Friday, 10 January 2014

"Look, Mutter, I can spit blood in the snow!” - Heinrich Zille and Berlin

10 January 1858, the illustrator, photographer and painter Heinrich Zille was born in Radeburg.

"Man kann mit einer Wohnung einen Menschen genauso gut töten wie mit einer Axt“ (“You can kill a human being with a flat as good as with an axe“, Heinrich Zille)


A 1904 caricature from Zille, the caption reads: “Vater wird sich frei'n, wenn er aus't Zuchthaus kommt. Det wir schon so ville sind!“ (Father will be happy when he comes out of prison. We became so many so fast“)


Conditions for most were bad in the sprawling metropolises all over the world and Berlin, with her two million Berliners, up to 90% of them living below the poverty line, ranked with the worst of them. The “Belle Epoque” wasn’t always très belle for everyone. Zille became the chronicler of the slums and backyards and the “Mietskasernen”, the barracks of Berlin. "His special talent was the scathingly humorous portrayal of what were in reality quite unfunny life conditions of handicapped beggars, tuberculous prostitutes, menial labourers, and especially their children, making the best they could of life and resolutely refusing to give up." (Wikipedia), in short: Zille spanks misery's backside, as Adorno put it.


A courtyard in Berlin's Scheunenviertel (1919)


“Look, Mutter, I can spit blood in the snow!” is probably among the most cynical captions a cartoon with a little girl suffering from tuberculosis can show to castigate social conditions – and it was, beyond doubt, taken from the life. But that was Zille, a master of reproducing the local wit and dialect beyond that, when he was not creating modernist art, among the avant-garde of the Berlin Secession, “beinah ein Schenie”, almost a genius, as Kurt Tucholsky put it, the “third Zille” who was “neither a joke sheet humourist nor a satirist. He was then, utterly, an artist. A few lines, a few dashes, a bit of colour, sometimes – and they were masterpieces” (Käthe Kollwitz). And there are very few artists, painters, illustrators, photographers and writers who could paint the picture of an epoch’s grievances with authenticity, a wonderful sense of grim and often conciliatory humour, depicting all that’s human, all too human, in and beyond the grievance.


And more on:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heinrich_Zille