Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Postcard of the Day No. 80 – Berlin Spittelmarkt (above and below)

Postcards like this illustrate just why in the decade preceding the Great War, Berlin was so frequently held up as an exemplar of the modern metropolis – a vast ever expanding city driven by infernal energy. Trade and commerce leaves a mark on almost every building in Spittelmarkt – business names and slogans compete for attention with enormous painted advertising on gable ends. Culture is also visible - an advertising column bears a poster for the current exhibition of the Berlin Secession. The artist was Thomas Theodor Heine who produced this image of a fashionable lady holding brushes and palette while extending a crown of laurel leaves to the great bear of Berlin. It was first used in 1901 and again in 1906, 1911 and 1915 and it may well have been re-used in 1909, the date given for the photographic original. The Sinalco soft drink came on the market in 1902 and was clearly being aggressively promoted in 1909. It remains one of Germany’s most popular beverages, sold worldwide with a particularly strong presence in the Middle East and former Soviet republics. Comparison with the original photograph reveals an enormous amount of lost detail in the postcard version. Reproducing a similar quality of detail in postcard form would have been prohibitively expensive and postcard publishers were more interested in exploiting the novelty value of colour images. Cheaper colour printing meant it was worthwhile to employ artists to add colour to the photographic originals. The second postcard offers a view of what lay beneath. A new U-Bahn station opened in 1908 as the terminus of the U2 line.

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