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Anton Stankowski Gelsenkirchen – Zürich – Stuttgart



Gelsenkirchen, Zurich, Stuttgart—the Background to and Stages in Stankowski’s Pre-1940
Commercial Graphics
Jörg Stürzebecher

Anton Stankowski‘s contribution to commercial graphics in the 1920s and 1930s is of
unique significance. Even though one might categorize his early designs as part of
early 1920s Constructivism, the work he did for ―Fortschritt,‖ an office furniture
manufacturer, in 1928 was epoch-making—and he was just twenty-two years old.
The pioneering nature of his achievements was further confirmed by the work he
produced in Zurich starting in 1930 or for Swiss clients after 1933. Here, Stankowski
not only proved that he contributed to what was later known throughout the world as
―Swiss design,‖ but that he was one of the essential instigators and authors of this
movement. During their lifetimes, colleagues such as Richard Paul Lohse and Hans
Neuburg confirmed that Swiss history, caught up in patriotic sensibilities, has
continued to ignore or—where that was impossible—at least relativize Stankowski‘s
contribution, even to this day. In order to elucidate Stankowski‘s achievements in the
field of commercial design and his contributions to our understanding of the task of
the designer in industrial society, it would be helpful to describe the background—
Stankowski‘s origins, education, and the social changes that took place during the
early twentieth century. This essay aims to understand Stankowski‘s achievements
from the perspective of his time.

Background 1: Origins—Gelsenkirchen and the Ruhrgebiet
Stankowski was born on June 18, 1906, in Gelsenkirchen. His father and grandfather
were miners; the milieu was Catholic with a Masurian-Polish past. Gelsenkirchen at
the time was a rapidly growing city without a real center—a conglomerate of suburbs,
business, industrial, and agricultural districts, traffic arteries, and unused land, all
held together by administrative decree. A place of contrasts, including visual ones:
rivers and canals, railroads and funicular railways were linear landmarks; vertical
smokestacks and the grid structures of winding towers were visual correspondents to
the large areas formed by huge slag-heaps. There were no historical sites for
residents to visit during their brief periods of leisure, but cultivated landscape was
squeezed in among the collieries, factories, empty lots, and roads. It was a place
where tradition had yet to find a footing. Stankowski‘s background destined him for

the mines, too, but an apprenticeship as a decorative painter offered a way out. This
was a crucial step. Stankowski, whose talent for drawing had been recognized early,
was able to learn about the connection between design and execution—for instance,
how to transpose the proportions of a design using graph paper. Added to this was
the repetition of related elements—important for ornamental effect—and
rationalization through the use of stencils. He became familiar with colors, mixtures,
and how to make the work look as if it were done by an anonymous hand. In
decoration, the artist‘s personal signature is of no significance; of interest, rather, is
the way that ratios and structure are communicated between various craftspeople
working as a team. Stankowski was later to use all this knowledge in commercial
design, as well as building up a functional repertoire.
He also took hiking excursions organized by the Wandervogel movement, more in
the spirit of reform than of revolution. Here individuals formed communities, which
they felt embodied the rejection of collective subordination. Stankowski began taking
photographs, first of his friends, but soon of the not-exactly-idyllic environment.
These pictures were full of contrasts; they did not gloss over anything, but neither
were they imbued with excessive emotion. His vantage point shows an interest in
effects: the stop sign at a railroad crossing could, if shot from below, look bigger than
a smokestack; a railroad crossing gate in motion—captured at just the right moment
—might correspond with the diagonal of a traffic sign. Stankowski saw the linear
rhythms and the out-of-the-ordinary in everyday life, and was as far from
Expressionist ecstasy as he was from cool matter-of-factness. Most particularly,
though, the camera proved to be an efficient and therefore economic tool. In the task
of reproducing the world of objects, it replaced the sketchbook, which began to serve
other purposes: to describe relationships, invent formulas and forms, and create
systematic variations of elements.

Background 2: Düsseldorf—The Metropolis, Art, and the Bohemian
In late 1923, Stankowski became a journeyman and soon moved to Düsseldorf to
work for Dortmann & Vietz, a studio specializing in church decoration. He modeled
his work after that of Johan Thorn-Prikker, who lived in Hagen and whose rectangular
works were no longer decoration, but not really solid De Stijl either. Most especially,
however, his milieu changed. Gelsenkirchen was primarily a working- and lower-
middle-class city. Düsseldorf had not only an educated class, but Bohemians, too.

There was an art academy, a circle of artists around the Mutter Ey gallery— and
there were exhibitions of modern art and design, such as GeSoLei.1 Stankowski went
to everything, absorbed everything, but he was too conscious of his background to
feel comfortable with the Bohemians. He wanted to develop his potential, but on safe
ground—it was fine to experiment with design, but not with lifestyles. From his
perspective, the lifestyles led by the artists in the Ey circle were too insecure—
insufficient models for development—but on the other hand, they certainly caused
him to look for possible alternatives in design.

Background 3: Max Burchartz, Alfred Fischer, and the School of Arts and Crafts in
In the winter semester of 1926, Stankowski began attending seminars at the School
of Arts and Crafts in Essen, which later became the Folkwang School of Design.2
There were no courses in artistic lifestyles and utopias; classes focused on shaping
the everyday environment. Or at least, this applied to Stankowski, who after a short
orientation period in Wilhelm Poetter‘s courses, concentrated on one particular
teacher, Max Burchartz. It was Burchartz who worked with architect and school
director Alfred Fischer to institute a change in the school‘s direction, away from
improving craftsmanship and toward the concept of design as a service. And
Burchartz was Essen‘s link to the avant-garde designers of De Stijl and Moscow. He
was a friend of El Lissitzky‘s, translated Theo van Doesburg and Piet Mondrian into
German, and together with Friedrich Vordemberge-Gildewart became one of the
leading proponents of De Stijl in Germany. Another important point was that
Burchartz, who began teaching in Essen in 1926, had gone through remarkable
career changes. This successful late Expressionist, promoted by Galerie Flechtheim,
came to Constructivist painting through Theo van Doesburg. Yet by 1924 at the
latest, Burchartz gave up the fine arts for a long period to come, in order to work in
industry, architecture, and the service industry as a designer, typographer, and later,
as a photographer.
Burchartz experimented with kinetics, he employed symbolic colors and visualized
the passage of time, his montages were confrontational and simultaneous, he
minimized elements in signs and invented a universal font that united portions of
upper- and lower-case letters to produce striking marks. In terms of form, he soon
incorporated the pure rectangularity of De Stijl into his Constructivist paintings, which

turned into three-dimensional spaces of color as early as 1922/23. Diagonals
emphasized delicate balances, equilibrium; tube shapes and circles conveyed calm
or three-dimensionality; lines and surfaces were visual elements of equal value; color
progressions and gradations of gray approaching metallic silver were associated with
industrial products. All of this was part of the visual program that Stankowski learned,
absorbed, carried out, and continued to develop—without, however, following in
Burchartz‘s steps by quitting the fine arts. For Burchartz had already had experience
with the art market and its rapid-fire transitions from one style of art to the next, but
Stankowski still had a world of possibilities before him.

Gelsenkirchen: Stankowski‘s Beginnings in Commercial Design
Stankowski‘s earliest commercial designs were done under the influence of his
teacher, Wilhelm Poetter, while he was studying in Essen. His first well-known work
was a logo done for ―Gilde-Muster‖ carpets, which, with some changes, went on
being used for decades. In 1982, Eckhard Neumann interpreted it as a blueprint for a
carpeted room.3 Stankowski then designed for Grewer Tea and Coffee,4 already
making use of Grotesk, an important font for him, which marked the transition from
Poetter to Burchartz.5 At first, Stankowski continued to combine calligraphic and
typographical elements, such as the straw sun with the capital ―T,‖ which was also an
early example of how he abbreviated language (write ―T,‖ read ―tea‖). Yet even
though the colorful circles advertising coffee for festive occasions were strikingly
decorative recollections of Christmas tree ornaments, they could also be interpreted
as progressions of a basic geometric form moving through space. Where his change
in teachers really became obvious, though, was in his design for Grewer coffee
packaging, which used Burchartz‘s Universal font and placed a colored border
around the edges of the package—a result of the color/space experiments Burchartz
had introduced for the color system at the Hans Sachs House in Gelsenkirchen. 6 The
common factor is that both the front and back were designed, rather than just printing
a picture on a package. The regional connection still played an important role.
Grewer‘s headquarters were in Gelsenkirchen, where Stankowski returned to live
after leaving Düsseldorf, and most of the work at the Hans Sachs House was
perfectly timed to cover the period between the summer semester of 1927 and the
winter semester of 1927/28, when Stankowski finished his studies.7

Bochum: Johannes Canis and ―werbe-bau‖
As Stankowski recalled, Fischer helped him get other interior design commissions
while he was a student. In an uncirculated video, he mentioned what was probably a
traditionally painted casino. Upon graduation, Stankowski also received top grades in
this subject.8 However, it was Burchartz who provided the most crucial aid. He
recommended Stankowski to Johannes Canis,9 who was Burchartz‘s partner
between 1924 and 1926 at ―werbe-bau‖ in Bochum, a conceptual advertising agency
that embraced Constructivism, the German industrial norm size (DIN), and language
reform. At first, Canis had difficulties running the agency without Burchartz as
designer, so Stankowski was highly welcome as a professional replacement. Yet he
quickly altered, expanded, and systematized the outmoded ―werbe-bau‖ concept.10
―Werbe-bau‖ was an agency that produced both text and images. It might have had
some parallels to Kurt Schwitters‘s one-man office in Hanover at the time, but it went
about its business more systematically. Burchartz had been schooled in the theories
of De Stijl, and Canis eagerly took correspondence courses from ―Werbwart‖
Weidenmüller.11 From the logo to the cultural film, from industrial form to architectural
design, ―werbe-bau‘s‖ aim was not to encourage the Utopian, but to make a practical
impact: the avant-garde as everyday.12 Even though much of what they did remained
in the category of mere pronouncements, the things they actually produced were
revolutionary. A portfolio for the Bochum Verein contained prototypes of future
industrial design,13 which then came to Switzerland via Stankowski and there
developed into the primary model for Swiss design. A brochure for ―Fortschritt‖
furniture made use of the time/space continuum as a typographic film with shots from
below, full shots, and close-ups; the texts are precise and full of catchwords; the
spectrum of themes ranges from vehicle parts to the ―Feierspiele Münster‖ in 1925.
Stankowski, just twenty-two years old, started where Burchartz and ―werbe-bau‖ left
off. For the lettering on the stand of the Lower Rhine-Westphalian Newspaper
Publishers‘ Association at the 1928 Pressa convention in Cologne, he used
photomontage, simplified card design, and columns of statistics. Ever economical,
Stankowski used the cards a short time later for Hill grocery stores. At the Pressa
convention he made contacts. Burchartz introduced him to El Lissitzky, who used the
typographical film principle for the Soviet pavilion. Burchartz himself designed the
Workers‘ Press pavilion in a generous, straightforward way. Stankowski not only
designed a stand at the Pressa, however—an exhibition by the Folkwang School of

Design also featured a selection of his photographic works at the Museum of Arts
and Crafts in Cologne.14
His use of Burchartz‘s Universal font for the German Brewers‘ Association stand in
1930 was incidental; wherever possible, Stankowski used Akzidenz Grotesk or
similar sans-serif fonts and fit the typesetting to the DIN (German industrial norm)
business paper size. Abbreviate and be matter-of-fact were the principles Stankowski
followed in design, and these were matched by Canis‘s texts: instead of the
explanatory text on the Herbert Bayer letterhead for the Circle of the Friends of the
Bauhaus —―we use lower-case letters because that saves time – and besides: why
use 2 alfabets, when one does the same thing? Why write with capital letters if you
can‘t speak with capital letters‖ —Canis used the succinct ―lower-case saves time‖ in
his letterhead for Eberhard Osthaus. For the Hill company‘s customer service
newsletter, he merged two events in the slogan: ―Early morning, when the alarm
clock crows.‖ Here we see the influence of ―Werbwart‖ Weidenmüller, although Canis
and Stankowski dispense with the latter‘s expressiveness and pathos. For them,
there was no room for grand gestures, romance, or trivia.
For the cover of the Bochum city brochure, Stankowski dynamically combined the
Ruhr valley and the railroad in an industrial landscape, thus creating an early
photomontage for a medium which at the time was dictated by hand-drawn
illustrations. Inside the brochure, the emphasis was not on picturesque rural
hideaways, but on urban development, on the everyday rather than on the festive.
Stankowski‘s task was to design for everyday life, he was concerned not with film
and opera, but with eating and drinking. Yet he redesigned the familiar. His designs
were not atmospheric images. Rather, they sought to inform, using text, image, and
photography: ―How is beer made?‖ or ―How is light reflected in a PH lamp?‖ For him,
a technical drawing was not simply an explanation but a part of an image—just as
texts were not primarily captions, but design surfaces. And Stankowski worked in
series: what began as an advertising series and package design at Grewer went on
to become a complex design for the corporate identity of the Hill grocery store chain
in Hattingen. Featuring a block-like negative word mark in a characteristic circle it
advertised ―something solid for household use.‖ In fact the circle had a number of
very different design functions. It could convey calm, or be the final point; or
sometimes in connection with a diagonal, it could convey motion and give signals.
The key assignment, however, was to be Stankowski‘s work for Freiburg office

furniture manufacturer ―Fortschritt.‖ Although work for this particular client went back
to the days at ―werbe-bau‖ with Burchartz, on this occasion Stankowski and Canis did
not simply enlarge on an episodic design, but created an entirely new, systematic
advertising concept. Whether a brochure or a piece of blotting paper, a small
newspaper ad or a letterhead, Stankowski designed everything himself to create the
most comprehensive company image of its time anywhere in the world. Folds
visualize the sequence of time, multiple reproductions of a photograph refer to the
serial character of objects, the white space on the letterhead worked side-by-side
with silhouetted photographs and text elements to frame a space for information. This
was no longer Constructivism but functional design—no longer applied geometry, but
the precise application of the technological tools of the time; according different
artistic devices equal status rather than placing them in a hierarchy; modernity
instead of representation. Insiders soon recognized that Stankowski was doing
something new. Jan Tschichold printed some of his work for ―Fortschritt‖ in Eine
Stunde Druckgestaltung, the richly illustrated successor to Neue Typographie.15
Max Dalang, head of a Zurich advertising agency, also became aware of this
designer who knew how to organize photography, typography, diagrams, and blocks
of text in an effective way—and in 1929, Stankowski was called to Zurich.16

Zurich: Experiments and Friends for Life
At Dalang, Stankowski began as a photographer, setting up an archive of
photographs (at first without including his own) and later adding advertising designs
that represented the pioneering work of Constructivist-informative Swiss advertising.
Stankowski quickly made contacts. At Dalang he got to know people such as
freelance writer Hans Neuburg,17 staff graphic designer Richard Paul Lohse, and
freelance photographer Ernst A. Heiniger, also known for his retouching skills.
Outside the agency, he made the acquaintance of Hans Coray and Max Bill, who
established a design studio on his own. His direction was similar to Stankowski‘s and
at the time still artistically oriented toward Paul Klee. In his only written memoir of
those days, Stankowski described ―ideas, actions, people in Zurich of the early
1930s.‖ His example brought lasting change to Swiss design, as Lohse recalled in a
manuscript on Stankowski‘s work at Dalang: ―It was not Bauhaus that he brought with
him, but applied Constructivism. Print inserts for cooking fat and nodular cast iron
bore the stamp of strong Constructivist elements. . . .Of course, he arranged objects

in front of the camera; of course he worked among the forest of letters. . . .
Sometimes it was depressing when St[ankowski] made a brochure for Thecla St.
Ursanne—there was no discussion at all about it; it was all perfect.‖18
The areas that Lohse referred to—Stankowski‘s functional designs for ―Astra‖ peanut
butter and his work for Injecta and Thecla (which not only came to embody Swiss
industrial design, but were also prototypical for some of the issues involved in
Constructivist-Concrete Art)—certainly contributed significantly to Stankowski‘s
reputation. Yet they only cover a small portion of his work. He also designed the
Zurich Dienstleistungsgesellschaft as something between an interior design office at
the modern Zetthaus building and a towing service in the industrial quarter.
Photomontages advertised both the new gas works and a cleaning company, a
Reformhaus poster quoted the rectangularity of De Stijl, and brochures opened up
the doors to the new model housing project of Neubühl. As if that were not enough,
Stankowski also worked anonymously on the side as a freelancer. Lohse and a
former Dalang employee, Hans Trommer, opened up their own office. Stankowski
shared a home with them for a time. He designed letterheads for Trommer and
photographed objects for the print materials they both worked on. Assignments also
continued to come from Germany, where he maintained his contact with Canis, at
least for the ―Fortschritt‖ designs. Yet he not only experimented with typography and
visual composition—for instance, bits of feather were mounted next to an apple in a
surreal, poetic recollection of a crossbow—but also in life. In order to toughen himself
up, he removed the windows of his apartment in Niederdorf, Zurich in winter; and
while working for the healthfood store Reformhaus Müller (done as a freelancer and
therefore signed with his mother‘s maiden name, ―görik‖) he adopted a vegetarian
diet. With the security that a regular position offered, Stankowski also tried out
unconventional lifestyles, until his marriage to Else Hetzler in 1933 started a new life
under different circumstances. Stankowski especially liked to include photographs of
his wife‘s face in his commercial designs, but her share of the work went far beyond
posing. For the Kochen im… magazine, she invented and tested many recipes, and
her husband captured the results in the right light. Hence, through photograms,
object-oriented photographs, and typomontages, the aesthetic avant-garde moved
into the kitchens of broad sections of the population. Yet it was not only his private
environment that changed. The worldwide economic crisis gradually reached
Switzerland, and the Nazi dictatorship made people cautious about Germans. After

being fired by Dalang in mid-1933, Stankowski lost his permission to work in
Switzerland and moved to Lörrach, a border town in Baden.

Lörrach: Advanced Communications Design
Although Lörrach is in Germany, Stankowski could easily cross the border into
Switzerland. His initially frequent visits to Zurich, however, gradually diminished in
number, as Dalang only gave him small assignments. However, writer and friend
Hans Neuburg offered other work. He established contacts with the grocery
wholesaler Jean Haecky and the heating/air conditioning company Sulzer: two clients
who accepted Stankowski‘s experiments. For Haecky, Stankowski advertised
alcoholic beverages, gourmet foods, and after 1933, primarily Liebig bouillon. For the
―giant cube‖ poster of 1934, Stankowski distorted the photograph of a woman
wearing an apron (―the fat cook‖), thus achieving a three-dimensional surface as a
background for the straightforward photographs of culinary products—a composition
that was surprising in the new way it used familiar visual tools.19 Stankowski also
added dimension to the surface of the cover of the brochure for Sulzer air
conditioning, which resembles a poster. Here, the photographed writing—photo-
composition was still in the experimental stage—became an oblique image of air and
clouds floating in front of a blue background with mountains—an example of
functional graphics that Stankowski would further develop many years later for
Viessmann, a heating element manufacturer. While living in Lörrach, Stankowski also
had opportunities to devote close attention to smaller assignments. For example, he
himself posed for the St. Gallen Ekkehard Presse,20 and a photograph of his friends
Lohse and Trommer from their days in Zurich did service for a shoe manufacturer. As
someone who earned foreign currency, Stankowski was tolerated in the German
Reich, but his name did not appear on Swiss products. He probably did not execute
much of his work himself either; rather, it was done according to his directions in
Basel and elsewhere.21 After a few years, the border town of Lörrach, where there
were practically no clients to be found, proved to be too small, despite its proximity to
Basel. He renewed his relationship with Canis, who in the meantime had started a
film production company in Heidelberg. This led to new designs for ―Fortschritt‖ in
Freiburg, although these were only executed, in a different form, after World War II.
The Stankowskis considered moving to Freiburg, but in the meantime, another
acquaintance from Zurich, Walter Cyliax, the former artistic director of Fretz

publishing, had accepted a job at the Belser Verlag in Stuttgart, and he asked
Stankowski to help out. So in 1938 Stankowski went to Stuttgart.

Stuttgart: A Niche for Cool Design
Being in Stuttgart meant that he was able to take advantage of his contacts in
Germany again. Stankowski and Emil Zander, a former fellow student in Essen,
opened up a studio. Cyliax began by commissioning him to design captions, and then
soon afterward, photojournalistic pieces for the Stuttgarter Illustrierte, which was
published by Belser. Stankowski also designed posters and print advertising, which
presented the various abilities of the publishing house in unconventional ways,
employing montages, enlarged grids, and geometry. This was during the time of the
Degenerate Art exhibitions and attacks, and Stankowski‘s products found a niche
between tolerance and provocation. Loud propaganda was not Stankowski‘s thing,
however. His advertising for the Stuttgarter Illustrierte replaced the noisy ―Heil Hitler‖
with a friendly ―hello!‖ In an anniversary publication for the Zurich Lebensmittelverein,
a small child was even used to imitate the imperial gesture.22 Carl Feneberg, formerly
an advertising consultant at Dalang for ―Astra‖ peanut butter and responsible at the
time for ―Milei,‖ an egg substitute, helped Stankowski make new contacts in the food
industry. One highlight of his work during his first period in Stuttgart was most
certainly Kamerad Motorrad, print advertising done for NSU in 1939. Here,
Stankowski used gravure for his photographs of objects, which were reproduced in
outstanding quality with individual explanations and process-oriented articles
featuring progressions of dots. In a 1991 interview, he recalled this project: ―The
brochure gives you an idea of what a motorcycle is, how it is created—from the
concept of the technical draftsman, down to the last detail. And finally, its use. I was
a strong-willed advertising designer. During the Nazi era, however, I couldn‘t get
anywhere with my advertising concepts, so during those days, I earned a living
chiefly by photographing products. . . . It wasn‘t possible to convince other
companies to accept this rather modern approach.‖23
In 1938, Stankowski again began receiving commissions from Max Dalang in Zurich.
Besides the anniversary publication mentioned above, he also designed extensive
advertising brochures for the Congress House in Zurich, employing a clever method
of using photographs of models. At a state exhibition, Landi, Stankowski‘s brochure
for the machine manufacturer Oerlikon was shown. Its director, Emil Bührle, wanted

to hire Stankowski, and his influence on both German and Swiss government offices
made it look as if Stankowski might be able to return to Zurich. Yet at a visit to the
Landi show, his friends from Zurich warned Stankowski that, as a pacifist, he should
not take a job with a Swiss arms manufacturer. Soon afterward, Stankowski was
drafted. A New Year‘s card for 1941, featuring an extremely non-militaristic looking
snowball as a missile, closed a successful and uncorrupted period of his career.
Military service and prison camp followed: lost years, as Stankowski called them.

Stankowski himself always stressed that his work followed in the footsteps of
pioneers such as El Lissitzky, Mondrian, or Burchartz. Upon the foundation of
Constructivism, he built a functional, straightforward kind of design that confidently
employed all of the devices of image and typographical design available. His work
supported Lohse‘s own approach and encouraged Neuburg to move from text to
graphic design. Another young designer, Carlo Vivarelli, directly quoted Stankowski‘s
Sulzer font around 1940 in a poster for Flums Grossberg; while the grand old man of
grid design, Josef Müller-Brockmann, thought that Stankowski‘s influence on Swiss
design was outstanding. Finally, there is only enough space here to examine just a
few of Stankowski‘s pre-1940 works. However, in the eyes of today‘s designers and
others who are interested in graphic design, it is not just the number of his works, but
their quality in particular that remains impressive. His oeuvre might once again prove
inspirational to yet another young generation, if screen and keyboard have not
impaired their visual capacities.

GeSoLei, an exhibition on health care (Gesundheitspflege), social welfare (Soziale Fürsorge), and exercise
(Leibesübungen), held for the opening of the Düsseldorf convention center. Max Burchartz, Hans Leistikow,
designer of Das Neue Frankfurt magazine, and others designed the modern exhibition buildings.
    Unfortunately, there is still no publication summarizing the history of the Folkwang School. Wuppertal art
historian Joachim Driller is currently working on a comprehensive overview. Except for the period in which he
served in World War I, Alfred Fischer (1881–50) was the director of the school from 1911 until he was fired in
1933. To distinguish himself from a colleague in Karlsruhe, Fischer occasionally added ―Düsseldorf‖ or ―Essen‖ to
his own last name.
    Eckhard Neumann, Anton Stankowski. Das Gesamtwerk 1925–1982 (Stuttgart, 1982), later in Anton
Stankowski. Frei und Angewandt/Free and Applied 1925–1995 (Berlin, 1996), vol. 2, p. 11.
    Before Stankowski, Wilhelm Poetter designed for Grewer.
    For more on Max Burchartz, see Jörg Stürzebecher (ed.), ―Max ist endlich auf dem richtigen Weg” – Max
Burchartz 1887–1961, Kunst – Typografie – Fotografie, Architektur und Produktgestaltung, Texte und Kunstlehre

(Baden, Switzerland, 1993).
    The Hans Sachs House was a large, multi-purpose building designed in 1922 by Alfred Fischer. Construction
was at first delayed due to economic difficulties. In 1927, Fischer asked his Essen colleague Burchartz to design
the interior colors. Burchartz developed an innovative directional system based on color, which divided the floors
in ascending order, using the colors red, blue, yellow, green, and then red again, with additional black, white,
shades of gray, and silver. Burchartz asked Stankowski to work with him partly because of his educational
background in decorative painting. It is not possible to determine how much of his work went beyond the task of
doing the actual painting. The design was finished in October 1927 and reconstructed between 1993 and 1995.
Fortunately, in 2004, when it was proposed that the Hans Sachs House be torn down, a majority turned out to be
against the idea. Other examples of the teamwork carried out by Fischer and Burchartz can be seen in two other
buildings in Essen, the Kommunalverbande Ruhrgebiet and Haus Sachsse. See Hans-Sachs-Haus
Gelsenkirchen – Das Diktat der klaren Linien und der rechten Winkel, Stadt Gelsenkirchen, a brochure published
by the city of Gelsenkirchen containing a comprehensive text by Anneliese Knorr (Gelsenkirchen, 1995).
    ―[Stankowski] recalls to this day the euphoria and urge to create that emanated from teacher and students as
they were given the chance to actually put their theoretical knowledge into practice on such a large construction
project. Much was done in the service of the development of advertising and artistic design. For instance,
directional systems based on color and form have now long been part of Stankowski‘s repertoire.‖ Knorr, Hans-
Sachs-Haus Gelsenkirchen (see note 6).
     The distribution of Stankowski‘s grades is interesting. He received second-best grades in ―plant and animal

drawing‖ and ―nudes‖ (both ―very good/good‖), followed by Burchartz‘s course in ―advertising design‖ (―good/very
good‖), which included photography. Stankowski‘s worst mark was in ―fonts [and] posters‖ with ―fairly good/good‖
—perhaps a disappointed reaction from the teacher he left, Wilhelm Poetter? Report card reproduced in Anton
Stankowski 1996 (see note 3), vol. 1, p. 17.
    Johannes Canis (1895–77) was an expert in advertising, author of films, director of an artists‘ guild ―Buslat,‖ as
well as author of an extensive local history of Heimat Bauschlott. Up to now, no one has written extensively on his
work. Estate owned by Konrad Canis, Neuenhagen, Berlin; materials on typography also taken from Jörg
Stürzebecher‘s archives, Frankfurt am Main.
     It is not certain if Stankowski worked for Canis during his student days. He did no designs for Canis before
1928. He probably worked for Grewer without Canis‘s participation, since a viewing of Canis‘s typographic work in
1994 turned up no evidence of an association with Grewer. One document each was taken from the estate to
create a collection of papers now in the Poster Museum in Essen. Among them are examples of work for the Hill
company, which are missing from Stankowski‘s estate but were done with Stankowski‘s participation. Some of the
works from between 1926 and 1927 were probably either done by Canis himself or perhaps by another designer
who remains unidentified. Even though they use similar methods, their conventional design does not seem to
measure up to works that have been positively identified as Burchartz‘s or Stankowski‘s. According to a statement
by a later employee, Erich Palmowski (b. 1912, lives in Bochum), Canis himself felt that his work at ―werbe-bau‖
did not measure up to Burchartz‘s. (Interview with Erich Palmowski conducted by Holger Jost in Bochum,
February 2005, unpublished recording and transcript, Edingen-Neckarhausen).
     Johannes (Hans) Weidenmüller (1881–36) replaced his first name with a job description he himself made up,
―Werbwart‖ or ―Werbwalt‖ (roughly, advertising attendant or worker). His goal was to continue systematizing
consumer advertising, a task begun before World War I. His language is determined by new terms that he
developed to precisely describe facts. From today‘s point of view these terms seem strange and—because they
rejected foreign words— rather narrow-minded. One instance of his language reforms was quoted in an essay
titled ―gestaltende anbiet-arbeit,‖ published in bauhaus, no. 1, vol. 2, 1928: ―artwork designed—is strong
experience with symbols. product advertising [termed literally as offer-work], too, is only design when it is

something of its own design—but it has many tasks and requirements that are dictated from the outside. . .one
given is the type of person—and often, the number of persons that are supposed to be influenced by design
work.‖ To this day, Weidenmüller is regarded as the originator of the concept of the sender/receiver in advertising,
and he can be credited with the invention of other compound words in German. Peter von Kornatzki provided an
analytical assessment of Weidenmüller‘s work in a lecture at the HfG Ulm, WS 1965/66. See Peter von Kornatzki,
―erste analyse + wertung der 1924 erschienenen publikation ‗hundert worte werbelehre‘ von werbwart hans
weidenmüller, in hinblick auf die moderne theorie der kommunikation,‖ Peter von Kornatzki archives, Hochdorf-
Ziegelhof. Stankowski‘s library contains Weidenmüller‘s Vom Begriffbau der Anbietlehre (Berlin, 1926) and
Geschäftliche Werbearbeit (Stuttgart, 1927).
     Over thirty years later, Karl Gerstner had a similar plan in 1958: ―[Walter Zürcher] and I are starting an agency;
Kutter provided the name: Büro Basel. The program: everything that can be designed. Nothing less than that—
from business cards to urban planning. We imagine a kind of Bauhaus, not as a school, but as a business. The
conditions are favorable in that many of our contemporaries in almost all of the creative professions are currently
waiting in frustration for opportunities to use their talents. An agency sits idle and sometimes comes to an
inglorious end for lack of assignments.‖ Karl Gerstner, ―Die 50er Jahre: Sturm und Drang,‖ Rückblick auf 5 x 10
Jahre Graphik Design etc., ed. Manfred Kröplien (Ostfildern-Ruit, 2001), p. 15.
     The portfolio for the Bochum Verein even found its way into modern literature. In his roman à clef, Union der
festen Hand (Berlin, 1931), Erich Reger wrote ―The Baron should have done something like that—the Baron, who
desired no inelegant effects, who was already bothered by the problem of whether it was not too reserved to print
catalogues featuring photomontages,‖ p. 394.
     Stankowski remarked, ―Max Dalang—at the time, owner of one of Europe‘s most important advertising
agencies (see Markus Kutter‘s book, Abschied von der Werbung)—saw an exhibition of works by students from
the Folkwang School, which made an impression on him. He wanted to use something from the show at his
agency in Zurich. I was one of the students. Upon Burchartz‘s recommendation, the Zurich agency hired me
around the end of 1929.‖ Anton Stankowski, ―Erinnerungen,‖ Gestaltungsfibel, ed. Peter von Kornatzki,
(Heidelberg, 1991), n. p.
The exhibition was mentioned in Der Cicerone (annual volume, 1928) magazine, among others. It is possible, and
even probable, considering the confluence of time and locale, that Dalang noticed Stankowski‘s work in a
Stuttgart exhibition, Film und Foto, which featured works by Stankowski both in the Folkwang section and under
the name of Johannes Canis. The state of the sources, however, does not permit us to reach a final conclusion.
     Jan Tschichold, Eine Stunde Druckgestaltung, Stuttgart 1930, pp. 40–42 and 61, here p. 40: ―Exemplary

typophoto. The greatest degree of clarity and comprehensibility is attained through the photo and good
typography. This can also be partially credited to the text, which is outstandingly written.‖
     The employee register at Max Dalang AG Reklame lists Stankowski between 17 February 17, 1930, and May
13, 1933, as an illustrator and photographer. The register of residents for the city of Gelsenkirchen shows that
Stankowski officially left the city for Zurich on April 10, 1930. Stankowski must have visited Zurich before he was
officially hired. He probably stayed there regularly starting in the winter of 1929–30, yet these stays are recalled
     Hans Neuburg (1904–83) was an employee from 1927–28 and later probably a freelance writer for Dalang.
Stankowski designed printed business materials for Neuburg in Zurich between 1933 and 1936, working closely
with him on the Sulzer and Liebig assignments, as well as other projects.
     After World War II, Richard Paul Lohse (1902–88) was most certainly Stankowski‘s most important painter
friend in Zurich. Around 1932, they shared an apartment with Hans Trommer in Zurich. See Begegnungen mit
H[ans] N[euburg], an unpublished manuscript written around 1964, Richard Paul Lohse Stiftung, Zurich, here
quoted in the excerpt from Richard Paul Lohse – Konstruktive Gebrauchsgrafik, ed. Richard Paul Lohse Stiftung

(Ostfildern-Ruit, 1999), p. 67.
     On the authorship of the poster, which has been attributed to Hans Neuburg in the literature: ―a poster that I
made for Hans Neuburg while he was still advertising director at Liebig in Basel. The figure is stretched because
the exposure paper was held at an angle and that makes it move into the image.‖ Letter from Anton Stankowski to
Eckhard Neumann, dated August 7, 1979. Eckhard Neumann archives, Frankfurt am Main. Letterheads for
Neuburg while he was in Zurich (1932) were undoubtedly Stankowski‘s designs. Stankowski himself happened to
write Neuburg/Stankowski on the poster.
     As anonymous authors Stankowski and Neuburg even created a fictional person who worked for the Ekkehard-
Presse. An advertisement, Der Geschäftsmann als Dichter und Künstler, St. Gall, c. 1934, introduces this person
like this: ―and so we agreed to work with a man who will help in realizing your advertising ideas. . .. This employee
is chiefly a careful writer, who writes neat, good German—something we don‘t meet with often these days,
unfortunately. . . . Our employee is also full of ideas, educated, and a modern designer.‖
     This explains, for instance, why Hans and Volker Neuburg were mentioned on commercial designs. Stankowski
most certainly not only created photographs, but also designs, which were then executed by others. There is no
evidence of unauthorized authorship, as is occasionally maintained. Neuburg himself has always referred to
Stankowski‘s influence on his own Constructivist design.
     On page 29 there is a picture of a child holding up its left index finger toward the sky, accompanied by the
caption, ―Ich sage Ihnen: werden Sie Mitglied des [Lebensmittelvereins Zürich]« (I tell you: join the Zurich grocery
association), 1878-1938 – Entstehung und Entwicklung des Lebensmittelvereins Zürich (Zurich, 1938).
     Interview with Anton Stankowski conducted by René Hirmer, Anton Stankowski – Fotografie. Exh. cat.,
Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Stuttgart, 1991, pp. 145–146.

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