‘Förster’, a portrait with a background of hilly agricultural land, is a typical depiction of Adolf Wissel (see, for example also ‘Jungmädel’ and his self-portrait).
|– condition||: II perfect condition|
|– size||: unframed 60 x 50 cm|
|– signed||: left, under ‘Wissel 37’|
|– type||: oil on canvas|
The 1938 Rosenberg Competition: The Pure German Family
Wissel’s ‘Kalenberger Bauernfamilie’ won an award of recognition on 14th May, 1938 in the Rosenberg Competition ‘Das Familienbild’ (The Family Portrait).
Earlier, the ‘Aussenpolitische Amt der NSDAP’ had complained that too many paintings depicted German families with only one or two children, “and it is known that a Two-Children-System will lead to the downfall of the German Race”. After this announcement in the Mitteilungsblatt of January 1937, the ‘Reichskammer der Bildende Künste’ published the guideline ‘Die Kunst hilft der Bevölkerungspolitik’, in which artists were required to show at least four children when a family was depicted. The exhibition ‘Das Familienbild’ was planned and executed by the Reichsleitung NSDAP, the highest political level of the Nazi party. Alfred Rosenberg, the Chief Nazi Party ideologist, was ultimately responsible for the organization. He was the head of ‘Amt Rosenberg’, founded in 1934. This was an official body for cultural policy and surveillance within the Nazi party (other names for the ‘Amt Rosenberg’ were ‘Amt des Beauftragter des Führers für die gesamte geistige und weltanschauliche Erziehung der NSDAP’, or ‘Dienststelle Rosenberg’ or the ‘Reichsüberwachungsamt’). Co-organizers were the culture department of ‘Kraft durch Freude’ (KdF), the ‘Reichsbund der kinderreichen Deutschlands e.V.’, and the culture section of the Deutschen Arbeitsfront (DAF). The instructions given to the selected group of prominent artists, were to create an outstanding work which would be an allegory of a pure German family with healthy children and a happy mother. At least three or four children should be depicted and the painting should measure at least three square meters.
Participants in the competition included: Thomas Baumgartner, Theodor Bohnenberger, Bernhard Dörres, Georg Ehmig, Constantin Gerhardinger, Fritz Mackensen, Wilhelm Petersen, Georg Siebert, Karl Storch, Hermann Tiebert, Wolfgang Willrich and Hans Schmitz-Wiedenbrück.
As the jury was not completely satisfied with the results of the competition, the first prize was not awarded. However, eight of the submitted works were later displayed at the GDK in 1938 and 1939. Hans Schmitz Wiedenbrück was awarded the second prize, and three painters were given a shared third prize: Thomas Baumgartner, Bernhard Dörres and Constantin Gerhardinger. Georg Siebert and Adolf Wissel were awarded a recognition prize.
Left: ‘Kalenberger Bauernfamilie’ (Farming Family from Kalenberg), 1939. GDK 1939, room 33; depicted in the exhibition catalogue. Size 200 cm x 150 cm. Bought by Hitler for 12,000 RM. Currently in the possession of the German Historical Museum, Berlin. ‘Calenberg’ is an agricultural region south-west of Hannover. ‘Kalenberger Bauernfamilie’ was also displayed at the exhibition ‘Kunst im 3. Reich, Dokumente der Unterwerfung’; the exhibition, instigated by the Frankfurter Kunstverein, was held from 1974 to 1975 in Frankfurt, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Ludwigshafen and Wuppertal. Again displayed at the exhibition ‘The Romantic Spirit in German Art 1790 – 1990’, organised by the Royal Scottish Academy, Edingburgh/ London, 1994/95.
Right: ‘Kalenberger Bauernfamilie’ displayed in 1977 at the Exhibition ‘Deutschland 1930-1939: Verbot, Anpassung, Exil’ in Kunsthaus Zürich, Switzerland:
‘Deutschland 1930-1939, Verbot Anpassung Exil‘, Kunsthaus Zürich, 1977
‘Adolf Wissel, a kind of Bavarian Grant Wood…’
‘Kalenberger Bauernfamily’ depicted in the American ‘Magazine of Art’, October 1945. Adolf Wissel was described as ‘a kind of Bavarian Grant Wood, but more careful, smug, and laudatory’ (‘Art in the Third Reich’ by Monuments Man Lincoln Kirstein in the Magazine of Art, New York, October 1945).
‘Bauerngruppe’ (Group of Farmers, or Gruppo Contadine). Tempera. Size 240 cm x 180 cm. This painting, created in 1935, was the breakthrough work of art for Adolf Wissel, and featured his wife as the woman in the painting. It was displayed at the exhibition ‘Deutsche Kunst Goslar’ in 1935, organized by the ‘Reichsbauern Organisation. The work was bought by Darré, the leader of the Reichsbauern Organisation, and was depicted in numerous papers and magazines (i.a. in ‘Das Bild’, October 1935, ‘Kunst und Volk’, April 1936, ‘Deutsche Kunst der Gegenwart’, Breslau, 1943).
‘Bauerngruppe’ was also displayed at the exhibitions:
– ‘Heroische Kunst, NSG, 1936, Munich (‘Besitz des Reichsbauernführers Staatsminister Darré);
– GDK 1937, room 15;
– Biennale in Venice, 1938, under the name ‘Gruppo Contadine’;
– ‘Deutscher Bauer – Deutsches Land’, Janury/ February 1938;
– ‘Deutsch-Italienischen Kulturaustausch’ in 1943 in Cremona.
It was to be displayed at the ‘Herbstausstellung im Kunstverein, Hannover’, however at 8 October 1943, the night before the opening of the exhibition, the work was destroyed by an air raid.
Bauerngruppe by Wissel: ‘set the direction of German Art’
The illustrated report below on the ‘Great German Art Exhibition’ appeared in the July 22, 1937, of the Berliner llustrirte Zeitung. As the title suggests, the featured works, all of which were included in the exhibition, were supposed to ‘set the direction of German art.’ Each illustration is accompanied by a caption praising it according to Nationalist Socialist aesthetic and philosophical criteria.
Left: ‘Jungbäuerinnen’ (‘Young Female Farmers), 1937. GDK 1937, room 15; depicted in the exhibition catalogue. Size 240 cm x 180 cm. Bought by Hermann Göring (the painting is lost). The models were three women from the village of Letter, near Hannover: Ilse Volker (1910), Olga Heitmüller (1910) and Paula Hanebutt (1911). The painting was also displayed at the Venice Biennale in 1938 under the name ‘Giovani Contadine’. Depicted in ‘Die Kunst im Dritten Reich’, 1937, and in ‘Velhagen & Klasings’, Monatshefte, 1939.
Right: the opening of the GDK 1937. From left to right: Baldur Benedikt von Schirach and his wife Henriette. Von Schirach was the head of the Hitler-Jugend and later Gauleiter and Reichsstatthalter of Vienna. At the back, left, the painting ‘Jungbäuerinnen’ by Adolf Wissel.
Adolf Wissel, ‘Jungbäuerinnen’, displayed under the name ‘Giovani Contadine’ at the XXI Esposizione Biennale Internationale d’Arte, 1938. Depicted in the official catalogue (photo right).
Left: Adolf Wissel, self-portrait, 1930.
Right: ‘Jungmädel’ (Young Girl). GDK 1941, room 37. Also displayed at the ‘Grosse Berliner Kunstausstellung’, Nationalgalerie, 1942.
Adolf Wissel, ‘Der Schlosser’ (‘The Locksmith’). Displayed at the exhibition ‘Lob der Arbeit, -NS Kulturgemeinde’, 1936, Berlin; depicted in the exhibition catalogue. Also depicted in ‘Die neue deutsche Malerei’, Deutscher Verlag, Berlin, 1942, and in ‘Kunst und Volk’, January 1937.
Left: Adolf Wissel, ‘Kalenberger Bauernmädchen’ (Farming Girls from Kalenberg). GDK 1943, room 15. Also displayed at the ‘111. Grossen Frühjahrsausstellung des Kunstvereins Hannover‘ in 1943, and at the Salzburger exhibition ‘Deutsche Künstler und die SS‘ in 1944.
Right: Adolf Wissel, ‘Dr. Menge’. In 1941, Wissel was commissioned by the city of Hannover to paint the politician and former mayor of the city, Dr. Menge. GDK 1942, room 5.
Left: Adolf Wissel, ‘Bäuerin’ (Female Farmer). GDK 1938, room 24; depicted in the exhibition catalogue. Bought by Hitler for 6,000 RM. Size 94 cm x 72 cm. Currently in the possession of the German Historical Museum.
Right: ‘Bäuerin’ depicted on the cover of the magazine ‘Frauen Warte’, August, 1938. Also depicted in ‘Deutsche Kunstbetrachtung‘, Georg Schorer, 1941 (‘Im Besitzedes Führers’).
Left: Adolf Wissel, ‘Bildnis eines Mädchen’ (Portrait of a Girl). Depicted in ‘Velhagen & Klasings Monatshefte’, June 1939.
Right: Adolf Wissel, ‘Hofbesitzer Conrad Schnehage’ (‘Farm-owner Conrad Schnehage’), 1926. Size 61 x 52 cm. Depicted in the exhibition catalog of ‘Deutsche Kunst 1933-1945 in Braunschweig’, Braunschweig, 2000.
Left: Adolf Wissel, ‘Bauer’ (‘Farmer’), 1944. Size 60 x 50 cm. In private possession, Berlin.
Right: Adolf Wissel, ‘Offizier’ (‘Officer”), 1945. Size 62 x 50 cm. In private possession, Berlin.
Left: Adolf Wissel, ‘Feldarbeit’ (Working in the Field). GDK 1940, room 35. Sold in 2014 by a German auction house.
Right: Adolf Wissel, ‘Ernte’ (Harvest). GDK 1942, room 25. Sold at the GDK to a private indivudual for 6,000 Reichsmark.
Left: Adolf Wissel, ’Bäuerin‘ (‘Female-farmer‘). GDK 1944 room 25.
Left: Adolf Wissel, ‘Rector Prof. Dr. Alexander Matting‘ (undated). From 1935 to 1966 Matting was Head of the Institut für Werkstoffe (Material Science), University of Applied Sciences and Art, Hannover. In the possession of ‘Center of Military History, Washington DC‘, German War Art Collection.
Matting is wearing the golden Chain of Office of the University of Hannover and his military medals from World War I and II (including a swastika and Nazi Eagle). In 1968, a year before his death, Matting was awarded the ‘Grosse Bundesverdienstkreuz‘.
Right: Adolf Wissel, ‘SA-Mann’, 1933. Size 40 x 30 cm. Depicted in the exhibition catalog of ‘Deutsche Kunst 1933-1945 in Braunschweig’, Braunschweig, 2000.
Adolf Wissel at work in his atelier in Velber.
Left: Adolf Wissel working on ‘Bildnis’ (Portrait). Later displayed at the GDK 1938, room 24.
Right: In the back, one can see ‘Jungbäuerinnen’.
Adolf Wissel, a farmer among painters
Adolf Wissel (1894 – 1973) was born in Velber (near Hannover) to a family of farmers. From 1911 to 1914, he attended the Arts and Crafts School in Hannover, later followed by his time in military service. His older brother died in 1919 as a consequence of war his wounds. After World War I, Adolf Wissel went back to the Arts and Craft School in Hannover where he studied under Richard Schlösser and Fritz Burger- Mühlfeld. He attended with many other students who would later became important representatives of the ‘Neue Sachlichkeit’. From 1922 until 1924, he studied at the Art Academy in Kassel under Kurt Witte, before returning to his birthplace, Velber, were he stayed until his death in 1973.
Wissel’s style was that of rustic scenes featuring portraits, full-figure portraits and groups. He depicted farmers and folk life in Lower Saxony in the Völkische spirit. His work was strongly influenced by the painter Carl Banzer, the Director of the Art Academy in Kassel, but also it showed aspects of the Neue Sachlichkeit style. His paintings were a perfect fit with the Nazi’s ‘Blood and Soil’ campaign, designed to associate the ideas of health, family and motherhood with the country. Magazines described Wissel as ‘a farmer among painters’; but he also frequently depicted people active in other occupations, such as a teacher, locksmith, mayor, painter, merchant, forester, dentist, doctor, and printer, among others.
From 1922 onwards, Wissel displayed his works at numerous exhibitions of the Art Association Hannover, and later also at the Grosse Berliner Kunstausstellungen. His first sales to public institutions were in 1927 to the city of Hannover, and in 1928 to the Hannover Provinzialmuseum. He joined the NSDAP on 1st April 1933.
The painting ‘Bauerngruppe’ (Group of Farmers, or Gruppo Contadine), created in 1935, was the breakthrough art work for Adolf Wissel, and it featured his wife as the woman in the painting. It was displayed at the exhibition ‘Deutsche Kunst Goslar’ in 1935, organized by the ‘Reichsbauern Organisation’. The work was bought by Darré, the leader of the Reichsbauern Organisation, and was depicted in numerous papers and magazines. ‘Bauerngruppe’ was later displayed at the exhibitions: ‘Heroische Kunst, NSG, 1936, Munich (‘Besitz des Reichsbauernführers Staatsminister Darré); GDK 1937, room 15; Biennale in Venice, 1938, under the name ‘Gruppo Contadine’; ‘Deutscher Bauer – Deutsches Land’, Janury/ February 1938; and at the ‘Deutsch-Italienischen Kulturaustausch’ in 1943 in Cremona. It was to be displayed at the ‘Herbstausstellung im Kunstverein, Hannover’, however at 8 October 1943, the night before the opening of the exhibition, the work was destroyed by an air raid. In 1936 Wissel was represented at the exhibition ‘Lob der Arbeit, -NS Kulturgemeinde’, 1936, Berlin. A year later Hermann Göring bought his work ‘Jungbäuerinnen’ (Young Female Farmers), in the same year displayed at the GDK 1937, room 15 (this painting is lost).
In 1938, Wissel’s ‘Kalenberger Bauernfamilie’ (Farming Family from Kalenberg) won an award of recognition at the Rosenberg Competition, ‘The Pure German Family’. In this competition, the first prize was not awarded and Hans Schmitz Wiedenbrück was awarded the second prize. A year later, this same art work was displayed at the GDK 1939, room 33, and bought by Hitler for 12,000 RM. It was also in 1938 that Wissel received the title of Professor on the order of Hitler.
At the Großen Deutschen Kunstausstellung, Wissel exhibited at least 21 works of art. They were bought for prices of up to 12,000 RM by Hitler, Goebbels and Von Ribbentrop. Two of his (GDK) works were displayed at the Venice Biennale: ‘Bauerngruppe’ (Group of Farmers, or Gruppo Contadine) and ‘Jungbäuerinnen’ (Young Female Farmers, or Giovani Contadine). In 1941, he was commissioned by the city of Hannover to paint the politician and former mayor of the city, Dr. Menge (GDK 1942, room 5). Three years later, in 1944, Wissel was placed on the list ‘Künstler im Kriegseinsatz’ with 130 other prominent artists, which exempted him from military services.
After the end of WWII, Wissel was declared as unbelastet (exonerated) during the denazification process, but he felt rejected and discriminated against. The first years Wissel, son of a farmer, worked again for a period of time in the fields as an agricultural worker. It was in 1950 that he was once again commissioned to paint new official portraits, and he took part in some minor exhibitions.
Adolf Wissel, who created around 300 works of art in his lifetime, died in 1973 in Velber. A street in Velber was named in honor of him.
In 1974, an exhibition commemorating Adolf Wissel took place in the Historischen Museum, Hannover. In 1977, the ‘Kalenberger Bauernfamilie’ was displayed at the exhibition ‘Deutschland 1930-1939: Verbot, Anpassung, Exil’ in Kunsthaus Zürich, Switzerland. In 2012 the exhibition ‘Adolf Wissel: ein Maler aus Velber’ was held in the Heimatmuseum, Seelze. Various paintings by Wissel are currently in the possession of the Historisches Museum Hannover. ‘Kalenberger Bauernfamily’ and ‘Bäuerin’ (GDK 1938) are in the possession of the German Historical Museum. A portrait of Rector Prof. Dr. Alexander Matting by Wissel is in the possession of ‘Center of Military History, Washington DC‘, German War Art Collection.