Once more, a post around a book, although a bit more tangentially this time.
Mr Crownfolio is reading Electric Eden, a book about British folk music (in the widest sense as it seems to include the god-like genius of Julian Cope as well). And when he was reading about Fairport Convention, he made a rather surprising discovery, which was that Richard Thompson (a.k.a. Mr British Folk) had, for a year, been Hans Unger’s assistant, making the windows for St Columba’s Roman Catholic Church in Upton-on-Chester sometime in the mid 1960s. Here’s the church and all of the people.
And here’s one of Unger’s windows.
Now quite apart from the unsuspected folk/Hans Unger overlap, my surprise was also because I had no idea that Unger made stained glass. He did do a lot of wonderful posters. The best known are for London Underground, like this fishy gem from 1956.
I’m also rather fond of this little GPO one from 1954. Apparently this format was designed to be displayed in telephone boxes.
These later (1962/1967) GPO ones were up at the most recent Morphets sale, and prove that his style evolved a great deal over the decades.
But perhaps I shouldn’t be amazed about the stained glass, because at the same time that he was producing the GPO posters, Unger also did a number of mosaic posters for London Underground,. And mosaic is, after all, just a different way of making patterns with glass.
What’s interesting about these, is that they are jointly signed by Hans Unger and Eberhard Schulze. Once again, it’s Richard Thompson who can tell us a bit more.
Hans was a terrific designer, who made some memorable posters for London Transport, amongst other things. He took his own life in the late 70s. I believe his partner, Eberhard Schultz, went back to Germany.
A sad ending. But before that happened, it seems that they were very productive together. Here’s St Stephen’s Astley, a Manchester church which was consecrated in 1968.
And the chapel of the Rochdale Pallottine Convent.
But the stained glass was clearly a sideline in comparison to their main work in mosaics. Here’s a mosaic for UNICEF,
and a 1964 Christmas card for the BBC.
How about a mosaic of Elvis?
And this is just a tiny sample of what they produced together (there is a huge archive here if you want to take a look for yourself). Their partnership became very well known, and their smaller works were apparently much in demand by collectors. Here they are working together in about 1964.
And here is Unger being presented to the Queen with some great piece in the background.
He looks rather worried really.
So, a whole side of Hans Unger’s life and work that I had no idea about. But there’s a rather odd coda too. Sadly, soon after Unger’s death, Eberhard Schulze injured his back and had to give up mosaics. But he clearly wasn’t someone who relished early retirement.
He went on to develop a successful career as a specialist aquarist, becoming England’s leading discus fish breeder and even carried out aquarium installations for the rich and famous, such as the Saudi Royal Family and the Sultan of Brunei. He now lives in Nonthaburi in Thailand.
If anyone can add to this, I’d love to hear from you, as I feel rather as though I’ve only just scratched the surface of the subject here. And also, if anyone can explain why all these new churches were being built in the north, I’d also love to know.
And if you’re inspired enough to want to buy one for yourself, Martin Steenson at Books and Things has this Unger/Schulze fish poster for sale for just £30.
It’s a bit battered, but still lovely.