Linder: Wilhelm Geyer 1900-1968

Gisela Linder (Ed.). Wilhelm Geyer: 1900-1968. Böblingen: Kulturamt der Stadt Böblingen, 1990.

Dr. Gisela Linder's opening essay, entitled "Eine Erinnerung an Wilhelm Geyer," sets the tone not only for her short biography of this courageous man, but also for Geyer himself.

"Wilhelm Geyer lived what he painted. Therefore his art will endure. When he sketched, he gave [us] signs..."

That last sentence is a beautiful and hard-to-translate double entendre. Wenn er zeichnete, gab er Zeichen. Geyer likely would have shaken his head at the compliment, while simultaneously enjoying the pun.

Linder captured Geyer's essence much the same way Clara Geyer had written about her husband: Simply, comprehending the balance between his faith and connection to those outside it, portraying him both as highly-esteemed artist and caring individual. Linder barely mentioned his connection to the White Rose friends, and even then, not explicitly. She merely referred to one of Geyer's sketches, drawn while a prisoner of the Gestapo in Munich.

As Linder painted Geyer's portrait with words, it becomes clearer than ever why Sophie Scholl was happier when Geyer was around, why he mentored her in both art and life, why White Rose friends dropped by the studio to visit. His Catholic faith meant the world to him, but it did not define him. His religious paintings, sketches, and stained glass windows drew viewers in, draw us in even today, regardless of ethnicity or faith. Geyer wrestled with thoughts of justice, he wrestled with religion, he wrestled with himself.

One anecdote Linder recounted demonstrates his humanity and empathy for those in his sphere of influence.

As one of the most prominent among the jury for a prestigious art contest in the mid-1960s, Geyer refused to separate personal from professional. When others among the jury would quickly dismiss an artiist's work, Geyer called for them to reconsider, to give each rejected work a second chance.

The exhibit drew to a close. No one noticed that Geyer was not present during the final ceremonies. Over the course of the evening, his friends slowly missed him and went looking. They still could not find him. By the time he reappeared, happy, social, looking for a good glass of wine, many had already left.

When pressed as to his whereabouts, Geyer said he had gone to the warehouse where the rejected works of art were. He encountered one of the artists. He explained to the young man why his artwork had not been accepted for the exhibit. "I had to help him on his way," he said, with a good doch for emphasis.

Linder correctly identified Wilhelm Geyer as a person who brought people together, usually around himself (although Geyer would have rejected that notion). It was critical to him that people with common interests know one another, become friends, grow into a community. Linder wrote of his art and the circles of artists he cultivated.

Her words hold true for White Rose friends as well. We see Geyer providing sanctuary for White Rose friends of diverse backgrounds and ideologies. Those friends mentioned his efforts smoothing over disagreements, maintaining peace between hotheads.

Dr. Linder's essay may be short, but for anyone who wants to understand the dynamics among White Rose friends in January and February 1943, her 10-page essay is a good starting point.

On pages 11-14, Linder constructed a timeline of Geyer's life from 1900-1968. For the year 1943, she mentioned his association with White Rose friends, going one step further to detail the important works created while a prisoner of the Gestapo, as well as people outside his family with whom he corresponded.

A comprehensive bibliography of works about Geyer and the Stuttgarter Neue Sezession art movement with which he was associated can be found on pages 15-18. It is complete through 1990. 

Pages 19-24 comprise the catalog (listing) for the 1990 exhibit in Böblingen. Item #44 is the portrait of Carl Muth that Geyer painted in 1943. That portrait is not among those reproduced on pages 25-77.

© 2023 Denise Heap. Please contact Exclamation! Publishers for permission to quote.