Heinrich Zille

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This year marks the 150th birthday of one of Berlin’s most beloved artists, Heinrich Zille.

Zille immortalized the life of ordinary people in Berlin. He knew every nook and cranny of the rapidly-growing industrial metropolis, including its darker corners such as tenement blocks, dank cellar rooms and gloomy courtyards. “It hurts when you have to sell serious matters as a joke,” the illustrator was once heard to say.

Like his friend, Kathe Kollwitz, Zille had an eye for the injustices of the era and the sufferings of the poor and downtrodden working class warehoused in Berlin’s tenements.

“Zille, that Old Pa, is known in every pub and bar,” was a quip on the lips of many who lived in working class districts. “No one would believe all the things I’ve seen,” Zille would later remark.

Charley Parker’s blog, “lines and colors,” had a recent post about Zille.   Michael Kimmelman, the chief art critic of the New York Times, said  the “essence of his pictures was to show how monotonous life would be if we only cared about what’s great in the world and not about everything local and paricular and even sometimes untranslatable that actually makes life rich.”


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