Monday, August 30, 2010

Peter Drömmer - Revolutionary Take-Offs

 Peter Drömmer, The Card Player [probably Richard Blunck], 1919

Friedrich Peter Drömmer (1889-1968) was a German expressionistic visual artist and designer who is almost completely forgotten today. Drömmer was born in Kiel as son of a carpenter family. He left school early and started a painter apprenticeship which he finished in 1908. Between 1908 and 1912, he studied at Kiel's Art and Crafts School (Städtische Handwerker und Kunstgewerbeschule). Drömmer's artistic talents were spottet by Wilhelm Ahlmann, the doyen of an old Kiel banking family, who financed his academic education at Weimar's prestigious Academy of Art (1912-1913). 

 Peter Drömmer, Masurenschlacht (Battle of Masuria), 1914

Like Karl Peter Röhl, another of Kiel's "revolutionary expressionists", Drömmer studied In Weimar under the famous Austrian painter Albin Egger-Lienz. In 1914, Drömmer returned to Kiel where he worked in a studio at his parent's home. Still in a patriotic mood, it was probably there where he painted Masurenschlacht (above). The painting refers to the First Battle of the  Masurian Lakes between German and Russian troops (there is a brilliant novel by Aleksandr  Solzhenitsyn, August 1914, about this dramatic engagement). Drömmer was drafted in 1915, and served at the Western and Eastern front until 1918. He visualized his war experiences in his Kriegsfurienbilder (war fury paintings). 

 Peter Drömmer, The Rider (Yellow Incarnation), 1918

Under the impression of the Kiel mutiny, Drömmer painted in 1918 The Rider (above), a pathetic glorification of this important revolutionary event (I have previously written about Heinrich Ehmsen, another forgotten painter from Kiel, who produced a series of great paintings depicting the bloody aftermath of the failed German revolution). After the assassination of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht in 1919, Drömmer produced a series of "solidarity paintings", and an utterly expressive self-portray which he labeled The Revolutionary:

 Peter Drömmer, The Revolutionary, 1919

Together with the painters Karl Peter Röhl, Werner Lange, and Adolph Meyer - all of them born in Kiel - Drömmer joined the progressive artist group Expressionistische Arbeitsgemeinschaft Kiel (Expressionistic Working Group Kiel), which had been  founded around 1916 by the writers Richard Blunck and Gerhard Ausleger. The group published the magazine Schöne Rarität which combined texts and graphics, and worked closely together with similar groups in Berlin and Dresden, headed by Georg Tappert and Conrad Felixmüller

 Peter Drömmer, War Memorial, 1921

Highlights of the group's activities in 1919 and 1920 were two exhibitions in the "bourgeois temple of art", Kunsthalle Kiel, with the intention to overcome Kiel's reactionary image as the principal Prussian navy base. The modest exhibition slogan was: Still nobody has put the sun in his buttonhole. There, Drömmer first showed his architectural phantasies, paintings between Gothic cathedral and prismatic abstraction symbolizing the social and cultural utopia of a classless society, and reminescent of similar ideas by Lyonel Feininger (Cathedral of Socialism, 1919), and Wenzel Hablik

Peter Drömmer, City, 1923

Until 1923, Drömmer worked as a freelance artist producing a series of visionary architectural and cityscape works which put him into contact with The Bauhau in Dessau. Between 1923 and 1933, he headed the promotion and corporate design department of the Junkers-Werke, also located in Dessau, and at that time Germany's largest aeroplane manufacturer. Hugo Junkers, the visionary company founder and leader was passionate in his support of The Bauhaus and from that, Junkers and Bauhaus people formed relationships. 

Revolutionary take-off in 1929: Peter Drömmer (right) with Hugo Junkers (3rd from right) in front of the Junkers G38 ("Flying House") after its maiden flight. At the time, the G38 was the world's largest terrestrial airplane. You can see that some of the passenger seats were located inside the wings. Only two of these monsters were built. Luft Hansa employed one of them for its regular services between Berlin and London via Amsterdam until 1939.

Professor Junkers who almost always shunned the spotlight even showed up on December 4, 1926 when Walter Gropius' splendid  Bauhaus Building was formally dedicated and reportedly stayed at the party past midnight. It wasn’t long before the impact of Drömmer was felt and seen by millions aboard Junkers aircraft: He created the stylized Flying Man, the elegant logo of the Junkers factory:

Peter  Drömmer's "Flying Man", Logo of the Junkers Aerospace Company, c. 1925

Responsible for Junker's corporate design, which he developped in close cooperation with The Bauhaus, Drömmer became quite influential at the company. Based upon his autonomous position, and with the support of Hugo Junkers, he was even able to hire some of his leftist friends from Kiel, among them Heinrich Ehmsen and Richard Blunck (who later wrote Hugo Junker's first biography). Hugo Junkers wanted modern, functional design not only for the exterior of his airplanes, but also in the interior appointments. As a result, starting in 1925, Bauhaus designer Marcel Breuer and Drömmer were able to develop their first steel tube furniture, which in a modified form was later installed in Junkers commercial airplanes. You can read more about this here (in German).

Peter Drömmer, Portrait Adolf Dethmann [Director of Junkers-Werke 1931-33], 1921

Almost nothing is known about Drömmer's following years. After Hitler came to power in 1933, he was arrested by the Gestapo, and, since 1935, had to work as a freelance designer (he designed the logo of the Deutz Company at that time). During the Second World War, he moved to Southern Germany, and, shortly after the war, suffered a complete physical and mental breakdown. Friedrich Peter Drömmer died in 1968 in Gräfeling, Bavaria.