Willi Geiger


Painter, ex libris, book artist. Born 27 August 1878 in Schönbrunn near Landshut. 1898-99: studied at the Munich Kunstgewerbeschule. 1900-02: studied at the Munich Technischen Hochschule. 1902-5: studied at the Munich Akademie under Franz von Stuck. 1905: awarded bursary: spent two years in Italy, Spain and Tunisia. 1907: opened a studio in Munich. 1910: awarded Prize of the Villa Romana; spends a year in Italy and settles in Berlin upon his return. 1915-18: serves in France and Macedonia. By 1916: drawings for Neue Kriegslieder, a title in the Orplid Books series for the publisher Juncker, Berlin-Charlottenburg. 1918: settles in Munich. 1920-22: taught at the Kunstgewerbeschule, Berlin. 1925-8: taught at the Munich Kunstgewerbeschule. 1928-33: taught at the Leipzig State Academy for the Book Trade and Graphic Arts (Akademie für graphische Künste und Buchgewerbe).

1 June 1933: his teaching at the Leipzig Akademie ended because of his politics. ‘…[I]t was a matter of course that an artist of his status and with his humanity, integrity, and refusal to compromise, would be dismissed from public office immediately in 1933.’ (Petzet, 1960, p. 19, tr. SM). ‘Willi Geiger and Hugo Steiner-Prag were the first sacrifices claimed by the wild Nationalism.’ (Hellmuth Weissenborn, Illustration 63, Aug. 1980).

‘Geiger was the very opposite of a static character. He expressed himself about everything that interested him, in a positive or negative way, spontaneously and without care or circumspection. The Nazis dismissed him from his teaching post as soon as they took power. A few months before, in the presence of one of his colleagues – a Nazi sympathiser – he had said that Hitler had such a repulsive face that he could not look at it without getting a stomachache. Hitler’s face, he said, should not be on a head but hidden in a pair of trousers.

‘In June 1933 Geiger was dismissed without notice. It was only because of his connections with influential circles that he suffered no more than dismissal, despite his open opposition to Hitler. He went to Feldwies on the Chiemsee, where he had owned a farmhouse since 1920, and spent the years until 1945 there, interspersed with a few journeys to Spain.’ (introduction, Willi Geiger Exlibris , 1979, tr. SM)

1933-45: retired to his house in Feldwies at Chiemsee where, during his enforced retirement, he produced a powerful cycle of anti-war lithographs entitled Zwölf Jahre (12 Years), published in 1947 by Limes Verlag. 1946-50: taught at the Munich Akademie der bildenden Künste. 1951: awarded the Art Prize from the City of Munich. 1958: awarded Bundesverdienstkreuz. After his retirement he lived in his studio in Feldwies am Chiemsee. He died 1 February 1971 in Munich.

Writings by

  • Exlibriswerk (limited edition), Berlin: Feyl, 1913 (self-published?).

Writings about

  • Willy Geiger (book labels), Munich: Stobbe, 1909 (limited ed.)
  • Heinrich Jost, ‘Kriegsgraphik’, Das Plakat, 1915, pp. 22-8
  • Julius Zeitler, ‘Willi Geiger’, Buch und Schrift (Buchkunst), Leipzig: Akademie, 1933/4, pp. 111-16
  • Richard Braungart, ‘Willi Geigers neuere Exlibris’, Exlibris, 1935, pp. 3-10
  • Ulrich Christoffel, ‘Der Maler und Graphiker Willi Geiger’, Die Kunst, 1944 (repr. in exh. cat., Städtische Galerie, Munich, 1958)
  • Hans Maria Wingler, ‘Willi Geiger’, Das Kunstwerk, 1948, VII, pp. 36, 37, 40-42 Juliane Roh, ‘Willi Geiger zum 75. Geburtstag’, Das Kunstwerk, 1953, H. 2, p. 57
  • Vollmer, 1955
  • Eleanor Steiner-Prag and Willi Geiger, ‘Verläufiger Plan und Notizen für eine Autobiographie “Ein Leben für das Schöne Buch” von Hugo Steiner-Prag’, Gutenberg Jahrbuch, 1955, pp. 196-203
  • ‘Willi-Geiger-Ausstellung in Berlin’, Bildende Kunst, 1956, 11/12, p. 598 Anton Sailer, ‘Professor Willi Geiger 80 Jahre’, Graphik 8, 1958, p. 45
  • Wolfgang Petzet, ‘Willi Geiger 80 Jahre’, Das Kunstwerk, July/Aug. 1958, p. 93
  • Richard Hiepe, Willi Geiger, Dresden: Akademie der Künste, Verlag der Kunst, 1959
  • Wolfgang Petzet, Willi Geiger/Der Maler und Graphiker, Munich: Bruckmann, 1960 (includes biography)
  • Erhard Frommhold, Kunst im Widerstand, Dresden: VEB Verlag der Kunst, 1968
  • Hans Laut, ‘Exlibris von Illustratoren’, Illustration 63, Aug. 1971, pp. 59-62
  • Rudolf Niess, ‘Ein Buchzettel Exlibris’ (book labels), Sigill, H. 3, 1973, pp. 3-11 ‘Von Inhalt und Machart und von den Künstlern’ (book labels), Sigill, H. 3, 1973, pp. 21-46
  • Hermann A. Werres, ‘Willi Geiger 1878-1971’, Illustration 63, Aug. 1978, pp. 54-8 (includes bibliography)
  • Stadtgeschichtlichen Museen Nürnberg (Karl Heinz Schreyl, ed.), Willi Geiger Exlibris, Nuremberg: Carl, 1979 (biography, and bibliography 1903-69)
  • Dieter Schug, ‘Willi Geiger: Exlibris’ (Nuremberg exh.), Aus dem Antiquariat, 1979, 12, pp. A463-4
  • Peter Strasser, ed., Klingspor-Museum, Offenbach a.M.: Freunde des Klingspor-Museums, 1990
  • Boris Röhrl, ‘Der Zyklus “12 Jahre” von Willi Geiger’, Illustration 63, Aug. 1995, pp. 55-9
  • Hermann Werres, ‘Willi Geigers Zyklus “Zehn Kaltnadelradierungen zu Goethes Gedichten”’, Illustration 63, Aug. 1999, pp. 59-62
  • Peter Weibel (ed.), Phantom der Lust, Munich: Belleville, 2003
  • note on WG, Gebrauchsgraphik (International Advertising Art), Berlin: Phönix Illustrationsdruck und Verlag GmbH (later: ‘Gebrauchsgraphik’ Druck und Verlag GmbH), 1933-71. Published from Munich from 1950., April 1957, pp. 65-6
  • Josef Lenze, ‘Willi Geiger 80 Jahre’, Exlibriskunst und Gebrauchsgraphik, 1950-. Yearbook of the Deutsche Exlibris Gesselschaft [DEG]., 1958, pp. 9-15
  • ‘Willi Geiger 100 Jahre’, Exlibriskunst und Gebrauchsgraphik, 1950-. Yearbook of the Deutsche Exlibris Gesselschaft [DEG]., 1978, p. 57
  • Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon, Munich/Leipzig: K.G. Saur Verlag, 1990-., 2006.


  • Munich, 1927
  • Landshut, Munich, Würzburg, Madrid, 1953
  • Akademie der Künste, Berlin, 1956
  • Rathaus, Landshut, 1958
  • Berlin, Mannheim, Munich, 1958
  • Graphische Sammlung, Munich, 1968
  • Burgk/Saale Museum, 1998
  • Städtische Galerie, Munich, 1999
  • Neue Galerie am Landesmuseum, 2003


  • Klingspor Museum, Offenbach a.M.