Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Update on Paul Geissler Print

Treasures come in many forms.

In the previous post I mention buying an etching for $10 at a Berkeley yard sale. An appraiser found it to be an original engraving by the artist Paul Geissler in 1920.

After a few more days of research I learned that it is an etching of the Odeonsplatz in Munich, Germany. All the more astonishing since when I first looked upon the etching a voice in my head said, "that looks like Germany", even though I had never been to Germany nor knew anything about the Odeonsplatz. (View 360 panorama)

On the right is the Roman Catholic Theatine Church St. Cajetan (Theatinerkirche St. Kajetan) in Munich built from 1663 to 1690. It was founded by Elector Ferdinand Maria and his wife, Henriette Adelaide of Savoy, as a gesture of thanks for the birth of the long-awaited heir to the Bavarian crown, Prince Max Emanuel, in 1662.

The church was built in Italian high-baroque style after San Andrea del Valle in Rome and designed by the Italian architect Agostino Barelli. Inside are tombs of a few Bavarian Kings and Queens and a couple of Holy Roman Emperors.

St Cajetan was born at Vicenza, then part of the Republic of Venice. Cajetan's parents were Gaspar, Count of Thiene, and Maria Porto. He is the patron saint of
gamblers; job seekers and unemployed people. If there ever was a saint to pray to during the 'Great Recession', it's St. Cajetan.

To the left is the famous Feldherrnhalle (Field Marshal's hall) monument adorned with 2 lions and was designed in 1841 to honour the Bayern generals. One curious fact – on these steps (only 3 years after this etching was made) Hitler clashed with the police and was then sent to prison where he wrote Mein Kampf – (My Fight).

Munich and all of Germany at that time was experiencing a very difficult time due to the harsh penalties imposed by the Treaty of Versailles following the end of WWI. Hitler lived in Munich the same time this etching was made and could have been possibly yelling it up within earshot at one of the nearby beer halls. This all had me look a little bit harder at the artist Geissler.

Paul Geissler was born in 1881 and died in 1965. According to the web "he was one of the foremost german etchers. His plates, chiefly of the architectural beauties of old Europe, have been highly praised by many of the most discriminating critics and collectors. Yet his work appeals as strongly to the public as it does to connoisseurs."

Searching online I find that Geissler was later considered, by a few, a "Third-Reich artist". Although he apparently did not create any overt Nazi imagery, he did etch Hitler's birthplace and school in 1943 and his work was included in Hitler's EXPOSITIONS OF
. "In 1937 the Nazis inaugurated the House of German Art and organized the first exposition of Great German Art." These exhibitions were Hitler's way of telling the German people what art he thought was appropriate for them. From the web: "Adolf Hitler was a genuine patron of the arts, with a love for painting and architecture, but only a patron of those arts of which he approved. Having been a painter in his youth, Hitler considered himself the supreme critic of what was, and was not, proper art. Modern "degenerate" art was definitely out. To promote "proper" art Hitler had the Haus der Deutschen Kunst (House of German Art) built in Munich, to be the scene of special yearly exhibits." Geissler's fine detail sketchings of architectural German buildings apparently fit that mode. It is very possible that Hitler and Geissler, at least, knew each other.

So now this etching has a history to it albeit a bit murky and possibly unsettling if the artist was indeed a nazi sympathizer. Some time ago I worked on a documentary on W. Furtwangler, the head conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic during WWII and sometimes referred to as "Hitler's Composer". But I learned that Furtwangler was very indifferent to the political climate and disliked Hitler and was mostly obsessed with the music. I suppose many artists can be so enthralled with creating beauty that they turn a blind eye to the ugly realities around them. I would like to think this is the case with our Geissler. As to how this exquisite etching wound up in a yard sale in Berkeley? Your guess is as good as mine.

Andrea and I are planning to visit the site when we are in Germany later this year and I can't help but feel that I am connected to this place for some reason but don't know why. I'll chalk it up to Victorian paranormal residue sprinkled on my brain from living in this old house.

Be on the look out for your own 'transporting' treasures. It may lead you on a fascinating, historical journey.

Any other thoughts on Geissler and his life and work would be very welcome.



  1. Interesting story George, thanks for sharing.
    I found this site looking for info on Paul Geissler after picking up an etching of his depicting the Nikolaikirche in Hamburg. I bought it for about $10 too with the intent to sell it, but now I'm kind of fascinated by the artist. I didn't know about the alleged Nazi-connection too. The picture tells an interesting story as well, as the church, like most of the city, was ruined by the extensive bombing of Hamburg, and only the badly damaged tower remains today.

    Best regards,


  2. This is an image of the etching I just picked up:


  3. Congratulations on finding your own Geissler print Hans.

    I was fortunate that the Odeonsplatz depicted in my Geissler print was not damaged in the war so it made it less difficult to identify it from over here in California.

    I too have decided to keep mine and it hangs on my wall over my left shoulder watching me type this comment!

    Thanks for enjoying the story.

  4. I have a geissler print of a cathedral. I just acquired it, my mother passed away, just brought it home today to look up the artist. fascinating... how can I find more pics of his prints online to identify the cathedral and worth of the print? It is signed and I am certain it is an original. Any info would help, i too, now am very curious....

  5. Hi,

    You could visit online art auctions to determine a range that people are selling Geissler original prints. You can also walk into any antique store and an appraiser could look it up for you.

    Identifying the cathedral is a bit more tricky. Many of his etchings were in Europe before WWIII and many places have been bombed. What I did to find mine was to Google "european cathedrals" and looked at the images until I found one that resembled my print. Hope that helps.


  6. I recently took my parents visiting me here in Germany for the birth of my son on a tour of Nazi sites. Your photo of the Feldernhalle looks like the same angle Hitler used for his painting: http://tracesofevil.blogspot.com/search/label/Feldherrnhalle

  7. Not quite the exact same angle. Geissler was most likely etching his in front of the hofbrau haus to the left of the hall and Hitler seemed closer to the right side of the street.

    It's quite possible the two new each other since Geissler did exhibit at Third Reich exhibitions. Just no hard evidence.

    Thanks for visiting

  8. I just took an etching of Koln Cathedral (Cologne) to be framed. The mat was discolored and the frame chipped, and it needed a facelift. Out of the frame, I saw it said Paul Geissler 1922. I went online and here I am. This has hung in my grandmother's foyer for 40 years and my dining room for 37 years. I never knew what I had!

  9. Hey that's great. Most likely your etching was part of his commissioned work to etch the many great cathedrals in Europe of the time.

    As promised, my wife and I did travel to Europe this past summer and visited Germany. Although we didn't get to Munich, we did see the incredible Koln cathedral and other Rhineland towns. Koln is amazing and you're very fortunate to have an etching of this awe-inspiring cathedral. Visit it if you can.

  10. Greetings....I have an etching from P.G. titled " Minster" I'm assuming West minster abby? like many of you mine was passed down from my grand parents. It's signed and un-dated.


  11. Great. Take a pic of it and let us all have a look?

  12. I have two pic's that I got from my grandmother as well..Titled two farmers..one piece of a older man and one piece of an older women..both are in great shape..they remind me of my grandparents when we would vist them in the 60's and 70 when we would pull up to their home they were always in their garden growing their own food ..so I say hi to them everyday..both are signed by Geissler..

  13. I just picked up a print today from a swap meet today for $5. Its Eichstatt 1931. I did some research on his signatures to verify its an original. What a great find.

  14. wow here it is jan 2012, I was cleaning out my garage and found two etchings both in matching frames. one is titled Lubich the other Hoheusburg. Lubich is of a large church (?)behind what looks like town square, the church has two tall towers with what looks like walk ways between them, or maybe they are just supports, church looks like to be about 4 or 5 stories. The other of Hoheusburg is of a castle (?) on a high hill, mt. with a small cottage below it,almost hidden, as your eyes are drawn to the castle on the hill. Does anyone know if both buildings are still there? names different from title, any info why
    geissler choose these sites? thanks before hand.ps.. hand written on Hoheusburg matt looks to be handmade cut very ragged, title then says orig rad. o. gre looks to be in german...duhh but on this one signture is not in view however I'm guessing it could be lower on the etching under the homemade matt. the other on the bottom of the etching again hadwritten title, and orignial Padierung orm Prif. Paict?? Geissler. above on etching is his signature and 1920, course not sure if I have the right letters hard to read. anyway would love to know more info?????? :) Claire

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  16. Hello: While cleaning out closets today, I found a signed silk etching by Prof Paul Geissler. I am wanting to sell it....however, I have no idea as to it's worth. I have no idea where I bought it....probably at an estate auction here in Western Kentucky....and, have no idea what I paid for it. It is an etching of an older man and woman...he is holding what looks like a large a huge pot of flowers or maybe a large shrub...they look German....more than likely a street scene in Germany. Anyone have any ideas?? Thanks, Meredith G. Miller..,.please answer to my email: dhmiller@murray-ky.net