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Louis Christian Hess (Bolzano 1895 – Schwaz 1944)
1895 - Born in Bolzano on December 24th, Alois Anton Dominikus Hess, son of the chancellery officer Dominikus Hess, originally from Herlatzhofen (Württemberg), Germany, and of Rosa Mayer, originally from Austria. He would have preferred to be called Louis Christian Hess, or more simply, Christian Hess.?
1908 - After the transfer of his family to Innsbruck and his father’s death, he leaves the gymnasium for the Staatsgewerbeschule (the state institute of art) where he distinguished himself in drawing. The earliest engravings in wood and linoleum for a series of ex libris printed by himself.
1912 - He gains experience at the "Mader" art glass factory in Innsbruck and at the Kuntner ceramic laboratory in Brunico.
1915 - He exhibits his earliest works (drawings, engravings, aquarelles, etchings) at the “Turn un Taxishof Galerie” of Innsbruck.
1916 - Called up for military service, he serves with “Bayerischen Pionier Kompanie n. 3” (Engineer Corps) on the Belgian front and in Flanders. He finds the opportunity to visit the museums and churches of the occupied cities. He collects impressions for his future works. He draws posters and post-cards for the army.
1919 - He enters the “B. Akademie der Bildenden Künste” in Munich in the class under prof. Carl Johan Becker-Gundhal and he stays there until the end of the academic year.
1920 - First collective exhibition “Ausstellung Junger Münchner - Graphische Kunstwerkastätten” (Briennerstr. 55, Munich) presented in a catalogue by George Jacob Wolf. The critic writes: “The landscape aquarelles of Christian Hess, in spite of his youth, could have figured well at the exhibition of the New Secession. A serene and warm feeling for nature appears in his works and an uncommonly developed sense of colour. Especially noteworthy are the delicate motive “The sun spots” and the acute, incisive effect achieved in “Winter on the river Inn.”
1921 - Collective exhibition “Ausstellung Junger Münchner” at the Gemälde Galerie Sct. Martinus of Munich (Odeonspaltz 17) together with Florian Bosch, Adolf Hartmann, Sigfried Kühnel, George Liebhardt, Josef Nickl, Eugen Siegler, Bernhard Therhost and the sculptors Lothar Dietz and Benno Miller. Thanks to a scholarship, he makes trips through Scandinavia. Earliest works of northern sights at Gothenberg, Malmoe and Stockholm. A meeting with Anatole France.
1922 - Trip to Innsbruck, Bolzano, Brunico, Salisburg and Vienna.
1923 - He opens his first studio in Munich at Theresienstrasse 75.?At Vienna Staatsmuseum, on commission from a group of art collectors, he reproduces some masterpieces by Titian, Veronese, Velasquez, Van der Bruel and other old masters. Period of great interest in classical music, opera and scenography.
1924 - His academic studies completed, he returns to Vienna and paints several portraits, including some of the singer Erna Ludwig of the Wiener Deutschen Theater.
1925 - He visits Florence and Tuscany. He reproduces works at Palazzo Pitti and at the Museo degli Uffizi. For the first time he goes to Sicily, to Messina, where his sister Emma lives. He is attracted by the colours and the Mediterranean landscape which will remain the leitmotiv of his future works.
1926 - Sojourns in Bolzano and Innsbruck. He returns to Munich to attend the "Ausstellung Tiroles Künstler" exhibition featuring work by Tyrolean and Austrian artists. He produces a series of 60 Sicilian etchings which are printed in Munich. A journey through Switzerland. In the autumn, second trip to Italy; a different itinerary (Verona, Bologna, Florence, Pisa, Rome, Naples, Capri, Ischia) which ends again in Sicily. Here he can reflect upon all the masterpieces he has seen in Italian museums and can ripen new experiences. In October, exhibition at the Paulus Galerie in Munich where he shows his first exhibition of sculptures.
1927 - Year of intense and frenetic work in Sicily to prepare a series of works featuring new colours for exhibition in Germany.
1928 - He meets Max Beckman with whom he will remain a close friend. American art lovers buy his aquarelles of Sicilian images. At Wismar (Meeklenburg) he paints a Sicilian-inspired fresco at the villa of the industrialist Mayer. He attends the "Sommer Ausstellung des Deutschen Künstler Verbandes AUFBAU - E. V." in Munich. Some of the pictures are presented in Berlin at the imperial Castle in a show organized by the Secretary of State Schultz. Trip to Berlin and Dresden. Exhibition in Braunschweig and in Munich (Glaspalast). New trip to Sicily, Palermo and Agrigento.
1929 - He adheres to the “Juryfreie”(Without Jury) movement. Later exhibitions of the movement attracted visits from Picasso, Klee, Max Ernst, Willi Baumeister, Severini and Miro among others. Exhibition in Munich at the Glaspalast, Prinzregentstrasse 1. Period of nudes and triptychs. The critic Wilhelm Hausenstein in “Aus meinern Kunstnotizbuch” (July 1929) writes: “The Juryfreie has already shown itself as a promising artistic group... In the meantime, I note Christian Hess, Josef Scharl, Fritz Buchardt, Grassmann, Panizza and as sculptors Spengler and Zeh”. Art magazines reproduce works by Christian Hess. The Leipzig-based “Cicerone” publishes the picture “Am Strand” (On the Beach); in Munich “Jugend", the official organ of the "Jungestil" cultural movement, reproduces a drawing of the Tuscan countryside. Exhibition at the Paulus Galerie in Munich with the new “Generation” union which - according to art critics - gives new lifeblood to previous movements of the Secession. Exhibition in Munich “Zeitgemässe portraits”. “A Maternity" is touching for its delicate chromatic harmonies and its true and convincing expression” (Munchner Augsburger Abendzeitung - November 12th). He prepares the cartoons for the frescoes in the saloons of the steamship “Europe”. The “Jugend” review (April) publishes on its cover “A fisherman with red jacket” part of a triptych shown at the exhibition of the Secession. Exhibitions in the Rhine valley and the Ruhr.
1930 - In the “Zweijahrbuch” catalogue 1929-30 presented by Hans Eckstein, with essays by Franz Rho, Oskar Maria Graf and Wolfang Petzet, Hess’ paintings of “Neptun” and “Matrosen” (Sailors), both produced in Messina, are included. He paints frescoes for the spa at Oeynhausen (Westfalia) and on the invitation of the Gymnasium holds a conference on the history and techniques of the fresco. Other frescoes at Obermenzing, in Munich. The cover of the Munich-based magazine “Jugend” features “Am Wasser”, the central part of a triptych shown at the Secession Exhibition (June). Exhibitions in Berlin, Dresden, Switzerland and again in Munich. The landscapes and the colours of the South emerge. From a review of the spring exhibition at Prinzregen-strasse in Munich: “From the approach of the exhibitors we can draw clarifying comparisons. Hess is present with landscapes and a “fish seller”. He demonstrates that he is able to render the multiplicity of nature in simple, strongly picturesque forms. His concentration has a beneficial effect in comparison to the difficult , over-intellectual approach of the other painters”. Twelve of his works at the regional exhibition of Braunschweig. The painting “Scheferde” (a flock of sheep in a Sicilian landscape) is bought in Zurich for 1.000 DM. In Zurich he meets his future wife, Cecilia Faesy, whom he asks to take care of the sale of his works in Switzerland. New trip to Sicily.
1931 – The "Juryfreie" artists are kept under close observation by the Brownshirts. In early March, at a meeting of the “Kampfbundes für deutsche Kultur” the protesters Christian Hess, Adolf Hartmann, Wolf Panizza e Günther Grassmann are thrown out. Panizza and Grassmann are savagely beaten. In the fire at the Glaspalast in Munich (June 6th) the paintings of Hess and others are destroyed. For the “Juryfreie” artists who have lost their works, a special exhibition is prepared at the Deutsches Museum in Munich. Trip to Rome where he visits galleries and museums. He falls ill and is treated by friends from the German Academy at Villa Massimo, among whom is Karl Hofer. Having returned to Germany, he starts a Munich-based movement grouping together painters, sculptors and architects with the aim of improving mutual cooperation. In the same exhibition: “Bildhauer-Maler-Architects”, Hess presents the cartoons of the frescoes for a “Ton-film Theater” in Breslavia. The project, proposed by the movement and supported by the Münchner Abend Ausgabe/Anzeiger (September 15th) and by the Münchner Zeitung (September 17th) will finally be realised much later.
1932 - Juryfreie Exhibition. Hess is present with the painting “Wartesaal III klasse in Bologna” (Mondpreis London - Opus 30). Exhibition at the Lenbach Gallery in Munich (sculptures) and Dusseldorf. A travelling exhibition of the Deutscher Künstlerbund: Berlin - Nuremberg - Koenigsberg - Danzig - Rostock. Exhibition in Nuremberg “Münchner Kunstlerpersönhlichkeiten”. “The expectations for the future - he writes to his sister - are not rosy anymore, neither politically nor economically”.
1933 – He moves to Sicily, after authorities threaten to ban the “Juryfreie” movement as a "Bolshevist Cultural Union". In Germany he would only have been able to paint in secret. In Sicily he rediscovers freedom of expression. Rich period of works, all inspired by the landscapes and the life of the island.
1934 - He marries Cecilia Faesy, who joins him in Messina. They then return to Switzerland.
1935 – In this period Germans are not popular in Switzerland. Hess’ activity is limited. He busies himself with theatrical work: directing and designing. He carves a series of characters heads for the puppet theatre. Through friends he is able to sell some unsigned paintings.
1936 – With his wife he returns once more to Sicily. They bring furniture and paintings they manage to salvage in Germany. Within a few months he remains alone; his marriage is floundering and his wife goes back to Switzerland. Through his friends he is kept informed of the deteriorating political situation in Germany and Austria.
1937 - He studies new techniques, but he is not able to produce with his usual rhythm. A deep spiritual crisis brings him to the verge of suicide, but comforted by his sister, he takes heart again.
1938 - He goes back to Switzerland where he stays at Liestal as a guest of Jürg Spiller. He secretly teaches painting. His wife, from whom he will soon divorce, still sells paintings in Zurich on his behalf. He is refused residence in Switzerland. He again leaves for Germany and finds artistic and cultural life under the control of the government.
1939 - He finds his old friend Franz Gebhardt, in whose house on the Chiemsee he finds the time and tranquillity to paint and produce sculptures. The sculptures will have to be cast at the Kirchner workshop. At Oberwössen in Bavaria, he paints frescoes on the walls of a restaurant which belongs to the widow of the sculptor Oskar Zeh, who had committed suicide in Munich some years before.
1940 - In Munich he is stopped by the military police and forcibly conscripted. On account of his precarious health, he is assigned to work for the Post Office?1941 - He falls seriously ill and is admitted to Schwabing Hospital. When discharged, he is readmitted to the “Reichskunstcammer” but he must first prove his Aryan origins, with papers obtained by going to Württemberg. On his return his illness worsens and he is treated at in the sanatorium in Planneg. After being discharged he goes to relatives in Innsbruck and Axams. In the meantime, production at the silk factories in Krefeld for which Hess made fabric designs is suspended. He loses his monthly allowance of 300 marks. He goes to Grinzenz and afterwards to Zirl to paint some frescoes in the town hall.
1942 - He moves to Innsbruck. The artists union of Tyrol (Der Landsleiter der Reichskammer der bildenden künste beim landeskulturwalter Gau Tirol Vorarlberg) gives him a studio in Adamgasse 8, and afterwards at Universitatstrasse 6.?1944 - November 26th. He dies in Schwaz Hospital following an air raid on Innsbruck. He is buried in Westfriedhof, the West cemetery of Innsbruck.
Submitted by Giuseppe Ardizzone, grand nephew of the artist and President of the Culture Association focused on the Louis Christian Hess.
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