Saturday 12 August 2017

Elly Proempeler: what's in a name ?

Elly Proempeler-Ebeling
(05-01-1883 – 25-05-1972 Osnabrück)

Author of “Kriegsgefangen quer durch Afrika”
(“POW through the heart of Africa”)
published in 1918 (Otto Elsner Verlag, Berlin).

Feluccas  on river Nile, Egypt, signed L. Zimmermann 1913. 
Finding a name of a previous owner written on the back of a framed work of art that has been cherished for a century is always intriguing. It is mostly very difficult for the untrained to read German Sütterlin. The script ("Fraktur") was introduced in 1915, became the official German script in 1935 but was banned by Hitler himself six years later. 

Even to modern Germans Sütterlin or "Fraktur" writings (signatures, titles, specifications) are often described: "unleserlich" (eligible). 

Reader Mathias send me a picture of a print signed “L. Zimmermann” with moored feluccas, traditional (North) African sailing vessels, suggesting the printmaker visited Egypt and river Nile. The other two prints (above) are also by the same printmaker. I could tell you one or two things about L. Zimmermann here but that must wait for the book. Emil Orlik (1870-1932), working and teaching in Berlin also traveled Egypt and Sudan, in 1912, and in later years published several works like this "Feluke" and river Nile .

It would also be interesting to know in which exact year (between 1911-1920) Helene Tüpke-Grande (1871-1946) travelled to Egypt (below).   


However: this contribution is not supposed to be about prints and printmakers but about Elly Proempeler probably the first owner of the print. 

The name (partly in Sütterlin ?) was enciphered by Frankfurt Enigma Machine Wolfgang as Elly Proempeler.

Elly (for Elisabeth ?) was the daughter of N.N. Ebeling and Johanna Strick (12-10-1854 – 15-06-1928 Osnabruck) and married to lieutenant Karl Proempeler (born around 1878 in Schweppenhausen near Frankfurt). Their names could fit Proempeler und Frau” found on the ships passengers list of Woermann shipping company (“Reichs Post Dampfer”) “SS Admiral” departing 21-04-1914 from Hamburg. They are mentioned in the Namibian (German West-Africa) “Lüderitzbuchter Zeitung”.

SS Admiral and Woermann sister ships: depart from Hamburg (river Elbe) and arrival in SW- Africa.

The Proempelers, assuming they are Karl and Elly, could be returning from a leave to Africa because a 1913 photograph shows Elly Proempeler on the steps of a building in Tabora in German East-Africa (later Rhodesia now Tanzania). Karl Proempeler was appointed “Kaiserliche Bozirksamtmann”, an imperial colonial government official. 

The colony of German East Africa was ruled (1912-1918) by its last governor Heinrich Schnee (1871-1949) who after WWI became a member of the “Reichstag”, the German parliament (below).

With the outbreak of WWI the colony became involved in hostilities with the Belgian and British forces although it was mutually agreed not to “fight over the colonies” by all parties in the mondial conflict. 

The region was considered by both the Germans and British very promising and important for the cultivation of rubber trees. Eventually the complex situation, the disagreement of Schnee with his military commander “Afrika-General” Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck (1870-1964) lead to the remarkable situation German forces kept fighting a succesfull guerrilla war with the allied (British, Belgian and Portugese and native) forces under command of von Lettow.

The famous general happens to be the older brother of Berlin printmaker Christa von Lettow-Vorbeck (1881-1945) (below). 

With 2000 men he kept busy an army of 100.000 and managed to stay undefeated. Von Lettow used the dismantled guns of German cruiser SMS Königsberg which was scuttled by the British Royal Navy 11-06-1915 at Rufiji River. 

When von Lettow, who was a hero even to his enemies and like Schnee a later Reichstag member, was offered an ambassadorship by Adolf Hitler he calmly and politely told Hitler to “go fuck off" and got away with it simply nobody had the balls to arrest him. He was declared an enemy to the State and was denied his pension which I suppose will not have posed him a big problem.

Lieutenant Karl Proempeler, commanding a German military party, fell at the Battle of Saissi, defending a hill near Jericho Farm in Tabora 05-07-1915. 

His wife Elly later was taken POW and deported by the Belgian forces forced to march to Congo across the African continent (“quer durch Africa”) in a heroic journey. The graves of the fallen German soldiers at Saissi were later opened by British forces to find large amounts of ammunition thought to be hidden and used later by returning German forces.

From Congo Elly Proempeler was taken on a ship with other POW’s to be interned in London their convoy hunted by German U-boats near Gibraltar. Surviving also that part of her journey she in London she was permitted to walk free. London at that time was bombed and terrorized by German Zeppelins.

She then was send with a transport from England to a POW camp in Espalion near Toulouse in the South of France. In 1917 with the aid of the Red Cross she was enabled to return home through Switzerland to Osnabrück to learn her father had died and her only brother fell in Flanders trenches. All along her journey she was permitted to keep her camera and together with the book published in 1918 she gave an eye-witness account of her ordeal and the events of 1914-1917.

Elly Ebeling later remarried Ernst Regula (1875-1942) who had a career as a high ranking railway official (“Oberreichsbahnrat”). She was buried with her mother and husband in Osnabrück.


Danish Karen Blixen, barones von Blixen-Finecke, (1885-1972) married in 1914 and travelled to a life on a farm in neighboring Kenia. The story of her life later became world famous with the movie “Out of Africa” and was based on her 1937 book, published some 20 years after Eli Proempelers account.

An Otto Proempeler travelled 1913 between Lüderitzbucht and Swakopmund (German West Africa now Namibia) and returned to Hamburg with RPD SS “Kronprinz” the same year. His name is amongst those citizens receiving a German Iron Cross medal in German West-Africa.

Namesake Elisabeth Ebeling (1825-1905) from a merchants family was an extremely prolific German writer of children and fairy tale literature and a libretto (opera) and song writer. She travelled extensively through Turkey, Egypt, Tunesia and Spain.

All information on this Proempeler–Ebeling family is welcomed as are offers of a copy of Elly Proempeler's book which must be interesting reading.  


Although besides this contribution I cannot withhold this great 1981 drawing "Feluken" by one of my favorite modern and more contemporary German sculptors and printmakers Heinz Theuerjahr (1913-1991).  

All pictures borrowed freely from the internet for friendly, educational and non commercial use only.

Friday 11 August 2017

Mona Elise

This Daguerotype photograph of a very pretty young women in a wonderful dress and with fashionable hairstyle was found in a charity shop: separated from her family and lost in history. Without words but with a mysterious Mona Lisa smile she invited me to take her home with me. All I know it is probably taken 1870-1910 and she probably originates from Belgium. At home she told me her name is was Elise.  

Thursday 3 August 2017

Summers puzzle: joined effort with Henriette Grimm

I recently found a "new name" (as I'm always on the look out for new names building the Index). The name came with this print. There's no point in discussing the print (that came with a tear and isn't all that gloomy as it appears to be on first sight. It would be fun to discover where miss Grimm sat (and spend her holliday ?) My guess: Italy. But I could be totally wrong. 

Grimm, Henriette                  (Basel 30-06-1894 – 1965 Baden Baden)
Painter, illustrator and graphic artist. Studied at Gent Academy in Belgium 1911-1914 and at Basel “Kunstgewerbeschule” 1915-18. In 1920-21 Paris “Académie Julian et Clarisse” and in Leipzig Academy.

Dresslers KHB 1930: Pirna an der Elbe (near Dresden), Rottwerndorferstrasse 6. Member RvbK, Verb. Schweizerische Malerinnen und Bildhauerinnen.

It would be even more fun if you know more about this artist, who enjoyed a thorough artistic education, and are willing to share.


Updated: September 13th + 14th 

See recent September postings for information and solving this mystery and puzzle.

Tuesday 1 August 2017

Inspiration and all seasons

Flow of consciousness 

Helene Mass (1871-1955) today is considered by most serious collectors and connoisseur the godmother of German color woodblock printmaking. She probably is. She was born in Schönlanke, Prussia (now Trzcianka in central Poland). Too little is known about her life and career, although over the years I was able to collect 38 examples of her prints from auctions, old catalogues, exhibition announcements etc. in my pictures archive. In the aftermath of WW-II Schönlanke, its church and with it its church books were destroyed by the invading Russian red-army. Hopefully more will come to light in the near future. In the region (Posen) lived several Mass families. I wonder if she was familiar with the work of Fritz Thaulow:      

Fritz Thaulow (1847-1906) was a Danish and German trained, Norwegian born painter and printmaker working in Paris, Belgium and the Netherlands. He travelled Europe and even visited the USA. He passed away staying in the well known artist "Hotel Spaander" in Volendam in the Netherlands. There's a wealth of information and plenty of examples of his work in the internet. But you only have to remember this: besides he was probably the finest painter of reflecting water surfaces he also was involved in the revival of aquatint etching at the turn of the century. Preceding modern woodblock printmaking. In all his work, water is the most important and charactaristic feature.

Thaulow's waters brings me too Franz Kupka (1871-1957) who only incidentally showed his fascination with water and it's reflections. I love his bathing Muse and his compositional explorations of the subject. 

Having arrived at the nude body: I recently found (stumbled over a passed auction lot) this wonderful and very surprising nude by my personal printmaking muse (teacher and painter !) Else von Schmiedeberg. Although her biography is, like Helene Mass, also very thin and not entirely clear I do know she taught at the same Berlin institution with Emil Orlik (1870-1932).    

I would very much like to get into friendly contact with the lucky 2017 German auction buyer !   

Emil Orlik

Not many woodblock printmakers were involved in the female nude as subject for their creativity let alone women printmakers, but illusive Dagmar Hooge (1870-1930) was and so was  Hedwig  Matthiessen (1878-around 1927/30).  

I think Else Schmiedeberg may have created her auto portrait looking up to the "visitor", painting in her flowering garden (in Leipzig or Berlin) in this oil painting which I recently was able to acquire add to my modest Schmiedeberg collection.    

Else painting in her wonderful red rose garden and the stairs leading up to it brings me back to where I started: Helene Mass but now with this wonderful "Red Ivy" house and garden.
Helene Mass
The detail in this last print leads from the lakes and cities and from fall to this summers beach in 1916 surprise print by Dutch painter, lithographer and wood-engraver Jan Visser (1879-1961).

"All things are connected

All pictures borrowed freely from the Internet for friendly, educational and non commercial use only.

All pictures embiggen by mouse click.