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In the Beginning - Childhood drawings by eminent artists
In the Beginning - Childhood drawings by eminent artists
In the Beginning - Childhood drawings by eminent artists
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In the Beginning - Childhood drawings by eminent artists

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This study takes up the lost thread and continues it – to the present. I asked artists who are crucial in shaping today’s art world with their works for drawings from their childhood and adolescence in order to get to the roots, the origin, and the conditions of their work; in other words, to those conditions under which a talent starts out, evolves, and builds its initial foundations. What happens there is precious and well worth our attention. It is no less than the attempt to find the “building blocks of creativity”.
Erscheinungsdatum26. Aug. 2021
In the Beginning - Childhood drawings by eminent artists
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    In the Beginning - Childhood drawings by eminent artists - Gerd Presler

    In the beginning

    Childhood drawings by eminent artists

    Gerd Presler


    In the beginning – Childhood Drawings by Eminent Artists

    Publisher: Prof. Dr. Dr. Gerd Presler (

    Gerd Presler in Dangast, 2014 (Foto: privat)

    Author of the sketchbook work directories E. L. Kirchner, E. Munch, M. Beckmann (with Dr. C. Zeiller), A. Jorn, W. Baumeister (with F. Baumeister), W. Stöhrer, L. Meidner (with E. Riedel), K. Hofer.

    Design and Typesetting: Neues Sortiment – Atelier für Kunst und Kommunikation. Dagmar Geiger, Kevin Wells GbR, Karlsruhe

    © 2021 Copyright for texts by the publisher

    The images were kindly provided by the museums and archives mentioned in the captions and by the photographers accredited to them. Locations and image rights could not be determined in all cases.

    Thanks for hints and suggestions:

    Tim Ackermann, Troels Andersen, Mayen Beckmann, Andreas Beitin, Jonathan Bober, Debra Burchett-Lere, Daniel Clarke, Birgit Dalbajewa, Markus Eisenbeis, Simon Elson, Christian Fröhlich, Christian Ganzenberg, Lucas Haberkorn, Peter Hank, Alexandra und Marc Henze-Triebold, Martin Hörnes, Annelie Hopf, Frank Hutter, Hanns Christian Kaiser, Jane Kallir, Robert Ketterer, Rajka Knipper, Eva König, Stefan Koldehoff, Eberhard W. Kornfeld, Felix Krämer, Joachim Lissmann, Simona Martinoli, Karin von Maur, Laura Morris, Jutta Moster-Hoos, Werner Murrer, Rainer Noeres, Doris Presler, Kristin Rieber, Andrew Cliffer Robison, Eberhard Schmidt, Wilfried Seeba, Ulrich J. Sekinger, Gabrielle Selz, Rainer Stamm, Christine Stauffer, Christian Strenger, Dirk Teuber, Jakob Thage, Raimund Thomas, Sandra Uhrig, Heike van den Valentyn, Kirsten C. Voigt, Bettina Weiand, Lisa Zeitz

    This e-book, including its parts, is copyrighted and may not be reproduced, resold, or redistributed without permission of the author.

    © 2021 Copyright Fotos Dine, Jim; Fetting, Rainer; Giebe, Hubertus; Grosse, Barbara; Grosse, Katharina; Hopf, Judith; Iseli, Rolf; Mack, Heinz; Radziwill, Franz: VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021

    © 2021 Copyright Fotos Francis, Sam: Sam Francis Foundation, California / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021

    © 2021 Copyright Fotos Gertsch, Franz: Franz Gertsch

    © 2021 Copyright Fotos Giacometti, Alberto: Succession Giacometti / Pro Litteris, Zürich / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021

    © 2021 Copyright Fotos Jorn, Asger: Donation Jorn, Silkeborg / Visda

    © 2021 Copyright Fotos Kiefer, Anselm: Anselm Kiefer

    © 2021 Copyright Fotos Kirkeby, Per: Per Kirkeby estate

    © 2021 Copyright Fotos Lassnig, Maria: Maria Lassnig Foundation / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021

    © 2021 Copyright Fotos Mitchell, Joan: Joan Mitchell Foundation

    © 2021 Copyright Fotos Scully, Sean: Sean Scully

    ISBN: 978-3-96931-799-0

    Verlag GD Publishing Ltd. & Co KG, Berlin

    E-Book Distribution: XinXii


    Table of Contents


    Author’s preface

    Judith Hopf (b. 1969)

    Katharina Grosse (b. 1961)

    Hubertus Giebe (b. 1953)

    Rainer Fetting (b. 1949)

    Anselm Kiefer (b. 1945)

    Sean Scully (b. 1945)

    Per Kirkeby (1938 – 2018)

    Barbara Grosse (b. 1938)

    Rolf Iseli (b. 1934)

    Franz Gertsch (b. 1930)

    Heinz Mack (b. 1931)

    Jim Dine (b. 1931)

    Joan Mitchell (1925 – 1992)

    Sam Francis (1923 – 1994)

    Maria Lassnig (1919 – 2014)

    Asger Jorn (1914 – 1973)

    Alberto Giacometti (1901 – 1966)

    Franz Radziwill (1895 – 1983)

    Georg Scholz (1890 – 1945)

    Max Beckmann (1884 – 1950)

    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880 – 1938)

    Paul Klee (1879 – 1940)

    Edvard Munch (1863 – 1944)

    Author’s epilogue

    Author’s preface

    In the beginning – Childhood Drawings by Eminent Artists

    For my five grandchildren – Emilia, Clara, Sophia, Jakob, and Georg – from whom I have learned a lot.

    Georg Presler, Umbrella, 4 years old, private photo from family

    For a long time no one took an interest in a child’s development during the early years of his or her life. No one paid any attention to when she grabbed a pencil for the first time and started scribbling; which colours she recognized; when she was able to distinguish graphic shapes – a triangle, a square, a circle. Childhood was not a time of its own; rather, it was marked by a big not yet: the child was regarded as a not yet grown-up. The notion of childhood as a process of its own with many different stages and phases was unknown. It was unknown that childhood was a time where foundations were laid that would affect a person’s entire future life. There was no systematic concept which would have been able to grasp and meaningfully organize the process of a human being’s gradual awakening deep inside. Hence there was also no knowledge of how shortfalls during this period of life constitute a lasting deficit and consequently a lifelong burden. Similarly and conversely: there existed no knowledge of how happy, reliably secure experiences, attention, and encouragement during this phase of life create a fundamental sense of trust and stabilize all areas of life. This was researched around 1950 by Erik Homburger Erikson, who developed the concept of basic trust. Previously, however, it was not known that a child who has inner structures of acceptance and affirmation possesses an asset with which his biography can grow and even mushroom.

    Interest in these kinds of questions arose late. It was not until Corrado Ricci published his book Children’s Art (L’arte dei bambini, 1887; English translation prepared by the Cleveland Museum of Art, 1941), Alfred Lichtwark opened the exhibition The Child as Artist at Hamburger Kunsthalle in 1896, Ellen Key proclaimed the Century of the Child, and Maria Montessori published research in the basics of neuropsychiatry that a change in the attention to and focus on this phase of life occurred. Slowly a viable terminology was created and a concept was developed of what happens in the life of a child when trillions of synapses – a term introduced by Charles Scott Sherrington in 1897 – connect neurons. This brought to light the importance of fostering a person’s creative talent – its importance for all areas of life and thus also for the one in which a person makes the world her world by way of colours, lines, and surfaces. A child starts scribbling even during the first year of life. What is happening here? What does this mean?

    It was in the context of these kinds of questions and answers that Gustav Friedrich Hartlaub wrote his book Der Genius im Kinde: Versuch über die zeichnerische Anlage im Kinde (The Genius in Children: Attempt on Children’s Talent for Drawing; 1st edition, 1921; 2nd, revised and expanded edition, 1930). The art historian was wondering whether there was an original seed within the child which, if tended to, would keep developing. Then he started looking, asked if and where in the childhood and adolescent drawings of great artists this spark of what was to come lit up. Was there artistic talent that was already presaged in a person’s early drawings and watercolours? Did the childhood and adolescent drawings of great artists reveal those contours that indicated what lay ahead?

    Frontispiece from G. F. Hartlaub, Der Genius im Kinde, Breslau 1930

    Gustav Friedrich Hartlaub investigated these questions. For the first time. He planned an exhibition for the summer of 1928. To prepare it, he put together a questionnaire titled Our Artists’ Childhood, which he sent to the leading creative artists of his day in France and Italy, Belgium, and the Netherlands, Scandinavia and Germany, Switzerland, and Russia: to more than one hundred people, including such outstanding international luminaries as Henri Rousseau, Paul Gauguin, Edvard Munch, Pablo Picasso, and two women: Nell Walden and Sonja Delaunay.

    The first questions were: 1. Do you still have material of drawings from your childhood and adolescence (up to about age 19)? 2. Could you provide us with pertinent information on the different childhood works, especially on the approximate age when they were created?

    Many artists responded and returned the completed sheets: Ernst Barlach, Willi Baumeister, Max Beckmann, Marc Chagall, Otto Dix, Conrad Felixmüller, Erich Heckel, Karl Hofer, Alexander Kanoldt, Paul Klee, Alfred Kubin, László Moholy-Nagy, Emil Nolde, Franz Radziwill, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Oskar Schlemmer, Rudolf Schlichter, Wilhelm Schnarrenberger, Georg Scholz, Georg

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