HAVE YOU SEEN THESE SCULPTURES ?????

Swiss born HANS CHRISTEN was a highly respected chef who worked on passenger liners, and several hotels in Switzerland and England, including the famed Savoy Hotel in London, and Metropole in Dubin. He was appointed Head chef in the Garden Cafe (Parisien Room) on the  Titanic. The ill-fated ship's departure from Southampton in 1912 was delayed 24-hours and at the last hour, Hans Christen was transfered by the White Star line to the great liner Baltic.  He later migrated to Australia, arriving in Sydney in 1926, having visited previously, probably on the Bremen. He already had arranged for a contract as chef with a Sydney hotel before he left Europe, but soon moved to Melbourne with wife Katrina and daughter Wilhelmina, and worked as head chef at the Hotel Alexander  in Spencer Street. He was a master banquet chef, talented in creating sculputers of butter-fat and iceing sugar for banquet tables. His talent for sculpturing extended to plaster, and clay-based statues which he created predominantly after arriving in Melbourne, initially living in Parkville, and then for many decades till his death in 1976, in Park Street, North Carlton. His cake decorations were legendary, and he features in many newspaper and magazine articles. A Cinesound newsreel segment was made of him and his exceptional work. Had the Titanic not been delayed, 'Pop', as he was always referred to in later years, would probably not have survived, and thus my mother and I of course would not be here now. 

On his death, family disruptions saw his home, and its contents of many statues, sold at auction. The only statues recovered by the family were of the pair of elephants, seen below. The reproduction of the Universal Postal Monument in Bern was given to Australia Post just before he died. It has disappeared. All other statues were sold - or perhaps even destroyed -  I dont know.

I am seeking the whereabouts of his works of art. It is not my intention to purchase any of his work, although there are a few items that I would be most interested in. Some must exist, somewhere. Just knowing where they are, and knowing that they are appreciated would be a great help to I and Pop's other descendants. And I can provide further information on the man. The following details is an extract from the family history avilable on CD-ROM to the family members.

If you own or know the whereabouts of any of the following works, please let me know.

Peter Stone, grandson of Hans 'Pop' Christen.
Victoria, Australia
Phone bus. hrs (03) 5182 5108 
email: peter@oceans.com.au
 


 
HANS CHRISTEN - 'POP' -  AS SCULPTOR, CREATIVE CHEF AND CAKE DECORATOR EXTRAORDINAIRRE. 

Pop's artistic ability provided the opportunity to excel at preparing magnificent banquet tables, with a brace of lobsters pulling a chariot of butter fat in exquisite detail. And his cake decorations became legendary, even amongst the famed Swiss pastry cooks of Melbourne where Pop gained respect and admiration. In his free time he continued to sculpt and developed unique skills in icing-sugar sculpture and cake decoration. He was truly a gifted man, although I would suggest he was more of a craftsman, an artisan, rather than a creative artist. 

Bust of Pop, by Pop.

In 1936, a three-minute  newsreel movie was made by Cinesound, of Pop's art, both as a sculptor and as a chef. Called MAN WHO MAKES FOOD INTO AN ART it was shot at various locations, according to the captions of the back of several photographs, including Pop's own garden (in Parkville). I have a copy of the newsreel. 
The following photographs were taken at the time the newsreel as made - according to the captions on the backs of some of the photographs:
Cinesound newsreel Film, Herald, 1936. The significanc of 'Herald' is not known - The Herald was a popular evening paper in Melbourne. There is also caption on one photo that reads: 6000 feet of Films Cinesound Australia Melbourne 1936. This could be an indication of how much film was actually shot, or released. It appears that some footage, and stills, were shot in a kitchen, and others in Pop's garden. This would have been at Parkville as they did not move to the Park Street home till two years later. That answere my previous query as to where Pop did his major sculptor work. There must have been facilities at the Parkville home. Thats interesting as I thought that Nan and Pop only rented one floor of the building. 
16 July 1938. The Sun News Pictorial. 
The left-hand photograph in the newspaper article is of a miniature copy of the International Postal Monument in Bern, Switzerland. The actual sculpture created by Pop was about eight foot wide, about five foot deep and maybe two and half feet hight, and was in his studio for all the years that I lived at Park Street. Pop gave it to the Australia Post Office in the early 1970s - there is archival documentation to prove this, of which I have a copy -somewhere in the family records. In 2005 I contacted Australia Post but after extensive correspondence and an apparent genuine concern for its whereabouts, they could not find it. 
The statue, or at least the main part of it, was completed at his rented home in Royal Parade, Parkville. The date is not recorded, but it was certainly before 16 July 1938, when the Sun News Pictorial article was published. 
Soon, Pop moved into his home and studio in Park Street, North Carlton, not far - perhaps half a mile - from the Parkville home. The house had a huge studio in the house, which was actually built as a small ball-room, complete with atrium (which Pop did not use - that was part of the rented-out space). Lord knows how Australia Post managed to get the sculpture out of the studio through just a normal door. What you see in these photographs is just the main 'globe' section - Pop also completed a copy of the base which in reality, in Bern, was a pond. The base was probably completed when in the Park Street home.
28 July 1948.
The Sun News Pictorial, Melbourne.
The newspaper article shows the plaster or clay form of the bust of King George VI. Pop worked in plaster and clay, and then painted the sculptures to resemble bronze. (See comment re the elephant sculptures). . 

 

King George V. The newspaper article is pobably from The Sun News pictorial, Melbourne - no date indicated. This io quite a magnificent piece of work and I remember it well in Pop's studio. It is hard to get an idea of its size from the photographs. The horse was about three feet high if I remember rightly. I wonder where it is now. 

 
 POP - AT WORK
Pop loved his studio. Once retired, he lived and worked in there for the greater part of the day. Sometimes in winter he would set the fire in the tiny tiled fireplace and Nan and i would sit there with him while he read or potted about. In all the time I lived with him however, ie from 1955 to 1959, I never saw Pop do any sculptures. When he gave it all away I have no idea. He kept up the cake decorations however, and was often making a cake top, or decorating aster eggs - brilliant. And of course, he never encouraged me to learn any aspect of his many skills.
On the immediate left, working on Napoleon. I cannot recall ever seeing this statue, and have no idea where it ended up. On the far right, Pop is working on King Edward. That remained in his studio until he died. 
All these statues remained in park Street until Pop's death. William Tell was a favourite of mine and I regret not just taking it, as I did with the elephants, when Pop died. Neanderthal Man alsways joined us for meals, standing on the sideboard inthe dining room.  The finished Neanderthal man.
And just what happened to all this work? Pop left nothing of his statues in his will, and as a result they were, probably, all taken away by the executors (a solicitor) and sold off at auction. I managed to literally grab the elephants (see blow) and still have them. But that was all. I was told that I would b advised when Pop's chattels were to be auctioned. I was so informed, and as it turned out, it was on the very day that I was moving our computer at Nissan from Braeside to Dandenong. I just could not attend the auction. So I have no idea what happened to the statues, nor the furniture. I would not be surprised that the solicitor had a hand in the disposal of some of the more important or valuable items. The proceeds, by the way, ent to the Lord Smith Dogs Home. What a waste. Pop was not shy of admiration coming his way and had an ego, although not an ovr inflated one I should add. If his work was still with the family, perhaps it would be a monument to his skills as a unique craftsman. As it is, only photographs through this family history provide the memory of him and his work. Damn shame, but I must take some of the blame. I should have been more aware of the consequences of losing his work. I should have fought for what rightly, at least in a moral sense, belonged to his descendants. . 

1957, by son-in-law, 
Dick Stone.

.....  Pop at work. From left: 
Putting the finishing touches to a swan, probably made out of butter-fat for a banquet display at the Alaxander Hotel, Spencer St, Melbourne. Preparing a vase of exquisite carnation made of sugar. Showing a friend how he makes sugar birds from iceing sugar. 

 
SCULPTURES
The elephants are currently in my office in Yarram, and hopefully will be passed down the family line as the only original record of Pop's ability. 
William Tell was on display in the dining room. I knew of the story of course, and thought that this was a magnificent piece of work. Where is it now I wonder. I should have taken this along with the elephants. It has more of a relevance now that I have Sam, as it depicts a loving father and the absolute trust and confidence of the son for his father. 
Most of Pop's works were on display, or stored, in his studio. Of course, every new visitor who came to the house would be given a guided tour, which is only understandable. But I thought it a bit much when one day he dragged in two road workers, hd Nan make them a cup of tea, and gave them the tour. I must say however that this was an exception. 
A bust of a youg native girl, draped in a grass skirt, greeting visitors in the atrium at the end of the corridor.
The skiier was kept under a glass dome in Pop's studio, and can be seen in a photo above. The Indian was painted bright colours and lived on top of a coat cupboard in the entrance hallway. 

Unknown patriotic statuette, probably made in England.

King George V, 'in bronze'. It was probably of plaster, and bronze coated. . 

Mongoose and snake.

Deer.
BUSTS - in more ways than one. All are unidentified. In the centre is a statuette of (one of) the (in) famous Berlin bears.
CONFECTIONERY DECORATIONS
These would not have survived of cource but are included here just to give some indication of his talent. 

Pop maintained his confectionery skills till his death. It was something, I suppose, that he could do with little preparation, and compared to preparing a clay or plaster sculpture, took little time. His roses were magnificent, made of caster sugar, as were all his figureines. I remember seeing him mix up a paste of icing sugar, but I dont know of he included anything else. It was marvellous to watch him create a bird, with its wings spread out on the base, and a high rising neck and beak. It looked so simple; but he never tempted me to have a try. Most of the decorations were painted, using coloured food dyes. I suppose techically you could  eat all of his work, but most people tried to preserve them for ever and a day. Naturally, they would eventually deteriorate.

A particular favourite appears to be the 'book cake', a cake (often made by Nan), that, when decorated, looked like a book. We are fortunate in having the colour photograph above as most photos taken were in mono. You can see the magnificent roses in these photographs. The photo immediate right is of a cake top, probably for a birthday of a friend.