Bayerische Hofglasmalerei Gustav van Treeck, München, by Peter van Treeck, Elgin Vaassen et. al.

Hardback, 368 pp, over 550 illustrations almost all in colour. (Wuppertal, Prometheus Publishers, 2020), €32/£27.73. ISBN 978-3-9814271-8-9

Reviewed by Professor Virginia Raguin, College of the Holy Cross, Emeritus

This is an outstanding example of a retrospective of a long-lived and highly productive studio in Munich. The first section, entitled ‘people and times’, authored by Elgin Vaassen, profiles the firm’s history. Peter van Treeck authored the subsequent section focusing on the nature of production of glass painting and mosaic as well discussing restoration of both windows and mosaics from 1945 to 2020. A final section of almost 200 pages is dedicated to photographs of windows and mosaics dating from the 1940s to the present.

As lovers of glass, we can share Elgin Vaassen’s delight in tracing the family name back to a roundel dated 1587 with the arms of Wilhelm van Dreeck and his wife Niesken Velincks (now Kevelaer, Niederrheinisches Museum für Volkskunde und Kulturgeschichte). The family name (Treck, Treek, Dreeck) stems from the area of the Lower Rhine slightly to the northwest of Cologne on the border of the Netherlands. The professions of painter and glassmaker/designer often were practiced together. By 1845, Peter Mathias van Treeck (1816–1889) was established as a glass painter in Hüls, a town since 1975 incorporated into the city of Krefeld. His work apparently specialized primarily in ornamental glazing. Of his three sons, one became a locksmith and other an innkeeper but the middle son, Gustav (1854–1930) trained as a glass painter in Nuremberg before entering the family business. He worked with a number of collaborators as a young man, including joining the studio of Franz Xavier Zettler in Munich, a city that had pioneered the revival of the craft in the early nineteenth century. In 1887 Gustav took the significant step of opening an independent studio in 3 Schwindstraße in the city. Munich glass painters had already become well known outside of Germany, and from the end of the nineteenth through the beginning or the twentieth century, they dominated foreign markets, especially in the United States and South America. The van Treeck Studio is part of this history.

Vaassen’s meticulous research is evident throughout all of her chapters. Anyone interested in the history of the early innovators and influential position of German artists in glass will be richly rewarded by a perusal of these pages. She is regarded as the leading expert on nineteenth-century German glass and her Bilder auf Glas: Glasgemälde zwischen 1780 und 1870 (Munich/Berlin: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 1997), Die Glasgemälde des 19. Jahrhunderts im Dom zu Regensburg, Stiftungen König Ludwigs I. von Bayern 1827 – 1857 (Regensburg, 2007); and Die kgl. Glasmalereianstalt in München 1827-1874: Geschichte; Werke; Künstler (Munich/Berlin: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 2013) are touchstones in the field.

Fig. 1. Gustav van Treeck Studio designer, Angel, 1914, St. Josef’s Church, Ludwigshafen-Rheingönheim (courtesy Gustav van Treeck Studio)

Gustav proved to be versatile, with a keen understanding of the site and the patron. A number of works continue the mid-nieteenth-century style of the Nazarenes: graceful idealism executed with meticulous care. Examples are found in the church of St. Lawrence of 1895 in Altdorf near Nürnberg, or the church of St. Cyriacus in Krefeld-Hüls, as well as numerous American installations. The studio also executed many commissions in the distinctly early twentieth-century styles of art nouveau and expressionism. A window depicting an angel in St. Josef’s Church in Ludwigshafen-Rheingönheim (Fig. 1) dated 1914 exhibits the bold abstraction. The designer is unknown, but bears comparison to contemporary artists such as Heinrich Campendonk and Jan Thorn Prikker of Die Brücke and Blauer Reiter movements, who also created work in glass. During this initial development, the studio built international cooperative agreements. In 1921 Gustav van Treeck entered a partnership with the Wagner-Larscheid studio located in Milwaukee, which became the agent for both windows and mosaics produced by van Treeck for the United States and Canada. In 1924, due to the American company’s insolvency, that agreement was altered to an agreement with the Milwaukee-based Conrad Schmidt studio. Successive generations guided the studio, continued today by Peter van Treeck.

Fig. 2. Franz Nagel, 1953 model for 1955 installation in monastic church of the Benedictines of the Adoration, near Vilshofen (courtesy Gustav van Treeck Studio)

From 1996 to 2004 Peter van Treeck was a professor at the University of Applied Art in Erfurt, the first ‘chair’ for teaching stained glass conservation in Germany, a position continued by his successor, Professor Sebastian Strobl. Van Treeck played a leading role in developing standards for conservation ethics in stained glass practice according to the Guidelines of the International Corpus Vitrearum His essay concentrates on work produced by the studio after 1945. These years after World War II saw tremendous changes in German glazing. The standard gravitated towards the employment of the ‘out of the house designer’ beautifully illustrated in the many diverse installations fabricated by the studio. The van Treeck studio early collaborated with Franz Nagel, professor of painting and graphics at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich from 1947. The arrangement was productive as he and his students became engaged with monumental art. The work was varied, including traditional leaded glass, mosaics, and dalle-de-verre (faceted glass) for installations such as the monastic church of the Benedictines of the Adoration, near Vilshofen of 1955 (Fig. 2).

The studio was a pioneer in large public creations such as the railroad and underground stations that today often incorporate leaded glass, tiles, and mosaics. Munich’s U-Bahn station at Dülferstraße (Fig. 3), built 1987–93, was designed by Jürgen Rauch and the Lanz architectural office. Displaying a large hall with a vaulted ceiling and tall central columns, it was widely praised as an innovation due to its colorful glass designed by Ricarda Dietz. The artist continued to work with the studio, designing patterned floors in exhibition halls and an additional U-Bahn station in Munich’s Haderner Stern.

Contemporary production frequently sees the technical expertise of the studio supporting the expression of established artists in other media. One of the recent examples is Tholey Abbey in the Saarland, Germany (northwest of Strasbourg), where in 2020 the van Treeck Studio executed windows by Gerhard Richter and by Mahbuba Elham Maqsoodi,  The installation has become one of the most widely discussed in the trend to install contemporary windows in historic buildings. Richter’s work in Cologne Cathedral has now become one of the touchstones of this phenomenon. Artists in the UK have often worked with the studio, including Thomas Denny (born 1956) Denny’s work features acid etching and silver stain for a distantly atmospheric blending of figure and ground. In 2018 Brian Clark, worked with the van Treeck studio for a series of free-standing screens (Fig. 4). Entitled Orchids and the Void of Lust, Cherry Blossoms, The Illusion of Logic, Blue Computergram, and Night Orchards, the five panels were executed in a variety of techniques including computerized printing and sandblasting.

Fig. 3. Ricarda Dietz, 1991, U-Bahn station at Dülferstraße Munich (courtesy Gustav van Treeck Studio)

Fig. 4. Brian Clark, free-standing screens, 2018, private collection, (courtesy Gustav van Treeck Studio)

Not simply painted and leaded glass, but significant installations of different mosaic work characterized the studio’s work since the 1940s. Carl Klobes’ 1967 design for the mosaic ceiling of the baptismal chapel in Würzburg Cathedral displays a perfect sensitivity to the relationship to the space itself and the subtle colors of the circular bronze font, warm tones of the floor and the grey-neutral of the stone walls (Fig. 5).

Fig. 5. Carl Klobes, mosaic ceiling, 1967, baptismal chapel of Würzburg Cathedral (courtesy Gustav van Treeck Studio)

Restoration work has also been a concern, including significant works of the early twentieth century such as Max Pechstein’s touchstone of German Expressionism, Woman with Animals (Frau mit Tieren) in the Kunstgewerbemuseum Berlin. In 1994, the studio worked with Ludwig Schaffrath in Ulm Munster to reposition remnants of medieval glazing within the artist’s large grisaille compositions. The mosaic floor in the Neues Museum Berlin, installed in 1847, was restored by the studio in 2008. Complete ensembles such as the Augsburg Synagogue, built between 1913 and 1917 attest to the studio’s involvement in important historic monuments. The synagogue had been set on fire during the anti-Jewish Pogroms of 1938 Restoration began in 1974 and the main sanctuary was rededicated in 1985. It is once again the heart of a Jewish community and due to immigration from the post-Soviet states, its congregants are more numerous than ever before.

This large and profusely illustrated book is chock full of information about widely diverse artistic expressions in commercial, domestic, and cultural venues as well as religious sites. The reader will discover a visual compendium of the changing styles, materials, techniques, and patrons that constitute the history of glazing and mosaic work in the last one hundred and fifty years.   

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