Curt Echtermeyer

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Curt Echtermeyer (Chilean-born German, 1896–1971), painted under the pseudonym name of Curt Brückner, also sometimes listed as C. Brückner pinx., Curt Brückner-Echtermeyer or Echtermeier. He is primarily known for his oil paintings of genre and interior scenes with figures, botanical/floral, surrealistic/fantasy works, figures/portraits, streetscenes, circus scenes, jungles, as well as pastels. Curt Echtermeyer was born in Valparaíso, Chile, in 1896 to Romulus Echtermeyer (1871-1940) and Margarita (née Friedmann) Echtermeyer, and they had four children to include, Heriberto (Tito) Echtermeyer, Curt Echtermeyer, Alexander Echtermeyer and Rosalie Margarita Mercedes Echtermeyer-Ochsthough some family descendants wonder if Curt was really born in Valparaíso, Chile, or if it was a myth the family fabricated? Curt’s father Romulus had initially deserted from the army in the 1890’s and crossed the Atlantic to make his luck in Argentina, but later crossed the Andes to start again in Chile. There he found a career and married his wife Margarita, but the family eventually returned to Germany around 1900, and settled in Berlin. Curt Echtermeyer was related to the writer and philospher, Ernst Theodor Echtermeyer (German, 1805-1844) and the noted sculptor, Carl Friedrich Echtermeier (formerly Karl Echtermeyer, German, 1845-1910). Shortly after Germany entered WWI on August 1, 1914, Echtermeyer had begun his formal studies at art school, but was luckily “overlooked” for the universal mass conscription that occurred by the Imperial German Army at the time.

Under his real surname of Echtermeyer, his early artwork was often vast, generally somber and dark with dreamlike images and unsettling scenes of surrealistic fantasy. Many of his paintings were populated by pale figures with mask-like faces and he used colors like black, brown, grey and other dark shades which were often punctuated by white or blood-red, while others shined in rainbow colors. When it came to his art, Echtermeyer categorically rejected any type of preparatory studies, and opted to draw directly onto the canvas or wood before applying oil or pastel, and he preferred to paint at night.

From 1925-26, Echtermeyer resided in Paris during Les années folles (the “Crazy Years”) when Paris had succeeded in reestablishing itself as the capital of art, music, literature and cinema after the paralyzing impact WWI had on the country, let alone the rest of Europe. While in Paris, Echtermeyer made connections with other surrealist artists and continued his art studies, although he soon found himself penniless. Many of his oil paintings done during his time spent in Paris were relatively small and were executed directly onto wood—as a result of the various narrow lodgings he lived in at the time where he sometimes used parts of the furniture to paint on, like the bottoms of drawers. He was also known to have studied in Munich and Rome, and also did restoration work for some of the finest museums in Europe.

During the 1930’s, Echtermeyer was motivated to turn his hand to painting interiors by the changing political circumstances of the time. At the start of WWII, he once again was spared service on the front and because of the Nazi dictatorship, it forced him to develop a fundamentally different ‘second’ style. After the war, Echtermeyer’s paintings under his pseudonym name of Curt Brückner (or Curt Brückner-Echtermeyer) earned him a regular and comfortable income through the well-known Berlin art dealer, Werner Karst (1909-). Karst had established an assembly line production shop called the "Haus der Tausend Gemälde" (“House of a Thousand Paintings”) on the Kantstraße (Kant Street) in West Berlin, where he sold affordable paintings for German homes, which proved to be quite popular in the mid 20th century. In his shop, Karst collaborated with a team of about thirty contractually-obligated painters to produce a multitude of paintings for resale to the public not only in Germany, but in Europe and the United States. He rigorously rationalized their painting technique to maintain a high standard of German workmanship and production. Each of the thirty painters always worked on the same motifs in his assembly line technique, with specialized departments for works of Berlin motifs and architectural scenes, genre and interior scenes, figurative works, Alpine/mountainscapes, landscapes, seascapes and marine scenes, floral still lifes and botanicals, and the like. During his time with Karst, Echtermeyer generally was paid about 100 marks per painting, which equals about $420.00 in today’s dollar (for 2021) and he once stated in an old 1955 article in Der Spiegel news magazine, "I have mastered my craft and work very quickly. If I only do ten pictures a month, I get my money's worth."[1] Amongst the flood of mainly German landscapes during that time period, Echtermeyer seems to have been one of the few artists who supplied interior motifs and figurative works and as a result, he was billed as a specialist in the ‘Old Masters’ style. Under his pseudonym name of Brückner, Echtermeyer painted mostly genre and interior scenes with figures that emulated the style and feel of 19th century Realism which were intimate, warm, quotidian and idyllic, as well as painting botanical/floral works, portraits and other figurative works. His genre scenes are dominated by warm golden-brown tones which are in stark contrast to the melancholy ashen tones of his surrealist and expressionist imagery of his early work. His detailed interior genre views often depict comfortable older middle-class men in the pursuit of their trades or hobbies—for example making or playing musical instruments, playing chess, stamp collecting or Rabbis reading, to name a few. His interiors are crammed full with books, globes, plans, papers, models and framed paintings, of which Echtermeyer would sometimes sign the painting in the picture with his well-known pseudonym, “C. Brückner pinx.”, along with the date. In his spare time, he still enjoyed painting surrealist fantasy scenes.

Eventually, the Stalinist dictatorship in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) prompted Echtermeyer to leave Berlin and in 1962, after the erection of the Berlin Wall, he moved to the Old Town district of Bamberg, Germany. His impressions of traditional festivities in Bamberg were reminiscent of fireworks in some of his artwork. Later in his career, the color palette and mood of Echtermeyer’s paintings lightened while some even approached abstraction, but they still teemed with people. By the end of 1969, Curt Echtermeyer and his wife Wally Gravitz de Echtermeyer fulfilled a life-long dream of moving to Spain. They settled in the tiny hilltop village of Sant Vicenç de Calders in the Province of Tarragona, Spain and from their cottage they were able to look out over the Mediterranean Sea. On December 11, 1971, Curt and is wife lost their lives in a tragic accident in Sant Vicenç de Calders and were interred in the local cemetery of El Vendrell, Catalonia, Spain.

(Written & compiled by Mark Strong of Meibohm Fine Arts, Inc., East Aurora, NY, 14052 from sources: echtermeierforum, wordpress; German (Translated) & English Wikipedia versions, “Curt Echtermeyer”; ancestry.com; Translated information from magazine.spiegel.de, online digitized article with quote [1], Der Spiegel, “Malerie: Bilderhandel; Vierzig Prozent Alpen”, Mittwoch, 30, November, 1955; and old painting labels.)

 

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