Thursday, 21 October 2010

Wallpaper Design by Erich Kleinhempel

Illustration: Friedrich Erich Kleinhempel. Wallpaper frieze design, c1898.

The German artist, architect and designer Friedrich Erich Kleinhempel is much better known particularly for his Jugendstil jewellery which still remains popular today. However, as with many designers during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Kleinhempel produced work in a number of other design areas including ceramics, textiles, carpet and wallpaper.

The two wallpaper designs shown here, which are actually friezes rather than full length rolls of wallpaper, were produced at the very end of the nineteenth century and are a good example of how Art Nouveau made an impact across many of the disciplines that went to make up the decorative arts. These particular designs were produced at the height of the creative aspirations of the movement, rather than perhaps that of the fashionable cycle and therefore can be judged as being from the slightly earlier phase of Art Nouveau where the style could appear relatively mild, even clunky in appearance.

It is interesting to note that Erich was not the only Kleinhempel that was known within the decorative arts world of this particular period. His brother Fritz was both an artist and a designer and his sister Gertrud also produced work along the same lines as her brother, although much more involved in the textile area of design and particularly that of art embroidery which she also taught.

Erich Kleinhempel's slightly later work in textile and carpet design, which will be seen in later articles, is much more geometrically, even relatively minimally based than the work shown here. However, to be fair these wallpaper friezes are still relatively early examples of the Jugendstil era and are perhaps a little generalised, being much closer in resemblance to popular French wallpaper work of the period, rather than the much more individualistic approach taken in Kleinhempel's later work.

Illustration: Friedrich Erich Kleinhempel. Wallpaper frieze design, c 1898.

Although relatively unremarkable as far as unique decorative work is concerned these two examples of wallpaper design work does show a fairly substantial shift from the perspective of the dominating power within wallpaper design, that of the British. The supremacy of William Morris and his stylised, but observationally based work has been downplayed, with the result that a new emphasis has been placed on that of decoration for its own sake. Style, whether in motif, colour or pattern can be seen to be of increasing importance and was to prove more so as the Art Nouveau movement progressed.

The dark outlined flower motifs that are placed in the foreground of the two friezes, bare little relationship with their backgrounds. So much so that in the first example the background has in all but name disappeared to be replaced with a dark or stippled filler. This purposeful cancellation of perspective was a deliberate, though orderly affair and documented a fundamental shift in both the decorative and fine arts.

The replacement of the sensibility of Morris and his Arts & Crafts followers, helped to sideline the British dominance within many areas of the decorative arts. The British themselves were confused, even bemused by the phenomenon of Art Nouveau. In some respects this confusion led to the movement being much more of a Continental phenomenon, with Britain being largely excluded, even though that exclusion was largely self-imposed.

It is unknown how many examples of wallpaper design Kleinhempel produced. That he was very much a part of the Art Nouveau fraternity of designers, is to be seen in his work from this relatively early point in the movement, to the unfolding of the German Jugendstil and its aftermath.

Reference Links:
Decorative Art Nouveau Motif of Long-Stemmed Flowers in Brown and Black Giclee Poster Print by Erich Kleinhempel, 18x24
Jugendstil Guertelschlie├Żen / Art Nouveau Buckles: Sammlung Kreuzer / The Kreuzer Collection
Modern Style: Jugendstil/Art Nouveau 1899-1905
Schmuck-Kunst im Jugendstil At Nouveau Jewellery
Art Nouveau Jewellery from Pforzheim (English and German Edition)
Art Nouveau Jewellery
Art Nouveau Jewellery and Metalwork (Pocket Companion Guides - Centuries of Style)
Art Nouveau: Utopia: Reconciling the Irreconcilable (Taschen's 25th Anniversary Special Editions Series)
Art Nouveau
Art Nouveau 1890-1914

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