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Carl Ernst Hinkefuss papers, 1903-1970 (bulk 1912-1933)

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Finding aid for the Carl Ernst Hinkefuss papers, 1903-1970, bulk 1912-1933

Biographical/Historical Note

Carl Ernst Hinkefuss (1881-1970) trained as a painter, graphic artist, and architect at the Königliche Kunstschule and the Kunstgewerbemuseum in Berlin at the turn of the century. While still a student, Hinkefuss became interested in the idea of artists collaborating with the business world, and after graduation he became a commercial graphic designer. From 1905 to early 1910, he worked in the advertising and publicity departments of several firms in Berlin and Dessau, and then later in 1910 set out as an independent publicist in Berlin.

The turning point in Hinkefuss's career came in 1912. While working for Otto Elsner Verlag, a printing company in Berlin, he met Wilhelm Deffke. The two artists collaborated on several advertising projects for Elsner, with Hinkefuss supplying the advertising concept and Deffke giving the concept artistic form. The collaboration of Hinkefuss and Deffke was so successful that in late 1915 they established their own company, Wilhelmwerk. The large, full service agency the partners had envisioned was, however, not to be. The war and the subsequent economic depression had their effect, and the firm survived primarily on the design of trademarks and logos. In early 1920, Deffke left the partnership to pursue other opportunities and Wilhelmwerk was dissolved.

At this point in his career, working independently once more, Hinkefuss established a new company in Berlin, Internatio GmbH Internationale Propaganda für Qualitätserzeugnisse. Again Hinkefuss concentrated chiefly on the creation of trademarks and logos. Yet, it is also through Internatio that he began to publish the richly illustrated design journal, Qualität (1920-1933) and the children's book, Das Vogelparadies (1929). During this period, Hinkefuss's work appears to be allied to that of the Bauhaus and he may have hoped to establish a formal relationship, but apart from publishing essays in Qualität by Walter Gropius, László Moholy-Nagy, and Hannes Meyer, he never worked in any official capacity for the Bauhaus.

An ardent opponent of the National Socialists, Hinkefuss discontinued Qualität and closed Internatio in 1933 lest he be forced to produce propaganda for them. For the next twelve years, he supported himself as a small farmer, growing fruit and vegetables in his backyard, supplemented by the occassional land sale. Living in East Berlin after the war, Hinkefuss tried to re-establish his business and develop a new customer base within the DDR, but he was not successful. Commercial advertising was not in great demand and Hinkefuss's established graphic style, made up of simple geometric forms, was very different from the favored social-realist style of the time. By 1951 his career had taken a new route. Having joined the Verband Bildender Künstler Deutschlands, he began painting landscapes, still-lifes and portraits, as well as teaching painting to the public. His later graphic design work was confined to a small number of political works and exhibition posters.

Further documentation relating to the careers of Hinkefuss and Wilhelm Deffke can be found in the repository's research file.

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