Born in Bolzano on December 24th,
Alois Anton Dominikus Hess, son of the
chancellery officer Dominikus Hess,
originally from Herlatzhofen (Württemberg),
Germany, and of Rosa Mayer, originally from
Austria. He would have preferred to be
called Louis Christian Hess, or more
simply, Christian Hess.
1908 - After the transfer of his family to
Innsbruck and his father’s death, he leaves
the gymnasium for the Staatsgewerbeschule
(the state institute of art) where he
distinguished himself in drawing. The
earliest engravings in wood and linoleum for
a series of ex libris printed by himself.
1912 - He gains experience at the "Mader"
art glass factory in Innsbruck and at the
Kuntner ceramic laboratory in Brunico.
exhibits his earliest works (drawings, engravings, aquarelles, etchings)
at the “Turn un Taxishof Galerie” of Innsbruck.
Called up for military service, he serves with “Bayerischen Pionier Kompanie n.
3” (Engineer Corps) on the Belgian front and in Flanders. He finds the
opportunity to visit the museums and churches of the occupied cities. He
collects impressions for his future works. He draws posters and post-cards for
1919 - He enters the “B. Akademie der
Bildenden Künste” in Munich in the class
under prof. Carl Johan Becker-Gundhal and
he stays there until the end of the academic
year 1923-24. He opens his first studio in
Munich at Theresienstrasse 75.
1920 - First collective exhibition “Ausstellung Junger Münchner - Graphische
presented in a catalogue by George Jacob Wolf. The critic writes: “The landscape
aquarelles of Christian Hess, in spite of his youth, could have figured well at
the exhibition of the New Secession. A serene and warm feeling for nature
appears in his works and an uncommonly developed sense of colour. Especially
noteworthy are the delicate motive “The sun spots” and the acute, incisive
effect achieved in “Winter on the river Inn.”
1921 - Collective exhibition “Ausstellung Junger Münchner” at the Gemälde
Galerie Sct. Martinus of Munich (Odeonspaltz 17) together with Florian
Bosch, Adolf Hartmann, Sigfried Kühnel, George Liebhardt, Josef Nickl,
Eugen Siegler, Bernhard Therhost and the sculptors Lothar Dietz and
to a scholarship, he makes trips through Scandinavia. Earliest works of
northern sights at Gothenberg, Malmoe and Stockholm. A meeting with
1922 - Trip
to Innsbruck, Bolzano, Brunico, Salisburg and Vienna.
1923 - At Vienna Staatsmuseum, on
commission from a group of art collectors,
he reproduces some masterpieces by Titian,
Veronese, Velasquez, Van der Bruel and other
old masters. Period of great interest in
classical music, opera and scenography.
1924 - His
academic studies completed, he returns to Vienna and paints several portraits,
including some of the singer Erna Ludwig of the Wiener Deutschen Theater.
- He visits Florence and Tuscany. He reproduces works at Palazzo Pitti
and at the Museo degli Uffizi. For the first time he goes to Sicily, to
Messina, where his sister Emma lives. He is attracted by the colours
and the Mediterranean landscape which will remain the leitmotiv of his
Sojourns in Bolzano and Innsbruck. He returns to Munich to attend the "Ausstellung
Tiroles Künstler" exhibition featuring work by Tyrolean and Austrian artists.
He produces a series of 60 Sicilian etchings which are printed in Munich. A
journey through Switzerland. In the autumn, second trip to Italy; a different
itinerary (Verona, Bologna, Florence, Pisa, Rome, Naples, Capri, Ischia) which
ends again in Sicily. Here he can reflect upon all the masterpieces he has seen
in Italian museums and can ripen new experiences. In October, exhibition at the
Paulus Galerie in Munich where he shows his first exhibition of sculptures.
1927 - Year of intense and frenetic work in
Sicily to prepare a series of works
featuring new colours for exhibition in
1928 - He meets Max Beckman with whom he
will remain a close friend. American art
lovers buy his aquarelles of Sicilian
images. At Wismar (Meeklenburg) he paints a
Sicilian-inspired fresco at the villa of the
He attends the "Sommer Ausstellung des
Deutschen Künstler Verbandes AUFBAU - E.
V." in Munich.
Some of the pictures are presented in
Berlin at the imperial Castle in a show
organized by the Secretary of State Schultz.
Trip to Berlin and Dresden. Exhibition in
Braunschweig and in Munich (Glaspalast). New
trip to Sicily, Palermo and Agrigento.
adheres to the “Juryfreie”(Without Jury) movement. Later
exhibitions of the movement attracted visits from Picasso, Klee, Max
Ernst, Willi Baumeister, Severini and Miro among others. Exhibition in
Munich at the Glaspalast, Prinzregentstrasse 1. Period of nudes and
critic Wilhelm Hausenstein in “Aus meinern Kunstnotizbuch” (July 1929)
Juryfreie has already shown itself as a promising artistic group... In
the meantime, I note Christian Hess, Josef Scharl, Fritz Buchardt,
Grassmann, Panizza and as sculptors Spengler and Zeh”.
magazines reproduce works by Christian Hess. The Leipzig-based
“Cicerone” publishes the picture “Am Strand” (On the Beach); in
Munich “Jugend", the official organ of the "Jungestil" cultural
movement, reproduces a drawing of the Tuscan countryside. Exhibition at
the Paulus Galerie in Munich with the new “Generation” union which -
according to art critics - gives new lifeblood to previous movements of
the Secession. Exhibition in Munich “Zeitgemässe portraits”. “A
Maternity" is touching for its delicate chromatic harmonies and its
true and convincing expression” (Munchner Augsburger Abendzeitung -
November 12th). He prepares the cartoons for the frescoes in
the saloons of the steamship “Europe”. The “Jugend” review (April)
publishes on its cover “A fisherman with red jacket” part of a triptych
shown at the exhibition of the Secession. Exhibitions in the Rhine
valley and the Ruhr.
“Zweijahrbuch” catalogue 1929-30 presented by Hans Eckstein, with essays by
Franz Rho, Oskar Maria Graf and Wolfang Petzet, Hess’ paintings of “Neptun” and
“Matrosen” (Sailors), both produced in Messina, are included. He paints
frescoes for the spa at Oeynhausen (Westfalia) and on the invitation of the
Gymnasium holds a conference on the history and techniques of the fresco. Other
frescoes at Obermenzing, in Munich. The cover of the Munich-based magazine
“Jugend” features “Am Wasser”, the central part of a triptych shown at the
Secession Exhibition (June). Exhibitions in Berlin, Dresden, Switzerland and
again in Munich. The landscapes and the colours of the South emerge. From a
review of the spring exhibition at Prinzregen-strasse in Munich: “From the
approach of the exhibitors we can draw clarifying comparisons. Hess is present
with landscapes and a “fish seller”. He demonstrates that he is able to render
the multiplicity of nature in simple, strongly picturesque forms. His
concentration has a beneficial effect in comparison to the difficult ,
over-intellectual approach of the other painters”. Twelve of his works at
the regional exhibition of Braunschweig. The painting “Scheferde” (a flock
of sheep in a Sicilian landscape) is bought in Zurich for 1.000 DM. In
Zurich he meets his future wife, Cecilia Faesy, whom he asks to take care of the
sale of his works in Switzerland. New trip to Sicily.
– The "Juryfreie" artists are kept under close observation by the
Brownshirts. In early March, at a meeting of the “Kampfbundes für
deutsche Kultur” the protesters Christian Hess, Adolf Hartmann, Wolf
Panizza e Günther Grassmann are thrown out. Panizza and Grassmann are
savagely beaten. In
the fire at the Glaspalast in Munich (June 6th) the paintings
of Hess and others are destroyed. For the “Juryfreie” artists who have
lost their works, a special exhibition is prepared at the Deutsches
Museum in Munich. Trip to Rome where he visits galleries and museums.
He falls ill and is treated by friends from the German Academy at Villa
Massimo, among whom is Karl Hofer. Having returned to Germany, he starts
a Munich-based movement grouping together painters, sculptors and
architects with the aim of improving mutual cooperation. In the same
exhibition: “Bildhauer-Maler-Architects”, Hess presents the cartoons of
the frescoes for a “Ton-film Theater” in Breslavia. The project,
proposed by the movement and supported by the Münchner Abend Ausgabe/Anzeiger
(September 15th) and by the Münchner Zeitung (September 17th)
will finally be realised much later.
1932 - Juryfreie
Hess is present with the painting “Wartesaal III klasse in Bologna” (Mondpreis
London - Opus 30). Exhibition at the Lenbach Gallery in Munich (sculptures) and
exhibition of the Deutscher Künstlerbund: Berlin - Nuremberg - Koenigsberg -
Danzig - Rostock.
Nuremberg “Münchner Kunstlerpersönhlichkeiten”. “The expectations for the
future - he writes to his sister - are not rosy anymore, neither
politically nor economically”.
moves to Sicily, after authorities threaten to ban the “Juryfreie”
movement as a "Bolshevist Cultural Union". In Germany he would only have
been able to paint in secret. In Sicily he rediscovers freedom of
expression. Rich period of works, all inspired by the landscapes and the
life of the island.
marries Cecilia Faesy, who joins him in Messina. They then return to
– In this period Germans are not popular in Switzerland. Hess’ activity
is limited. He busies himself with theatrical work: directing and
designing. He carves a series of characters heads for the puppet
theatre. Through friends he is able to sell some unsigned paintings.
1936 – With
his wife he returns once more
to Sicily. They bring furniture and paintings they manage to salvage in Germany.
Within a few months he remains alone; his marriage is floundering and his wife
goes back to Switzerland. Through his friends he is kept informed of the
deteriorating political situation in Germany and Austria.
He studies new techniques, but he is not
able to produce with his usual rhythm. A
deep spiritual crisis brings him to the
verge of suicide, but comforted by his
sister, he takes heart again.
back to Switzerland where he stays at Liestal as a guest of Jürg Spiller. He
secretly teaches painting. His wife, from whom he will soon divorce, still
sells paintings in Zurich on his behalf. He is refused residence in Switzerland.
He again leaves for Germany and finds artistic and cultural life under
the control of the government.
- He finds his old friend Franz Gebhardt, in whose house on the
Chiemsee he finds the time and tranquillity to paint and produce
sculptures. The sculptures will have to be cast at the Kirchner
workshop. At Oberwössen in Bavaria, he paints frescoes on the walls of
a restaurant which belongs to the widow of the sculptor Oskar Zeh, who
had committed suicide in Munich some years before.
1940 - In
Munich he is stopped by the military police and forcibly conscripted. On account
of his precarious health, he is assigned to work for the Post Office
1941 - He falls seriously ill and is admitted to Schwabing Hospital.
When discharged, he is readmitted to the “Reichskunstcammer” but he must
first prove his Aryan origins, with papers obtained by going to
Württemberg. On his return his illness worsens and he is treated at in
the sanatorium in Planneg. After being discharged he goes to relatives
in Innsbruck and Axams. In the meantime, production at the silk
factories in Krefeld for which Hess made fabric designs is suspended. He
loses his monthly allowance of 300 marks. He goes to Grinzenz and
afterwards to Zirl to paint some frescoes in the town hall.
1942 - He
moves to Innsbruck. The artists union of Tyrol (Der Landsleiter der Reichskammer
der bildenden künste beim landeskulturwalter Gau Tirol Vorarlberg) gives him a
studio in Adamgasse 8, and afterwards at Universitatstrasse 6.
1943 - No news.
1944 - November 26th.
He dies in Schwaz Hospital following an air raid on Innsbruck. He is buried
in Westfriedhof, the West cemetery of Innsbruck.