Gallery - Frescoes

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The challenge of space

(dma) - Christian Hess always enjoyed painting frescoes; he relished the challenge of working on such a large scale. Unfortunately there is little documentary evidence of Hess’ work on frescoes. We know his first experience came in 1928, when he was commissioned to paint several frescoes inside the villa of the industrialist Mayer at Wismar (Mecklenburg). The following year the businessman also commissioned Hess to produce an oil painting of his sugar refinery.

The first frescoes at an industrialist’s villa in Wismar

Villa Mayer at Wismar in a painting by Hess who also painted some frescoes inside the villa.  The industrialist Mayer was the owner of a sugar refinery. (Archive photo)


Also in 1929 Hess produced sketches for frescoes in the saloons of the transatlantic steamer “Europa”. In 1930 he carried out some frescoes at the spa at Bad Oeynhausen near Hannover and others a few months later at Obermenzing near Munich. In 1931 as part of the "Bildhauer-Maler-Architekt" exhibition he presented the cartoons for frescoes at the “Ton-Film-Theater” in Breslavia (now Wroclaw), as may be seen from the  Münchener Augsburger Abendzeitung of 15 April 1931. In 1939 he was commissioned to paint frescoes for a restaurant at Oberwössen, in Baviera belonging to the wife of the sculptor Oskar Zeh. Finally in 1941 Hess travelled to Grinzenz and then to Zirl to paint some frescoes in the Town Hall. During his stays in Sicily Hess produced a number of murals, none of which have survived. On these pages you may find the few images still available of the frescoes produced by the Maestro.



For the saloons of the SS “Europa”

The completed panel for “Germany”

Sketch of the panel for “Summer” with Hess’ notes outlining the themes he intended drawing on for the frescoes

Sketch of the panel for “Italy”

In the margins of the preliminary sketches featuring the bathers it’s possible to read Hess’ notes outlining the themes he intended drawing on for the frescoes.

 The 4 seasons: spring, summer, autumn, winter voyages all year round;
 4 countries: Germany, France, England, Italy - as if in synthesis of the ship’s name;
the 4 cardinal points - N. S. O. W. - navigating in all possible directions;
the 4 elements: water, fire, air, earth - the essential components of matter;

It’s likely that Hess worked on at least two of the themes: the seasons (see the sketch for the bathers) and the countries, for which some preparatory sketches were found after a brief stay of his in Sicily in 1928. A few months later in Munich he prepared some cartoons for the Europa frescoes: one, completed in colour, referring to Germany (with the annotation  “Dampfer Europa”) and another preliminary sketch dedicated to Italy showing the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

The ship of lost records

The dramatically changing fortunes of the German transatlantic steamer Europa. To open the information card click on the photo.

It is not easy to establish how many frescoes depicting which subjects Hess actually completed for the saloons and other settings aboard the “Europa”. Photographs taken on board the steamer matching his preliminary sketches would need to be found. Unfortunately the transatlantic vessel’s dramatically changing fortunes do not make verification easy, as may be seen from the information card “The ship of lost records”.