Heinrich Zille was born in 1858 at Radeburg near Dresden. His father Johann Zille was a watchmaker and blacksmith. Zille’s work was a greatly influenced by the classical master of ‘Old Berlin’ painting and illustration Theodor Hosemann.
From 1877, Zille worked at a graphic arts workshop called “Photographische Gesellschaft” that produced mainly commercial and trivial art. He produced his first lithograph in 1877 and began to do drawings notable for the social criticism they expressed. “In the early 1890s Zille began to work seriously as a craftsman and artist, continuing to draw prolifically and sporadically working on a series of etchings on a wide variety of subjects” (art directory 2013).
From 1894, Zille photographed the Berlin street scene at popular festivals and in studios. “Joining the avant-garde art scene in Berlin, Zille met many distinguished artists, including Max Liebermann, August Gaul and Käthe Kollwitz” (art directory 2013).
Käthe Kollwitz summarised her opinion of him quickly: “A few lines, a few dashes, a little colour included – and a masterpiece is born” (visitberlin.de 2013).
Zille in 1901 participated in his first group show mounted by the Berlin Secessions called “Zeichnende Künste”. In 1902, he had his first one-man show. “As Liebermann’s protégé, Zille became a member of the Berlin Secession in 1903” (art directory 2013). Zille then began to work mainly within the medium of drawings for satirical journals such as “Simplicissimus”, “Die Lustigen Blätter”, “Jugend” and “Ulk”. “Numerous portfolios of his drawings were issued, including “Zwölf Künstlerdrucke” with heliogravures after drawings and etchings, which soon earned him the reputation of being the best draughtsman of his generation in Germany” (art directory 2013). After being dismissed from the “Photographische Gesellschaft” in 1907, Zille went freelanced. His prints were most notable for their meticulous workmanship.
Heinrich Zille died in 1929, and was buried in Stahnsdorfer Friedhof near Potsdam.
“Since 2002 the Heinrich Zille Museum in Berlin has been a fitting permanent home for the oeuvre of ‘this man, who is the purest incarnation of Berlin’- Kurt Tucholsky” (art directory 2013).
By Rebecca Holland
Art directory 2013 http://www.heinrich-zille.com
Visitberlin.de Heinrich Zille Masterpiece made with lines http://www.visitberlin.de/en/article/heinrich-zille