Heinrich Kley • The Schauinsland Cable Car
Watercolour heightened with white over pencil on cardboard
49.5 : 37.5 cm
Estate stamp on the verso
The Artist’s Estate
The idea of making the summit of the Schauinsland, Freiburg’s local mountain, accessible to the public via cable car goes back to the 1890s. However, the project was only realized three decades later. In 1928, the Schauinslandbahn Aktiengesellschaft was established. This public limited company was responsible for obtaining funding and managing the planning and development of the project. The foundation stone was laid on 8 May 1929, and the line went into service on 17 July 1930 as the world’s first, large-cabin loop cable car with the capacity to carry large visitor numbers.
Seven steel pylons with haul rope sheaves and track rope supports carry the ropeway which is 3600 metres in length. The rope’s widest span is 734 metres and the tallest pylon is 37 metres in height. The cable car was originally equipped with ten cabins, each of which accommodated 23 to 25 passengers. Travel time from valley to summit was a record 16 minutes.
Heinrich Kley is well known for his depictions of technological subject matter. The present scene is depicted in steep perspective and shows the view from the summit down into the distant valley. Exactly the same view greets the cable car passenger when he steps out of the cabin on arriving at the summit. This perfect fusion of nature and modern engineering skills suggests that the work may have been commissioned by Schauinslandbahn AG for advertising purposes. The thinking behind it was almost certainly to attract potential customers. The message is clear: on the Schauinslandbahn hikers and winter sports enthusiasts visiting the Black Forest can be sure of a truly comfortable ride up to the summit of Freiburg’s local mountain.
1863 Karlsruhe - 1945 Munich
After Heinrich Kley completes his studies at the Academy of Arts in Karlsruhe in 1885, he struggles to establish himself in his hometown’s art scene. Although he manages to secure the occasional commission from local residents, offices and companies, and is active within the artist community taking part in exhibitions - greater successes prove elusive.
The tables start to turn after 1900, when the Krupp Company in Essen becomes aware of Kley’s talent for portraying topographical subjects. His precise drawing skill and keen understanding of colour allow him to capture the atmospheric moods specific to the realm of steel factories, workers’ cottages and shipyards. His life-like work, enriched with impressionist elements, soon wins over other big companies, and within a few years Kley is recognised as a first rate industrial painter – and a tremendously busy one at that.
The general public comes to know Kley through his contributions to the magazines Simplicissimus and Jugend, a line of work which moves him to relocate to Munich in 1909. Until World War I the magazines publish hundreds of his drawings, which range from humourous to satirical to downright grotesque. Social politics, technological advance, the ever complex relationships between man and woman – no matter which subject matter Kley chooses, he expresses his opinions imaginatively, with great psychological insight and distinctive virtuosity. His abilities also show in his characterisations of human behaviour through man-animal comparisons, which are equally sharp and hilarious.
After the end of World War I the artist, having been dealt blow upon harsh blow by fate, slips into oblivion. However, his drawings find a surprisingly appreciative audience in the USA. In the 1930s Walt Disney discovers Kley’s work and mines it to inspire his animated movies. Thus Kley’s art lives on in the characters of „Dumbo“, „Fantasia“ and „The Jungle Book“ and continues to delight an audience of millions.
Heinrich Kley: Inspiration (Self-Portrait), c.1910, Georg Schäfer Museum, Schweinfurt