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Tuesday, 24 May 2016

The mad, mad world of Karl Junker

There once was a man called Karl Junker who lived from 1850 to 1912.  He built the house below and decorated its interior - for his efforts everyone thought he was crazy, weird, insane, or schizophrenic.  Certainly, he lived alone for 20 years, and, although he was affable towards his neighbours in the beginning, he became increasingly isolated.
Junker was an architect, a builder, a painter and a drawer.  His square-shaped house is in Lemgo, not far from Detmold, on the road to Hameln.  It is known as the Junkerhaus.  The walls, inside and out, are made of stone.  The exterior is overlayed with ornamented wood carvings, while the inner walls and ceilings are fitted with wooden panels.  
The exterior
The decorative elements are symmetrically arranged, and there is consistency in the level of detail throughout the house.  Junker lived in the house from 1891 until his death in 1912 and worked on the house throughout that period.
Junker must have carved to his heart's content for long hours throughout his 21 years here.
Junker was a multi-talented man.  His artistic legacy includes paintings with oil and water-colour, drawings, sketches, gouaches, and figured and ornamental sculptures.  
Among the reasons Junker was considered crazy is that he kept to himself and never married or had children.  Yet his house is built for a family, containing several bedrooms, rooms for married couples and children's rooms.  His paintings and sculptures show children, which are said to reflect a tenderness in him and an acknowledgement of all things 'normal', which contradicts the loner lifestyle he adopted, and puzzles many observers.  From an art history point of view, there is much further debate because his works contain not only elements of symbolism and expressionism but are generally said to be 'imbued with the spirit of the Italian Renaissance'.  Indeed, Junker's art has been called 'outsider art' because of the hybrid nature of his artistic expression.
In this Junker painting, young children can be seen.
In this exhibition next to Junker's house are some of his works - sculptures, ornamental wooden reliefs, drawings of his visits to Venice, Pompeii, Orvieto, Vienna, and elsewhere, and architectural models.  
Here is Karl Junker as a young man.  By the time he died at just 61, he must have spent tens of thousands of hours focusing on minutely detailed work.  While pneumonia claimed his life, I wonder about the quality of his eyesight in the end.  But never mind the state of his eyes, I think that in Junker's mind, he was not crazy.  He was just a clever individual who wanted to leave something behind for the future.  In that, he surely succeeded.

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