‘Florian Strasse’, Krakau (‘Florian Street in Krakow’)
Krakau, the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland. Once the capital of the Nazi ‘General Government’.
Krakau, Capital of the Nazi ‘Generalgouvernement’
Karl Walther was exempt from military services until September 1944. During World War II he was ordered by the Nazi-regime to paint cities within the ‘Generalgouvernement’, the occupied area of the Second Republic of Poland that was under colonial administration of Nazi Germany from 1939 to 1945. The Nazi government designated this territory as a separate administrative region of the Third Reich. It included much of central and southern Poland, and modern-day western Ukraine. In 1942 Walther went to the cities of Marienburg (North Poland), Danzig (North Poland) and Krakau, the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland. Krakau, situated in southern Poland, was also the capital of the Nazi General Government.
In the book ‘Karl Walther, Leben und Werk’ are six other paintings depicting the city of Krakau, all created by Walther in 1942. Walter went back to Krakau in July 1943, and in spring 1944. The painting we are offering must have been created in 1942 -1944.
On 1 September 1944 he had to join the Wehrmacht to fight in northern Italy. Meanwhile, his atelier in Munich at the Alfonsstrasse nr. 11, 4 stock, was hit by an unexploded shell. Walther was taken as a prisoner of war in Rimini in 1945 and was released in the second quarter of 1945.
A label at the back of the painting with the text: ‘Karl Walther, München, Alfonsstrasse 11, IV’ (this was the adress of his studio from 1940 to 1966) and ‘Florian Strasse in Krakau, 74 x 93’.
Reichskammer, the ‘National Chamber of Cuture’
On the sticker on the back of the painting – where Karl Walther’s name is filled in – is written ‘Reichskammer-Mitglieds-Nr’ (Number of membership of the Reichskammer). The ‘Reichskammer der Bildende Kunsten’ was established by law in 1933 at the insistence of Reich Minister Joseph Goebbels and it served as a professional organization for all German creative artists. Its goal was to control all cultural activities in Germany, promoting art created by ‘Aryans’ and seen as consistent with Nazi ideals. Every artist had to apply for membership on presentation of an Aryan certificate. A rejected inscription resulted in a ban from the profession.
In the years after World War II the Americans created in Germany the Information Control Division (ICD), the key structure in the political control of post-war German culture. The ICD was a non-violent – but similarly totalitarian- version of the Reichskulturkammer. With its subdivisions, the ICD neatly replaced the Reich Chamber of Culture. The ICD established through its various sections a system of licensed activity, with screening and vetting by intelligence agents to exclude all politically undesirable artists.
The sticker on the back reads: ‘Karl Walther’, ‘Reichskammer-Mitglieds-Nr.’, ‘Württ. Kunstverein, Kunstgebäude Schlossplatz, Stuttgart-N‘. The Württembergischer Kunstverein (Art Association), founded in 1827, still exists and is housed in the same building, same address.
|– condition||: II|
|– size||: 108 x 89 cm; unframed 92 x 74 cm|
|– signed||: right, under|
|– type||: oil on canvas|
|– misc.||: created in 1942 – 1944|
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BIOGRAPHY: KARL WALTHER
Karl Walther, ‘Krakauer Vorstadt’ (‘Kraków suburb‘, or ’Krakowskie Przedmiescie’), end of July 1944. Size 92 x 65 cm. In the possession of the Museum of Warsaw.
‘Kraków suburb’ is one of the best known and most prestigious streets of Poland’s capital Warsaw, surrounded by historic palaces, churches and manor-houses. The street constitutes the northernmost part of Warsaw’s Royal Route, and links the Old Town and Royal Castle with some of the most notable institutions in Warsaw, including the Presidential Palace, Warsaw University, and the Polish Academy of Sciences headquartered in the Staszic Palace. The urban landscape represents a completely ordinary scene -two red trams travel along the street, and passersby are visible on the sidewalk, including two German soldiers. The mood of calm, normal life does not foretell the dramatic events that were soon to take place in Warsaw. This is probably one of the last views painted in Warsaw before the outbreak of the Uprising.
Karl Walther, ‘Visitenkirche in Warschau‘. Displayed at the exhibition ‘Kunstausstellung des Generalgouvernements, -Deutsche Künstler sehen das Generalgouvernement‘, Krakau, 1942; depicted in the exhibition catalog. At this exhibition Karl Walther won the Second Prize of the ‘Veit-Stoss-Akademie der Bildende Künste in Krakau‘, granted by the Generalgouveneur Reichsminister Dr. Frank, for ‘hervorragende Leistungen deutscher Künstler im Generalgouvernement‘.
Left: Karl Walther, ‘Platz beim Zeughaus Berlin’, (‘Near the Zeughaus in Berlin’, location Unter den Linden). GDK 1940, room 5. Bought by Hitler for 2.500 Reichsmark.
Right: Karl Walther, ‘Kaufingerstrasse in München’, (‘Kaufingerstreet in Munich’). GDK 1941, room 5. Bought by Hitler for 4.000 Reichsmark.
Karl Walther, ‘Isar Tor‘. This work, depicting the Isar Tor (‘Isar Tower’) in Munich, was displayed at the GDK 1943, room 32.
Karl Walther working on the ‘Isar Tor‘.
The pictures are from the film ‘Art in the Third Reich’, part III (at 3.05)
Left: Karl Walther, ´Naumburger Dom´. GDK 1939, room 33. The painting, bought by Adolf Hitler, hung for several years in the New Reich Chancellery. Sold by a German auktion house in 2013.
Right: Karl Walther, ‘Die Alte Mainbrücke’, Würzburg (‘The Old Main-bridge’), created in 1944. In the possession of the ‘Museum im Kulturspeicher’, Würzburg.
Left: Karl Walther, ‘Der Kürschnerhof’, Würzburg, created in 1944. In the possession of the ‘Museum im Kulturspeicher’, Würzburg.
Right: Karl Walther, ‘Der obere Markt mit Falkenhaus und Marienkapelle’, Würzburg, created in 1944. im Jahr 1944, gemalt von Karl Walther. In the possession of the ‘Museum im Kulturspeicher’, Würzburg.
Left: Karl Walther, München, ‘Karlstor’.
Right: Karl Walther, München 1943, ‘Viktualienmarkt’.
Karl Walther’, ‘Portrait of a Man’ (or ‘Woldemar Sacks’). Depicted in ‘The Pittsburg Press’ (Pennsylvania), 18 October 1931. Displayed at the International Exhibition of the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, 1931. Also depicted in ‘Karl Walther, Werk und Werden eines Impressionisten’, 1948, and in ‘Karl Walther, Leben und Werk’, 1995.
Karl Walther, ‘Alte Mainbrücke mit Nadelwehr’ (‘The Old Main-bridge with Needl Weir’). Size 146 x 115 cm. With other paintings by Walther -depicting Würzburg- in the possession of the Museum im Kulturspeicher, ‘Würzburg.
Left: Karl Walther, Berlin, ‘Der Mühlendamm zu Berlin’, 1932.
Right: Karl Walther, ‘Alt Berlin’, 1938. In possession of the Museum der Bildende Künste, Leipzig.
Left: Karl Walther, ‘Waldstrasse in Leipzig’, GDK 1937, room 12.
Right: Karl Walther, ‘Thomaskirche in Leipzig‘ (‘St. Thomas Church in Leipzig‘). GDK 1938, room 32. Bought by Hitler for 3.500 RM. Depicted in ‘Die Kunst für alle’, 1942.
Karl Walther, ‘Würzburg, -Mariënbrücke mit Föhnwolke’ (‘Würzburg, -Mariënbridge with Föhn-clouds’), created in 1930.
Left: Karl Walther, ‘Brotbrückengasse in Danzig’. Depicted in ‘Das Bild’, 1942.
Right: Karl Walther, ‘Sendliger Tor in München’ (‘Sendliger-portal in Munich’). GDK 1943, room 5. Bought by Hitler for 4.750 Reichsmark. Depicted in ‘Die Kunst’, August, 1943.
Karl Walther, ‘Residenz und Feldherrnhalle’. Size 130 x 97 cm. Displayed at the exhibition ‘Münchener Stadt – Münchener Leben’, organized by ‘das Kulturamt der Haupstadt der Bewegung’, Städtische Galerie München, 1941. Depicted in ‘Münchener Mosaik, Kulturelle Monatsschrift der Haupstadt der Bewegung’, 1941. Also depicted in ‘Karl Walther 1905 – 1981, Leben und Werk’, 1995.
Karl Walther, painter of beatiful German cities before their destruction
Karl Walther (1905 -1981), born in Zeitz (Saxony), was a painter of the late-impressionist style. Following a lithographer apprenticeship, Walther studied music (1920) and then painting (1925) at the Academy of Visual Arts Leipzig with Heinz Dörffel and Fritz Ernst Rentsch. In Leutzsch (Leipzig) Walther had his first studio. Walther had his first solo exhibition in September 1926 at the gallery of Heinrich Barchfeld in Leipzig, followed by an exhibition at the gallery of Victor Hartberg in Berlin in the same year, and at the Berlin Secession in 1928. In 1932 he received the Albrecht Dürer price. International exhibitions followed in the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh in 1931, 1935 and at the XXI Venice Biennale in 1938. Painting stays abroad led him to Lake Lugano, Florence, Tuscany, Paris and Amsterdam. In 1940 Walther moved from Leipzig to Munich and in 1943 to Seeshaupt at the Lake Starnberg.
His works included portraits, still life, city views and landscapes but the majority of his paintings were architectural views and old cities. Many of his paintings show beautiful German cities before they were destroyed in the Second World War. He returned to every place he painted two or three times in order to assess the right incidence of light. He did not paint the cities in an ideal form, or in a timeless state, or in detail. He pictured them realistically, as if they were pure and always without a political coloration.
In 1937 and in 1938 Walther was represented at the exhibition ‘Kunstausstellung Hilfswerk für Deutsche Bildende Künst in der NS-Volkswohlfahrt’. In 1942 Walther displayed three works at the exhibition ‘Kunstausstellung des Generalgouvernements, -Deutsche Künstler sehen das Generalgouvernement‘, Krakau, 1942. At this exhibition he won the Second Prize of the ‘Veit-Stoss-Akademie der Bildende Künste in Krakau‘, granted by the Generalgouveneur Reichsminister Dr. Frank, for ‘hervorragende Leistungen deutscher Künstler im Generalgouvernement‘.
Twenty-eight of his paintings hung in the Great German Art Exhibitions. Hitler bought 7 of them. Other buyers were also Adolf Wagner, Martin Bormann and other Gauleiters and nazi-instutitions.
Karl Walthers talent and his success during the Great German Art Exhibitions, preserved him for a long time from the conscription to the Wehrmacht. Until mid-1944, after having completed a number of Würzburg-views at the invitation of Prof. Heinrich Dikreiter (Founder of the Municipal Gallery of Würzburg), Walther was exempted from military service. Finally, on September 1, 1944, Walther was called up to military service and served in Northern Italy, where he fell into British captivity.
After WWII Walther created many pictures of the destroyed city of Munich. In the summer of 1947, his paintings were exhibited at the Würzburg city hall, in 1950, Walther again participated in the International Carnegie Exhibition in Pittsburgh. He was a member and vice president of the Munich Artists’ Association for a long time and participated in their annual exhibitions. In 1976, he created his last paintings in Berlin.
Karl walther died in 1981 in Seeshaupt.
Nowadays paintings of Karl Walther are displayed in galleries and museums in Bayreuth, Chemnitz, Köln (15), Leipzig, Mannheim, München, Nürnberg, Stettin, Stuttgart and Würzburg (Museum im Kulturspeicherr). The German Historical Museum in Berlin is in the possession of ‘Platz beim Zeughaus Berlin’ and ‘Kaufingerstrasse in München’. The Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen owns ‘Allee im Spätsommer’ and ‘Waldweg’.
In March 2013 a painting by Karl Walther depicting the Naumburg Cathedral was sold for 23.000 Euro at a German Auction. This work was bought by Hitler for 3.500 Reichsmark at the Great German Art Exhibition in 1939; it hung in the Reich Chancellery for several years.