Rudolf Jacob Zeller (1880-1948)

Rudolf Jacob Zeller (1880-1948). Oil on canvas measures 21 x 26 inches; 29 x 34 inches in antique brown wood frame. Minor craquelure apparent in blue background. Paint layer is entirely stable with no flaking or loss. No damage or restoration. Foam core sheet affixed verso. Canvas beneath has absolutely no repair or restoration. All original condition. Signed and dated lower right, recto.



Rudolf Jacob Zeller was a popular portrait painter in Hamburg, Germany. After 1935, he was not allowed in Germany to practice his profession. In 1938 he emigrated to the Netherlands . Education: Zeller studied at the Karlsruhe Academy with Carlos Grethe and at the Stuttgart Academy with Leopold von Kalckreuth on whose style he leaned heavily in the early days. Professional Life:  After graduating, he returned to Hamburg and moved there initially to establish a studio in the Semper Spitalerstraße. In 1912 he had his first solo exhibition. In 1921 he became a member of the Hamburg Artists Association and later the Hamburg artistry . Since the early twenties he taught private lessons in order to secure a livelihood for himself and his family. He lived with his wife Eva (nee Behn) and three sons, one of whom died at ten years old. As an art teacher, he enjoyed great prestige in Hamburg. Among his pupils were Else Weber, who also portrayed him several times herself, Ingeborg von Laffert and Lotte von Petersdorff. Zeller preferred motifs of figures in landscapes mainly. For much of his livelihood, he created commissioned portraits of the Hamburg bourgeoisie . He fulfilled perfectly the expectations of his clients, because he represented the sitter in a conventional dignified pose. The previous contract work seems a bit stiff and dry, but in 1920 he painted a vivid and spontaneous portrait Berthold Litzmanns. 3.-6. May 1935 he portrayed the writer Thomas Mann in his apartment in Küsnach in Zurich: “The picture has become an excellent portrait-study”. The painting was on 25 May in Zurich “in the new bookstore at the station” on display in the shop window. It is still not found. (TM diaries, 1935-36, p.92-95, 113, 484-485). Zeller received from Thomas Mann’s “The Tales of Jacob” and “Young Joseph” with the dedication: “Rudolf Zeller appropriated with good wishes and regards,” respectively. “To Rudolf Zeller commemorating successful portrait sessions.” Both dated “Küsnach 31.VII.36″. Remarkably Zellers self portrait he 1944 has painted just after the liberation of German-occupied southern Netherlands: Against a dark background, he looks, illuminated by the bright highlights to the viewer. Yet he seems lost in thought, his eyes are shadowed by his forehead. In honor of the liberation he has in the picture an orange flower stuck in his buttonhole; bear this national color was impossible during the German occupation. The color is that of the Dutch royal family Orange-Nassau. Impact of the Nazi regime: 1933 graduated from the Hamburg artistry Zeller for being Jewish from their ranks. Two years later, in 1935, followed by the prohibition. 1937, the year of the propaganda campaign ” Degenerate Art “Zellers wife took their own lives because they are repressed by the Nazis could no longer bear. A son, Alfred, emigrated to Ecuador from. Zeller himself emigrated in 1938 with pianist Walter Kaufmann in the Netherlands. The two settled in Zandvoort down and well managed jointly. Kaufmann gave piano lessons and occasional Zeller led from portrait commissions. In 1942, she moved (married with Mendes de Leon) to a merchant’s relatives after Maastricht , it was banned for the German invasion of Jewish citizens to live near the coast. When they had to sign up here and the deportations began in the East, they went into hiding. It then separated the paths of the two, although Kaufmann remained close. Zeller was the family of Van Horn in Heerlen taken and hidden. He could occasionally go outside, the artist should like, if something happens, pretend to be deaf and dumb, he unimpaired Dutch language. Kaufmann also survived the war intact. The end of Nazi rule: One and a half years of war, the artist lived with the family Van Hoorn, always attract attention in anxiety and to be denounced. The day of liberation by the Americans was also Zeller to an overwhelming event. When the tanks of the U.S. Army rumbled past in the direction of Aachen , the last hour of freedom had come. Many American soldiers have been received at the family Van Hoorn hospitable; Zeller drew many of them and gave the portraits to the liberators. After the war stayed with Van Hoorn Zeller live in Heerlen. He got in touch with his sons Richard and Alfred. Came back portrait commissions. He also painted portraits of Mrs. Van Horn, and other family members. Shortly before leaving to his son Alfred, who lived in Ecuador, he died suddenly on 22 January 1948, of a heart condition. References: Maike Bruhns: Fled from Germany. Hamburg artist in exile 1933-1945. Catalog of the exhibition in the Museum of Hamburg , Bremen, 2007, ISBN 978-3-86108-890-5 , pp. 178-180. Thomas Mann: Diaries 1935-1936. Edited by Peter de Mendelssohn. Frankfurt 1978th. Berthold Litzmann: In ancient Germany. Memories of a sexagenarian. Berlin 1923rd With cover art after the painting by Rudolf Zeller, Hamburg 1920th.