Releasing Girls’ Creativity at the Emmy Zweybruck-Prochaska School in 1920s Vienna

Type two words—“creativity” and “children”—into the search bar, hit the magnifying glass icon, and watch the results cascade down the screen.   The tenor of all these hits to scholarly articles in psychology, curriculum on public television for carers, websites devoted to child development, Ideas.Ted.com, etc. is unlocking every child’s imaginative potential is crucial to their intellectual and emotional progress.

Art instruction emphasizing creative self-expression through craft projects is believed to be among the best ways of opening up children’s minds to this process.  The idea that children should be inspired to discover within the seeds of creativity and to release their individuality through art for its own sake rather than to prepare for careers  dates back to early twentieth-century Vienna.  Franz Cizek (1765-1943), the most celebrated professor of art education of his generation, promoted a method which encouraged pupils to teach themselves, discarding the traditional formal study of technique for the exploration of a wide variety of media.

Cizek’s course  inaugurated in 1903 at the School of Applied Arts, with its strong ties to the Viennese Sezession, was not the only place in Austria where boys and girls were taught according to this philosophy.  Emmy Zweybrück-Prochaska (1890-1956) opened a school just for girls in 1915.  nfluenced by Cizek’s progressive, “permissive” methods, she brought deep interests in applied design, and the so-called naïve design language of  indigenous peoples, and women’s handwork in the textile arts.  Zweybruck parted company from Cizek in her practice in bringing out self-expressive potential through achievement of technical proficiency  and her dedication to training both amateurs and young women aspiring to careers as artists.

A sample of work by some of Zweybruck’s students has been preserved in the Cotsen collection.  Among the most delightful are the hand-drawn postcards.  The assignment seems to have been to illustrate the front of a commercially printed card and write a message to their teacher.  The illustration shown below is signed “E. C.” and the signature is “your Evelyn.”   The back is postmarked “1916.”   Lisbeth Haase is one of the most accomplished artists in the archive.  Here is her design of a girl watering a cactus for a postcard.  The black and white drawing is the right-hand half of a frame for a double-page spread in a book.  The third is a clever jumble perhaps of Lisbeth’s favorite things or an assortment of subjects Zweybruck suggested be incorporated into some kind of picture.The largest group reflects the method’s foundational principle of letting children try their hands at different media and includes linocuts, collages, papercuts, and drawings, some signed by the young creators.  One of Zweybruck’s techniques was to read aloud detailed descriptions or little stories lasting around 5 minutes and allowed the students “to find their way as best they can and will” in their responses. One day’s project must have been based on the legend of St. George and the dragon and it’s fascinating to notice the differences between these two attempts.  Unfortunately they are both anonymous designs.Perhaps this whimsical collage of an elephant by “N. J.” was a design for a toy or figurine.  N. J. used silver paper and sequins in addition to different colored papers.The horizontal borders in watercolor or cut papers are unsigned, but the linocut of the fence is credited to Zviki Abramowicz.  The unsigned designs for borders range from abstraction to the highly stylized “primitive. It’s also possible to compare two versions of the same image within the archive.  This design was executed in black and white and in full color.  The black and white version of the Virgin and Christ Child was mounted on the same sheet as a quick sketch of several faces.  This ambitious image is also unsigned.In the coming months, all the materials by Zweybruck’s students in the collection will be reorganized so they will be more accessible to researchers.  The names of all the students who signed their work will also be recorded.  Perhaps someone some day will try to identify the girls who studied with Zweybruck and establish how many went on to be artists.

Vivie Wivie Redesigns The Flapper’s Magazette: More Issues of a Child-Made Manuscript Magazine Acquired

Our favorite girl journalist resurfaced miraculously a few weeks ago, when the New Jersey antiquarian bookseller Between the Covers offered Cotsen two issues of The Flapper’s Magazine edited by “V. V.” and published in Teddington, Richmond by Vivie Wivie & Co. in 1918. The address, which is the same as the editorial offices of The Flapper’s Magazette, leaves no doubts as to the brains behind the operation.

Would the two issues contain information that would lead us to the real young woman? Absolutely!

One issue has no publication date, but the second carries an announcement that starting with this, the May issue, the magazine will be issued every two months.  Flip through the new issues and it’s obvious that Vivie Wivie & Co. decided that the magazine needed a make-over.  The silly jokes and contests that were an endearing feature of the Magazette are history.  More sophisticated young women in daring hats are featured on the covers.And the contents? Each issue consists of more portraits of devastating modern beauties billed as “V. V.’s famous girls,” any one of which can be obtained as a full-page picture from Vivie Wivie & Co., according to another announcement.  No price is given, however. V. V.’s glamorous creatures, some with bobs, a few with wide-brimmed chapeaus, others bedizened with huge bows or artificial flowers, and some with long braids down the back (a “flapper,” according to OED), are signed “Viven Furniss 1918,” “V. Furniss 1918,” or “ViviE 1918.”   The sole man admitted to the Magazine’s pages is a handsome square-jawed aviator,  whom the reader may suspect, is the object of the editor’s dreams.  The only copy in the two issues are the captions.  Vivien’s artwork in the 1918 issues of The Flapper’s Magazine is much more accomplished than that in the Magazette, so it seems safe to say the Magazine is the work of a teenager, and the other of a little girl.

But can it be puzzled out how old she was when she made the manuscript periodicals?

Yes! Almost exactly.

It was pure wishful thinking on my part to have imagined that Vivien must have been the daughter (or other relative) of Harry Furniss (1854-1927), the Irish-born British artist famous for his humorous drawings and caricatures for Punch and illustrator of Lewis Carroll’s Sylvie and Bruno (1889) and Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (1993).  He also illustrated G. E. Farrow’s Wallypug series, sometimes collaborating with his artist-daughter Dorothy.  Dorothy was Harry’s only daughter.

So it was back to the drawing board.  Now that I knew that Vivien F. Furniss put together those two issues of The Flapper’s Magazine in 1918, I could search Ancestry Library with a bit more confidence.  It didn’t take that long to find our girl journalist Vivien Florence Furniss.   She was the daughter and oldest of the four children of the assurance clerk Percy Furniss and his wife Maude of Richmond on Thames in Surrey.  Her birth in 1903, parents, place of birth can be found in England and Wales Civil Registration Birth Index 1837-1917.  That would have made her 15 when she drew the “famous girls” of the Magazine.

This inconvenient fact blows out of the water my original dating of the Magazette to the 1920s.  The only evidence I could squeeze out of the text appeared in a limerick.  I leapt to the conclusion that its first line “There was a young lady of Bow, / Who attended a cinema show. / She was heard to remark / “Oh George! It is dark….” (the reader to provide a last line) contained an allusion to the It Girl, Clara Bow (1905-1965) who made her first picture in….  1921.   I should have checked to see if there were other limericks that began with that line.  There were several.

Is there other evidence that might establish how old Vivien was when she edited and illustrated the Magazette?   The picture of “The Little Patriot” showing a blonde girl draped in the Union Jack suggests that she might not have started her first publication project until Great Britain had entered World War I in August 1914.  That would have made her eleven.  Without any dates in the Magazette, it is impossible to know exactly when she was inspired to begin the project, but it seems safe to guess between 1914 and 1917.

This just goes to show how easy it is to give into the temptation to invent an origin story for child-made works on the few “facts” the text seems to contain. Revising the first post is a small price to pay for the discovery that Vivien didn’t abandon her project after one number, and if any thing, she seems to have become more interested in clothes and boys.  Who knows, maybe she did more than these three issues and those may surface on the antiquarian market one day.  What I’d like to know is, did the future Mrs. Philip W. Hume continue to draw after her marriage?  She lived to the ripe old age of 82, passing away in 1985.  Vivie, take a bow!