January 14, 2014

Small Treats for a Dull Day

        Here are some charming little woodcut illustrations from a 1919 German book of fairy tales.  Unfortunately I can’t find any indication of the artist who made these miniature illustrations, but I like his (or possibly her) style.  All the doodley lines and patterns are fun to look at, the characters are quirky, their situations whimsical.
        There are 94 illuminated initials in the book (if I counted correctly), one to start each story, but there are lots of repeats, so I’m not sure how many unique illustrations were made.  Although some seem to be appropriate to the stories they begin, they obviously 
weren’t designed for each story individually, so for all I know they weren’t even made for this book.  Perhaps the printer simply reused blocks already in his collection, which would explain the lack of credit given to an illustrator.  But in any case, I liked looking at them and I’ve picked out my favorites to share with you.  Of course I’ve given preference to those with a fantasy element: giants and dwarves, monsters and heroes, and other mysterious goings-on.  I’ve also given preference to those with pleasing patterns or contrast and visual appeal.
        Despite being so small (about 1.5 inches), and apparently being intended more as a type font than full illustrations in their own right, these little images manage to pack a lot of visual punch.  There are lots of interesting details of patterns, both black on white and white 
on black, and some charming whimsical details.  (I think my favorite detail is the ladder leading up to the flower in which the tiny dwarf sips his tea.)  They go to show that it doesn’t take a grand gesture to make an impact, and that even the smallest dose of art can brighten up the day.

[Pictures: Initial E (nighttime stroll), woodcut;
Initial E (elf in a flower), woodcut;
Initial E (rooster rider), woodcut;
Initial I (giant), woodcut;
Initial E (giantess), woodcut;
Initial D (boat), woodcut;
Initial E (giant’s head), woodcut;
Initial E (gentleman on horseback), woodcut;
Fronstpiece, woodcut, all from Deutsche Märchen seit Grimm (German Folktales since Grimm) set forth by Paul Zaunert, 1919.


Pax said...

The frontispiece doesn't look like it was done by the same artist who did the illuminated initials. The frontispiece reminds me of the work of Wanda Gag, who is perhaps most famous for her "Millions of Cats". Anyway, thanks for these cheerful prints on a winter day.

Gwen Buchanan said...

it is thrilling to see what can be done with simple lines... not so simple when they come together tho. Wonderful!

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Hm, I thought the frontispiece looked consistent with the others - for example, compare the island in the boat block with the ground in the frontispiece. Remember that the frontispiece is a good deal bigger than the others. On the other hand, it's certainly entirely possible that they were done by different artists since I have no information about any of them.

Yes, it's cool to be reminded how much is possible with just a little.