Institutions

Comic Art Museums in Germany

Wilhelm-Busch-Museum
Copyright: Wilhelm-Busch-Museum HannoverA museum which is devoted to the history of German comics, presents special exhibitions with original drawings by well-known comic artists and has a comprehensive archive with a library at its disposal, does not currently exist in Germany, and probably will not exist in the foreseeable future.

German draughtsmen such as Wilhelm Busch or Rudolph Dirks decisively influenced the development of comics, particularly in the early stages of the development of this art form. National Socialist ideology and later the 1950s debates on educational policy stigmatised comics as low-brow, “trashy literature”. During the post-war period this genre was only gradually able to free itself from this negative image. Since then, however, a small number of institutions have been devoting themselves to the area of comics.

Hannover’s Wilhelm Busch Museum

The most important museum for lovers of comic art is the Wilhelm Busch Museum in Hanover. In the Georgenpalais, built in 1780 and located in the beautiful Herrenhäuser Gardens, there is over 400 square meters of exhibition space. A permanent exhibition on the upper storey documents the life and works of Wilhelm Busch (1832–1980). This painter and draughtsman created figures such as Max and Moritz, the luckless Hans Huckebein and Pious Helene. With his dramatic, yet amusing picture stories Busch is regarded as the originator of German comics.

'Schneider Böck', Wilhelm Busch, from: Max und Moritz, 1865
Copyright: Wilhelm-Busch-Museum Hannover

The Deutsche Museum für Karikatur und kritische Grafik (i.e. Museum of Caricature and Critical Graphics) is housed in the same building. Special exhibitions, with caricatures and comics by William Hogarth, Honoré Daumier, Carl Barks, Walt Disney, Hergé, Tomi Ungerer, Manfred Deix, Gottfried Helnwein and Roland Topor, are presented here. In addition the museum is one the few institutions in Germany that collects historic comics. In recent years the museum has acquired original drawings and documents by Friedrich Waechter, Loriot, e. o. plauen and Roland Kohlsaat through donations.

Frankfurt’s caricatura museum

'Caricatura Museum Frankfurt', drawn by Greser&Lenz
Copyright: Greser&LenzThe caricatura museum – Museum für komische Kunst (i.e. Caricatura Museum – Museum of Comic Art) was opened in Frankfurt am Main in October 2008. Individual arists are presented in this medieval building on a regular basis; the works of the satirical draughtsman Hans Traxler, for instance, or the cartoonist Bernd Pfarr. The museum also has a media lounge where readings, book presentations and cabaret-evenings are held, and in the Academy of Comic Art, co-hosted with the Kassel Galerie Caricatura, young comic artists can benefit from tips and advice from professionals by attending courses and workshops. Among the museum’s long-term goals is the creation of an “Archive of Comics and Comic Art", in which people from all over the world with an interest in comics can research “the generation of laughter through artistic means”.

The Galerie Caricatura in Kassel

The Caricatura Gallery, located in Kassel’s Kulturbahnhof, also exhibits comic art. Founded in 1984 as an association for the promotion of “media-specific culture and communication", the gallery in the former clothing bank of the Deutsche Bahn (German railways authority) has in the meantime established itself as an exhibition venue. It presents the works of individual artists on a regular basis – among others, the works of Greser & Lenz, Ernst Kahl, Til Mette and Friedrich Karl Waechter. The gallery also has a shop offering postcards, print graphics and books, and occasionally offers workshops for comic art draughtsmen and cartoonists.

Erika-Fuchs-Haus. Museum for Comic and Language Art

Park und Geldspeicher, Ausstellung Erika-Fuchs-Haus 1865
Copyright: Erika-Fuchs-Haus
The Museum for Comic und language art in Schwarzenbach an der Saale (District Hof), Bavaria, was opened in August 2015. The Museum commemorates the translator Erika Fuchs (1906-2005), who lived in Schwarzenbach for more than half a century. From 1951 until 1988, Erika Fuchs was both editor-in-chief and translator of the German-language Mickey Mouse editions. With her creative neologisms and onomatopoetics, she lent the figures of the US comic series “Duckburg” a uniquely German quality. A tour through the museum guides the visitor through “Entenhausen” and introduces individual figures. Graphic artist Simon Schwartz has created a biographical comic about Erika Fuchs. The museum has both a library and a gallery that presents contemporary comic artists. The museum, which cost approx. five million Euros, was financed by the German federal government, the State of Bavaria and by cultural foundations.

Olaf Gulbransson Museum on the Tegernsee

Olaf Gulbransson, self-portrait
Copyright: Olaf Gulbransson Museum, TegernseeThe Olaf Gulbransson Museum on the Tegernsee, about 40 km south of Munich, also occasionally presents special exhibitions of the works of comic artists. Olaf Gulbransson (1873–1958) was one of the most important draughtsmen and caricaturists of the legendary Munich satirical magazine Simplicissimus. The museum presents the work of this Norwegian artist and also documents the magazine’s beginnings, among whose contributors were artists such as Thomas Theodor Heine, Eduard Thöny and Karl Arnold, and writers such as Frank Wedekind and Ludwig Thoma. In addition the museum houses a comprehensive collection of lithographs and woodcuts by the French artist Honoré Daumier (1808–1879), whose politically and socially critical caricatures appeared in the magazines La Caricature and Le Charivari.

The Comic Museum Piccolo in Schorndorf

The Comic Museum Piccolo in Schondorf, Baden-Württemberg, east of Stuttgart, is also run by a private collector. Robert Reutter presents his “Piccolo Comics” in a half-timbered house. These handily-sized comic books were produced in the 1950s. Among their series titles are the heroic tales of the knight Sigurd and the jungle hero Tibor, by Hansrudi Wäscher, and Akim and Fulgor by the Italian draughtsman Augusto Pedrazza.

Rieke C. Harmsen
is an art historian and editor of the Lutheran Press Service (Evangelischer Pressedienst – epd) in Munich.

Translation: Edith Watts
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Online-Redaktion
June 2009, supplemented February 2016

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