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© Dommuseum Frankfurt, design: Claudia Leffringhausen

Seventy years ago, the modern windows of Frankfurt’s Kaiserdom were created. It is usually overlooked that their creator, Hans Leistikow (1892 to 1962), was the most important graphic artist of the New Frankfurt in the 1920s. In 1925, Ernst May, who was then the city’s building councillor, appointed Leistikow head of the city administration’s graphics office. In this function, he designed all the city’s printed matter in the New Objectivity style until 1930. One example: the Frankfurt city coat of arms, designed by Leistikow, attracted a lot of attention at the time and was criticised by traditionalists; it was abolished again by the National Socialists in 1936.

An exhibition at the Frankfurt Cathedral Museum now takes the history of his cathedral windows as an opportunity to rediscover or completely rediscover the unjustly almost forgotten Leistikow. Entitled “Back to Modernity”, the show in the cloister of St Bartholomew’s and opposite in the Haus am Dom traces the life and work of the important designer and teacher until 15 January 2023. Numerous works from the artistic estate, public and private collections attest to the enormous diversity of Leistikow’s work and his many-sided productivity. He is presented as a graphic artist and designer as well as an illustrator and teacher at the Kassel Werkakademie.

The show pays special attention to the glass artist, as whom Leistikow appeared above all in the 1950s, not only with the grisaille windows in Frankfurt’s Kaiserdom, but also in Offenbach, Kassel, in Frankfurt’s East and in the Gallus district. Also on view is a series of photographs taken by artist Laura J. Padgett between 2019 and 2021 following in Leistikow’s footsteps in Frankfurt’s Westend Synagogue. “Regenerating Permanence” visualises the history inscribed in the building: opened in 1910, the synagogue experienced its destruction during the National Socialist era, then reconstruction and reconstruction. Selected motifs from the series make the present of all these phases visible. The exhibition is accompanied by the publication “Hans Leistikow (1892-1962) – Back to Modernity”, edited by Bettina Schmitt and Rosemarie Wesp.

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