In 1883, he married Hulda Frieske, with whom he had three children. She died in 1919.
Zille became best known for his (often funny) drawings, catching the characteristics of people, especially "stereotypes", mainly from Berlin and many of them published in the German weekly satirical newspaper Simplicissimus. He was first to portray the desperate social environment of the Berlin Mietskasernen (literally tenement barracks), buildings packed with sometimes a dozen persons per room that fled from land to the rising Gründerzeit industrial metropolis only to find even deeper poverty in the developing proletarian class.
Zille did not feel himself as a real artist: he often said that his work is not the result of talent but merely hard work. Max Liebermann nevertheless promoted him. He called him into the Berlin Secession in 1903, put his works in expositions of the upper class, and encouraged him to sell drawings - and at the time Zille lost his job as a lithographer in 1910 he encouraged him to live from his drawings alone. The Berlin "Common People" tolled him the greatest respect, and very late in life his fame culminated in the roaring twenties with the National Gallery to buy some drawings in 1921, the Academy of the Arts to honour him with a professorship in 1924, Gerhard Lamprecht to make a movie of his stories in 1925 "Die Verrufenen", and his 70th birthday was celebrated at large in Berlin. He died one year later.
Less known is that he was the artist of many erotic pictures which are close to pornography but also show the life of normal people. Some of them can be seen in the Beate Uhse Erotic Museum in Berlin. In 1983 director Werner W. Wallroth made an East German movie based on a musical written by Dieter Wardetzky and Peter Rabenalt. This movie Zille und Ick (Zille and I in Berlin Dialect) isn't a real biopic but uses parts of Zille's life for the story.
Heinrich Zille was the son of watchmaker Johann Traugott Zille and his wife Ernestine Louise, née Heinitz. Ernestine was a miner's daughter. His father was originally a roughforge; however, he was technically skilled so he went on to become a watchmaker, goldsmith and inventor of tools. Heinrich Zille was born in the little town of Radeburg (near Dresden) in Saxony. Zille spent his early years in Potschappel. Heinrich Zille's childhood was not without trouble. His father was incarcerated several times in debtor's prison and creditors harassed the family so much that the young Zille was often sent to live with his grandmother. In 1867 the family left town because of their debt and went to Berlin. Still in school the young Zille began to take drawing lessons. The teacher was supportive, and during a discussion of his future career aspirations, the teacher encouraged Zille to become a Lithographer. Zille's father wanted Heinrich to become a butcher. Heinrich could not stand the sight of blood, however, so he went to the draughtsman Fritz Hecht, on Jakobstraße (Jakob street), for his education.
Zille's great-grand-niece is Helen Zille, the current mayor of Cape Town, South Africa.
Zille 'facing unprecedented challenge' over MP Growing calls for her to be charged for comparing Masizole Mnqasela to Verwoerd.
Jan 22, 2012; DA leader Helen zille is facing an unprecedented challenge to her authority after it emerged that there were growing calls...