On 5 June 2014 the exhibition “Discover Hans Liska” will open in the Museo Mille Miglia in Brescia (Italy). For the first time, Mercedes-Benz Classic is showing works of art from Liska’s private estate together with a selection of works in the possession of the Mercedes-Benz Classic Archive. Many of these works have never been exhibited in public before.
In addition to motifs that Hans Liska above all created on behalf of Mercedes-Benz in the 1950s, the exhibition includes scenes from the opera, theatre, sport and circus, as well as portraits, futuristic illustrations from the magazine “Quick” and parodies of works of modern art. This wide-ranging exhibition pays comprehensive homage to the life’s work of graphic artist Hans Liska, who was born in 1907 and died in 1983. The exhibition in the Museo Mille Miglia is open until August 2014. It forms part of the partnership concluded between Daimler and the Italian museum in spring 2012. The plan is for the exhibition to move to various other cities afterwards – including Stuttgart.
Whether in highly dynamic racing posters or as romantic brochure motifs from Italy, the dream destination of German holiday-makers in the time of the “economic miracle”, in each of his works Hans Liska showed his sure instinct for the special moment, combined with excellent artistic skill and a generous dash of humour. The same is also evident in the works which the artist, who was born in Vienna in 1907 and died near Bamberg in 1983, created on behalf of Mercedes-Benz in the 1950s: from 1951 onward, the poster artist and press illustrator followed the sporting successes of the Stuttgart-based brand for more than ten years, and also the development of new production models. His creations appeared on racing posters, in brochures and in advertisements – but they were also printed as attractive special publications that combined high artistic skill with the love of automobiles and stories surrounding the world’s oldest automobile manufacturer.
This major exhibition of wide-ranging motifs and techniques (which include monochrome and coloured pen-and-ink drawings, gouaches, oil-paintings and printed posters) has been made possible by cooperation between Mercedes-Benz Classic and the family of Hans Liska: for the first time, “Discover Hans Liska” shows exhibits in the possession of the Mercedes-Benz Classic Archive together with works from the artist’s private estate.
The premiere of this representative exhibition in the Museo Mille Miglia is further highlighted by a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL racing sports car (W 194) and a Mercedes-Benz 180 (W 120) from the Mercedes-Benz Classic collection. Both cars are mementos of the important role that the 1000-mile race from Brescia to Rome and back played for the racing department at Mercedes-Benz in the mid-20th Century. In addition to the victory by Rudolf Caracciola driving a Mercedes-Benz SSKL in 1931, the highlights of this era include 2nd place in the 1952 Mille Miglia (Karl Kling in a 300 SL racing car) and the outstanding overall and class victories of 1955 (which included a triple victory with the Mercedes-Benz 180 D in the diesel class).
Daimler is expressing its esteem for the unique motor racing heritage of the Mille Miglia through the role of Mercedes-Benz as a main automotive sponsor of today’s classic car rally reliving the road race held from 1927 to 1957 – and through the 2012 strategic partnership between the automobile manufacturer and the Museo Mille Miglia.
Hans Liska: the reporter with the drawing pen and water-colour brush
Hans Liska was one of the most important press and advertising illustrators of the mid-20th century. The images he created with pencil, pen and brush are far more than just appealing graphics aimed at the consumer – for each individual motif tells its own story. The graphic style of the Austrian artist, which he developed as an illustrator for newspapers and magazines in the 1930s and during the Second World War, skilfully releases his motifs from the formal constraints imposed by merely documentary illustration. Instead he created powerful and dynamic images characterized by steep, descending lines, suggested movement and a collage-like contrast between different perspectives, scales and text.
In this way Liska also captured magic moments in the motor racing history of Mercedes-Benz in the 1950s: the victories of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL racing sports cars (W 194, 1952), the triumphs of the new Silver Arrows (W 196 R, 1954/1955) and the successes of the 300 SLR racing sports car (W 196 S, 1955). While they include the great victories, there are also scenes such as the collision with a vulture during the 1952 Carrera Panamericana, when the bird crashed through the windscreen of the 300 SL driven by the subsequent winners Karl Kling and co-driver Hans Klenk.
Sheer intensity is also exuded by his representation of Stirling Moss and Denis Jenkinson roaring through a mediaeval Italian township in their 300 SLR during the 1955 Mille Miglia. While the Britons forge ahead to victory flanked by spectators, photographers and film cameras, the background shows washing hung to dry across the narrow street against a clear, blue sky.
Dreams and daily life during the “economic miracle”
A second major aspect of Liska’s work for Mercedes-Benz has won him his present-day reputation as an important chronicler of daily life during the time of the “economic miracle”: these are scenes relating to the Stuttgart brand’s regular production cars, and they capture the day-to-day life at the time as skilfully as the era’s dreams of reconstruction and economic growth. The motifs range from a fruit merchant delivering his goods in a highly polished 170 D panel van, right up to the glamorous premiere of the Mercedes-Benz 600 (W 100) at the International Motor Show (IAA) in 1963.
Hans Liska gave particularly free rein to his imagination and story-telling talent in the illustrated books with Mercedes-Benz motifs which appeared in the 1950s: In 1951 the first “Sketchbook” appeared in this series, followed by two further volumes in 1953 and 1955. During his own travels by car – which took him to Italy and Switzerland, for example – Liska created images that reflected the dreams of many Germans in the early years of the economic upsurge. Here he also repeatedly experimented with combinations of graphic and text elements.
Yet it was not only contemporary motifs that benefited from the liveliness of Liska’s graphic style. Telling stories with pictures was something the artist living near Bamberg was also able to do with major historical moments. In the late 1950s he also created works capturing magic moments in the unrivaled motor racing history of Mercedes-Benz, starting with the very first automobile race in 1894, up to the victories by the Silver Arrows in the 1930s and 1950s.
The museum: Museo Mille Miglia in Brescia
For a four-day period once a year, the classic Mille Miglia rally with its lineup of exclusive vehicles relives the fascination of the historic 1000-mile race. However, the Museo Mille Miglia which opened in 2004 is where the unique history of this legendary road race can be experienced throughout the year.
The Museo Mille Miglia is located in the historic monastic complex of Sant’Eufemia della Fonte outside Brescia. The former Benedictine monastery was founded in 1008, by Landolfo, Bishop of Brescia. When the monastery moved its location into the city in the 15th Century, the historic buildings were used as warehouses and later as a hospital. In 1997 the decision was taken to found a museum devoted to the history of the Mille Miglia in this location just under 20 kilometers from the shore of Lake Garda.
The focus of the permanent exhibition, which is divided into nine eras, is on the road race itself. However, the Museum also portrays the national, social and cultural history of Italy using the example of the regions that were covered by the race over the course of time. The main emphasis here is on the period from 1927 to 1957, to which seven sections are dedicated. One section each is devoted to the Mille Miglia from 1958 to 1961 and to the present-day event for classic cars, which was first held in 1977.
In addition, special exhibitions such as “Discover Hans Liska” are devoted to individual, memorable aspects of the Mille Miglia. Daimler reinforces this potential with the strategic cooperation it concluded with the Museum in Brescia in 2012. One major aim is to highlight and make better use of factors common to both the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart and the Museo Mille Miglia.
Source: Mercedes-Benz Classic