Sunday, November 27, 2016

Second Generation Seilers: Anita and (Maybe) Rudolf

In my last post, I discussed the life and career of the painter-etcher Willy Seiler.  He and his wife Maritte had a daughter, Anita Anna Marie Seiler (1933 - ?), who also producing etchings in the same vein as her father.  It has been rumored that she may have been responsible for the hand-coloring on some of her father's colored etchings.

Photo of Anita Seiler from Pacific Stars & Stripes (Sept. 16, 1955)
Courtesy of Merrill Holmes

The known facts about Anita Seiler's life are few.  A September 16, 1955 Pacific Stars & Stripes profile of Anita Seiler reported that she was 22 at the time and that she was born in Kobe.  This would put her birth around 1933 (with her conception likely happening in 1932).  In addition, the same article reports that she had lived her entire life to date in Japan except for an around-the-world tour when she was five.  Some Internet sleuthing courtesy of Merrill Holmes, however, has turned up passenger lists showing that the Seiler family left Japan in November 1933 for Dresden by way of California.  Presumably Anita and her mother returned to Japan before Anita was old enough to recall her first trip abroad.  Since Willy Seiler is believed not to have returned to Japan until 1937, it is possible that his family traveled to Japan ahead of him, or that Seiler returned earlier than had been reported.

Little Mother (c. late 1940s to early 1950s) by Willy Seiler
(hand-colored etching)

There are rumors on the Internet that the model for Willy Seiler's etching "Little Mother" was his daughter.  If the daughter in question was Anita, then it would have had to have been based on an original drawing or photograph that Willy Seiler had made or taken a decade or more earlier in time.  There are also rumors that Willy Seiler had a Eurasian daughter born out of wedlock.  If true, then the girl in the "Little Mother" etching could be Anita's half-sister.

First Snow by Anita Seiler
(colored woodblock print)

Anita Seiler is said to have mastered Japanese and German, and later French and English.   According to the Pacific Star & Stripes profile, she started to make woodblock prints in 1953, but preferred to paint.  She favored landscapes, such as Mt. Fuji, in her Western-style paintings, but also painted portraits and special subjects for her predominantly North-American patrons.  While I cannot discount the possibility that Anita Seiler made a few woodblock prints (and I certainly have not examined all of her prints in person), I'm only aware of one such woodblock print.  Perhaps not coincidentally, "First Snow" is also Anita Seiler's only known woodblock print bearing her chop within the print image.  It's likely that the Pacific Stars & Stripes reporter simply confused her colored etchings with colored woodblock prints, particularly since there was no reference to any of her many etchings in the article.  She did, however, make a colored etching of a wood carver.

Wood Carver by Anita Seiler
Personal Collection
(colored etching)

Anita's etchings are stylistically similar to many of her father's etchings, although the paper used tends to be different.  Some are so similar, in fact, that they are frequently erroneously attributed to her father by dealers and auctioneers.  To further complicate things, there are also etchings bearing the signature "R. Seiler" that are also erroneously attributed to Willy Seiler.  One noted Willy Seiler collector told me that he had heard tell of a "Rudolf" or "Rudolph" Seiler, but I have been unable to locate any information to substantiate the existence of such a person.   Whether he was Anita's brother, uncle, son, or some other relation is a complete mystery to me at this point.  Merrill Holmes has noted that a U.S. Naval officer named Rudolf Seiler was stationed in Japan in the 1950s, so it is possible that he could also be the artist in question.

 Willy Seiler's Signature

 Anita Seiler's Signature

R. (Rudolph?) Seiler's Signature

Listed below are the Anita Seiler etchings known to me at this point in time.  Presumably, like her father, her etchings were issued in both black-and-white (or sepia) and hand-colored versions.  A few of the etchings bear plate number and edition size on the back of the prints, though some do not and I lack information about what may or may not appear on the backs of most of these prints.  The signatures on many of the prints are unclear from the images available, but those which seemingly show a "R. Seiler" or  those which reportedly bear a "R. Seiler" signature are specifically noted below.  Otherwise, the assumption remains for the time being that the remaining etchings were by Anita Seiler and not by the mysterious "R. Seiler."

Arranging Flowers
Edition of 25
(etching)

 
 Chinese Rickshaw Coolie by R. Seiler
Plate #2; edition of 30
(etching)
 Drying Sheaves of Rice
(colored etching)

Farmer Babies Await Their Mother (ascribed to R. Seiler)
Plate #6, edition of 25
(etching)

Farmers Feasting in Fields
(colored etching)

First Snow
(colored woodblock print)

 
Fisher Resting
Plate #11, edition of 25?
(colored etching)

Fresh Fish
(colored etching)

Geisha
Courtesy of the Koller Collection
(colored etching) 

    
Girls' Day (aka Girls' Festival) by R. Seiler?
Plate #18, edition of 30 (right)
(etching/colored etching)

Heavy Load
(colored etching)

Irrigating Rice Fields
(colored etching)

Katsura Riku, Kyoto
(colored etching) 

 Kinkakuji Temple, Kyoto
(colored etching)

Korean Youngsters by R. Seiler?
(colored etching)

Lake Hakone
(colored etching)

Miyajima
Courtesy of Artelino.com
(colored etching) 

Mother and Children
Plate #8, edition of 25
(etching)

Pearl Divers Carrying Their Catch
(colored etching)

Peasant Girl
Edition of 25
(colored etching)

    
Peddler Woman
Personal Collection (right)
(etching/colored etching)

    
Planting Rice
(etching/colored etching)

     
Priest With Flute (ascribed to R. Seiler)
(etching/colored etching)

Rice Farmer
(etching)
Rice Harvest
(colored etching)

Short Rest
Courtesy of Artelino.com
(colored etching)

    
Wood Carver
Personal Collection (right)
(etching/colored etching)

6 Postcards (which are likely reduced versions of some of the above designs)
(etchings)

It is unclear what happened to Anita Seiler after her father returned to Europe in the mid-to-late 1960s.   Did she accompany him to Germany?   Did she remain in Japan?   Did she ever marry and have children?  It is not inconceivable that she is still alive today somewhere.  Friends or relations who can fill in the details of her life story (or of those of the putative R. Seiler) are encouraged to contact me.  Likewise, I would be grateful for images of any missing print designs.

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