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.

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