Saturday, November 18, 2023

Picturing Ernst Collin

I've always wanted to put a face to the name. In the case of Ernst Collin that was, sadly, not possible. I got excited recently when I decided to look for Ernst Collin on and found someone whose profile indicated that they had two images. As we say in German, Fehlanzeige... The images were those of the marriage certificate between Ernst Heinrich Collin and Else Cronheim that I had also found there. This was very important because for the first time I had an official, documented connection to his parents Georg Collin and Regina Collin (nee Josef) who were also listed on the certificate. Otherwise, all connections were embedded in his often-self-referential articles. In contrast, there are images of his doppelgänger Heinrich Ernst Collin-Schönfeld in the latter's papers at the Leo Baeck in New York. His marriage certificate to Margarete Weisgerber-Collin was also available in Ancestry confirming those details.

But a confirmed photo of the Ernst Collin of the Pressbengel ... has still not been found.

There was a photograph that appeared in both of Ernst's two articles about binding in fish skin (both 1934) showing the customer sizing up a fish that might be used on his binding. In that image, the customer is shown from behind and slightly to the side, but not identifiable. For me, that was Ernst, I wanted it to be him.

Is the customer at right Ernst Collin?
Holding the fish at left is Franz Martini, the binder.
Ernst took the images for the article, so was there.

A year or two after finding that image, I found a wonderfully expressionist ex-libris for an Ernst Collin that was created by Walter Kampmann in 1920. Featured in the ex-libris was a face. In circumstances like that it is easy to jump to conclusions, and I did. The ex-libris was found in a bound volume of Die Heftlade, the "modest" bookbinding journal published 1922-24 by Ernst Collin for the Jakob-Krause-Bund. The reason for trading-up was that this copy had all inserts and the remaining two issues from 1924. The Heftlade did not appear in 1923. Among the inserts was one to accompany an article on collecting ex-libris by Ernst. 

Ernst Collin ex-libris by Walter Kampmann, 1920.

It's been a while since I was actively searching for articles by, and mentions of Ernst Collin, but I recently came across the journal Exlibris Buchkunst und angewandte Grafik, volume 31, 1921. In it, an article by Ernst about Walter Kampman that also included the ex-libris above among many others. In the article Ernst also described his ex-libris, providing the confirmation that this was his, and not the "other Ernst's".  

Passage in which Ernst interprets his ex-libris.
Below, the transcribed text.

Das nächste Exlibris Ernst Collin [Beil. zw. S. 52/53] hat der Künstler dem Verfasser dieses Aufsatzes gewidmet. Es gilt dem Kunstkritiker. Dessen Kopf nimmt, ruhend auf einer Feder, die von Fingern geführt wird, die Diagonale des Bildes ein. Es soll der Kopf des Kunstkritikers sein; die Augen hinter der Brille sind geradeaus gerichtet, ein Symbol der kunstkritischen Arbeit, die, vorurteilslos und unbeeinflußt, nur geradeaus schauen darf. Es ist nicht uninteressant, hier zu erwähnen, daß der Künstler nicht beabsichtigt hat, in den Kopf eine Bildnisähnlichkeit hineinzulegen, daß mir aber von Freunden versichert worden ist, sie hätten mich sofort erkannt. Von dem Finger geht eine Treppe aus, die zu einem Hause führt; vor diesem steht der Künstler, an der Staffelei malend. Er steht auf einer Rahmenleiste, die ein nur zum Teil sichtbares Bild mit einer tanzenderscheinenden Figur umrahmt. Der Aufbau des Bildes ist sehr konzentriert, Licht und Schatten sind dem Charakter der Darstellung gemäß streng und rhythmisch verteilt. Hier kommt Kampmann, wie er es bereits bei einigen vorhergehenden, hier nicht ab gebildeten Exlibris getan hat, zu einer freieren und doch der Zeichnung sich an- und eingliedernden Anordnung der Schrift. Die aufsteigende Anordnung bei dem Eigennamen meines Exlibris scheint mir die aufbauende Arbeit des Kritikers andeuten zu sollen.

And in English with a little help from Deepl for expedience:

The artist dedicated the next bookplate to Ernst Collin [insert between p. 52/53], the author of this essay. It is dedicated to the art critic. His head, resting on a feather guided by fingers, occupies the diagonal of the picture. It is supposed to be the head of the art critic; the eyes behind the glasses are directed straight ahead, a symbol of the work of art criticism, which, unprejudiced and uninfluenced, may only look straight ahead. It is not uninteresting to mention here that the artist did not intend the head to resemble a portrait, but that I have been assured by friends that they recognized me immediately. A staircase leads from the finger to a house; the artist is standing in front of it, painting at an easel. He is standing on a frame that surrounds a picture of a dancing figure that is only partially visible. The composition of the picture is very concentrated with light and shadow distributed strictly and rhythmically in accordance with the character of the depiction. Here, as he has already done in some previous ex-libris not depicted here, Kampmann has arrived at a freer arrangement of the lettering, which nevertheless adapts and integrates itself into the drawing. The ascending arrangement of the proper name of my bookplate seems to me to indicate the critic's constructive work.

Recently, eight years later, I found yet another work by Walter Kampmann depicting Ernst Collin in the catalog to the Grosse Berliner Kunstausstellung of 1929. While the first was very expressionist, this one is a little less so, and depicts him in a chair with a [notebook] and holding a writing instrument, his head seemingly lost in thought resting in his palm. A woman, presumably his wife Else (nee Cronheim) almost has him in embrace, one hand on his right arm, with her left almost on his shoulder. As item 73 in the catalog, it is described as a painting (Gemälde), with the "N[G]" possibly indicating that Kampmann was a member of the "Novembergruppe", a group of expressionist artists. 

Image from the Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg's 
digital collections.

The search for a photograph will continue, but given that so much of Ernst's writings were focused on the arts and art criticism these are quite lovely to view.

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