In 1933, the German publisher Josef Mueller received samples of the artwork of Sister M.I. Hummel to review for publication. His company, Ars sacra, Verlag Josef Mueller, had been in operation in Munich since 1921. Josef Mueller quickly recognized the talent of the young nun and made agreements for the rights of reproduction in two-dimensional form from the Convent Siessen and Sister M. I. Hummel herself.
Over the years, in support of the Convent Siessen and Sister, the Mueller family amassed a collection of more than three hundred original drawings created by Sister M. Innocentia Hummel. Today the descendants of the proprietors of this German publishing house are owners of the largest collection of original Hummel art in the world. Many of these originals are reproduced on this web site and are for sale. Here is their interesting story....
Josef and Maximiliane Mueller were founders of a publishing company in Munich (established 1896) by the name of "Ars sacra Josef Mueller Verlag" which specialized in the printing of religious art and books. ("Ars sacra" in Latin means "sacred art", "verlag" means "publisher" in German.)
In March 1933, the Muellers received a short letter from the Convent at Siessen saying: "Enclosed please find three proof sheets of the newest sketches of our young artist B. Hummel. We beg to inquire whether and under what conditions an edition of devout pictures in black and white, and later on in color, would be possible.
Ars sacra was very appreciative of these first pictures and felt that the art of this young nun would make a fine contribution to the collection of religious paintings they were currently publishing. When the Convent heard this, they sent three more pictures by mail. The Muellers answered at once: "We shall be glad if you could let us have new sketches for our inspection as soon as they are ready." The Convent responded by inviting the Muellers to visit the studio of the young artist and have a thorough discussion there. During this visit they were attracted to the wonderful Hummel style of depicting children. Her sketchbooks were filled with these quick drawings and an idea kindled in the minds of these three people.
In the following months, letters went back and forth between the Convent and Ars sacra; letters that expressed a great mutual confidence in the potential popularity of a new line of notecard pictures featuring these Hummel children.
When the new originals reached the publishing house, Maximiliane (known as "Liane") Mueller always found a very characteristic description for them. Mrs. Mueller became a very close friend of Sister M. Innocentia's and conducted the entire artistic correspondence with the Convent. She was incessantly looking for new themes and gave Sister M. Innocentia a great deal of inspiration for new motifs. Often Hummel went directly to her easel upon receiving these suggestions and began sketching the desired subject. One time Maximiliane Mueller suggested to do a "little sweep" and she was later informed that the very next day "the little sweep was already on the easel in the form of a charcoal drawing."
The result of this relationship led to the first contract giving Ars sacra the exclusive copyright and ownership of the Hummel pictures they commissioned. Also they were assured of receiving further works of the artist to be held in the Ars sacra archive.
Hummel was invited to the Ars sacra publishing house many times to look at the prints and discuss any pending problems. On several occasions she viewed the reproductions and gave her approval, while at other times she made suggestions how various colors could be better accentuated.
Hummel was always interested in the reactions of the public to her pictures, and the Muellers could inform her even at the very beginning of her publishing career: "We have received a great number of very favorable reviews."
Unfortunately, the threatening clouds of the Nazi regime and the Second World War that was soon to follow would impair the success of the artist through her publisher. The Secret State Police visited the publishing house several times, examined their files, and inquired thoroughly with respect to the work of the artist Hummel.
The military government attacked Ars sacra by restricting the allocation of paper, and, finally, forbidding any printing for the German market.
Maximiliane Mueller - who assumed management of Ars sacra upon her husband's death, serving in that position 1935-1944 - wrote to Hummel that she should continue her work "because in these hard times one has a longing for the gay Hummel cards which bring smiles to our saddened hearts. You are doing so much good with your wonderful pictures." She also asked the artist to send "as many originals as possible."
When Ars sacra was bombed in 1943, the Mueller family cordially asked the artist for her assistance because "Ars sacra will continue to publish." Hummel, true to her spirit answered promptly: "I will do my very best."
Tragically, Hummel was unable to draw as in past years because she became ill with tuberculosis. She reported that she could not even keep her contractual obligations "due to the war situation and my present state of health ...I shall go on working for the publishing house as soon as I am well again." Upon reading this, the Muellers tried to arrange medical treatment for Hummel in Switzerland but were advised that she could not travel such a long distance.
In the years following Sister's death, the Mueller family has endeavored to preserve the genuine spirit of the Hummel art through the faithful printing of more than three hundred drawings commissioned between the years 1933 and 1946. These pictures exemplify her best work up to the end of her short but deeply inspired life.