LETTERS FROM PERI TO LUDWIG HILBERSEIMER

1946

My dear Hilberseimer,

It was a nice surprise for me, when I walked in this morning in a bookshop and I saw your book “The New City”. It is a lovely book, and when I looked through its pages suddenly I saw us sitting in your old bachelor flat in-I think Emser strasse - and discussing architecture, with a cigar, black coffee /Turkish of course/ and cognac.
 
Oh lord, these were times. How everything turned out in an entirely different way as we imagined. - Still we are here,And it is nice to know that you find your work in Chicago and fighting in the old spirit.
 
I am afraid my sculptures you won’t find in Chicago. They do not cross the sea so easy as books and they are very secondary importance compared with the problems of Architectura. Even so I am not disappointed or sad that I left architecture and took up sculpture. I am very happy in my work, although it is a terrible hard struggle.
 
I developed the modelling of the concrete and cement mixture is to a very high technique for the purpose of combine it with architecture as a relief or as a free sculpture but the practical works are very scarce.
 
England and sculpture is an anachronism. What is really wanted here, arty-crafty woodcarvings or imitations of Picasso or Brancusi etc.
 
My heart goes back to Hungary. Would love to go there but it would not be fair to drag with me a family who can’t speak the language. With three children (3, 10 and 14) I am tied here. Still I am full with energy, and experimenting as before.
 
What are your plans? Have you settled down there? Or are you going home? I am sure you will go home at least for a visit. I hope your way will lead through London and you will look me up. Would love to see you before the third world war starts.
 
Give my best greetings to old friends around you.
 
It was very nice to hear from you.

All the best,
 
Péri

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Ludwig Hilberseimer

1948

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Memorial to the children killed in the Blitz at this site (Follow the leader), Darley House, Lambeth, 1949

Dear Hilberseimer,

 

I am not a very good letter writer either, it took a long time to answer yours. I was very surprised to have it and very pleased, it was nice to read. The letters what I get from old friends from Hungary or Germany they are all so bitter and not quite human. I do not know what is the matter with them. They are unable to see their own possibilities what they have there home, they are envying us, seeing us crowned with the glory of the foreign countries.

 

Nice to know that you find such a full life in Chicago, and can carry on in a peaceful atmosphere. About 10 years ago I met the architect Mendelssohn on his way to Palestine I do not know what happened to him there, he certainly won’t be very happy there now.

 

Kurt Schwitters, I do not see him much. His Mäerz got on my nerves. He made a good living during the war in the camp where he was interned by ordinary portrait painting now he was - last year I saw him last - trying to warm up his old style, without the old spirit. Of course it is terrible difficult to be able to leave a past behind - my fault is probably that I left it so easily behind, but probably because I was so much younger then than Schwitters. - Is it true that Moholy died? I heard something, but I have not had confirmation.

 

It is very sad, about your little girlfriend Otti -she was a nice girl. I cannot forget when she made me to eat up one dozen pancakes when we came back from Hampton Court.

 

Too many good people gone. I wrote to the student N Haynes, but he didn’t answered. Probably he left London.

 

I am very sorry that you did not come over to the congress, Would love to see you - do try next time.

 

All the best to you,

 

Péri

 

P.S: Reading through my letter it sounds to me rather depressing, which is not surprising. My missus is sitting here with the evening papers, full with the most depressing news about the world situation. It is really hardly believable that the world is in such a mess again. I cannot see how can it be straightened out again without an armed conflict. I remember in history when we learned about the 30 years war, how bad it was. It seems to me that they had a picnic compared with our lives.

 

I just got a note from Hannes Meyer from Mexico enquiring about my sister-in-law‘s address how did he get my address, from you?

 

My wife was particularly pleased to hear about your activities around the cooperative she is a great cooperator. Have you got any publications about it which you can send us.

 

I have nothing exciting to write about my work. Do you not get any chance here to be able to develop it. Sculpture can only develop in its use, not in the studio and exhibition work.

 

Still an alive sculptor even in England has more chance as a dead one on the continent and I would be dead if I had not come over here.

 

P

1950

Dear Hilberseimer,

 

Thank you very much for your new book. It was a great surprise and pleasure to see it. I recognise all your old ideas, already put before me in the Emser strasse complimented in a beautifully produced American book 25 years later. Time and life-regional patterns. Pity that it is too expensive for the English public here, because it is badly needed. I have not seen anything new here in this line, but I heard that Korn is preparing something on town planning. He is teaching here. My son, 14 years old, is just studying your book. He can’t make up his mind to be an architect or a violinist, he is already very good at it. My smaller son, 8, his comment on your book was, that he would love to be an architect only he is frightened that he will make 169 mistakes.

 

I hope you are in good health and one day you will turn up in London again. I am doing a little more work concrete reliefs modelling on walls of London County Council housing estates. I send you photographs if you are interested to see them. Also I got back at last to my early constructivist works. I remember when I left it, I thought myself “if I could only combine it with realistic figures“. That time I have not had the experience of life, which is essential for a new realism. In the works which I am doing now the dissolution of the “tafel bild” (panel picture) more obvious than ever and it is more advanced as anything else done anywhere. I wish you could see them. I have seen Kepes book “New vision” - but I could not find Peri there.

 

Well again best thanks and how lucky you are to be able to work there. In Germany you still would not have the chance-but I hope they will read it do you prepare a German addition?

 

All the best and do write again.

 

Yours

 

Péri

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Space Construction with two bathers, c. 1950
Peter Laszlo Peri, Laszlo Peter Peri, László Péri, Shaped Canvas, Constructivist Art, Hungarian Avant-Garde, Constructivism, Konstruktivismus Kuns, Berlin Dada, Artists International Association, New Objectivity, Neue Sachlichkeit