Friday, 21 December 2012

Carl Olof Petersn, a Swede in Dachau

Carl Olof Petersen

Swedish painter, writer, illustrator and printmaker.

When Carl Olof Petersen (left: 1905) heard the enthusiastic reports of Swedish painter Ernst Norlind (1877-1952) returning from Dachau, Bavaria, he decided quitting his job as a grocer in Malmö and set sail to the old German market town near Munich determined becoming an artist after receiving his initial training in Sweden.
While Norlind is mostly remembered for his many paintings and etchings of stork and the iconic 1914 Baltic exposition poster, Petersén on the other hand  is best known for his humorous, political and satirical illustrations for Magazines like Jugend and Simplissimus.

(right and above, painting, poster and etching by Ernst Norlind, below a moving "Springtime" by Petersén )

Petersen, 23, arrived in Dachau in 1903 when the  popularity of the artist colony was already established and rising. Already popular among artists earlier in the 19th century it's colony status was initiated with the arrival  of artists like my favourite German painters Lovis Corinth (1858-1945) and Max Liebermann (1847-1935) and the village thrived as an artist colony until the outbreak of the Great War in 1914. Many young residential artists were called for duty but never to return.

In Dachau young Carl Olof rented rooms and a studio with Joseph Wittmann, a local flour merchant located in his families centuries old bakery. A business which he'd cleverly expanded selling artist materials, canvases, papers and paint to the hords of artist living and working in Dachau. And renting artist studios build in the attic. Petersén became close friends with the Wittmann family, who are to this day art and book dealers in Dachau.
Turkey: Carl Olof Petersén and Walter Klemm.

Although Petersen was buried in his native Sweden he was to stay in Dachau until 1937, the year of his death. After WWI, Dachau, the venerable and beautiful medieval market town in the marshy foothills of the Alps again drew many artists but slowly it lost it’s former glory as an important gathering of artists and painting School. 

"After the hunt" (oil painting). 
The upcoming militairy ammunition industry took over and eventually the name of this picturesque medieval village, once the playground of Bavarian Kings and Queens, would be synonymous with the atrocities and horrors of Nazi Germany. 
Turkey by Carl Olof Petersen and by Walter Klemm.

Around 1910 in Dachau the artist:citizen ratio, Petersen wrote, was 1:10. Among them the young artists and printmaking friends Walter Klemm (1883-1957) and Carl Theodor Thiemann (1881-1966). Both originating from the city of Karlsbad and having studied and been "in business" together in Prag arrived in Dachau in 1908. Klemm, when appointed professor in Weimar, left before the outbreak of war in 1913 but Thiemann, like Petersén, stayed all his life. A line of artistic influence can be distinguished from Petersén, through Thiemann and Klemm back to printmaking pioneer Emil Orlik (1870-1932) who, returned from Japan in 1902, before in Vienna encouraged (and instructed?) Walter Klemm in printmaking (see links below !).  
Storks by Walter Klemm (left) and Carl Thiemann (right).

Besides quite famous as an illustrator Petersen was also a skilled woodblock printmaker as you can judge for yourself by the examples I’ve been able to dig up from the depths of the internet. 

"Fighting Roosters" by Petersén (left) and one by Vienna printmaker Ludwig Jungnickel (1881-1965) (right):

“Angorakatzen” from an auction cataloque, sadly in a very low resolution but reminding of prints by the illustrious Norbertine Bresslern-Roth’s (1891-1978) who'd studied in nearby Munich and later created several print on this feline species (below).

The Hooded Crow (Corvinus cornix, Nebelkrähe (Germ.), Grâkråka (Sw.) a typical Scandinavian and Russian subspecies of the common crow was also depicted by Ernst Norlind (etching lower right). 

And I've found a dozen or so lovely childrens book illustrations by Petersén. Comparing the image of the turkey to the works above is particularly interesting. In Dachau Petersen (like most artists of any importance who once lived in the village) was honoured with a street name. 

See for some more scolarly further reading Charles' "Modern Printmakers": Carl Thiemann*, Walter Klemm* and Emil Orlik*. (link*)

All pictures embiggen by mouse click and are borrowed freely from the Internet for friendly and educational use only.