Just less than ten years before Mary Poppins floated across our screens with her raised umbrella, the artist from Ulm Johanna Künzli designed this young lady, tousled by the wind, who appears in no way inferior to the lively heroine of the novels. Her cheeks are red with effort, while the girl tries to master the gust of wind. Bold, shiny bright red is used for her face and scarf, and the innocent pink of her skirt is another tricky colour: It has to be applied particularly evenly if it is to change from brown to smooth rosé during firing.
The charm of Johanna Künzli’s figures lies in her clearly defined shapes and colours. Barely any other artist would have given this musical Spring such striking, copper-coloured hair. Only shortly after training in Munich under Josef Wackerle, Künzli, who was born in Ulm, swiftly developed a style of her own. The cheeky crop top clearly places this child in the late 1950s. And this boy, trying to imitate the song of the larks with his panpipes, certainly has childlike features.
Her skin is snow-white, her fingernails are painted magenta and her lips a shiny bright pink. On her head, with blue hair, the young woman is carrying a shiny yellow calabash, which looks like an oversized lemon. This is what Johanna Künzli’s Summer looks like. Her figure, designed for the Manufactory in 1957, is influenced by the “new look” that emigrated to the USA with the artistic avant-garde and did not return to Germany until after the War. Despite the strangely abstract body, the figure seems refreshingly full of life and seems to symbolise the sweet summer on the Côte d’Azur.
Unfortunately, we do not know if, in her 1957 representation of Autumn, Johanna Künzli drew inspiration from Antonio Vivaldi’s stylised triple time as marked by horns. Yet the artist no doubt gave the slim, 25-centimetre-tall man the shiny red horn, which he seems to be about to raise to his lips, as a symbol of the hunt. The young man’s protective cloak is just as colourful as the instrument. To achieve the fabric-like texture, the paint must not be applied too smoothly. This requires great skill and experience.
The alchemy of preparing colours is both art and science, for many porcelain paint colours change during firing. Moreover, a great deal of experience is required to correctly estimate the luminosity of a colour like bright red when it is still being applied. Especially when it is used to accentuate lips, fingernails and hair, as in Johanna Künzli’s Winter. The young woman with fiery red hair has elegantly draped her black cape over her head and upper body. And if she didn’t have gleaming red fingernails, we could think she was a Madonna.