Picture Postcard from F. W. Kleukens

Attention – Cat Content!

Our Thing of the Month December is a postcard from the 1910s designed by Friedrich Wilhelm Kleukens. You can see five cats together holding a fish in their mouths, at the bottom of the picture there is a row of beer mugs.

The postcard is one of several prints of Kleukens, which can be seen in the context of our current special exhibition Commercial Design instead of Applied Art?

The exhibition is dedicated to a recently acquired collection of commercial graphics from the context of the Deutsches Museum für Kunst in Handel und Gewerbe (German Museum for Art in Trade and Industry, aka DM).

Karl Ernst Osthaus, director of the DM, emphasized that collectibility and associated it with exemplarity: “[Printed matter] all leads a far too fleeting existence, and is often no longer encountered in traffic when its exemplary nature is beyond question.” (1909)

So these advertising prints show a stringent development from Jugendstil to the streamlined typographic concepts by the likes of Lucian Bernhard, Julius Gipkens or Fritz Helmuth Ehmcke.

Kleukens, who founded the Steglitzer Werkstatt in Berlin with F. H. Ehmcke as early as 1900, also shows a turning to an objective style. The aim of this workshop was to create not only designs for carpets, glasses and metalwork, but also for applied graphics. Here, the distance to Jugendstil was also emphasized. The workshop was the first studio community for advertising art in Germany and one of the main seeds of the Werkbund founded in 1907. In addition to his graphic designs, F. W. Kleukens played a decisive role in the development of new typefaces for book and advertising printing.