ENGAGING THE ÉMIGRÉ NETWORK: KURT SCHWITTERS AND THE ARTIST INTERNEES OF HUTCHINSON CAMP SARAH MACDOUGALL
EXTRACT FROM This paper was given at the symposium Schwitters in context: the British years. DATE 2013. SOURCE Tate Britain, Clore Auditorium
Engaging the émigré network: Kurt Schwitters and the artist internees of Hutchinson Camp On 8 June 1940 Kurt Schwitters (1887 Germany ̶ 1948 England),1 his son Ernst and his daughter-in-law, Esther, boarded the icebreaker the Fridtjof Nansen, the final ship to leave Norway before the German invasion; also, on board and sharing their flight were the German sculptor Ernst Müller-Blensdorf (1896 Germany ̶ 1976 England) and his young family. Ironically, Blensdorf had spent seven years in Norway working on his ambitious Nansen project,2 an unrealised international peace centre in Oslo.3 During the voyage Blensdorf used a penknife to carve an imaginary female nude, Lilley Klotzelmeyer,4 from Norwegian birch.5 The word ‘klotz’ translates as ‘block’ or ‘lump’ and is perhaps a play on words regarding Lilley’s origins, as well as an allusion to the transformative skill of the sculptor. It was the sort of humour that Schwitters would appreciate.
Arriving in Edinburgh 11 days later, the artists were swept up in the wave of mass internment of all German and Austrian refugees (aged between 16 ̶ 60), which had begun in late June 1940, 6 moving through a series of internment camps in Midlothian, York, and the notorious Warth Mills, at Bury, Lancashire. They arrived together at Hutchinson Camp, Douglas, on the Isle of Man on 17th July (where Schwitters was reunited with his son Ernst). 7
Their arrival was duly noted by fellow internee and art historian Klaus E Hinrichsen (1912 Germany ̶ 2004 England), who would play a significant role in promoting, exhibiting, recording, and collecting the internment art produced in Hutchinson camp – Schwitters later painted his portrait gratis, ostensibly for use of his office as a life-room, but also probably in acknowledgement of his pivotal role as cultural impresario, as well as friend. Hinrichsen observed how both artists were already at work shaping branches with their hands: Schwitters creating an abstract piece and Blensdorf (as he later preferred to be known) a figurative one. This creative impulse, as well as a readiness to adapt to circumstances and materials, typical of all émigré artists, would characterise artistic practice ‘behind the wire’. The Isle of Man comprised 11 internment camps in all. Hutchinson, or ‘P camp’, in Douglas was home to a notable number of intellectuals from a broad spectrum of disciplines including 1
science, mathematics, history, philosophy, literature and music, and the internees quickly organised a cultural programme, known informally as the ‘Camp University’; Hinrichsen acted as Secretary and then Head of the Cultural Department until his release in 1941 and the supportive Camp Commander O H Daniels allotted them studio space and some materials – also organising a photographic record of the camp in which artistic activities featured prominently. Although others camps, particularly Onchan, where Jack Bilbo acted as promoter, also housed a significant art community who also produced and exhibited their own art, Hutchinson not only played host to the greatest number of professional artists, but also boasted the greatest number with international reputations and became known as ‘the artists’ camp’: Schwitters and the Expressionist painter Ludwig Meidner (1884 Germany ̶ 1966 Germany)8 together with the figurative sculptors Georg Ehrlich (1897 Austria ̶ 1966 Switzerland) and Siegfried Charoux (1896 Austria ̶ 1967 England) were undoubtedly the best-known. They were joined by a host of artists whose names are less familiar today, partly because of the suppression or destruction of work in their native lands prior to their ‘forced journeys’ and/ or the added difficulty of reestablishing themselves in a new host country. These difficulties were increased if like Schwitters, Blensdorf and the sculptor Paul Hamann (1891 Germany ̶ 1973 England), they were double exiles, who had already attempted to re-establish their careers elsewhere. Significant among the others were the painter and graphic artist Hermann Fechenbach (1897 Germany ̶ 1986 England), who had gone on hunger strike over the appalling conditions at Warth Mills; former Concentration Camp inmate, Erich Kahn, physically frail and still wracked by nightmares; and the former lawyer and self-taught artist Fred Uhlman (1901 Germany ̶ 1985 England), whose Hampstead home was the headquarters of the ‘Free German League of Culture’ (FGLC), which he co-chaired with Paul Hamann, and which provided a haven for a number of exile artists (including John Heartfield).
Many of the internees had either met or exhibited together previously through the pre-internment émigré network of cultural organisations, including the FGLC,9 the Artists’ International Association,10 the Austrian Centre11 (AC),12 and the newly formed Artists’ Refugee Committee;13 or had exhibited together in London. Schwitters, Ehrlich and Hamann had showed alongside Oskar Kokoschka and Max Beckmann in the New Burlington Galleries’ 1938
Exhibition of Twentieth Century German Art, a riposte to the famous Nazi ‘Degenerate’ Art show.
Inside the camp they quickly established a similarly collaborative atmosphere in the laundry room of House 15, known as the artist’s café. Schwitters and Ernst were among the 16 signatories to the famous letter planned, drafted and penned (after much discussion over approaches to various prominent figures in the British art establishment) protesting that ‘Art cannot live behind barbed wire’, and appealing for release. The New Statesman and Nation letter, published on 28th August 194014 - this is an earlier draft to Kenneth Clark, 15 undoubtedly raised awareness of the artist-internees plight and16 Charoux, who had influential supporters, was released soon afterwards. Schwitters’ portrait of Charoux is therefore the only artistic evidence of the former’s brief internment (though a letter from Charoux from December 1944 reveals that they stayed in touch). In 1919 Schwitters’ invention of ‘Merz’ (which combined his output in painting, collage, sculpture, architecture, poetry, drama, typography and happenings under a single term) advocated the ‘combination of all conceivable materials for artistic purposes’ and ‘the principle of equal evaluation of […] individual materials’, so that ‘A perambulator wheel, wire-netting, string and cotton wool’ all had ‘equal rights with paint’. However, necessity rather than a shared philosophy lay behind the widespread adoption of Merz-like materials by Schwitters’ fellow artists in Hutchinson camp: brick dust, crushed minerals and vegetable dyes from food rations were ground and mixed with olive oil from sardine cans to make paint; dismantled tea-chests and ceiling tiles were substituted for canvas and board. The choreographer Este used the walls to paint murals; some accidentally uncovered years later when the original boarding-house occupants returned. Weissenborn ripped up the attic floors to make linocuts which were then run through the mangle in place of a printing press, using ‘Ersatz’ ink from margarine and graphite. Despite describing his own internment as a ‘continuous torment’, he focused on recording the daily domestic tasks assigned to them all in their shared houses in a series of striking linocuts including Washing Day in the Camp and The Dustbins, which perhaps provided him with a means of ‘escape’. Kahn experimented with the duplicator provided for the printing Hutchinson’s internal magazine, The Camp, and developed a distinctive wax stencil printing 3
technique which he used ‘to create the impression of etchings, lithographs, even mezzotints’, raising the paper’s illustrations to a high artistic standard.17 The internees even issued a commemorative double issue of The Camp (issue 13/14) as an Almanac 1940-41, comprising 24 cardboard-bound pages intended to represent a cross-section of the ‘artistic and cultural life in Hutchinson Camp’.18 Hamann and Blensdorf contributed sketches, Schwitters drawings and short stories , while Weissenborn’s beautifully hand-coloured cover reveals the decorative skill which later made him a very successful book illustrator.
Paper, like paint, was always scarce: brown wrap was salvaged from parcels sent from home; and the thick, green floral boarding house wallpaper is still visible on the reverse of Blensdorf’s pencilled designs for his mahogany wall panel, The Lovers. Blensdorf also sketched on toilet paper - the strong outlines of his expressionist figures contrasting with the fragility of his chosen support, while Hinrichsen claimed that Schwitters’ lavatory paperwork ‘became elevated to a sort of illuminated scroll’. 19 Schwitters also drew on paper napkins and tablecloths, including portraits of Blensdorf and Hamann. Portraiture, especially self-portraiture could also commemorate the internment experience (often later left out of official biographies). Ehrlich’s self-portrait drawing, a companion piece to his internment portrait by Schwitters, is one such document, clearly inscribed, on the left ‘interniert’, and on the right ‘Georg Ehrlich, Douglas, Isle of Man, Sept 1940’. Weissenborn had taken his engraving tools and some boxwood plates with him when arrested, 20 yet is also credited with being the first to use found materials - a nail (and later a razor blade) - to scratch mythological scenes and still-life motifs into the boarding house windows, which had been painted dark blue as an air raid precaution. Hinrichsen gave this practice validity by giving it serious critical attention in The Camp21 magazine, later explaining that ‘for the graphic artists these large blue-painted windows presented a challenge to explore new techniques and create works of art, visible to a large number of people’.22 The engravings soon became widespread, and despite being ephemeral, like Schwitters’ porridge sculpture, were widely adopted by not only the professional artists, but also the self-taught. The amateur Mr Neunzer (a lion tamer and animal trapper), became a skilled window engraver. In Uhlman’s drawing My Bedroom - the Artist Uses his Suitcase as a Work Surface, in the Absence of a Table, which draws attention to 4
the privations of limited space and materials, an engraved motif can just be glimpsed on his window. Ostensibly, sculptural practice was one of the most difficult to continue ‘behind the wire’. However, the sculptors showed the same resourcefulness as the painters: digging up clay on their walks (cleaning it afterwards in their studios to separate out the grit, stones and sand); though not suitable for firing, it was sufficient for modelling and plaster for casting was ‘acquired’ from a local builder. Like Schwitters, Ehrlich and Hamann (who shared his with Uhlman and tried to teach him sculpture) both had studios on the boundary of the camp. Schwitters held life-classes; Hamann taught modelling and Ehrlich plaster-casting to fellow internees.
The young artist-to-be Peter Fleischmann (later known as Peter Midgley) was not attracted to either Ehrlich or Hamann’s academic23 style but learned a great deal from them both technically.24 Ehrlich’s 25 sensitively modelled classical head of the German Jewish art historian Paul Jacobsthal (1880 ̶ 1957),26 probably had its origins in internment. Although the bronze casting could not have taken place inside the camp, the piece (dated 1940), was probably cast from an earlier clay model produced there. Hamann, never without his trademark cigar, was a former pupil of Rodin’s but worked largely in the Maillol tradition.27 His best-known internment work, the popular Nude Lady Golfer, shown at the 2nd art exhibition, also features (mounted on a plinth) in his portrait by Schwitters. Midgley later repudiated Hamann’s influence, but a photograph from the Blensdorf archive shows him at work on a piece with a strong resemblance to the Nude Lady Golfer. However, Midgley also attended life classes given by Schwitters, whose work he revered. This unique art education, he later commented, was so complete, that everything he learned afterwards at art school was only ‘a recap’.
Blensdorf carved several mahogany reliefs, including The Lovers, into potent symbols of fertility and re-generation, from a piano accidentally damaged and subsequently ‘cannibalized’ for materials by the internees. In his unpublished autobiographical novel, “A German for 10 Weeks”, Hinrichsen recalled how internee concert pianist Maryan Rawicz was invited to give a 5
camp concert and tested each of the eleven boarding-house pianos in turn. When he reached the seventh: under the impact of his powerful hands the whole piano collapsed. Like an elephant hit by a bullet it slowly sank into itself until only a heap of keyboards, planks, coasters and tangled wire remained on the floor. Within seconds the onlookers had grabbed and removed whatever might come in handy. […] Blensdorf, the sculptor with the huge hands, took the mahogany side to be carved into panels, the Technical School carried away every bit of wire to make illicit electric fires […], and Mr Neunzer, the animal trapper, took all the white ivories to carve them into much needed dentures. Beneath Blensdorf’s relief carving, Girl with a Veil, 28 an unknown hand has added ‘panel from the famous piano.’ It also reveals the purchasers – the Schreiners. Rawicz was also captured in oil by Schwitters and a Head by Hamann.
Hinrichsen helped organise two art exhibitions in September and November 1940 which provided an output for all this work across a wide range of media and subjects.29 There is no surviving catalogue, but a review by “A.Z.” published two days later in the inaugural issue of The Camp commented that it was ‘astounding and encouraging to see how the artists under the given conditions did not loose [sic] heart. Each of them proved himself stronger than his accidental fate’.30 Fourteen artists contributed works including oils by Schwitters, graphics by Fechenbach, drawings by Solomonski, and woodcuts by Weissenborn. Kahn and Uhlman’s unidentified works were said to represent ‘a more highbrowed type’ and Uhlman chose ‘stranger abjects’ [sic] reflecting ‘the darker side of life’. 31 The sculptors showed mainly drawings and photographs though Blensdorf also included carvings.
The second Hutchinson exhibition in November 1940 was more ambitious, officially opened by Commander Daniel and commemorated by a roneod exhibition catalogue, priced threepence,32 which lists 22 exhibitors in alphabetical order with no distinction between the professionals and amateurs (the latter, largely former inmates from the Prees Heath transit camp in Shropshire and technicians).33 There were more than 100 exhibits, again across a range of subjects, media and techniques. Weissenborn and Uhlman in particular, reflected internment life and their physical surroundings in their drawings and prints. 34 Several of Uhlman’s drawings also mounted a savage attack on the church in Spain, which he saw as corrupted by power and implicated in
fascism;35 others referenced Goya, Beckmann and Bosch in images symbolising exile and confinement; still others were ‘pure fantasy’; there were almost 200 in all. The amateur Gerd Hertel contributed sketches on ‘the German Anti-Nazi fight and the fight for Spanish liberty’, but political work was mostly rare.
Blensdorf worked almost obsessively during internment on a series of drawings and carvings of a young pregnant woman. The night before the opening of the 2nd art exhibition he had apparently ‘single-handedly carried a large plaster figure of a highly pregnant woman up the stairs and left her standing in the middle of the floor where she endangered the structure of the building.’ 36 His poignant small, modelled sculpture Refugees, together with a number of related drawings, references both his own double exile with his young family and the wider experience of war and displacement. 37 In The Camp preview, Hinrichsen set out their aims as ‘a survey of what the artists are doing in their studies and bedrooms’), commercial (works were for sale) charitable (profits going to the Welfare Fund) and commemorative of ‘this island, where you had to stay not quite voluntarily’. Visitors were also encouraged to sign up to have their portraits painted. The main recipient of this business was likely to be Schwitters, whose portraits were greatly admired. In fact, Schwitters earned a living by adopting a businesslike approach, painting ‘well-known camp personalities on spec to attract commissions’, for which he had a set of fixed charges: £5 (halffigure with hands), £4 (without hands), £3 (head and shoulders only). In this way he completed more portraits than at any other time in his career, between 20 and 30 in all. (Many surviving because they were more appreciated than his advanced collages and assemblages.) Hinrichsen commented that ‘this mercenary approach was not shared by the other artists but enabled [Schwitters] – having arrived penniless – to live in comparative luxury’.38
Schwitters certainly continued with his abstract Merz collages and his popular performances in the artists’ café led to the Ur-sonate becoming a standard greeting among old Hutchinsonians. Uhlman also recalled that another of Schwitters’ performances was to bark like a daschund while an elderly Viennese businessman barked back like a mastiff. Uhlman left a memorable description of Schwitters’ garret bedroom-studio: 7
On the walls hung his collages [his italics], made of cigarette packets, seaweed, shells, pieces of cork, string, wire, glass, and nails. A few statues made of porridge stood about, a material more impermanent than any other known to mankind, and it emitted a faint but sickly smell and was the colour of cheese: a ripe Danish blue or Roquefort. On the floor were plasters, bits of stale bread, cheese and other remnants of food, and among them some large pieces of wood, mostly table and chair legs stolen from our boarding houses, which he used for the construction of a grotto round a small window. There was a bed, a table, and possibly also a chair in a room about twelve feet by eight. The rest of the space was taken up with paintings of all kinds done on lino, which came from the floor of our lodgings, no other material being available. He always carried a sharp knife with him for such purposes […] 39 Yet Sarah Wilson, who has suggested that the grotto was another proto Merzbau, has observed ‘how the visible degradation of his Merz materials in camp conditions added a poignancy to [Schwitters’] experimental work and its private status as a secret diary. The minimalism of these works,’ she writes, ‘speaks of a dialectic between possession and dispossession, a form of collecting in exile that has been described as an ‘existential project that seeks to lend shape to hapless circumstance’.40
As the artists were gradually released artwork also became commemorative: Commander Daniel was presented with a leather-bound album of paintings, drawings and linocuts with personal dedications from each of the Hutchinson artists ‘in recognition of the help they had received from him’,41 including this sole abstract work by Schwitters. Hinrichsen was presented with works from Solomonski and Kahn, whose hand-coloured stencil Lecture on the Lawn II, which captures one of the now famous talks at Hutchinson’s ‘camp university’, was given to Weissenborn to commemorate his release on Boxing Day 1940. Signed on the reverse by 22 fellow internees, including Kahn, Fleischmann, Blensdorf, Solomonski, Schwitters + Uhlman, it is a lasting testament to the friendships developed during internment. Intriguingly, a surviving piece of internment ephemera, Blendsorf’s ‘Dorithona’ notebook, issued on 18th September 1940, records the names and post-internment addresses of many fellow internees, including Charoux, Ehrlich, Hamann, Schwitters and Uhlman, signalling perhaps an unrealised plan to re-establish the émigré network beyond internment. 42 Beside each name and address, Blensdorf methodically listed each addressee’s occupation, suggesting more of a 8
professional than a social agenda, but the fact that he used the Norwegian term ‘Billedhugger’ for sculptor, suggests he was not yet fully embedded in his new host culture. 43 Besides Schwitters’ name he simply inscribed the word: ‘Dada’. After release Blensdorf wrote rather tactlessly to the still-interned Schwitters ‘I really cannot understand why you are still there unless Dada itself is being considered dangerous […] I am sad for you to have produced such stupid stuff.’ Schwitters responded with the furious defence that Dada was ‘purely artistic, abstract and non-political’ and ‘as much an aspect of Expressionism’ as Blensdorf’s work.44 Upon release in November 1941 Schwitters’ resumed his collages, the environment and character of war-torn London emerging from the discarded street ephemera he incorporated and thus preserved. However, portrait commissions proved much harder to come by and Schwitters lived partly of his earnings from the camp
Many mainstream commercial galleries remained closed with the war and the majority of Hutchinsonians: Blensdorf, Ehrlich, Charoux, Hamann and Kahn among them, re-engaged with the émigré network during wartime to exhibit with the FGLC, ARC and Artists’ International Association. Schwitters joined and exhibited within the latter in February 1942, and in June in the group exhibition in aid of Allied Russia, where he met and showed alongside the PolishJewish émigré Jankel Adler, then in July in the Artists Aid Russia exhibition with Uhlmann, Ehrlich and Kahn; his work was also included in the more mainstream touring exhibition, New Movements in Art. Schwitters also made contact with Jack Bilbo, the eccentric artist-internee and impresario of Onchan Camp, who included five of Schwitters’ works in a group show at his Modern Art Gallery in 1941, four further works in 1944 and an extensive solo in the same year, opened with Schwitters’ recitation of the Ur-sonate. But despite a favourable and now famous introduction by Herbert Read, Schwitters sold only four works. Hamann founded a studio in Clifton Hill, St John’s Wood, where he gave life classes, 45 was regularly attended by a number of ex-internees. Kahn was a frequent visitor, drawing numerous female nudes, printing his engravings and even meeting his future wife, Joyce Parker, there. She recalled another memorable occasion:
‘One Saturday I arrived in the studio to find an elderly, shabby man sitting with Paul. His grey, dirty hair hung long and straight from a well-cut head, and his overall appearance was one of disorder and self-neglect. From time to time, his nose dripped and he would casually wipe it on his frayed sleeve./ Paul introduced us: Kurt Schwitters, Joyce Parker. I happened to have two handkerchiefs with me, so I tentatively proffered one stamp-sized piece of cambric to Schwitters the next time a drip started its downward trail from his fine nose; he thanked me gratefully, unembarrassed as a child, and used it noisily and thoroughly.’47 On Sundays, a larger gathering also included Walter Nessler and Hugo Dachinger, former internees in Huyton and Onchan camps respectively. Dachinger’s curious pastel portrait of the increasingly reclusive Kahn, capturing his nervous energy, was observed in situ at Hamann’s in 1956.48 Several Hutchinsonians including Hinrichsen and Kahn also gathered once a week in a Soho café49 for many years. Despite the relative obscurity of his final years in Britain, Schwitters had been an important and integral figure within the artistic milieu of Hutchinson camp, both as a creator, documentor, exhibitor and teacher, and although the widespread use of Merz-like materials was circumstantial rather than deliberate, he had a lasting artistic influence on Midgley, whose striking abstract relief Paper Maze is from folded newspaper; another work by an unknown hand in the Manx Museum may be an homage. Both Hinrichsen and Uhlman afterwards regretted not buying Schwitters’ Merz collages when they had the opportunity in camp. Beyond internment however, Schwitters’ connection to the ex-internee émigré network was perhaps as much social as professional and even this lapsed upon his final move to the Lake District. Nevertheless, the art produced by Schwitters, and his fellow internees at Hutchinson Camp, remains a valuable part of his oeuvre, as well as an important record and tangible legacy of the Second World War artistinternee experience. © Sarah MacDougall This paper was given at the symposium Schwitters in context: the British years, Tate Britain, Clore Auditorium, 20 April 2013
Cian Quayle, ‘Kurt Schwitters’ Aesthetics of Resistance: Internment in the Isle of Man: Manx-Merz”, p. 2, paper given at Tate Britain, 11 July 2004, as part of the conference ‘Kurt Schwitters in England’. 2 A hugely ambitious project combining architecture and sculpture, which occupied him for a decade. Blensdorf’s own detailed description of the projected monument is in his papers at the Hyman Kreitman Archive, Tate, TGA 873: ‘Briefly, the composition of the monument is this – the silhouete shows against the sky in a mighty 1
architectonic waveline. At its breaking point in the centre of the whole composition – I place the figure of Nansen. On both sides of this wave and following its movement are shown symbolic figures of the great achievements of our culture. Each group represents a separate sphere of endeavour in which the leading figures are portraits of the great men whose work and fate have left their mark in history.’ 3 He had gathered support from prominent supporters including Albert Einstein. Einstein’s name and address are in Blensdorf’s ‘Dorithona’ pocketbook. See fn. 87. 4 Ernst M Blensdorf, Lilley Klotzelmeyer, Norwegian birch, 51 cm, Private collection on loan to Bruton Museum, Somerset. Lilley establishes, even before his arrival in Britain, one of the dominate themes of Blensdorf’s work over the coming decades: the potency of the female form, which he would subsequently explore as a motif in the progressive roles of young womanhood: lover, mother and Madonna. Lilley also establishes the use of local wood as Blensdorf’s predominant carving medium – though he would subsequently swap Norwegian birch for Somerset elm. 5 Barbara Saunders et al, Ernst Blensdorf: A Retrospective Exhibition (Somerset: Bruton Museum, 2009), p. 28. 6 Full records are only available under certain circumstances. In an email Yvonne Cresswell, Social Curator at Manx National Heritage explains: ‘Manx National Heritage only has male registration information if they were married (information linked to the female registration card) &/or if they wrote/ drew something for a camp newspaper &/ or are a named individual in an oral history interview/ publication.’ 7 Schwitters was interned in Hutchinson for 16 months, arriving in July 1940 and gaining release in November 1941. 8 Meidner did not take part in any of the 1940 exhibitions and other art activities including the famous New Statesman & Nation letter appealing for release. Hinrichsen retrospectively attributed this to Meidner’s ‘intensely religious, Jewish Orthodox phase’ in the camps. However, Vinzent records that Meidner was initially in Mooragh Camp, only transferring to Hutchinson in November 1941 (Vinzent 2005), five months after Hinrichsen had been released. 9 Freier Deutscher Kulturbund. Blensdorf was among the 100+ members of the FGLC. 10 AIA: Association of left-wing British artists formed in 1932 in London to unite artists ‘against Fascism [...], war and the suppression of culture’ (the ‘international’ label was added in 1935; and it continued until 1971). It was originally chaired by the industrial designer Misha Black (1910-77), who was prominent in the organisation of the post-war Festival of Britain in 1951. The date of formation is given elsewhere as 1933. 11 By 1944 it had c. 3, 500 members. See Vinzent, ‘The Political, Social and Cultural Patterns of Migration’, in eds., Powell, Jennifer and Vinzent, Jutta Art and Migration, op. cit., p. 25. Four annual shows were organised, c.1939-44. 12 known as ‘the Association of Austrian Painters, Sculptors and Architects’ 13 Set up by Roland Penrose and AIA members, with John Heartfield, Theo Balden and other Communist artists to rescue members of the Oskar Kokoschka Bund who had fled to Czechoslovakia after Hitler’s accession to power. These included the sculptor Margarete Klopfleisch, who was subsequently interned in Rushen Camp, Isle of Man. (See Klaus E Hinrichsen in ‘Visual Art Behind the Wire’, in Cesarani & Kushner, p. 189.) Despite setting up the Artists Refugee Committee, Theo Balden was himself interned, first at Huyton Transit Camp, and then deported to Canada. Ironically, the artists’ refugee committee then had to appeal on his (and others’ behalf) for his release. See Helen Roeder, secretary Artists’ Refugee Committee, to Sir Kenneth Clark, not dated, TGA, Kenneth Clark correspondence files. 14 See also KEH rhyme in First Draft! Hinrichsen, VABTW, 196, states that ‘It was in the Café that the letter to the New Statesman & Nation had been drafted. Apart from visual artists, architects, musicians, writers, actors, an art dealer and I, then a young art historian, were welcome.’ Hinrichsen noted how the café community, discussed ‘a diversity of ideas and problems’ – one of the most anxiously-debated was what would happen to them all if the Nazis invaded. KEH (p. 197) also pointed out that ‘Enemy Aliens could not become Official War Artists or even help with camouflage.’ (Schwitters also applied unsuccessfully for release in October on the grounds that he was registered to emigrate to the U.S.A. in December 1939 with his son and daughter-in-law). 15 In Martin Millgate: A German for 10 Weeks (op. cit) Hinrichsen’s autobiographical narrator, Martin, describes the artist’s café through the eyes of another youthful internee, Peter Fleischmann (later known as Peter Midgley): Martin asks Peter: “What’s all that about an artists café? I have never seen or heard of any café in the camp. Where is it, and can anybody go there?” Peter had been looking forward to telling his new friend and fellow orphan about his experience. “Yesterday afternoon I was at Paul Hamann’s studio. He had given me some modelling clay and I tried to make a sculpture, a figure, with his help of course. At a quarter past five he suddenly put wet towels around his own and my work-in-progress, stubbed out his eternal cigar and said “Come on, I’ll take you along as my guest to the artists café.” I was as surprised as you are now, I didn’t know what he was talking about. We walked across the Green and entered house 15. There was no indication that it might contain a café. The front door was open and we walked
along a corridor and then some steps down. An open door led to a large room, extended to the garden and inside stood or sat about twenty-five men. I recognised our camp father, Dr. Burschell, The Culture Supremo Bruno Ahrends, the editor of THE CAMP, quite a few artists, Schwitters, Weissenborn, Ehrlich, and professional musicians, the pianist Professor Glas, the singer Professor Pohlmann, some architects, Franck with the Chinese mandarin beard, the art dealer Oppenheimer, the writers Richard Friedenthal, Fraenkel, Unger… Paul Hamann took me to meet the painter Fred Uhlman who seemed to be in charge of the proceedings. … Fred Uhlman called the meeting to order and handed over to Heinrich Fraenkel who had typed a letter to be signed by all the visual artists. There seem to have been a lot of preliminary drafts, but this was the agreed text. It was addressed to the editor of the Statesman – or is New Statesman? Or Statesman and Nation? Anyway, the editor, Kingsley Martin, was a personal friend of Fraenkel [,] who set the weekly chess problems for the paper and, hopefully, he would print it […]’ 16 Charoux was probably released soon afterwards; Hinrichsen suggested that Charoux ‘left the camp very early because he had very good connections somewhere’Hinrichsen, IWM. Sound Archive. Although Vinzent (Aesthetics of Internment, op. cit) maintains that Charoux was interned for six months and released at the end of November 1940. and this would seem to be supported by the lack of evidence of his participation in camp activities Perhaps also because Charoux believed that ‘creative man is essentially an individual: artistic creation happens in solitude.’ See ‘Art and Humanity: the work of Siegfried Charoux’. 17 Kahn taught his technique to Hamann, Blensdorf and Uhlman and, together with the graphic artist Carlo Pietzner, these five artists all achieved ‘successful’ work in The Camp, though Hinrichsen also commented that ‘nobody matched Kahn’s technical skill, and no other camp paper discovered the stencil’s potential’ (Hinrichsen 1993: 195). It was first published on 21 September 1940 and appeared roughly weekly until January 1943. From the start the editorial decision was taken to publish only in English, probably to reassure the camp authorities, though Hinrichsen later attributed it to ‘a desire to assimilate’ (Hinrichsen 1993: 198). 18 (Anon 1940c). Ambitiously, three different limited editions were planned, available by subscription from the island Post Office Both black-and-white as well as colour versions (with differing contents and un-numbered) have survived, so that, confusingly, more than one version of the same image often exists.We are grateful to Alan Franklin, Librarian, Manx National Heritage Library, for this information 19 Hinrichsen 1993: 193. 20 IWM Sound Archive 3771. 21 In his series “Nail, Knife and Razor-Blade (The Windows of the Camp)”, published Hinrichsen (1940a). 22 Hinrichsen 2008: 28. 23 Midgley recalled he was not ‘intrigued’ by their work and preferred the originality of Schwitters, whom he revered. 24 Icluding the use of brass shim (wafer-thin layers of brass sheeting employed in a technical process to create a wall of separation between the two halves of a mould), presumably learned in Ehrlich’s casting studio 25 KEH describes ‘Georg Ehrlich, the Austrian sculptor of gentle and languid young men, very much in the Hellenistic tradition, who had achieved fame at very early age; Siegfried Charoux, also from Vienna, whose monumental baroque sculptures stood in many towns in Austria and commissioned by the Trade Union Congress, also in Britain.’ (p. 79). 26 A scholar of Greek vase painting and Celtic Art, who played a significant role in the camp university; see Uhlman, op. cit. 27 He taught Midgley how to model a clay figure, keeping it wet with towels between sessions to prevent drying out. 28 On the reverse is recorded something of its internment history. The name H. Schreiner, Hutchinson Internment Camp, Douglas, I.O.M., Dec 1940’. The Schreiners were an Austrian couple interned on the island. Upon release they went to Charlton Musgrave in Somerset and planned to turn the old rectory there into an art school. They encouraged Blensdorf to join them and he did move to Somerset though the plan for the art school fell through. 29 It closed on 19th September. 30 A.Z. 1940a. 31 Rudolf Hirschenhauser and stage designer E. E. Stern (‘Este’) The sculptors (Ehrlich, Hamann, Blensdorf and ‘Mr Jacob’) were reviewed separately in the subsequent issue of The Camp (A.Z. 1940b) which reveals how difficult it was to find suitable material and work space: Blensdorf, who exhibited ‘four wooden figures and one relief ’, and Jacob were the only ones to exhibit actual sculptures; the others showed only preparatory drawings and photographs of pre-internment work. 32 In The Camp preview, Hinrichsen set out their aims as creative, commercial, charitable and commemorative: firstly, the exhibition was to be ‘a survey of what the artists are doing in their studies and bed rooms, apart from wall
paintings and window engravings to be seen everywhere in the camp.’ Secondly, works were for sale and ‘there certainly is a chance of purchasing something which will remind you of this island, where you had to stay not quite voluntarily. Furthermore the Welfare Fund of the camp will get its share from the profits.’ (Hinrichsen 1940b) 33 Anon 1940b. 34 Smalley 2009. 35 Müller-Härlin 2004. 36 Hinrichsen, VABTW, 200. 37 He continued, ‘and the hammers were given to anybody who had been rejected by the Recruiting Officers who had begun to roam the camp, to be worn in their lapels, thus protecting them from further pestering’. KEH, A German for 10 Weeks, p. 62. 38 Hinrichsen 1993: 202. 39 One evening I went to see him - as I often did, because he was then painting my portrait - when I heard the savage barking of dogs …’ It turned out to be KS who barked like a dachshund and a businessman who barked back like a mastiff! Schwitters carried this so far that always ‘retired to a kennel which he had constructed for himself and the daschund in him.’ TMOAE, pp. 233-9 on Schwitters: p. 235 (p.236). 40 Sarah Wilson, ‘Anglism’: The Dialectics of Exile, Tate Papers: https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tatebritain/exhibition/schwitters-britain/essay-sarah-wilson-kurt-schwitters-england. 41 Hinrichsen 1993: 203. 42 Names and addresses in Blensdorf’s ‘Dorithona’ notebook include: Bruno Ahrends, Charoux, Ehrlich, Dr. F. Fisher, Hamann, Hinrichsen, Kahn, Prof. Rud Kastner, Kraemer and Prof. Egon Wellesz. 43 Although there are also entries in English (the common language of the camps), and in some cases, e. g. ‘maler’ (painter), the word is the same in both Norwegian and German. 44 Hinrichsen, (200). 45 In 1944 he executed a nude sculpture of Gretl Hinrichsen.Gretl remembers that Hamann sculpted her (nude) about 1944. This was the only time she modelled for him. 46 Berado catalogue, p. 85. 47 Schwitters in Barnes, Oasis no. 6, 1972 48 He exhibited at the inaugural exhibition in February 1960 at the new Queenswood Gallery (214 Archway Road, Highgate, London N6), described as ‘a spacious gallery with three basement rooms knocked into one’ and run by Mr and Mrs Henry Sanders. The Jewish Chronicle (19 Feb 1960, p. 20) reviewed the exhibition, of two painters (Alfred Harris and Henry Sanders) and two sculptors (Paul Hamann and Lawrence Joseph). Hamann’s work was described as ‘carvings … sensitively and efficiently done in the Maillol-Gill tradition.’ 49 According to the Berado Foundation catalogue, p. 82: ‘During his first times [sic] of freedom, he […] saw several aquaintances from Hutchinson. They would recreate their old get-togethers, by meeting once a week in a Soho café. But his most durable friends would always be Hinrichsen, Paul Hamann, Fred Uhlmann and [Siegfried] Oppenheimer.’