Friday, 26 February 2010

Helga Tiemann: German Perfume advertising art of the '50s & '60s

It is funny where perfume might lead you. Late last week, I suddenly found myself tumbling down a rabbit-hole full of fascinating information, nostalgia and whimsy.

All this began when I chanced upon a small bottle of Parfum at a Danish fleamarket, that I knew absolutely nothing about. When I got back home and spent some time on Google, I found that the scent "Anonym" was an oriental-style perfume released by German company Patrizier Haus, in Köln in the early 1960's. It was one of a number of scents produced under the company umbrella of Jünger & Gebhardt - a firm with its roots planted firmly in the late 19th century. A little more digging online, and I discovered a sister-scent named Torero Spanisch Juchten. What struck me about the photograph that Google's image search had yielded, was the cheerful illustration pictured on Torero's packaging. I am, after all a graphic artist by profession, and I lingered for a moment, admiring its undemanding frankness. I found the muted colour palette and typographical solution very typical of print advertising in the 1960's.

I dug a little deeper. I googled the name of the perfume again and cast my net wider. This time a listing from ebay emerged, though it was not what I had expected. What I found instead, was an auction for one of the original hand-painted drafts of the final Torero Spanisch Juchten packaging artwork. The paper corners were dog-eared and discoloured with age, but the watercolours as vivid and lively as ever. And there were more. Many more... at least twenty additional listings of beautiful renderings that had been stored and preserved over the years; an absolute visual feast for this graphic artist and perfume enthusiast.
I clicked through delightful depictions of Hepburn-esque women cradling smokey-green flacons of Mouson Lavendel in their gloved hands; romantic portraits of couples dancing around glinting bottles of Tosca, and taking snowy horse-drawn carriage rides beyond packshots of Muehlens 4711.
These exuberant images still speak of an age in Europe full of optimism, glamour and elegance. The "cultural logic" of the 60's had been preserved perfectly on pieces of card and snippets of paper, and they could be yours... if you would just click "Buy it Now".

I fed the German 'terms of sale' through an online translator and as anticipated, it spat out a rather poor English translation. I was able to deduce however, that these pieces were offered for sale as samples from the former artist's estate. The artist's name was Helga Tiemann, and I googled it. I was left looking at the photographic portrait of the artist, pictured above - her black and white image, seen seated amongst her canvases. My eyes passed over her kind face and frail frame, and I felt a pang of sadness. I soon learned that Helga Tiemann was in fact one of Germany's most revered portrait painters and educators for commercial art. Born in Remscheid Germany in 1917, Tiemann grew up to study at the College of Fine Arts in Berlin between 1937 and 1945. Her first caricatures were of her teachers, and after the war, she painted a series of Russian soldiers and officers. National success came after she completed portraits of German statesmen Konrad Adenauer and Theodor Heuss and she went on to exhibit her work in both Germany and abroad. All the while as a part of her commercial career, she worked with Jünger & Gebhardt on promotional posters and packaging for toiletries and other perfumed products. Whilst you (much like myself) may never have heard of Helga Tiemann until today, in all likelihood you are familiar with her distinct illustrative style which epitomized the era spanning four decades from the 40's, through to the 70's. Right up until her death at the age of 91 in 2008, Tiemann's contribution to the arts has been colossal.

Unfortunately for me however, I am not presently in a position to buy these winsome renderings. Perhaps if I had the expendable income, I would not think twice about using that "Buy it Now" button. A little part of me feels sad to think that these treasured pieces of Ms Tiemann's estate are being sold off via such an impersonal platform. I would much rather see a book of her commercial work produced, and perhaps see the originals housed in a gallery or museum. My biggest hope is that some astute ebayer with an admiration of the woman and her work that is somewhat akin to mine, will buy big and treasure them always.

Photo credits:

Helga Tiemann portrait: © Wolf-Dieter Tabbert
Torero perfume bottle: Angela Woschek


Andy said...

Hi Dimitri
this one aspect in your post that I found very, very important: There was this time in Europe, 50 years ago, that was so different to ours, where there was joy and optimism. Folks back then did not have more, were not wealthier, most did not have cars, yet. But they had this optimism, this perspective that Europe has lost. and the EU commission can come up with agendas 2020 and alike: It needs something else.
I think we should reinvent ourselves and start looking into Europe's future with more optimism.
There is so much waiting for us out there!

Dimitri said...

So true Andy... it was an era that I hope will come full-circle again!

Fragrant weekend,

Michael Mattison said...

Dimitri -- That was a wonderfully chosen post; beautiful visuals.
And I totally agree with Andy's comment about the optimism back in the 1950s. Of course the era was problematic in so many ways, but no need to dwell on that here; sometimes it's enough to focus on the positive aspects of life, and there was much joie de vivre in the artwork you've shared here, that's for sure.
Have a good weekend,

Dimitri said...

Thanks Michael, and a safe and happy weekend to you too!

Angela Cox said...

I agree that this lady's work should be in a book. They look like gouache ? My daughter will love them so thank-you for the post.

Dimitri said...

Thanks Angela... I agree - gouache is most likely the chosen medium (or watercolour, or both).
Her work can be appreciated from both an artistic perspective, and also for its perfume-related themes.