Sunday, July 11, 2010

Niklaus Stoecklin

 Niklaus Stoecklin, Self-Portrait, 1918

The son of a middle-class Swiss merchant, Niklaus Stoecklin (1896-1982) grew up in his native Basel, developing a propensity for art at home. From his grandfather, an entomologist and illustrator of scientific publications, he inherited a passion for observation and the analytical transposition of flora and fauna into drawing. From April to August 1914 he studied applied art in Munich. When the war broke out, he returned to Basel, where he began to attend the Academy of Fine Arts; he staged his first solo show of paintings and graphic works in 1915. 

 Niklaus Stoecklin, Wig Stand Mannequin with Pear-Shaped Money-Box, 1929

The period from 1917 to 1919 was one of training and experimentation. Stoecklin became intrigued by the late Gothic masters - particularly Konrad Witz - and worked in close contact with the Expressionists Albert Müller and Ignaz Epper, drawing inspiration from their works. In 1918 he was one of the promoters of  Das Neue Leben (The New Life), a Basel art group, participated in its discussions about Cubism and Futurism, and became fascinated with Robert Delaunay’s Orphism. 

 Niklaus Stoecklin, Nelly or Street Girl, 1918

At the same time, Stoecklin earned a living by designing posters for the Wasserman graphics company, working for them regularly for about ten years. He began to be successful during this period: in 1917 the collector Georg Reinhart purchased his painting Casa rossa. The following year this very work was published in Das Kunstblatt, the journal that, in the early 1920s, would host the first extensive critical discussions of the emerging trend towards figurative art, a movement that would be dubbed Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity). 

 Niklaus Stoecklin, Still Life with Burning Candle, Matchbox and Dead Moth, 1950

Stoecklin made his international debut in 1925: he was the only non-German artist to be represented at the ground-breaking Neue Sachlichkeit exhibition in Mannheim, where he presented the sizeable number of six paintings. In his essay Magic Realism: Post-Expressionism, published that year, Franz Roh included him in a list of exponents of post-Expressionist trends. In the second half of the 1920s Stoecklin travelled frequently and these journeys were a source of inspiration for several series of paintings and drawings. Between 1927 and 1930 Stoecklin stayed in Paris a number of times where he painted the following portrait of the dancer Tatjana Barbakoff (see my post about Gert Wollheim): 

 Niklaus Stoecklin, Tatjana Barbakoff, 1929

The Kunstmuseum in Winterthur and the Kunsthalle in Basel devoted extensive monographic exhibitions to him, respectively in 1927 and 1928. In the mid-1930s, several public institutions and important companies in Basel, such as Hoffmann-La Roche, commissioned him to design and execute murals. In the 1940s and 1950s he worked almost exclusively on book illustrations and advertising graphics, and as a professor at the Schule für Gestaltung in Basel he trained an entire generation of graphic artists. Starting in the 1970s, Stoecklin’s works were presented at international exhibitions devoted to the Neue Sachlichkeit movement. You can see more of his works in my Flickr set.

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