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The life and history of the artist behind mi hummel

The Life and History of the Artist behind M.I. Hummel

Born in rural Bavaria the third of six brothers and sisters in 1909, Berta Hummel grew up living above a general store in the village of Massing.  At the tender age of six, she started her Catholic education and quickly impressed her instructors in the one room schoolhouse with her artistic ability.  
She continued her education at the Institute of English Sisters, Marienhohe, upon reaching age 12.  The boarding school twenty miles from her family was a financial burden but offered her the opportunity to begin formal artistic training.  Her father, who was forced to abandon his dreams as an artist for financial reasons, gave his daughter the ability to continue the dream that he was forced to abandon.  When Berta left Marienhoehe at the age of 18, she went to Munich to continue her education.
In 1927, Hummel continued her artistic education at the Academy of Applied Arts in Munich.  While living in a Catholic dormitory, her artistic skill blossomed.  Berta Hummel graduated near the top of her class and was invited to continue at the Academy as a teacher.
Instead, Hummel decided to devote her life and art to the service of God.  While at the Academy of Applied Arts, Berta became friends with two Franciscan Sisters who were training as art teachers in Munich.  In her spare time, she had borrowed and studied the Franciscan Book of Rules from her friends.  Upon her graduation, she joined 250 Franciscan Sisters at the Convent of Siessen, which was founded in 1259 and passed to a Franciscan Order in 1860.
Life at the Convent offered Hummel the ability to continue her artwork.  She taught art at a nearby girls school and often painted the children’s portraits for their families.  In 1931, she completed her novitiate with the Convent and dedicated the rest of her life to her religious beliefs. She would henceforth be known as Sister Maria Innocentia.
While at the Convent of Siessen, Sister Maria Innocentia sold her artwork and used the proceeds to support the mission and her teaching.  Soon, her artwork featuring children would find its way to the owner of a well known porcelain firm, Franz Goebel.  Goebel decided that a line of figurines inspired by Sister Maria Innocentia Hummel’s artwork would appeal to German families struggling in the difficult economic times.  Goebel created three sample figurines from her work and sent a representative to discuss the idea with Sister Hummel.
Sister Hummel and the Convent of Siessen received the overture well.  After working with Goebel sculptors and painters to develop the line of children’s figurines, Sister Hummel agreed to allow Goebel the exclusive right to manufacture and distribute figurines based on her artwork under the trade name, M.I. Hummel.  Royalties from the agreement with Goebel went to the Convent of Siessen.
M.I. Hummel figurines were introduced to the world at the 1935 Leipzig Spring Fair.  The children’s figurines quickly captured the attention of the public and were an immediate success.  Their success would be limited, though, as only a few years later figurine production was restricted in Germany during World War II.  As the war ended, the restrictions were lifted, and American G.I.’s were searching German shops for souvenirs to send home.  They found M.I. Hummel figurines manufactured by Goebel.  The popularity of Hummel figurines has grown since.
Unfortunately, Sister Hummel would not see her figurines grow to a worldwide sensation.  She contracted tuberculosis and passed away on November 6, 1946 at the age of 37.  Thankfully, her artwork and spirit would not die with her.  A prolific artist, she left behind an extensive collection of artwork that would used by Goebel to continue her collection of figurines.  And the Convent of Siessen established an artistic board to oversee the development of Hummel figurines at Goebel and ensure that the figurines continued to be known for their superior quality.

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