One of the very last existing murals from the Third Reich (1938).
This huge wall-painting goes together with its counterpart ‘Vesper’.
‘Obsternte’ and ‘Vesper’ by Schlageter: Masterpieces of ‘Blood and Soil’.
This monumental wall-painting of 225 x 175 cm was commisoned by the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (the Ministry of Aviation) and it hung in the Officers Mess in the Luftfahrtforschungsanstalt Hermann Göring near Braunschweig (Deutsche Forschungsanstalt für Luftfahrt); see below in ‘Die Kunst’, December 1939.
The Luftfahrtforschungsanstalt Hermann Goring was one of the leading centres of top-secret developments. The research institution specializing in aviation, had at least forty secret weapons establishments, most of them devoted to the improvement of armour and the testing of ballistic projectiles.
Technical aspects of the murals
The techniques used to create these Schlageter murals are described in the Architectural Magazine ‘Baugilde, der Fachgruppe Architekten in der Reichskammer der Bildende Künste’, 1938. His works are not painted in oil, but in egg-tempera; as a binding agent Karl Schlageter often used sichol or kasëin. The finished work was not varnished, and with its matte, natural colours it fits more naturally in its environment than an oil painting would have. With this technique the works seem as if they are directly painted on a wall (like a fixed mural), whereas in practice they are painted on thick plywood which was seamlessly attached to the wall. This had the advantage that, in case of a renovation or demolition, the paintings could easily be removed.
How the Schlageter murals survived the war
There are two reasons why the Schlageter murals still exist.
First, the works were located in the officers’ mess in the ‘Luftfahrtforschungsanstalt Hermann Göring’ near Braunschweig. Being a leading centre of top-secret developments, it was in 1944 one of the top three targets of the British Air force (next to Schweinfurt and Leipzig). The bases on the western outskirts of the city of Braunschweig consisted of 76 buildings hidden in the dense forests. These buildings included munitions storage, laboratories, and seven wind tunnels. The building complex was so carefully camouflaged that the few structures visible from the air appeared to be nothing more than innocent-looking farmsteads, endowed with the traditional stork’s nest on the roof and surrounded by gardens, which were planted and harvested as any farm garden would have been. Various buildings were covered by separate layers of thick cement, which in turn were covered with several feet of soil overgrown with plants and trees. Moreover, the Germans had constructed decoy airfields in Völkenrode-Bortfeld and Braunschwieg-Grassel, locations 5 and 10 kilometers outside Braunschweig. The decoy landing areas, dummy hangars and parked fake airplanes were bombed several times by Allied forces. In 1945, about 90% of the inner city of Braunschweig was destroyed. However, due to the elaborate concealment effort, Allied reconnaissance flights completely missed the Luftfahrtforschungsanstalt Hermann Göring.
The other reason that the murals from the ‘Luftfahrtforschungsanstalt Hermann Göring’ were not destroyed is that, unlike most other murals, they were detachable. Almost all Third Reich murals in Germany which survived the war were plastered over or destructed after 1945. However, the Schlageter murals were created on firm wooden plates. At some point in history, the murals were removed from the wall, but not destructed.
Very remarkable: the advantages of the fact that the Schlageter-murals were ‘detachable’, were already described in 1938 in in the Architectural Magazine ‘Baugilde, der Fachgruppe Architekten in der Reichskammer der Bildende Künste‘: ‘Die Bilder erzeugen bei dieser Technik den Eindruck, als seien sie direkt auf die Wand gemalt, während sie in Wirklichkeit fast durchweg auf Sperrholztafeln gemalt sind, die Bündig in die Wand eingelassen werden. Das hat den Vorteil, dass sie bei evtl. Umbauten oder Abrissen mühelos entfernt und an anderer Stelle neu eingebaut werden können.’
Deeply conservative art on a high-tech military production facility
The wall paintings by Schlageter are a deeply conservative German form of art. What is remarkable is the fact that this style of art hung in high-technology military productions facilities, like the Luftfahrtforschungsanstalt Hermann Göring. Conservative art hand in hand with high technology.
Left: Karl Schlageter, ‘Ruhende Schnitter’ (‘Resting Mowers’). Depicted in the Architectural Magazine ‘Baugilde, der Fachgruppe Architekten in der Reichskammer der Bildende Künste‘, 1938.
Right: Karl Schlageter, close-up of ‘Ruhendes Schnitter’. The accompanying text in ‘Baugilde’ reads: ‘…depicted are strong workers and farmers, with spirits and hearts that constitute greatness, the essence of their inner nature written on their faces. One observes for example the face of the young female farmer, a close-up of the mural ‘Ruhende Schnitter’. The woman’s face, with its harmonious, serious and deeply internal expression, is a masterwork as such.
‘Baugilde, der Fachgruppe Architekten in der Reichskammer der Bildende Künste‘, 1938.
Left: Karl Schlageter, ‘Obsternte’ (‘Fruit-harvest’).
Right: Karl Schlageter, ‘Ruhende Schnitter’. The text below both pictures reads: ‘Forschungsanstalt für Luffahrt, Braunschweig’.
Depicted in ‘Die Kunst’, December, 1939, page 64 to 68. The work ‘Resting Schnitter’ is also named ‘Vesper’.
The text below the pictures:
Left: Karl Schlageter, ‘Obesternte’. Depicted in ‘Deutsche Maler der Gegenwart’, 1938, page 153.
Right: Karl Schlageter, ‘Vesper’. The text below the picture reads: ‘Ausschnitt aus einem Wandbild für einen Standort der Luftwaffe, ausgeführt im Auftrage des Reichsluftfahrtministeriums’ (‘Detail of a mural for the Luftwaffe, commisioned by the Ministery of Aviation’). Depicted in ‘Die Kunst im Deutschen Reich’, 1939.
Karl Schlageter, ‘Vesper’. Depicted in ‘Arts of the Third Reich’, Peter Adam.
The photo left, illustrating Chapter 4, shows a detail of Vesper.
Karl Schlageter, ‘Obsternte’ and ‘Vesper’ depicted in ‘Kunst in Deutschland 1933 – 1945’, Mortimer G. Davidson.
‘Official art work in Germany was technically superior to much of the work in France, England, and the United States’
“There have been many new buildings to decorate: party offices, banks, barracks, schools, and town-halls. What has been done compares, at least in technique, more than favorably with our PWA and WPA murals. Americans employed much the same subject matter – physical energy and the Comman Man. The Nazis did not tolerate incompetence or sliphod execution. Their patronage was in no sence charity…….”the general level of official work in Germany was technically superior to much of the work in France, England, and the United States’. From: ‘Art in the Third Reich’, written by Lincoln Kirstein (one of the ‘Monuments Men’) and published in the ‘Magazine of Art’, American Federation of Arts, New York, October 1945.
The Public Works of Art Project (PWA) was a program to employ artists, as part of the New Deal, during the Great Depression. It was the first such program, running from December 1933 to June 1934. The purpose of the PWAP was ‘to give work to artists by arranging to have competent representatives of the profession embellish public buildings. Artists were told that the subject matter had to be related to the ‘American scene’. Artworks from the project were shown or incorporated into a variety of locations, including the White House and House of Representatives.
The Federal Art Project (1935–1943) was a New Deal program to fund the visual arts in the United States. It was one of five Federal Project Number One projects sponsored by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), and the largest of the New Deal art projects. It was created not as a cultural activity but as a relief measure to employ artists and artisans to create murals, easel paintings, sculpture, graphic art, posters, photography, theatre scenic design, and arts and crafts. The Federal Art Project’s primary goals were to employ out-of-work artists and to provide art for non-federal municipal buildings and public spaces. As many as 10,000 artists were commissioned to produce work for the WPA Federal Art Project.
‘Americans employed much the same subject matter – physical energy and the Comman Man’
‘Artists were told that the subject matter had to be related to the ‘American scene’
Examples of WPA murals in the USA
Joe H. Cox, ‘Harvest’, 1940. Mural in the Post Office of Alma, Michigan.
Jerry Bywaters, ‘Soil Conservation in Collin County’, 1941. Mural in the Post Office of Farmersville, Texas.
|– condition||: II|
|– size||: unframed 225 x 175 cm|
|– signed||: right, under|
|– type||: egg-tempera on plywood|
Karl Schlageter, ‘Wandbild in einer Eingangshalle eines industriellen Werkes in Berlin’ (‘Wall-painting in the hall of a industrial facility in Berlin’). Depicted in the Architectural Magazine ‘Baugilde, der Fachgruppe Architekten in der Reichskammer der Bildende Künste‘, 1938.
Karl Schlageter, ‘Feierabend’ (‘After-work’). Wall-painting commisioned by the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (Ministery of Aviation). Depicted in the Architectural Magazine ‘Baugilde, der Fachgruppe Architekten in der Reichskammer der Bildende Künste‘, 1938.
Karl Schlageter, ‘Jagdfreis’ (‘Hunting-frieze’). Gobelin executed by the Gobelin factory of Frau Vinecky in Berlin-Wilmersdorf; commisioned by the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (Ministery of Aviation). Depicted in the Architectural Magazine ‘Baugilde, der Fachgruppe Architekten in der Reichskammer der Bildende Künste‘, 1938, and in ‘Die Kunst für Alle’, 1939/40.
Karl Schlageter, ‘Heimkehr von der Arbeit’ (‘Returning from Work’), signed 1918. Painting published in a unknown German magazine or newspaper in 1918.
Karl Schlageter, ‘Ausblick’ (‘View’). Depicted in ‘Velhagen & Klasings Monatshefte’, 1938 and 1939.
Left: Karl Schlageter, ‘Aprilwetter’ (‘April-weather’). Depicted in the April-folder of ‘Velhagen & Klasings Monatshefte’, 1933.
Right: Karl Schlageter, ‘Frauen auf dem Balkon’ ‘(‘Women at the Balcony’), created 1930. Depicted in a German magazine in 1936.
Left: Karl Schlageter, ‘Der Bergsee’ (‘Mountain-lake’). Depicted on the cover of ‘Jugend’, 1930, folder 30.
Right: Karl Schlageter, ‘Frauen im Walde’ (‘Women in Forest’). Created in 1930.
Left: Karl Schlageter, ‘Arbeitergruppe’ (‘Group of Workers’). Created in 1932, life-size. Depicted in ‘Velhagen & Klasings Monatshefte’, 1935/36.
Right: Karl Schlageter, ‘Mutter und Kind’ (‘Mother and Child’). Created in 1928. Depicted in ‘Velhagen & Klasings Monatshefte’, 1935/36.
Karl Schlageter, ‘Frauen am Fenster’ (‘Women at Window’). Depicted in ‘Die neue deutsche Malerei’, Deutscher Verlag, Berlin, 1941, and in ‘Die Kunst für Alle’, 1939/40.
Left: Karl Schlageter, ‘Obsternte’ (‘Fruit-harvest’). Created in 1924. Depicted in Velhagen & Klasings Monatshefte’, 1935/36.
Karl Schlageter, ‘Näherin’ (‘Seamstress’). Created in 1931, life-size. Depicted in ‘Velhagen & Klasings Monatshefte’, 1935/36.
Left: Karl Schlageter, ‘Drei Frauen’ (‘Three Woman’). Depicted at the cover of the weekly magazine ‘Reclams Universum, Illustrierte Wochenschrift’, 1928.
Right: Karl Schlageter, ‘Badende Mädchen’ (‘Girls Bathing’). Displayed at the Grosse Münchener Kunstausstellung in the Glaspalast, 1928.
Left: Karl Schlageter, ‘Vorfrühling’ (’Early-spring’). Displayed in the Glaspalast 1926, Munich. Depicted in ‘Kunst für alle’, August, 1926 and with the name ‘Drei Frauen’ (‘Three woman’) in ‘Jugend’, 1926, folder 27.
Right: Karl Schlageter, ‘Landschaft mit Figuren’ (’Landscape with Figures’). Displayed at the exhibition ‘Dreissig Münchner Künstler’, 1925, Munich. The exhibition was organised by the painter Ferdinand Staeger. Depicted in ‘Kunst für alle’, August, 1925. Also depicted with the name ‘Südliches Land’ (‘Southern country’) in ‘Jugend’, 1925, folder 50.
Karl Schlageter, ‘Wäscherin’ (‘Washerwoman’), ink. Size 36 x 23 cm. Date of creation unknown.
Below: ‘Frauen am Bergsee’ by Schlageter. Depicted in the ‘Illustrirte Zeitung Leipzig’, 11 January 1934. The text left below the picture reads: ‘bought by the Biel City Museum’ (CH).
A two page special about the painter Karl Schalgeter in the ‘Illustrirte Zeitung Leipzig’, 11 January 1934.
Left page: ‘Selfportrait’, ‘Näherin’ (‘Seamstress’), ‘Alter Mann’ (‘Old Man’) and ‘Berglandschaft’ (‘Mountain Landscape’).
– ‘Frauen am Berg’, bought by the Biel City Museum;
– ‘Stehende Frau’ (‘Standing Woman’), bought by the ‘Bayerischen Staatsgalerie zu München’;
– ‘Arbeitslose’ (‘Unemployed’), bought by the city of Nuremberg.
Left: Karl Schlageter, ‘Sonntagmorgen‘, (‘Sunday morning‘). Displayed at the Grosse Münchener Kunstausstellung in the Glaspalast, 1921.
Right: Karl Schlageter, ‘Helgoland’, displayed at the ‘Münchener Kunstausstellung’, Glaspalast, 1920 (section Münchner Secession). Depicted in ‘Jugend’ 1920, folder 35.
Karl Schlageter, ‘Selbstportrait des Künstlers’ (‘Selfportrait’). Depicted in the ‘Illustrirte Zeitung Leipzig’, 11 January 1934.
Karl Schlageter (1894 – 1990) born in Luzern -his forefathers came from the Schwarzwald- was a painter of portraits and landscapes. He studied at the Industrial School of Arts in Lucerne, and from 1913 onwards at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich under Professor Angelo Jank and Becker-Gundahl. In 1919 and 1923 Schlageter won the Swiss Federal Award, which enabled him to study for extended periods in Holland, Vienna, Rome and Paris. In 1918, Schlageter took for the first time part in the Grosse ‘Münchener Kunstausstellung’ in the Glaspalast (section ‘Münchner Secession’). In 1919 he participated in the ‘LVI Ausstellung der Vereinigung Bildender Künstler Secession Wien‘. Many more exhibitions followed in the Glaspalast (after 1922 under the section ‘Freie Kunstausstellung’), as well as in other German cities.
He became chairman (1928 – 1932) of the Münchener Künstler Bundes ‘Die Juryfreien‘ and was twice awarded the Austrian State Medal (in 1923 and 1926). From 1920 onwards many of his paintings were depicted in ‘Velhagen & Klasings Monatshefte’, ‘Die Kunst für alle’ and in the magazine ‘Jugend’. In 1930 his work ‘Der Bergsee’ was printed on the cover of ‘Jugend’. In January 1934 the ‘Illustrirte Zeitung Leipzig’ published in a special seven of Schlageters works. In 1935/36 ‘Velhagen & Klasings Monatshefte’ published also a special article about Schlageter, in which 7 of his works were depicted. In 1933 Schlageter moved to Berlin; his style -until 1944- changed from romantic to realistic. Housepainters, carpenters, metalworkers, bricklayers and master-and-pupil scenes became subject of his works. The labour worker as a hero, a typical Blud und Boden theme.
Schlageter was commissioned by the German Army, political leaders, banks and industrial companies to create designs for large scale mosaic-works, frescoes and glass-painting works. For the Ministery of Aircraft (the Luftwaffe) he created i.a. the frescos ‘Fruitharvest’, ‘Vesper’, ‘After-work’ and the gobelin ‘Hunting-frieze’. For the Städtische Sparkasse Frankfurt Schlageter created in 1939 a fresco depicting Frankfurt (Frankfurt-Oder) and its role as trading town towards the East in the Middle Ages; the building was destroyed by the Russian army at 23 April 1945.
Despite the fact that many of his frescos were sublime examples of the ‘Blud und Boden’ (‘Blood and Soil’) style, Schlageter was not represented at the GDK (we assume this was because he was not a German citizen). In 1944 he returned to Switserland and settled at Zurich (were he stayed until his death in 1990). In 1950 he created a fresco in a public building (the hall of the Telephon gebäude) in Luzern. In 1953 he exhibited at the Geneva Arts Gallery, in 1958 he displayed his works in the Kunstmuseum Luzern (just like in 1932).
Works of Schlageter can been seen in the Museum of Fine Arts in Bienne, the Museum of Fine Arts in Lucerne, Bavarian State Gallery in Munich, Municipal Gallery in Munich, New Museum in Nuremberg, University Gallery Göttingen, Public Art Collection of the City of Göttingen and in the museums of the City of Zürich and the City of Lucerne.