Walter Gotschke 1912-2000. [See www.gotschke-art.com and EDITIONS_AUTOMOBILE@gotschke-art.com]
“He had always drawn as if possessed, his entire childhood had been filled with drawings wherever he went or happened to be he would draw. At first it was animals, standing sitting, jumping ………..horses, sheep goats, dogs”
Quoted by Gerhild Druecker-Gotschke [widow]
The A&R is committed to examining Lotus and motor sport in the widest possible context.
Walter Gotschke is an important artist to study as he captured Lotus cars and Chapman and their height of prowess on the track.
We feel that all the nuances and indeed the passion and beauty cannot be understood otherwise.
The machines are beautiful in their own right but the drama of the race and its associated activities are natural subjects for artists.
Furthermore there needs to be a more critical appreciation of applied beauty and representation. Convention and price has perhaps given some branches of the fine arts a place at the top of the hierarchy; Impressionism is a prime example but some motoring artists have been equally impressionistic possibly more so as they had to capture images that passed in a split second.
For some motor sport and representative art is considered inferior but we will hope to challenge this and perhaps place the art in a wider social context of our times. For some the motorcar has defined the 20C
In the 20C most of the arts have in some way deferred to engineering, many like the Futurists and Constructivists glorified the combination of speed and technology. In architecture and the Art Deco movement there was a desire to represent the modern and its associated power and speed.
The Bauhaus School was committed to the improvement of industrial and commercial unification of technology with craft design and manufacture.
Through the representation of the car in fine art we hope to explore new perspectives and offer new interpretations and understandings. Along the way it will be appropriate to touch on marketing. Equally there may be scope to cross reference with some of the more creative writing related to the motorcar. Although perhaps seen by some as travel writing H.V.Moton set out to convey word pictures of his driving exploits.
In this regular series we will look critically at a range of artists and their styles and indeed include some technical drawing .We will look at artists from the dawn of motoring to the present day. A brief article will also touch on the techniques and materials used by those artists we are considering.
The A&R have had support from the guild of Motoring Artists and in due course will cover their work.
The Internet has an almost exhaustive source of imagery and we fully commend that our readers use this in conjunction with our articles to gain maximum enjoyment and interpretation. This is particularly appropriate for a study of Walter Gotschke. Subscribers can examine both photographs and other artist’s interpretations to fully appreciate the creative genius of Walter Gotschke.
We appreciate that art is subjective and welcome suggestions from our readers as to artists they might like to see reviewed.
Part 1: Content:
- Brief Biography
- Style and Technique
- War Artist
- Commercial Art including Car Brochures and 1988 Porsche Calendar
Part 2: Content:
- Word pictures accompanying a few examples of Walter’s Work including the 1938 Coppa Accerbo
- Lotus Imagery
Walter Gotschke a Brief Biography
Walter Gotschke is a motoring artist of world renown. The editors love his work and we are honoured to provide this review. In order to do Walter Gotschke justice this review is formed of two parts.
In compiling this review the editors have enjoyed considerable input and insights from Walter’s widow Gerhild Drucker-Gotschke.
Walter’s work can be bought in various formats and the postcards are exquisite affordable and enable those particularly interested in Walter’s skill and development to acquire images that capture his full oeuvre.
Quoted from the net
“Of those artists throughout the world who have dedicated themselves to the automobile only a select few have achieved worldwide renown, one of them being the German Walter Gotschke. His impressionistic gouaches not only portray the typical character of each race driver and his driving style, along with the authenticity of an historic event and cars true to the smallest detail, but also make the race atmosphere palpable so that one can almost hear and smell the event from his art.Walter Gotschke, the self-taught artist, born in 1912 in a village of imperial Austrian Silesia (now Czech Republic) lived and worked in Stuttgart, Germany since 1938.
He was already drawing passionately as a child, commencing with animals. Aged eleven he became fascinated by the first automobiles. From memory alone he tried repeatedly to draw the few cars that passed through his rural backwater. The later student of architecture experienced his first races in his homeland: the Ecce-Homo Hill climb, the Masaryk Grand Prix and others. By seventeen he was already producing his first race sketches which were published, followed a year later by the Masaryk Grand Prix poster. Alongside decades of advertising work for leading European automobile firms, Walter Gotschke’s favourite task was painting automobile races. During his latter period of life this evolved to become his chief activity until in 1985 an eye disease gradually turned into blindness due to old age. In the autumn of 2000 his eyes closed for ever.
The present editions are a mark of recognition for a great artist with a great passion”.
It’s believed that the artist was born c 1912.He moved and settled in Stuttgart.
The artist undertook commercial illustration i.e. advertising, for major car manufacturers in Europe. These included Mercedes, Daimler-Benz [promotional posters etc. ] . Later Porsche and Ford of Cologne.
Walter was drafted during the war and worked as war artist illustrator. Although not an attractive subject it’s important to study this aspect of Walter’s work. By necessity he had to work at speed in dangerous conditions capturing the violence and technology of warfare which was increasingly motorised and technologically driven. In much of this work he captures the explosive action, destructive force of new armaments.
After the war he worked freelance. His work was taken up by several magazines and found a wide audience through “Road and Track “and “Automobiles Quarterly”
Style and Technique
Walter’s widow Gerhild in correspondence with the editors commented:-
“You can’t paint race scenes standing at a race track –
if you look on the sheet of paper the race car has several times surrounded the track – and you have seen nothing.
Walter made notes of the track (buildings, advertising etc.) before or after the race,
at home he looked into automotive magazines,
the cars and the special driving style of each driver he saved in his mind by looking.
A car and the driver is looking the same on each race track, so he didn’t visit many races –
if he knew the surrounding he could put in every race scene.
I have sketches in which cars are seen on a track they never drove – because Walter thought they did.
When Walter saw a print of an old race track in a book it was as if he was standing inside – he could turn the track into each angle.
He also could turn a BW information into colour – and every of his coloured paintings has the right half-tones if you turn it to black and white.”
Moreover he was able to realize movement and could paint it.
This is one side of his art –
the other side is – what people don’t realize – in his coloured paintings Walter made blots of paint, like the colours are falling on the retina –“
Walter Gotschke is considered Germany’s leading automobile artist with an international following and breadth of work/subject matter. Walter enjoyed a long and distinguished career. Many associate his style with the impressionistic and although there are similarities in some respects he goes beyond this.
Walter Gotschke was self-taught and drew from an early age. Significantly he had neither formal training teacher / mentor. Although the editors believe he inherited a technical appreciation from his father who was a blacksmith.
As a child he drew animals and possibly here he first learnt to capture movement and sudden changes of composition and perspective .Possibly he loved and had empathy with speed grace, speed and dignity. It’s possible too that he drew farm equipment and the articles his father made and repaired and again possibly he was interested in process of assembly and sought to visually analyse and dismantle complex interactive components.
Also later he trained as draughtsman and possibly became interested in formal composition and possibly mastered the art of technical illustration, rendering and many aspects of perspective. He typically works in gouaches or possibly watercolour and adopts a naturalistic impressionistic style. This is very lively, fresh, loose, and free and has a sketch like quality .It’s a style suited to capturing speed and movement with fluidity. In some aspects and subjects there is an ethereal element in his vision and treatment.Gotschke adopts a haze of bright but not over intense or worked, colours that seem to capture an inner soul of the machine and driver.
There is certain classicism in his best work and an element of poetry particularly in pre-war subjects.
Being self-taught Walter possibly had no rules or tradition/ convention to observe. It’s very possibly he experimented with technique but nothing can dent the inherent natural ability and gift. Motor racing is an exacting discipline for an artist. The subject moves with alarming speed and possibly never reappears on track in exactly the same manner. Hence the artist has to rely on indelible visual impressions and these have to be retained then regurgitated into visual expression. The Impressionists recommended painting in direct contact with nature in order that spontaneity would not be lost. This creates a vitality and extraordinary authenticity. A motor racing artist cannot paint on site in the same manner and if they are to achieve the authenticity and sense of time place, envelope, atmosphere etc. it requires massive retention of detail and mood. Walter Gotschke was the master of exposition and storytelling, even a poetic vision.
It’s possible that his series of calendars of “Silver Arrows” that most encapsulates this poetic vision.
Gotschke has a particular empathy with motor racing subjects in the rain and they glisten with damp rain soaked gloss
However this style can vary and on occasions it is more detailed and even slightly over worked by comparison and can lose its emotional content. Of course this might be due to the fact the commissioning source might have made a specific request.
The artist is considered to be one of the masters and one of the greatest automotive artists.
The editor feels his palpable communication stems from empathy with the subject and it’s hoped the following description of one of his work will convey this.
Many of his originals were executed on board [12x 8 inches and others 550mmx 600 mm for example] and he painted with gouache [see A&R articles and description of this material/ use].These were signed.
The gouache illustrations are lively and sketch like but in their simplicity they deceive as they capture so much; to the extent we process visual information and accept a reality. Walter often adopted crisp brush strokes and produced hazes of wash and captured the envelope of the moment and a totality of experience distilled into a fleeting image.
The editors believe that Walter possessed a touch of genius in his work and from the fine arts we detect some of the virility , humanity and spontaneity of Johan Barthold Jongkind and also perhaps from childhood Walter learnt to draw animals he shares some of the empathy as did Rembrandt Bugatti in his animal sculptures. The editors admire his use of colour which is bright but subtle in the extreme. Colour melt and blend with the composition and seem faultless and never overworked [normally the indication that an artist is struggling with the subject and its representation or the technical ability to express /execute]
Our word pictures help flesh out these observations – see Part 2]
It’s important and revealing to examine the sketch studies made by artists. In many respects it’s their shorthand. Walter Gotschke’s are significant. He drew both cars and motor cycle racing.
Some of his sketches depict a racing car leaving the track, and the driver battling to regain control. With a few strokes the artist is able to convey masses of information, he suggests the physics of an object as speed, the impending accident and the body language of the driver and his split second response. In many respects they work is intuitive, analytical and possibly more real and involving than a photograph.
The editors believe it’s important to examine these sketches as they feed into a fuller understanding of the artists completed studies. A charming sketch [possibly pen and ink –black on stark white background] is printed on a card which accompanies purchases.
Walter Gotschke undertook a considerable range of work /topics. Most of these are represented on his website. They include:-
- Limited portraits
- Townscapes/ cities and cultural history
- Second World War
- Commercial art / illustration /advertising
- Motorsport and motor manufacturers
- Art books
- Mixed transport
- Non motoring subjects
Some of the editor’s favourites amongst Walters work includes:-
- 1934-39 Mercedes Benz series [including 1934 Mercedes , Caraciola.& 1935 German GP, 1937 Swizz GP Mercedes BenzW125
- 1954 Italian GP [see word pictures Part 2]
- 1970 Porsche Spyder 936 Le Mans
- 1939 French GP
- 1951 Swizz GP,Fangio [ see word pictures Part 2]
- 1954 French GP,Fangio Mercedes Benz 196
- 1955 ,Moss ,Mercedes Benz 196
- 1958 German GP, Moss, Vanwall
- 1963 ,Lotus ,Jim Clark, T.Taylor
- Crowd scenes at motor races etc.
- 1988 Porsche Calendar
- 1970 Targa Florio
Walter was drafted into the German army during the Second World War. He was posted as war artist and it’s important to study his work of this era. Like motor racing it contains the elements of death, danger and explosive action which although occurring in an instant has to be expressed. Walter had already developed the skills to equip him for the task and possibly the experience assisted him in his post war artistic development.
Commercial Art and Car Brochures/Illustration etc.
Walter’s commercial work is important. It has to sell the product. It has to grab attention and convey considerable amounts of information simultaneously. Much of this is subtle and possibly a various levels we process information directly and indirectly.
We have noted in our Design Heroes series that several significant Industrial /Product Designers had early experience in commercial illustration.
Before photography these illustrated brochures were important sales devices and possibly appeared in motoring magazines and in dealer’s windows as posters. In such work the artist has to process requirements including the technology and presence of the vehicle, the commissioning agent’s requirement for attention, sales and respectful, dignified and distinctive representation, but there is also a requirement that prospective purchasers can identify with the image presented. All of which has to be processed into a holistic convincing imagery.
Walter Gotschke was pass master at this and its part of his intellectual make up. The editors believe having examined his commercial illustration that it informed his style and helped him produce his graphic and involving motor racing depictions.
Figure 1.Walter Gotschke signed front cover image of sales brochure for Mercedes Benz. He also undertook other sales materials using various formats/materials.
Porsche 1988 Calendar
The comments made above a writ big in the Porsche calendar imagery. This quotation from the net helps explain:-
“Produced in 55cm x 60cm format, the factory calendars were commissioned by Porsche shortly before the end of the car-maker’s seven-year reign of consecutive victories at Le Mans. Stunning gouache illustrations of Richard von Frankenberg and Wolfgang von Trips in a 550 Spyder at Le Mans, the 917/30 Can-Am of Mark Donohue at Laguna Seca and Dan Gurney at the wheel of Type 801 at the 1962 French Grand Prix delighted Porsche collectors and motorsport art aficionados alike. Many of the monthly calendar pages were torn from their ring-bound spines by owners to be framed as individual prints. Intact calendars turn up from time to time, and to our eyes make enjoyable collector items. Original paintings by Gotschke are in a different league, often selling for more than £5,000 at auction.”
Walter Gotschke’s work sold, it was inspiring and indelible. Manufacturers new this .It gained them prestige and significant publicity /exposure. The artist conferred great status on the vehicles he represented and in fact lifted them from machines and gave them soul.
Water Gotschke and the Mercedes Racing Cars [see Part 2, references]
It’s believed that Walter may have illustrated several published works .The most important perhaps being the “Mercedes Benz Racing Car” to which he provided 29 images. [See references for exact details and ISBN etc.]
Continued in Part 2