Conrad Felixmüller (1897 - 1970)

ABC

A spoonerised, doggerelled alphabet in pictures with verses

 

Together with Londa Felixmüller
Leipzig: Edition Leipzig,1984
Epilogue by Dieter Gleisberg
[16] fol., coloured woodcut
26 x 35 cm, color. hardcover.


Facsimile of the special edition published in 1925 after the copy by Titus Felixmüller (no. 94) with handwritten signature on the bottom right of each picture.

The book and its history

The book was self-published in two separate editions, printed on simple Ingres paper and on handmade paper. Felixmüller coloured some of the latter editions himself. The first sheet shows the artist carving a woodcut and his two boys watching. The image features the dedication "For my children Luca and Titus and for the children of my friends" in large, cut lettering. At the same time the book was meant to be sold and to bring in some money. Thus 100 bibliophile collector's copies and 250 copies were produced as popular editions. Felixmüller monogrammed all woodcuts with FM.


The pictures in landscape format usually contain two lines of text cut into wood as the dominant design element. Their typographic layout varies greatly, the lettering sometimes forming a block, sometimes a banner, sometimes freely floating across the page. The pictures captivate the viewer with their alternation of black or white backgrounds, sometimes both within one picture. Each sheet is composed individually. While browsing through the pages, readers see an astonishing sequence of animals, people and landscapes unfold that counters the alphabetical order with its own narrative logic. The letters E and F, for example, feature an elephant and a photographer. The elephant strides along with its raised trunk and dominates the picture, while in the foreground, at the bottom left, we see the photographer operating his camera under a purple cloth.


Felixmüller varies structural visual elements to illustrate his wife's simple spoonerisms and to meet the children's expectations for entertainment. The result is an "artist's book" which is close to Expressionism and takes up the theme of the ABC picture book with virtuosity and playfulness. The flat surfaces of the figures and objects reflect an abstract view of art, but the composition, which emphasizes the letters as initials, unmistakably obeys a complex structure. The letters G (for “Glockenblume”, bell flower) and H (for “Hase”, hare), for example, are connected by a swinging bellflower and a large hare jumping across the whole picture.


The ABC closes with a smaller image of the printer pulling a sheet out of the press with the inscription: "Printed under my supervision by the master printer Zielinski in the shop F. Emil Boden Dresden in December 1925." Below with blue ink there is the note: "personally hand-colored by Conrad Felixmüller".

Biographical note

Conrad Felixmüller, born 1897 in Dresden, died 1977 in Berlin, is a well-known painter and graphic artist of the New Objectivity, Late Expressionism who later practiced an individualized realism.
In 1912 Felixmüller attended the Dresden Art Academy, which he left three years later to work as a freelance artist. Felixmüller co-founded the Dresden Secession Group in 1919 and worked as an author and graphic artist for various Expressionist magazines. During this time he saw himself as a political artist and joined the Communist Party of Germany. Beginning in the early 1930s, his concerns and style changed to a more calm, nuanced realism. Especially in his woodcuts, the artist dedicated himself to motifs of everyday life. In 1933, forty of his works were part of the Dresden exhibition preceding the "Degenerate Art" exhibition, in a section entitled "Mirror Images of Decay in Art in Dresden". In 1937 151 of his paintings were confiscated from public property, and in 1941 his Berlin apartment was destroyed by bombs. From 1949 to 1961 he taught painting in Halle and returned to Berlin after his retirement. In addition to paintings in large public collections, Felixmüller left behind an extensive body of graphic work, including a series of portraits of famous contemporaries.

 

Literature/Links

Ingrid Mössinger/ Thomas Bauer-Friedrich (hrsg.)

Conrad Felixmüller. Zwischen Kunst und Politik, Köln: Wienand, 2012

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