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Kurt Geiss

Kurt Geiss – 1921-2007

Adapted from an article in the Saarbrucker Zeitung, Feb 19, 2012:

Where did his talent come from? Kurt Geiss had trained early. His parents lived in the corner house Mainzerstraße / Hellwigstraße in Saarbrücken where after the First World War the French military had taken up quarters in the barracks. Behind it were the St. Arnualer Wiesen - run for the horses. Little Kurt had a box seat and developed a passion for horses, uniforms, rank insignia and trained his powers of observation and his French and documentary drawing. It became his daily companion for a lifetime. Geiss wanted to become a painter, but instead he had to go to war at the age of 20. In the 60s he made another attempt at the School of Arts and Crafts in Saarbrücken. There, the teacher and artist Edgar Jené told him: "You are 100 years too late with your talent." In other words, the trend was abstract art. Figurative representations were no longer in demand.

Thus Kurt Geiss became an illustrator and leisure painter who created oil paintings for the English nobility - "The Battle of Waterloo". Geiss worked in the advertising department of the Sinn department store, where he drew advertisements. He was also engaged for the miners' calendar. When (photo-)modernism arrived, Geiss moved to the city administration, to the passport office, and at some point, his wife remembers, a publisher became aware of him through one of his horse pictures. Because miniature soldier collectors lacked the templates for painting their figures of the Prussian hussar regiments, the publishing house Friese und Lacina developed the idea for the uniform plate series "Fanfaro". The uniforms and equipment were to be presented with historical accuracy. The military historian Auguste-Wilhelm Stragand researched and described every single uniform, every button, every ornament on caps or horse blankets. Geiss then created the 195 print templates for the series. But he did not just paint the uniforms as though they were off-the-rack models, he designed lifelike scenes from the hussars’ everyday life or dramatic war scenes. "My husband only had written instructions. He didn't copy anything, but lived his way back in time," says his wife Maria-Luise. For 20 years, starting in 1978, Kurt Geiss delved deep into Frederician and Napoleonic history between 1721 and 1815 in order to create the “Fanfaro” series of plates. In 2001 at the age of 80 he was forced to retire because of disability.