Paintings by Werner Heckenbach

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Dozens of paintings have turned up by a German artist named Werner Heckenbach who was born in Niederbreisig, on April 21 1911, and lived in Wiesbaden. After World War 2 he sold his work to GI's and others living there from the 1940s into the 1950s. As the collection continues to grow, this website has become his online gallery.

His work first came to my attention in the summer of 2001 when two people Bonnie and Trisha contacted me separately, asking if I knew anything about the paintings they owned. We had some discussions about the signature. Werner had a distinctive way of making his W initial. I created this page in January 2002, featuring the first two pictures, in hopes of finding more. It took a few years. Around the time when there were 7 paintings or so, one of Werner's family members contacted me and revealed some information about him. More paintings came to light. I added another page of seven, and another, until I had five pages with more than 30 paintings. I numbered them as they were received, but the number has nothing to do with when they were produced or the subject matter. So in August 2014 I decided to combine the pages, arranging them by subject. I will add new ones as they are discovered, but keep the numbering system for reference. Now the numbers will jump around, but the subject matter should flow better.

I will put a headline at the top of the page to announce new ones. The pictures prove what his relative said, that Werner could copy any style of painting and produce whatever his customers wanted, even from magazine pictures or postcards. That accounts for the seeming difference in style. We're hoping that if any other Werners come to light, their owners would be kind enough to submit them here.

It turns out that Werner came from the Heckenbachs of Brohl. He was born in Niederbreisig, just outside of Brohl am Rhein, Germany, on Apr 21, 1911. He was a descendent of Christian Heckenbach, born in 1810 in Brohl, who was a brother of my great-great-grandfather. The line goes like this:

Christian Heckenbach 1810
Michael Heckenbach 1846
Josef Heckenbach 1884
Peter Werner Heckenbach 1911


In August 2004 Ted in Missouri emailed me and offered to send pictures of three paintings by Werner. His parents had been stationed in Germany after the war and they were close friends of his. Ted in his youth often heard his parents talk about "Verner." Ted gave us a clearer idea of Werner's talent. He still owns the three paintings, numbers 4, 5, and 6, shown below. But first we'll show a photo of Werner with his wife and son. Werner was wearing his full military uniform in the photo.

family picture
We asked for help identifying the medals that Werner is wearing. Two answers came from Mark Heckenbach and from Mike Dean. They both emailed me with explanations of Werner Heckenbach's Military Decorations. It seemed unusual for a German officer to be photographed in uniform post World War II. I combined their explanations as follows:

The uniform resembles the parade uniform as evidenced by the officer’s brocade dress belt and full medals displayed above his left tunic pocket. However, it is not quite so formal, so should be considered a walking-out uniform.This is the uniform of an officer. The Aiguillette that he is wearing is the normal dress Aiguillette worn by all officers, in silver, except it was gold for generalsThe brocade and buckle combination was intended for wear by DLV Deutscher Luftsports Verband officers. The Officer's peaked Cap displays the silver chinstrap; a NCO’s cap would have a black chinstrap. The collar tabs and gold stars on the shoulder boards signify the rank of 1st lieutenant or Oberleutnant in the infantry.The silver eagle devices above the right breast pocket and on the cap, along with the silver piping on the cap, indicate that his branch of service was the infantry or Wehrmacht. The shoulder boards also signify that his assignment was with the Wehrmacht.

The first medal, starting with the outside or the further most from the center of his tunic, is the west wall medal Deutsches Schutzwall-Ehrenzeichen. It was instituted on August 2nd 1939 and was given to those who designed and built the fortifications on Germany's western borders and/or the troops who served there prior to May 1940.

The medals progress higher in esteem or honor as they move toward the center. The next two medals suspended by the blue ribbons are long service awards. The four year service award had a black finish and was awarded only to NCOs and enlisted men. The eight year service award was finished in bronze and was awarded to all officers, NCOs, and enlisted men. The twelve-year service award was in the shape of the swastika, had a silver finish and was also awarded to all officers, NCOs, and enlisted men. The parade version of the twelve-year service medal was silver and round. All were emblazoned with the inscription: Für treue Dienste For Loyal Services. The eagle devices on both of the blue service award ribbons designated service in the infantry or Wehrmacht.

The next is The War Merit Cross Kriegsverdienstkreuz. The award had two variants: with swords given to soldiers for exceptional service in battle above and beyond the call of duty (but not worthy of an Iron Cross which was more a bravery award), and without swords for meritorious service behind the lines. The last is Iron Cross 2nd Class Eisernes Kreuz 2. Klasse. The Iron Cross was awarded for bravery in battle as well as other military contributions in a battlefield environment. The Iron Cross 2nd Class came with a ribbon and was worn in one of three different methods. For everyday wear, only the ribbon was worn from the second hole in the tunic button. The cross could be worn from the second button of the tunic. Finally when in formal dress, the entire cross was worn mounted alone or as part of a medal bar. The display of these medals in the “Parade Mount” corresponds with the formality of the overall uniform.

The outermost bronze badge is the German National Badge for Physical Training Deutsches Reichsabzeichen für Leibesübungen. The badge was awarded in grades Bronze, Silver and Gold.  To qualify for the Bronze grade a man or woman had to be between the ages of 18 and 32.  They also had to pass all five parts of a rigorous physical test within a 12-month period to qualify. The five physical tests were in Swimming, Jumping, Running, Weight Throwing and Speed.

Moving clockwise from our perspective is a Bronze class German Horseman's Badge Deutsches Reiterabzeichen. The requirements for this award were successes in the field of equestrian sport. This badge was also awarded in grades Bronze, Silver and Gold.The silver badge located closest to the tunic centerline is an Infantry Assault Badge Infanterie-Sturmabzeichen. The requirements for silver were: Participation in three or more infantry assaults, or Participation in three or more infantry counter-attacks, or Participation in three or more armed reconnaissance incidents, or Participation in three or more days in restitution of combat positions, or Participation in hand-to-hand combat in an assault position. 

Finally located centered over the left pocket is the Iron Cross 1st Class Eisernes Kreuz 1. Klasse. This was a progressive medal and the Iron Cross 2nd Class must have been awarded first, then documented three to five acts of bravery above and beyond the call of duty.

Just as every item worn on a uniform has significance, absents can tell their own story. Absent insignia devices on the shoulder boards indicates that he was not in the medical or police corps. There are no badges for parachutist qualifications. 

Finally, he was awarded an infantry badge, yet he does not display any hand to hand combat devices. 

The final adornment is on his right shoulder. The Aiguillette that he is wearing indicates that he was an officer. Most belt buckles were square, but this round buckle is an officer's dress belt.

In conclusion Werner Heckenbach was a professional solider. He probably received his commission at the age of 20 to 21 in 1931 or 1932. By 1944 he had completed over 12 years of spotless military service. His professionalism, integrity, and performance had earned him the position of lieutenant, exceptional performance that any solider would be proud of.

It would be unusual for a post war German to display himself in full dress uniform. That shows that Werner Heckenbach was not your usual German officer. He must have been valuable to both the Germans and the Americans after the war. As a professional he was proud of his accomplishments and honorable service, and wanted to display this with his uniform. Besides a photograph with his family, he also wanted a color self-portrait. The color was required to document his service awards; the black and white photo would leave some doubt as to the degrees of the awards.


People have remarked about Werner being a decorated Nazi Army officer, who then turns up working at a US Army base after the war. But the war was over, and the massive job of rebuilding Germany was underway. Werner was a personable character and a valuable one, who must have impressed both his commanding officers and the Americans who occupied the country after the war. No doubt he also obtained his artist materials from American sources. After the war such things were in short supply.

Werner liked this photo so much that he decided to copy it, so we'll have to begin the gallery with his self-portrait, and then go on to his other portraits. After that we'll see his other human figures, both historical and fanciful. Then his wildlife, and finally, his landscapes.


In April 2007 a batch of Werner paintings turned up at an art auction in Colorado Springs, CO. A woman named Annie bought one of the paintings at the auction and told me about it. She was kind enough to email me a photo of it. It's a self-portrait of Werner dated 1948. He obviously based it on a studio photo so similar to the one above that he must have had a series of photos taken at one session. She found the idea of a self-portrait of a German officer in his WW2 uniform three years after the end of the war to be extremely interesting. He must have been very proud of his position in the military to do that. This one, his only painting that bear a title (SelbstPorträt1948), might be his best work.

Annie told me that she had already resold the self-portrait, and that it was going to a new home in Hawaii.   The man from Hawaii bought it for his father in 2007 but years later, in  the summer of 2014, he decided to sell it. It showed up on ebay, and a family member bought it, so it now resides in West Virginia.
selbst #9



We'll get back to the 2007 art auction, but while we're looking at Werner himself, a similar painting turned up in July 2015. John in Arizona, the owner, emailed me with this one, number 35. John received this one from his father, who got it from his father. They have no idea where it came from originally. It was stored in a closet for many years. John noticed that Werner spelled his name wrong, as HECKNBACH. It's shown at the end of this page. John wondered if maybe Werner had too many beers. But why didn't he fix it? It is also slightly different from the one above, in the ropes and decorations, and it's undated.
self-2 #35



Back to the Colorado art auction in 2007: Annie said there were even more paintings, two on the order of 2' x 4' framed, and the rest smaller in size. One was of a beautiful landscape. I wasn't able to get images of these other paintings. Let's hope that the new owners find their way to this webpage and provide photos of their Werners to this online gallery so we can all enjoy them. Of course it would be in their interest to do so, since wider publicity of Werner's work could only enhance his acclaim.

At the same auction, an oil painting of a blonde nude was purchased by a man named Lowell, who then sold it on ebay in June of 2007. I captured an image of it for this webpage. It's around 13 1/2" x 17 1/2" and bears the date 1947. We don't know who the subject was, but Lowell thought that the subject bore a resemblance to Werner's wife.
nude #10




In June 2011 Wendy of Minnesota sent two pictures of two paintings by Werner. The subjects are Wendy and her brother Bob. Both measure 13 ½ X 16 inches. Their aunt was in the US Air Force and stationed in Germany. In 1956 she handed pictures of her niece and nephew to the bartender working right across from the base, and that was all he needed. Wendy said Werner was the bartender. The aunt presented the portraits to Wendy's parents, who displayed them in their home in Minnesota for over 50 years. When Wendy and Bob sold the house in 2009, they brought the paintings to their own homes. Wendy also sent me closeups of the signatures and they match the others we have seen.
Wendy 22  Bob 23




Next is another set of siblings that I heard about in May 2010 from Barbara of Minnesota. This beautiful picture of painting #17 has Barbara as subject. Werner created this one of Wendy while her father was in the military and stationed in Weisbaden around 1950, or else from a photograph her father sent by mail after he returned. He painted one of her and one of her sister. Her parents were friends with Werner. In July 2010 Barbara's sister Rose Maria of Washington sent her picture of painting #18. I'm really happy to be able to show both pieces together.
Barbara 17 RoseMaria 18



A picture of another little girl showed up in October 2013. This time we go international. Teodor notified me that number 28 turned up for sale in Timisoara, Romania, on the auction website okazii, with an asking price of 3500.00 Leu. The painting is in good condition and measures 39 X 49 cm. The webpage for this auction, which ended on Oct 27, 2013, without a buyer, also shows a couple of closeups of the work: http://www.okazii.ro/pictura-grafica/clasica/veche-pictura-ulei-pe-panza-pictor-ofiter-german-wwii-werner-heckenbach-a131405162
Thanks Teodor for bringing it to my attention.
romania 28



Also in October 2013 Bill contacted me and sent this image of his painting by Werner dated 1947. It shows Bill's fatherWilliam Dacko, then a Captain in the USAF (Army Air Corps) and his wife Mae. He had been a B-17 bomber pilot during WWII, and was stationed in Wiesbaden, West Germany after the war. Mae joined him there in 1947. The picture has hung in their house ever since, but Bill was unaware of its provenance, thinking it was painted in the United States. He finally decided to research the painter, and found this web site. He wanted to share it with others who come here to see Werner's work.
Dacko 27




Next up is the one that Trisha sent me in July 2001. We know this much about it: It's dated 1948 and Trisha remembers hearing that Werner Heckenbach told the soldier who bought it that it was of a Jewish or Gypsy princess who was a friend and a spy during WW1. This painting is in a home in Atlanta GA.
spy 2


In August 2004 Ted of Missouri sent this example. The subject of #4  is "Salome." Ted thinks it was entered in an exhibition in Italy, and it won Werner some recognition.  Werner gave it to Ted's parents.They owned three paintings. The other two, #5 and #6, are coming up.
 Salome4



Number 8 came to light in March 2007 when Robin, a shop owner in New Hampshire, sent this image of #8. Robin had owned the painting for about 20 years. It was in the shop, and was for sale. It measures 30" X 42." Although it had suffered some damage, it was restorable. The picture is of a girl and a Roman soldier.
Robin 8


Tina contacted me in November 2009 because her parents in California own one of Werner’s paintings, dated 1948. Her aunt and uncle brought it to them from Germany about 1949. They all love the painting, and it has hung in their living room since the day they received it. Tina said they all enjoyed seeing Werner's other paintings, and she was kind enough to include this picture of her parents proudly holding Werner's painting #16.
 16 16 16


Here is a painting owned by Julia, who lives in Biloxi MS. She told me about her Werner in November 2008, and kindly sent a picture of it. Julia didn't know about Werner, but was given the painting about four years before, by a person who bought it from a street vendor in Germany while stationed there about 30 or 40 years ago. She likes the facial features and the beautiful eyes of painting #13.
Julia 13



In September 2012 Don & Pat of Pennsylvania sent me a picture of this fine painting. It was the 24th one in this gallery. They are collectors, and they also buy and sell on Ebay, but they said they just might hang on to this one for a while. They graciously allowed me to display this picture on my website, and also sent a close-up of the signature, which matches the others. They described the painting as follows: "This portrait of a German Man possibly of Jewish descent was recently acquired at an Estate Sale in PA. No other provenance was obtained. Werner's style seems to be simplistic and accurately in proportion with his subject matter. This painting can attest to his talented use of a broad brush stroke, shading, and color palette."
Don+Pat 24



In July 2006 Ross, the owner of an antique store in California, emailed me that a Werner showed up in his store. He sent this image of the 33" X 23" painting. Ross doesn't know the history of it. Some people have commented they think it's the best Werner that they had seen to date. This is painting #7.
harvest 7



These three paintings showed up together in August 2014 as donations to a mission charity auction in West Virginia. Cathy notified me about them. All we know about them is that they hung in a doctor's office for years.  The doctor, who had German inlaws, had recently moved away and donated them. They seem to be a set, and are designated #30, 31, and 32. One of them is painted on plywood; the other two on canvas.
Cathy 30 Cathy 31 Cathy 32



Next is the very first painting that we ever found out about in 2001. It measures 18" X 20" and belongs to Bonnie in South Carolina. These characters resemble the last set.
Bonnie 1



Next are Ted's other two paintings that he told me about in August 2004. Salome was #4, and these two are #5 and #6. Ted said his parents commissioned them from their friend Werner.
horse 5 horses 6



In June 2013 Renee of Minnesota sent this picture of painting #26. She found it in an antique store and bought it for its frame. She would like to sell it. She has no idea of its age or history. It measures just under 16" X 20". I told her I would pass along any offers to buy it.
 Renee 26

In August 2016 Robert in Florida sent this picture, number 41. This painting measures 17" X 14". Robert's father John and his grandfather were stationed in Wiesbaden from 1949 to 1950. Grandfather was an Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, and he passed the painting to John, who still has it. It's similar to #26 except that Werner now has a mountain lake adjacent to the white chalet.
Robert/John 41

On March 21, 2016 Jon sent this one that he says he found, number 38.
Jon 38



Landscapes

In Nov 2012, Connie of Colorado informed me of this painting, #25, and sent me a nice detailed picture of it as well as a close-up of the signature. The subject strongly resembles the Matterhorn from a certain angle. Werner painted it at the request of Connie's parents when they were stationed in Wiesbaden in the early 50's. They are now deceased.  After seeing the painting displayed on their living room wall her entire life, Connie has now sold it.
Connie 25



In April 2015 Ming Wong sent this painting #34. Ming found it in a garage where it had been stored for years and had suffered some damage. Some of the paint has flaked off, and the bare canvas can be seen just below the island. It's similar to #25 just above.
Ming 25

Deer Series

In late August 2015 a painting of a single deer appeared on ebay. The canvas size is 27" X 19". It had been hanging in the family home in Oregon the seller's entire life until now. Below Werner's typical signature, hidden by the frame, he added "Wiesbaden Germany 1951". #37.

one deer 37

This is the second one that Robert in Florida sent in August 2016. Number 40 is a small painting, at 10" X 12". Robert's grandfather was stationed in Wiesbaden in 1949 and 1950. Grandfather was a Lieutenant Colonel, and he passed the painting to the father, and then the father passed it on to Robert over twenty years ago. Robert's father kept #26, the second one of a white chalet in the mountains, and still has it.
Robert #40


In May 2008 a similar Werner painting found its way to Ebay. The seller Christine of Des Plaines, IL, didn't know anything about Werner or the history of the painting. She called it "Deer Forest Water" but I'll just call it #12. The canvas measures 16" X 20"

2 deer 12



A 3-deer example first appeared in January 2011. I heard from Doug in Texas. He owned painting #20 in the gallery. The composition of the scene is very similar to the one above. Doug's has three deer and measures 40" X 28". Doug bought the piece at an estate sale, so he didn't know its history. He also sent a close-up of Werner's signature. In March 2011 a close relative of mine bought the painting from Doug, and moved it to West Virginia. We're excited to have it back in the family.
2 deer 20



In April 2011 Todd sent me this picture of a landscape. He also sent a close-up of Werner's signature and it's a perfect match. Todd's father, like so many other owners, bought it while stationed in Germany. He was from Ohio, and was in Wiesbaden between 1955 and 1960. This is painting #21 in the gallery. It's very small at 8" by 10". He was willing to sell it and wondered if there was any interest out there.
Todd 21



Then in August 2009 I heard from Karen who lives in Florida, and sent this picture of painting #15. Karen's uncle was a US Prisoner of War in Germany for 15 months. After the war he traded cigarettes for several of Werner's paintings. He brought them back to New Jersey. This one bears the date 1948. He gave it as a wedding present on August 31, 1950. Two of Karen's aunts have paintings too, both similar to paintings #11 and #14 below. 
Karen 15


In March 2003 painting #3 by Werner turned up. The new owner Kenneth had recently purchased it at a small antiques show at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds in Dayton, Ohio. This Werner measures 14" X 18". Kenneth does not know its history. He also sent a closeup of the signature. It was the third Werner we heard about.
3 3



Next is a series of pictures of a place that must have been of special interest to Werner.

This painting came to light in September of 2007. Ray in Pennsylvania has this Werner hanging in his living room since 1956. He bought in 1956 from a USAF Warrant Officer in Rome, NY. That officer had traded it in Europe for cartons of cigarettes. Ray has had it reframed once, and cleaned and restored twice. He still loves it. Thanks Ray for the photo of painting #11.
Ray 11



Chuck, who lives in San Jose, CA, sent me a picture of painting #14  in December 2008 that he has owned for many years. He was struck by how much it resembled painting #11 above. He thought at first that they were prints. But if you compare the two, you'll see some differences. In Ray's painting the signature appears on the right side, but Chuck's is on the left. It looks like Werner was thinking about his favorite place again, or a place he imagined, making small changes to the trees.  I don't think he copied one from another though, but was reinterpreting what he saw at the location. But we don't know which came first. Chuck said his was also from approximately 1956. We don't know its history except that Chuck's father-in-law bought it while stationed in Germany. Thank you Chuck for sending a picture of painting #14.
Chuck14



Then in September 2010 Jean in Arizona sent in this picture of painting #19. It is similar to the last two. Jean said that it has been in the family as long as she can remember, and she was almost 55 at the time. Her dad always kept it on the wall above his bed. Her parents lived in Germany in 1949-52 and again in 1955-57. Jean thinks that this one is from the 1956 time frame like the others.
Jean 19


On Easter Sunday, March 17, 2016, Will sent this one to be called #39. He also sent a photo of the signature  He recently bought the painting at an estate sale in Fairfax VA, where he saw other items that made him think the owner had been in the military and stationed in Germany. He checked and found this gallery online. He immediately noticed the similarity to the others and was amazed at the amount of information we have been able to find regarding Werner. It's all thanks to owners who have shared their snapshots and knowledge. Thank you Will.
Will38

Then on July 6, 2014 we heard from Pam who sent the following picture, #29. It measures 16½" X 22½". She says her father-in-law was based in Wiesbaden in 1949 and 1950, and bought it from his friend Werner. It has been in her family ever since, moving as its owner was transferred around the country. Pam's father-in-law retired in 1958 to Austin TX, and the painting spent 50 years there, but moved this year with Pam to Minnesota. She noticed the resemblance to several of Werner's other paintings. ( #11, #14, and #19.) This scene was Werner's favorite subject by far.
Pam 29



Here is still another view of the same landscape. Mike sent it in in August 2015. He would like to sell this painting. It has a tear but it's fixable.  I'll forward any inquiries to Mike.
Mike 36  for sale



I received news about this painting of a clipper ship from Ann in Kentucky in October 2014. It's #33. Ann found it at a rummage sale and sent me a photo of it, along with a close-up of Werner's signature. No word yet as to its provenance. She said it is in very good condition and not faded, probably acrylic paint, a product that had recently been developed.
Clipper Ship  33




Here are some examples of Werner's signature, including #35, the one he spelled wrong:






Table of Werner's paintings
Order received Date received Owner/informant location subject Date created
1 6-2001 Bonnie SC men dancing
2 7-2001 Trisha GA spy 1948
3 3-2003 Kenneth OH trees
4 8-2004 Ted MO Salome
5 8-2004 Ted MO horse
6 8-2004 Ted MO horses
7 7-2006 Ross CA harvest
8 3-2007 Robin NH Roman soldier- girl
9 5-2007 Annie CO Selbst-porträt 1948
10 6-2007 Lowell CO nude 1947
11 9-2007 Ray PA trees-creek <1956
12 5-2008 Christine IL two deer 1956
13 11-2008 Julia MS old man with pipe
14 12-2008 Chuck CA trees-creek
15 9-2009 Karen FL trees-pond 1948
16 11-2009 Tina CA Jesus Christ 1948
17 5-2010 Barbara MN Barbara early 1950s
18 7-2010 Rose-Maria WA Rose-Maria late 1940s
19 9-2010 Jean AZ trees-creek 1956?
20 1-2011 Doug TX three deer
21 4-2011 Todd OH trees-pond 1957?
22 6-2011 Wendy MN Wendy
23 6-2011 Wendy MN Bob
24 9-2012 Don PA man
25 11-2012 Connie CO Matterhorn early 50s
26 6-2013 Renee MN house
27 10-2013 Bill parents 1947
28 10-2013 Teodor Romania girl
29 7-2014 Pam TX trees-pond 1949
30 8-2014 Cathy WV characters
31 8-2014 Cathy WV characters
32 8-2014 Cathy WV characters
33 10-2014 Ann KY clipper ship
34 4-2015 Ming mountain and lake
35 7-2015 John AZ another self-portrait
36 8-2015 Mike TN trees-creek
37 9-2015 Kevin OR one deer 1951
38 3-2016 Jon mountain chapel
39 3-2016 Will VA trees-creek
408-2016RobertFLone deer1949-1950
418-2016John/RobertFLhouse1949-1950

Thanks for visiting.
This page was created January 21, 2002, reorganized in August 2014 and again in August 2015, and last updated August 20, 2016.
Copyright 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 by Jim Heckenbach
If you have access to any other paintings, please send information. I know there are still more paintings out there. I will not reveal your name or any other personal information.
Please send more information to heckenbach@ameritech.net

Go back to the main page: Heckenbach Family History