August & Marta: How August Sander Photographed the Painter Marta Hegemann (and Her Children’s Room!)

Oc­to­ber 16, 2021 – Jan­uary 23, 2022

With this pre­sen­ta­tion in the pho­tog­ra­phy room, we have at­tempt­ed to make a 1929 chil­dren’s room tan­gi­ble for vis­i­tor for which Mar­ta Hege­mann had cre­at­ed sev­er­al wall paint­ings. Ex­cept for pho­to­graphs tak­en by Au­gust San­der, no traces of them have sur­vived to­day. Com­ple­ment­ed by por­traits and works on pa­per by Hege­mann we try to of­fer in­sight in­to her de­signs for the mu­rals, and young vis­i­tors are ex­plic­it­ly in­vit­ed to ex­plore them.

How proud and fierce she looks in Au­gust San­der’s pho­to, the pain­ter Mar­ta Hege­mann, who used to be a draw­ing and gym teach­er and was the mother of two sons. Her blouse and neck­lace look tousled, and she has al­so paint­ed all kinds of sym­bols on her face: a cross, a dot, bird­s—­mo­tifs that we rec­og­nize from her pic­tures. When Hege­mann paint­ed sev­er­al mu­rals for a chil­dren’s room four years lat­er, it was again Au­gust San­der who cap­tured her work on it and the re­sult with his cam­era. The paint­ings were shown in 1929 in the ex­hi­bi­tion Raum und Wand­bild at the Köl­nisch­er Kun­stverein. Ini­ti­at­ed by the ar­chi­tect Hans Heinz Lütt­gen, eight pain­ters were each in­vit­ed to de­sign a mod­el room. Mar­ta Hege­mann had pre­vi­ous­ly de­signed play­grounds, so here she be­came re­spon­si­ble for the chil­dren’s room. Other mod­el rooms in­clud­ed a study by Franz Wil­helm Sei­w­ert, a din­ing room by Richard See­wald, and a liv­ing room by Jankel Adler. Luise Straus-Ernst had es­pe­cial­ly high praise for the chil­dren’s room in the mag­azine Deutsche Kunst und Deko­ra­tion and de­scribed how Hege­mann “met the needs of both art and chil­dren” by “cov­er­ing the walls with a mer­ry com­bi­na­tion of chil­dren, flut­ter­ing birds, flow­ers, lit­tle boats, and stars that gave the whole room a bright cheer­ful­ness.” Un­for­tu­nate­ly, th­ese works have since been lost. But thanks to Au­gust San­der’s pho­tos, we know what they looked like—at least in black and white.

Two paint­ings, each two by two me­ters in size and each fo­cus­ing on a child, were cen­tral to the room. Both chil­dren are sur­round­ed by birds, stars, and boats; both have an open book in front of them; and both are sur­round­ed by wa­ter, with hous­es and hors­es in the coun­try­side in the dis­tant back­ground. Hege­mann cre­ates spaces of pos­si­bil­i­ty in th­ese pic­tures which tran­s­port us away from dai­ly life in a ci­ty, fam­i­ly, or school. With its tent, woo­d­en horse, and feather head­dress, the one child imagines a jour­ney to First Na­tions’ Amer­i­ca, the con­tours of which are vis­i­ble in the open Press con­tact: Anne Nier­mann Tel. +49 221 221 22428 an­ne­gret.nier­man­n@­mu­se­um-lud­ book in front of him—a form of cul­tu­r­al ap­pro­pri­a­tion that we want to raise aware­ness for from to­day’s per­spec­tive. A mon­key sits at the other child’s feet, whose skirt and apron could be signs that she has a job? Hege­mann dealt with cos­tumes and roles in all her art. They can give us a feel­ing of free­dom—free­dom from our­selves and our life cir­cum­s­tances—or point to con­strict­ing roles. As a wo­m­an in those times, Hege­mann was not al­lowed to sim­p­ly study art wher­ev­er she want­ed, which is why she took an in­di­rect path as a draw­ing teach­er. In the por­trait tak­en by Au­gust San­der, she paint­ed her face and thus pre­sent­ed her­self con­fi­dent­ly as a pain­ter, not with­out a twin­k­le in her eye, it seems.

The pho­to­graphs and draw­ings on view are hung at a height suit­able for chil­dren. Hege­mann's mu­rals are re­pro­duced in their orig­i­nal size. Young vis­i­tors are in­vit­ed to get in­volved and con­trast the black and white of the pho­to­graphs with their own col­or ver­sions of Hege­mann's paint­ings.

Cu­ra­tor: Miri­am Szwast