Adolph Friedländer – Lithographies and Posters

Special exhibition April 6th-June 9th, 2014

Adolph Friedländer – king of lithography

People, animals and sensations – in a time without movie theaters, public broadcasting or television, posters were the most modern and effective means of mass advertising. Hamburg-based Adolph Friedländer was one of the best-known lithographers of the late 19th century. Friedländer’s printing company produced more than 9,000 posters between 1872 and 1935, most of which advertised zoos, circus artists and music halls. Among his customers were the Hagenbeck Circus and the Schichtl Puppet Theatre and Music Hall.

The Lübeck Museum of Theatre Puppets possesses some of these posters for the Schichtl Puppet Theatre. 110 years after Friedländer’s death, who has been dubbed king of lithography, these posters will be on display in our special exhibition together with a selection of various posters for circuses and fairs.


What to expect from the exhibition

Friedländer’s posters give testimony of a time exuberantly elated and dramatically moved by many novelties and sensations. The posters glisten in the most colorful variations of the attractions, curiosities and rarities they advertise and bring to life the long gone aspects of contemporary circus history. When the posters were produced in the early 20th century, aerialists, jugglers, sword-swallowers, magicians and other artists were the fairs’ sensations. Giants, obese and people with hypertrichosis – i.e. abnormal hair growth – were displayed as freaks; flea circuses and puppet theatres toured the country. 

Our exhibition features posters from five decades, among them historical lithographies for the puppet theatre dynasty of the Schichtl family from 1883 till 1912, as well as selected posters for the Hagenbeck Circus. These posters create a festive atmosphere and bring the colorful world of circuses, zoos and music halls back to life.

Accompanying program

Guided tours of the exhibition: April 25, May 23, June 6 at 3 p.m. with art historian Martin Gosch

Workshops “Graphic Drawing Techniques”: At Kunstschule der Gemeinnützigen every Tuesday 7:30-9:00 p.m. and every other Friday at 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. More information at

Insights into the history of Friedländer’s printing company

After his apprenticeship at his father’s stone printing company, Adolph Friedländer set up his own business at Thalstrasse 22 in Hamburg-St. Pauli in 1872, printing labels for grocery stores and delicatessen shops. The abundance of music halls, musical comedies and beer halls in the neighborhood of his company soon inspired him to specialize in the far more intricate printing of lithographies.


A Hamburg printing company conquers the world

Exceptional artisanal skill and the high quality of the colored prints helped Friedländer’s business to become recognized as one of the most significant lithographical printing companies for circus, artist, and music hall posters in Europe in late 19th and early 20th century. Friedländer soon became so successful that he was nicknamed “King of Artist Lithographies.” Almost all of the renowned circuses in Germany at least once ordered posters from his company. Friedländer’s clients came from all parts of Europe, the Middle and Far East and the Americas. Some became regular customers such as Circus Althoff, Circus Busch, and Circus Hagenbeck.

Carl Hagenbeck

Adolph_FriedländerA major order from Carl Hagenbeck of posters advertising a show of Sinhala people and a Kalmyk caravan helped Friedländer to his break-through in 1883/1884. The business connection between the two men evolved into a friendship which was continued by their sons. Hagenbeck was one of the last customers of Friedländer’s printing company during the Third Reich, when customers became scarce for the Jewish printer.


Picture 0712. “Lion on Elephant” Poster for Carl Hagenbeck’s Zoological Circus in Hamburg (1895). Available as postcard in our shop!

The artists of Friedländer’s printing company

Adolph Friedländer and his sons did not create the lithographies themselves but they employed a team of gifted illustrators, lithographers and printers:

Christian Bettels specialized in the drawing of animals. He started working for Friedländer around 1880 and became his head illustrator until 1928.

Wilhelm Eigener was Bettels’ successor and gained recognition as an illustrator of animals. He coined a new style helping the company to economic recovery.

Henry Schulz was an illustrator mainly of human figures. Most of his portraits were drawn from pictures, especially those of foreign clients.

Erdwin Schirmer was an artist himself and a gifted illustrator.

The company employed guest illustrators, as well, such as Heinrich Zille who was responsible for a number of posters for Circus Busch.

With a few exceptions, the company used the four colors red, yellow, blue and black only and all of their nuances and shades were utilized.

The Friedländer trademark

Adolph_FriedländerThe famous Friedländer trademark was first used in 1890/91. Each poster is signed with a number and the sign – a heart-shaped leaf and the company name. Starting with number 400, the aureole was added to the trademark. It stands for exceptional quality and was used almost until the end of the company. From 1933 onward, the symbol was used in black only symbolizing the impact of the Nazi-regime on the Jewish printing company. Out of fear, the name disappeared from the logo. Eventually, the trademark was altogether abandoned and only the number remained.

1935 – the end of an era

Shortly before the printing company had to close for good in 1935 after a brief period of toleration by the Nazi-regime, the posters were signed with a blackened trademark without Friedländer’s name. One of these posters can be seen in the exhibition. The closing of the factory not only meant the end of a long business tradition but it also meant the end of the era of sheet-fed printing.

Today, nothing remains of the legendary printing company in Hamburg-St. Pauli at Talstraße 22.

Aktuelle Termine

Adresse / Kontakt

TheaterFigurenMuseum gGmbH

Kolk 14 · 23552 Lübeck
Tel: +49 (0)451 29616862

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