This is a blog about music, photography, history, and culture.
These are photographs from my collection that tell a story about lost time and forgotten music.

Mike Brubaker
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Getting Around in Old Wien

05 July 2019

I live in a world of black and white.
The dark shadows of tintypes,
the rusty hues of cabinet cards,
and the chalky tones of old snapshots
dominate the palette of my photograph collection.

As much as I love the variety of light captured in old photos,
I still miss seeing color in these records of historic life.

But obviously color never really disappeared
after Monsieur Daguerre discovered
how to preserve a moment of time
with his first camera.

Color has always remained the medium of artists
who paint the chromatic tints of reality.

One of these artists has become
a new genre in my collection.
His name was Fritz Schönpflug ( 1873 – 1951),
an Austrian artist who illustrated
the world of his beloved Wien
in thousands of lighthearted postcard caricatures.
Last year I posted a story called
The Art of Austrian Postcards,
which featured two of his postcards
with musical subjects.
At the time I couldn't read his signature,
but I have since learned to spot his colorful style.

This postcard is entitled:

Wien. Franz Josef-Kai.  Ferdinandsbrücke.

Wiener Typen - Potpurri 
Viennese types - Potpourri

It was posted from Wien on 15 November 1930,
but it depicts the street life of Vienna two decades earlier.

The first part of the postcard's title is an address in Vienna, 
The Ferdinandsbrücke is a bridge
which crosses the Danube canal
and intersects the Franz Josef-Kai,
an avenue built on the remains of the old city walls.
The bridge is now called Die Schwedenbrücke,
renamed in 1919 in memory
of the humanitarian aid for Viennese children
which Sweden provided after the First World War.

This next watercolor image shows a view
of the Ferdinandsbrücke in 1917
with the canal below.

Blick über den Donaukanal 1917
Carl Wenzel Zajicek  (1860–1923)
Source: Wikimedia

This next image is a photo from 1905
taken from a similar pigeon's point of view
but on the opposite side of the bridge.

Wien, Schwedenbrücke (1905)
Source: Wikimedia

What fascinates me about the work of Fritz Schönpflug
is his witty portrayal of the Viennese people.
By careful observation of everyday urban life
he created colorful impressions of a great city's people.
Wien was the capital of a vast empire
which made it the crossroads
for a wide variety of national and folk cultures.

It was a big city,
and getting around it
required reliable horsepower.

Nur immer nobel!
Always only classy!

This postcard of a Viennese hackney coach or Fiacre,
know in Vienna as a Fiaker,
was a popular theme
painted by Schönpflug.
These carriages with their four sprung wheels
and drawn by two lively horses
were a common means of hired transport in Wien.
The card was posted on 29 September 1912.

* * *

Nur nicht zu Fuß
Only not on foot

This postcard shows two cavalry soldiers riding in a Fiaker,
dressed in blue military jackets
with contrasting bright red caps and trousers.
It's an example of how an artist can record vibrant colors
that are missing in the photographs of this era.

The postmark is 1910 Aug 1
(some postal traditions eliminated
the first numeral in the year)
and it was sent from Brassó
which was the name of Brașov in Transylvania
when it was part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire.

* * *

The third image of this series
lacks a caption but shows
a Fiaker driver holding back his steads
as he conveys three passengers,
two men and a very stylish woman.

This postcard has a stamp and postmark from Denmark.
It was posted on 28 May 1907.

* * *

Schwerer Beruf
Tough profession

Evidently driving a Fiaker was hard work
and required a regular rest stop for refreshment.
This postcard was sent from Wien
but the postmark is obscured.
The stamp of Kaiser Franz-Josef is of an earlier design
than the large one used on the first hackney postcard.
So I think it dates to around 1901-1905

* * *

This next postcard of Fritz Schönpflug
shows one of the new problems in Viennese life
during the first decade of the 20th century.
A motor car has had some accident, a tire blowout perhaps,
and a horse, looking disdainfully at the mess,
has been requisitioned for a tow.

The card was sent by a soldier via the free military Feldpost
on 7 October 1918.

* * *

Der alte Stand im neuen G'wand (Gewand.)
The old stand in a new guise.

As the motor car took over the streets of Wien
they were adopted by the Fiaker drivers,
as any business must keep up with the times.

But Fritz Schönpflug noticed
that at the old Fiaker stand, now with taxis,
the old traditions of caring for the horses
were still lovingly maintained.

This postcard was never mailed but the motor taxis
are from the first decades of motor car design
about 1905-15.

Fritz Schönpflug was a prolific artist
who had a long successful career as a postcard caricaturist.
His work was popular throughout Austria and Hungary,
and his humorous observations even appealed
to the tourists in Berlin and Zurich.
As I have started a new album just for Schönpflug's postcards,
my readers may expect to see more
of his gentle satire in future posts.

Colorized postcards are an improvement
over black and white photos,
but both lack the one important dimension
of true realism — movement.

Here is a wonderful short film made in 1911
of street life in Vienna, Austria.
It has been corrected for speed
and includes a new soundtrack of real street sounds
that was not on the original of course in 1911,
but artfully conveys the sound of old Wien.



And for a second bonus
here is the present day Google street view
of the intersection of
Franz Josef-Kai and Ferdinandsbrücke,
now Schwedenbrücke, in Wien, Austria.
A few taxis but no horses.

* * *

* * *

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where everyone is welcome
but parking can be a problem.


Molly of Molly’s Canopy said...

These caricatures of Viennese life are still humorous all these years later. They are almost like editorial cartoons, creating a running commentary on daily transportation — who does the transporting and who is transported — and the disdain of the older mode for the new, as seen in the horse rescuing the car. You’re right, the vibrant color adds so much — and your inclusion of the contemporary Google photo shows just how far transport has come since the horse and buggy days.

Barbara Rogers said...

I enjoyed the video, but especially was taken by the color painted postcards. I wonder what the process of printing them had been, since they continue to have such true colors. And I sure enjoyed the hefty drivers of those taxi carriages, they did enjoy their beer!

La Nightingail said...

The caricature post cards are great. I'm glad we'll be seeing more of them as time goes on. And thank you for including the 1911 video with added sound. It reminded me of my days working in San Francisco - especially the trolley car bells! - and of the crowded busy streets during rush hour when everyone was either heading to or from work. Just put the women in sack dresses and mini skirts and it would almost look the same as when I was part of the workforce scene. It was fun then, but I am ever grateful I married a forester and have lived the rest of my life in the woods and mountains! :)

smkelly8 said...

I love the old postcards and the handwriting of that day was so elegant.

Virginia Allain said...

What delightful cards and your commentary was interesting too.

ScotSue said...

Vienna is one of my favourite cities and I enjoyed seeing the vintage views. But the colored cartons brought a smile to my face and reminded me of a Scottish artists Martin Anderson (Cynicus) who penned comic cards of places. Unfortunately he died in poverty in the 1930’s.


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