An earlier blog post looked at artist Eugen (or Eugene) Dekkert and a painting he did of Largo Harbour. Above is another painting of his, featuring the same scene but with different detail. The above artwork shows the harbour with the tide out and with a horse and cart using the ford under the viaduct and the footbridge from the Oilcake Mill to Drummochy (see 1893 map detail below where the route of the ford is shown in the centre as an 's' shaped dashed line).
Both this painting, and the one shown at the foot of this post, omit the railway viaduct. Dekkert was fascinated by the sea and boats, so likely wanted to focus on this. Perhaps he thought that including the 1857 viaduct would have detracted from the quaint harbour scene. Omission of detail is just one way in which a painter can apply artistic licence to a piece to portray an alternative version of reality. The 21 August 1908 East of Fife Record piece below, tells us that Dekkert wished to focus on the "natural beauty of the spot" without the distraction of an imposing manmade structure.
Dekkert was born on 21 August 1865 in the city of Szczecin. Now in Poland, the city was part of the German Empire at the time of his birth. Also previously known as Stettin, Szczecin was once the capital of Swedish Pomerania and lies close to the Baltic Sea. Eugen's father, Hermann, was a wholesale trader, accustomed to travel for work and pleasure (he holidayed in places such as Brighton on the English south coast).
From an early age Eugen took drawing classes from renowned painter August Ludwig Most. In the 1890s, while studying in Munich under Theodor Hummel, he experimented with impressionism and expressionism, and became fascinated with a group of Scottish artists known as the Glasgow Boys. In 1899 he continued his studies at Glasgow School of Art. It was the landscapes of Scotland and Northern England that gave him early success and appreciation.
Later, settling on the east coast of Scotland, Dekkert found Fife, and the East Neuk in particular, a long-term source of inspiration. Eugen and his wife Emma were living in St Monans at the time of both the 1901 and 1911 census. He became involved in aspects of local life other than art and was president of the St Monans Swifts football team. While he painted all of the East Neuk villages, St Monans was his favourite. In 1908, after a tour of the continent, Dekkert held his first solo first exhibition. The advert for this is shown below. Among the paintings was one of Largo harbour without the viaduct.
With the outbreak of World War One, life changed for the Dekkerts. As the National Archives website explains:
"On 5 August 1914, the Aliens Restriction Act was quickly passed by parliament the day after war was declared on Germany requiring foreign nationals (aliens) to register with the police, and where necessary they could be interned or deported. This act was chiefly aimed at German nationals and later other enemy aliens living in the United Kingdom, but the legislation and subsequent orders-in-council affected all foreign nationals in this country.
Men of military age who were categorised as enemy aliens were arrested and interned, although for the most part this was done peacefully and men reported to temporary holding camps while more permanent internment camps were set up. Few records of individual enemy aliens have survived....With the coming of peace, restrictions on aliens were not removed but continued and extended by the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act 1919."
The Dekkerts movements during the war years are unclear but they did eventually return to Germany, settling in Bavaria. In August 1922 their belongings in Scotland including furniture, paintings, frames, easels, etc were sold off (see notice from the Scotsman newspaper below). Eugen re-established links with his native city of Szczecin, joining artistic and museum associations there. The Stadt Museum Stettin awarded him an atelier in their building at Hakenterrasse (now Wały Chrobrego), which he used for several seasons in 1920s and 1930s. Fascinated by the hustle and bustle of the neighbouring waterway, he captured the changeable weather and varied scenes of the Oder River.
Today his work has permanent exhibition space at the Szczecin History Museum. Many of his works, collected by The National Museum in Szczecin can be seen there, including views of his home city. During his career, Dekkert painted in Italy, France and The Netherlands. As well as St Monans, he exhibited his works in Glasgow, Munich, Dresden and Berlin. Examples of his work were purchased by museums in several different countries. On Eugen Dekkert's 70th birthday in 1935, the City Museum in his home city held a jubilee exhibition. It was one of the painter's last visits to Szczecin. He died in 1956 in alpine Garmisch-Partenkirchen.