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 Maria Innocentia (Sister) Hummel  (1909 - 1946)

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Lived/Active: Germany      Known for: Children, human genre painting (basis for Hummel Figurines)

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Sister Maria Innocentia Hummel, O.S.F., (May 21, 1909 - November 6, 1946)

She was a famous German Franciscan Sister and artist.  She is noted for the artwork which became the very popular Hummel figurines.

Born in Massing in Bavaria, Germany, as Berta Hummel, one of the seven children of Adolf and Victoria Hummel, she was raised in a warm, loving and strongly devout family, living above her father's dry goods store.  Already as a child Berta showed creative talent, and developed a reputation in the village as the local artist.  Yet she was a cheerful, active girl, who loved the outdoors and the winter sports so common in the Alps.  Her father encouraged her artistic talents and, at age 12, enrolled her in a boarding school of the Sisters of Loreto in Simbach am Inn, about 20 miles away.  Berta continued to grow in her abilities, and after graduation in 1927 she enrolled in the prestigious Academy of Applied Arts in Munich, where her talent and skills developed.
 
Hummel was still a devout Catholic and instead of the standard student housing, she chose to live in a Catholic residence run by Religious Sisters.  While living there, she made friends with two members of the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Siessen (Sießen) in Bad Saulgau who were also studying at the Academy.  The Congregation was a large one, focused on teaching and which gave great emphasis to the role of art in education.  After Berta graduated in 1931 with top honors, she chose to follow a religious calling that she had felt for some time and applied to enter that Congregation, and entered in April 1931 as a postulant.  Berta made one final visit to her family home in late May, spending two weeks with them.  On 22 August, she was admitted as a novice and received the religious habit of the Congregation and the name Maria Innocentia.

After completing her novitiate year, Hummel was assigned to teach art in a nearby school run by the convent.  Though her days were busy teaching, Hummel spent her spare time painting pictures of children . The Sisters were impressed with her art and sent copies to Emil Fink Verlag, a publishing house in Stuttgart which specialized in religious art, to which Hummel reluctantly agreed.  The company decided to release copies of the works in postcard form, which was very popular in the early 20th century.  In 1934, it also published a collection of her drawings, titled Das Hummel-Buch, with poetic text by Margarete Seemann.
 
Soon afterward, Franz Goebel, the owner of a porcelain company, was looking for a new line of artwork, and happened to see some of these postcards in a shop in Munich.  Sister Innocentia was agreeable with this and the convent granted him sole rights to make figurines based on Hummel's art.  Interest in the figurines exploded after they were displayed in 1935 at the Leipzig Trade Fair, a major international trade show.  (A decade later, the figurines would begin to enjoy great success in the United States when returning American soldiers brought them home.)
 
In 1937, two events in Hummel's life were to mark her future.  On 30 August, she made her final profession as a permanent member of the Congregation.  Also, she had released a painting titled "The Volunteers", which drew the enduring hatred of Adolf Hitler, who attacked the art, denouncing the depiction of German children with “hydrocephalic heads”.  Although the Nazi authorities allowed Hummel to work, they banned the distribution of her art in Germany.  One Nazi magazine, the SA Man (issue of 23 March 1937), wrote of her work: "There is no place in the ranks of German artists for the likes of her.  No, the 'beloved Fatherland' cannot remain calm when Germany's youth are portrayed as brainless sissies".
 
Significantly, Hummel also drew sketches that contained the Star of David, a bold but dangerous theme in those times.  She portrayed angels in gowns covered with slightly skewed six-pointed stars.  She also designed a series of Old and New Testament symbols for the convent chapel in 1938-39. S he symbolized the juncture of the two Testaments by designing a cross with a menorah before it.

Goebel, his team of artists, and a board of Sisters of the convent carried on her legacy through the figurines, all of which are based on her artwork.  Even though many of the newer ones are dressed to look more contemporary, they are still popular and well-known all over the world.  Despite this, Goebel Germany discontinued creating the figures as of October 31, 2008.
 
Sister Innocentia's sister, Centa Hummel, established the Berta Hummel Museum in the family home in Massing.  Centa died September 2011, just before her 100th birthday, and the management of the museum passed to her son.
 
One of the children depicted in her work, Sieglinde Schoen, established The Hummel Museum in New Braunfels, Texas, which displayed about 280 of Hummel's original pieces.  These pieces had been stored in Switzerland by a private collector during the War.  It is not clear as of 2011 if the Museum is still in operation.
 
The first Mayor of Rosemont, Illinois, Donald E. Stephens, amassed one of the largest collections of figurines in the world. Upon his death, he bequeathed the entire collection to the City of Rosemont.  To house it, the city built the Donald E. Stephens Museum of Hummels, which opened March 13, 2011.
Source:
wikipedia.org

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