Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Karl Mühlmeister

Karl Mühlmeister was certainly one of the most productive and talented illustrators of children's literature in Germany in the early 20th century. There are designs and watercolours to fairy tales, sagas, and adventure stories such as The Leatherstocking Tales by James Fenimore Cooper, or other children's literature like Johanna Spyri's Heidi.
About the artist himself is unfortunately very little known. He was born in Hamburg in 1876, lived and worked in Munich until around 1942 and was a member of the "Süddeutsche Illustratorenbund". Where he studied and who his teachers were, is as unknown as the date of his death. What remains is his work, and especially his watercolours are of an intriguing delicate beauty. I am rather convinced that there might have been an influence by the work of Willy Pogány (1882-1955) whose watercolours show a similar concept of landscape and understanding for colours.
Mühlmeister's luminously coloured landscapes conjure up the atmosphere of the whole picture, they are "Stimmungslandschaften" in which the protagonists act, the stories take place. Even though, the depicted persons are often rather small in contrast to their surroundings, they are not for accessory purpose only (as known from the landscape painting tradition) but are as important as the landscape itself: they form a unified whole that gives insight into the magical-fictive world of the illustrated story.

Fairy Tales: Mohr, Herbert and Lotte: Von Prinzessinnen und Königsöhnen. Leipzig: Feuer, ca. 1920.

Arabian Nights: Die schönsten Märchen aus 1001 Nacht. Stuttgart: Thienemann, ca. 1925.

The Leatherstocking Tales: Cooper, James Fenimore: Der Lederstrumpf. Reutlingen: Enßlin & Laiblin, ca. 1920.

Grimms' Fairy Tales: Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm: Kinder- und Hausmärchen. Reutlingen: Enßlin & Laiblin, 1927.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Book Art: designing end papers

At the turn of the 20th century artists tried to reform the making of books. Books shouldn't only be printed on good paper, with the right type and illustrations fitting to the text, but also with an according book cover and beautiful end papers. This over all development in the book arts is mostly attributed to the Art Nouveau, but, on closer look, interest in the book as a "Gesamtkunstwerk" started much earlier and is to be found for example in the editions de luxe that were published in the "epoch" of Historism.
True is, that the specific design of end papers increased during the Art Nouveau, but even then it was not a common feature. Through my researches on illustrated fairy tales and sagas, that are often categorized as children's literature (which is only half true), end papers were rarely designed at all. Nonetheless there are a few examples of not only decoratively patterned endpapers but such that are illustrated with motifs that fit to the contents of the book.
Intent and approach differ from end paper to end paper and range from a rather decorative, to motifs that create a certain atmosphere according to the text, or belong to the telling of the story.

In 1921, Maximilian Liebenwein designed the end paper for an edition of Gottfried Kellers Spiegel, das Kätzchen (Zürich / Leipzig / Wien: Amalthea, 1921), the story of a cat with a repeating pattern of cats moving over rose garlands. The topic of the book is thus mirrored and transformed into a decorative pattern.

The same can be said for Gertrud Caspari's fairy tale figurines (Mein Märchen-Bilderbuch von Gertrud Caspari. Leipzig: Alfred Hahn, [1921]): showing central standard characters of the fairy tales the book contains, such as the king and queen and the old witch.

On the contrary, Willy Planck (it's not completely sure, that he designed the end paper, sometimes different artists were commissioned to do this, especially when the end papers were needed for later editions) designed a dark wood:

The books title Ins Zauberland (Into Wonderland, Sttutgart: Loewe, 1913) alludes to the content of the book: fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, including Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood and other fairy tales in which the forest - dark, mysterious, dangerous - plays a significant role. By picturing an equally dark, mysterious and dangerous wood, the end paper creates a certain atmosphere that introduces the reader to the fairy wood.
This can be compared to the end paper of Wilhelm Roegge, designed for a collection of German folk and hero tales (Deutsche Volks- und Heldensagen. Stuttgart: Levy & Müller, ca. 1910), such as Barbarossa and Roland. The end paper depicts a medieval landscape: mountains, castles, and a river zig-zagging through the country. Rhine-Romantic is activated here, putting the reader into the right mind for the saga-material.

Anne Anderson's end paper (Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten und andere Märchen von Brüder Grimm. Leipzig: A. Anton & Co., [1930].) takes the possibilities of the end paper even further: she shows a fairy tale scene, that - though it has nothing to do with the Grimm fairy tales, but illustrates the story of the magical horse from the Arabian Nights - indicates clearly that the book contains a collection of fairy tales.

Walter Crane's Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves from 1904 actually shows a scene from the fairy tale contained in the book: or two, to be more precise, the opening of the secret hide-out of the thieves and a long caravan transporting treasures through the desert.

Ruth and Martin Koser-Michaels end paper (Zwei Märchen der Brüder Grimm. Nürnberg: Seebaldus, 1948) do the same: the narrative of the illustrations is continued - or even commenced - in the end papers. Here, the boy from the The Story of the Youth Who Went Forth to Learn What Fear Was sets out for his search. To his left, there is the gallows where he stayed overnight, and at the end of the road, there is the haunted castle with the giant ghost with the white hair waiting and watching.

Considered the many possibilities the end papers presented the artists with, it is a shame, that end papers were (and still are) only rarely illustrated or specially designed.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Marie Hohneck, illustrator

Puss in Boots, 1905

At the turn of the 20th century, women illustrators, especially for children books, became more common. Be it Kate Greenaway, Rie Cramer, Anne Anderson, Marie Hohneck, Norbertine Breßlern-Roth, etc. more and more women found a job as illustrators.
The academic training still was problematic and not equal for female and male students, and in most cases illustrating alone couldn't provide the livelihood. But nonetheless there were woman artists that became as popular as their male colleagues. Marie Hohneck certainly was one of them. Today mostly forgotten, she trained under Wilhelm Claudius, lived in Dresden and worked between 1885 and 1915.
Her popularity is shown very clearly by a simple fact: the fairy tale picture books she illustrated by order of the Stuttgart publisher Weise in 1905 were published with the serial title: "Hohnecks Märchenbilderbuch". To include the artist's name in the title of the publication was a rare practice at the time. It meant, that the name of the artist was popular enough to promote the book and ensure its saleability.
Hohneck's fairy tale illustrations strike a balance between conventional and modern. The chosen scenes are for example very traditional, as is the way Hohneck orchestrates the different scenes. Whereas the influence of the "Jugendstil" is shown in the lineament of the drawings, or the costumes of the heroines.

Little Red Riding Hood, 1905

Sleeping Beauty, 1905

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 1905.

Cinderella, 1905

Illustrations from:
Goldenes Märchenbuch. Eine Sammlung der Beliebtesten Märchen mit 96 farbigen Illustrationen von Maria Hohneck. Stuttgart: Weise, [1905].
Collective edition of twelfve picture-books to single fairy tales.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Fernande Biegler, illustrations for fairy tales

Unfortunately, there is little known about the artist Fernande Biegler, besides that she worked from ca. 1901 to 1929. Among her most popular works are two fairy-tale picture books, called:

1. Märchengarten. Ein Kinderbuch mit Bildern von Fernande Biegler. Leipzig: Anton, 1921.
2. Königs-Märchen. Märchen der Brüder Grimm mit Bildern und Einleitung von Fernande Biegler. Leipzig: Deutsche Jugend, 1922.

In bright colours these picture books present a strangely arificial fairy-land. Princesses and princes are nearly caricatural in their superficial poses, colourful make-up and delicate gestures.
Looking at them the influence of art déco is strongly visible. Especially fashion figurines seem to have inspired the artist, and helped her to create a other-worldly fairy-land that is one of a kind.

Take a look at some more of her illustrations:

Andersen's The Swineherd, 1921

Brother Grimms' King Thrushbeard, 1921

Brother Grimms' Sleeping Beauty, 1922

Mac Harshberger, Tristan and Iseult, 1927

1927 erschien bei Albert & Charles Boni in New York Joseph Bédiers Fassung der Tristan-Sage mit Illustrationen von Mac Harsheberger.

Der in Tacoma, Washington, geborene Künstler ging 1921 nach Paris und studierte dort zusammen mit Maurice Denis. In den 1920er Jahren arbeitete er in New York City und lehrte viele Jahre am Pratt Institute. Seine Illustrationskunst wird in der Regel dem Art Déco zugerechnet, was sich aber an seinen schwarzweißen Illustrationen zu Tristan and Iseult eher weniger festmachen lässt. Hier zeigt sich eher die Auseinandersetzung mit Aubrey Beardsley, der ja seinerseits Malory's Morte D'Arthur illustriert hatte. Wie Beardsley arbeitet Harshberger mit der Kontrastierung schwarzer und weißer Flächen. Harshbergers Illustrationen sind aber dennoch ganz anders, klarer in der Linie, graphischer in der allgemeinen Komposition. Sie gehören meiner Meinung nach mit zu den ästhetisch ansprechendsten Illustrationen zur Tristan-Sage.

Hier ein paar Beispiele (oben Isolde an der Leiche Tristans):

König Marke beobachtet Tristan und Isolde schlafend

Als Mönch verkleidet trägt Tristan Isolde ans Ufer.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Wiede-Fabrik München, Offene Ateliers & Werkstätten

Vom 3. Juli bis 6. Juli waren die Ateliers und Werkstätten der Künstler zu besichtigen, die auf dem Gelände und in der alten Wiede Fabrik in München (Rambaldistr.27) leben und arbeiten.
So bot sich ein breites Spektrum zeitgenössischer Kunst, mit ganz unterschiedlichen Arbeiten, die reizvoll in den einzelnen Ateliers und Werkstäten der jeweiligen Künstler präsentiert wurden. Da waren die abstrakten Gemälde von Milan Mihajlovic zu sehen, neben kleinen, reizvollen Bronzearbeiten von Amir Omerovic. Mihajlovic sprach von der Bedeutung des bild-internen Rahmens, dass also, wenn ein Gemälde einen Rahmen braucht, um vollendet zu sein, etwas im Gemälde selbst fehlt. Deswegen habe auch Rothko großen Wert auf bildinterne Rahmen gelegt. Ein spannender Gedanke.
Ganz anders waren dagegen die Aquarelle von Michale Lange, die als serielle Arbeiten topographischer Darstellungen nebeneinandergehängt Assoziationen an filmische Storyboards weckten. Freilich ist hier auch die Serienmalerei des Impressionismus Pate gestanden, aber Langes feine Aquarelle hatten doch auch ihren Reiz. Carl-H1 Daxl zeigte im Atelier daneben kleinformatige Gemälde, die in der Kombination von graphischen Elementen, Schrift und Malerei und der häufig humorvoll-ironischen, manchmal etwas derben Sujets manchmal recht karikaturistisch, mir aber zu comic-artig dekorativ wirkten. Das einzig größere Gemälde mit der Inschrift "Opium", in dem die graphischen Elemente deutlich zurückgenommen waren, und auch die Schrift nicht so deutlich hervortrat, hatte meiner Meinung nach jedoch die größte ästhetische Wirkung. Lebensfroher, kraftvoller waren die Arbeiten von Thomas Huber.
Freilich gefiel nicht alles gleichermaßen. Oliver Diehrs Gemälde erinnerten mich ein wenig zu sehr an Hopper mit ihren vereinzelten Figuren, die obwohl in Gruppen zusammen stets alleine scheinen. Und die naturgetreuen Arbeiten von Anja Bolata näherten sich etwas zu stark an die kunsthistorische Tradition um Maria Sybilla Merian.
Dennoch ist es, finde ich, gerade dieser Rahmen: Künstlerkolonie, offene Ateliers, "Selbst-" und Werkinszenierung, die die Auseinandersetzung mit zeitgenössischer Kunst hier sehr spannend machen.