The entire flavor of an era is contained in this one little book, “O Diese Dackel: Lustiges aus dem Leben unserer kleinen Krummbeingen” published in 1912 in Munich.
If you don’t read German, the title is something like, “O This Dachshund: Funnies about the life of our small odd- shaped being.” My German is very rusty. My mother spoke German, and both parents had German roots. (Google translates the title to “O These dachshunds: funny things from the life of our little crooked-legs.”)
The two artists who received top billing for the illustrations in this book are Adolf Hengeler (1863-1927) and August Roeseler (1866-1943), both residents of Munich, both past students of the Munich Academy of Fine Art. You would think an serious art academy would not produce artists that focused on such distracting art as funny illustrations, and would have taught artists to grapple with issues of the day, but this is exactly why this little book sums up the zeitgeist of the last few years of the 19th centuries and beginning of the 20th centuries so well.
Two years after this book was published, Germany entered the bloody World War I, and in Bavaria, deep dark clouds were on the horizon.
I adore this little slim volume because I adore the breed of dog it celebrates, the Doxie, and the illustrations are lighthearted, comical, sentimental and accurate.
The summary of those four words perfectly illustrates the “zeitgeist” or flavor of the time in Bavaria. My ancestors came from that region right about that time, emigrating to St. Louis.
Possibly my absolute favorite illustration by Roeseler is one that is not in the book, but one that features dachshunds, originally published in the magazine “Fliegende Blatter” (Flying Leaves) in Munich on Aug. 31, 1900. Doxies salivate as they longingly lust after a sausage shape high in the sky. This was the artist’s comment of the flight of Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin’s blimp as it passed over the Bodensee at Friedrichshafen (Lake Constance).
I found the illustration, titled “Riesenwurst” (literally traveling sausage), on “Read Seen Heard” by collector Kihm.
Roeseler was known in his day as the Dackelmaler (Doxie painter), and indeed a theme in his work was the juxtaposition of the wiener dog and actual wieners (Wurst).
Such were found on a menu he designed for the famous hot spot of the Oktoberfest, the Hofbräuhaus am Platzl, and beer steins he designed for Villory and Boch, Marzi and Remy, and Mettlach.
He was also a poster artist, genre oil painter (mostly drinking men with dogs!), and cartoonist, and collectors look for his illustration of the bumpkins of Bavaria in “Jugend,” and “Simplicissimus.”He collaborated with the co- illustrator of “O Diese Dackel,” Hengeler, on Hengeler’s magazine “Fliegende Blatter,” for which Hengeler drew 5000 illustrations over his 20 year-tenure.
That was, he drew 5,000 illustrations before he married into a very wealthy family, the daughter of the Court jeweler for King Ludwig III of Bavaria. He took a professorship at the academy of Arts, Munich, where Hengeler had apprenticed as a lithographer in 1878, and studied copper plate engraving. When he married into money, he assumed the more refined profession of oil painter!
His paintings of the fin de siècle also contained the light and fanciful zeitgeist of the era (which I have always considered troubling: in Germany of this period, the poor were EXTREMELY poor, the rich EXTRAORDINARILY rich, war was brewing etc.), painting themes of humor and caricature, landscapes with sprites and mythic creatures, the forests of Bavaria replete with religious figures, and — yes — drinking men with dogs.
His work had some acclaim: He showed in the famous 1893 Munich Secession, in the Great Berlin Art Exhibition, at the Munich Glass Palace (four shows).
His grandson Peter Bomhard (1919-1979) became an art historian and endowed his grandfather’s home village of Kempten in upper Bavaria his grandfather’s complete collection of art and furnishings, requesting that the local Allgau Museum create a wing to reproduce his grandfather’s studio. Thus the Hengeler Room was the focus of a celebration in 2013 of Hengeler’s 150th birthday.
Perhaps as an answer to the escapist art of the turn of the last century, practiced by Hengeler, the town commissioned a musical in Hengeler’s honor called “The So-Called Hengeler Art Revue, or the Strange Sorrows of an Art Professor.” I can almost hear the tubas and accordions as I write this.
The value of “O Diese Dackel” is $100. I am indebted to Imke, a German friend of mine, who, upon noticing I had two “Dackels” (Bark and then Bear) in rapid succession, gifted me this book.
Dr. Elizabeth Stewart’s “Ask the Gold Digger” column appears Mondays in the News-Press.
Written after her father’s COVID-19 diagnosis, Dr. Stewart’s book “My Darlin’ Quarantine: Intimate Connections Created in Chaos” is a humorous collection of five “what-if” short stories that end in personal triumphs over present-day constrictions. It’s available at Chaucer’s in Santa Barbara.