German caricaturist, lithographer and illustrator Heinrich Zille was an important chronicler of the poor life in Berlin during early years of the 20th century. He was born in Radeburg as the son of a watchmaker and goldsmith, and lived in Berlin from the age of 14. Zille grew up poor; his father spent longer periods of his son's childhood in a debtor's prison, while the family lived mostly from the food kitchen. Zille picked up his interest in drawing through the work of the English artist William Hogarth.
He was a pupil of German painter and illustrator Theodor Hosemann at the Königlichen Kunstschule, and earned a living from several artistic odd jobs from 1875. By 1877 he found employment with the Photographischen Gesellschaft Berlin, a printing firm at the Berliner Dönhoffplatz, where he remained for thirty years.
Around the turn of the century, Heinrich Zille established himself as a cartoonist and illustrator for satirical magazines like Simplicissimus, Jugend and Die Lustigen Blätter, while a member of the Berlin Secession art association. He became well-known for depecting the desperate social environment of the rental barracks called Berlin Mietskaserne. His fame among the common people increased even more during the "roaring twenties".
During World War I, Zille also made a series of drawings about the soldier Vadding for Ulk, the satirical weekly supplement of the Berliner Tageblatts. The Vadding drawings also appeared in books like 'Vadding in Frankreich I', 'Vadding in Frankreich II' and 'Vadding in Ost und West' between 1914 and 1916.
It was later discovered that Zille had also made several photographs during his life. Some of his erotic drawings can be seen in the Beate Uhse Erotic Museum in Berlin. Although no actual comic pages, or picture stories, are known by him, Heinrich Zille has been of great influence on German cartoon and comic art.