HAInews 2023/01A very personal look at the work of Marie Marcks

The name Marie Marcks is associated with caricatures that astutely and pointedly reflect social and political debates in the Federal Republic in the 20th century. The fact that the complete works of the artist, who died in 2014 and lived in Heidelberg since 1948, are much more extensive and diverse was experienced by 21 HAI members at the first HAIlight of 2023: Ulrike Marcks, alumna and daughter of Marie Marcks, led a very personal tour through an exhibition of her mother's work on 26 January.

The special exhibition “To the Point – 100 Years Marie Marcks” at the Mark Twain Center for Transatlantic Relations in Heidelberg's Südstadt, which opened in 2022, showed a small cross-section of Marie Marcks' artistic work until 12 March. In addition to the well-known caricatures with long-nosed figures, this ranges from posters in silkscreen and linocut to pen and ink drawings and also includes a two-volume autobiographical graphic novel. In addition to a selection of prints – the originals of the total of around 2,500 works are in the Wilhelm Busch Museum in Hanover – showcases with photos and personal objects provide an insight into the life of the artist, who would have turned 100 in August 2022 and who, with her caricatures, was not only one of the most important chroniclers of half a century of German history, but also a pioneer for women in this artistic métier.

Marie Marcks

“We are very happy that we can finally start with face-to-face events again – we have missed this very much, especially our HAIlights” HAI director Silke Rodenberg welcomed the participants:inside. Before Ulrike Marcks gave a guided tour of the exhibition, which she herself had helped to design, she briefly explained the history of the premises in the former European headquarters of the US armed forces and their connection to Marie Marcks: Marie Marcks created her first works for the US Army, so that posters she designed in the 1950s for "Penthouse Serenades", square dance parties or the Easter “Children's Egg Hunt” can be seen – alongside large-scale city portraits in various styles, posters for “Cave 54” or the campaign “Students looking for rooms” or excerpts from Marie Marcks' drawn autobiography.

“When I guide visitors through the exhibition, I cannot clearly distinguish between the art-historical view and the daughter's view,” explained Ulrike Marcks – and that is precisely what made this HAIlight so appealing: While Marie Marcks caricatured various phases of the Federal Republic as a contemporary witness, her daughter now described how her mother "always made material out of what she had experienced in family life". She explained the exhibits with anecdotes from her mother's life, which included the “middle-class idyll in Handschuhsheim” as well as the worries of a single mother of five children. The audience learned, for example, that the men in the well-known caricatures, who usually came off badly, often looked like Marie Marcks' divorced husband, or that the mother, with her "pronounced political consciousness", found it terrible that her daughter, as an art teacher, "was a civil servant and liked to go to school". Thus, this HAIlight provided a very special and new access to the well-known and lesser-known works of art by the great Heidelberg artist Marie Marcks.