horst Ludwig in the Catalog Hagemeier).

Picking up again one of the themes important to him, grown during his years in Paris, Italy, Dalmatia, Asia Minor for studies, and his missions as fighter pilot at the Ostfront,

the  Balkans , Bosporus  and  Tigris

in World War I. “The most mature H. has done till now are his landscapes” (Th.-B. 1923, quoting at the same time under the aspect of “Outspokenly gifted for decorative arts”  a  lion’s  hunt  as  an  example  for  his  monumental  paintings).

Ludwig’s accentuation of the “wide-spreaded journeys through Europe and (the) study of Old Masters in the museums” especially for the latter of paramount interest here of greatest evidence, unmistakably, but newly embedded quite uniquely by the purpose to

“ ‘spiritualize everything that 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).

Shadow-play found as incorrectly as, e.g. that of the palms in front left, coincided not only with this, but also in sense of Goethe in respect of contrary shading at Rubens :

“ That it’s by which Rubens is found great … that he stands with free genius  over  nature treating it to his own higher intents … (by) that art is subjected to the natural requirement not at all, but having its own law ”

(Conversations with Eckermann, Bln. 1955, pp. 318 f.).

The same brought on the point in short by Stephan Kemperdick on occasion of a church interior by Dirk van Delen: “… the lighting is like the perspective artifice, not life-like construction” (Catalog Speck von Sternburg, ed. by Herwig Guratzsch, 1998, p. 150). – And Vollmer continuing:

“ Pupil of the instruction class of the Berlin Museum of the Applied Arts and the Acad., but essentially autodidact (as the contemporaries Heckel + E. L. Kirchner, too, and like these starting from impressionism). One of the most talented 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  execution

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 impression of the impressionist way to paint …

Making a hard but very expressive contour the basis of his drawn compositions, he creates a

vehemently  raised  natural  impression

by an erratically abrupt juxtaposition of his glowing, often brutally rich local colors which part themselves as consciously from any realistic depiction as the flow of his lines. The suggestion of movement which radiates from his landscapes

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, thus these landscape visions transport a quite subjective character … . ”

All this then unspent fresh. And as a downright antipole to the earthly hunt here, too,

the unforgettable sun , Heckendorf’s sun ,

to which in 1919 he dedicated an album of 10 color lithographs. Which was preceded two years before by a no less color-intensive 12-sheet set

dedicated to the Orient , his Orient .

It is a downright exciting fascination how this work spans from start to late years without a break. On this Ludwig in view of an œuvre documenting half a century:

“ Even more distinct this tendency of the excessive nature becomes in the paintings, e.g. ‘Southern Landscape with Sailing Boats’ of 1958. 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 recognizable: the own vision that first linked itself to the landscape though not following it purely imitatively.

“ With passionate brushstrokes which remain visible as such and are used artistically, with impastoed color application so that a vivid surface of the painting appears the southern painting is visualized … Smooth transitions are neither in the forms nor in the colors …

“ Even the sky … with the glorious sun is structured quite powerful. Beams and concentric circles radiate from this celestial body and thus set the firmament into a pulsating vibration that suggests the power of the light very beautifully.

“ The colors themselves are set harshly against each other, too, almost in pure tones they are applied with a relatively broad brush and stay connected to the brush’s trace so that the composition is clearly put together from these layers of lines. By this a dynamic small structure is created which adds to the enlivement of the whole picture …

“ 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. ”

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, so Thieme-Becker,

“ Coping with all techniques and an exceedingly easily producing talent ”.

Colorful , Dramatic , Easy

Heckendorf’s  Lion’s  Attack  on  a  Wild  Boar  in  the  Oasis

as an exceptionally exemplary example of this great creativeness .

As thematically not found on the market, thus missing in the comprehensive exhibition of 1985, too.

Yet recoursing to no one less than the great Snyders who on his part refers to Rubens. And here to Snyders’ – concerning the landscape jointly with Jan Wildens – oil

Frans Snyders, Lioness striking a Wild Boar lithographed by Ferdinand Piloty
Ferdinand Piloty’s chalk lithograph printed with two tone plates of 1816 (enclosed here)

“ Lioness  striking  a  Wild  Boar ”  of  c.  1620/25  in  Munich .

Which along with his “Two Young Lions pursuing a Roebuck” also there (Robels 258 f.; see Piloty’s toned lithograph of 1816)

“ hold a special rank because of their theme … (the first) assumes an invention by Rubens. For in her movement (the Lioness) is similar to the attacking tiger on a hunting painting in Rennes and a lion on a variant in Dresden that themselves (– Because ‘As with the princely dynasties and noble families

entire  genealogical  trees  of  influences

can  be  traced  for  painters’ ,

so Gina Thomas in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of Feb. 20, 2001; Goethe analogously on literature, op. cit., pp. 160 f. –) go back to an ancient copy. ”

For “The sujet of the animal fight exists since classical antiquity, in prints since the 16th century” (Stefan Morét in Ridinger Catalog Darmstadt, 1999, p.91, reminding together of the famous marble group of a horse clawed by a lion on the Capitol at Rome). During his stays there (1601/02 & late in 1606) Rubens now shall have seen as well the marble group as have become acquainted with the relevant famous works by Giambologna (Giovanni Bologna, Douai 1529 – Florence 1608). For the latter Thieme-Becker mention among the remarkable small sculptures also the one of the horse clawed by the lion (“an unusual variation on the theme”, cat. Prague, see below) and the bull killed by the tiger resp., for which, refrained from besides repetitions and numerous copies, Bologna widely delivered only the sketches. As towards the end of the 16th century the lions of Antiquity enjoyed particular favour in the Medici collection in Rome, for which in 1594 Flaminio Vaccra made a companion piece to the lion statuette by Bologna (cf. Cat. Rudolf II and Prague, 1997, p. 521, II/243 & for the bronze version of the horse with the lion worked about 1600 by Antonio Susin[i] as presumably commissioned work p. 520, II/236, both with ills.).

The theme evidently was in the wind again. The interesting at this, and therefore shown here, is the school overlapping revival as an applause for the

“ Magic  of  the  Beasts ”

(Justus Müller-Hofstede in his review of the 1985 Cologne/Utrecht Savery exhibition [FAZ Nov. 10, 1985] with illustration of the 1628 oil of the lion striking a cow), to which then centuries later also Heckendorf paid tribute to, understood over the times like a parabel for the order of the world.

Robels sees for Snyders only a nexus with the fable tradition, reminding of Æsop’s fable after which the end of a fight between a lion and a boar is awaited by a vulture (see the illustration in Robels, page 350) … However, the missing of the vulture in Snyders (as in Heckendorf) does not reveal the intention of a tale’s illustration. But the origin of this

unusual  motif  of  a  fight  between  lion  and  boar

should not be questioned … Thus in a broader sense the picture might insinuate to the blindness of two pugnacious fighters … (Revealing altogether Snyders’) secret sense for

the  tragic  beauty  of  the  fight , an  affirmation  of  natural  law ”

(Hella Robels, op. cit., pp. 92 f. & 42, but see also p. 40).

The latter then also quite in the sense of Ortega y Gasset

“ For  in  the  universal  fact  of  the  hunt

a  fascinating  secret  of  nature  …  is  revealed ”

(Meditations on the Hunt, Stuttgart 1981).

With Heckendorf now having added the exotic landscape to Snyders’ exotic hunt which allowed him

the  greatest  possible  intensification  of  his  work

and reincarnated the great predecessor as the “most important still life and animal painter of Flemish art, maybe even of his epoch” (Catalog Berlin/Dahlem 1975, p. 405) by the central motif

300  years  later

into  the  footlights  of  an  epoch

now  historic  by  itself .

Paw-like impastoed as once already Philipp Peter Roos (Rosa da Tivoli, 1657-1706) could fascinate through the times by his less wild fellows, the goats, sheep and cattle of the Roman Campagna.

And so it 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 and 1940 the expulsion from the Reichskammer der Bildenden Künste. And followed finally by even completely different, profoundly personal hardship, ultimately grown from the zodiac sign of the Scorpio Heckendorf:

“ A further saving 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).

For which present painting from the late period in its impastoed paint application is chief witness. Needs to be seen in its glow.

“ 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 Heckendorf glowing out of itself

par excellence .

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125 Years - 1888-2013