Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Melchior Lechter papers
Date (inclusive): 1879-1937
Lechter, Melchior, 1865-1937
36.0 linear feet
The Getty Research Institute
1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
Los Angeles, California, 90049-1688
German artist, best known for his work in the decorative design of books and ex libris, stained glass windows and painting.
Collection consists primarily of correspondence between Lechter and the artists, writers, craftsmen, and decorative artists
with whom he worked and intersected.
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The artist Melchior Lechter is best known for his glass paintings, drawings and decorative designs for books, calendars, catalogs,
ex libris and posters. He also designed furniture, carpets, wallpaper and stained glass windows. The outline of his life which
follows notes many of the highlights described further in the letters and printed materials found in his archive.
1865: Melchior Lechter was born in Münster, Germany, October 2. His father was a craftsman.
1879: Began his apprenticeship as a glass painter with Anton von der Forst in Münster.
1883: After the death of his parents, moved to Berlin where in 1884 he enrolled in the painting class of the Kunstakademie.
He supported himself by producing glass paintings, a medium he pursued for the rest of his life.
1886: Attended performances in Bayreuth of Richard Wagner's
Tristan and Isolde, operas which influenced his work and cultivated his interest in music. He admired Chopin and Liszt as well.
1888: Traveled in the Bohemian Forest, which kindled his desire for continued travel and influenced his first nature sketches.
This trip was followed by one in 1891 to the Dolomites, after which in 1893 he painted "Blaue Blume Einsamkeit" and other
1894: Painted frescoes in Gross-Wanzleben.
1895: Furnished his apartment in Kleiststrasse 3 with his own designs based on the ideas of Nietzsche, Arnold Böcklin and
Wagner. These designs ranged from painted decorative elements to the stained glass windows known as the "Nietzsche Fenster."
Lechter strove to combine art and craftsmanship and exemplify the Jugendstil ideals. Began his friendship with Stefan George
and started working with the circle of artists around George who contributed to the
Blätter für die Kunst. This affiliation had a great influence on Lechter and his work. Lechter's apartment became the central meeting place for
this group. The friendship with George steered Lechter to his interest in book illustration.
1896: Added stained glass windows known as the "Tristan Fenster" to his apartment. Made sketches for St. Simeon's Church in
Berlin and for the glass windows in the Romanisches Haus. Received favorable notice at his first exhibition, in which he showed
70 compositions at the Fritz Gurlitt Gallery in Berlin.
1897: Created book decorations for Karl Wolfskehl's
Ulais and Stefan George's
Das Jahr der Seele. These brought fame to Lechter as a book designer.
1898: Designed book decorations for Maurice Maeterlinck's
Der Schatz der Armen.
1898-1900: Designed and completed commission for glass windows in the Cologne, Kunstgewerbemuseum. Known as the Pallenberg
Saal after the donor Jacob Pallenberg, these were mostly destroyed in World War II.
1899: Produced book decorations for Stefan George's
Der Teppich des Lebens.
1900: Received Grand Prix for the Pallenberg Saal windows at the Paris World's Fair.
1900-1902: Designed book decorations for
Deutsche Dichtung, three volumes edited by George and Wolfskehl; painted the tempera work "Die Weihe am mystischen Quell" for the Pallenberg
1901: Traveled in Tuscany and Umbria.
1902: Exhibition held in Berlin at the Keller and Reiner Gallery.
1903: Exhibitions held in Berlin at the Keller and Reiner Gallery and in Leipzig, Kunstverein.
1904-1905: Visited Elba and Ischia from which followed many pastels and sketches.
1905-1906: Exhibition held at Fritz Gurlitt Gallery in Berlin.
1906: Designed antependium "Panis Angelorum" and book decoration for
Maximin edited by George.
1907: Made book decorations for George's
Der Siebente Ring and designed the glass window triptych "Lumen de Lumine."
1908: Designed book decoration for
Shakespeare in deutscher Sprache and had exhibition at Fritz Gurlitt Gallery in Berlin.
1909: Founded the Einhorn Press, in the printing house of Otto von Holten, to publish his own work. With this establishment
his style shifted and after one year he no longer worked with the George circle.
1909-1910: Exhibition held in Berlin, Königlischen Akademie der Künste and in Münster, Landesmuseum.
1910-1911: Traveled in India, accompanied at first by Wolfskehl. These travels intensified his long held interest in theosophy
and Buddhist mysticism. These themes became prevalent in his work, even in the book decorations, although he continued his
involvement with Catholic mysticism and theology.
1911: Wrote and decorated book based on his trip to India,
Tagebuch der Indischen Reise.
1914-1922: Designed book decorations for Thomas von Kempen's
Die vier Bücher von der Nachfolge Christi.
1919: Began his friendship with Marguerite Hoffmann.
1921-1931: Exhibitions held in Lechter's apartment.
1934: Delivered a memorial commemorative speech in Berlin, Lessing Hochschule, "Zum Gedächtnis Stefan George." Lechter's fourth
and last exhibition held at the Fritz Gurlitt Gallery in Berlin.
1937: Died October 8th in Raron, Wallis, Switzerland, having worked the day before on a pastel of Rainer Maria Rilke's grave.
Open for use by qualified researchers.
Melchior Lechter papers, 1879-1937, Getty Research Institute, Research Library, Accession no. 970039.
The Lechter papers passed to Marguerite Hoffman in 1937. She stored them at her villa in Capri where Giuseppe Salvi later
found them. He spent several years organizing the Lechter archive. The archive were acquired by the Getty in 1997.
Vladimira Stefura unpacked the collection and prepared a box list, retaining Salvia's order and arrangement. Rose Lachman
completed the processing and wrote this finding aid in March 1998.
Publications received with the archive (130 items) were transferred to the Getty Research Institute's Research Library, March
Scope and Content of Collection
The Melchior Lechter Papers occupy ca. 36 linear feet and consist primarily of correspondence between Lechter and his acquaintances,
friends and relatives. The letters reflect Lechter's involvement with Stefan George and his circle of artists, poets and musicians.
They also illuminate his devotion to music, especially the music of Wagner and Liszt, and his deep interest in Indian theosophy
and Christian religiosity. His correspondence with Marguerite Hoffmann is particularly lyrical and romantic.
The collection also contains examples of Lechter's works by way of manuscripts and proof sheets. Among the assorted writings
and printed materials are chronologically arranged documents which give greater insight into his education and other milestones
in his life. Pertinent events in Lechter's life are also manifest in the photographs and newspaper clippings. Publications
received with the archive, many of which contain elements of Lechter's graphic design, have been separated to the Getty's
Research Library. A few printed items remain within the archive.
The Papers are organized in 7 series:
Series I. Manuscripts, ca. 1884-1937;
Series II. Proof sheets, ca. 1896-1937;
Series III. Correspondence, 1884-1937;
Series IV. Assorted writings and printed material, 1879-1937;
Series V. Photographs, ca. 1879-1937;
Series VI. Newspaper clippings, ca. 1884-1937;
Series VII. Richard Wagner, ca. 1879-1933
Subjects - Names
George, Stefan Anton, 1868-1933
Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, 1844-1900
Wagner, Richard, 1813-1883
Subjects - Topics
Illustration of books--Germany
Tristan und Isolde--Performances--Germany
Ansorge, Conrad, 1862-1930
Boehringer, Robert, 1884-
Breysig, Kurt, 1866-1940
Du Bos, Charles, 1882-1939
Eckmann, Otto, 1865-1902
Frommel, Wolfgang, 1902-
Gundolf, Friedrich, 1880-1931
Heyer, Gustav Richard, 1890-
Hoffmann, Marguerite, 1884-1966
Landmann, Edith, 1877-1951
Landmann, Georg Peter, 1905-
Landmann, Julius, 1877-1931
Landmann, Michael, 1913-
Lepsius, Sabine, 1864-1942
Majut, Rudolf, 1887-
Pannwitz, Rudolf, 1881-1969
Pembaur, Josef, 1875-1950
Rathenau, Walther, 1867-1922
Ronnebeck, Arnold, 1885-1947
Schering, Emil, 1873-1951
Schneider, Maria, b. 1880
Schur, Ernst, 1876-1912
Simmel, Georg, 1858-1918
Simmel, Gertrud, 1864-1938
Stoeving, Curt, 1863-1939
Swarzenski, Georg, 1876-1957
Treuge, Lothar, 1877-1920
Vallentin, Berthold, 1877-1933
Wolfskehl, Karl, 1869-1948
Wolters, Friedrich, 1876-1930