A chronicler with a felt pen

Under the title Breakdowns, Catastrophes and Apocalypses, the Museum Frankfurt is presenting works from the estate of Kurt Wölbing (1910-1990) from Frankfurt until 30 September.

No – no – no asparagus grows in this city

For the first time, Wölbing’s coloured felt-tip pen drawings are made accessible to a broad public. As an artistic autodidact, he recorded in his drawings formative events from politics and society, but also personal experiences and grievances in the world of work. Characteristic is the subjective view of these pictorial themes, which is often expressed in satirically exaggerated figures. The depictions are accompanied by ironic, sometimes biting captions. The city of Frankfurt am Main, home of Wölbing from Lower Lusatia after the Second World War, is a central point of reference for many drawings. As an air traffic control consultant, he experienced the expansion of Frankfurt Airport and the technological upheavals.

These impressions flow into his drawings over the years

Wölbing’s legacy is of particular interest to the Historisches Museum Frankfurt because of its close regional ties. Although many of the drawings are characterized by surreal elements and a caricature-like style, they form a unique document of the time. As the ‘subjective historiography’ of a Frankfurt citizen, the drawings of the autodidact are rightly taken seriously in this exhibition.

At first glance, many of the events drawn are difficult for today’s viewer to understand. Kurt Wölbing was already aware of this and wrote extensive descriptions that provide information about the subject and the process of creating the drawings. The Historical Museum takes up this valuable part of the estate and makes Wölbing’s descriptions accessible in a brochure on display. In addition, the exhibition does not include its own interpretations of the works. This pleasantly objective presentation is rounded off by a successful hanging under thematic aspects. The intimate atmosphere of the cabinet exhibition in the 13th Collector’s Room offers the possibility of an intensive encounter with Kurt Wölbing’s idiosyncratic drawings.

Volker Hille studied general and comparative literature and art history at Goethe University and completed his studies in 2013 with a master’s thesis on a medieval tomb of two women with child in Unterreichenbach im Vogelsberg. His doctoral thesis deals with medieval depictions of violence. The dissertation is part of the research project “Violence Imagery in Late Medieval Germany: Rhetoric and Response Forms in Visual Representations of Martyrdom and the Passion” sponsored by the Gerda Henkel Foundation at the Universities of Frankfurt am Main and Tel Aviv.

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