Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Emil Pottner: Feathers !

Emil Pottner
 (1872 Salzburg – 1942 Treblinka)

born in Austria but considered German painter, ceramics and graphic artist
 naturalist and bird behavioral printmaker.

The bridge to my last posting (budgie feathers) and to Charles' recent posting on ModernPrintmakers (link) discussing Walter Klemm, Carl Thiemann and Emil Orlik (poultry feathers) is in these two porcelain love birds by printmaker Emil Pottner.

Artistically gifted but from humble Jewish social background (his father was a singer in the Royal Court Theater in Braunschweig) Emil entered Munich “Akademie der Bildende Künste" in 1891 aged 18 on a scholarship only to become very unhappy and sick with the strong regime ruling in that Institute.
I think, after all, he was the real master of poultry printmaking, as good or even better as the above artists and looking closely he added something special to each and every one of his prints. Maybe he is to be called the first behavioral naturalist printmaker.

Impoverished and on his own after disappointedly leaving the Akademie his first and, thank God, successful public show in the Munich "Künstlerverein” made him to move to Berlin and allowing him to travel to the Netherlands in 1905 to study the Old Masters.

During the stay in neighbouring Netherlands he discovered Delft, centre of Dutch porcelain industry, interested as he was in sculpting birds in porcelain. 
Returning to Berlin after mastering the technique he developed his skills in this art further in winter and in summertime becoming one of the truly Great graphic artists of his time in depicting his love for the Common and the Small.

He needn’t go far to find, observe, sketch, draw, cut and print what he loved most. Common birds, poultry. And bird behavior. In all his bird prints always something of the behavior of the species is shown.

Just common farm birds, roosters, chicken and hens; geese and swans, ducks, cormorants, grebes, magpies, herons and crows. 

But always fighting, courting, nursing, hunting. His birds in flight, deceitfully simple prints, are proof of his extraordinary keen and very accurate observations. Turmoil in the pond, two species of birds and breathtaking rendering and colours in the waters surface. It looks so simple.  

His self-portrait in print showing him the way he choose to depict his birds. In its natural habitat and doing what the species does most and best. Himself at the edge of a pond or ditch with his pencil and sketch book. And even in that print he cannot resist showing the white duck stretching its wings. As only a white duck does. The coots running on water, you almost can hear their splashing and cries. 

He published several books illustrated with lithographs and drawings, all of them on the above subjects.
Thor (Germanic God) casting his shadow over the world. 

In his Secession Period and emotional and political coloured work on the outbreak of WWI it is almost as he foresaw the worlds' and his own terrible fate and unavailing death in Treblinka death camp in 1942.
"The Hands of Destiny intervene in battle with relentless force
The fighter, only shortly before showing his breast
a strong sense of  black destination coming over him now.
Fighting back in despair, there is this feeling, a hunch
This is the End"


  1. i love pottner! i discovered some piece of his i think last year sometime and thought i'd discovered an unknown who was so delightful! (i should have remembered that was your style!)

    the style of his that i most love is the one of the last two you show here; i don't think i'd seen the turkey one before, so thanks for that. those colours!!

    but even in black and white, i still love that style.

    that one of the three ducks flying low over the water--that looks so much like frank w. benson's work, don't you think?

  2. i'm sorry -- when i looked at this a few moments earlier a number of the pictures were slow to load, so i want to ammend my statement:

    i love all the color ones!

  3. pps someone should do a post on how many artists -- even artists who we know and have featured, died, in one way or another, in the holocaust, and consider if they hadn't been.

  4. Thank you Lily, that sad list would be almost endless I'm afraid. Should we really want to know? What if .... Wolfgang M. lived into his 80's and Franz S. and Frederique C. Friedrich Lissmann, Modigliani and what about Steve Jobs?
    Pottner at least reached 70.

  5. Pottner really captured the essence of his birds, thank you for the ongoing inspiration from all the great masters!